I had such a fun night last night, I mean I was nearly falling asleep because this week has the sole purpose of making me older and destroying me, but I got to catch up with one of my longer and dearest friends Paul, who has moved to Coffs to swim with dolphins and be with a loving boyfriend away from the destruction of Sydney, and we met up with mutual dear friend and one my catsitters, Renee. As I am the gourmand I was assigned to restaurant location duty, sent them six and asked them to select their two preferences and winner would be booked. I pretty much got bagged (only from the slacker Paul) and was told to select. I wanted something different and had a few parameters: it had to be in walking distance of the Vibe Hotel, it had to have BYO and it had to have meals for under $40pp so I could make it to payday. And so I came up with Il Baretto in Surry Hills.
Asian is the choice of late, all the different Asian cultures have so many food options with so many delectable meals and flavours and I wanted something different, I thought ‘let’s go something not many people find uber cool at the moment’ and came up with Italian, I mean how many Italian restaurants do you see around these days – pizza places not included? Il Baretto had a decent 3.9/5 score on Zomato and it matched all my other requirements, the bonus for me on the night, got a park ten metres from the door #bonus!
The venue screams that local Surry Hills vibe, it is relaxed, it is hugely popular and it caters to a lot of locals. I tend to experience the “life is always greener” thing when in Surry Hills, I used to live about 500m away years ago and I love this Cosmo lifestyle, it is superb, I watched the people coming home, saw the man come in for his pre-dialled take-away for one – he was a serious looking suit and it looked like the wife was away on business. I saw the wealthy couple come in to eat their weekly favourite and I saw the freaking gorgeous blonde-haired Dutch backpacking twins come in for dinner with what looked like the lovely Asian twin girls for a double date meal – the cuteness level on that table peaked.
Our waiter was also freaking gorgeous and he offered us some hand written menus and brought us some glasses of water. It is here the local small venue thing kicked in, only two water jugs for the entire venue, somehow Renee always managing to persuade, got one of the jugs on our table. Then Paul loved that we had tumblers for our wine glasses, I thought of dorm room catering – oh the snob I have become :).
The venue is quite small and the inside has a few tables and around the wall seating and the venue was packed from go to woe, I can see why: it is nice, comfortable, no bullshit, no frills with great food and staff, what more do you want?
We drank and couldn’t shut up and eventually placed an order with our gorgeous waiter. The menu, mostly pictured in complete form above, is small, the other side shows wines and a couple of desserts, but that’s it. We ordered and indulged in garlic bread, a staple at any Italian venue and it was superb, that was only $4.50. But then with limited mains we had issues working out what to order, my two choices would have been the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu $26- or the Pollo alla ‘Cacciatora’ with Mushrooms and Fresh Tomatoes $28- – guess what Paul and Renee ordered? Haha. As writing a review of the venue I had to have something different for variety and asked our living/breathing black-haired Statue of David what the Rigatoni all’Amatriciana was and discovered it was a rigatoni (worked that bit out) in a tomato and pork cheek sauce, OK – sold – JK will have that one, thank you David.
We all got to try each other’s meals so Paul’s Pappardelle with Duck Ragu $26- we all found bloody nice, it was the most subtle meal of the evening with what was more like a “gravy-sauce” with fall apart duck pieces and flavours. It had a soupy look and in Paul’s words “the pasta is perfect.”
The winning dish of the evening was the one suggested by “David” when I asked him what his favourite dish was: Pollo alla ‘Cacciatora’ with Mushrooms and Fresh Tomatoes $28-. Renee scored this one and it was perfect, fall apart chicken, a huge dish, hearty and with a roasted rosemary flavour and aroma, I wanted all of this, it looked, smelled and tasted like perfection.
Then there was my dish, my third choice, it tasted decent, the past was cooked perfectly (I should note they source all their pasta from a local maker, nothing packaged and nothing really out of a packet – it is all fresh) it had nice tomatoey flavours but there was no pork like I was pining. My only guess was that the pork was cooked down into more of a pork stock, it was a nice dish with nice flavours and if someone served me this dish at their home I would be raving but besides that, it did not make me foodgasm and this saddened me and brought about an envious mood towards Paul and Renee :).
We had a fantastic evening together, and it was amazing catching up with great friends. The food was brilliantly cooked and Paul and Renee had sublime meals, the meals I wanted haha. It was all good, this visit wasn’t all about the food, it was also about the great friends and wine. One thing that screwed up the end of the evening – MAKE SURE YOU ARE AWARE – THIS PLACE IS CASH ONLY!!!!!
If I lived in Surry Hills this would be a regular and also a place I would happily eat at by myself with a book, especially if David served me regularly :). Oh and a point of note; do not drink at the bar opposite, when a glass of average Shiraz is $13- they can go and screw themselves.