Shopping for fruit and veggies should always be this fun.
There's a great sense of adventure when exploring the market-style setup at Fratelli Fresh in Waterloo. Admittedly it's more fun if you don't look at the price tags, but quality comes at a price, and this price buys you luscious, heavy, vivid and gargantuan specimens of deliciousness, all artfully arranged in rustic wooden crates.
Pig Flyin introduces me to his favourite part of the store: the balsamic vinegar and olive oil trolley. A wooden waiter's trolley is laden with all the very best bottles of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the kind you whistle over when you read the price tag, but never think you will get to try.
Next to the bottles is a little tower of mini plastic cups ready to use for tasting. Usually the trolley is manned by a helpful staff member, but sometimes noone is around and you can taste test them without the pressure of a salesperson breathing down your neck. Pig Flyin and I do a quiet "cheers" with our thimbles full of balsamic vinegar, and tasting so many at once does illustrate why you'd want to pay more for the good stuff. There really is a huge difference.
And after a bout of shopping, and a few thimbles of vinegar and olive oil, there's always room for lunch - at Cafe Sopra, only a flight of stairs away.
Linguini with seafood, lemon, chilli and garlic $22
A huge sun-drenched dining room greets you at Cafe Sopra. There's no menu, only a daily menu written on the towering three-metre high blackboard. The range of options is dazzling, and my notorious indecision is on public display as I stand there, motionless in the middle of the room, whilst a flurry of waitstaff bustle past me with plates of food from the kitchen.
So. Many. Choices. It can't even use my finger on the page as a marker as I whittle down my choices. There's just a lot of head bobbing and shaking as my eyes try to take in the entire menu that deserves to be on an Imax movie screen.
Once we've decided and ordered, the food doesn't take too long to arrive. There's plenty of people-watching to do anyway, the room filled with a cross-section of young families, yuppies, Gen Y diners, and a group of Italians in the gingham-clothed private dining room to the side ($500 for room hire and food whether it's for 2 or up to 10 people).
Linguini with seafood is a tangle of al dente pasta that's tumbled with a generous amount of fish and prawn. The prawns are a standout - really fresh and sweet. The garlic oil has a surprising amount of chilli, and it's lifted with the zing of lemon zest.
Vitello tonnato $18
This is my first introduction to vitello tonnato and I can see why it has its fans. Thin slices of cold veal are amazingly delicate and tender, the veal stack dressed with a tuna mayonnaise made from pureed tuna, olive oil, anchovies, egg yolks and lemon. Scatterings of black olives, capers and anchovies add saltiness and textural interest. It's topped with two paper thin slices of cheerful lemon.
Capellini with lemon, chilli, parsley and pangrattato $16
Capellini with lemon, chilli, parsley and pangrattato is a lesson in the joys of simplicity. The satisfying crunch of deep-fried breadcrumbs against the silky smoothness of pasta is one that should be enjoyed more often. Lemon, parsley and chilli add lightness. I've made this plenty of times when the cupboards are bare.
Pan-fried sardines with stewed tomato bruschetta and pesto $20
The pan-fried sardines have plenty of flavour, thick meaty fillets with a golden-seared skin. It comes on a bed of stewed cherry tomatoes and a side of thick slabs of toasted sourdough. A dollop of dark green pesto adds a nutty sweetness.
Pork terrine with spiced quince $18
My favourite dish is the pork terrine with spiced quinces, a door-stop wedge of terrine that is decadent with chunks of pork that flake with ease. It's more like pork rilettes, the sweetness of the pork marrying brilliantly with the aromatic spiced quince, heady with cinnamon and star anise.
Sweet pork, tart quince and the crunch of toasted sourdough. It's delicious.
Rays of sunshine warm our faces through the window and we listen to the happy clatter of diners. There's no room for dessert today but tomorow is another question.
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Fratelli Fresh Waterloo
7 Danks Street, Waterloo, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 3161
Store opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am - 6pm
Saturday 8am - 4pm
Sunday 10am - 4pm
Cafe Sopra Waterloo
Upstairs at 7 Danks Street, Waterloo, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 3174 (no bookings taken)
Cafe opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am - 3pm
Saturday 8am - 3pm
Sunday 10am - 3pm
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8/11/2009 02:50:00 a.m.