Snacks or a full sit-down meal? Continental Deli and Bistro offers both, one of the hottest additions to Newtown's dining scene. It's the latest venture by Porteno's Elvis Abrahanowicz and Joe Valore, opening up just down the road from Black Star Pastry on Australia Street. European cheeses, smallgoods and tinned seafood are the focus downstairs. Upstairs in the bistro, the kitchen puts a lighter touch on Eastern European dishes.
Dried chillies, garlic and oregano hanging above the bar
It's hard not to be immediately won over by the visuals as soon as you enter the deli downstairs. Hanging above the bar are garlands of dried chilli, garlic and oregano. On the left are shelves stacked with preserves and tinned goods.
Continental Deli preservers and onsite canned fruit, vegetables and spreads
The onsite cannery means Continental Deli can sell all types of housemade products running from curried peas to creamed corn to poached pears and salted caramel spread.
Sardines in Pitomail sauce (pepper, tomato and garlic)
An impressive collection of tinned seafood includes the premium Conservas de Camabados range from Galicia, starting at $22 for octopus, squid and mussels and topping out at $130 for cockles. The $85 tin of sea urchin is something I need this Christmas. They also stock a comprehensive range of French La Belle-Iloise sardines dressed in all kinds of sauces.
Chefs at the bar
Most of the canned goods can be ordered at the bar, where they'll be plated and served with a selection of condiments. The counter stools give the best view of the action, with more stools running along the opposite wall.
The full selection of La Belle-Iloise sardines
Bar manager, Mikey Nicolian (ex-Gardels)
Mikey Nicolian (ex-Gardels) is the bar manager downstairs. There's a well stocked bar here but the most popular drink is the martini.
Martini or Mar-Tinny? There's much novelty in watching the bar staff crack open a can and pour its content into your glass. The onsite cannery is used to pre-mix Tanqueray, Lillet Blanc and lemon-infused purified water. A side serve of green olives gives you the choice of creating your own dirty martini or simply having them as a snack on the side. The mar-tinny itself is deliciously alcoholic - it's an incredibly stiff drink.
Fish mixed plate $30
If you're not sure what to order, the fish mixed plate is a good place to start. It offers a little bit of everything, from octopus to anchovies to mussels and sweet razor clams. A bowl of complimentary potato crisps on the side is the salty carb relief you need between mouthfuls.
Baked Vacherin with smoked Polish sausage $35
For ultimate gluttony, order the baked Vacherin that becomes the world's greatest cheese fondue. It comes with green olives, smoked Polish sausage and crusty bread. The Polish sausage on its own is amazing - so intensely garlicky and smoky - but dipping it into the molten puddle of cheese takes it to another level.
There's a whole range of charcuterie too, not just on the menu but listed on the blackboard above the bar as well. You could order the acorn-fed jamon Iberico for $16 but I find just as much joy in the tonguewurst for $4, shaved wafer thin and served with hunks of bread and pickled chillies.
The cheese fridge yields a gluttony of products from around the world
Brillat Savarin $14
We lazily make our way through the Brillat-Savarin, a 40% fat triple cream brie that has always been one of my favourites. A wedge of quince paste adds extra sweetness to each mouthful.
The bar can get super busy at times, but that only adds to the fun.
Continental Deli martini can
Bistro dining room
If you fancy a quieter dining experience, the Bistro upstairs is much more sedate. The dining room is understated with charm, a collection of bentwood chairs and dark timber tables inlaid with marble. A separate private dining room is ideal for small groups. Bistro head chef Jesse Warkentin is another ex-Porteno staffer.
Razor clams with espelette pepper
I'd heard about the razor clams that come with a bonus cocktail on the side. After making enquiries, we're told that this is normally only served downstairs in the bar but after some discussion, the bar agrees to send one up and insists it's on the house. Do I need to insert a disclaimer that I deliberately made the booking under a friend's name? Perhaps they recognise me from my last visit, or perhaps they remember dining companions Mr and Mrs Pigflyin, regular patrons to Bodega. In any case, we're humbled.
Razor clam juice with dry sherry and Lillet Blanc
The accompanying cocktail takes a splash of the razor clam juice mixed with dry sherry and Lillet Blanc. A large ice cube chills it down to a refreshing aperitif. We nurse sips of this as we nibble on the razor clams and stuffed green olives. I love it.
Duck liver parfait on brioche toast with candied cumquats
We end up ordering one of everything on the menu - every entree and main between the six of us - and are taken aback when the kitchen sends up a complimentary dish of duck liver parfait on brioche toast. This isn't on the menu but it should be. The sweetly rich slab of duck liver parfait is bliss against the thick doorstop of brioche, drowned in the sticky glaze of candied cumquats that give a gentle citrusy tang.
Eschallot tarte tatin, Holy Goat chevre, pear and watercress $24
Our first entree is the eschallot tarte tatine, an impressive construction of caramelised eschallots perched on a disc of the flakiest pastry. Their sweetness accented by the rounds of creamy Holy Goat cheese, the slight bitterness of fresh watercress and the fine slices of green olive cascading down the side.
Poached Southern calamari, salad, sauce vierge $24
Poached Southern calamari is beautiful in its simplicity, the tender rings tumbled with radish, onion, purslane and a classic sauce vierge made from olive oil, lemon juice and basil.
Steak tartare, parmigiano-reggiano, gaufrette potatoes $24
The steak tartare arrives beneath a snowstorm of finely shaved parmigiano-reggiano aged for 24 months. The Northern NSW grass-fed beef has been hand-cut into cubes that are silky smooth in the mouth. It's a whimsical riff on this French classic, with the matured parmigiano-reggiano giving an earthy saltiness. The guafrette, or waffled potato chips, give an earth-shattering crunch against the soft dice of seasoned raw beef.
Sweetbread, porcini and foie gras sausage $24
We manage to score the last serve of the daily specials, the sweetbread, porcini and foie gras sausage custom-made by the folks at LP's Quality Meats. It's a hefty sausage that's big on flavour, its heady and sweet meatiness punctuated with mouthfuls of pate. A bed of the creamiest mashed potato is the ideal accompaniment.
Prawn and lambs brain ravioli, ginger, tarragon and prosecco sauce $26
The prawn and lambs brain ravioli is less intimidating than you'd think, an incongruous combination that defies logic but works brilliantly. The silky sheets of pasta hold a nuanced filling of sweet prawn with buttery lambs brains. The tarragon and prosecco sauce is textbook finessse.
Arrival of our mains
The long trek up the stairs from the kitchen to the dining room mean our dishes arrive on huge silver trays, a spectacle that causes a frisson of excitement when they arrive all at once.
Yellow belly (golden perch) with ratatouille and taramasalata crouton $36
The fish of the day is served looking like a millefeuille, a stack of fish fillets on ratatouille with an elongated crouton piped with taramasalata on top. Today's fish is yellow belly or golden perch, cooked masterfully so the flesh flakes apart with the gentle nudge of a fork. The taramasalata crouton adds a textural crunch as well as a gently salted hit of cured fish roe.
Roast chicken breast, confit leg, braised celery and Walsh & Sons chardonnay sauce $36
The humble roast chicken is elevated here with a Walsh & Sons chardonnay sauce that is so good we lick the plate clean. The roast chicken breast is stupefyingly juicy and the confit chicken leg is richly satisfying.
Spring vegetables filled with aromatic rice $30
Spring vegetables get to be the star of the show, stuffed with rice and roasted until everything melds to a mellow sweetness. The sundried olives are a welcome surprise hit.
Lamb cutlets, tinned peas, yoghurt and purslane salad $36
If you've been wondering what the Continental Deli tinned peas are like, you can test drive them in the lamb cutlet dish. The lamb cutlets are rendered so the skin is crisp and the meat is juicy. The peas aren't as sweet as the frozen kind but their savouriness works well against the richness of lamb. Yoghurt, purslane and two ribbons of anchovy all add complementary contrasts.
Potatoes boulangere $14
Potatoes boulangere is a side worth ordering, multiple layers of finely sliced potato roasted until tender. It's then sliced and browned for extra caramelised sweetness.
Asparagus mimosa with beurre blanc $14
And the asparagus mimosa is wickedly clever too, bright and crunchy stalks of asparagus (with stalks peeled) draped with a silky beurre blanc and riced egg white. It's a winner.
Rhum baba $18
We order all of the desserts too, only skipping the cheeses for another time. The rhum baba is definitely one for drinkers, the yeasted cake drenched in rum and set alight. Even after flaming, the baba is decidedly boozy. A mound of soft whipped cream offers some relief.
Poached mango melba $14
The poached mango melba is the kitchen's take on the classic peach melba. The peach is swapped out for mango, served with raspberry coulis, fresh raspberries, fresh cream and a fragile disc of pastry. It's the ideal light and refreshing dessert after a big meal.
Creme caramel and fig $14
But who wants restraint when you can keep going on the decadence trail? The creme caramel is a wobbly tower of lusciousness, ringed with a bitter caramel sauce and fresh green figs.
Continental Delicatessen, Bar and Bistro
210 Australia Street, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8624 3131
Deli opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11am til late
Saturday and Sunday 10am til late
Bistro opening hours:
Wednesday to Saturday 6pm til late
Sunday 12pm til late
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Porteno, Surry Hills
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12/14/2015 12:31:00 am