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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Bert's, Newport

Rangers Valley double hanger steak at Bert's in Newport by Merivale

Old school charm and waterfront views are two reasons to make the long trek to Bert's. Another reason? This double hanger steak, cooked over charcoal and served in a giant cast iron pan straight onto your table. It's a picture of magnificence, the steak charred to a deep caramelised crust on the outside.

Dining room booth seating at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Booth seating

Merivale's overhaul of the former Newport Arms is significant. Outside you'll find The Newport, a clever collection of food huts and seating nooks that feels more like an outdoor festival than a hotel bar. Dedicated kids play areas make this a family-friendly zone too.

The upper level is dedicated to Bert's, a significantly calmer and quieter dining space than the one below. As Executive Chef, Jordan Toft, explains to me when I hover near the kitchen, Bert's aims to bring back the European hotel grandeur of the 1930s.

Curved room with views at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
The curved room with Pittwater estuary views

The curved room is one of the prettiest areas, its French windows affording sweeping views of Pittwater estuary and the surrounding bush.

Curved room bar at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
The curved room bar lit by a skylight

And the bar in the curved room commands all the attention, courtesy of the natural spotlights from the skylight above.

Fresh whole fish on ice at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Fresh seafood on ice in the open kitchen

The kitchen is completely open, bordered by an impressive display of whole fish and oysters stacked on ice.

Fresh oysters on ice at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Fresh oysters ready for shucking

Crudites on the pass at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Crudites on the pass

In the kitchen, chefs work with marked efficiency among the gleaming copper pots, stone bench tops and meticulously organised mise-en-place.

Meat station in the open kitchen at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Meat station in the open kitchen (with desserts at the rear)

Josper grills in the open kitchen at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
The Basque-style Josper grill

The Josper grill holds pride of place, a Basque-style grill that allows food to be cooked at adjustable heights over charcoal.

Whole fish grilling over charcoal at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Yellow belly flounder being grilled over charcoal

Josper oven fuelled by charcoal at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Josper oven with charcoal

Live seafood tank with Eastern rock lobsters and pipis at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Live Eastern rock lobster and pipis

Live pipis at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Live pipis

Peach bellini at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Peach bellini $18

We start with a round of cocktails, although my peach bellini gets a little too excited and overspills the glass.

Duck pate en croute at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Pate en croute $24
Duck, pastry terrine and pear

We order just the pate en croute from the larder section of the menu, a fine duck terrine baked in a buttery crisp pastry loaf.

Reginette pasta with coral trout at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Reginette semolina pasta with coral trout  and sea succulents $39

We could have easily ordered every dish on the pasta menu, but eventually whittle down our selection to the reginette and the ravioli. The reginette normally comes with rouginet (red mullet) but today it's a delicately cooked fillet of coral trout. The frilly pasta has just the right amount of bite, interspersed with the salty crunchy of sea succulents.

Ravioli with egg yolk, buffalo ricotta and sage at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Ravioli with egg yolk, buffalo ricotta, sage, parmigiano and nettles $34

There's a tense moment when we hover our knife over the ravioli with egg and buffalo ricotta.

Runny egg yolk ravioli at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Egg yolk money shot spilling out from the ravioli

We needn't have worried. There's a triumphant gush of egg yolk as our knife pierces the pasta skin. It's a rich mouthful of pan-fried ravioli filled with nettles and buffalo ricotta, topped with deep fried sage and shaved Parmigiano.

The squid ink spaghetti with spanner crab ($38), the strozzapreti with kangaroo tail ($38) and the taglioini with lobster ($129!) will have to be saved for our next visit.

Filleting our fish at the table at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Table-side filleting of our whole yellow belly flounder with sunflower oil and wine

Our waiter makes much of the roasted mud crab, hand-picked and piled back into the shell for easy eating (and paying $125 for the privilege) but we're more about the whole fish today. We pick the yellow belly flounder over the snapper and John Dory, roasted over charcoal and then filleted table-side.

Yellow belly flounder at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Filleted yellow belly flounder $76.30 ($109/kg)

The fish is presented on the table, complete with liver and cheek flesh. We have to ask to keep the head and bones before it's whisked back to the kitchen though - there's so much more goodness to be scraped from both!

The flounder is soft and succulent, dressed simply with sunflower oil and a splash of wine. A lemon half - wrapped in muslin to stop the seeds escaping - provides a welcome hit of acidity.

Fried bread at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Fried bread $3 each

On the waiter's recommendation, we order the fried bread to soak up the sauce from the fish. It's only later that I realise these weren't actually on the menu, but they should be. Their golden-brown crust gives way to a fluffy core, like a cross between a yeasted doughnut and the Chinese you tiao deep-fried cruller. 

Rangers Valley grain-fed double hanger steak at Bert's in Newport
Rangers Valley grain-fed 1.2kg whole double hanger steak for 2+ $125 

We share the double hanger steak between the five of us, a herculean portion that appears bigger than the 1.2kg menu description. Some might stress that the core is a little rare, but we don't have a major issue with it, and relish the tenderness and flavour of this butcher's cut.

Dutch cream potatoes at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Dutch cream potatoes with olive oil and marjoram $12

Steak needs potatoes, and the Dutch cream potatoes here are a winner with their buttery texture and marjoram highlights.

Choko with butter at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Choko, butter, lemon thyme, white pepper $12

It's a novelty, too, to see chokoes on a menu. This beloved pest of so many Australian backyards has been elevated to sleek peeled segments bathed in butter and lemon thyme. It's a little too soft in texture for some at the table, but I'm easily swayed by the heavy infiltration of butter.

Corner booth seating at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Corner booth seating

Rhubarb souffle with green apple sorbet at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Rhubarb souffle and green apple sorbet with Calvados custard $26

We can never resist a souffle and order two rhubarb souffles for the table. Their height is impressive, rising loftily above the mini copper pot. It seems a shame to deflate them with the green apple sorbet and the pouring of Calvados custard but together, it works, the acidity of the green apple offsetting the sweetness of the souffle.

Milk chocolate and Jersey milk ice cream at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Milk chocolate, Jersey milk ice cream, buckwheat and Pedro Ximenez caramel $18

And I'm a bigger fan of the milk chocolate and Jersey milk ice cream than I expect, a dessert that's pulled back on the sweetness. Instead there's a terrific bitterness to the Pedro Ximenez caramel, a counterpoint to the creamy ice cream and sturdy biscuit base.

Petit fours at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Petit fours

There's much to like about Bert's, and you can see why the entire complex is such a hit with the Northern Beaches set. For everyone else, go for the warm service and the thoughtfully luxe menu -and enjoy the scenic journey to get there.

Champagne bar at Bert's in Newport by Merivale
Champagne bar


Bert's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bert's Bar & Brasserie
2 Kalinya Street, Newport, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9114 7350

Opening hours
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5.30pm-9.30pm (Friday and Saturday til 10.30pm)


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