I dined at Civic Dining without my usual companion - I was the guest of a restaurant publicity firm called Wasamedia. I went there for lunch, however the menu is the same for lunch and dinner. The restaurant is on the first floor of the rather stylishly revamped art-deco Civic Hotel.
The room you dine in comes complete with a gleaming baby grand piano on a white shag-pile rug, making it all a fairly wonderful setting for Modern Greek cuisine that cruises above and beyond even the level of ‘gastro-pub’ fare. In other words, you will forget that it's a pub - I certainly did.
It's currently a small menu, showing just five entrées and six mains, but I hear they will be expanding it in the near future. At present, vegetarians are offered a single entrée, though I would expect that upon inquiry a main could be prepared. I would hope the new menu shows at least a vegetarian main - I am starting to think it makes dining torturous for vegetarians to force them to always feel they need to ask to find something they can actually eat.
The chef is Peter Conistis (ex-Omega), and he excels in bringing the modern flavours of Greece, and the wider Mediterranean region to the dishes. His mother, Eleni, is running the bistro downstairs, which presents $15 dishes in a more traditional Greek style.
I chose to start with a flaky Blue Swimmer Crab and Haloumi Tartlet ($24) which I really enjoyed. I thought the cheese was quite a big one to be paired with the reasonably delicate crab, but they put enough big chunks of crab in there so I did at least get to enjoy the flavour of crab from time to time.
I let the sommelier choose the wine, as I was keen to try Greek wines, but completely unfamiliar with them. He did an excellent job, and I loved the three wines he chose. The best of them (which came with this course) was a 2006 Boutari Moschofilero ($8/glass, $40/bottle) which was closest to a Sauvignon Blanc in style, just without the overwhelmingly passionfruit edge (this meant I liked it better than your average Sauv. Blanc).
My dining companion chose a beautifully plated (and partially de-boned) Pomegranate Roasted Quail ($24) set atop a salad of watermelon, sheep’s fetta and grilled chorizo to start.
For a main, I went with the Caramelised King Prawns and Kinkawooka Mussels ($33) on a bed of pumpkin orzo (rice-shaped pasta) flecked with fetta, mint, olives and chilli. It was nice, the prawns were huge, but I wished for a bit more sass from the chilli.
Just as we finished the mains, my dining companion was called back to the office, so I was left in the capable hands of the staff who suggested dessert. Who was I to argue?
Lucky I didn't as it was dessert that provided the moment of greatest rapture, with a White Chocolate and Orange Blossom Sorbet ($14), served in a glass biscuit cone on a bed of fresh orange, dates and Iranian candied green oranges. The sorbet was a triumph - lightly floral, wickedly white chocolate, icy, and not too creamy, but just creamy enough. The salad was refreshing; the candied green oranges quite delightful, and the cone was very sweet, just somewhat hard to break without mashing your cutlery into the plate.
I was kept drinking in keeping with the cuisine with another Greek wine - the 2003 Samos Vin Doux Muscat from Samos ($8/glass, $40/bottle). By the way, the sommelier was excellent; indeed the whole staff were both relaxed, friendly and informative, making it a good service experience.
If you dine in the month starting March 26th, you can also try the five course Greek Easter Degustation Menu ($95, $145 with wine) which will shows some modern takes on classic Greek Easter flavours.
The Civic Hotel, Level 1, 388 Pitt St, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8080 7040