My dining companion recently landed a new job in the Liverpool area, so we were looking to celebrate. At the same time, we wanted to get to know his new work 'hood. It would be hard to imagine a more appropriate destination to scratch both itches than Gemelle.
This restaurant was established back in 1993 – incidentally the same year as our club night was born – 23 years ago. To remain in the business for that many years means you have to be doing something right, and from the second we walked inside the glass-fronted building, the reasons for their longevity became obvious.
We were greeted right at the door, with traditional Italian warmth and generosity. Guided to a table in the sleek, modern space, we’d barely settled into our seats when the seafood trolley arrived. A glistening red coral trout, lightly pink snapper and a deep green lobster are all produced for our consideration, with weights and prices rolling easily off our waiter’s tongue. Staff cracked open our special bottle of wine (yes, in Liverpool they allow BYO even on a busy Saturday night) while we contemplated the menu. The menu, incidently, comes both in printed form, and on an iPad, where the dishes are accompanied with illustrative photographs.
While the trolley's coral trout was tempting, it was these photos that got us over the line with the Grigliata di Mare ($159.90/2 people) – it was a celebration after all! We were sold by the fact this well presented seafood platter wasn’t overloaded with fried food. Instead it contained a half dozen freshly shucked oysters, Japanese scallops, grilled king prawns, scampi split open on the half-shell, and two decent fillets of the fish of the day – John Dory on the day we dined. Artfully arranged grilled calamari was the surprising winner – cooked to perfection, the tiny rings were tender and compelling. I say surprising winner, because under this avalanche of seafood was tucked a 600g whole lobster tail! The simplicity of the cooking showed off the quality of the seafood, and our platter arrived from the kitchen lightening fast.
We chose to accompany our meal with the Inslata di cavolo ($15.90) – a wonderful shaved Savoy and red cabbage salad, dotted with roasted pistachios and pickled onion, and then hidden under a blanket of ricotta salata. With a white balsamic and lemon dressing, this was easily one of the best side salads I’ve had in Sydney.
It eclipsed the - admittedly more eye-catching - Insalata di Rape Rosse ($24.90), drawn from the list of weekly specials. Presented on a long platter, this salad pitted both purple and golden baby beetroot and generous wedges of buffalo mozzarella, against a creamy bed of Gorgonzola mousse. Playing with both texture and colour, it was dotted with crisp puffed wild rice and green micro herbs.
After mentioning we’re not big fans of fried food, I’m going to eat my words and tell you to order Palatine Fritte ($9.90) – these hand-cut skinny chips dusted with rosemary salt were a definite winner.
Watching the tables pour in, it's clear that there's a strong love for traditional yet modern Italian food in South Western Sydney. Eating at Gemelle suddenly gives my prior visits to other local modern Italian favourites like Candelori's in Smithfield, and La Tratt in Fairfield, more historical context. This is the restaurant that paved the way for their South Western Sydney success. I'm already looking forward to returning.
79 Bathurst Street, Liverpool
Ph: (02) 9602 5294