At the upper echelon of Sydney’s Italian restaurants sits The Restaurant Pendolino, taking up a commanding position at one end of The Strand Arcade. From the moment you step out of the lift, you get the feeling that your evening is in safe hands. You’re ushered to your table to a chorus of greetings from kitchen and floor.
Water, bread and an array of extra-virgin olive oils land in rapid succession; aperitivo orders are taken; the specials are explained; the sommelier is summoned.
With more than a decade with this restaurant, Group Sommelier Cristian Casarin, will expertly weave your personal preferences into a narrative adventure that travels through far flung vineyards and locales. For us it’s a new grape – Albana – from the Emilia-Romagna region. It was initially a dessert varietal, but when cultivated with improved quality, makes for a lovely table wine in the 2015 Gariete Folesano IGP ($98.40).
The wine’s initial sweetness makes it a perfect match to knödel. Accompanied by a roasted marrowbone, this plump bread, spinach and ricotta dumpling arrives at the table with plenty of pomp and ceremony. First elegant bone broth is poured, then a ladle of olive oil is added to make the broth's surface glisten.
A smidgen of Parmigiano-Reggiano adds the final touch to what later proves to be my dish of the night. I'd return just to scoop out marrow and consume this dish again.
At the start of the evening we opted for the Three Course ($114/person) set price menu, which means - once the hard work of choosing is done and dusted - that everything pretty much handles itself. With the artisanal pastas made onsite being another restaurant strong suit, the agnolotti is another must-eat. Three generously proportioned and silky beef-stuffed pasta squares sit under tender sweetbreads. The gleam with a rich and indulgent Mediterranean herb butter sauce, moderated with rosemary, and delivered in a controlled potion size that prevents it from becoming too much.
A potato cake description intrigued me into ordering the Game Farm quail special, presented with a beautifully layered leek and potato tortino.
My dining companion went the full monty with slow cooked British beef. It’s an intense dish that eats a lot like Christmas dinner, with a column of beef (that falls apart when you nudge it) accompanied by sour cherries, green shallots, parsnip puree, pearl garlic, and crackled beef tendon.
While you don’t need sides for volume, a slightly tardy Rocket and Savoy Cabbage Salad ($14) is necessary to curb the dish’s intensity.
On your bill, your three-course meal appears as Two Courses ($90/person) with an add-on dessert. This is because while the initial three-course spirit may be willing, the flesh may be weak by the time you’ve polished off those generous mains. Dessert is no less an extravaganza, with even the lighter sounding four curd bavarese feeling generously proportioned. It’s a choose-your-own palate cleansing adventure of grilled Valencia oranges, blood orange sorbet, grapefruit custard and olive oil pastry crumbs.
Pasticciotto teams a seemingly innocuous sweet vanilla custard pie with accompaniments so dark, light seems to fall into them. Grappa-macerated prunes, prune and pomegranate sorbet, and a vanilla grappa sauce that’s poured while your eyes bug out give it a Christmassy feel.
It's so intense though, it ruined me for chocolate truffles completely.
Head into The Restaurant Pendolino when the ravages of modern life leave you wanting to be taken care of.
NOTE: You can see a previous review for this restaurant back HERE.
The Restaurant Pendolino
Shop 100, Level 2, The Strand Arcade
412-414 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9231 6117