Luxury, seafood, warmth and style.
MUST ORDER The anchovies with fried bread; the sea urchin brioche toasts
AMBIANCE 1920s? 50s? Tasteful, comfortable, well-lit, plush and welcoming
WOULD I GO BACK? Definitely. Perfect for a birthday or family occasion. Where I’ll be spending my birthday in 2019
From the firm pink napkins to the plates labelled ‘Bert’s’, this restaurant has a welcoming feel. This is how I imagine a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton would look like, overlooking the beach on a sunny day. You’re truly a guest.
Two immediate things to love: the lighting and the open kitchen. We could watch our tagliolini being tossed in a pan, twisted up, oiled and plated. Head chef Jordan Toft chucked us a few smiles as he could see us gazing in awe at his various workings on roasted pumpkin, slicing prosciutto; and at staff working at their allocated stations crisping soldier toasts, flipping flesh over fire, dipping fryers, shucking oysters, tossing salads and shaking cocktails.
A refreshing sight if ever I saw one: the restaurant was more than adequately staffed. All staff members appeared crisp and focused. Another rare pleasure: table water was topped up as soon as it needed to be, and a jug was left on the table. Timing between each course was perfection–we waited only just long enough to feel like we were settled, and about ten minutes between entrée and main. There was a wedding reception happening along the window side of the restaurant. Inspiring stuff. Huge platters continued to pass us, watching along in envy and admiration. Two small children on the table opposite twirled at their small pasta plates, delighted. Joy emanates from all directions.
As the lunch service progressed, the tantalising smell of juicy flamed beef almost had us over-ordering and picking an extra main from the red meat selection. Likewise, the three-dollar, fresh brioche rolls tricked your nostrils into thinking you were in a bakery. But you’re also in a fish market, with counters of ice displaying whole fish and shellfish, and critters swimming in tanks.
I’ve included a few shots of the venue below, but you’ll have to visit to see for yourself.
I adore the colour scheme of the restaurant. The masses of green and white marble; the teal/seafoam, velvety bar seating; seaweed-green leather booths; and black-and-white-tiled kitchen floor. There were copper light fittings hanging from the roof, thick pink linen napkins at your lap…just snack me happy.
Dayum, those warm house brioche fingers. We ordered both types on the menu (three toasts per dish); one served with fragrant salmon and fennel pollen ($16) and the sea urchin and chicken butter ($18) version. This was the day I visibly muddied my sea urchin virginity, and it was glorious. I’d had things with bits of sea urchin, but never seen or eaten a whole ‘piece’. I was expecting two post-toast-bite sensations: salty; chewy. The chicken butter was surprisingly subtle and only just under my threshold of being overwhelmingly generous, whereas the sea urchin was all delicateness and creaminess. I loved it. The pollen was an important spice addition to the soft, generous blanket of salmon.
An 80 gram single serve of bonito crudo ($21) swims in virgin grape seed and muscatel vinegar dressing and sea salt. Neutral feelings about this one, as there was nothing special apart from the high quality of the fish. Too oily. Dad picked off the skin.
The highlight for me was the hand-filleted anchovies dish with lemon thyme oil, fried bread and black pepper ($19). The fried bread stood out on its own. A chewy, doughy centre with a solid crust, topped with good humour in the form of some in-tact anchovy skeletons.
A showstopper was allegedly going to be the tagliolini with lobster ($129). It looked huge, but could feed one person if you order nothing else (we shared between two because we ordered so many other dishes). The white wine, garlic and marjoram sauce was less flavoursome than one imagines. Perhaps some tomato or sugary element was needed. Fat from something creamy might have upgraded the fat from the oil. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, but it was too oily and nothing amazing. When I consider the price tag, I wouldn’t order it again. If you’re not a good cook and you couldn’t make a basic tomato pasta from scratch (adding Sydney-Fish-Market-bought lobster), then go for it.
The chocolate tart with ginger crumb and creme fraiche ($18) was a little different to what we expected. It was very dense and broke off under my spoon like a cake, rather than being light, smooth or mousse-y. The ginger crumb was in fact a ginger tart crust, and the crème fraîche was, strangely, a spoon with a scoop on it (with a hardened skin on top). Super rich, but the crust (‘crumb’) was nice.
We walked out the door feeling perfectly satisfied and in an very positive mood. Bert’s has a warm atmosphere of luxury, backed up with quality, well-cooked ingredients. Insanely expensive, but just come mentally prepared.
Order next time: The crab and one of the beef options. The dessert on the cover of Gourmet Traveller (in pic below) which Pat Nourse is obsessed with.
Date visited: 20 May 2018.