Intimate Italian. Wine wonderland.
MUST ORDER Whipped bottarga and pretzel; tiramisu; gnocchi
AMBIANCE The coolest people in Sydney drink/dine here
SERVICE Decent. Squashed. Very friendly
WOULD I GO BACK? If I am trying to impress a wine lover
10 William St has a distinct character. It’s clearly a cut above of your normal restaurant (and has one hat). The walls are lined with wine bottles. You might have to queue to enter and exit, as the tables and chairs take up pretty much all of the space in the restaurant. I definitely wouldn’t come with more than one other person. They only take walk-ins, so if you come with a group you risk waiting a lot longer until a table becomes free. Even as a pair you will struggle to move anywhere if your Body Mass Index is above average. I could have comfortably eaten from my neighbour’s plate. Dirty conversation needs to be kept to a minimum if you don’t want to put the married couple beside you off their dinner.
Service nails friendliness but lacks in attentiveness. It’s not their fault. They’re too busy. This would not be solved by hiring more staff, because there isn’t room for more staff.
There’s an upstairs and a downstairs. Both offer similar dining experiences, with more buzz and natural light (plus the bar) downstairs.
It doesn’t sound like much, but the pretzel and whipped bottarga ($17) is very impressive. The pretzel is fresh, warm and coated generously in seeds (sunflower seeds, pepitas and not too much salt like the Germans would subject you too). The whipped bottarga is to be spread onto (and eaten with) the pretzel. Bottarga is cod roe. It’s salty, covered in zest and drizzled with oil. One of the best dips you’ve ever had.
I appreciate how the main meals come with ‘free’ focaccia. If you want to purchase more, focaccia, garlic and thyme (served with salt and olive oil) is only $2.
My favourite snack is the scallop ‘nduja toast ($4). This is a hot and warm mouthful of goodness. You will like it if you like sausage rolls and spicy snacks. Closely following is the farinatawith smoked mayo and a not-so-salty San Daniele prosciutto ($4). This would be the best item on a cheeseboard. The farinata is a warm, thick, chickpea pancake generously piled with the cured cut. I would suggest you order one of both for everyone. The fish polpetta with puttanesca mayo ($4) is not nearly as essential to order, despite being a lovely warm fish cake, and the largest of all the snacks.
Quail Milanese is a must-order for any schnitzel lover. It was superb and so moist. The quail was still on the bone, characterising it as a daintier version of a crumbed, fried chicken drumstick.
I advise you to order at least one pasta dish between yourselves. This is because it’s their specialty. Parpadelle duck ragu and fennel ($29) has been my favourite, based on past visits. It was good, but standard. A Tavola and Sagra do it far better. The pappardelle was too thick and slightly too al dente, but the dish had the ideal ratio of ragu and cheese to pasta. The gnocchi is amazing (the best I’ve had to date) but the gnocchetti can be skipped (the former, fluffy like a cloud; the latter, chewy).
The beef tartare ($24) was lovely, although standard and too salty. The asparagus with bagna cauda, avocado and mojama ($15) was also good but plain for the price. The bagna is a dip of anchovy, butter and garlic; and mojama is the loins of salted tuna. Googling aside, this didn’t assist my vegetarian friend, who only ate the greens.
There’s something that doesn’t quite hit the mark at 10 William St. I think I’ve identified a few things: not enough sauces in the dishes and too much bread-based flavour (crumbs on pasta, without the binding of sauce and cheese). The dishes lack complexity and richness but aren’t simple enough to feel clean. Breadcrumbs worked with squid and dill in the gnocchi. However, the dry strascinati with chorizo and mushrooms ($27) was breadcrumb overload.
The tiramisu ($12) is Sydney’s best. It’s SO light, with hardly a trace of alcohol (Marsala), and minimal on the moist, coffee sponge. Just the way I like it.
Even though 10 William St and Fratelli Paradiso share the same owner, Fratelli Paradiso’s tiramisu was tangibly different– less light and with a flavourless sponge. But at 10 William St, the tiramisu is $2 cheaper, and the dreamy chocolate cream on the bottom was far more generous here.
I’d definitely come again, as it’s one of Italy’s best restaurants.
Date visited: three visits in 2018