Seafood-focused waterfront dining, proudly Italian from start to finish.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Mud crab two ways; Bugs; pasta; snacks; gelato
AMBIANCE Warmly-lit, romantic, protective pontoon
WOULD I GO BACK? Definitely a regular visitor
One of my favourite maître d’s in Sydney is Ormeggio’s Peter Sabesta. He is one of the most professional waiters I have ever come across. You might get service like this at Dinner by Heston or Vue de Monde in Melbourne, but it’s rare in Sydney.
For those who have not visited Ormeggio before its recent renovation, you can read my previous review. But now, they give us Ormeggio 2.0 – a meatless menu that is no longer necessarily a degustation-style affair.
The new, a la carte menu is only one page long, supplemented by a separate menu for dessert and another one of ‘daily specials’. You can also order the ‘chef’s picks’ menu, a select seven courses for $139 or nine courses for $199. Whether or not this set menu is good value depends on what you would otherwise order. If portion sizes remained the same, those seven courses would otherwise cost $174.
Along with the new menu come dangerously comfortable wicker armchairs you have to be careful not to sink into, and a more open, group-friendly dining room. The bar features new artworks and ceramics.
Ormeggio is such a romantic venue, especially at night. We were taken to the table-of-the-house, in the middle of the window-wall overlooking the glittering marina.
Immediately, I was curious to see what was on offer. How can one pass up a snack involving hand-picked Queensland Spanner crab? The crab fritella ($10 each) is like a crispy, chickpea biscuit/pancake, with chives, lime zest and lemon mayonnaise tying down the crab meat.
A Tasmanian Yellowfin tuna crostini ($12 each) hits the spot again – wham! The brioche crostini is not unlike a polenta chip, topped with creamy pistachio and ocean trout roe.
Of course, I was never not going to order any dish involving Moreton Bay Bug ($46). This dish is a spread, so make way. Each person is given a charred and juicy Bug tail, dotted with finger lime. You place your tail on a warm, taco-like flatbread called a ‘Piadina’ (which you have already lathered with melting anchovy butter), and top with an unforgettable crustacean emulsion and some token cime di rapa if you’re feeling virtuous.
And with the anchovy butter came a critical error. Greed. I saw all that butter and thought, “I cannot finish all that on the two slices of flatbread provided…but I must”. We asked the waitress for a small piece of bread each, explaining we needed it for the anchovy butter. She mistook this for ordering an entire extra dish – warm focaccia ($14) with ricotta. We did not want this, nor could we handle it. It was fkn good, though, obviously.
I surprised myself by only ordering one pasta dish: the cured Fraser Island scallops spaghetti alla chitarra ($34). This pasta, with a cubed cross-section, looks a little dry to the naked eye but the big hero flavour is the roasted capsicum topping, which is so sweet and delicious. Lime and scallops are more humble players.
Here’s about the point in my review where you will despise me as a capitalist pig with too much money. Well, I will get straight to it. One of our dishes cost $160. It was bloody amazing but hard to tell if it’s worth it. I certainly do not regret ordering that dish, but would probably restrain myself from doing so next time. Beware of that amazing ‘daily specials’ menu.
So, the controversial Queensland Mud crab in two ways ($160). Steamed crab served on tomato carnaroli risotto was the dish of the evening for me. That is – crab the ‘first way’. Full of flavour, some crunch, some freshness, and generous with the crab. The ‘second way’ is the charcoal crab claw meat with pummarola (basically tomato salsa, which was divine), to be wrapped up in cradles of baby cos lettuce. Bloody brilliant.
Suffice it to say, it would be a crime not to try Ormeggio’s ice cream, even if just for its texture. It is beyond your idea of perfect. Especially as the updated version of the restaurant pitches itself as a cocktail and gelato bar, you owe it to yourself to follow their lead.
Being the biggest sucker for the chocolate-hazelnut combination, I had to order the Gianduia gelato ($24). Gianduia is a bit like Nutella (a choc-hazelnut spread), but this version comprises 70% cocoa chocolate, Piedmont hazelnuts, dark chocolate sauce, and caramel pearls and cacao nibs sprinkled on top.
Everyone seemed to be ordering the theatrical Amalfi lemon gelato for dessert ($22), where the waiter torches the meringue at your table. Immediately underneath the meringue are cubes of candied lemon, beneath which there is a layer of vanilla cream. This is hyper-luxury.
Our eyes were far too big for our stomachs. In a dramatic delirium of over-ordering, I am deeply ashamed to admit we had to ask for a whole course, the Iceland Baccala and potato pie ($42) to be put in a container. We could not even look at it in the car home and had to put it in the boot, unzipping before buckling up.
Around an hour later we each tried the pie and it was good, but not great. First of all, it only had a pastry lid (no pastry sides or bottom) so to me this is not really a pie. It was mostly silky potato and butter, so that’s hard to complain about. No pics of this one squashed and microwaved, so using an Ormeggio official pic instead.
Ormeggio did not disappoint, and the only thing you might miss about the old menu is the old snacks. Seafood is mode du jour, and Alex Pavoni knows it. Ormeggio will do well.
Visit date: 11 July 2020
After trying that crab, I had to return soon. Ormeggio 2.0 was resampled by me again.
Two things I ordered again: the lemon gelato and the Moreton Bay Bug.
A new special I regretted ordering: scarlet prawns. Just not that amazing and not enough flesh for your buck.
I have now sampled all the snacks and can report they are all 10/10 and you must order them all, as pictured. Pasta is similarly a no-brainer at this establishment and this version cannot be described as anything other than delectable.
The shock highlight of the meal was the white truffle gelato, which, in a cliché, was perfection. The texture challenged your mind.