Contemporary, French and Italian inspired restaurant below a wine bar in Summer Hill.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Beef short rib; focaccia; crispy potatoes
AMBIANCE Intimate, simple dining around a bar
WOULD I GO BACK? In no great rush
Walking along the main drag of Summer Hill involves taking a step back in time. The faded advertisements for magazines and soft drink along the walls and eaves of old shopfronts. So it’s almost a surprise when you round the corner of Smith Street and see casual diners on benches enjoying the late afternoon sun. At first, it seems like a nice pub from the outside, whereas the restaurant shares a room with a large bar. Opposite this room is the ground floor kitchen, and upstairs there’s a wine bar.
At One Penny Red, named after an old Australian postage stamp, four courses cost $65 and five cost $80 per person. This is great value in the context of hatted tasting menus (they’ve got one Good Food hat).
The focaccia is an optional add-on, and you should exercise that $3 option. It’s got a shortbread-like crust and it’s warm and herby.
The first course is a choice of two snacks, and we chose the duck liver pâté, served with fresh sourdough and the baked scallops. These were perfectly acceptable but ordinary snacks for the price.
The following ‘small plate’ is a broth with soft octopus and two offcuts of bread. My partner called this a ‘train wreck of a dish’, whereas I thought it was a glorified Cup A Soup. It was watery and an odd textural combination.
The highlight was the main meal. We loved the idea of cacio e pepe gnocchi, which was very soft and rich. The sauce is thick and not smooth, with unmelted shaved cheese dotted through it. It was delightfully peppery.
My favourite course by far was preceded by tearing apart sticky, fatty beef short rib. It fell apart under the fork and was well marinated.
The other optional add-on that is definitely worth it is the crispy spice salt potatoes ($9). They’re like rounded fries.
For dessert, we got a trifle and a frangipane tart. Both were unusual and average at the same time. My partner told me the bottom of his trifle was like a shot, and I didn’t believe him. One bite later and I was gagging on sponge-soaked spirits.
Overall, One Penny Red makes for a fun excursion and the venue tempts you to explore Summer Hill more in the daylight – especially the milk-bar-turned-bar (call The Rio).