I remember years ago when Il Baretto in Surry Hills were dishing out hearty pasta such as their signature duck ragu papardelle, the long wait for a table can be excruciatingly painful.
Fast forward six years and it looks like queuing for a good bowl of pasta in Sydney is happening all over again. Only this time, it is at Walsh Bay in the name of Cafe Sopra.
The “no bookings taken” policy makes business sense for more casual restaurants which have a high volume of customers. Those who don’t mind the wait are usually the curious and the seasoned restaurant campaigners who might be pining for a particular dish that has hit the mark. I suspect the “in the middle” customers would care less standing in a queue which can go up to 45 minutes.
We have been to Cafe Sopra a couple of times before. This time, we rock up with friends at the Hickson road outlet in Walsh Bay at 1pm on a sunny Sunday and the entire restaurant is already in a full throttle lunch session where the al fresco areas are the most popular to take advantage of the winter sun.
It a good thing Fratelli Fresh, the organic grocer and providore is also within the premises so waiting diners have the option of browsing fresh herbs, pasta, olive oils and organic vegetables and fruits or simple have a coffee at the Santa Vittoria Apperitivo Bar. We choose to whet out appetites by gazing at the huge blackboard menu offering salads pasta and ragu.
We are finally seated after a 40 minute wait. This wait also means we have ample time to read the menu and decide on our orders.
The last time I was here, I had the spaghetti carbonara and I am having this same dish again today. This old world Italian classic is given a fresh new twist. Out is the gunky thick creamy sauce still being dished out by traditional Italian restaurants.
What makes this classic dish special is really simple – good pasta and EVOO, crispy bacon, fresh herbs and the organic egg yolk that is stirred in for added silkiness and complexity. Grab your fork because every twirl is a mouth-watering forkful of flavour. My tip for chilli and spice lovers is to request for fresh chillies which have been marinated in EVOO to give the pasta an added kick.
A cod pate with poached egg and mussel vinaigrette is rich and creamy although I would prefer the pate to be presented on the side rather than on top of the bread. Soggy toast is not fun at all.
The fettuccine with lemon, chilli, parsley and pangrattato arrives where the pasta is covered with the golden and delectable bits of pangrattato or fried breadcrumbs which is often a used by Italian peasants as a substitute for parmesan. Although there is no meat or seafood in this dish, the crunchy texture of the breadcrumbs gives this dish the thumbs up.
A smoked trout fishcake with caper mayonnaise and soft boiled eggs is a revelation. I am a big fan of capers and for these little buggers to be whipped into a thick mayonnaise that accompanies the creamy smoked trout filling encased in a golden brown crusty shell shows creativity in cooking. And I haven’t even mentioned the rich and creamy soft boiled eggs!
We shared a baked rhubarb with spices organic yoghurt where tangy rhubarb sauce, the occasional crunch of roasted almond chips and the creamy yoghurt beckons for our acknowledgement for best winter dessert.
So dear readers, how long if at all, would you stand in queue for your favourite restaurant?
16 Hickson road
Walsh Bay, Sydney
New South Wales
+612 8243 2700