80 Campbell St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Bistrot 916 was one of my biggest (and also rather unexpected) hits of the year, so it stands to reason that Pellegrino 2000 – its younger Italian cousin – won’t fail to impress. Just like Bistrot, Pellegrino is (as the kids call it) a vibe. It’s remarkable how they manage to evoke the impression of having walked off the street into a little family-run trattoria, where you are served whatever magic they’re whipping up on the day. Yet despite the down-to-earth feel, there is definitely a degree of refinement to the experience that befits a special occasion. I’m personally a bigger fan of Bistrot 916, if for nothing else than the sparkling service, but Pellegrino 2000 offers up the exact same level of quality, laced with their signature cheeky wink of irreverence.
Rating: 14.5/20 – fancy but not, y’know?
The wow-factor: the truffle parmesan butter. it’s worth getting the focaccia just for that.
Good to know: if you want a dinner sitting on a weekend, you’re looking at a 6-week wait right now.
I usually write off Fritto Misto ($32) as the boring choice, but that’s definitely not the case this time around. This mix of calamari, prawn, whitebait, and sardines was remarkably fresh, and the light dusting of batter not only did not overwhelm the flavour of the seafood, but actually augmented it with its subtle, salty crunch.
The Mozzarella di Bufala, Peas, Broad Beans ($24) is all fresh Spring goodness, the creaminess of the cheese contrasting with the delicately sweet vegetables. A dash of fish sauce in the chive oil makes for an unorthodox, but very clever addition that really rounds out the flavours.
Don’t forget to order some Focaccia e Burro ($8). As excellent as the bread itself may be, and as well as it goes with a large share of the nibbles on the menu, it’s frankly worth ordering for the house-made truffle and parmesan butter alone.
The recommendation for the Rigatoni, Lamb Ragu ($32) comes from a good friend of mine, who declared it to be the best ragu in all of Sydney. Given that she’s both a food-enthusiast and half-Italian, those are bold words indeed. But y’know what? Of course she was right. Slow-cooked into an unctuous stickiness, the sauce is a perfect juxtaposition between the richness of the lamb and the bright acidity of tomatoes. It clings magnificently to the pasta, which is cooked just a shade under al dente, thus deftly avoiding the risk of any cloyingness as you get to the bottom of the plate.
If you’re reading reviews in general however, the Ravioli, Prawn & Brown Butter ($34) would be the hero dish. Think the plumpest, bounciest prawn dumplings you’ve ever had, wrapped in the silkiest, thinnest wrapper, drowned in a rich, nutty pool of melted butter, and that’s basically what this is. A simple squeeze of lemon and a few fried sage leaves rounds it out nicely.
The chefs’ creativity and flagrant disregard for the rules of old-school cooking really rears its head with the Crema Caramello Alla Banana ($19). But you know what? Why not serve your crème caramel with a mound of banana-flavoured whipped cream? The flavour combination is a classic for a reason.