Sat among the Middle Eastern bakeries and wedding dress shops of Sydney Road in Brunswick, pastry chef extraordinaire Philippa Sibley’s Albert Street Food and Wine is well on its way to earning her further coveted titles (she was once named The Age Good Food Guide Chef of the Year) and confidently joins the ranks of her previous excellent ventures – est est est, Luxe, Ondine and Il Fornaio.
Occupying the spacious corner plot of a former bank, the space reminded us somewhat of Cumulus Inc. Same sliding vault door (which conceals a wine ‘cellar’ where private dining parties can look out over the kitchen), same industrial-looking high ceiling, same bar-side dining option.
Splashes of yellow and gold warm the place up and the atmosphere is lively without noise levels ever reaching a deafening crescendo. Reclaimed timber tables, black chairs, metal lampshades – all bringing a much-needed dose of relaxed Melbourne dining to this neck of the woods. The kind of place where whatever the time of day, occasion, or hunger levels, you will find something tasty on the menu, which encourages grazing with its little and large Mediterranean plates, pizzas, pastas and charcuterie selections.
First up for me, alongside a chilled glass of wine – bliss, heirloom carrot soup, vin santo, scallops. None of the raspy acidity you might get with a lesser version – this was incredibly smooth and rich. I imagine it contained a fair amount of cream, but at least the veggie content went some way to countering the calories. Perfectly cooked, spongy scallops bobbed around in the unctuous liquid and the vin santo added a perfect tang. Could have drunk this straight from the bowl. Refined comfort food. Loved it.
The boy has trouble seeing past pate, rillettes or terrines, so on this occasion he opted for potted rainbow trout rillettes, cornichon, grilled bread. Coarsely textured and not overly fishy, there was again no wrong step here.
Fritto misto with punchy aioli was served in a bowl lined with baking paper – lightly battered prawns, white fish, asparagus (still firm, not soggy – bonus points), zucchini flowers and something from the samphire family I believe. With a generous squeeze of lemon it transported us to the sparkling Med and a small Italian fishing village. Sigh, it’s been a long time since we visited one of those.
More comfort food came in the form of saffron gnocchi with braised veal, broad beans and fried sage. Meaty, juicy and full of flavour, those little gnocchis were like angel’s pillows. Right, enough clichés from me, on to the much-anticipated desserts.
We almost had tears at the table when we were told the Sibley Snickers Bar sensation was not on the menu that day, with one member of our party threatening to ‘have words, but overcame adversity and ordered Amoretti semi freddo with roasted apricots…
…and strawberries with balsamic ice cream and chewy, sticky sticks of meringue.
As if we needed a reason to return, we will definitely be heading back for more sweet treats and to stock up our store cupboard with goodies from the adjoining deli. All in all, a fresh-flavoured, raging success!
382 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Tel: (03) 8354 6600