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  • Surry Hills
  1. An empty restaurant with hanging pendant lights, green tables, bentwood chairs
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. A flat lay of Italian dishes and wine on a green marble table
    Photograph: Supplied
  3. A pasta machine
    Photograph: Supplied
  4. An empty restaurant with hanging pendant lights, green tables, bentwood chairs
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

A love letter to Sicily lands in the heart of Surry Hills at this kitsch and creative diner

Bastardo is a somewhat surprising destination at the end of the Porteño group's journey. While most of Joe Valore, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate’s venues typically have a more Argentinian lilt, Bastardo lands us right in the heart of Italy – specifically, Sicily. The tiny island is Valore’s ancestral home and the Holt Street diner, while still retaining its more Spanish, Bodega-esque heritage, gives itself away on the menu.

A starter of 18-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano arrives on a platter, no gilding nor adornment which is exactly the kind of confidence we should expect from the small empire that’s thriving in this enclave of Surry Hills (Holt Street is also home to the tiny wine bar, Wyno x Bodega, everyone’s favourite bakery Humble, and of course the mothership, Porteño).

There’s a fine line between relying on the tried and true and just being unoriginal. You’ll find plenty of Mediterranean-ish restaurants in Sydney with a glass of natty vino for $20 and an assortment of riffs on snackable anchovies. There’s nothing wrong with that – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And yet at Bastardo, there’s a savvy balance between meeting a punter’s expectations and allowing the kitchen its creativity.

You’ll find plenty of flavours that the palate recognises, but assembled in ways that are pleasingly surprising. Take, for instance, the sweet corn agnolotti; oblong pillows of egg pasta, stuffed to the brim with pureed kernels and doused in a burnt butter sage sauce with capers. Flavours we recognise, for sure, but crafted in a way that keeps you on your toes. The sharp reggiano pulls the corn's natural sweetness back from the saccharine edge while the sticky, rich butter sauce coats the taste buds before the crisp, vinegar steeped capers come in for the cleanup. Then you're ready to dive back in for more.

Tellingly, there are only two 'secondi' dishes on the menu; grilled swordfish steak with pistachio and green olive tapenade, and generous rounds of porchetta, liberally herbaceous with a sastifying crunch to the bronzed crackling. And both are excellent, deceptively simple dishes, but take the context clues and spend your time well at sharable 'primi' offering, a far more extensive and expressive menu.

Bullhorn peppers stuffed with anchovies and doused in sharp salsa verde; marinated mackarel and slow-cooked zucchini; grilled veal tongue with bitter endive and bagna cauda - emulsified anchovy and garlic sauce - that's where you'll see the mastery of Bastardo hit its stride. From the food to the wine to the decor, everything about this restaurant screams exciting, refreshed energy and a passion for cuisine that is both tradition-minded and of the now.

With its hypercolour walls in earthy vermillion hues, green amaro bottles and an open kitchen that dominates the space, Bastardo’s dining room is a step back in time. Either to a coastal Italian villa in the 1960's or, perhaps, to Commonwealth Street in the early noughties, when Milgate, Abrahanowicz and Valore first swung open the doors to Bodega. This Sicilian, Argentinian and Italian love letter is all heart, and all Surry Hills.

Written by
Elizabeth McDonald


Holt Street
Surry Hills
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat; 5-11pm, Fri, noon-4pm
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