Relaxed Italian in beautiful, contemporary surrounds
Berta has been busy. After O Tama Carey – winner of Time Out Sydney’s 2014 Chef of the Year gong (check out our 2015 winners here) – departed in late 2014, one-time Claude’s patron-chef Chui Lee Luk took over while a replacement was sought. Christine Manfield even did a pop-up there recently. But new head chef Jamie Irving (formerly of Rushcutters) is now in place.
The seasonally focussed menu here changes virtually every day; on our visit, the black brook trout has just taken up residence on the blackboard. What a way to start. Served with popping roe and a pared-back fennel and radish salad dressed with the tiniest hint of pickled ginger, the fish is super soft and pleasingly meaty against the other, more delicate elements.
Skip the pâté in favour of something more adventurous, like three little herb-crusted sardines topped with salsa verde. Sardines needs to be served at a near-impossible level of freshness, which can be hard to achieve in warmer climates like ours. Here they are clean tasting and fragrant with the smell of the sea, and the herbs complement rather than conceal that oceanic tinge.
A main of casarecce (short lengths of slightly curled pasta) with duck ragu and eggplant showcases a classic Berta approach to cooking: homey, simple and exactly what you want on a cold night. More flavoursome is the lamb forequarter. The richness of the soft meat is enhanced by a garlic-heavy salsa rustica replete with salty caper pops and Lombardo peppers. Order the green beans on the side; they’re also tossed with garlic as well as preserved lemon, and slick with fruity, nutty olive oil.
As for dessert, the chocolate tart is rich and pleasingly bitter, but our pick is the meringue. A sharp lemon curd tops an ultra-chewy meringue base, while fresh raspberries and a crisp almond meringue hat adorn the top.
17-19 Alberta St
|Opening hours:||Lunch Fri from noon; dinner Tue-Sat 6pm-late; aperitivo Fri 3-6pm|