The word ‘delicatessen’ cannot encompass the golden sparkle of the new Continental Deli in the CBD. In an otherwise heavily scaffolded corner of Phillip Street, it’s an oasis where all your city life expectations of Martinis and steak after work come true.
You certainly can get the famous Continental Mar-tinny, the canned gin Martini that is super chilled and perfectly dilute and in a sturdy casing that you could take on a long sea voyage. And the tinned seafood naturally made the migration to the new digs, which are much bigger and only one storey, unlike the original Newtown location squeezed into a narrow terrace.
A deli that is also a bar and restaurant is such a perfectly tiered dining concept for the whims of the CBD, the real question is why has it taken this long. City workers are accustomed to a cheeseboard for dinner when one glass of the beautifully round Norton Summit chardonnay gives way to a Negroni, then a Bloody Mary. But here your cheese plate is no ordinary curds: get it with the funk of an Époisses washed rind, the intense creaminess of a Brillat-Savarin triple-cream, and the nuttiness of the ancient Ossau-Iraty semi-hard from the western Pyrenees. Feeling very continental? It’s about to get better. Ortiz anchovies, razor clams, French sardines and cockles are all sealed up tight in tins, just waiting for the go order from you, as is the great deli slicer prepped to deliver wafer-thin lonza, bresaola, culatello and mortadella. You don’t even need to look at the kitchen to eat like a French Duke here.
Of course, his grace would have no objection to two tender chicken breasts wearing golden skin like a royal cape. To one side there is a kind of chicken salad made from the shredded meat from the legs in a creamy dressing, and underneath is a sea of golden sweetcorn – a very upmarket creamed corn.
Very tender octopus tentacles are a three-gun flavour salute, cooked in black olive and served with romesco and the salty tang of ribbons of kohlrabi and salted mango, but we find greater comfort in a bowl of thick al dente tubes of pasta, the kind no fork can tame. They’re coated in a hunter green kale and macadamia crunchy pesto, with more parmesan and chilli oil on the side to really make it a party.
Under the golden star light fixtures, grooving to a classic wedding night playlist of Earth, Wind and Fire, Seal, MC Hammer and Toploader, it’s very hard not to have a good time here, which is why the bar is always packed by 5.30pm. You can book tables, but competition is fierce and only the brave risk a walk in. Everyone wants to be drinking in this big open bistro where the mid-century curves of the bar make you feel like you’re in a New York brasserie, but dessert is a very Australian giant scoop of Ciccone and Sons mango sorbet.