Cronulla has grown up behind our backs! Owner Mario Kalpou has main-lined a fresh dose of style into the area with his new modern-Italian venture, the Old Library. And chefs David Magill and Danny Russo, previously from Italian Kitchen and Bar in Bondi Junction, are plating up classic Italian flavours combined with contemporary technique.
Take the beguiling caprese marshmallows: a herb broth is whipped with gelatine, set into fluffy squares, then rolled in a soft parmesan crumb that vanishes as it hits your tongue, leaving a mouthful of flavour in its wake.
Roman-style zucchini flowers are stuffed with a porcini and ricotta mix and come crisp and hot. There’s a little Middle Eastern influence in the lamb shoulder, which is slow-braised, shredded, pressed then pan-fried to create a crisp crust, and is served on top of roasted eggplant (which would have been a win if it had been a purée), hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds. Can’t decide what to order? There are five different ‘social plates’ ranging from seafood, to antipasti and cheese.
The atmosphere here slinks between a fitting setting for a summery long lunch that stretches into afternoon cocktails, to a dressed-up evening spot for dinner. And the cocktails here are really kicking arse, too. The Whisky Business is a short dose of smoky toffee combining whiskey, ginger liqueur, house-made spice syrup and fresh lemon, finished with caramelised Lagavulin. The Chapter III will also impress, with Campari, Punt e Mes, Pimms, rosé, grapefruit juice, lime, mint and Fever Tree ginger ale.
While the the pastas are a rather pricey hit-or-miss, the custard apple panna cotta is a sublime tropical wobble with a crunchy hazelnut praline and a chewy rhubarb roll-up (just like at school!) impaled in its centre – a dish that you ain’t going to want to share.