Gymea Italian restaurant Fior brings Surry Hills buzz and Totti’s-style antipasti to The Shire

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Popular new restaurant Fior brings Surry Hills smarts and Totti-style antipasti to the Shire.

14.5/20

italian$$

Italian food is popular anytime, but it definitely gains an edge in winter. It is a warm blanket over the knees, like the one that hospital restaurateurs have left so cozy to soften the cold. Good operators rely on their accessibility, and then make a few changes to the tradition, just to keep things interesting.

This is by way of warning that the pasta mafalde corte ($28) at Fior is green. Like a very bright and vibrant green. Its short, twisted strands are coated in even more green, a savory cavolo nero pesto, under a creamy cloud of stracciatella, mozzarella's soft, sweet cousin. It's a nice upgrade from your usual pasta, especially considering it's homemade.

Ideal dish: Vibrant green Mafalde steak with cavalle nero pesto under a cloud of stracciatella.
Ideal dish: Vibrant green Mafalde steak with cavalle nero pesto under a cloud of stracciatella.Edwina Pickles

And doubly so, given that it is in Gymea, a good 25 kilometers from Surry Hills. Co-owner Tristan Rosier and partner Rebecca Fanning have one foot in each camp, with fine restaurant Arthur and neighborhood bistro Jane in Surry Hills, and family life in the Shire.

I'm actually getting severe flashbacks of Surry Hills in the crowded, crowded dining room, with posh people sipping negronis and squishing anchovies with focaccia.

Antipasti are a statement of intent, with choices from South Coast oysters to Vanella burrata, Kinkawooka mussels, LP mortadella and Saison salami. Some are kept simple, some are elevated; everything can be shared.

So the super-fresh arrowhead calamari ($24) has a light, crispy batter and an aioli made punchy with habanero chili. Mussels are bursting with mild flavors of fennel, dill and a sherry vinaigrette ($19), a nice dish to choose from.

I'm having severe Surry Hills flashbacks in the bustling, bustling dining room, with posh people sipping negronis and squishing anchovies with focaccia.

In good old-school fashion, there are house wines, allowing for a lower price tag ($12) for the cash-strapped. (Please, everyone, bring home wine.) Here, it's a pinot grigio from Victoria's King Valley and a very Italian blend of montepulciano, amaro negro and aglianico from the southern colors of the Barossa Valley. Listen, listen

With expert Lucchetti Krelle involved in Rosier's design and project management, it's an attractive but simply clad space, with smart tiles, brushed metal and the glow of a busy open kitchen, led by chef Will Lawson ( Fred's, Mrs G, Arthur).

The L-shaped room has an awkward entrance, with high stools lining a bar and tables packed tightly throughout, with some, less requested in winter, on a wrap-around covered terrace that will be a delight in the summer On this busy Saturday night, there may be a wait for food.

The highlight, and one that tastes truly Italian, is a plate of charred flat romaine beans ($12) tossed with an anchovy-spiked bagna cauda dressing. Good with a rib-eye steak ($120), spaghetti with pipis and bottarga ($36) or Skull Island shrimp ($45).

Prawns from Skull Island, split and grilled, with 𝄒nduja butter.
Skull Island prawns, split and grilled, with 𝄒nduja butter.Edwina Pickles

Split and charred from the grill, they are seasoned with 𝄒nduja butter ($45). Getting the meaty flesh out of the shell can be a struggle, but it's worth it for the depth of flavor. A fresh and crisp Verdicchio Borgo Paglianetto Terravignata 2021 ($17/$70), from the Le Marche region, is also worth it.

A beautiful Italian gelato cart is pushed from table to table, offering scoops of lemon, hazelnut, pistachio or chocolate gelato ($12) hidden in lidded pozzetti.

But it's hard to go past the tiramisu ($18). Not because it's a good chunky thick tiramisu, but because it's not. It's a wonder of lightness and richness, with a cloud-like pastry held together by whipped sabayon, meringue and mascarpone, under the crunch of chocolate-coated cocoa beans.

Fior's tiramisu is a marvel of lightness and richness.
Fior's tiramisu is a marvel of lightness and richness.Edwina Pickles

Fior comes full of good ideas, and it's already clear how the local population will get into its rhythm, from early pasta nights during the week to big tables and celebrations on the weekends.

There will always be room in a market town like Gymea for cozy Irish bars like The Snug next door, and sugar-scented cafes like The Portuguese Bakery down the road; but this is a step forward. And, I hope, a sign of good things for all the suburban trading towns within a 25 kilometer radius of Surry Hills.

the bass

vibration: Bringing the buzz of Surry Hills to the Shire

Go to the plate: Mafalde corte with cavolo nero pesto and stracciatella, $28

Drinks: Italian and local beers, a dozen appetizers, and an Italian-accented wine list with approachable prices and $12 house wines

Cost: About $150 for two, plus drinks

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Terry DurackTerry Durack is the lead restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and Good Food.

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