I was looking through the 2011 Good Food Guide when I did a double take: there's a restaurant in FAIRFIELD that made it! And it's in an RSL. I couldn't believe my eyes, so when Stephen's good friend Johno wanted to introduce his girlfriend Kayla to us, we knew it would be a perfect opportunity to give this place a go.
When we parked outside the Fairfield RSL and got out of the car, we experienced the usual sights and sounds of this suburb: people who can't drive, excessive litter, and a couple having a domestic on the corner - near the train station Fairfield isn't very pleasant, and the RSL is directly across the road (although there are a few areas that are absolutely fine). But the minute we walk through the front doors, the outside world is sealed off. The decor is beautiful, understated and elegant, there's soft percussion-heavy music playing, and potpourri perfumes the air. It has the atmosphere and service of a high-class hotel.
We walked through to the restaurant, and we were shown to our table by our organised and efficient host. The restaurant is decorated with warm, chocolate brown tones, funky light fixtures, and contrasting white table cloths. It's spacious, simple and elegant.
Our waitress came around with a drink trolley and asked if we would like an aperitif. I told her I'd never had Pernod before, and she came around and let me smell the liqueur - it had a heavy anise smell to it, sort of like those aniseed lollies. I affirmed that I was good to try it, and when I had my first sip I fell in love - this is now my drink of choice. Terribly easy to drink, the citrussy orange juice pairs well with the Pernod, and stimulates the appetite.
Because we went on a Wednesday, there was a mid-week special where you can get a selected entree, main, tea or coffee and dessert and a glass of wine for $45.00. Stephen, Johno and Kayla went for these options, but I wanted a main that wasn't on the specials menu, so I opted out. The bread that came with the specials came out, and in a lovely gesture our waitress made sure there was enough for me, too.
The olive bread was a simple white sourdough that was elevated by the addition of black olives before baking. The result is a soft, moist bread made subtly sweet by the cooked olive. The plain sourdough bread was wonderfully chewy and went well with the olive oil. The marinated olives were juicy, plump and fresh and I think we got one each before Johno devoured them.
These fried zucchini flowers were absolutely delicious - they were lightly battered and cooked to crisp perfection and ideally seasoned. The saltiness of the salsa verde and capers accentuated the zucchini, the white polenta lent a beautiful textural contrast and the tomato added some freshness.
This dish was Stephen and Johno's entree. The pappardelle was thick, moist and al dente, and perfectly suited to the coarse pork mince and shredded veal. The ragu is a bit saucier than the traditional fare, but it works beautifully in this meal, and it's topped with fried baby spinach and parmesan cheese.
We were given a short break before our mains came out:
The barramundi fillet had a beautifully pan-fried crust, and was moist and flakey. Kayla found the flavour too 'fishy', but I'm guessing the fact that it was fresh, wild-caught barramundi had something to do with it. It was accompanied by meaty spring bay mussels, a delicate saffron sauce and a bed of creamy herb risotto. All of these elements work really well together.
For this dish, lamb shoulder was slow cooked until meltingly tender and served with char-grilled lamb cutlet, slightly crunchy bell peppers and basil, and a smear of aubergine puree.
This was my main, and I was instantly in love. The tortellini pasta itself was firm and moist, holding the shredded duck and porcini mushroom to perfection, yet yielding easily to my fork. It sat in a lovely puddle of sweet duck and sherry jus, and was topped with caramelised pear.The only thing I could wish for with this dish is maybe a little more thickness to the jus - it was quite watery and hard to deal with at times, with pieces of tortellini occasionally falling off my fork and splashing around.
Normally when Stephen and I have risotto it's overtly cheesy or creamy, so this particular style of risotto was a first for us. It was filled with firm little bits of pork, aromatic fennel sausage, tender brocollini and a subtle hint of provolone cheese. It was still creamy, just not as thick as we were used to, but it was a good difference.
We were also given a free plate of steamed vegetables, which I thought was lovely!
The pannacotta was a wondrous thing to behold - it was a firm yet supple white chocolate confection, with poached blueberries and diced passionfruit jelly adding their flavour, and meringue giving a bit of crunch. There was a mint syrup as well, giving a lovely fresh aspect to the dish. This dessert was ordered by three of our group, with me being the only one to order something different:
When the waitress brought this dessert to the table, she advised me not to share it with anyone, and I could see why when I put my spoon into it - there was the thinnest shell of cake imaginable, and the rest of the fondant was a gloriously oozy chocolate mess. It was served with marscapone cream which helped to cut through the richness of the chocolate, and chopped hazelnuts to give some difference in texture. I liked the apple compote, but I wasn't quite sure what it was doing on the plate: it was great by itself, but seemed a bit out of place with the other elements.
We were offered tea or coffee, which we politely declined - we were, after all, terribly full. Our waitress must have felt we should at least have one of the serves of petit fours that came with the specials menu, because she came out with a plate of dark truffles for us to share.
The service here is so exceptional - our waitress was friendly, knew her stuff, and went the extra mile to make sure we were completely satisfied with our meal. The quality of the food was top-notch, and it was a pleasure to be able to find something so exemplary in a place where it was so unexpected. I certainly look forward to coming back and sampling the rest of the menu.
At the Fairfield RSL
14 Anzac Pde
Phone: 9727 5000