Thursday, January 05, 2006

La Sala, Foster Street, Surry Hills

La Sala, Foster Street, Surry Hills
Thursday 5 January, 2006

La Sala opened in November and there has been a great buzz around this Italian restaurant. Darren Simpson (formally Aqua Luna) has created a lovely, inviting space and it's tough to get in.

I phoned on Tuesday for a Thursday night booking only to be told they were booked out. About 30 minutes later they called back and offered me a table at 7pm. I had to ask the question, 'you are not going to try and move us out around 8.30pm?' This generated a really refreshing discussion about how annoying it is when restaurants try to hurry you out in order to take another cover. I hate that and surprisingly so does the La Sala Bookings Manager. We had a good laugh about it and I already had a good impression of La Sala before I arrived.

It's a great space from the minute you enter - it's huge with an inviting bar at the entrance. Behind the bar is a massive warehouse space that is open but the floors are carpeted to cushion the sound. On the left is the kitchen (open so you peer in) with a specials board and a very interesting display of olive jars & wheels of cheese. At the back of the restaurant is a raised level with extra seating.

We were greeted by the attentive & friendly staff and shown to our table. Enjoying the look & feel of the restaurant we were provided with menus, offered drinks and marinated olives. The service is excellent - our waiter was very knowledgeable, definitely knew the menu and was able to recommend wine to match our meals.

To make the most of this experience, we decided to share an entree so we could enjoy a main & dessert. We ordered the panzanella with grilled Yamba prawns - it was presented to the table on a raised platform so we could serve ourselves. It was light and the perfect starter - a traditional tuscan bread salad with Yamba prawns, tomatoes, onion, basil, parsley, cucumber, vinegar & oil.

For main I ordered the special - porchetta al forno - a slow roasted pork knuckle. It was delicious with a whole roasted carrot and a side of creamed spinach. I'm not sure about the creamed spinach as I have had issues with spinach since childhood but my friend (who loves spinach) really enjoyed it. She ordered the tuna served with a sicilian ragout. Again, very good.

The atmosphere is buzzy - it was packed and as we were finishing our mains Bill Grainger came in with 9 friends. Clearly, even those in the food industry want to dine at this place. We succumbed to the dessert menu and ordered the torta - lemon, passionfruit & goats curd with creme fraiche and the chocolate flourless cake with creme fraiche. They were exceptional.

This place is definitely worth a visit.

La Sala - 23 Foster Street, Surry Hills - (02) 92813352


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