As one of 40 restaurant critics to contribute to the SMH Good Food Guide, Carla Grossetti loves to sing from the rooftops about places near her postcode. This two-part post will feature the eight hot spots in the Sutherland Shire that made the cut for the 2016 edition.
Italian Stallion Bar & Griglia
The Italian Stallion was the name of a low-rent 1970s’ B-grade film featuring Sly Stallone. And while chef James Watson may or may not have baptised his Gymea restaurant after the pulp soft-core film, his menu reads like #foodporn at its finest. As well as pumping out seductive seasonal fare, such as BBQ wild green tiger prawns with dragoncello salsa, Watson and his Popeye tattoos deliver a Rocky Balboa-esque upper cut with desserts such as the Upside-Down Cornetto Raspberry & Campari ice-cream with honeycomb and blood orange.
11 Gymea Bay Road, Gymea, (02) 9542 8008, facebook.com/italianstallionbarandgrill
If you live in the Shire and haven’t eaten at Yalla Sawa you’re missing out. Yalla Sawa is just a falafel’s throw from the beach and a top spot to watch those stung by the sun slink past. Yalla Sawa means ‘come together’ in Arabic and is the sort of democratic restaurant Cronulla needed – appealing to everyone from local hospo types to cashed-up tradies and fashionistas. There’s so much to love: from the beautifully tiled bar, to the intimate lighting and wall of world-class wines to food so good you will want to storm into the kitchen and hug the chef. Order mezze followed by rustic mains such as kafta and quail eggs cooked in a spicy red sauce and a slow-cooked lamb shank you will never forget. Ever.
Shop 8, Beach Park Arcade. 138-142 Cronulla St, Cronulla. (02) 8544 0614, yallasawa.com.au
Yes, you could hop on a plane to Bangkok. Alternatively, you could take a seat at the bar at Alphabet St and do your best impression of an expat in Ao Nang. Alphabet St does not try and replicate an authentic Thai restaurant to the letter. It is also a muay Thai manoeuvre away from the sort of generic Thai eateries that populate some food courts. But if you’re searching for properly spiced curries, peanut-laden flavour bombs wrapped in betel leaf parcels and whole fish dishes then Alphabet St is the place to go. Forget faded portraits of the king, think subway tiles, vertical greenery, beach views and consistently good contemporary Thai food. No bahts about it.
5/8 Kingsway, Cronulla (02) 9544 0756, alphabetst.net
Running more than one successful restaurant in Cronulla is a bit of a juggling act. But it’s made easier if your restaurants are just a few doors down from each other. After opening Alphabet St, Joe Natale and Oriana De Luca gathered intelligence on the ground and discovered that what the ‘hood also craved was an upmarket Italian eatery. And they’ve given the beach suburb just that in spades. What a treat to luxuriate on the aubergine-hued banquette while watching chef Ruben Martinez (ex-La Scala) work his magic at the pass. Order with your eyes and create your own antipasti board and then decide between pasta con ragu or snapper in crazy water with truss tomato.
3/1 McDonald St, 02 9523 0137, giro-osteria.com.au
Next month: Croydon Lane Wine & Tapas Bar, Grind Espresso, The Old Library and Pilgrim’s.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 is available from participating newsagents and supermarkets while stocks last. It can also be purchased in selected book shops and online at smhshop.com.au/smhgfg2016 for $24.99