This front's been quiet for a while. I like to imagine that it's the height of summer and I'm Juliette Van Der Becq, whisked away by the irritatingly seductive heartbreaker Alex Lippi for ten days of revealing secrets and a string of breathtakingly romantic events. Just two mysterious not-quite-strangers somewhere along the southern coast of France. Penniless in my current predicament, a French getaway (bodyguard included) is out of the question but perhaps a quick rendezvous with her Italian neighbour would not be entirely impossible...
Sopra is the ever popular daughter of the Fratelli Fresh family. Like Van Der Becq, she's kept within arms reach. You'll find her roaming about Waterloo, Potts Point, Bridge St and Walsh Bay but always under the watchful eye of a Fratelli.
As a Fratelli Fresh offspring, exceptional quality runs in the family and Café Sopra is no black sheep. A perpetually changing blackboard menu that features produce to reflect the seasons' best keeps the locals coming back for more. Avocados, cucumbers, beans, fresh basil, blueberries and tomatoes are just a taste of what's in store. Peruse the aisles as you wait for 6 o'clock to roll around but be sure you don't lose track of time or you may lose out on a table too.
It's terribly cold and dreary, and it's been drizzling since morning. It's one of those days where my knees creak like rickety stairs and I'd much rather stay in bed. Our trio rocks up at 5 past 6PM and barely ten minutes later the entire café is filled with upmarket suits and boobs. It seems like a different crowd down here but whatevs. I'm just here for the food.
The blackboard menu takes up an entire wall. Impressive. The only printed menu supplied at the table is the beverage list. Garganega, Mourvedre, Teroldego Rotaliano.. I have no idea what any of these fancy pants words mean so I pick a cocktail that's spelled out in plain English - Italian Sour. You can't go wrong with citrus and Aperol.
Diners linger between tables, carefully perusing the blackboard menu. Cucina Italiana means serious business.
Chicken liver pate is something that Chris has sworn to detest but the silky smooth mouthfeel and beautiful sweetness is enough to convince her otherwise. Accompanied by sliced cucumber, beans, cornichons and fine slivers of eschallot tossed in vinaigrette, it leaves a luxurious dish in perfect balance.
Dee's heard great things about the meatballs so we order one of those. It doesn't disappoint. Three oversized meatballs with personality to match perch above a delicate tangle of tagliatelle and a vibrant tomato sauce. It's a good thing we ordered these early on as halfway through our meal a waitress draws a thin line of chalk across the board. They've sold out.
My table mates ogle the blackboard special, mussel fusilli insalata. I'm not much of a fan of slippery mussels and spiral pasta but it's nice and my dining partners enjoy it.
A little plate-sized baked ocean trout arrives. It's been scored and sprinkled voraciously with a mint and marjoram confetti. I moisten my lips and my olfactory senses revel in the wafting aroma of its succulent pink flesh... Have I died and gone to heaven?
Since Spain, I've never been able to resist an opportunity to slip a few screaming white anchovies down my throat so we request a panzanella. For a bread salad it's pretty darn tasty. Chunky tomato and cucumber, fried ciabatta dredged in olive oil and torn basil, draped with white anchovies that continue to sing on the palate long after they're gone. Strangely enough, it makes the perfect palate cleanser and prelude to dessert.
We're totally stuffed but we can't leave without trying a dessert.. or two. The cannoli with honeycomb sounds mouthwatering and Dee has been pining after the blueberry swirl semifreddo since we sat down.
With a lightly salted honeycomb filling, the cannoli resembles a mango-scented Gaytime. I smoosh the chocolate pastry to bits with my spoon and find to my dismay that the honeycomb cream hasn't been piped all the way into the centre. It's a heartbreaking moment.
Poached blueberries tumble across two sticks of homemade semifreddo. Dee reckons it's a little icy. I reckon she's right. My guess is that raw blueberries were whizzed into the mix which would have added excess moisture and short of buying a super expensive machine to evaporate liquids at low temperatures under vacuum to retain fresh flavours, there's not much that can be done about it other than boiling the crap out of the blueberries first which would lend a cooked, jammy kind of taste. Nice taste, okay texture. Overall.. yeah nice.
A waitress floats past with a banoffee torte... What was I saying? Oh yes, that's definitely going on the to-do list next time...
Café Sopra @ Walsh Bay