April Dining: Eliza Food & Wine brings something fresh to Darlinghurst
A refined new Darlinghurst offering is refreshingly free of fuss. Review by Elizabeth Meryment
Sydney dining trends have always been lightning fast in their trajectory, but this year things seem to have slowed down a little. Are there dominant themes of 2019? Only one that I can see: the forceful assertion of simplicity upon our menus. Fuss is out, restrained comfort is in. Which means a satisfying bowl of pasta; a plate of perfectly ripened tomatoes splashed with balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil; a well-made negroni. In uncertain times, solidity is reassuring.
Perhaps it is timely then to sit inchef Jeremy Bentley’s new Eliza Food& Wine and observe a menu stacked with, well, not quite comfort dishes but plates that are occasionally daring in their simplicity.
Bentley is well known to local diners who might have tried his sweet little Surry Hills restaurant, The Devonshire, which closed last year after a seven-year run — a victim of the creeping tramlines. There, he offered a “Franglais” menu that for a small venue was rather elevated. Here at Eliza he’s toned it back, and the result is a menu of beautiful eating with a genuinely 2019 sensibility of quiet but deeply satisfying goodness.
Start on a shared (or not shared, if preferred) menu of flatbread served with excellent lightly spiced hummus with parsley oil, ora South of France-influenced sweet-and-sour offering of puffy brioche toast topped with briny wedges of pickled sardines.
These might be the show-off dishes; then there are others of pure good eating — simply delicious prawn spring rolls, or refreshingly lightly cured trout with pickled radish, black rice and shiso.
Salads follow: a frisky-lookingroast carrot with an assortment ofhealthful sides (black garlic, pinenuts, peas, parsley) or curried baby corn with chickpea, coconut and coriander.
There are only three mains —one fish, two meats — so decide upon a favourite among mulloway with fermented cabbage, 12-hour lamb shoulder with eggplant and rosemary, or roast pork belly with baby gem lettuce and smoked almond cream, and enjoy the eating.
Bentley is a very good chef in his element here. His is a menu of technique and confidence, of saying this is what we need and that’s that. His support team is terrific — the service is jovial and perceptive and wines start at $50 the bottle, which is good value for Sydney these days. The space, filling what once was Fez restaurant, has a modern bistro feel.
So Surry Hills’s loss is Darlinghurst’s gain. Eliza is a new arrival completely in tune with the times.
247 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
Entrees/starters: $6-$21 Mains: $32-$35 Desserts/cheese: $10-$25