Ah Fratelli Fresh. You pull me in with the crowd surrounding your front doors, the rich smells wafting in the surrounding radius, your reputation of down to earth, real Italian fare. But then you deceive me with your service. Your flustered – yet apologetic and really very friendly staff. Your girls at the bar who have mastered the art of avoiding eye contact. Your wait staff who march frantically, whilst not actually seeming to do anything at all.
Anyway, end rant. Onto far more important things: the food.
This was my third visit to Cafe Sopra over in Walsh Bay – with me forgetting to bring a camera for the first two. Having walked out with what can only be described as a food baby during my first two visits, I decided that this time I wasn’t going to be pulled into the ever-luring trap of over-ordering this time.
After a fairly long (20 minutes) wait, my dining friend (who shall forever be known as DF) and I settled into our table at the bar and ordered a sour italian ($14.50, a campari / grapefruit and other various ingredients delight) and a peroni on tap. We gazed at the menu casually written on one of two blackboard on opposing sides of the room (unfortunately a few items had been crossed off the menu by this stage (about 8pm on a Saturday night)). After going back and forth a few times, we agreed on sharing a Ragu alla Bolognese ($20) and the Crisp Polenta with Gorgonzola and Oyster Mushrooms ($18). I also moved on to a glass (or three) of the Mellini Chianti Classico ($7.50), with DF sticking to the Peronis.
The meals came out promptly, although I suspect that the Polenta may have been sitting there for a teensy while under those heat lamps as it didn’t have that delightfully crisp exterior that I had been salivating over. The dish was still fantastic, however, with 6 logs of fried polenta topped with juicy oyster mushrooms and enveloped in a creamy, rich gorgonzola sauce (with a sprinking of parsely – hey, you need to eat your greens). I actually visited the Fratelli Fresh website early the next day and felt more than guilty that it had been made with about half a litre of cream, reduced, and a good handful of the blue cheese (http://www.fratellifresh.com.au/recipe_detail.asp?recipe_id=11). Well, at least I walked back home that night….
The bolognese was similarly fantastic. The very definition of comfort food. A very decent-sized serving arrived, piping hot, with the pasta cooked just how I like it – really quite al dente. The ragu was rich and tomato-y with chunks of meat rather than mince. None of this lasted particularly long and we had licked the platters clean a short time later
DF decided on dessert, while I did the classic girl move – not ordering dessert, yet devouring half of his. Somehow it made sense in my head that if I didn’t order the dessert, I also would not be guilty of introducing calories to the table. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture, but one of the specials on the night was a limoncello cheesecake ($14.50). The base was not biscuit-y, as you might normally expect for a New York-style cheesecake. Rather, it was like a pie shell. This was not necessarily a bad thing. The filling was rich with a decent, but not overpowering, lemon element, and was served with a healthy dollop of marscapone on the side. Much like the mains, I suspect that someone hiding under the bar must have snuck a few bites because the plate was clean before I even realised.
On previous visits (sorry, no photos) I’d had zucchini fritters filled with four cheeses (at $4.50 each, they’re pretty steep, but are crisp and cooked to perfection, with a warm, flavourful filling), bucattini alla carbonara ($18 the last time I went – this is possibly the best carbonara I have ever had. None of this ham mixed with white creamy sauce garbage; this is the real deal. Chunks of crispy speck, egg mixed in, approximately 25 cloves of garlic and again, perfectly al dente pasta), fettucini meatballs and fresh tomato sauce ($20; a few large – and I mean large – baseball sized meatballs, juicy and not at all dry in the centre, served atop a mound of perfectly rich tomato sauce and pasta), the lamb ragu tubetti with rosemary and chilli ($20, brilliant. Much like the ragu alla bolognese, is a heaping of the “tubetti” pasta interspersed with chunky, meaty lamb – my only complaint was that I couldn’t really taste the chilli) and – finally – the one and only banoffee pie ($14.50, a thick, crisp, buttery biscuit base topped with an equally sized and incredibly rich caramel (think: dulce de leche), thin slices of fresh banana and a whooooole lotta cream. I guarantee you will feel sick….but a happy sick, if there is such a feeling).
Well that’s it. My wrap-up of Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh. The food is epic; the service not so. When the dinner rush had calmed, our waitress stopped by our table and apologetically explained that they have an almost nightly rush with diners scurrying to fit in a speedy, quality meal before heading to a show in one of the theatres down the road. But hey – if you’ve got a lazy evening ahead of you and don’t mind a bit of a wait to get seated, then I give it two great big thumbs up.
Cafe Sopra @ Fratelli Fresh, Walsh Bay
Shop 8, 16 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay 2000