On a rainy Saturday night we are drawn to the open and inviting corner spot of Eliza Food & Wine, the new casual but not-so-casual Darlo restaurant. The new girl on the block is welcoming and stylish, but not pretentious or exclusive. The crowd seems as eclectic as a servo pick-n-mix, just as happy in shorts and t-shirts as they are in party glad-rags- either celebrating in small groups, or duos wondering what’s on offer behind the big windows. The tunes we can hear are just as random and put us in a good mood- Flight Facilities follows what sounds like a jaunty ditty played by an old-timey hotel lobby pianist. Velvety salmon, teal and timber accents of the bar and furnishings lighten the terrazzo tiled floor. We can see the hive of activity in both the open kitchen and bar which take up just as much floor space as the dining area itself.
Eliza comes to us from owner and executive chef, Jeremy Bentley (once owner and operator of one hatted restaurant ‘The Devonshire’ in Surry Hills), who together with head chef Shaz Akbar, have curated an inventive menu and a thoughtful wine list. We peruse the share-style single page menu, which gives you snack, entrée, larger plate and dessert options. We end up with seven of these between two of us and we walk out of there content, only tetering on the edge of food-coma town.
We start with the in-house made flat bread and hummus, some delicious ‘unadaulterated prawn’ (so well-described by our server) spring rolls- clean fresh prawns in perfectly crispy pastry cocoons. The salt fish brandade are barramundi croquettes resting on a whipped taramasalata cloud. We bridge our way from snacks to mains with cured fish, which on our visit is a fresh and delicate salmon. Eliza has treated the salmon well, lightly curing it and adorning it with pickled, crunchy goodness.
With the larger options we get the carrot dish- a huge vibrant carrot nestled next to a mousse topped with a sourdough and pine nut crumble, and a dollop of just the right amount of black garlic. We’ve ordered it as a side to our main protein option, but the carrot could be enjoyed as a large plate on its own. We can cut into it with just a spoon. The pork belly is the porkiest tasting pork we have ever eaten. What the heck does that mean? No need to brace yourself for a salty/fatty pork belly punch, with thanks to the 24-hour brine process and 5-day air hang, Eliza’s version is succulent and refined, and the crackling cracks nicely in our mouths.
We can only fit in a shared dessert and opt for the lightest sounding option- the raspberry tea brulee which is a lovely delicate end to the meal (paired with a sticky vino of course, this isn’t our first rodeo). We spy some good-looking cheeses doing the rounds, go with those if your tooth isn’t so sweet.
The wine list is concise but flexible, and will change if something interesting comes up. So could we urge you to therefore hurry in to try a couple of our favourites? A Hunter Valley Savagnin which we pair with the salmon and a most beautiful cloudy (yes, cloudy!) Pinot Noir (the aptly named ‘Eliza’) from the Adelaide Hills which we sip with the carrot and pork. Ask the friendly team for what will work best for your choices. The service at Eliza’s place is top notch, and we’ll be popping in again for lunch or dinner soon.