I always find it difficult to pick a restaurant to take visitors from out of town. Certain people like certain things; my parents, for example, would rarely be willing to try out a new restaurant here. So when my former boss wanted to meet for dinner, and the only request he had was for something near Central Station, my first thought was Surry Hills. A quick search and Orto Trading Co. was about the only restaurant within reasonable walking distance that took dinner reservations for Friday dinners.
So Orto Trading it was.
And how right the choice was!
I had heard some very positive reviews from various sources about this relatively new kid on the Surry Hills block. What I didn't expect was the warm and friendly service, and the very high quality of the food. We ordered three starters, three mains, and two sides; and for around $60 per person with wine, it was more than enough and left us very, very satisfied.
The starters are very reasonably priced, from $5 to $16. The scallop and prawn ravioli was very fresh, and tasted greatly of the sea. The white anchovy fish finger was a small revelation: crispy and crunchy on the outside, lovely soft texture inside, and the salty contrast of the anchovy worked exceptionally well. But the standout had to be the scotch egg. Stunningly presented, the runny and perfectly cooked duck egg was a fantastic contrast against the salt cod exterior. The pickled curried vegetables provided a wonderful refreshment for the palate.
Mains were even better. It was slightly disappointing that the last pork hock went out of the kitchen just as we sat down, but the remaining choices were equally great. My smoked duck breast and confit of duck leg gave a small surprise. The contrast between the salty and slightly gamey confit of duck leg with the rhubarb and strawberries ignited an explosion of taste. The acidity of the strawberry and tartness of the rhubarb cut through the salty gamey-ness of the duck. The smoked duck breast was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and very, very more-ish. The braised ox cheek was meltingly tender and soft, and the spring vegetables refreshingly light.
[Apologies for the crappy photos. I promise the real deal looks a good 10 times better! Next time I will have a proper camera with me.]
Even though Orto Trading may still be considered a bit of a new kid on the Surry Hills block, the wonderful seasonality of the menu will certainly be a hit. Kudos to Lou and the crew for making this such a wonderful experience, and for leaving my interstate guests with such a great food memory from Sydney!
By the way, Orto Trading will be having a food bloggers dinner in early December. I am happy to forward on any queries on that!