Hidden away in a corner of the top level of the Strand Arcade is Pendolino. Its dark, moody and relaxed atmosphere is a far cry from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the city, and is the perfect place to hide out and feast on some delicious Italian food.
When I spot burrata on the menu I’m sold. It’s a pretty dish, with the Puglian Burrata as the centre of attention, surrounded by an heirloom tomato salad with basil, red onion and parsley. The tomatoes help to cut through the rich and creamy burrata and the addition of breadcrumbs also adds a crunchy texture to the dish.
Pendolino hand make their pastas so I was keen to try them out. In particular, I was interested in trying the spaghetti chitarra which is made from a board with strings stretched across it to cut the pasta dough, and looks similar to a lute or a small harp-like instrument. The spaghetti is cooked perfectly and is accompanied by some fresh seafood including barramundi and wild prawns, and a simple sauce made from garlic, chilli, capers and white wine.
Be warned: this pappardelle with White Rocks veal ragu, marjoram and bone marrow is super rich! Sir D is won over by the mention of bone marrow which comes as little deep fried nuggets of heart-clogging goodness. If only there were more on the plate! The pappardelle is thick and slippery and coated by a rich veal ragu. After finishing this, our stomachs are already starting to fill up and we haven’t even begun the mains!
I’ve always been apprehensive about ordering risotto at restaurants for fear that it will come out gluggy and dense, and Sir D just doesn’t like risotto at all. So I take a gamble in ordering this duck risotto with chestnut mushrooms and sweet pea, and it definitely pays off. The mushrooms and duck bring a warm, earthy flavour to the dish and it is hands down the best risotto I have ever eaten. Even Sir D loves it!
I choose the seared herb and garlic crusted yellow fin tuna which is served with steamed mussels and a dried broad bean puree. The flavours in this dish are subtle and delicate and I love how the tuna is still rare and blush pink on the inside. The dried broad bean puree is not as smooth as I would have liked and has a slightly mealy consistency, but is polished off all the same.
The presentation of the quail reminds me of two birds dancing with their legs extended! The char-grilled quail with thyme and garlic potato, sauteed spinach with a black olive and herb sauce is tender and succulent, though slightly difficult to eat because of the small bones. Balancing on the quail is a thin olive grissino or bread stick. The dish is well-balanced with the olive flavour not being too prominent, allowing the taste of the quail to shine through.
I can’t help but start salivating as this juicy, pink piece of beef is placed on the table. The char-grilled pasture-fed sirloin is cooked to perfection and well complemented by the pearl barley and oxtail orzotto. The orzotto has a deep, meaty flavour and the pearl onions have been caramelised nicely until sweet. The star of the show though is definitely the beef which is super tender and quite a large serving size as well.
The fennel and rosemary scented pork belly arrives on a massive plate with a square of pork belly (crispy skin included), fennel and orange salad and an extra agnolotto filled with pork. The pork is rich with a layer of quivering fat on top of the meat, and the fresh-tasting fennel and orange salad does well to offset the fatty pork. Underneath the pork is a creamy cannellini bean puree which is great as a vehicle for all the delicious sauce.
Somehow we find room for dessert. And what could be better for dessert than some ricotta fritters? These ones are made with blood orange olive oil which imparts a distinct citrussy flavour to them. They are a little denser than I was expecting but pleasantly tangy from the blood orange. Alongside the fritters is vanilla bean semifreddo garnished with a slice of dried blood orange.
The warm chocolate hazelnut pudding is everything we hoped for and more. Cutting through the pudding reveals gooey liquefied innards which slowly ooze out of the pudding in a delicious, chocolatey mess. The pudding is drizzled with creme anglaise and has a dollop of cream on the side to help overcome the sweetness.
Sir D has always been a sorbet fan and so he orders the selection of sorbets and ice creams without hesitation. On one occasion we are served passionfruit, green apple and blackcurrant sorbets and another we have blood orange, strawberry and passionfruit. Both times they are served with a tuile biscuit and is the perfect way to finish off a carb- and meat-heavy meal. We are stuffed to the brim but we know we’ll be back another day for more burrata, duck risotto and bone marrow nuggets!
Shop 100, Level 2, The Strand Arcade
412-414 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9231 6117
Open Monday to Saturday, 12pm – 3pm and 6pm – late