Mantecato Risotteria Italiana
129/85 Reynolds St
Balmain, Sydney

While Mantecato does specialise in risotto, they offer so much more. They are a full Italian restaurant from entree, through main courses and on to dessert.

It's a quaint, intimate place - seating just 35 - though it does seem a bit bigger than this. The front of house is capably handled by owners Marco and Paolo Orso and their charm adds even more to the experience.

The decor opens the whole place up with an entire wall of white tiles along one side - with the menu written on it in thick black pen.

There are a variety of spaces where you can choose to eat there - from the back verandah, through to inside table seating and even seating at a high front bench where you can sit and watch the world go by while you dine.

The great thing about dining Italian is that you can always nibble on some olives while you peruse the menu to make your food choices.

The olive miste was a blend of house marinated mixed Italian olives and was perfect for our deliberation time!

We also of course needed something to sip on so we grabbed a couple of glasses of Il Follo Valdobbiadene Veneto DOC.

We started our meal with a very light and tasty bruschetta with a difference. The bruschetta dello chef consisted of sourdough Brikfields bread, taleggio cheese, zucchini and prosciutto

We then moved on to another light treat. The fritto misto was delicately battered and fried calamari, prawns and zucchini with a lovely aioli for dipping. This was delicious with very light batter going perfectly with the seafood.

Of course a healthy fresh salad didn't go astray either.

The insalata di polopo was made with very tender baby octopus, soft potatoes, olives and parsley.

It was a great combination and also perfect for those looking for a healthy start. We simply squeezed a drizzle of lemon on it and it was ready to go.

Mantecato is of course labelled as a risotteria so it seemed more than reasonable to try one of their risotto specialities.

Sir ordered the saffron risotto alla Milanese con osso buco. What arrived was a true traditional risotto - so much more than some of the soggy fried rice variations available in some places. The rice was perfectly cooked and the braised osso buco was extremely tender. This was delicious.

Mlady was after something different to get a wider sense of their food.

She therefore chose the tagliatelle al ragu - hand made tagliatelle pasta served with pork and beef ragu alla bolognaise.

The substantial dish that arrived was impressive enough but the al dente pasta and the full flavoured sauce made it so much more memorable.

While the starters and main courses are great at Mantecato it's a must to save just a little bit of space for dessert. We originally decided to order two desserts and share them, but that good idea seemed to go out the window once they actually arrived.

Sir focused on the chocolate semi fredo - something you'd normally expect Mlady to order due to her chocaholism (is that a word?). It was lovely with plenty of big chocolate flavours.

Mlady has been going through a tiramisu phase lately - call it a craving or uncontrollable addiction! She just doesn't seem to be able to not order it. This night was no exception.

This tiramisu was presented nicely in a jar - and a decent sized one at that. It had lovely flavours and a great chocolate sprinkle on top.

She devoured it - all of it! She would have licked the bowl if her tongue could have reached!

Mantecato Risotteria Italiana is such a charming place. It's very good authentic food with full flavours from a varied menu. Great desserts are an added bonus. It's intimate and popular so booking is advisable. Fortunately close parking is quite easy to find. This is a place well worth visiting - and others there clearly agreed.

Sir and Mlady dined as guests of Mantecato. Special thanks to Paolo and Marco for inviting us and for looking after us so well.

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The Cat and Fiddle
456 Darling St
Balmain, Sydney

The Cat and Fiddle is an institution. Almost everyone's either been here or heard of it. It's been through quite a transformation in recent times with a lot of love and attention - and money - spent on it to bring it back! However, it has fortunately still maintained its Irish roots as well.

There's a front bar for music and of course a drink. It's popular there too - a band was in full swing and the place was packed.

However The Cat and Fiddle also has some surprisingly good food in their much quieter and very spacious restaurant area at the back.

This area has been morphed into a garden oasis that is both comfortable and relaxed chic with brown leather booths along the walls and plenty of greenery everywhere.

After our initial tasty nibbles we moved on to the starters in earnest with the Magners house cured trout.

It looked and tasted great and came with slices of royal toast and was nicely garnished with spring shoots and caper berries and drizzled with fresh lime juice.

We both love nicely cured trout or salmon and this was a ripper.

We then moved on to the Penny cakes - we were keen to try these. Penny cakes are a kind of potato cake (think croquette or even hash brown) made with potato and oats.

They were listed as being served with white pudding, coronation mayonnaise and pickled onion.

These were a surprise packet - nicely crisp on the outside and soft and warm inside

Mlady grew up in England so once she spotted the pickled egg on the menu it was always going to be a must to try - a chance to walk down memory lane!

The pickled egg came came with black pudding, soda bread, fig whiskey and pear.

It was again a decent sized serving and fortunately Mlady said it lived up to her hopes and expectations - thank goodness!

As many will know by now, Mlady often heads towards seafood - particularly fish - for her main course choices.

The mint crusted salmon sounded great straight away and turned out to live up to our expectations.

It came with charred fennel, roast chickpeas and orange blossom and was another beautifully presented dish with flavours to match.

The cider poached corned beef was another impressively presented dish - served in a stack of colourful ingredients piled high in the middle of the plate.

It came with fried colcannon - an Irish combination mashed potato - onion pickle, spring beans and pea puree.

The beef was beautifully poached and the subtle cider flavour did come through nicely.

I love a good lamb dish.

The grilled lamb loin at The Cat and Fiddle also comes with a serving of crispy lamb belly as well - lamb heaven!

It is served with soft mint, spring peas, beetroot and poached fig. The lamb was perfect - medium rare, juicy and tender. It also looked great - presentation here is certainly another highlight, on top of the taste of the food!

You just have to save space for dessert here - they were all so impressive!

The Granny Smith was best described as a deconstructed delight.

It was sugar butter crisps, apple, short crumble and cinnamon ice cream with a pretty floral garnish on top.

It was delicate, crisp, fresh and oh so tasty.

Of course it probably wasn't a total surprise to find a dessert with Guinnesss in it!

The Guinness chocolate cheese cake was served with Irish toffee, oat crunch, cocoa sorbet and raspberry.

It was a great mix of different flavours, colours and textures that combined so well into a great dessert. We loved it.

The Cat and Fiddle is a surprise packet. It has a lovely garden oasis restaurant inside with some quite impressive food on offer.

Sir and Mlady dined as guests of The Cat and Fiddle. Thanks to Chef Padraic Kielty - who was once Woody Harrelson's personal chef - for his lovely food. Special thanks to Monique Doyle for inviting and for joining us. The Doyle family bought the Cat and Fiddle in 2013 and have done an amazing job bringing it back to life.

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The Cottage
342 Darling St
Balmain, Sydney

The Cottage is almost like a little bit of Surry Hills but transported into Balmain. The place isn't big yet it uses its space so well to create a multitude of different areas to accommodate quite a few customers - and it's charm, drinks and food are attracting plenty of regulars. Set well back from the road in the growing foodie hub of Balmain, it has a front courtyard that almost has an English country garden appearance with tables well spread out under a canopy of leafy branches. There's a long cocktail, wine and beer list to meet most desires. Similarly with the food menu, they have oysters, plenty of very interesting share plates, wood fired pizza's, some delicious cheeses and a few desserts to cap a great night off!

We were there for their Winter menu launch to sample the food and sip their cocktails - tough gig!

The food on offer for the launch was of course samples of their new menu.

It included (pictured at left) mushrooms stuffed with barley, dried fruit herbs and chevre which Mlady devoured , maple and cider beef brisket with celeriac crisps and horseradish cream which had great flavours, oysters served with lemon and Merlot vinaigrette which I enjoyed and finally tasty arancini balls of tomato, smoked mozzarella and Parmesan.
Also available was a lovely Yellowfin tuna tartare that I personally could not get enough of! 
We also had roasted cauliflower with pulled lamb shoulder, raisins and vinaigrette (I had two to be honest!). A selection of cheeses were also available and some good ones at that! They had Locheilan Triple ring soft from Shepparton in Victoria, Queso Valdeon blue from Leon in Spain, Wyngaard goats cheese from Woerden in the Netherlands and Fleuron Vache Brebis semi hard from the Pyrenees in France. We were able to sample them all and it was a lovely selection - and just as good for our second serving! 

As it was a launch there were also plenty of drinks flowing freely! The drinks menu for the night showcased a few of the favourites from The Cottage. We couldn't resist and tried all three cocktails on offer. First there was the Speyside Sour made from Glenfiddich 12 years old and ginger liqueur extended with lemon juice, honey water and orange bitters. There was also The Sloe Cuban made from Plymouth sloe gin shaken with pressed mint and lime and with soda added.

The final cocktail available for the launch was a Lemon and Basil Gimlet made from citron vodka and lemoncello shaken with fresh basil, lemon and lime. 

The Cottage is a lovely spot. It has a comfy charm to it - creating plenty of spaces to sit back and relax in. The drinks are good with plenty to choose from and so is the food which is both interesting and tasty.

Sir and Mlady were invited to the Winter Menu Launch which was a private function. Special thanks to The Cottage and to Olivia Warne and Jo Steuart of Pendulum Communications for inviting us.

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Quattro Paste
85 Reynolds St,
Balmain, Sydney

Quattro Paste is a small restaurant in a quiet part of Balmain that serves great traditional home-made pasta, as well as a decent selection of other Italian dishes. They only seat 32 inside but can fit a further 10 to 15 outside on their rear deck.

Owned by four good friends from Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, with a great passion for good traditional Italian food, they have set a very high bar for quality and flavours.

Quattro Paste gets fresh meat and eggs delivered daily from an 80 hectare farm in Rylestone where all the animals feed naturally in grass fields and pastures. The variety of food and recipes allows the menu to regularly change with seasonal produce - or in some cases even daily produce.

We love starting a meal with a good antipasto platter - and this was an excellent one. It had an interesting selection of Tuscan cured meats, white anchovies, chicken liver pate, cheeses, house marinated olives, house made Tuscan bread and a few extras as well. The deep fried bread dough was amazing!

The thinly sliced bresaola was also delicious as well as were the anchovies (which I really loved).

With the pasta made in house and the sauces made  from traditional family recipes we were always going to have a pasta-feast!

We started with the house-made ricotta and spinach filled ravioli covered with a decent serving of butter and sage.

This was a beautiful, plump, light and simple dish that tasted just great.

Our next dish was a very delicious plate of tagliatelle al ragu. This consisted of house made tagliatelle with pork and beef mince sauce that was slow cooked for 7 hours served with grated Parmesan cheese on top and a sprig of rosemary.

The pasta was of course wonderful but the sauce was again so full of flavour that we just had to keep eating it till the plate was cleared.

Some people shy away from ordering gnocchi at Italian restaurants for some unknown reason. I don't - I love a good gnocchi!

This was gnocchi alla fornaia - home-made potato gnocchi served with a pesto of fresh basil, decorated with walnuts and a sprinkling of pecorino toscano cheese, olive oil and garlic.

This was extremely good gnocchi - one of the best!

We were pretty full by now but owner Filippo insisted we try just one more main course - and we're glad he did because it was another winner.

They really do a great pasta here!

This was home made ravioli with corella pear and pecorino filling that was  served with zucchini flowers sauce. It was a different way to use zucchini flowers but a great way and it all combined so well! 

Tiramisu is something I've always liked. Mlady wasn't always a fan though, but in recent years it's become a favourite of hers as well. I think it's just that she's had the pleasure of tasting some really good tiramisu these days and appreciated the difference.

This was a real winner!

Filippo arrived at the table with a large bowl of house made tiramisu. We were impressed already - it looked great.

A large scoop was then dolloped onto a plate that had been dusted with cocoa and we dug in!

This was one of the best tiramisu's we've ever had. It was so light and delicate and yet so full of flavour.


A dessert called salame di cioccolato could be a bit off-putting to some - but don't let the word salame mislead you.

This is another speciality of Quattro Paste for dessert. It was a log of chocolate dough with biscuit pieces inside. It was another tasty dessert that was rich, crunchy (in parts) and very satisfying. It came with a side of vanilla gelato that had a touch of lemon zest.

It was Italian and it was dessert time. This meant it was also time for limoncello. The house made limoncello here was delicious - tangy but certainly not bitter.

Quattro Paste is not your average Italian restaurant. A lot of time and effort and history goes into their dishes - and it shows! It's quality food in a relaxed pleasant environment with friendly helpful service. It's close to the city and well worth visiting!

Sir and Maldy dined as guests of Quattro Paste. Special thanks to Filippo for arranging our visit. Thanks also to Giovanna for looking after us so capably on our visit.

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