Wind the clock back four years to when I was still living in Melbourne and not yet in a relationship with K. As friends, I went on a night out with him and a group of others when he was in Melbourne for a short weekend break. Much drinking was had. Slightly intoxicated and holding onto each other as we stumbled down the street, K promptly walked me straight into a pole and I found myself nursing the bruises for weeks afterwards.
Luckily, his way of courting me is now much more romantic! We recently celebrated three years together with a romantic long Sunday lunch by the water at Ormeggio at the Spit. It’s an amazing location, and definitely a step or two above drinking in a dodgy bar and inflicting bruises on each other in a drunken haze!
Ormeggio is located in a nondescript building to the left of Spit Road, right before you drive over the bridge. Parking can be very tricky on a weekend, especially as the sun was shining the day that we went and everyone was out in force to jump into their boats or else indulge in other water sports.
You walk through the strangest boat sales building before you finally go through a sliding door and find the classy understated elegance of Ormeggio. We arrived early, and took our seats before the rest of the lunch crowd showed up.
Luckily, even though I hadn’t asked for a table by the water, we were seated right at the edge of the room. With the blinds up, we could enjoy the calmness of the sun glittering off the water. Our view also allowed us to speculate about the price of the houses on the water’s edge, and fantasise about a day when we too would be able to afford a dream home like that with a view to die for.
We settled into our seats and started our meal with a few nibblies compliments of the chef. The sour cream on a wafer thin cracker really helped to whet the appetite, not to mention the moreishness of the deep-fried cheese ball.
Having already scrutinised the menu online, I knew that I wanted to order the eight-course emozioni degustation menu. At only $112 per head ($196 with matching wines), it’s one of the best value hatted degustation menus that you’ll find in Sydney.
Still on my no-alcohol kick (it’s doing wonders for my skin and overall health!), I asked our waiter for the non-alcoholic strawberry mojito mocktail. He hesitated and then said “If Madam is wanting an alcohol-free drink, might I suggest the Lychee Delight? It is frozen, so perfect for today’s weather. It’s one of my favourites.”
Who am I to argue with the expert? I’m very glad I took his advice, as the beautiful aromas of the lychees and rosewater in the mocktail were incredibly intoxicating and appealing. It really was the perfect mocktail to accompany my lunch.
With each meal, you receive some cichetti from the chefs. On this particular day, we enjoyed a slow cooked egg that had been infused with sheep’s milk, mousse, and topped with crispy pancetta and flavoured with black pepper. A very simple dish that melted into nothing on your tongue, leaving only the smoky pancetta flavours behind.
I can also never stop myself from overindulging in house-made warm sourdough bread, especially if it’s served with light and fluffy whipped ricotta. With a generous spread of ricotta and a sprinkle of sea salt, the crusty sourdough could have made for a very simple and satisfying meal in itself – it’s just the type of breakfast I would enjoy every day!
Our first official course of the day was lightly grilled toothfish served with the highlight of the dish – baccala, or salted cod. The cod was pureed into a tasty mash that really added a depth of flavour, and the fresh peas added texture, to this fresh and simple dish that’s just perfect for summer.
The next course was Ormeggio’s famous veal tartare. It’s listed on the menu as being “veal tonnato” which I’m told is a classic Italian dish that’s more commonly served as chilled cooked veal with a creamy mayonnaise sauce. This is the fancier hatted version though – the veal is finely minced (by knife, not machine!) and served with dollops of tangy mayonnaise, pine nuts and thin slivers of baby radish.
Mixed together, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the dish considering my usual distaste for raw meat and beef tartare. It really helps that the veal doesn’t have the usual strong flavour that you often find, and is surprisingly mild. The pine nuts and radish also serve to add some interesting crunchy and crispy texture to an otherwise soft dish.
On a separate note, I love the crockery and serving plates used at Ormeggio! Each piece is I assume, carved individually as K’s wooden serving platter was slightly different to mine. I’d love to find out where they order their crockery from – they’re all so unique and I would love to own one as a statement piece that I could use for dinner parties!
The first hearty course , bridging the gap between the lighter entrees and heavier mains, was a simple creamy and cheesy pasta with plump juicy prawns. The mascarpone is a very mild choice of dressing for the pasta, negating the need for both a sauce and a cheese. It serves to keep the pasta moist and slightly al dente, as well as adding a slight cheese flavour that is highly enhanced by the lemon zest. The sprinkling of bottaga (fish roe) really helps this dish sing with subtle flavours that combine well.
Having finished my Lychee Delight mocktail quickly, I asked our waiter for another mocktail of his recommendation. The sommelier ended up bringing this pear mocktail over to me, which no longer seems to be available on the menu. It was a great combination of cloudy apple juice and pureed pear, topped with the thinnest slice of pear I’ve ever seen.
Our next course was, I’m afraid to say, not one of my favourites of the day. While the John Dory was grilled to perfection and the kale nice and crispy, the elements on the plate combined didn’t lead to any feelings of mouthgasming. I just really didn’t feel like the chickpea puree added much to the dish!
The next course of the tortelli was a much better dish though, and one of my favourites of the lunch! Filled with sinfully rich chicken parfait, each bite into a tortelli yielded a mouth explosion of intense flavour. With the few olive shavings on top and artichoke slivers, this dish really offered something special for a parfait lover.
Our final main of the degustation was a soft melt-in-your-mouth suckling pig with a crunchy hard crackling that gave a satisfying crack every time you tapped it with your knife. Accompanied with wafer-thin apple slices, tiny roasted potatoes and a sweet apple sauce, this was a wonderful example of a hearty roast dinner turned fancy.
Our palate cleansers arrived just as K dashed out to put a bit more money on the parking meter. The lemon myrtle and passionfruit foam bubbled on the tongue not unlike having a sip of champagne, creating little bursts of flavour that quickly dissipated leaving us ready for the last course of dessert.
This dessert! I think I’ve over-used the word “orgasmic” in this blog entry already, but if ever there was a dish that was truly orgasmic, this would be it. The silky smooth and creamy coconut pannacotta contrasted with the lemongrass gelato and the mandarin granita…pure magic. The concentrated mandarin gel provided this really intense citrus tang that just completed the dish and put the metaphorical icing on the cake on an amazing four-hour lunch.
Our degustation lunch at Ormeggio was such a wonderful experience, and an amazing way to celebrate our anniversary. The quality and amount of loving dedication that goes into each plate is clear to see. Backed up with superb service and a fantastic scenic location, Ormeggio really ticks all the boxes for that ‘special dining experience’. It’s a bit harder to get to when compared to other hatted places located in the city, but the trip is worth it. I highly recommend that everyone consider Ormeggio as their next ‘special occasion’ destination!