Friday, September 2, 2011

Bigger is better at Orto Trading Co.

Orto Trading Co... no, it’s not a second-hand car garage, but a charming, vibrant restaurant and bar in Surry Hills. The place has a quirky interior with brick walls and bottled flowers dangling down from the ceiling like chandeliers. On the table are candles in holders made out of jam jars and fresh flowers in bottle vases. 

Orto Trading Co's bar area

Bottled flowers chandeliers

The menu is dynamic and we are advised tonight is the first night of their new Spring menu. We note its one day too early but I guess they are like us in that we all couldn’t wait for Spring to arrive! Our waitress explained the menu to us. She mentioned the mains are served on wooden boards designed to be shared. She also said that we should order the starters and entrées as a group, and then order one main each… Wait, didn’t she just say the mains are to be shared? Once she left we are more confused than before she came, but that’s ok, we can work our own way around the interesting starters, MASSIVE mains, and surprising desserts :P

Orto's versatile Spring menu
They have a variety of fascinating British-inspired starters, including the Scotch egg that bring together soft gooey yolk with crusty crumbed sausage mince and curry spiced pear piccalilli. But I'd have to say the star of tonight goes to the cauliflower fritters that are lightly fried and packed with flavour!

Long red chilli stuffed
with herbed labna
Smoked eel and crispy
pork cheek witlof bites

NZ brewing icon Monteith's 
Crushed apple cider (4.5% abv)

Scotch egg with house-made pork sausage and pear piccalilli

L Loves… Cauliflower fritters with a curried pear sauce

Salmon ballotine with horseradish cream and a crispy caper salsa

The mains arrived on huge wooden serving boards and we are stroked by the massive serving size… Super size me! The dishes are nevertheless beautifully presented showcasing seasonal produce. The servings of duck are magnificently fatty it may as well take on the name of “The Fat Duck”. The accompanying mustard mandarins add a mild sweetness, reminiscent of orange soda, to cut through the fullness of the meat.

To balance the meatiness of our meal, we ordered the watercress and blood orange salad, which never made its way to our table. We only realised this after we have finished our mains with our bellies full to the max so we didn’t check with our waitress. When we received the bill, the watercress salad appeared on the bill but when we mentioned to the hospitable waiting staff, she took care of it with no fuss made :)

L Loves… Whole glazed duck with mustard mandarins, radicchio and hazelnuts

Beetroot carpaccio with minted quinoa, lime cured apples,
roasted mixed seeds and crispy goats curd

Lamb loin with a spring vegetable salad, 
shiraz reduction and fennel jam

Smoked kingfish wellington with nettle,
wild rice and buttered leeks, buckwheat crepe and beurre blanc

Orto is full of bright ideas and pleasurable surprises as demonstrated again in our desserts. They are so playful and I liked the idea of a miniature garden with yummy chocolate biscuit soil and cute lollipops of thinly sliced pineapple, slightly sour and tangy lavender marshmallow and lemon ice cream.

Spring desserts menu

Low-tea with scone layer cake and homemade lemon iced tea

Orto Spring Garden with lemon thyme cake and chocolate soil, 
planted with lavender marshmallow, pineapple and lemon ice cream

Chocolate Pudding with coffee and frangelico granita, 
coffee vanilla custard and hazelnut tuile

“Orto” literally means a small vegetable garden in Italian, and outside the restaurant we found a DIY herb garden with small buckets of parsley, oregano and basil... how cute!

Orto's DIY herb garden

L's Verdict:
·                     Taste: 7/10 
·                      Ambience: 4/5
·                      Value: 4/5 
·                      Service: 4/5
·                     Creativity and other WOW factors: 3/5  

Overall rating: 22/30

Orto Trading Co.

38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Ph: 0431 212 453
Tues – Wed 5.30pm to 10pm
Thur – Sat Mid-day to 11pm

Visited August 2011

Friendly advice: They serve HUGE portions so make sure you share the love (and damage) around.

Orto Trading Co on Urbanspoon

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