Cafe Del Mar Sydney
Whether it's a part of the original brand or not, this venue is topnotch.
If you've been listening to the grapevine, you'll have heard Darling Harbour's recent Mediterranean import, Cafe Del Mar, might not be 100 percent legit. It's true: the Ibiza original's website claims the Sydney version "has nothing to do with our iconic Cafe del Mar brand", while Aussie director John Zappia issued a response labelling the above statement "false and very disappointing". Luckily for Zappia, his venue, whether a part of the brand or not, is far from disappointing.
From the Camilla-clad hosts to the blue, white, wood and golden decor that screams beachside holiday cocktails, the large open kitchen, ample outdoor summer seating and wraparound views of, albeit, this city's not-so-favourite aforementioned harbour, the team behind this place have put on quite the show. In all honesty, though, considering the brand in question's history of drawing food-appreciating party animals from all corners of the world, you'd bloody hope so.
Said food is topnotch. Head chef Ben Fitton commands the kitchen, and his rule is fair and tasty, offering a pleasantly simple menu with a fair few standout performers. The most notable were the Berkshire pig jowls, served in crispy cases with truffle mash ($24), and the black-inked chilli salt and pepper squid with lime aioli ($24). FYI, the squid isn't deep fried, it comes tentacles and all, but blow me down it's good. For main we divided a six-hour cooked Murryland lamb shoulder (with some of the freshest salsa verde I've had in a long time) from the shared mains section ($65). The meat fell off the bone and straight into our mouths.
To drink we sipped a Blanco Dos ($45), one of the six signature sangria pitchers (three red, three white) and designed for four. You can imagine it suited the two of us all evening. Of course, if you're less of a philistine, there's a "carefully selected" wine menu to peruse. We finished with a scoop of sorbet and an espresso: the former comes from a regularly changing list, while the latter made us feel awfully European.
All in all, the only real criticisms are the DJ should think about turning the volume down just a tad before 8pm, and the lighting from the two giant and really rather quite spesh chandeliers was a little harsh. Let's just keep our fingers crossed all the rigmarole over whether or not Sydney has its own Cafe del Mar gets sorted. Personally, we want this place to stay.