The new Dolphin Hotel has made a splash in the Sydney food scene for its ultra-chic interiors, high-flying Italian cuisine and charming salumeria and wine bar. As you can probably tell already, this ain't no ordinary boozer.
At the helm of The Dolphin is foodie heavyweight and fashion designer Maurice Terzini (Icebergs, Da Orazio). From Icebergs he's managed to pluck chefs Monty Koludrovic and Dan Medcalf and drinks specialist Lenny Opai, who are working alongside Sam Cheetham (ex-Victoria Room and Becasse) and the 2015 Sommelier of the Year, James Hird. Don't count on a return of $10 nacho night.
The biggest talking point is the interiors which have been designed by George Livissianis, who is known for his work on The Apollo, Cho Cho San and Billy Kwong, among others. Like one big interactive art installation, the public bar has been clad in swathes of fabric, while the dining room is graffitied in eye-popping monochrome motifs. The stark white interiors that dominate throughout will have you weeping for the cleaners on a Monday morning.
Unsurprisingly — considering Terzini's Italian leanings — the dining room menu serves up braises, grilled seafood and Northern Italian-style pizza. Pizzas come with a range of toppings from baked mushroom, washed rind cheese and local truffle ($26) to spicy sausage, artichoke and sorrel ($22). The base is exemplary, rustic and crispy as the style dictated, while the tomato sauce is heavy and lacks the sweetness of ripe tomatoes.
The real show stealer however is the gnocchi ($30), which sees delicious soft pillows of dough swimming in a rich ragu of lamb neck with pureed green olive, spinach and freshly shelled peas. It's a seductive wintry dish that will convince even the laziest of locals to shed the Snuggie and brave the cold. And before throwing in the linen napkin, try the excellent woodfired lemon pudding which is topped with a brûlée crust of candied syrup and pistachios ($16).
Aside from the dining room, The Dolphin boasts a number of different drinking and dining spaces, including a public bar, wine room, mezzanine and open air terrace (with fireplace), as well as intimate rooms and nooks for small groups to gather.
The real hot spot though is the wine room and salumeria, featuring smoked and cured meats from leading restaurants including LP's Quality Meats, Vic's Meat Market and Continental Deli. Some of the delectable nibbles include the bonito and foie gras crackers ($18) and the crispy sweetbreads with egg yolk sauce and guanciale ($24). The producer-focused wine list boasts more than 35 wines by the glass and over 150 by the bottle.
They may not have a meat raffle, $5 happy hour or wedges with sour cream, but this is most dolphinately an improvement.