The Coffee Emporium Restaurant & Bar
There's a new contemporary dining breeze blowing through New South Wales' second biggest city.
John and Sam Ayoub have their entrepreneurial sights set on big things, and The Emporium is just the start of their Parramatta takeover. Situated on Phillip Street and a little to the side of the gaudy, restaurant-packed Church Street, The Emporium has a Mediterranean feel with flair that's missing from some other local eateries.
Compared to the renovation-stricken surrounds, stepping into The Emporium is like entering a mini, dimly lit haven of lightly coloured marble and brick, and enough plants and hanging greenery to make you feel quite secure of your oxygen levels. It's hard not to get distracted by the frankly ginormous coffee contraption encased in a glass room, but otherwise, things are kept intimate but open, with candlelit tables inside and out, completed with a few bright gerberas in glass Coca-Cola bottle vases.
At the time of this review, a full menu was yet to be unveiled, but the options on offer included a range of enough imported cured meats and cheeses to excite the most devout antipasto fan and a 12-item selection of various entrees and mains covering almost every base. Shout out goes to the 1 kilo dry-aged T-bone with French beans and Bearnaise sauce ($90, advised to share between three), and to anyone who, more brave than I, attempts to take it on.
The crispy pork belly with roasted apple compote, pickled cabbage and cider jus ($20), a little on the slim side, was nevertheless satisfyingly salty and a good reminder of just how foolproof a pork-apple combo can be. Less of an obvious pairing was the tasty grilled calamari with chorizo, corn puree and rocket ($18).
Certainly one of The Emporium's more beautifully decorated dishes, the pan-fried potato gnocchi with green peas, ricotta, broad beans and charred onions ($30) is deceivingly filling but lacking in the broad bean department. Luckily, the two types of ricotta (a soft lemon-flavoured ricotta filling little buds of onion, and decorative shaves of a pressed, firmer cheese) combined with the incredibly crisp peas strike a necessary balance between the smooth but dense little pockets of potato.
Mentions of dessert were notably absent on the menu but upon request, the very informative waiter was able to provide details of the two desserts on offer: coconut sago with mango sorbet ($16) and my choice, a generous slice of silky hazelnut and chocolate delice ($15) with just the right amount of richness.
With a blossoming menu, swift service and helpful staff, The Emporium is one fine dining venture to add to your Parramatta eats list the next time you're in New South Wales' second biggest city.
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