Shop 1, 1599 Anzac Parade La Perouse, New South Wales 20360497 077 936
|Opening hours||Tues-Sun 8am-9.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
There's a new kid on the block at La Perouse. It's the block that overlooks the bay next to Bare Island and across to the looming cranes of Port Botany, a striking, windswept spot that attracts hordes at weekends. Most seem to stop and eat at one of the many restaurants that have been here forever - stalwarts such as Danny's Seafood or the Boatshed Cafe.
The new kid, which opened in January, doesn't look so special at first sight. It would be easy to walk past Driftwood on the Bay, but I've done some online sleuthing. Judging by the restaurant's Facebook photos of fresh ingredients and hearty dishes, the people who run it love their food.
Owner Gianpiero Schiattarella, known as JP, grew up around here. After running cafes for years, most recently in Darlinghurst, he decided it was time for a sea change without moving out of Sydney.
We arrive for a family lunch, with three generations. Parking ourselves on a colourful bench seat decked with cushions, there's a good view of the blackboard menu that takes up an entire wall. We've just missed breakfast but lots of brunch options are still on offer, such as the eggs with Mexican salsa that my husband chooses.
I go for grilled calamari with chips and salad. What arrives is so much better than the simple description suggests. Rings of tender, perfectly grilled calamari sit on top of lentils, beans, barley, roast pumpkin and bits of greenery. The good crispy chips are devoured by my son, who ignores the wedges we've ordered for him - so we devour the wedges. He's missing out: they're crunchy, spicy and indulgent, with the classic dipping combo of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.
Mum is fussy about her eggs, but hers are beautifully poached, with a mound of excellent smoked salmon. Sadly, this means she eats the lot and doesn't have room to try any of the cakes or freshly baked muffins on display at the counter.
The counter itself is a minor work of art, plywood seared with a dot pattern, the creation of JP and a mate one night after a few drinks.
Flashes of culinary flair make our meal memorable. The calamari comes with a dollop of smoky baba ganoush, an unusual pairing that works a treat. Dad is surprised to find ginger-flavoured mayo on his burger, which also comes with tomato relish, onion jam and beetroot. He loves it. My husband's hot chocolate is the best he's ever had, and the chocolate milkshake in a retro metal beaker gets mum's vote for using quality ice-cream.
With concrete floors, mismatched chairs, minimal decor and order-at-the-counter service, the tone is casual but amicable and very child-friendly. Our son receives his own plate when he starts eating my chips, and there's even a change table in the spacious restroom. Dad, always up for a chat, gets an impromptu wine tasting from JP. The music is well chosen and pitched - it's amazing how many places get it wrong.
We emerge into the sunshine, ready for a stroll to the island, feeling pleased we got it right and determined to return for a tilt at the cake counter. According to the Facebook comments, the tiramisu is incredible.
Calamari and chips, burger, eggs with Mexican salsa.