Area 8, 6 Cowper Wharf Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat, 6pm to late|
|Features||BYO, Licensed, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9368 7488|
The Larder launched a year ago as a three-month winter ''pop-up''. The more casual offshoot of Otto Ristorante, it was set up in a disused space next to the restaurant on Woolloomooloo's finger wharf. Opening only midweek initially, those first three months extended into another three, then another, and in June, Saturday night service was added to meet the demands of locals.
On one side of the partition, diners at one-hat Otto can order $29 bowls of pasta or splash out on an $84 wagyu steak, served by staff in classic black and white attire. On the other side, it's a linen tablecloth-free zone, with BYO (corkage is $6 a head), share plates, and staff in jeans.
Both menus are by head chef Richard Ptacnik and come from the same kitchen, but the offerings are very different.
On a chilly Saturday night, we are seated outside as a private function occupies The Larder's indoor space, its green walls adorned with framed vintage Chinotto posters. Fortunately, we're quite cosy underneath the heaters. To one side we admire the lights of the city skyline; on the other side, through glass doors dividing the indoor and outdoor area, the function group is watching the footy on a big television. It's a little distracting at first, but once we get chatting and snacking it's easy enough to block it out. That is, until someone scores and the room erupts.
We start with cocktails: a sweet, smooth, slightly tart blood orange margarita and a mandarini with fresh mandarin pulp. They're from the Otto wine list, available across both sides of the partition.
The Larder has its own, too, a short and sweet selection of wines, beers and cocktails, including steaming glasses of mulled wine.
The menu is split into sections with snacky bits, entree-style dishes and ''feasts'' for two or more people.
We start with a metal pail filled with sweet, crunchy school prawns, which we dip in the tasty squid ink aioli. It's a generous serve, plenty for a group. The manchego cheese souffle is rich, smooth and airy, complemented nicely by a cheesy white wine and vermouth sauce.
A beautifully cooked whole pink snapper is one of the more substantial ''feasts'' on the menu. It is simply done: grilled, finished in the oven and topped with sea salt and olive oil. The grill adds its smoky char flavour to the tender fish. With lemon wedges for garnish, it's classic coastal Greece or Italy on a plate.
For dessert, we're lured by the doughnuts. Sadly, The Larder's are a disappointment. Served with a lovely, tart raspberry jam, the doughnuts are quite dry. The mulled wine compensates, warming the hands as well as the insides.
Service is fun, friendly and attentive, but things get noisy with two adjoining packed restaurants. The Larder's food is good, and the flexible offering brings in couples and a large group of friends during our visit, but it does feel like an add-on to Otto, rather than a restaurant in its own right.
Still, it's great to be part of the hustle and bustle of the wharf, and clearly we're not the only table who thinks so.
Share plates and hearty feasts.
School prawns, manchego souffle, whole fish of the day, mulled wine.