10 William St Paddington, NSW 2021
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9360 3310|
One of the gaping heartaches of travel is the feeling that you are missing out. You're bowling along a busy street or up a laneway in Milan, Chicago or Melbourne, and you pass a little hole-in-the-wall place spilling over with people and warmth and good times. You stop. You want to be in there, not out in the cold.
If it's any consolation, this happens right here at home, too. So many people screech to a halt outside, while I am tucked away inside the little hole-in-the-wall that is 10 William Street, Paddington, that I feel, for once, in the right place at the right time.
Very much at the right time, as it happens, with new chef Trisha Greentree in the kitchen. Since the team behind Fratelli Paradiso first opened its little sibling wine bar here in 2011, it has been a drop-in centre for visiting winemakers, industry folk and locals chasing convivial times, like-minded folk and simple platters of wine-friendly food.
The kitchen has seen a roll call of well-regarded, if slightly off-to-the-left, chefs such as Dan Pepperell (now of Hubert and Alberto's Lounge), Garagistes founder Luke Burgess, and Pinbone's Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman; with former head chef Enrico Tomelleri keeping the kitchen vibe Italian.
Greentree tends to seek out kitchens that suit her way of thinking, most recently at Dan Hunter's Brae in Birregurra, reigning Good Food Guide Regional Restaurant of the Year.
There is a refreshing lack of hype and quiet integrity to her food that sees only two, maybe three ingredients per dish.
The shortish menu runs from octopus and eggplant caponata to linguine with cuttlefish, ink and cherry tomatoes – all hers but for the long-standing pretzel with whipped bottarga introduced by Pepperell, and Tomelleri's tiramisu.
10 Bill is a fun place to graze by the glass. A rich, ripe, tropical Unkel Carnival sauvignon blanc ($15) made by Rob Burley on the Mornington Peninsula plays well with a super-crisp cracker and a dollop of whipped ricotta covered in Yarra Valley trout caviar ($5).
Long-stemmed, violet-bulbed purplette onions rest on 'nduja hummus – chickpeas seasoned with spiced sausage – under a shower of pecorino ($14).
Halved ripe figs are cloaked in a thin veil of prosciutto ($5 each) and grilled until juicy, sweet and salty. See what I mean? Two or three ingredients, doing neighbourly things to each other and to the wine.
Pasta gets the green treatment, the house-made strozzapreti pasta in a velvety green sauce of pistachio pesto and zucchini, the lot covered in crunchy pangrattato breadcrumbs.
It's gentle, but can still handle a juicy, aromatic 2018 "The Confluence" Grenache from Aphelion in McLaren Vale ($15/$68) with good length and life to it.
And, oh, the flan ($9). Greentree credits her Filipino heritage for knowing her way around an egg yolk (the whites were traditionally used in the mortar to build churches in the Philippines, hence the rich tradition of custards and flans to use up the egg yolks).
A darkly bitter, sweet, and sharp vermouth syrup – shocking, at first – pools into the richly eggy moulded cream, making perfect sense.
This is thoughtful, minimal-intervention cooking from an intuitive chef, and a sweet evocation of wine bar culture. The space is squeezy and loud, and the mostly non-Italian staff can mangle the pronunciation of those Italian grape varieties, but you'll still be better off inside, than out.
Vegetarian: Potato focaccia, blood plum salad, grilled peppers, strozzapreti with pistachio pesto.
Drinks: Classic aperitivi, craft beers, a militantly all-natural list and a constantly changing blackboard selection of wines by the glass.
Go-to dish: Strozzapreti, pistachio pesto, zucchini, pangrattato, $29.
Pro-tip: Get there early or late, or be prepared to wait.