5-7 Young St Sydney, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Lunch Wed-Sat noon-2pm; dinner Wed-Sat 5pm-late|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 7228 1400|
Next time you're in the CBD, look up. A whole new skyline has been forming while you weren't here, pushing up out of the ground as if someone up above has been watering it.
One of the most interesting new structures is Quay Quarter, billed as "Sydney's newest urban neighbourhood", with its soaring tower stacked like a millefeuille; a showy, glowy lobby to be inserted by British designer Tom Dixon.
At its foot is Hinchcliff House, a deliciously restored 1870s wool store transformed into a multi-level Italian dining experience by the high-energy House Made Hospitality group.
I walk around the entire building twice looking for its fine diner, Lana. Steps lead down to Apollonia, a moody basement bar seemingly dug out of sandstone. Another door slides open to Grana, an all-day Italian diner on the ground floor; and a third reveals a serious in-house bakery with its own flour mill. Any of these portals will give access to the first floor, where Lana sprawls from wall to wall in a lush arrangement of high and low seating, backlit bar, timber beams, banquettes and kitchen.
But here's the thing about Lana. The four-course menu costs $89, which seems more than fair, but they can't stop adding things. I counted 11 different dishes, and may have missed a couple. That's crazy good value.
Former Russo and Russo head chef Alex Wong is one to watch, if you can raise your eyes from his snacks. There's a crisp cube of potato interleaved with dried kombu and topped with Ars Italica oscietra caviar.
A crumbed, deep-fried artichoke heart scattered with cured egg yolk. A single raw scallop on the shell touched with yuzu kosho and finely sliced cumquat. A sang choy bao of witlof leaf filled with diced raw kingfish. And that's just the first course. It's like sitting at a buffet table.
Wong has the art of slipping in the odd Japanese or Chinese flavour without it reducing the Italianness. Toasty fregola comes out as a porridge studded with black garlic and corn and splodged with creamy stracciatella. Is it fregola, congee or risotto?
Little green cappelletti pasta parcels of pork and prawn are scattered with warrigal greens and society garlic flowers in a fragrant chicken broth steeped with parmesan, kombu and bonito flakes. Pasta, or dumplings? Who cares? We fight over the last one.
I'll spare you all the details, but we haven't even hit the mains yet.
Jet-black squid ink and sake sauce adds drama to plancha-seared calamari, almost losing the plot with green tomato and a porcini XO sauce. Crisp-skinned, dry-aged Aquna Murray cod fillet is effortless, sauced with brown butter, tamari, capers and pickled finger lime.
Three desserts? This is madness. The zeppole bun, richly coated and filled with chocolate, would be enough. Or the mulberry, lemon, crisp meringue and milk sorbet. Not, perhaps, the passionfruit sorbet, which feels superfluous.
Cocktails with names such as "Fresh Cut Grass" are tailored, and wines go from a delicate but intense 2021 Ministry of Clouds Clare Valley Riesling ($17/$82) to the 2014 Albino Rocca "Angelo" Barbaresco from Piedmont ($331).
Lana over-delivers on just about everything. On polished and friendly service, on the integrity of the building, on the glamour of the dining experience, on the Schoenwald porcelain, the terrific breads, and the food.
In its own way, so does ground-floor Grana, where chef Gianluigi Castaldo does a knockout crescenza focaccia di Recco that sees a sheath of dough lined with a membrane of stracchino.
Apollonia is fun for a negroni on tap with a salumi platter, but without table service it's not in any position to over-deliver.
Lana, Grana and the gang have come at just the right time for the return of the corporate sector to the CBD. Things are definitely looking up.
Drinks Inventive, fun cocktails; Moretti beer on tap; and a lively list of Australian labels and serious Italian bottles
Vegetarian On request
Pro tip Get in on "The Cracking". Every day, they crack open a few bottles not usually sold by the glass.