That’s the only way I can describe the food at Berta. Each dish leaves you hanging and longing for more. I had been saving my first visit to this effortlessly cool restaurant for months and managed to make a last minute date with a friend for a long overdue catch-up.
Berta is noisy, but there is a undeniable charm about the place. The staff are friendly and efficient with their service – especially with the line of patrons at the bar eyeing off customers who call for their bill. That said, we had no trouble getting a table despite their no bookings policy (I suggest arriving around 6pm for a guaranteed seat).
We began our meal with some scallops. These little parcels of flavour explode in your mouth: you didn’t see it coming, you can’t fathom how it happened, you just know you want more. Served in their shell, the scallops are just cooked, though still soft in the middle. Swirling in the olive oil are sprinkles of bread crumbs and parsley. Subtle five spice flavours also seep through, adding a nice unexpected contrast to the dish.
The duck mandilli (or duck ‘handkerchief’, as our waitress explains) features braised duck wrapped in pillows of pasta sheets. There is a very intriguing flavour in the broth which I can’t quite decipher, which adds a rich and spicy earthiness to the dish that’s really quite appealing. My money is on the olives.
We couldn’t resist ordering braised chuck steak, which is listed on the menu simply as ‘beef’, a rather amusing yet modest undersell. The meat is supple and gives way with the gentle push of the fork, but is not the ‘fall apart tender’ that I expect. It has bite and texture to it, which grows on me. The cauliflower puree is velvety smooth and soaks up the surrounding sauce.
The vege dish of snowpea, broad bean and horseradish is so simple, you wonder why you haven’t had it before. The vegetables are cooked to a perfect crunch and dressed with what seems like a cheesy parsley butter sauce.
We finish on a dessert of chocolate hazelnut parfait, which is essentially a chocolate and hazelnut semifreddo with a scoop of pear sorbet on top. It is an interesting combination and the chocolate wins me over. It is so rich and creamy – even better than Lindt’s 70% dark, which is my go-to dark chocolate ice cream.
I have been won over by Berta and there’s no denying other Sydney foodies feel the same: less than 3 months from opening, Berta was nominated for Best New Restaurant in the 2011 Good Food Guide. If this is just the beginning, I see great things on the cards for this little gem!
17-19 Alberta Lane
Open Monday through to Saturdays from 5pm to late.