Many moons ago, there was a heritage listed sandstone building in Sydney's Darlinghurst. It used to be an Italian restaurant but then lay unused for years. It then became The Pond, a pop up restaurant serving local produce and with a constantly changing menu. And like Cinderella at midnight, on January 31st 2010, the sponsorship by Pure Blonde beer expires (although there are plans to keep it running with the intention of making it a profitable business that doesn't need sponsorship).
My friend Queen Viv did a story on pop up restaurants and asked me to see whether they had the classic characteristics of a pop up restaurant like temporary gas stoves etc. This is more of a permanent fixture with a proper restaurant kitchen and in the dining room, energy efficient lights are installed and the menu changes daily according to the produce that they're able to source.
The back courtyard
As a shout out to their sponsor, there are hops plants in the back courtyard that are said to grow up to 2 inches a day. As it's a residential area, the courtyard is only open during the day. It's a lovely, peaceful renovated space. We take a seat inside and there's already a crowd gathered outside and since it's Darlinghurst darling they're all wearing black and smoking (how else do they stay so thin?) so we close the doors to avoid the seemingly omnipresent cigarette smoke.
We peer at the blackboard menu and are a bit confused at the choices. I'm dining with lovely lasses Liss and Chantelle and between the three of us we decide that we like everything. Our waiter makes some suggestions and we're happy with those.
Duck Liver Pate with cornichons $18
The Duck Liver pate with cornichons comes with crunchy lightly toasted bread. It's not bad although perhaps doesn't quite as moreish as other duck liver pates I've had (the Lynwood cafe one for example although this may have had to do with their extraordinary onion marmalade).
Buffalo Mozzarella with marinated artichokes and Hunter olives $18
The Italian Buffalo Mozzarella is lovely and milky and mild and the house marinated artichokes go well with it. The Hunter Olives are divine it must be said.
Pino's Proscuitto with snow pea shoots and Johnny Love Bite tomatoes $16
Our waiter recommended this and he mentioned how they'd picked up the Johnny Love Bite tomatoes the day before. The tomatoes are incredibly sweet - like how you want tomatoes to be but rarely are. The proscuitto is quite good although the flavour is milder than other ones I've tried.
Pino's Cotechino with puy lentils and salsa verde $20
There are two large pieces of the Cotechino sausage which is coarsely ground and delicious with a trail of salsa verde on top. Liss finds that it isn't salted enough for her but it's fine for my palate. The pebbly Puy lentils and carrots are a traditional accompaniment and this is a dish I enjoy a lot.
Seared Rock Cod with shaved fennel and sorrel leaves $28
The seared rock cod comes in four tender pieces and is gorgeously soft and moist but still firm and is another favourite dish although it may be on the small side for some.
Poached Pear with with fleur de sel Caramel sauce $9
"Do you have room for dessert?" the waiter asks us and the question is answered with an enthusiastic yes. All desserts are made in house so we take his recommendations. I wanted to like this pear, I love fruit desserts and poached pears when done well are things of food orgasm inducing beauty but the pear tasted like a raw (albeit ripe) pear and the caramel sauce had an aspartamey taste to it. It did look good though.
House made profiteroles with creme patisserie $8
The profiteroles are certainly home made tasting but they could use a little refresh in the oven to crisp them and a bit more vanilla in the creme patisserie. However I am not a huge chocolate profiterole eater so I am never over the moon with them but Chantelle hadn't tried profiteroles yet so we were happy to try it.
The Zuccotto is the favourite of the group with 3 thin slices of Zuccotto which is an ice cream and cake concoction. The ice cream is rich and chocolatey and the sponge gives a good contrast of texture to the ice cream. Overall it's a good location, with great prices and mainly hits on the menu and a nice philosophy. Just beware the cigarette smoke on busier nights.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like the idea of Pop Up shops or restaurants? Have you been to one?
NQN, Liss & Chantelle dined as guests of The Pond.
32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, NSW
Open: 12noon-Midnight Wednesday to Sunday