Friday, 25 November 2011

Restuarant Review: Café Sopra, Sydney CBD

Fratelli Fresh have brought an outpost of their smart Café Sopra restaurants to the city. Conveniently located next to my office, opposite the ASX and underneath the Steersons steakhouse, I met up with Simon and one of his colleagues for lunch to check it out.

The cavernous basement space was a lot larger than I expected it to be. It was popular at midday too. I reckon that the best seats in the house would be at the bar looking into the kitchen or at the large round table which seats ten. Unfortunately on a busy Tuesday we were seated in a small alcove near the back of the restaurant.

I've learnt that you need to arrive hungry to a lunch with Simon as he likes to sample quite a bit of the menu. Not that you'll hear me complaining about that!

We started with the zucchini flowers. Beautifully presented with grated Parmesan liberally scattered over the top, the batter was nice and crisp with a creamy cheese filling. Some lemon zest, fresh herbs or a pinch of pepper folded through the soft filling would have added more excitement for me.

We also ordered a tomato and mozzarella salad to share. In my view Australian tomatoes aren't up to much. They certainly have enough sun, but my theory is that the lack of deep alluvial soils is a problem. Italian tomatoes have a big and intense flavour. Australian ones don't. If you can't source the quality produce why attempt a dish like this? At $18 it wasn't cheap and the ratio of mozzarella to tomato was a bit low.

As a main I chose the orecchietti with sausage, peas and mint. When it arrived at the table I thought the bowl of pasta was quite small. Looks can be deceiving as I couldn't finish it! The fresh peas nestling in the ears of pasta and small surprises of sausage worked well. The sauce was very rich and could have done with a big squeeze of lemon to help cut through the richness and make it feel a bit lighter. If I'm splitting hairs, quite a few of the ears of pasta were stuck together and a little over cooked for my liking.

Simon ordered the bolognaise. He was kind enough to give me a taste. The sauce was very dark and intense. It tasted quite heavily of tomato paste to me. I only had two mouthfuls, but fear it would taste quite same-y for a whole dish.

Dom ordered the Waldorf Salad. The light and fresh salad looked fabulous. Unfortunately Dom bit into some walnut shell that had snuck into the salad. Our friendly waiter Remy was very apologetic and we received the salad and two desserts complimentary as a result. Very good customer service I thought.

Reading my previous review of the Café Sopra in Waterloo I remarked  "my sister's version (of banoffee pie) has a thinner biscuit base and more bananas which I prefer". I though the biscuit was was just right this time and had the perfect ratio of toffee. It still needs more bananas though.

I did like you Café Sopra. You are trying to use great produce to cook high quality fresh food. That should be respected. Not all of the flavours were to my liking, but that might just have been my palate.

There are a few things that would make me hesitate before I visited again. Big chalk boards are part of your style, but they don't really work in a space sub-divided into so many small areas. Can we have some menus please? I like a light lunch so I don't fall asleep during the afternoon. My boss doesn't like it. Could you make your pastas a bit less rich? I know this makes me sound old, but a busy restaurant and hard concrete surfaces bounce the sound around. It made it quite noisy. I like to have a natter with my friends over lunch. Perhaps a few soft furnishings to capture the sound?

Fratelli Fresh / Café Sopra
11 Bridge St

Café Sopra on Urbanspoon


  1. i would definitely have the zucchini flowers again :-)

  2. Two free desserts and salad for a piece of walnut shell? Great deal!

  3. @Simon - they were good. A nice crunch.

    @Lateraleating - yes I think it was excellent customer service and more than I would have expected. Walnut shells are very hard though and Dom was concerned he could have broken a tooth which wouldn't have been good.

  4. mmm i love banoffee pie and im on a mission to try as many as i can before going into a sugar coma hehe

  5. Mmm, that orechiette was dreamy, but you're right, rich. I actually really liked the bolognaise as it had bigger flavours than the other pastas I sampled. Must try those flowers next time!

  6. @Suze - I think it would take a lot to put you in a sugar coma! Simon and I were thinking the tiramisu might be the one to try next time.

    @Tina - yes, the bolognaise did have some deep, rich and big flavours. I enjoyed the tastes that I did have, but did detect a lot of tomato paste. We'll have to wait for Simon's review for the verdict!

  7. I'm not fond of those big chalkboard menus either, especially as I'm as blind as a bat and usually can't see the board from anywhere but right in front! I like Sopra at Walsh Bay, quite good.