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A Tavola – The Table Is Set

By Em Allen on February 13, 2014 in

Picture: Dining Dave

Picture: Dining Dave

To me, Italian cuisine has always been somewhat of an emotional experience; the closeness of the chefs to the ingredients and the way they select and prepare them can’t be beat. Getting a quality pizza or spaghetti bolognese in Bondi certainly ain’t hard, but sometimes the standard gets a shot in the arm and the stakes are raised. A Tavola seems like a game changer, and I looked forward to finding out if this was the case.

A Tavola means ‘at the table’ in English, and this sentiment became the inspiration for the original location in Darlinghurst, as well as the new Bondi spot, which opened in October. Inside the Adina Hotel complex on hip Hall Street, A Tavola lures you in with its signature accoutrement: a ten-metre long forest green Indian serpentine granite table that allows guests to dine communal-style under the reflection of five copper globe-lights. During the day the table is used to hand-make the pasta that will satiate you during the evening.

My companion and I were greeted by Enyo, one of the co-owners, who seated us at the long table and immediately got us going with two aperitifs with bite. A Tavola’s menu card is home to the entrées and salads, while three blackboards on the wall list the day’s specialties (the consigli). We dived into three starters: the olive all‘Ascolana; calamari fritti; and the dressed crab, white polenta and preserved lemon, as well as a fine bottle of 2010 Casale della Ioria – Cesanesse del Piglio to wash it all down. The four bread-crumbed olives were stuffed with minced chicken and perfectly cooked, while the calamari was light and tender without being oily. I found the crab-infused polenta, on the other hand, to be unusual and quite rich.

It definitely enhances the dining experience to have a waiter that really knows his stuff. Ours was an Italian from Tuscany who was at ease explaining to us the ingredients in the dishes and where and how they were procured, such as a whole goat, incorporated into the day’s specials.

Wanting but not able to try everything, we ordered four more dishes: stracciatella con fave; gamberi con insalatina di borlotti; tagliolini with shaved goat leg; and the terrina d’ anatra. If presentation counts as much as taste, then all four of these dishes are big winners. We were blown away by the cheesy stracciatella with its broad bean, zucchini flower and pickled shallot dressing, and the flavour of the large grilled prawns combined well with the borlotti beans, sorrel and tarragon. What can I say about the tagliolini? Well, what’s better than freshly made pasta served under a generous heap of tender goat meat combined with a delicious sauce? With some energy left, we dug into the flavoursome duck and pork mix pâté, which we sadly could not finish.

We drank the remaining wine with a Cremino – a cappuccino-doppelgänger dessert that somehow squeezes salted caramel ice cream, meringue and chocolate and hazelnut ganache into a cup with dramatic effect. It comes with two amaretti biscuits that will finally finish you off.

Sometimes expectations can prove to be too high, but not in A Tavola’s case. Semplicemente fantastico.

A Tavola Bondi

Address | Shop 2 / 75-79 Hall Street, Bondi
Phone | (02) 9130 1246
Website | http://www.atavola.com.au
Email | reservationsbondi@atavola.com.au
Open | Dinner: 7 days, 5:30pm till late; Lunch: Sat & Sun, 12pm – 3pm
Prices | Starters $16-$26, Mains $29-$38
Seats | 70
Cards | All major cards
Licensed/BYO | Fully licensed