A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published April 27th 2014
Lunch in a library turned wine & dine venue
There is a place that sits along Surf Road in Cronulla that has gone from a church built in 1908, to a library in the 1970s, to a stylish spot for wining and dining in 2009. This afternoon involved an indulgent Sunday-lunching session spent in this now very noteworthy, Modern-Italian restaurant entitled The Old Library.
Green ivy, white walls, and large glass windows and doors - this place looked and felt fresh. The interior is where Cronulla's seaside atmosphere meets a sophisticated city-style ambience. High ceilings, timber-flooring, and the amount of daylight that floods the restaurant makes it feel super spacious. We thought that the black frames and glass panels in certain places across the venue were a bit different but a stylish way of divvying up the bar, and private function space. Also as you'll see here there lies a fancy, glassed-in Moet & Chandon room at the back.
The designers have tied in the theme of a library in a contemporary and quirky way. Across the white-washed walls you will notice outlines of books and shelves.The lamps were office-style, and there were pot plants adding fresh splashes of green to the interior - and made this feel like the sort of place that would go hand-in-hand with a good book. The till will also come to you in an old book. This helped me make sense of why there were a number of people who were simply reading at the end of their meals.
So, what about the meals? Cured Italian flavours are abundant. A culinary combination of traditional and contemporary Italy is the essence of The Old Library, and is the pride and passion of chefs David McGill and Danny Russo. There were so many choices across the menu - from the Spuntini, to the Antipasti, to the Dolci lists, and everything in between.
Fried zucchini flowers, ricotta & Parmesan, & green olive tapenade.
We decided to embark on our tasteful lunch with a buffet of starter dishes to share. There was a timely wait for these dishes but with our bottle of Gavi wine and complementary bread with olive oil at hand, we were fairly comfortable. From our selection, I first tried the fried zucchini flowers ($15) - always love these. The true Italian essence definitely shone through with the fusion of ricotta, parmesan, and green olive flavouring as the filling of these.
The pasta that captured our attention the most, and that we all felt the need to have a taste of was the Buckweat pappardelle, with forest mushrooms, chestnuts and some slices of Pecorino ($19). The pasta itself had a subtle flavour, allowing us to clearly experience the different tastes that the other ingredients brought to the dish.
A gourmet octopus dish was among our starters. Every bit of this dish was savoured - the tender, roasted octopus; the chickpea puree, the sourness of the preserved lemons ($22). Additionally Fried Clarence River prawns with aioli sauce ($13) joined the assortment that we had to nibble on - they were so tiny yet so full of flavour. I have to admit that the starters were pretty filling. One could easily have an extensive dining experience simply off a shared selection of the Spuntini and Antipasti menu items.
Fried Clarence River prawns, smoked onion salt & citrus aioli.
Despite feeling fairly full, we still appreciated the rich and aromatic flavours that came with every bite of our main meals. Among us we had roasted Berkshire pork belly (with fennel white asparagus, pickled beetroot & watercress - $36), and chargrilled yellow-fin loin (with fennel creme & spinach - $34).
There was an impressive veal cutlet that came with witlof & organge salad ($36), and that was served upon a wooden board - something that seems to be a must among contemporary restaurants these days. For myself, there was the cured & roasted Aylesbury duck breast ($38). One of the first things I thought when I tasted the tender duck meat atopped with crispy skin, was that the taste could be likened to bacon. This smoky flavour of the meat was balanced out well with sweet figs and mandarin.
Rock Valley veal cutlet, witlof & orange salad, sage & vin cotto.
I did not have the stomach space to try the desserts on this round of The Old Library, but next time I'm thinking sweets like the Chocolate budino with sour cream gelato and grapes ($14). Alternatively I might just "Say Cheese!" (aka get the cheese platter, which starts from $26) .
There is an extensive list of the red, white, and bubbly drops for you to choose from. There is a list of funky and off-beat cocktails as well if that's what you so prefer. How about an Angel's Draft (with Trinidadian Stolen White Rum, Green Chartreuse, mint, lemon juice & Agave - $17) or a Sgroppino Verde (with Belvedere vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur plus house-made apple and lemon sorbet with Soave & Baked-Apple bitters - $19)?
The tastes, the sophistication and also the quirkiness of The Old Library all made for a very enjoyable and most definitely laid-back Sunday lunch. On another note, Cronulla is a lovely area with beaches and parks just down the road from the historic turned contemporary dining spot. Looking forward to the next session here.
The window to the kitchen of The Old Library reminded me of the book-slots that would be found in a library!