Times are tough in the Sydney restaurant industry at the moment as more people are choosing meals that give them value for money rather than splashing out on the latest trendy eatery. This means that restaurants have to play smarter than ever before and entice diners with meal deals to get them through the door – one such restaurant is Spiedo which is offering a $35 express lunch on Mondays – Saturdays.
This modern Northern Italian restaurant is on Level 6 of the sleek Westfield Pitt Street mall and has a bar area on the outside while its proper dining area is hidden inside behind the open kitchen. Its design is a bit bizarre, because there are 2 entrances to the restaurant – one from the Chat Thai/Xanthi end and one next to the staircase from the food court, so people may wander into the restaurant accidentally thinking that they are simply walking up to Level 6.
I’m trying to squeeze in this “express” 3 course meal during my 1 hour lunchbreak and it is going to be quite a challenge due to the leisurely pace of service and my preference of savouring my food rather than shovelling it down. Luckily, there are not a lot of other diners around even though it is lunchtime peak hour, so we expect to have our dishes come out quite quickly.
We start with a complimentary bread basket with olive oil, which is not actually part of the 3 courses. There’s a generous amount of thin breadsticks, plain white bread as well as a tasty tomato and olive foccaccia which I liked.
Home baked bread basket with olive oil
The first dish of the 3 course menu is flash fried calamari with a crispy crumbed batter, served with a sweet sauce which surprisingly complements the saltiness of the calamari quite well. Sandwiched between 2 small plates of the calamari was a dish containing a selection of cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, as well as some pickled vegetables and thin crisp bread. The various cured meats were decent, but the calamari stood out as the winner of round 1 for me.
Semolina dusted flash fried calamari with agrodolce dip, assortment of cured meats with pickled vegetables
Round 2 was the set main course of gnocchi with wild boar ragu. I have attempted to make gnocchi myself and it was rather difficult to master, so I appreciated that the gnocchi at Spiedo was perfectly formed and pillowy. Unfortunately I was not a fan of the wild boar ragu. The meat tasted gamey as expected, but there was some star anise or other strong spices used to flavour the ragu, which did not offset the gaminess and instead resulted in the flavours of the dish being too overpowering for me.
Wild boar ragu with gnocchi
We requested for our desserts to come out quickly with the mains as I was rapidly running out of time in my lunchbreak and the chefs tried their best to accommodate this. We received the dessert around 10 minutes after the mains and I’m glad that I waited to try it out because it was divine. The lovely vanilla panna cotta with raspberry granita was wonderfully smooth and the sprinkle of biscuit crumbs on top added a great crunch to the texture of the dessert.
Vanilla panna cotta with raspberry granita
All in all, Spiedo’s express lunch had more hits than misses. I would have enjoyed the meal more if we could pick our mains but I suppose the reason why it’s marketed as an “express” menu is because all the dishes are set so the chefs can prepare them more speedily. If you only have a strict 1 hour lunchbreak and you don’t work around the Westfield Pitt Street precinct, then I wouldn’t recommend that you try to squeeze it in like I did.
Spiedo Restaurant and Bar
Level 6, Shop 6004-6005, 77 Castlereagh St
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8072 9999