The modern Australian cuisine on offer at newcomer Apera has injected a buzz into the burgeoning restaurant scene in Castlecrag on the lower North Shore.
Apera joins the likes of Kensington Street eateries Holy Duck and Mekong which have recently opened suburban outposts in Castlecrag’s Quadrangle shopping village as well, turning it into a surprising new dining destination for those who find themselves north of the bridge. From the moment we stepped into the cosy, yet stylish restaurant, we felt transported away from suburbia into a world of good times and good food, courtesy of the wood-fired oven that features in the creation of many of the dishes on the menu.
We started off our dinner with a trio of delicious appetisers – the NSW Clams were the first cab off the rank from the oven and the shellfish were packed full of umami, thanks to the addictive nduja oil made from spicy Italian sausage that we mopped up with some rye bread and the hits of samphire, a crunchy native Australian succulent.
NSW Clams, Samphire, Nduja Oil, $22
Next up we had some Morcilla (a.k.a. Spanish blood sausage) which was surprisingly tasty even for someone like me who doesn’t usually enjoy this type of sausage – the flavour was enhanced by the tendrils of burnt shallots and the romesco sauce it was served with.
Morcilla, Romesco, Burnt Shallots, $15
The last of the starters were the Heirloom Tomatoes, for a burst of freshness paired with some creamy hand-tied burrata and oregano that went down a treat.
Heirloom Tomatoes, Hand-tied Burrata, Oregano, $19
Moving onto the shared mains – the star of this course was definitely the Cowra Pasture Fed Lamb Shoulder which just melted in our mouth, with the tender meat falling right off the bone and tantalising our tastebuds with the chimichurri sauce it was matched with.
Cowra Pasture Fed Lamb Shoulder, Warrigal Greens, Chimichurri $34 (Half)/ $64 (Whole)
The Bangalow Farm Porchetta was also a fantastic choice for those after a richly flavoured dish for winter, with the roast pork being seasoned well and tasting quite buttery in some parts.
Bangalow Farm Porchetta, $24 (Small)
The selection of sides we ordered helped to cut through the intense flavours of our mains – we particularly enjoyed the Cauliflower which was smoky from being roasted in the wood-fired oven and was served with some delicious Birch’s Bay manchego cheese.
Cauliflower, Birch’s Bay Manchego, Sage, Riverina Hazelnuts, $18 (Half) / $32 (Whole)
We finished off our meal with a duo of desserts and were big fans of the comforting, caramelised flavours in the Red Gum Fired Pear which was served with a delectable vanilla bean ice cream and lavender crumble for something a bit different. The other sweet treat we had was the decadent Dark Chocolate, Mandarin and Wattleseed Cake, which was the heavier option, served with crunchy hazelnut praline.
Red Gum Fired Pear, Lavender Crumble, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, $16
Dark Chocolate, Mandarin & Wattleseed Cake, Hazelnut Praline, $16
Apera’s impressive menu championing locally and ethically sourced Australian ingredients is elevated by their kitchen’s use of their wood-fired oven which brings out the best of the seasonal produce on offer. We also loved the ambience of the space which is set up for groups of all sizes. Judging by the bustling trade at the restaurant on a weeknight, the secret is out – we will definitely be back to get more of the goodness coming of their wood-fired oven next time the craving for some smokiness in our food hits.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Apera
23-26/100 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag NSW 2068
Phone: (02) 8971 5148