Just like an Anzac Day dawn service, the glass of Suvla Bay 2015 Syrah has me deep in thought and near to tears.
It’s a red wine that conjures up images of ground where Australian, New Zealand and Turkish blood mixed to stain the earth, and indeed of where the Anzac legend was largely born.
The vineyard is on land where many Anzacs were killed more than a hundred years ago.
I’m tasting the wine, which, like many modern wines from Turkey, is sensational in the purity and intensity of its flavours, while chatting to Burak Cebi, the restaurant’s extremely affable and efficient maître d’, who’s been working with its owner, Somer Sivrioglu, for some eight years.
That places him well before Anason’s launch, and into Balmain’s renowned Efendy, the Turkish restaurant which launched Somer’s career and inspired Anason, the first restaurant to open full-time in Sydney’s waterside Barangaroo development.
I was introduced to Anason during Vivid a couple of years ago and immediately listed it among Sydney’s very top eateries. I’ve returned a couple of times and see no reason to change my ranking.
I ate there again recently and was blown away by the quality of food and service — and by Sydney’s response to its excellence.
I left things to Burak, and he fed and ‘watered’ me well.
I started with the familiar — plates of humus and atom, the former probably needing no explanation, the latter a dish of labne yoghurt served with curly peppars, marash chillies and burnt butter.
They were delicious and I tucked into them hungrily with slices of pidé bread as I sampled another Turkish syrah, this time a softer, gentler 2014 Centum, made at a much larger winery from Turkey’s western Anatolia region.
Then, among other delights, it was on to balik ekmak — moist grilled fillets of sand whiting — before being completely taken out of my comfort zone by beef tongue, served with isot, a Turkish black pepper, and garlic and pickles.
And then, the pièce de resistance — kusleme, a treat of the most delicate lamb with charred leeks. Wow, where has this dish been all my life? It probably would have suited a great Turkish cabernet rather than a great Turkish syrah but I was too busy devouring to quibble.
Did I say pièce de resistance? That conclusion was probably drawn before I ate the couple of pieces of baklava, made in Turkey by Telat Cagdas, the grand master of the art, and flown weekly and exclusively to Sydney for Somer Sivrioglu,
It’s sweet yet it’s dry. The experience is simply sensational … and it will have me back in Anason again. As if the rest of the food wouldn’t have done so.
My Vivid restaurant discovery this year is Fish & Co, in the newish Tramsheds precinct which has taken over space next door to The Glebe’s — or is the suburb more correctly designated as Forest Lodge, famous for the watering hole we used to know as the ‘Frostie Lodge’? — old Harold Park trotting track, which is being redeveloped by Mirvac in a case of ‘urban renewal’.
The Tramsheds space itself is well worth checking out for an excellent range of restaurants, providores and cafés.
Fish & Co is the brainchild of married couple Sajad Akhlaghi and Belinda Guymer, who operate on the simple twin philosophies of ensuring what they do is sustainable and that the fish they serve is wild-caught.
As they say on their website: “We source food with a story for its high quality and ethics. Our food and ingredients are chosen for their traceability, buying direct from fishermen, small-scale producers and food artisans wherever possible because of the close relationships and trust that creates.”
If I’d known all this as I sat down in Fish & Co — as, of course, I should have — I would have ordered some fish, perhaps a serving of beer-battered NZ hoki or of grilled wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
Instead, I plumped for the familiar — some seafood pot stickers (aka dumplings, to use the more familiar Australian vernacular) and some salt-and-pepper squid. Both were excellently fresh and crisp, so unlike the limp, salt-laden shit I’d been served the day before in a place that should have known and done better.
I did, however, venture into new territory with some butterflied Skull Island prawns, gigantic creatures from Queensland, gigantic yet so sympathetically treated to retain all of their delicious, delicate flavours.
I like the way that they handle their house wines, too. Most of them come from Printhie, near Orange, and are poured under a blanket of nitrogen from a small keg, thus ensuring freshness and not a whiff of the oxidation that so often bedevils bottled house wines.
Keep an eye on this place — and on Sajad and Belinda. They really know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it really well.
IF YOU GO...
Anason, 5/23 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo, Sydney; phone (02) 9188 1581; visit www.anason.com.au
Fish & Co, Tramsheds, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge, Sydney; phone (02) 9518 6868; visit www.fishandco.com.au
John Rozentals was a guest of Destination NSW.