Temporada is sexy, there's no denying that. Rough wood, pressed iron, mosaic tiles, a bar that just entices you to linger to try one more Spanish wine, a soundtrack that sets the right mood.
Tonight there are couples at the bar, bigger tables, one in the corner looks like they've been there most of the afternoon, the high benches on the left are filling up, diners perched on high stools in their own little world. I've often driven past Temporada and longed to be hip enough to be one of those people who finds a seat at the bar, sharing a serve of oysters, a glass of sparkling, knowing just what to order from the menu.
But I'm none of those things. Not hip, nor knowledgeable enough to get it right, and so I put my whole night in the hands of Dave Young and order the chef's menu. I like the idea of not really knowing what's coming. Our waiter asks if there's anything we really don't like, and we say just lay it on us. At $80 per person it represents excellent value. Throw in an excellent sourdough served with fluffy cultured butter, a little bowl of marinated olives, we also choose to add oysters for an extra $8 per person.
Which was an excellent place to start. Two oysters each, both plump and tasting of the sea. Two of the four weren't fully shucked and it was quite a surprise to pry open the shell to find plenty of salty meat.
Our other starter was a gorgonzola and tapioca fritter with a green harissa sauce on the side. I never would have ordered these off the regular menu but the little squares were a highlight of the night. Moreish, textural, perfectly accompanied by a Spanish Alvear Fino En Rama Sherry.
Now seems like a good place to quickly divert to how we handled the drinks. We asked if they wine matched the chef's menu and they said they didn't but would be happy to work something out for us, bringing us drinks that would complement each plate. For each dish we were poured half a glass, our sommelier Joshua telling us the story of the wine, where it was made, sometimes the philosophy of the winemaker.
Too often, in these reviews, we criticise wait staff, or lament the state of hospitality, but tonight we would not fault anything. Joshua and his small team worked the room, kept us amused and informed, kept the food coming, our water glasses full. Temporada is to be commended for that.
But back to the food. Next up was their signature jaffle, four cheeses and black truffle. It kind of felt a little out of place here, delicious as it was. I could imagine one would taste exceptional on a Friday evening having popped down from my office for a drink.
The wood-grilled Wagyu intercostal (the muscle that runs between the ribs we found out) was another plate we never would have ordered. Wrapped in a sesame leaf, topped with thin slices of nashi pear, with a hot bean paste that had a real kick, the meat was tender, the pear cutting through the richness, the little parcels were slow-braised and then grilled for extra crispiness.
MORE RESTAURANT REVIEWS:
The chef's menu changes seasonally so you may well be disappointed as spring approaches that the roast chestnut and mushroom barley risotto has disappeared. It was winter in a bowl, deep, rich, full of flavour and texture and perfectly seasoned. There was firmness to the chestnuts and the mushrooms, which I like, and it offsets the creaminess of the barley. A delightful dish. So too was the spanner crab salad with a pistachio mayonnaise and a spiralised apple salad. While we pondered the order of the plates, this was refreshing after the risotto. The poached Hapuka fillet, a thick meaty fish served with a leek voloute, was cooked to perfection, falling away from the knife.
This dish was served with our only side, a sweet roast cabbage with smoked almonds, sour cherries and a herb and buttermilk dressing. Again, not something I ever would have ordered, but another highlight. The texture of the almonds and cherries was surprising, the dressing tangy against the sweetness of the cabbage.
We were served two desserts to finish. A banana mousse with hazelnut praline, mascarpone and caramelised banana, and the other wasn't even on the menu, a serve of black sesame custard with a strawberry sorbet and a delicate wafer slice. The banana dessert was a treat, I loved the little discs of caramel atop the banana slices, the mousse sweet but not cloying. The strawberry sorbet too was a stand out, perhaps a reminder that spring is indeed on its way. And that this menu is soon to change.
Temporada often gets compared to Aubergine, with Ben Willis having a hand in each. While the city venue is more relaxed, perhaps that's what diners are looking for now. A more casual setting where there is nothing casual about the food, the wine list, nor the service. This night was hard to fault. Perhaps the little brother has grown up.
Address: 15 Moore St, City
Phone: 6249 6683
Owners: Ben Willis and Dave Young
Chef: Dave Young
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7.30am-late; Saturday, 5pm- late; Closed Sundays and public holidays.
Vegetarian: Plenty of options
Noise: There's a hum but conversation is easy
Wheelchair access: Yes