Sometime last year, Eightysix in Braddon cryptically changed its Instagram handle to eightysix north. I thought nothing of it, but social media was quickly awash with the latest news - Eightysix was expanding its horizons, opening a restaurant on the southside.
Eightysix South opened in Phillip in March this year, under the refurbished A&A Apartments. The new restaurant has managed to capture the look and feel of the original site in Braddon but with a slightly different vibe. The chalkboard menu lives on here in the exact same pristine handwriting, but the neon yellow 86 sign is now red. It feels comfortable, just like slipping into a comfy pair of shoes, except that they're brand new.
Maybe it's the daylight streaming in from the windows, but the dining room feels brighter, a little more spacious and perhaps a little quieter. If North was me in my 20s - loud, fun and a little rebellious, South is me in my 30s - a little quieter, a touch more sophisticated and with better wine (ok, the wine list is much the same, but you get the idea).
The food is where things really diverge. The menu at South is more refined with a firmly Italian focus. Smaller plates include prosciutto and roast capsicum and there are four pasta options, along with more substantial secondi (mains). For dessert, dishes like tiramisu and sheep's milk pannacotta. Vegans may need to do their research before booking in; I can't help but notice that there is a fair bit of cheese and dairy throughout the menu.
Speaking of wine, I quite like the short, sharp by the glass wine list. Place of Changing Winds, a small minimal intervention winery is always a favourite ($14). In the spirit of the Italian theme today, we opt for the Tuscan Belial sangiovese ($14) and the intriguingly named Volere Volare primitivo from Puglia ($16), both medium bodied, fine tannin reds.
Service has the same laddish-ness to it - friendly, casual, unpretentious. I love taking recommendations and the staff do not lead me astray. The ocean trout ($18) is brilliant; slices of bright coral sous vide ocean trout on a pale horseradish cream, pickled cucumber strips to garnish. The combination of textures and flavours is a winner. The ocean trout shines through against the creamy yet gentle hum of heat from the horseradish, while the acid from the pickled cucumbers add a lovely lift. I love it - less is more done well.
The beef carpaccio ($16) is a similar exercise in restraint. Thinly sliced beef, parmesan, pepper, olive oil, micro herbs. It tastes like what it looks like, which is a good thing. That's what Italian food is about.
Corn and taleggio tortellini with fermented chili butter ($28) is a stroke of genius. The sweetness of corn, savouriness of cheese with a hit of chilli and butter for good measure. It's beautifully crafted; perfect plump tortellini, thin layers of pasta oozing with a bright yellow mixture when cut.
The gnocchi isn't half bad either ($28). It's not quite as layered as the previous dish and there's not quite enough 'nduja to give it real lift, but it's otherwise a solid pasta dish. Fresh, pillowy gnocchi served in an 'nduja cream sauce with shreds of Tuscan kale and crunchy breadcrumbs for texture.
Chicken milanese with pecorino cream ($40) may just be a fancy chicken schnitty, but it's so good that I almost don't begrudge them that. You're probably wondering how good a $40 chicken schnitzel can be - I don't blame you. This one is perfection - so juicy that I'm certain it's been brined, then deep fried to a light golden brown. Pecorino cream brings umami and a simple garnish of charred spring onions and a lemon wedge adds all that's necessary.
Salted chocolate caramel tart with creme fraiche ($18) is an absolute cracker of a dish. I struggle to think of a better dessert I've had since forever. I'm not traditionally a fan of caramel, but this one is salted to perfection - the decadent layer of caramel sandwiched between a crisp cocoa crust and a dark chocolate filling. It's so good upon finishing the first, I immediately ask for a second one to go - alas they're not set up with takeaway containers at this time. I am still staring at pictures of it on my phone like a love-struck teenager. We could've been really happy together, second slice of chocolate caramel tart.
I like the more laidback feel of Eightysix South. Some really great food is being cooked here, and not being in the hustle of Braddon makes it feel less rushed. Not for long though, I suspect - residents of the South will surely soon catch on.
Address: 45 Furzer Street, Phillip
Hours: Lunch, Wednesday to Saturday from noon; Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm.
Owners: Gus Armstrong andMiguel Estanillo
Chef: Michael Rees
Noise: Not a problem; significantly quieter than north.
Vegetarian: Some good options, but perhaps best to let them know ahead of time. Vegans might need to do more research.
Outdoor seating: Sounded like it was in the works - stay tuned.
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