so we snuck back to sydney for a few days last week, the kid and i. we made the spur-of-the-moment trip ostensibly to visit family, though in actual fact, there was a large flashing billboard in my head, and writ large upon it was the word “messina”. still, for much of the week we played happily north of the bridge, walking through the hills and vales of cherrybrook, and the malls of the greater northern suburbs.
and then on friday, after a bus ride into the city and a ferry ride across the twinkly harbour and a walk down the memory lane that is oxford street, we met up with one d rodrigo for lunch at honeycomb. i’d only read about this new cafe a few days before, and while you’re in another city, it may register as merely a blip, but when you find yourself suddenly within — well, who knows how many hours, given public transport from the hills district — when you find yourself contemplating luncheon at sopra because it was probably your favourite place in sydney, then it seems the only logical conclusion that you end up at honeycomb, new home of old sopra chef andy bunn.
the waitstaff were all smiles and welcomes when we showed up just past 2.30, and gave us our pick of the empty dining room; the kitchen closes at 3! from the all-day breakfast menu the kid picked waffles with mascarpone, honey, and that rarest of fruits — the banana. d and i went an altogether more grown-up route.
off the main menu, we shared a generous dish of orecchiette with prawns, salty little nubblets tasting of the sea. the pasta was perfectly cooked, the riotous confetti of chilli and herbs as festive on the tongue as it was on the plate.
after a brief discussion about whether a lamb ragu would be too much for 3pm on a sunny day, we also picked the kingfish served with boiled fennel and salsa verde. under its golden crust the simply seasoned fish was meaty, a suitable canvas for a smear of the salty, tangy green sauce (though i expect i would’ve been perfectly happy to eat the salsa straight from the spoon). the cucumber ribbons and sprigs of watercress made the whole package a gift of springtime.
ambitiously, we split a salad off the specials list: oyster mushrooms with ricotta and potatoes in a tumble of leaves. it didn’t offer too much of a photo opportunity, but the salty slippery mushrooms, fried a little bit crisp around the edges, and the little daubs of creamy cheese, and the tantalising shards of witlof, more than made up for it in the mouth.
and then we were done! happy and satiated.
and we wondered, could we still do dessert? we waddled up the hill for a bit, and found our way to the cool, dim oasis that is gelato messina, where the gelato is always piled high, and there are always more flavours than you can safely consume in one sitting, even on the end of a tasting stick.
i did sample the cucumber sorbet, an impossibly smooth and slightly tangy whisper of cool speckled green, but gave in to a single scoop of almond croissant gelato. the subtly fragrant almond milk base was most agreeable, as were the pockets of almond frangipane from the housemade almond croissants. the bits of croissant pastry, however, had become chewy from the moisture, and were not a joy to eat. alas.
still, it was with a golden glow in my heart (and belly) as we wandered off into the sunset. somehow it has come to be that messina is the thing i pine for most when i think of sydney. i’d like to think it’s the really good thing that represents an amalgamation of harbour ferry rides, and good friends, and favourite aunts… not just the really good thing that might send your blood sugar just beyond desirable limits for the afternoon.