Back in January, my friends and I were looking at options for a nice dinner in Surry Hills for a post silly season catch-up. One of my friends had always been intrigued by A Table for 20, and it was decided we would book a table for the next few weeks.
How wrong we were! The restaurant is so popular that it was completely booked out and there wouldn’t be any possibilities until May! While we found another restaurant for our catch-up dinner, we still decided to book for a table in May… then forgot all about it.
It was therefore a nice surprise a few weeks ago to be reminded by our friend who organised it that we were expected at Table for 20 that Saturday night.
After a little stroll down Crown Street we turn into a little dark lane and announce ourselves at the back door of the restaurant. It all feels very mysterious, underground… in a word, quite exciting! We are led through a corridor, then up the stairs to the restaurant level, where the host explains to us the program of the night: we will have pre-dinner drinks (not included in the $65 meal price) in the upstairs room, the Sticky Bar, then will be called for dinner at 8pm downstairs. The Sticky Bar is a very trendy and dimly lit space, we even walk past some friends without recognizing them! It’s time for one of Sticky Bar’s famous cocktails and we watch the barmen (or mixologists I should say!) expertly prepare our drinks, which all turn out delicious!
At 8pm we are called out downstairs and we all enter a big room with two long tables and windows on Campbell Street. The walls are decorated with big striking paintings and a light fitting on the ceiling resembling a giant birds nest casts dramatic shadows around.
The guests are mainly from big groups, there is a birthday party for half our table, our group of 10 or so people, and a lonely group of four on the other side of our table. As I have read on Eatability.com.au before, it suits big groups better than couples out for a romantic dinner or smaller groups, as the concept of the restaurant intends to creates a very communal feel and encourages you to talk to your strangers sitting next or across to you.
We are now all seated and nibbling on fresh bread rolls and olive oil when our host, Michael Fantuz, comes into the room with a glass of wine in his hand, setting the mood to laid back and informal. He explains to us the concept of the restaurant, where he tries to recreate the dishes of his mother and the atmosphere of those big communal family & friends dinners around a huge table, even if he confesses his mum’s cooking is still the best. We also learn that 10% of the restaurants’ benefits are given to Hope Street, a charity for homeless people, which is another good reason to eat at Table for 20.
Michael wishes us a great evening and soon after the waiters arrive with the entree: big platters to share of fresh home-made pasta in a creamy sauce with Porcini mushrooms, utterly delicious. We all give it a red hot go and everyone has about three to five serves each! One of our group’s guest, an Italian born and bred, even gives his seal of approval, saying the pasta are as good as what he would have eaten back home. I am surprised at the quantity of food given to us: we will definitely not starve tonight! It’s always a worry when you go out to dinner with guys that the portions will be too small for them and that they will have to go buy a burger after paying big bucks for a meal! Definitely not the case here.
The mains arrive, first for the vegetarians, who constitute a fair share of our party tonight, and then for us carnivores: Osso Bucco with pesto sauce, Polenta triangles, roasted potatoes and rocket salad. The vegetarians get some ricotta & spinach rolls wrapped in Eggplant, with Polenta, potatoes and salad as well. The dishes are both good, the meat is well cooked and tender, although it maybe could have used more sauce, but still very pleasant. We however all agree that the pasta entrée remains the winner of the meal.
The ambiance has warmed up, and conversations are starting between different groups. People get up and circulate between the tables. It is, like the restaurant site indicates, similar to a big private dinner party.
We start getting really full when the dessert arrive: a white chocolate tart in its dark chocolate casing with a red berries jus and strawberries, lovely and fresh.
A small glass of Limoncello later, we are ready to leave and have renounced all our plans to go for a drink after, we all just want to go home and digest that generous and very satisfying meal. So if you want to experience this dinner as well with a nice group of friends or family, and that you know you will be free sometime in 2011, don’t hesitate: there is now about a year wait to get a booking for a Saturday dinner at Table for 20! Looks like they are onto something here!
Table For 20
182 Campbell St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
0416 096 916