What’s surprising about Pendolino, an elegant and subdued Italian wine bar and restaurant on the Strand Arcade’s top floor, isn’t so much that it has a separate room dedicated just to showcasing olive oil – although that alone makes it somewhat quirky (they do olive oil tastings here) – but the sheer size of the main dining area.
Having only ever walked past it before I assumed there’d only be space for a small, cosy little restaurant inside – yet when I turn up one night with the Amazonian Croatian we are led through a passageway into a long, dimly lit dining room with a view of a large open kitchen. Perhaps it’s my childish imagination taking over, but to me it feels like stumbling upon a secret restaurant usually hidden from view.
The décor is dark and stylish – think black wrought iron, black sofas and exposed brick walls, while jazz plays on the sound system – and the Italian menu has an emphasis on fresh pasta and Australian produce.
For me the highlight is the handmade mezzalune (half moon) ravioli with braised pork belly, pork cheek, asparagus and crisp pancetta that I order for an entree. Considering the quality of their pasta, which is a world away from what you usually find in Italian restaurants, I think not ordering at least one pasta dish here is a sin.
The Croatian, however, prefers her rare seared herb- and garlic-crusted yellow-fin tuna with dried broad bean puree, chicory and steamed black mussels. I prefer my meals a little heavier but it’s certainly refreshing on a hot day.
We both love the bottle of Willunga 100 grenache we’re drinking, which goes well with the fennel and rosemary scented pork belly that the Croatian orders for a main. I never attained a black belt in the fine art of food and wine matching but, in my uncouth opinion, I think it also works well with my medium-rare char grilled quail. Having said that, and even though I know it’s not good to double up on carbs, if I come back here again I’ll probably order two pasta dishes simply because I liked the ravioli so much.
And on that piggy pasta-obsessed note I’ll leave it at that – but if you’ve had any experiences at Pendolino then feel free to leave a comment below: