“Do NOT have Secret Foodies at The Commons” said the pitchfork holding, horn wearing devil on my shoulder. “The minute you introduce people to that place you’ll never get a table,” it added.
Thankfully my halo-wearing angel often gets the final say and decided to share this little gem. Not that I can take credit for the discovery, it’s been around for some time, well the building itself has at least. The sandstone cottage is over 160 years old. It’s hard to believe looking around the densely populated Darlinghurst streets that this was once the sole building for miles. There’s something special about this place.
Heritage listed, the building retains its vintage on the outside. Step inside on a chilly autumn night and you’ll feel the same warmth and charm it no doubt had many decades ago. Some may remember it’s previous incarnate The Pond, a pop-up bar for Pure Blonde, portraying all things wholesome and natural. Taking over the lease at the beginning of last year The Commons has continued the theme.
Enter the gates, walk through the courtyard and you’re in Midtown the main dining area of this three-level eat house/bar. We keep walking, past the open fire, long wooden tables and through the mouth-watering aromas.
Tonight our evening begins in Downtown, the bottom level, dimly lit cocktail bar. It feels like an underground speakeasy during the 1920’s prohibition. However, in Downtown the consumption of alcohol in the form of expertly crafted cocktails is not illegal rather encouraged. Specialising in 1950’s style aperitifs we’re served Negroni Sbagliato’s, a blend of campari and sweet vermouth on ice, topped with processeco.
Downtown was originally the farmhouse kitchen and servants quarters. The round wooden tables, dairy milk stools and striking bookshelf housing vintage glasses and old encyclopedias have all been made by one of the owners, Rob Barton and compliments the original structure.
Plates of mixed aperitivo’s are sent from the kitchen including mixed olives, vegetarian antipasti’s, salami, breasola and stuffed zucchini flowers. It’s warm, it’s cosy and we could easily stay here all night, sipping cocktails and mulled wine, listening to the piano player or playing cards in ‘the library’. But it’s time for dinner in Uptown.
We make our way upstairs, past Midtown and into our own private dining space. Gathering round an intimate table in the roof of the building it really does have a sense of being a farmyard feast. The food philosophy at The Commons is simplicity. Fresh, seasonal produce with Italian and French influences are evident on the changing menu. The first dish is elusively described on our menu as the Secret House-Made Pasta that we soon learn is mushroom cannelloni rich in flavour and smells amazing. Running the risk of being slightly dry, I would have liked more sauce. A glass of Joseph Chromy ‘Pepik’ Pinot Noir from Tasmania helps wash it down.
The next dish in our Autumn Harvest Feast is a board of seasonal vegetables including spinach, corn and roast fennel. The vegetables are great, simple, modest presentation with noticeably fresh produce. You only need a small serving of the fennel, the flavours can be overpowering.
The highlight dish is the Oosso Buco with a glass of natural selection theory 2010 red. It taste like home cooked food an Italian Mama would make. Papua New Guinean chef Galia Lawa proves he’s just as good. This is comfort food, perfect for a cold autumn night
For dessert Rob brings out boards of house-made doughnuts in rosemary sugar and pours glasses of Bress Cider NV Methode de Champagne. It sends me down memory lane of eating warm doughnuts at the annual show in my hometown. All it needed was the hot gooey jam filling and I’d have been in heaven.
There are a lot of places in Sydney that no matter how many times you visit you’re made to feel like a tourist. Melbournites would argue that’s the Sydney way, people go to places to been seen and watch others. Head to The Commons and leave pretensions at the door. This is a humble, wholesome place with good produce at an honest fare. Whether it be a mid-week drink in Downtown, Breakfast on the weekend in Midtown or a private dinner with friends in Uptown, it’s hard to beat The Commons.