Crown Sydney’s a’Mare offers old school glamour, and Italian fine dining and has been named one of Australia’s best restaurants.
Crown Sydney’s a’Mare has been named as one of Australia’s top 3 restaurants by the Gourmet Traveller Awards. This is a review I did just before lockdown in 2021.
Rediscover the art of elevated old school Italian fine dining with flair, upscale personalised service combined with striking, modern Italian at Crown Sydney’s A’mare, right next to Woodcut at Crown.
In the absence of flying to Italy, this is the closest we can get to authentic Italian here in Australia with staff telling tales of their Italian hometowns, recipes their mothers made, food freshly prepared at your table, and the Italian language being scattered around like parmesan over pasta.
Italian restauranteur Alessandra Pavoni has brought the fun and elegance back to old school dining at a’Mare, this Italian restaurant bursting with passion, pleasure and fun. It is Michelin style without the stiff upper lip.
A’mare means ‘at the seas’, perhaps a hark back to his original restaurant Ormeggio at The Spit. The a’Mare restaurant overlooks the ocean, but at night we couldn’t see the ocean, so enjoyed the interiors which are warm, welcoming and a touch old school Italian. Think rich carpets, elegant glassware, well dressed waiters in black and white and clinking drinks trolleys.
The art of food theatrics is evident from the moment we order a cocktail at A’mare – and the best bit is we are being educated about all things Italian along the way.
Cocktail waiter Salvatore wheels over an overflowing martini trolley, and tells us tales of growing up in Napoli whilst suggesting a plethora of martini style cocktails.
I bravely order a pizza martini, slightly afraid it could be a heinous concoction I won’t be able to stomach, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Salvatore is a man who understands flavour, and cocktails and aims to please. He can mix a cocktail with the finest of them. A delicate tomato and basil flavoured liquid is topped with a dry piece of crisp, rich Parmesan. It is exquisite and I hold myself back not to order a second – there is so much more to come.
My friend had the signature Mandarino, Tanqueray 10 gin, mandarin, oscar white with citrus and soda. It comes in a long glass with plenty of fizz. It felt celebratory just watching her drink it.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off an Italian feast here in Sydney.
General Manager Luca is from Puglia, and he guides us through the menu like a five star tour guide chatting about Capri’s finest restaurants which he seems to know inside and out. The selection of dishes is vast and includes a broad choice of entrees, pastas, and main dishes.
We opt for wines by the glass, and there are 4 sparkling wines, 2 roses, 6 whites, and 7 reds to select from. Most are Italian.
Luca insists on glasses of 2018 Tiefenbrunner Merus Alto Adige Pinot Grigio and home made focaccia, which arrives warm, herbs on top, with a decadent, crisp, fragrant, smooth Pugliese Italian extra virgin olive oil with a splash of aged balsamic. Delicious.
The wine is a crisp and white, but a flavoursome pinot grigio. It has a sharp, citrus note which I enjoy.
Crudita a Mare agli agrumi, is a daily crudo selection of local, fresh seafood with citrus dressing, calabrian chilli and crustaceans oil we also said yes to, to share.
The seafood the night we were there was scallop, raw tuna and fish. It was fresh, clean and a good, light way to start the meal with the delicate citrus sauce on the seafood.
The Burrata Caprese arrives, a huge creamy, rich local burrata sitting in a clean fragrant salsa verde with green tomato. This is a signature dish of the restaurant and for good reason – it is flavoursome, smooth and delicious.
Burrata was originally invented in Southern Italy as a frugal way to eat mozzarella – using the left overs with cream. But it quickly became a decadent delicacy and is the sign of a quality restaurant and a chef who has depth. With this dish, the citrus from the verde sauce combined with the creamy flavour of the burrata is unique and delicious.
Luca insists we have the basil pasta, and it’s a great idea, as he makes it at the table in front of us. His “kitchen” is on a wooden trolley made in Sydney fitted with a Carrara marble mortar and pestle flown in before the restaurant opened from Italy.
The 2019 Dante Rivetti Briccodoro from Piemonte Arneis is striking, and a wine I would not be able to pick in a blind tasting, but it is round and full flavoured, gorgeous and refreshing.
Luca proceeds to actually make the pesto by hand in front of us with a bunch of fresh basil leaves and salt, garlic, pine nuts and macadamia (the Australian touch) all pounded down over about 4 minutes.
Then parmesan and pecorino are tossed in with virgin olive oil from Puglia as the final step.
The home made pasta is thrown in and Luca tosses it all up as only Italians can, and presents us each with a plate of flavoursome, fragrant home made pasta. We felt so spoilt having been cooked for in that intimate way.
It is as fragrant as herbs freshly picked in an Italian market garden on a rainy day – just a stunning aroma that has heads turning on neighbouring tables.
We loved the pasta dish, but enjoyed the cooking lesson Luca walked us through even more.
The lobster pasta being served at the next table was extremely tempting for our main, and the rich lobster sauce we were inhaling was extraordinary and authentic. Visuals of my last trip on the Almalfi coast and the taste sensations I experienced there swhirl my mind. The Glacier 51 tooth fish was also tempting, a reasonably rare sight on any Australian menu.
But my companion chose the whole fish which was a large ethically and sustainably caught fish served with puttanesca salsa of olives, tomato, capers and oregano. It was filleted for us and very generous in size and flavours.
I chose the tagliata di manzo wagyu alla pizzaiola, a 2GR blood wagyu beef MB 9+ tagliata served with pizzaiola salsa of tomato, garlic, oregano and black olives. Truffle season meant shaved truffle was an option and I couldn’t resist.
The 2017 Vietti Perbacco Langhe, Peimont Nebbiolo was the right segway between a light and heavy red, and went so well with the wagyu.
The dish was actually light, flavoursome and cooked as I had asked – medium rare. The truffles just took the whole dish to a more decadent and flavoursome level.
A simple but essential and quintessentially Italian rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic dressing was perfect with both dishes.
The Tirimasu A’mare is a showstopper and arrived as mother would make it, from a huge dish with our serve scooped out onto a plate. Roughly translated Tirimasu means “pick me up”, and this one certainly did. The delicate balance of coffee, cream, rum and melt on your mouth cake was delicious.
The bathrooms at A’mare are upstairs, and visiting them was another joyous Crown Sydney experience. Mirrors, white interiors and glamorous basins all add to the experience of a great, upscale night out.
The drinks trolley again appeared and we were spoilt with multiple liquors to sample – heavenly. Again that generous European spirit was on display. A home made limoncello was befitting after an extravagant Italian Meal.