Sydney’s Customs House once served as the headquarters to Customs until 1990. It is a beautiful, grand, old building which stands at Circular Quay facing the harbour where ships once docked for trade and travel. It has since become the home of the City of Sydney Library, with its newspaper lounge on the ground floor lobby, as well as a to-scale model of Sydney CBD housed beneath a section of glass flooring. Customs House is also home to Young Alfred.
Monsieur Poisson and I find ourselves here for lunch one rainy day. I have been here before for pizza but it’s Monsieur Poisson’s first visit. We are seated indoors near the counter where it is wallpapered and decorated in the same vein as the entrance to Customs House. It really is a bit cold to be sitting out on the patio in this kind of weather.
A middle-aged couple is seated next to us after we arrive but somehow get served before us. We glance around hoping someone will notice we have not yet ordered but resort to flagging someone as they walk past with another table’s food.
We start off with vegetarian arancini which contain a serve of three. They are thinly crumbed and crispy but unfortunately only lukewarm in the centre. Otherwise the rice within is moist and sticky with some mince mixed through. If only they were hot, they would be the perfect comfort food for such a dreary day.
While waiting for our mains we smell the aromas of pappardelle with ragu wafting across to us from a nearby table. The sauce is earthy in colour and is emitting a depth of stewed meaty flavours. Something to come back and try!
We have also ordered a ‘Pizza Miles’ which is topped with San Daniele prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and scattered with plenty of rocket. Young Alfred is known for its pizzas, which all have interesting names, but I have no idea who ours is named after. There is also a ‘Surprise’ pizza on the menu – I wonder whether it changes every day or whether it is whatever the chef feels like at any particular moment in time. When our pizza arrives the lady on the aforementioned neighbouring table remarks that ‘it doesn’t look very good’ and I politely tell her it’s quite the contrary, while consciously refraining myself from telling her it’s really none of her business and to keep her comments to herself. The base is thin and crisp with a neatly cut edge and is covered evenly with a light tomato sauce. The flavours of the toppings all work nicely with each other but my palate is not adequately sophisticated to detect anything different about the prosciutto from any other that I have had.
Monsieur Poisson has also ordered a Ferron risotto Milanese which arrives looking soft, yellow, comforting and flecked with bits of bone marrow. It is al dente and fragrant. My only gripe is that there’s a bit too much chopped parsley for my liking, as it gets easily stuck in my teeth.
Warmed from our stomachs we don’t feel quite so weighed down by our wintery moods as we head back out into the grey weather.
Ground floor of Customs House, 31 Alfred St (cnr Young St),Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9251 5192
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-10:30pm