Monsieur Poisson and I were feeling particularly lazy one Friday evening and were in need of a date night. For the month or more beforehand we had been in the throes of the final stages of wedding planning (including the stress of having to organise a cake, last minute) and hadn’t had much quality time to ourselves. We didn’t go away for a honeymoon either, as we plan on lumping it in together with a more extensive trip later, so it was pretty much straight back to work for the both of us. And, you know, it’s nice to go out on dates every now and again, even if it’s with your own partner!
Mistress recommended The Vineyard to me after having visited for a work gathering. There is a relaxed area at the back of restaurant with large throw cushions and couches definitely suitable for small group functions or people just dropping in for drinks. Monsieur Poisson and I are seated at a table along the wall of a narrow section of the restaurant between this area and the main dining room at the front. There are decorative vines and grapes hanging from the ceiling of the whole place.
The wine list is attached to a beautiful wooden clipboard which I want to take home and I start the evening with a rather orange-hued and sweet bellini. We don’t do the name of the restaurant justice though, as this is the only drink I have for the evening while Monsieur Poisson forgoes any drinks altogether as usual.
And because I am feeling like salty cured meats, I lightly influence Monsieur Poisson to share the ‘Antipasto plate’ with me. It is quite substantial and advised to be shared with its spread of prosciutto, olives, salame, marinated capsicum, pecorino and housemade focaccia. A meal or picnic in itself, really.
For mains, as often happens with us, we get distracted by what’s on offer on the specials menu and order from there instead. I have the ‘Papardelle with duck ragu’ which has wonderfully soft and wide pasta noodles in a meaty sauce with plenty of depth. The duck is minced and has a livery taste rather than the shreds of duck meat that I expect, but it packs plenty of flavour and is very warming.
Monsieur Poisson’s main is the special of ‘Braised beef cheeks with potato-celeriac mash and prosciutto-wrapped beans’. Beef cheeks are seriously understated. They’ve been braised until they are fall-apart tender here, requiring only a fork to prise apart the strands of tasty meat. We discover the meal serves are rather generous and realise we’ve over-ordered with neither of us being able to finish our meals.
Somehow, of course, albeit after a much-needed break, Monsieur Poisson finds the room to have dessert. The ‘Chocolate tortino with Baileys anglaise’ has caught his eye and neither of us have qualms about having to wait the 10 or 15 minutes required for it to be made fresh. Along with his usual caffe latte, he is one happy camper when he digs his spoon in to reveal a molten tortino centre.
I stick with my usual coffee/ice-cream hybrid in the form of an affogato for, as Wifey has said, “There is always room for ice-cream!” For only $6 the scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream here is quite generous as opposed to when I literally do have my ice-cream drowning in a shot of espresso at other places!
The Vineyard has mainly Italian influences in its menu, although there’s an occasional French touch here and there. They get pretty busy on weekends and I have been turned away previously when I rocked up with another two people without a table booking, so I’d definitely recommend phoning ahead to check. Oh, and it’s a good idea to take a few people along to share the food too.
104 Willoughby Rd (opp intersection with Holtermann St), Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9966 0906
Opening Hours: Mon CLOSED
Tues-Fri 4:40pm-6:30pm (happy hour)
dinner from 6pm
Sat & Sun breakfast from 9am
dinner from 6pm