Where: 342 Darling Street Balmain
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat noon – midnight, Sun noon – 10pm
Phone: 02 8084 8185
Set within an enchanting Balmain terrace, the Cottage is the kind of place every home entertainer dreams of showing off to their guests. Perhaps you'd begin the evening with some balmy summer drinks in the front courtyard, enjoying the cool breeze as it rustles gently through the trees and basking in the glow of the shimmering fairy lights. Or, on a cooler night, you might invite your friends to nestle into a cosy nook of the living or dining room, whetting their appetites with the scent of freshly baking bread from the nearby kitchen.
The dream is a reality at the Cottage, only instead of doing the dishes afterwards, you can lounge back and indulge in another luscious cocktail: perhaps a Ron Pedro ($18), which makes old mates of Ron Zacapa and Pedro Ximenez and adds a little cottage-style charm with fresh strawberries and lemon juice.
The dinner-party atmosphere has been captured flawlessly in the new autumn menu, which features creative sharing plates that will satiate appetites and stimulate conversations. Fleshy portobello mushrooms burst with barley, dried cranberries, fresh herbs and creamy chevre ($14), while the seared scallops ($18) are so uniquely plump and sweet that their source is carefully guarded by the kitchen team as a trade secret.
Each dish on the menu boasts an attractive combination of rustic charm and modern finesse; roast chicken, for example, is served in careful slices over a pistachio-topped streak of yoghurt and accompanied by an elegant rice pilaf ($22).
The drinks list is intriguing and international. Consider kicking things off with an organic Krinklewood Semillon ($10/$44) before moving onto an earthy Italian Nebbiolo, or familiarise yourself with the generous selection of interesting craft beers and ciders on offer.
It's when it comes to dessert that the Cottage really starts to show off. The circus comes to town with the fairground plate ($16): whether you're munching away on maple-candied popcorn, tearing off pieces of rose-scented fairy floss or biting into a teeny-tiny toffee apple, you can't help but giggle with the nostalgia and share a tale about that time you ran away to the fair.
Like all good dinner parties, you'll leave the Cottage well fed, pleasantly tipsy and still chuckling about something that was said four conversations ago. And the best part? At the drop of a hat, the charismatic Cottage team will be ready to welcome you back in and do it all again.
Good For Groups: