It was two years in the making, but the wait for Fred’s was worth it.
Miami-born Alvarez did the hard slog at two of California’s most lauded restaurants (Chez Panisse and The French Laundry), before bringing her penchant for fresh farm-sourced produce to Fred’s, where the menu evolves almost every day based on what Alvarez can get her hands on.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find the crudo of kingfish on the menu. It’s an appetising combination of salty, smoked roe and silky fish flesh with svelte onion rings to round it off. Follow that with a main of sirloin steak, vigorously seasoned and seared, then served with moreish sheets of pommes Anna (gratineed potato) – liberally buttered, of course, and crisped to a T in the wood-fired oven. Whatever you do, don’t miss the side of royal blue potatoes – smashed, charred and doused in black-garlic vinaigrette, it’s more than just a support act.
But it is the dessert that really brings the house down – a pot of luscious chocolate mousse with a crème brûlée-like torched crust and prosecco-poached cherries. Pair it with a Piedmont moscato from the expansive wine list for an unforgettable finale.
PS: The best table is the vast marble bench-top next to the dome-shaped wood-fired oven. Frequently used by the kitchen staff to prep the food, it is the spot to book if you really want to be in the thick of it, with front-row view of the open kitchen.
PPS: Oh, don’t forget to drop in at the subterranean Charlie Parker’s bar in the same building before or after your meal. The fit-out is seriously eclectic – a garage door on one side and velvet benches on the other; plush rugs on the floor and exposed pipes on the ceiling. And the wine and cocktail list is just as interesting. Try the “burnt pecan” – a refreshing concoction of pisco, mandarin reduction and aloroso.
Location 380 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW; (02) 9240 3000; merivale.com.au
Cuisine Modern Australian
Atmosphere Relaxed, unpretentious and borderline raucous
Open Friday-Sunday for lunch and Tuesday-Sunday for dinner
Big tick The open-plan kitchen that gives the restaurant a warm homely vibe
Must-try The side of royal blue potatoes