We don’t get out much anymore (small child + COVID), so when a birthday/excuse to celebrate comes up, it’s an opportunity to drink and eat well.
On Saturday, I turned 41, which seems like such an excuse to revisit Bert’s, the Merivale fine diner at Newport on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
For the menu (and the drinks selection), this restaurant is always on the ‘let’s go back’ list. The food (and the wines) didn’t disappoint on Saturday night either. As just one example, there was this super pasta dish featuring little saccottini parcels crammed with wagyu shin and pithy barberries, all drenched in a butter-rich sauce. Oh my.
Pity the service wasn’t up to the same two hat, next-level experience. I can’t remember ever being at a $150ish+/head Sydney eatery where I had to find and pour my own drinks consistently. Where menus were left on the table, while I had to wander off to the front counter for a bill. Where we were ultimately ignored by our designated waiter and grabbed (helpful) others. The next table over had it worse – they poured their drinks and had to ask to have dirty plates removed off the table. It’s first-world problems, but all standard expectations with these menu prices…
Watching the floor, it was evident that a) our server was very new and b) all the staff were stretched. But if you want to see how the COVID staffing crisis has affected fine dining, it was writ large on Saturday night.
It won’t stop us from going back (and the food was so so good), but a frustration given that usually, the service at Bert’s is seamless. Speaking of seams, a quick roundup of the wines:
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV
Always mercurial, and I always blame the light-strike-prone clear bottle (though I probably shouldn’t). The dosage looked high, the effect making for something well-intentioned but generic. Poured by the glass, so it could be an average glass. Not terrible, but not up to the standard. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Dom Perignon 2010
I only had half a glass and then spilled the rest. At the beginning of the night. Like a douche. Anyway, this was solid and very serious. Felt very Pinot dominant and dense this vintage, to the point where I’d call for more time in bottle. The length and width were very good though and there is so much to get your head around here. A meal of a Champagne. Quality, even if I preferred the Coulon from Xmas time. 18.5/20, 94/100
Jean-Pierre Grossot Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2018
Served from Coravin bottle. Old school and proudly so. Lean, stony, almost to the point of being greenish and peppery, but with lovely understatement and the right sort of lines. Proper Chablis, if not a head-turner. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Jean-Marc Boillot Volnay 2018
Served from Coravin bottle. Unready, and almost to the point of being aggressive. Ripe, oaky, sturdy Volnay with powerful fruit and weight in a varietal form. All muscles. The red fruit is there, but so was everything else. It’s going to look great in the future. You could have told me this was modern Yarra, and I’d not flinch. For now, it’s unready. 17.7/20, 92/100+.
Bindi Kostas Rind Chardonnay 2018
Delicious, as ever. It’s probably too young – and the sparkling-like bright acidity dominance attests to that – but so enjoyable. The nose has a whiff of funk, but it fans out into more mealy nutty white nectarine before a lean palate that grows with its grapefruit and white peach. Long, precise and fine. I’d like to see a bit more width, but that’s why I’d say wait to drink this in another 18 months. 18.5/20, 94/100.
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