Four girls, one being vegetarian with a night of chatter ahead, what better than homely, hearty Italian? Walking into the building, it still reminds me of what it once was, Comme and then Stokehouse City. The fancy steakhouse The Cut is upstairs and we head right into Fratelli Fresh where the vibe is far far different to its predecessors. There's a Italian American feel with the black and white lettering above the bar which surrounds an impressively large pizza oven. We're shown to a cosy corner table and it's pretty comfortable with enough room between tables that we don't feel we're interrupting our neighbours particularly as there is plenty of giggling and incessant conversation.
Focaccia di Recco Cheese-filled Flatbread with Stracciatella - Thyme
The cheese is sandwiched between two layers of dough. It's melted and stringy and there's a sharp tang from the cheese. Pleasant enough to accompany the glasses of wine we have ordered.
Between the four of us we order:
Spaghetti al Pomodoro - Tomato, Basil, EVOO, Parmigiano Reggiano
Cheesy Casarecce ‘Cacio e Pepe’ - Rapini, Pigs Cheeks, Pecorino Romano
Chilli & Lobster Paccheri - Large Tube Pasta, Tomato, EVOO
Conchiglioni all’Amatriciana - Pasta Shells, Smoked Pancetta, San Marzano
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Fiore di Burrata, Walnut
Fried Potato Rosemary, Salt
Bitter Leaves Honey, Walnut
The food doesn't take too long to arrive. Reactions are mixed - some of it doesn't look all that appealing and it's sloppily presented. The Spaghetti al Pomodoro has been plated on one side of the plate off centre but in a not on purpose kind of way. The Lobster Paccheri looks very red and over tomatoey...The waiter bringing our food doesn't help as he pretty much just dumps the plate heavyhandedly in front of us. Maybe it's this clumsiness that caused the Spaghetti al Pomodoro to slide to one side of the dish...
Anyway it's about flavour right? I had the Conchiglioni and the pasta is al dente just as I like it and it is tasty. One might say ever so slightly on the saltier side but tasty enough for me to plough through and enjoy. Generally speaking we enjoy our plates of pasta. The comment on the lobster pasta is that it's very lobstery...on the plus that means there's lobster in it, on the minus it could be interpreted as being too fishy. The carbonara style Cheesy Casarecce is probably the winner both in appearance and taste satisfaction levels although I have to say I generally struggle with a whole dish of creamy pasta.
Accompaniments are enjoyable enough; fairly classic and simple and not huge in size. The Brussels sprouts in a creamy burrata dressing I find delicious - fresh and creamy but it's pricy for the size of the serve I feel.
It takes a while for a plates to be cleared, dessert menus allocated and orders taken. Being tucked away in the corner means it's not easy to catch the eye of passing wait staff. We finish on coffees and a slice of banoffee tart of which I have a mouthful and again it's pleasing enough but not amazing. And again it's not a generous serve.
So in summary, I remember being really happy when I went to one of the Sydney outposts a few years back. This didn't seem to be as good and it's not Tipo 00 level pasta. But it's a comfortable environment, has a menu that has something for everyone and the food is decent enough so for a small get together where the chatter and the company outweighs the desire for groundbreaking cuisine and the food is really on the backdrop, especially during the week then Fratelli Fresh is a good bet...