At first glance it would seem that Pyrama’s Spring menu special delivers a great deal given the inner city location. But is this really the case and is the restaurant worth visiting? Amy Rathbone writes.
Pyrama doesn’t look special from its Harris Street facade. Unlike Graze or Adriano Zumbo’s new dessert train down the road, the restaurant’s decor doesn’t rope in passers-by.
That’s not to say the restaurant isn’t nicely decorated: it has its feature red wall, peeping hole into the kitchen, sleek bar and floor-length panelled glass windows. It’s what you would expect of a sophisticated restaurant with mid-range prices; it’s nice and consistent but doesn’t really offer anything to rave about. And the same goes for the food.
We had booked for two at 7pm on a fine Saturday evening. Half an hour before our arrival we had called and asked if this could be changed to a table for three at 7.30pm. The man that answered our call was friendly and assured us that was fine, without even a hint of annoyance in his voice. One hour later and we were gridlocked on Harris Street. When we finally arrived at the restaurant the clock had ticked past eight. And yet, the waitress still welcomed us with open arms.
The restaurant is bustling; at all but one table sits happy diners, chatting away. There are families, business people, couples and a 20-or-so person function. The outdoor patio overlooks a rather large ditch that happens to be the tramline. It’s not the most pleasant view, but seems to be forgotten in the dimly lit, loud restaurant.
With a smart menu punctured by a few unique dishes, the restaurant easily caters to everyone. Pyrama has a Spring menu special that we can’t help but take advantage of. Three courses are often too much, but at $52 it seems like we’re getting a good deal. We order the salt and pepper calamari with harissa and coriander aioli to share (the other two diners opt for two courses for $40).
The entree arrives almost as quickly as we demolish it. The calamari has the perfect balance of salt and pepper. It has bite and the taste remains on the palate minutes later. Dipping the calamari into the harissa and coriander aioli improves the flavour tenfold. When lettuce leaves accompany such items as calamari and skewers it is usually no more than a garnish, but the calamari imparted its flavour to the salad. We find ourselves forced to clean our plates of everything edible. There are three of us sharing the entrée and none of us hungrily pine for our main courses, such is the serving size.
Twenty-five minutes have passed and we are yet to receive our mains. A waitress approaches and apologises for the wait. She admits it has been a busy night, gesturing to the function. The apology is sincere and refreshing. Oftentimes I have waited longer for a course and received no apology, as if the waitstaff believe slow service is acceptable.
Two of our three mains disappoint. The roast riverina lamb loin with sweet potato and spiced French cous cous we couldn’t get enough of. The lamb is tender and paired excellently with tangy cous cous and wholesome sweet potato; the hazelnuts add a nice touch.
When the waitress places the crispy skin ocean trout with spring globe artichokes, olives, heirloom tomato and fennel on the table, I straight away wish I had ordered something else. The presentation is somewhat careless. Fortunately the skin is crispy as advertised—a shortfall at many other restaurants—and the fish falls apart on the fork. But mainly, an unpleasant liquorice flavour from the fennel dominates the palate and the vegetables don’t gel too well.
The beer battered flathead fillets and chips with housemade tartare sauce is okay, but boring. One diner calls it a “classy fish and chips.” Really, the meal offers no more than fish’n’chips from a takeaway store. It’s presented better and thrice the price.
Dessert is Pyrama’s chance to redeem themselves. After that entrée, there is still hope. Although this hope decreases every one of the 25 minutes for which we wait. In the meantime we come across all three staff working the front of house. The service proves itself uneven. While an attentive waitress had greeted us milliseconds after setting foot through Pyrama’s doors, another now rudely leans over the table to fill our glasses without so much as a smile.
When the two French white chocolate and passionfruit crème brulees we order arrive our expectations instantly shrink. It is obvious that the desserts’ hard caramelised shell is burnt. We almost give up with wishing Pyrama well, but the custard is simply divine. The white chocolate and passionfruit flavours develop as we dig deeper into the dessert.
One diner had ordered the vanilla bean pannacotta with strawberries. The presentation, once again, disappoints. A handful of strawberries sit next to the pannacotta. The pannacotta is nice but not amazing. Sadly, the desserts have slightly missed the mark.
For an inner city restaurant, we received what we had paid for. However, many elements across the seven dishes were not perfected, which undeniably should be the case when the chefs are cooking the same dishes every day.
Address: 56 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Open: Dinner Wed-Sat 6pm-9.30pm
Lunch Fri noon-2.30pm
Breakfast Sat & Sun 8am-3pm
Brunch Sat & Sun noon-3pm
Licensed: Yes; BYO Wed & Thu dinner ($10 per bottle)
Price guide: 1 course for $29, 2 for $40 or 3 for $52
Bookings: 9692 8844 or at pyrama.com.au
Getting there: Metered parking is available in the area. Pyrama is across from the John Street Square light rail stop.