For me, a winter well spent is hopping between beloved restaurants – preferably in a suburb close by, tucked discreetly around a corner or hidden down a laneway, with minimal seating and menus that master crowd favourites.
New restaurant Fauna in Surry Hills ticks all those boxes. Situated in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location on Fitzroy Street, the idea with Fauna was to replicate the cultural love affair for the “great neighbourhood restaurant” that co-owners Geraint Coles and Julia Quisumbing had encountered during time spent in Los Angeles.
“We wanted a space that we felt people could forge a relationship with – the type of place we would want to go ourselves – warm service, familiar faces, and food that’s made with love and precision,” Coles says.
Boasting three spaces – the front Dining Room, the Outdoor Garden and Upstairs Bar – each area seats 16, 16 and 18 respectively.
The small size, combined with sleek interiors and ambient lighting, lend itself to a special, intimate experience.
The menu, created by Head Chef Ace Espiritu, is Contemporary Australian, but the heavy inspiration he draws from Italian-Mediterranean cuisine is very much evident.
Espiritu says when putting together the concept, creating the menu around a classic Italian 4-course structure made the most sense. But Italian dishes on the menu are made with a twist. “If you look at the menu, most dishes sound Italian, but only when you finally see/taste them, do you realise this is not your good ol’ nonna’s recipe,” he says.
We found ourselves drawn to the pastas on the menu as they seemed to complement the cosy atmosphere. We had an appropriately rich carbonara and beautiful arrabbiata pasta with Balmain bugs.
Other menu highlights included the Tasmanian octopus with eggplant puree and olive tapenade, and – to continue the carb theme – we couldn’t go past the parmesan potato wedges.
For dessert we treated ourselves to a lemon meringue tart. Stunning! We’ll definitely be back.