Review: Bel & Brio – Barangaroo (Sydney)

Now that The Streets of Barangaroo are beginning to take shape, the timing is right for the immense harbourside precinct to get its very own European style emporium. That would be Bel & Brio, a 5-in-1 venue which is now open in one of the area’s premier sites, offering a multitude of experiences, blending high quality farm-to-table dining and a comprehensive wine bar with takeaway, coffee and retail. By design, there are plenty of ways to approach the 800 square metre site, which has been fitted out by the exceedingly talented DS17 (Alpha, Lotus the Galeries) so that the brass-driven rose gold glow of the bar is almost impossible to ignore when walking around the area.

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The interior has gone the classic route, DS17 popping the space with a mix of natural materials including elegant timbers, brass, copper, polished concrete, and marble, all working in harmony to make this one of the smartest looking venues Barangaroo has right now.

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European cooking techniques have influenced the dining menus, as has a strong dedication to local farms, particularly a 20-hectare property in Kulnura on the central coast, a property which is completely chemical free and will be regularly fueling Bel & Brio’s kitchen with a range of seasonal veggies and pasture-raised eggs (which are also sold in-store), amongst other farm-to-shelf produce and all the necessary day-to-day items one would expect from any grocer. There are even house-made products lining the shelves like daily organic tomato soup, which was listed as a Basket Essential in Bel & Brio’s first ever published gazette, an eight-page spread which is available from the grocer (we assume there will be regular ongoing editions).

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Will & Co coffee powers the site’s “Coffee & Co” section accompanied by a full breakfast menu and daily pastry selection, focusing on high quality Italian pastries made at Bel & Brio’s home kitchen in Lane Cove. Alessandro and Gianni Panetta who ran Baker Bros in Sydney CBD serve up the coffee here daily. Nearby is a the takeaway focused eatery, offering city workers and locals fresh options including rotisserie meats, paninis, traditional pizza al taglio, homemade pastas, and daily chef specials.

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Shift over a bit and you’ll find the “Cellars”, Bel & Brio’s specialty wine store and list with over 2000 wines traversing through drops from Italy and France as well as locally sourced wines, showcasing both iconic and new-wave wineries. It’s being handled by wine retail legend Jon Osbeiston, with a schedule of free tasting sessions released regularly, giving locals a great opportunity to really get a wide perspective on the diverse world of wine.

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Many of those wines are also on the menu at the Bar & Dining side of Bel & Brio, with an extensive selection of 400 wines, 20 of which are available by the glass. Celebrated mixologist James Snelgrove (ex-Bentley) also complements this with a cocktail list focusing on classics using house-made syrups, cold-pressed juices, and seasonal ingredients.

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The dining menu has a respectable amount of variety put together by Head chefs Andrea Assenza and Vanessa Martin (ex-Il Piave), including many meat and cheese options, with individual picks including goats cheese, pecorino, burrata, mortadella, salami soppressa, jamon iberico, and truffle salami. For the indecisive, the best way to begin is by choosing one of three sizes – small ($24), medium ($34), large ($39) – of a Charcuterie selection served with organic artisan bread, wild truffle honey, and the likes of prosciutto san daniele, ham hock terrine, black pepper pecorino, and buffalo mozzarella.

Other smaller bites to start with include thick Polenta Fingers ($12) served with a four cheese sauce, or some equally fat Hand Cut Chips ($8.50) with black truffle and pecorino. From the starters alone any doubts about this being a quality dining spot just because it has so many other working parts is swiftly shot down by strong, fresh flavours.

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The mains are divided by “From The Land”, “From the Sea”, “From the Spit”, and some good ol’ pasta. If you’re in a big group you may be tempted towards a 180g Sardinian style sucking pig ($36) or Slow Cooked Goat ($33), but for individuals a good, safe choice is pasta. Get the Ricotta Ravioli ($26) which comes beautifully presented as big, flat pieces of pasta laid out like petals of a flower, topped with slow cooked lamb ragu, with extra flavour coming from the use of rosemary oil.

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From the land comes the deliciously soft Eggplant Tian ($18) stacked with buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and balsamico, a sure-shot for any Vegetarian diners who want something substantial and packed with just as much flavour as anything else on the menu. It’s a nice dish to have on the table along with the vibrant Green Asparagus Salad ($20) which is a busy serving coloured by bright red heirloom tomatoes, baby beetroot, goats cheese, and walnuts, dressed in balsamic.

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If a seafood is the call of the day for you then go for the Albacore Tuna ($18), very lightly seared and served in a citrus-dressed salad of marinated artichokes, giant crispy capers, green beans, shaved fennel. Pair this one up with a great shared side of Hawkesbury Calamari ($22) which is lightly seasoned and served with a spicy paprika mayonnaise.

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One of the menu’s clear highlights is the Tuscan style 12 hour smoked, slow-cooked Beef Short Ribs ($19), nice and sticky, mostly unadorned with a big focus on just how deliciously soft the meat is, popping straight of the bone with the slightest touch of a fork, ready to melt straight onto your tongue.

There are plenty of ways to approach Bel & Brio given it’s design, which smartly connects all five sections to flow seamlessly throughout, the spaces both distinctive and complementary. Sydney really doesn’t have anything else like Bel & Brio, and if there was ever a precinct demanding that its grocer also be a bar, wine cellar, and dining spot then it’s this slick harbourside development. The concept of course wouldn’t be what it was without an all-star team who have come together to offer the area something truly worth the prime real estate, a piece of the puzzle Barangaroo and it’s steadily growing flock of residents couldn’t do without.

Bel & Brio

Address: 300 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney
Contact: (02) 9299 9107
Website: belandbrio.com.au
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-11pm; Sun 7am-10pm