Last night I slipped inside the little door near Gin Palace, on Russell Place. You know the one with the funny little beehive sign (pictured) out the front and nothing else? An out of towner like myself would have no reason to realise that this is the home of Sarti. But it is!
A friend is in town this week and we had planned to go out for dinner. This weekend is set to be an expensive one for myself, with the Bledisloe Cup in town, multiple friends visiting to watch/work and the associated eating, drinking and socialising that comes with such excitement. With this in mind I chose Sarti because it had good reviews, a chefs hat and a price range which included options below $30.
Reviews seemed to say that Sarti had perfected all the extras: service, ambience, decor etc, but that their food was only just reaching it's peak. So I was expecting good food and excellent service. After our experience, if I was to describe the service in one word it would be "strange". Our actual table service was good, just the right amount of attention and always a full wine glass. The strange part came from more general dealings. When I booked the person on the other end of the phone was very vague, almost to the point of unwelcoming. Upon arrival we realise there's a large function, taking 2/3 of the floor space and consequently our little table for 3 was tucked way in a corner, almost in a walkway. Interesting. This was after we were taken to the bar, presumably for them to get our table ready, only to be taken to the table before we'd had a chance to sip our water. I feel we should have been warned about the function, particularly as it meant we were sat in the corner of a walkway, in front of the kitchen, behind the bar and near no other tables.
Luckily we were in good spirits and not ready to let this bug us. Because it really was nothing more than a tad strange and why let that ruin a good meal. The up side to being off to a side is you can carry on like the old friend catching up that we were and no one really notices.
The menu has a good selection of starters, salads, pastas, mains and sides. We were all starving so we munched up the provided bread and went straight for mains. I ordered pasta with braised duck leg, marinated artichokes and a sage sauce. I would like to say up front this is one of the nicest pasta sauces I've ever had. There was such complexity of flavours and yet the dish wasn't so rich that I was full. A tangy tomato-ness worked well with the tender duck. Amazing. Unfortunately the complexity of my dish made it hard for me to get much out of the other two meals, but the diners assure me they were amazing. S-bo ordered funghi and ricotta ravioli whilst BD had broadbean risotto, which was very subtle. A funny little quirk was S-bo and I ordered main sizes and BD had an entree size. Whilst the bill says all was in order we all feel they may have got the other two size mixed up. BD's risotto was huge whilst S-bo's ravioli particularly scarce. Unfortunately the photos didnt come out so well due to the lighting, which is why I took a happy snap of the logo.
I was the only one in our trio to order dessert, I just couldn't get away from the double chocolate tart with clotted cream. The dessert menu seemed very imaginative and enticing, so I was a little disappointed when my tart arrived. It took a long, long time for them to slice me off a bit and bring it to the table. It arrived a rectangle slab of chocolate on shortcrust pastry with a blob of cream next door. The first few bites revealed a creamy, smooth, rich chocolately filling, unfortunately this wasnt quite enough to sustain my interest throughout the dish. I finished (with the help of the others) a little bored with the dessert, merely eating it all because it was chocolate and I love chocolate.
I've highlighted a few negatives from the evening, but Iwould go back. Why? Because my pasta was excellent and S-bo +BD were equally as impressed. Overall Sarti was laid back, relaxing and reasonably priced.
6 Russell Place
03 9639 7822