Only a short stroll from King Street, wedged inbetween the police station and The Courthouse sits a soaring glass window. Passers-by, including myself, find it hard to miss the glaring sight of cured meats, sausages, french and english cheeses alongside canned goods. Continental is what you would expect to find in a hidden corner of old Sydney. My intrigue gets the better of me, and after an earlier wrong turn in frustrating traffic mid-mission for an ungodly burrito, plans quickly change and an express dinner turns into a progressive & enjoyable Sunday night. With heavyweight owners linked to Porteno and Bodega, it's really no surprise that Conti has already swooped up awards, alongside local hearts.
We're greeted by nearly everyone in the place, a bubbly and excitable host walks us through the menu with clear passion about what goes on here in the kitchen and bar. There is a low key, sophisticated vibe, accelerated with appropriate lighting. Lists of wine and beer are short and sweet, leaving space on paper for Continental's cocktails. The menu is built on dishes for sharing, or you can opt to curate your own plate of aforementioned delights. Canning much of their own, Continental's most famous preserves include their Can-Hatten, Mar-tinny, and latest Cosmopolo-tin, following their practice of preserving most things made under the roof in take-home form, yet don't disappoint when comparing a real-life example.
Conti's beef tartare ($20) is simple yet well-executed. The menu here changes regularly, however the fact this tartare constantly remains over the course of near two years, speaks volumes that I'm not the only one enjoying it's simplicity. The gaufrette (waffle style) potatoes are crisp and well seasoned, and maintain strength and structure when topped. Conti's own preserved kumquats are the highlight topping the creamy and fine Chicken Liver Pate ($16). Soft and complex, there's a subdued bitterness in the rind balancing mild sweetness of the flesh alongside the liver. The toasted Brioche is beautifully soft on interior. The peas with mint and aged feta another good introduction, smooth blended pea with some that are mildly crushed to break up the textures, the mint sweet, and complimented with soft feta.
The oxtail ($6.50 pp) is not too dissimilar from a rich, warm rilette-style dish, only with a little more form. The oxtail is mixed with the subtle anchovy mayonnaise and perched atop char-grilled iceberg, inverting the expected flavour profile in this green. You're doing yourself no favours failing to order the mussels ($16) which are a complete game-changer when you consider their encasement of black bean harissa on a plate of yoghurt and kaffir lime. You won't look at mussels the same again.
If you've experienced the baked Vacherin, it was likely also a commitment you also weren't prepared for. It's almighty in presentation and taste, it's been showcased by a circle of polish sausage and olives stuffed with peppers. The polish sausage is the best I've had, with the outside crisp to perfection, even after a childhood upbringing where it's aplenty. Ultimately, it's delicious yet heavy and should ideally should be shared in a larger party.
Doing further justice to quality ingredients, their Creme Caramel is not oversweet. There's complex flavour in the syrup despite apathy for the raisins which accompanied. We sampled a few varieties of Amaro to finish which ultimately topped an evening we didn't think possible. The commitment to the craft alongside enthusiasm and excitement by everyone on site truly makes my heart sing. Just you try walking past one day without walking in.
Continental Deli, Bar & Bistro
210 Australia Street, Newtown NSW
Mon - Thur 17:00 - late
Fri 17:00 - late
Sat 12:00 - 14:30 & 17:00 late
Sun 12:00 to 16:30 & 17:00 - late