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Scarlett At the Harbour Rocks Hotel, Sydney

By:
Joanna Hall
 

The Harbour Rocks Hotel is one of Sydney's hidden gems, a boutique romantic getaway tucked away behind the MCA in The Rocks district. With access to the CBD, Darling Harbour, and the Sydney Harbour foreshore, it enjoys a prime position for visitors to the city, and fortunately for guests it also has appeal beyond where to lay your head. Besides a cosy bar, and a gorgeous al fresco terrace tucked away in the middle and adorned with vine leaves, it has a prime dining venue in Scarlett, offering a combination of an historic venue with a menu of top quality modern-Australian cuisine.

The location and decor

The small bar is behind reception on the ground floor with a daily happy hour, and the restaurant is located a level down. It's a long and narrow, yet intimate, space packed with plenty of original features from the historic building, including cooling bare stone walls, dark wooden eaves and a highly polished chocolate coloured floor. The decor is a lovely combination of old meets new, featuring soft golden lighting, clever use of mirrors on one side to create more space, and a modicum of natural light from the original French windows. The tables are arranged in two long rows. To the right, a soft bronze coloured leather banquette runs the full length of the wall, with white marble topped tables in front of it and white scoop-like chairs, all settings designed for two people - very romantic. On the left there are tables for two and four, with a small mezzanine area on entry where you will be met to be seated. If you're sitting by the French windows you'll enjoy a view of Nurses Walk, and if you fancy having your own space, there's a gorgeous private dining room too. Unusually the restaurant is open seven nights a week for dinner from 5.30pm, so if you happen to be staying on a Sunday night, you won't have to move far to get a fabulous meal.

The menu

The hotel calls Scarlett "the oldest new restaurant in Sydney", but the menu is a decidedly mod-Oz, with a small collection of lovely dishes covering all tastes, including vegetarian. We were in the mood to share, but our problems started when we had to decide on just two starters; there were some lovely choices to consider including octopus, beef cheek, scallops and a fig salad. In the end, after much debate, we opted for the pan fried octopus served with chorizo, coconut gel, a herb salad and chilli dressing, and braised beef cheek served with Jerusalem artichoke and truffle butter. The octopus had a beautiful texture, just soft enough and just crispy enough on the outside, while the beef was a melt-in-the-mouth experience we both really enjoyed. For mains, there were two fish choices including salmon, although the trevalla had been replaced by barramundi, a roast beef, pork belly and a pumpkin risotto. Sharing again, we opted for confit pork belly served with gnocchi, ham hock and peas, and the barramundi, with a side of green beans. Both were cooked to perfection, the pork belly juicy with a crispy top, the barramundi also juicy, sweet and soft. We didn't make desert but if you get to there are traditional sweet choices of a banana crème brulèe and chocolate mousse, or a selection of cheeses including Milawa Blue and Jennai Bouche Noir. The wine list was also compact but had some lovely choices including local and overseas varieties, and priced from affordable to splurge-worthy.

The verdict

We noticed that several other guests in Scarlett the night we dined were not guests, and if you're a Rocks local or living in the city, it's a venue well worth considering for a romantic night out. The venue is delightful, there is the informal yet efficient service, and the cuisine couldn't be faulted. And if you stay overnight, this is where you will enjoy breakfast too.

We have a full review for the Harbour Rocks Hotel.

Scarlett is located at the Harbour Rocks Hotel, 34 Harrington Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000, 02 8220 9999, www.harbourrocks.com.au.

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