Annata Restaurant, Crows Nest

Sydney / 15 March 2017

We’ve discovered your next dinner out in Crows Nest…Meet Annata Restaurant.

First there was Frose (frozen rose), then there was Prose (frozen prosecco). Now there’s a new play-on-word cocktail available in Sydney. Make way for Freezling – low alcohol, fresh, frozen, Riesling based cocktails available in a number of different flavours including watermelon, pear and ginger and cantaloupe to name a few. You’ll find them at Annata Restaurant in Crows Nest, the bustling neighbourhood venue that’s captured the attention of food and wine lovers across Sydney.  But fads come and go. Freezling, schmeezling. There’s a whole lot more to get excited about at this place than frozen wine.
The last time we saw owner Christian Blair he was slinging drinks behind the bar at Rockpool Bar and Grill. And before that he was managing the award winning cocktail bar Eau De Vie in Darlinghurst. It’s safe to say this man knows how to make a good cocktail. What we didn’t know was about his passion and knowledge for wine and his ability to run a restaurant. It’s been a steep learning curve for Blair since opening the doors to Annata Restaurant in late 2015, but his hard work has paid off.
The restaurant starts outside with alfresco dining before you enter a narrow, split level space with soft lighting. Downstairs is an L shaped bar with seating and a scattering of high tables. Friends are chatting at the bar  and we’re pretty sure a successful Tinder date is in full swing behind us by the window. Here at the bar you can drop by for a cocktail or wine and take advantage of their short bar snacks menu. You’ll find oysters and mixed olives on a number of bar menus around Sydney but crispy onion petals coated in dehydrated parmesan custard ($10)? I think not. This clever little snack may not leave your breath smelling fresh but is a nice alternative to boring old roasted nuts.
Annata Restaurant onion skins
Freezling aside there’s a solid list of classic cocktails and unique creations by Blair. There’s a twist on the cobbler, a fresh cocktail called El Rubor ($18) made with Moscatel Pisco, aromatic wine, apricot brandy, orange citrate and the Heather and Stone ($18) an interesting combination of Jasmine Jameson, pistachio, suze, lime and whites. Annata Crows Nest Cocktails
Making our way upstairs to the restaurant there is a mix of high and low seating. A bashful wine group has gathered on the adjacent high table to enjoy some rare wines over dinner. It seems Annata is the place to be on the North Shore.
Head Chef James Richardson has designed the menu. He’s worked at Michelin-star restaurants overseas and more recently The Bridge Room as Sous Chef and Café Paci in Sydney. Like the cocktails, the food menu changes seasonally and highlights fresh produce. We’re told the menu is designed to share and expect a number of dishes to be brought out at the same time. Instead, dish after dish is brought out individually in what feels more like a degustation. It gives us the opportunity to really enjoy each dish and experience all the flavours and textures. We’re not sure if this is intentional or just a busy night. It does make the dining experience here at Annata Restaurant a bit longer than usual but when the wine is good and service friendly we’re happy.
Annata Restaurant broccolini
We start with some Coffin Bay Oysters with pickled black fungus ($4ea) beautifully presented on shiny black stones. That’s followed by some fresh curd and black olive with grilled broccolini and Sorrel ($18). It’s enjoyable but would have gone well with the duck breast dish we order that comes with treviso, fennel milk, plum and topaque ($39). Instead we have a beautiful glass of Marsanne wine and immediately regret not ordering a bottle of this alone.
Annata Restaurant duck breast
Seafood has a strong presence on the menu as does dairy, a combination you don’t see often but has been done particularly well at Annata Restaurant. The king prawns with goat’s milk, umeboshi, tobiko and purple basil ($22) is a perfect example. A small but rich dish, two prawns are halved and served in the milky sauce which you’ll want to mop up with some bread if it’s handy. The baked beets ($14) come with nectarine and are hidden beneath a tower of mixed leaves. Again, this dish would be great as an accompaniment rather than on it’s own.
Annata Restaurant prawns
The star of the show for us is their signature dessert. Here comes the dairy again, this time in the form of fresh whipped ricotta served with shortbread, blueberry, pistachios and coffee ($15). The ricotta is light and the added crunch of the pistachio and shortbread makes this textually satisfying.
Blair runs a tight ship of bubbly, energetic staff and has managed to capture a really nice local following at this neighbourhood restaurant. He admits that he didn’t even know how to clear tables until two months into opening and that he definitely feels more comfortable behind the bar than on the floor. But watching him whiz around high fiving locals, imparting expert wine knowledge to smaller tables and explaining each dish to diners and you’d never guess it.

Annata Restaurant
69 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest NSW 2065
Open Dinner: Tue–Sat from 3pm Lunch: Fri from 12pm