It used to be said that any publicity is good publicity. After Darren Simpson, the former La Scala Head Chef, endorsed a burger range for fast-food giant KFC, I doubt restaurateur and owner, Dean Haritos would necessarily agree. But unlike many restaurants, La Scala is still standing and standing proud it is.
Sitting snugly between the iconic Light Brigade Hotel and hatted restaurant Buzo Trattoria, the entrance to La Scala is discreet. Once inside, however, discreet isn’t a word that comes to mind. La Scala flamboyantly displays its Italian heritage with bold feature walls, gilted vintage mirrors, a funky cocktail bar and glass bowls of fresh produce such as bright red capsicums strewn around the various dining spaces. A chair installation protrudes from pin-striped walls and giant metal whisk lights spiral elegantly from the ceiling.
The restaurant’s design may be theatrical but the menu at La Scala on Jersey is deceptively modest, showcasing a down-to-earth display of classic Italian cooking. Ruben Martinez, who was formerly Darren’s Sous Chef, fronts the kitchen. Martinez, who has done time in some of Sydney’s most successful restaurants including Aqua Luna, La Sala and Barrenjoey House, has created a menu that implements organic cuts of meat, local seafood and house made sorbet and gelato.
Keeping things local, we start with a small bowl of organic marinated Lakelands olives and a glass of 2006 Montose Omaggio (barbera) from Mudgee. While the wine list does predominantly feature Australian wines, there are also has a range of French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and New Zealand drops on offer. Salty, luscious and textural, the Lakelands olives are a standout, and I take note to return at a later date purely to get a second taste of these. Brodetto Marchigiano (a classic fish stew from Marche), is one of La Scala’s signature dishes. Aesthetically, it is a spectacular display of seafood, topped with a crusty slice of herb bread. The stock-based stew is overflowing with octopus, barramundi, mussels and squid, with strong hints of saffron and marjoram. The Italian lamb or “nose to tail eating”, comes highly recommended by wait staff and once it is placed in front of us, we can see why. The free-range lamb is sourced from the clover pastures of North Motton in North West Coast of Tasmania and the dish is served with different cuts every day. Another on my “must-return-for” list is the sformato, similar to a soufflé, it is a smooth blend of Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts.
From the food to the service, the restaurant runs like clockwork and Andrew Carson, the restaurant manager, is key to its success. The sophisticated private dining room, which seats up to 26 people comfortably, is an impressive location for corporate and private events. For larger occasions, the restaurant and bar can be exclusively hired for up to 200.
Read more about La Scala on Jersey here