A Sideways Perspective
by Reuben Oh
@ 28 Sep 2018
“We saw this place and felt its history off the walls,” Giulia describes the encounter with love, “at the same time, it was simple and genuine. We felt Mediterranean food would fit right in, because the cuisine is the same with a focus on bringing the most out of simple ingredients, not so much on the fanciness of design.”
Push open the steel sliding door and you will be greeted by their pride and joy, a cosy small-seater restaurant with a bar, a coffee machine and the shiniest star of them all, their DIY wood-fire oven. This four feet wide creation is Pavan’s baby, a dream earned through blood, sweat, and tears: “There it was, a kitchen with plenty of space. Finally. I grabbed the chance, contacted a construction company for material and built the whole thing, bricks and all, from scratch.”
Every quarter of an hour or so, you can smell it. The distinct, piquing aroma of smoked food wafting down the length of the room as the oven’s door is opened. It carries half the menu on its back, whipping out the meats and bread that make up Sideway’s Mediterranean cuisine. The Rib-Eye Steak is the perfect spokesperson for the wood fire, cooked just nicely with the blood intact and with wood-smoke flavour brimming throughout. It’s a classic rendition, perhaps one of the few on the menu. Everything else seems to be served on a base of unapologetic, unconventional casualness.
“It’s all in our name really,” Giulia explains, “We chose Sideways because we like to think that we’re look at traditional Mediterranean food sideways. It’s still though, all about that quality of ingredients and free-and-easy nature that the cuisine embodies.”
“In Australia, to get ‘sideways’ also refers to one getting tipsy,” Pavan adds cheekily, “we thought it might be something funny to share since we’re all here for good company, good food, and a good selection of wine.”
If you took those two ideas and married them into a pairing, it would very much be their offering of Mint & Feta Dip with one of their simple libations, a Greyhound. The dip is a comfort staple made new with the addition of chopped almonds. The nuttiness is apparent on the front end of the palate, with the feta following a few seconds later in a bright medley of tang. You can have it by its own, or order the bread to wipe every last bit up.
The Greyhound is a straightforward affair, with fresh cranberry juice, gin, and a sprig of rosemary plucked from a plant that hangs over the bar. It’s refreshing and above all, easy to drink – a shared characteristic between the items offered on the beverage menu. It helps, of course, that all of their wines are Australian. “Of course, I love a good Italian wine from home,” Giula pours her heart out, “but past 4 or 5 glasses, they get hard to drink. The wines from Australia win out on this one.”
And they sure do, with crowd pleasers like the Farm To Table Sauvignon Blanc, a fresh, clean white with notes of passion fruit and kiwi. It makes a well complement to the Garlic Shrimp, a customer favourite. On many occasions, shelled shrimp gets easily overpowered by the sauce it’s served in. But here, the freshness and quality of the ingredient is well utilised, with its sweet, natural flavour coursing through every facet of the dish. “The shrimp are grilled and served with a broth consisting of garlic, and the shells and heads leftover from peeling them,” Pavan describes the process, beaming, “we want shrimp that tastes like shrimp, not barbeque sauce or lime. We felt that this was the best way to bring out the flavour of the ingredient.”
Above all, Mediterranean culture is all about down-to-earth, delicious food, great drinks, and company to bide the wines into the night. Sideways delivers on all these notes with a sort of informality that says, “It’s great food and drink, what else do you need?” I can agree with that, and would recommend getting a taste of their restaurant while the bread’s still hot.