From Street ADL to Blackwood and now Bistro Blackwood, Jock Zonfrillo’s casual sister restaurant to Orana has undergone many changes in its five-year existence. As Bistro Blackwood, Paul Wood believes the Rundle St venue finally hits pay dirt as a progressive casual eatery of note.
Evolving from plain old Blackwood to Bistro Blackwood a year ago, part of the transformation includes a slick bistro fit-out to match its new name. We are seated in new mustard-coloured vinyl booths, part of the design shift that has seen the space evolve from dark industrial to refined casual elegance. More blue vinyl pads the corner bar. Gold detail, blonde timber panelling and plenty of greenery completes the new design scheme.
The comfortable furnishings are complemented by Bistro Blackwood’s comforting food. The first dish takes us back to food inspired by memories of Zonfrillo’s Italian-infused childhood: a mortadella sandwich. The mortadella is freshly sliced and flashed over flames and generously fills the two slices of white bread. The sandwiches come with dipping sauce inspired by Zonfrillo’s Nonno’s red wine vinegar forming the base of the dipping sauce with green olives and herbs, which completes this mouth-watering, moreish dish. They suggest you order to share, I suggest you don’t.
The plate delivered alongside the sandwiches is also part of Zonfrillo’s culinary history. A faultless slice of chicken liver parfait sits in a set pool of flavoursome jelly. Designed to pile on toasted bread, this is a nod of respect to his former boss, mentor and friend Marco Pierre White. And pile we do, requesting more bread to make the most of this simple, refined and meaty tribute to one of the world’s best chefs.
Aside from these few stalwarts, dishes at Bistro Blackwood are ever-changing. No two weeks will be the same because of their ethos of using seasonal ingredients (on staff is a full-time forager who explores and collects the best edibles from South Australia’s regions). This means freshly foraged pine mushrooms one week, and not a single fungus on the menu the next.
Another example of change is the filling of Bistro Blackwood’s signature roti, an entree staple. A few months ago this deliciously crunchy flat bread was filled with Spencer Gulf prawns cured in vinegar and served with a fiery fermented chilli sauce. Now, the updated curried roti is filled to the brim with potato and fresh herbs dripping with a light and perfectly balanced curry. Just don’t eat this one with a knife and fork, it’s a hand to mouth experience that cannot and should not be bastardised.
Vitello tonnato is a plate of thinly-sliced, perfectly pink South Australian veal, arranged over a circle of fish-infused mayonnaise and topped with salty capers. It’s another successful showcase of simplicity. Zonfrillo’s take on tartare is one that might divide opinion. If you’re a fan of anything flavoured with tinned curry, then this one’s for you. Nostalgia hits with the first mouthful, curried eggs at their ‘80s-country-best. A selection of native herbs and spices rounds out the meatiness of the tartare itself, with a scattered handful of native greens to provide crunch.
The next dish arrives with a strong recommendation from Bistro Blackwood’s maitre’d Greta Wohlstadt. It’s a flat-iron steak of sorts and this generous, Moroccan-inspired and -seasoned fire-pit beef is something to behold. It is sliced medium-rare over a bed of labne, which melts between the delicious slices of steak within moments of landing on the table.
The final Bistro Blackwood menu item we try is its newest, one that was imagined and added to the menu that very afternoon: lamb shank prepared osso bucco style. Incredibly, it tastes like it has been slow-cooked for days, with the tender cross-cut morsels almost dissolving with each bite. While the dish is hearty – served with mash, carrot and charred onion segments – it is refined, just like the venue.
It may have taken five years, but with Bistro Blackwood, Zonfrillo finally has a casual diner that not only complements it’s more famous sister upstairs but stars as a standalone it its own right.
285 Rundle St
Lunch: Fridays and Saturdays, from 12pm
Dinner: Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 6pm
Photography: Sia Duff