14 May Sartoria, Preston
Multi-cultural Preston appears to be up-and-coming eating destination, with more and more quality places popping up. The latest to join the fold is Sartoria.
Adriana Agricola spent 15 years in New York before returning home to pursue her dream of having a place of her own. Formerly run by her parents Joseph and Carmela from the 70s to the 90s, the dressmaking workshop has now been converted into a warehouse cafe. The large space accommodates 120, and still bears the marks of its previous life. Walls and tables are decorated with sewing patterns, and shelves and floors are littered with Singer and Necchi sewing machines, mannequins and others bits and bobs.
Local producers provide ingredients like Pepe Saya butter, 5 & Dime bagels and Dr Marty’s crumpets, and portuguese tarts from Noisette and cinnamon scrolls from Oregano Bakery Drinks form part of the counter display of sweets. Drinks are supplied by Where’s Marcel? coffee, Chai Boy, Mork and Storm in a Teacup.
Consulting chef Jason Shiong (ex-Longrain and Di Bella Coffee Roasting Warehouse) has had a hand in the menu, inserting touches of his favourite Asian flavours, as well as some Italian flair to reflect the heritage of the Agricolas.
Hot drinks mark the beginning of our lunch. We try the matcha as well as their signature Red Velvet Hot Chocolate. The red colour is derived from a house cold-pressed beetroot-infusion, and there are little bits at the bottom, possibly originating from the humble root vegetable. The Mork chocolate is still rich, but with the slightly sharp freshness of beetroot. Not for everyone, but I personally enjoy it.
The Necchi is a sweet sticky black rice pudding, topped with banana, lychee and sliced squares of house-made coconut and black chia jelly. Coconut crisp adds much needed crunch, and matcha foam injects some colour. While not overly rich in texture, we find its sweetness a tad too much to finish.
The incredibly photogenic Designer hotcakes are made from buffalo yoghurt, and featuree activated nuts, microherbs and a variety of diced fruits. A slice of caramelised pineapple is hidden beneath the green tea cream, and a sprinkle of dehydrated raspberries are crumbled over the top. The hotcakes are not as fluffy as those based on other dairy products, but is still moist. The zing of the fruits is refreshing, and the flavours are well balanced.
The Machinist is one that clearly had its beginnings in Shiong’s flavour preferences. Batons of crispy pork hock are arranged around a crumbed black pudding crostino. Romesco salsa adds zest and moisture, and poached eggs round the flavours out. The black pudding is dense and creamy, spiced with something like cumin, and has a texture almost like pate. The pork is cooked well, though a little sweet. Saffron arancini with cheesy centres are available as a side, and are far from the stodgy rice balls one might find at a cheaper Italian restaurant.
From the lunch menu comes The Organza, our absolute favourite from today. Flavoursome ricotta gnocchi is decorated with zucchini flowers, cherry tomatoes, pangrattato, mint, chilli and shavings of pecorino. The pan-fried gnocchi sports crispy bits, and is well seasoned with salt and pepper. The dressing is simple but packs a punch, and the cherry tomatoes taste wonderful.
Sartoria offers a wide range of dishes to suit different preferences, whether you’re after something Asian, European or brunchy. While there were hits and a few misses from what we tried, they’re still young and there is plenty of room for them to grow.
Disclaimer: Our meal was partially subsidised by Sartoria, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way
115 Plenty Rd
Preston, VIC, 3072
(03) 9480 5664