advertisement

Turn down the sketchy–looking alley, saunter past a few graffiti-stained loading docks and soon you'll spot the dimly lit door to Berta, one of Sydney's most hidden of hidden gems. I won't say that the crowd inside is self-satisfied, but there is a vibe here that makes you feel like you've joined a secret, and very cool, club. It may be the alt music, played just at the right level; the wacky mural of a massive lobster that glows through the plate glass window; or perhaps it's the crowd itself, a crew of 30- and 40-somethings dressed in tones rather than colors and wearing angular glasses.

What's at the heart of this "secret society" is a love of food, in this case the highly inventive, deeply satisfying fare that's being created by a chef who's at the top of her game. O Tama Carey, the half-Sri Lankan, half-Australian woman who's the head chef here, was named Rising Star of the Year by Time Out Sydney, and frankly, you just have to taste her chicken liver appetizer to know why. Incredibly creamy and tender, the richness of the meat is cut by a balsamic vinaegrette that's out of this world. Other stars of the menu include a raft of homemade pastas; salads created from such ingredients as shaved, fried and pickled brussels sprouts (all three ingredients make up on heckuva salad); and comforting roasted meats such as lamb and goat. All is paired with a smartly chosen wine menu. The only disappointment here are the desserts, which are just a bit too sugary. But other than that, this is a club you want to join at least for one evening.