Porteño is my favourite restaurant in Sydney.
OK, so I haven’t eaten at ALL the restaurants, especially the fancy ones, (remember no-one pays me to do this… yet) but hey, I eat a lot! So that’s got to count for something besides a popped button on your slacks, right? (Did I just say slacks? Am I my mother? Dear God.)
If you want the best food, drinks, service and restaurant ‘experience’ in Sydney, Porteño in Surry Hills is the place to go. Sadly everyone else knows this too, so if you go on a busy night be prepared to wait. I took my friend out for his birthday and despite the fact he picked the night, at the last minute he realised the All Blacks were playing a trial game that night too (you can read more about that here). So when we arrived around 8pm on a Friday we were informed our table would be ready at 10pm. I could nearly hear my stomach shriek with fear and starvation. Little did it know what a treat it was in for.
Snatching a glimpse of the open fire being mastered by head chefs Elvis and Ben, and giving a quick nod to the slow roasted meats (we’ll be seeing YOU later) we headed upstairs to bide our time in Gardel’s Bar. What we found there was far more than just a waiting room. Gardel’s Bar is worth a night out on its own! Great decor, impeccable service and hunger-panic reducing drinks made the time pass quickly. Not to mention the delicious bar snacks! I struggled to hold back on the pulled pork sliders and chilli dogs to save room for the main event. Gardel’s bar was so good it was almost disappointing when our table was ready. Except that it wasn’t. It was so exciting.
Heading downstairs and claiming our front row seats to the open fire and “chopping bench” we witnessed some serious butchering skills. Between watching juicy meat being sliced and diced, and reading the menu I could barely contain my drool. As we were dining late they had sold out of the slow cooked pig, but we managed to sink our teeth into a portion of the 8 hour wood-fired lamb. And it was well worth it. That little lamby gave its succulent and tender all for us. Not only that, but the appetisers and even the brussel sprouts were flipping delicious.
To compliment your meal I’d recommend allowing the waiters to suggest drinks for you. I usually like to choose my own cocktails, but the one recommended by our waiter was perfect and so was the wine.
Tallying up, the bill came to about $100 a head which was amazing for four hours of serious eating, drinking and good times. I can honestly say I’ve never had better service and I actually gave a tip because I thought they deserved one, not because I was trying to look good in front of my date. It didn’t get me very far though. We both ate so much all we could do was rub our belly’s till we fell asleep afterwards. Oh well.
None-the-less, Porteño will definitely impress if you’re looking for a nice restaurant for a date. However, I would also love to go back with a big group purely so I could sample more of the food. The portions are massive, too much for two people. Also you can book for groups of 6 or more people so this would be ideal.
The atmosphere at Porteño is exciting, cheerful and causal all at the same time. The staff make their jobs seem effortless and really put you at ease. They treat you as a friend, but not in a cheesy, fake, annoying way. By the end of the night you’ll want to be friends with these guys, or at least know where they shop for dresses and Brylcreem.
Porteño makes Sydney a better, more delicious place and you should go there immediately. Just make sure you don’t wear slacks, or if you do be prepared to lose that button!