Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Belgrave Cartel, Manly

I’ve been holding back on posting another blog for a while now, trying to find something interesting to write about and also the time to site down and actually write it. Having dinner at Belgrave Cartel to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Gaffa was a really nice experience and what better way to reignite the Eat Travel Dive blog once again.

Belgrave Cartel is situated in Manly on Belgrave Street and started off as a small coffee shop, supplying the locals with their morning caffeine hit. They soon became a hit themselves with constant preorders in the morning and a recent renovation to include more seating space out the back, and now they have expanded into ever changing lunch and dinner menus with amazing food, great wines and still amazing coffee (according to Gaffa, since I don’t drink coffee). They’re also trying to get approval for an extended liquor license so watch out for their great Cartel nights.

The café/restaurant is owned by brothers Joe and Mark, with their coffee imported from Italy – the home of great coffee (I can say this because I’ve tried Italian coffee and actually enjoyed it) and their own pastry chef, making yummy pastries for the early morning rush.

Gaffa and I decided to go to Belgrave Cartel for Valentine’s Day because we don’t like how busy and expensive other restaurants are during this Hallmark holiday. We opted for this low key local restaurant that was close to us and had an intimate feel. We were the first to book a table for Valentine’s Day, and I was quite excited to try out their food. Gaffa is lucky enough to have coffee from Belgrave Cartel every morning since it is two doors down from his work. Before this dinner, I’d only tried their hot chocolate and almond croissants, but I’d see all their delicious photos on Facebook of their food and be so jealous that I didn’t work in Manly.


We arrived at 7.30pm and the front area was already filled up. Joe greeted us and led us out the back to a dimmed room, lit by tea lights on our table for two, complete with flowers. The menu for the night was Italian tapas. Yum!

We ordered some drinks to begin with, red for Gaffa and white for me. Joe generously gave me a glass of bubbly on the house, which was a pleasant surprise, Gaffa drank half of it.

As soon as I read through the menu I knew what I wanted to try. Pork belly, check! Aranchini balls, check! I don’t know where my fascination with aranchini balls came from, maybe it’s because I’m Chinese and secretly crave rice in different cuisines (because I have a obsession with risotto also). Or it might be the ball shape, because I crave meatballs too…or just balls filled with cheese, I love malai koftas from Indian restaurants…. weird.


Anyway, we went for two aranchini balls, 4 meatballs, pork belly, and we couldn’t decide between the lasagna and the wagyu beef so we ordered both. And for dessert, we couldn’t pass down trying the tiramisu.

First up were the aranchini balls. Delicious fried balls of cheese, rice, and mushrooms, with its crispy outer shell and gooey filling, made them a great start to our dinner. Next came the meatballs. Juicy juicy meatballs with a tomato base sauce topped with parmesan cheese, this staple Italian dish would’ve been great as a main with spaghetti.

Shortly after, the lasagna came out. Another traditional Italian dish you couldn’t go wrong with. All these dishes were tapas sized, but I would have gladly eaten this lasagna as a main meal.

We enjoyed each other’s company and Gaffa ordered another glass of wine – I was DD for the night. We were waiting for our last 3 dishes but they hadn’t come for a while, so Gaffa nicely advised the kitchen. They were very apologetic and gave us an extra pork belly on the house and also let us try the cannelloni tapas. The didn’t have to do this, as we understood that it was Valentine’s Day and quite busy, but it was a very nice gesture and in no way change our already glowing reviews of their food and service.

I’m glad we were given two pork belly tapas dishes though because I didn’t want to share it with Gaffa. The crispy lightly salted skin combined with the melt-in-your-mouth pork meat made you wanting more, and more....

The cannelloni was probably my least favourite dish of the night, (if I had to choose one). It was filled with a lot of ricotta and not much spinach.

The wagyu beef was cooked with perfection and went well with the beetroot puree.

Now time for dessert! They must know that we like sweet things, because the size of the tiramisu that came out was massive! We had to ask for another spoon. Less than 2 minutes later, the plate was completely empty. This tiramisu was not overly alcoholic and had a nice balance of coffee and cheese. I asked Gaffa how it compared to Jamie’s tiramisu from Jamie’s Italian in London that we tried. The only thing that tipped Jamie’s tiramisu over the top was the orange zest that gave it a twist. But Gaffa said it was just as good as the tiramisu in Italy that our friend Eli taught us to make.

Two thumbs up to Belgrave Cartel. Laid back atmosphere with delicious Italian food. We’ll definitely be going back there for more! 

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