One Ford Street, Balmain

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: One Ford Street, Balmain.

Hey Balmain, why don't you have more great restaurants? You've got the looks, you've got the money, you've got the chardonnay-drinking socialists: where are the good places to eat? Now, at least, you've got One Ford Street. Better yet, you've got Sam Bennett.

The young chef did some great work at Fix St James and Bourke Street Bakery, and his new menu shows a similar winning Italianate freshness. If you're finding the smears, seaweed and powders of the city's fancy restaurants not precisely to your liking, you're gonna love Ford Street. Bennett keeps the flavours and the plating unfussy and generous, even as the main courses all clock in at $32 and under. He stuffs panzerotti - little fried dumplings - with quail, cabbage and barley, and chops oyster blade by hand to present with "pizza crusts" and plenty of mustard for one of the more interesting takes on raw beef in town. Spelt pappardelle is gutsy, dressed with a sausage sauce and lifted with a sprinkling of gremolata, while thick grilled lamb T-bones arrive on a homely, hefty heaping of fregola salad rich with almonds and plenty of mint. The tagliata, a dish he débuted back at Fix too, makes an appearance: hunks of very beefy Black Angus steak and crunchy fried potatoes under a raft of parmesan shavings and huge rocket leaves.

The restaurant is an annex to the Cricketers Arms pub, and, with its wealth of hanging plants and rows of pickles on the shelves, feels more than a little bit like eating in someone's nonna's patio. No bad thing, especially when you've got Fabio Dore, late of Popolo, working the floor, smoothly dispensing wines that match the menu in their Italian leanings and sheer drinkability. And on top of all this, there's the chef's sharing menu at a very easy $65 a head.

Generous, well-priced and approachable. What's not to like?

One Ford Street, 1 Ford St (cnr 255 Darling St), Balmain, NSW, (02) 9818 4232 

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