Wes Heincke and Brady Scholes originally envisioned Corella, which opened on Braddon's buzzy Lonsdale Street in April, as a wine bar. To complement their drinks list, they wanted a tight, snackable menu that centred on native flavours, and tapped chef Nemanja Babič to help develop it. Problem was, when they started messing around in the kitchen, they had too much fun coming up with the goods. So, a pivot: a bigger menu, more generous opening hours, and a new dining spot was born.
The look of the room skews Euro chic, all bentwood and terrazzo, arched windows and mood lighting. But look closer. The flowers? Almost exclusively natives. And that cool blue-green hue on the walls? It might suggest the colour of eucalypts, but was actually inspired by an old car Heincke once owned. Which is to say, Corella embodies a very Australian reverence for things that lack pretension.
That ethos can be felt in the food, too. While many diners have come to native ingredients by way of fine dining – through the Nomas, Atticas and Oranas of the world – Corella has taken a different tack, incorporating native produce into a series of unintimidating share plates.
Your meal begins with a generous slab of toasted Sonoma sourdough, served with a glossy quenelle of buttermite (that's cultured butter blended with Vegemite for the uninitiated). Slather it on thick for a very good time. Next you might choose a couple of bites – a lamb rib crusted with native spices, its fattiness cut through by a swipe of yuzu-spiked yoghurt, say, or a couple of meaty king brown mushrooms, chargrilled and steeped in a sweet-salty Davidson's plum teriyaki.
Onto bigger things: a tangle of fresh pasta tossed with Jerusalem artichoke cream and coral mushroom crisps is somehow both light and rich. A sauce of zingy sunrise lime takes the place of the usual citrus in the duck à l'orange, while its accompanying bunya nut purée offers a sweet, buttery foil. The fries come out hot and salty with a cheffy, native-spice version of Thousand Island dressing, that mysteriously ubiquitous sauce of many a suburban Australian upbringing.
The dessert options lean equally nostalgic. The almost floral delicacy of a burnt honey mousse melts into an airy milk sorbet, which in turn drenches and softens a liberal scattering of crisp house-made cocoa pops. The effect is a giddy recreation of the last few bites of a childhood bowl of cereal: sweetly retro, utterly comforting. At the end of the night, the petit four arrives: a house-made dark chocolate freckle, imbued with native river mint and scattered with a familiar rainbow of hundreds-and-thousands. It's not a complicated thing, but it is very, very fun – much like Corella itself.