Here for a good time rather than a long time - that's the ethos in the kitchen at 10 William St of late. Following the departure of long-time chef Dan Pepperell last year, the Paddington wine bar has played home to visiting fellows rather than a permanent replacement. Over the summer it was Luke Burgess, the former Garagistes chef turning Sydney on to the joys of dadinhos, Brazilian fried tapioca snacks spiked with XO sauce and showered with pecorino. Now it's Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert, the co-head chefs who are known collectively, along with their front-of-house partner Berri Eggert, as Pinbone.
The trio won a firm following in Woollahra, not least for their epic Sunday brunches, and their work at 10 William, which sits somewhere between the playful savour of Pepperell's menus and the crisp, cosmopolitan contribution made by Burgess, is a great fit.
To say that Whiteman and Eggert enjoy wine is akin to saying that seagulls like chips, and their cooking for the most part is very wine-savvy. The restaurant specialises in natural, predominantly Italian wines: vibrant wines, often potent with phenolics, oxidation or the intensity born of leaving the juice of the grape in contact with the skins for an extended period of time. The Pinbones aren't shy of pressing the umami button, so these wines make a fine foil for the mouth-filling richness of fried anchovies with excellent baguette and butter, or the blockbuster crespelle (aka crêpes) with smoked eel, béchamel sauce and leek. The gnocco fritto - the puffs of fried dough you'd see topped with salumi in Emilia-Romagna - topped with caramelised onion and konbu, and showered with shavings of Comté - are worthy successors to the dadinhos.
Team Pinbone's pasta dishes are marked by a combination of inventive twists and strong technique in the making of the pasta itself. The likes of sorpresine (northern-style filled pasta) aren't as wilfully out there as Acme's offerings, but nor are they slavishly traditional. The sorpresine, it must be said, want for relief from the sweetness of the lardo-on-sweet onion combination, and a plate of wholemeal gnocchetti, with a sauce of rooster and tarragon, is brought undone by a heavy hand with the Marsala. But broad ribbons of pappardelle lavished with a rich lamb ragù are pure crowd-pleasers, and a perfect pretext for exploring the red side of the wine list.
Should you require dessert, oranges brûléed to a crunchy finish, set on a dense custard and sprinkled with bits of finger lime are more than apt to the task. The composed cheese plates, though, are better still. There are few better pretexts for an 11th-hour return to that wine list than the aged Comté with sour-sweet blackened radicchio.
Everything that made 10 William such essential Sydney dining remains in place: the signature informed-yet-insouciant service style (honed at sister restaurant Fratelli Paradiso), the perpetual buzz, the endlessly fascinating conversations in the endless queue for the restroom upstairs, the quirkiness of the bottles on the back bar, the compulsory Spritzes, the downbeat electro covers of Robert Palmer hits - all as compelling as ever. This is a restaurant in its element.
And then there's the spicy chicken sandwich, an off-menu panino crammed with fried chicken, cheese and hot sauce on a soft, shiny bun. It is god's gift to late brunchers and late-night drinkers alike.
The panini (not to mention the Pinbone party) are here till the end of June. Get in while you can.
10 William St, 10 William St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 9360 3310, 10williamst.com.au