Recent changes to the modern Italian restaurant have seen chef Massimo Mele (ex Hugo's, often seen partnering with Salt Meats Cheese) take over the kitchen and offer a more relaxed, authentic Italian experience.
|Bar at La Scala on Jersey, Jersey Road, Woollahra|
Cocktails at the bright, botanical-themed bar are a good place to start after the hike upstairs, especially with a cocktail list put together by drinks consultant Julian Serna (currently at Eau de Vie Apothecary, formerly The Morrison and The Fern).
|Cocktails at the bar: Regal Rogue Rosso (left) and He's in the Garden (right)|
Not on the menu but sold convincingly to me by the bartender was the He's in the Garden - a savoury take on a classic Tom Collins. With Hendricks gin, lemon juice, a slice of cucumber and soda, the cocktail was topped with salt which could be stirred into the drink to taste. With its salted gin botanicals it hinted at a softer and highly drinkable version of a dirty martini with its olive brine.
|Black Russian, cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, capers, basil, balsamic|
La Scala's take on classic insalata caprese makes some unexpected additions and improvements even. Creamy buffalo mozzarella came torn over Black Russian and cherry tomatoes; both exceptionally sweet and ripe.
Balsamic vinegar brought new perspective to the Caprese salad while capers added saltiness to the mozzarella which sadly never tastes as good as when in Italy.
|Wagyu beef carpaccio with truffled egg, rocket|
The dressing seemed a little overpowering on the thin slices of raw beef but when eaten together with the gooey yolk of the boiled truffle-scented egg, it all made perfect, delicious sense.
|Butterflied king prawns, oregano, chilli, lemon|
Fantastically large and fairly meaty specimens, the prawn's crisp legs and shells could have been eaten too while the oregano made for an appetising match to the set of crustaceans.
|Strozzapreti, oxtail ragu, pecorino, gremolata|
This strozzapreti was bit like long spiral pasta with shreds of oxtail meat in an unexpectedly light ragu sauce, topped with grated pecorino cheese and refreshing gremolata of parsley and lemon zest.
It went quite well with the reservedly fruity 2010 Scagliola "Busiord" dolcetto from the Piedmont region of Italy, listed under 'Old World Reds' in the wine list and selected with a bit of help from the waitstaff.
|Grilled organic spatchcock, olives, lemon, prosciutto, broccolini rapini|
Beneath the bird was an interesting array of supporting ingredients including silky prosciutto, salty olive segments, a bright green herb sauce and wilted leaves of lemony broccoli rabe that provided every bite of spatchcock with a different highlight.
|Witlof, radicchio, pickled beetroot, candied walnuts, sour cherries, goats curd|
|Polenta chips, parmesan and truffle aioli|
Finished with parmesan cheese and served with a truffle-flavoured aioli, the crispness of the polenta chips with hot, light and fluffy insides made me reach for one after another and momentarily forget how full I was getting.
|Tiramisu "modo mio" (left) and gelato (right)|
The gelato option proffered three scoops: chocolate, fig and raspberry with the latter being the refreshing highlight while the chocolate was a lovely and rich finish.
While chef Mele's menu is clearly Italian, there's a modern sensibility to it that is light and fresh yet unpretentious; making you want to eat it over and over again. Meanwhile, the upstairs restaurant space is simply fabulous: airy yet intimate, cosy and classy, and a place you're happy to linger over coffee or digestifs.
As we went to descend la scala, it seemed clear that the Paddington and Woollahra end of Oxford Street are stepping up the dining game to an approachable yet refined offering for locals and food lovers alike - and that's worth taking the stairs for.
Food, Booze & Shoes dined at La Scala on Jersey with credit, thanks to Agency G.