Orto (literally ‘vegetable garden’ in Italian) is a restaurant that really emphasises the importance of being ‘fresh’. They do this with clever decor, fresh ingredients, an energetic kitchen staff, and a beautiful menu.
So I ordered a coffee, some scotch eggs, a rockette salad, some chips, and an Eggs Benedict, and everything was extraordinary. The scotch eggs’s crust was jam-packed with fresh herbs and potato mash. The rockette salad was mixed with thinly sliced fennel, orange, brown rice and quinoa. The Eggs Benedict replaced its ham (or sometimes salmon) with a piece of southern fried chicken. And the chips were no simpleton potato chips, but were made of truffle-infused polenta, served with a creamy blue cheese dip.
It is often quite difficult to put exactly into words the sensation I experienced during my brunch in Orto, however, there are a few easy indicators that this is a restaurant worth visiting nonetheless:
Their dedication to use seasonal, local, organic, and fair trade ingredients in their food: They change their menu accordingly, so you better go to Orto before they switch their Winter menu to something else soon! (Though I’m sure the new menu will be just as appetizing…)
The emphasis on fresh herbs: If you sit outside, your table will be surrounded by barrels of fresh herbs, just waiting for you to pick a few to add to your plate (thyme, rosemary, sage, you name it).
The nicely-situated area of Surry Hills: Close to Central Station, without walking all the way up the hill.
The genuine commitment to provide well-known dishes with a twist: They even have a great menu for vegetarians.
The decor and the overall quirky theme of dining inside a garden shed (without over-doing it): They’ve got flowers in recycled bottles hanging from the ceiling, beautiful brickwork, white painted chairs, gardening tools lining the walls, and glass panels providing an abundance of natural light.
However, if you think this is one of those secluded, hidden gems of Sydney, I must prove you wrong. By now, most people who live in the area already know about Orto, which leads to very long lines during Saturday brunch hours. So, my recommendation is to take a Tuesday off and go there in the morning. The price to pay to visit a great dining establishment in Sydney these days requires a day off, that’s just the new norm now.
All in all, Surry Hills is the next battleground for re-invented bistros with a rustic/organic vibe in Sydney, all competing for the title of best brunch in town. Orto Trading Company in my opinion, after just one visit, surely makes itself a formidable challenger to others in the area.