Sydney harbours a plethora of amazing experiences.
Some are well-known, others are truly hidden away and known only by the initiated, and there are those in plain sight yet missed by most.
Bishop Sessa, nestled in Surry Hills in the old home of legendary French restaurant Tabou, is named after the 15th century Italian mover and shaker Angelo Geraldini who was appointed Bishop of Sessa Aurunca on 15 April 1463 by Pope Pius II.
Bishop Sessa is the creation of co-owners Chef Paul Cooper, and somelier and front-of-house all-rounder Erez Gordon. Together they offer a casual modern European dining experience. The menu is ever-changing, seasonal, and makes use of locally sourced, sustainable produce.
We first visited on a date night, and tasted their à la carte offerings. Next we came with a group of friends and opted for the chef’s degustation menu. Recently we attended their Black Diamond, hosted truffle dinner under the expert guidance of co-owner Erez Gordon, but more about that experience later.
The restaurant offers dining over two levels, a more intimate atmosphere downstairs, and a space better suited for larger groups upstairs.
Our first visit to Bishop Sessa was on a quiet, low-key summer Monday date night. We were seated on the ground floor at a lovely table across from the stylish downstairs bar.
Our favourite entrée from the a la carte menu is the charcuterie board for two, with delicious home-made goodies such as duck rilletes, bresaola, chicken liver parfait, and more. This is a plentiful feast with each item a veritable taste sensation. You can also usually find a lovely ceviche in the entrée selection, such a kingfish or scallop, and vegetarian, and further seafood, and meat offerings.
The main selection offers pasta, seafood, and various meat dishes, such as duck, beef, pork, or lamb, ensuring that the fussiest of eaters, including vegetarians, will find something pleasing on offer.
The service was casual, attentive, and friendly. They also clearly recognised that we were on a date night, and adjusted their service naturally to our circumstances by being discreet and non-intrusive.
Our group dinner took place a few months later, on a cool autumn night, in the upstairs room which was packed on a busy Friday night.
The degustation menu was extremely well-balanced in flavour and progression, from delicate seafood items, to pasta, poultry, pork, and lamb. The staff is also skilled in matching the perfect wine to each dish.
The evening demonstrated that the restaurant is well skilled in running large tables and handling a full house.
Which brings me to the ‘Black Diamond’ hosted truffle dinner in August. On a Thursday night strangers gathered at a shared, hosted table event to sample an offering of Manjimup truffles from Western Australia.
Co-owner Erez Gordon hosted the evening, and we were in capable hands. Erez is a larger-than-life character, and if you attend a hosted dinner at Bishop Sessa, be prepared for a performance! He hosts his heart out, and he does it well.
The food on the night was excellent. Chef Cooper prepared a six-course menu for the occasion, starting with a creamy and crunchy Parmesan and truffle churros, paired perfectly by Erez with a Taittinger Cuvée Prestige NV.
A delicate kingfish dish followed with sea urchin, truffle milk, radish, and broad beans. The dish was subtle with perfectly balanced flavours. Erez expertly paired this dish with the South Australian Zeppelin Cellar Aged Riesling 2009, and the Ravenna Riesling 2012 from the United States.
The next dish, a bacon, calamari, and truffle cannelloni with turnip and a truffle herb salad amped up the flavours. Silence fell over our table as the taste sensation overwhelmed the senses. The Victorian Tibooburra Chardonnay 2015, and the Weingut Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner 2014 from Austria worked with this dish very well.
The mushroom & truffle ragout that followed with truffled coddled egg, corned duck, and duck fat fudge was delightful and complex, and was perfectly complemented by the local Yarraloch Stephanie’s Dream Pinot Noir 2012, and the Pittnauer Blaufrankisc 2014 from Austria.
Venison followed with choucroute, truffles, broad beans and onion. I love a good venison, and this was cooked to absolute perfection and arrived with a Western Australian Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, and Tobia Selección Crianza 2008 from Spain.
Dessert was surprisingly the biggest truffle explosion, and a fitting finish to a truffle degustation menu. Smoked black sesame parfait with soft truffle nougat, truffle beignet, and popcorn and banana ice cream, paired with a Freeman Vineyards Dolcino 2015.
You may have noticed that most dished were paired with two glasses of wine: one Australian, and one international offering. We loved this concept, and enjoyed the journey.
However, as you may imagine, two glasses of wine with each dish created a very happy and chatty room so, as the night progressed, Erez seemed to struggle as he tried to get the room’s attention to explain the dishes and wines. Daintily clinking cutlery on a wine glass was cute, but largely ineffective.
I had the perfect solution for Erez’s dilemma for future hosted dinners though. I bought him a designer cowbell. Yes, a cowbell!
Because you can never have too much cowbell.
Erez shall never again have to clink a wine glass with a fork in vain.
You are welcome!
Bishop Sessa is a consistently outstanding spot. Whether for two, or eight, or as part of a hosted dinner, the food is excellent, the service personable, and the atmosphere well tailored for the occasion.
And hopefully you will get to enjoy the soothing tone of the cowbell …
527 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Monday to Saturday 12pm to 11pm