Jesse Mulligan recently reviewed Cibo Bistro in Viva Magazine. His consensus was that the bistro has the most charismatic staff in town, and makes an excellent pineapple lump pavlova. Read the full review here.
There is a real style to Cibo, from these staff (there is no uniform but in their top pockets each wears a silk flower hand-stitched in Ukraine) to the candlelit garden, to the interior design which was redone for, I think, the World Cup in 2011, but is still one of the more beautiful and interesting feature walls to gaze at between courses.
The food is upmarket bistro, which is to say “fancy, meaty and saucy”. But look out also for an extra page of plant-based options: Kate Fay pioneered great gluten-free dining (one of her post-Cibo projects is a next-level GF flour you can buy at Sabato) and now the new guy Matt is doing a great job of making vegetarians not feel like second-class citizens.
I tried a light curry of cauliflower and carrot, served with blackened onion, the odd roasted chickpea, pancake fragments and a mesmerising sauce of coconut cream blended with kimchi.
I followed it with duck — a piece of breast cooked to medium rare succulence, tucked under a fat, fall-apart drumstick which was bone-in and skin-on.
A bistro is the only place I think I ever order duck and it was a lovely, indulgently rich version here, accompanied by a mash that must have been half butter, and plum two ways — in a brandy used as a braising liquid for red cabbage and as a bright, freeze-dried powder dusted over the dish.
Victoria had the most perfect venison — rubbed in a heady cocoa powder then cooked rare and sliced so you could see that incredible gradation of deep brown to vivid crimson.
We had sides of carrots and asparagus, each cooked until unfashionably tender but all the better for it.
All this stuff was pitch perfect but the two most memorable orders included their martini: the cold gin softened with a little basil-infused sugar syrup which may be illegal authenticity-wise but I have to say worked incredibly well.
And then there was the pineapple lump pavlova, the famous chocolate-covered chunks handmade in the Cibo kitchen and apparently so tempting that the staff have been known to raid the supplies before a shift.
They were affixed to the side of the pav and I maintain that I had only my fair share but Victoria deeply believes I scoffed some of hers so, well, you know how marriages work, I’m now destined to hear about this perceived injustice every time somebody mentions the word Cibo from now until one of us dies.