Cipro, Pad Thai Cafe, Assaggio Ristorante, The Conservatory Restaurant

Photography: Pat Nourse

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Cipro, Pad Thai Cafe, Assaggio Ristorante, and The Conservatory Restaurant.

SYDNEY
Cipro
"Children left unattended will be fed fresh pizza, strawberry cordial and gelato," warns Cipro's Facebook page. Lucky kids. On the eatery's opening weekend, this week just past, the place was indeed overrun with the small fry, their parents drawn in droves by the promise of seriously good food in a resolutely casual environment. Certainly the setting ticks the box, a bit like Kitchen by Mike in the way some of the food is laid out behind glass on the counter by the register, the tables low and communal. But then that's Penny Watson-Green, a longtime Rockpool manager taking your order, and if you look past her into the kitchen you'll see Rockpool Bar & Grill's one-time culinary dream team at work, with Khan Danis pulling big slabs of Roman-style pizza from the oven, Angel Fernandez grilling quail to serve with breadcrumb salsa and Catherine Adams constructing ice-cream sandwiches from peanut-butter cookies and vanilla gelato (pictured). It's the very definition of "undersell and overdeliver". It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 8pm - get your slice today. Cipro, shop 9, 21 Fountain St, Alexandria, NSW, (02) 9698 4183. PAT NOURSE

PERTH
Pad Thai Cafe
New owners and a new paint job have transformed this once ho-hum diner into a north Perth rallying point for Thai food. Granted, Siamese standards pepper the tri-fold menu, but care in the kitchen helps distance Pad Thai from the also-rans. Short, chubby links of sai krok, the fermented sausage from Isaan, are juicy and deliciously tangy. Slices of char-grilled pork share plate space with a superbly sharp and smoky tamarind dipping sauce. And what of the som tum? Choose from dried shrimp, seafood and pickled crab configurations, but know that even the medium-heat version packs enough sting to get eyes a-watering. Keen weeknight-friendly pricing is yet another compelling reason to punch Joondanna into your GPS. Pad Thai Cafe, 17B Wanneroo Rd, Joondanna, WA, (08) 9443 4333. MAX VEENHUYZEN

ADELAIDE
Assaggio Ristorante
Chef Camillo Crugnale celebrates 30 years at the stoves and seven years at the helm of his own restaurant with a menu of delectable Italian-inspired treats. The star of the show is his witty take on "eggs" as dessert - a bowl of sweet, cold Roman custard flavoured with orange and nutmeg, topped by a yolk-coloured salted caramel macaron and tiny beads of gold cocoa. It has the seductive wobble of poached eggs, but a rich, luscious texture and sweetness. Assaggio Ristorante, 92-94 King William Rd, Hyde Park, SA, (08) 8272 4748. DAVID SLY

CANBERRA
The Conservatory Restaurant
Local stalwart Janet Jeffs, of Ginger Room fame, has cranked up a Japanese robata grill in her latest venture. Offering breakfast and lunch for a handful of tables, The Conservatory is huddled discreetly in a corner of the recently opened National Arboretum building, just off the Tuggeranong Parkway near Scrivener Dam. It has sweeping views over new plantations and further afield to Lake Burley Griffin. Environmental sustainability guides the cooking, with Jeffs sourcing organic and biodynamic produce from local farms. It's hard to go past some incredibly supple grass-fed Angus beef, with béarnaise to coat its charcoaled exterior. Pork and fennel sausages or yakitori quail also benefit from the wood-fired grill. The Conservatory Restaurant, Village Centre, National Arboretum, Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Canberra, ACT, (02) 6130 0173. GARETH MEYER

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