Continental Deli, Newtown

Author: Pat Nourse
Photography: Scott Hawkins

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Continental Deli, Newtown.

Passion projects. For John Travolta it was Battlefield Earth. For Vincent Chase it was Medellín. For Coppola it was The Conversation. For Elvis Abrahanowicz it's tinned fish. Tinned fish and delicatessens. The Porteño and Bodega chef/co-owner has a few projects on the go, but this is the one that's closest to his heart. Abrahanowicz, his partner Sarah Doyle, and fellow business owner and sommelier Joe Valore are known for the granular attention they bring to their venues, but at The Continental they've really sweated the details. You can see it in everything from the bespoke timber cabinetry on the fridges and the marble on the bar to the graphics on the takeaway bags ("FINE WINE - STIFF DRINKS - COLD CUTS - CHEESE - CANNED GOODS"). At the end of October there'll be a 40-seat bistro opening upstairs, but as of this week the ground floor is open for business. It looks a bit like a cross between a deli and a bar, and while it works as a café (even if it doesn't offer coffee), it's best enjoyed with a drink in hand. Former Gardel's barman Mikey Nicolian has put together a drinks list that makes a refreshing departure from the Latin American focus at Bodega and Porteño, but the most singular beverage served at The Continental isn't on it. Order a tin of razor clams (the mighty fine Conservas Cambados), though, and you'll find that it comes not only with some fancy crisps and green olives spliced with slivers of lemon, but also some of the clams' canning liquor decanted into tiny stemmed glasses on ice with dry Sherry and a dash of Lillet Blanc. Hot on its heels in the very-strange-drink stakes is the Martini in a can. Abrahanowicz and his cohorts have got heavily into the in-house canning game, making their own tins of tommy ruff, baked beans, chickpeas and the like, and seem to have got carried away - they also sell Continental T-shirts in cans, and a very fine Tanqueray Martini. And the food? The sandwiches on offer are heavy on the meat, cheese, oil and mayo. The Wurst, Abrahanowicz's pick, is a fatty meat-fest crammed with bierwurst, liverwurst, tonguewurst and presswurst, while the mortadella number is lifted by the house bread-and-butter pickles. The cold-cuts on the meat platter, many of them speaking as much to the Slavic side of Abrahanowicz's heritage as the Latin, are cut thick to highlight their texture, while the fish plate - definitely the standout of the menu - makes sweet music of lush, tender octopus, mussels and clams. Expect to hear some griping about the prices. Paying nine bucks for a 250-gram tin of creamed corn is going to rub some Newtownians the wrong way, and all of the sambos clock in at $15 and up. But you get what you pay for, and at The Continental that's a good time.

Continental Deli, 210 Australia St, Newtown, NSW, (02) 8624 3131. Open 11am-10pm daily.

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