Nestled in the leafy suburb of West Pymble, The Sawmill is one of only a few shops in the unassuming strip on Duneba Avenue. The décor is appropriate considering the restaurant’s name, with exposed wooden beams, comfortable booths and a well stocked bar. That last one has nothing to do with the name, but it’s certainly appreciated.
Their specialty is authentic Italian food, which is great because they absolutely nail it and I’m not just talking about the doughnuts doused in Nutella. We’ll get to those later, because they’re really important, obviously.
I arrived at The Sawmill with no pre-conceived ideas about whether the food or the space would be good, great or not, but even if I had it wouldn’t have mattered because it was top notch from the moment I walked through the door and was greeted by our peppy-but-not-over-the-top waitress (fine line, people), to the friendly goodbyes I received on the way out the door.
Now on to the food, because I know that’s the real reason you’re all here and rightfully so. I kicked the night off with parmigiana di melanzane and it was instantly obvious that this wasn’t your average passata job. The Napolitana sauce was rich and sweet, but naturally so and it was perfectly balanced by the delightfully oozy cheese sitting between each layer off eggplant.
Next were the mains and I went straight for the dishes that personify hearty Italian comfort food because in all honesty, that’s one of my favourite kinds of food. The lamb shank is served on a bed of polenta and porcini mushrooms and even though I’ve thrown words like “hearty” and “comfort” around, this one is anything but heavy. The polenta is fresh, rather than thick or overly rich and has flavours like fennel weaved throughout to lighten the dish. The gnocchi, however, truly is “hearty” and “comforting” and “delicious” in all of its smoked Scamorza, hazelnut, butter and sage glory.
For dessert, I ordered the Italian doughnuts, for really obvious reasons. They’re named sweet zippoli and remind me of doughnut holes rather than your traditional ring-shaped doughnut. But the magic really lies in the generous drizzle (read: douse) of Nutella and sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the hot little bite-sized doughnuts. Just order it. Then ask for a doggy bag and finish them off once your home and have changed into stretchy pants.
The Sawmill is the perfect restaurant for an intimate date, to celebrate your next birthday with the troops or a weekend brunch with the girls. Their portion sizes are perfect for sharing and the Nutella doughnuts. I mean, c’mon!
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Image credit: Federica Portentoso and The Sawmill