I feel a bit wrong writing about this. I feel I should keep this as a secret. But I’m letting loose.

I’m going to let you in about one of my favourite places in the world.

A picture tells a thousand words, and this thumbnail from a time when the resolution on camera phones was tiny captures my sentiments. What follows is a bit of an ode to the private dining rooms at Sydney’s Cafe Sopra. And it’s the sort of place that causes me to make pink wine addled faces like this;

That’s me, five years ago, laughing uproariously at something my rather brilliant big sister has just said. She’s just out of frame and it’s about three hours into a very long lunch.

Sopra plays host to so many of my best memories. They mainly come from birthdays of mine, with a group of close friends sharing platters of food and carafes of wine down a slender table. It all adds up to blissfully boozy lunches in dappled sunshine.

So what makes the private dining rooms of Cafe Sopra so special?  They’re informal but elegant. The food is banquet style, seasonal and generous. It’s the sort of food you’d love to cook yourself for a crowd, without the hassle of shopping, plating or washing up. And they’re the sort of place where you find yourself sitting down for lunch at 12.30 and dragging yourself out the door at 6pm.

Despite the fact that the original location on Dank Street with its secluded tiled balcony has closed, I’m thrilled there’s still the option for group festivities in their new outpost in Alexandria. It’s not quite as private, but it’s still pretty darn good.

So that was where I found myself on Saturday, for a hen’s party of sorts. One of my oldest and best friends is having her wedding celebrations next weekend. The brief was for lunch to bring together a dozen terrific women before the big day and her flight back to New York next Monday. There were toasts and a few tears. I was buzzing on cloud nine, having had five hours sleep in a row the night before (the first time in approximately four months). The sun was gleaming- and the food? The food was spectacular.

Over the course of four and a half hours we shared down the table platters of prosciutto with roasted pear, basil and burrata.

There were herb arancini with aiolli and lemon.

Loose salads of shaved fennel, rocket, olives and citrus.

And courgette flowers, stuffed with four cheeses, which ooze across the plate when plundered.

For main course; a glutton’s serving of spaghetti with chilli, lemon, parsley and crispy pangrattato breadcrumb topping.

Then fat wedges of sticky and crisp pork belly, topped with watercress.

And a school of trout, with herbs and brown butter.

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For dessert, there were cheese plates of gorgonzola piccante, walnuts and endive and a bounty of banoffee pie, thick, sticky, oozing and gilded.

Sometimes life can be so charmed, you sort of have to pinch yourself.

(Nb, the four course shared banquet lunch at Sopra is to my mind, a bit of a steal at $55 per head. There is a minimum spend of $900 of food and booze to secure the dining room- and also a service charge in addition. It also pays to book a bit in advance. It’s popular for a reason).

Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh
http://www.fratellifresh.com.au/

52 Mitchell Rd  Alexandria NSW 2015