Pell breaks (garlic) bread at Circular Quay Italian diner
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Pell breaks (garlic) bread at Circular Quay Italian diner

Cardinal George Pell has kept an ultra-low profile since walking out of Victoria's Barwon Prison on April 7 following a High Court decision to overturn his conviction on charges of historical sex abuse.

So guests at Sydney's Alfredo restaurant at Circular Quay did a double-take when they walked into the harbourside institution and spotted the Cardinal on Wednesday evening.

Cardinal George Pell celebrated his freedom with about a dozen guests in Sydney this week.

Cardinal George Pell celebrated his freedom with about a dozen guests in Sydney this week.Credit:Sky News

Readers will recall Pell spent his first night of freedom upon his release in the Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne's Kew, before being driven by a friend to the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush. He has spent the bulk of his time in Sydney since his release.

Pell, according to CBD spies, was seated at the middle of a long table, with about a dozen people, and knew some of the guests at smaller tables flanking the high table.

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Those inside the restaurant overheard the dinner was held to mark his release from jail.

At one point, Pell – who was dressed in what one observer described as "priestly regalia" – stood to address his friends and gave a short speech and toast.

Apparently Pell was flanked by a number of priests. One guest wore a blazer bearing an Order of Australia gong on their lapel. Representatives for the Catholic Church and Pell did not return calls and emails on Thursday.

The other guests in the restaurant said they had to pinch themselves.

"It was like the last supper," one onlooker said. "He was sitting in the middle of a long dinner table, and there was no one sitting opposite."

COOKED BOOK

Tell-all memoir: Ronni Kahn.

Tell-all memoir: Ronni Kahn.Credit:Illustration: John Shakespeare

Founder of the OzHarvest Charity Ronni Kahn has a memoir coming out, titled A Repurposed Life.

The esteem that the businesswoman turned social entrepreneur is held in is revealed by the calibre of the blurbs on the cover: ABC journalist Annabel Crabb gets star billing above former governor-general Quentin Bryce, while Crabb's boss, ABC chair Ita Buttrose, has to make do with the back page. Celebrity food writer Melissa Leong and chef Kylie Kwong are relegated to the inside cover, alongside Jimmy Barnes.

Kahn is frank in the book, telling a painful story about a former American boyfriend she calls Anton whom she dated after her marriage broke down.

Kahn thought Anton was like Cary Grant. He was charming and once flew her to Hong Kong for dinner. But her kids thought he was a phoney. And guess who was right?

"I understand now how people can love a person who does awful things. He was far, far from perfect. And yet, whatever the package contained, I was willing to put up with it," Kahn and co-author Jessica Chapnik Kahn write. Anton was secretive, a liar and controlling and it took Kahn a while to quit the over-indulgent lifestyle. The end point comes when Anton is in hospital overnight and another woman turns up by his bedside "with eyes only for Anton".

But it was during that painful life phase she had an idea: using beautiful food left over from her events business to feed people in need. That grew to be OzHarvest.

MEERKAT MARVELLOUS

Congratulations Emma Alberici. After her August departure from the ABC, and fresh from recharging the batteries in Byron Bay, the former chief economics correspondent has announced she had a new strategy and comms gig with the insurance online comparison platform, Compare the Market.

Alberici starts on Monday. She tells CBD she will be based in Sydney, rather than the comparison site's Brisbane headquarters. A good thing, no doubt.

Alberici appeared to be mystified by the attention the appointment attracted.

Interest is certainly high. Abigail Koch, Compare the Market general manager public relations, said they had been "smashed" by media requests.

Alberici vowed she would never front a TV show again after exiting the ABC. She wasn't joking.

The former ABC chief economics editor is writing a book for Hardie Grant, Rewrite the Story. The memoir coming out this year is expected to dish the dirt on a nasty stoush with ABC management after Alberici published a comment piece which incensed the Turnbull government so much so it sent several letters of complaint to the ABC.

The pieces, which covered the strategies big businesses used to trim their tax burden, ended up being rewritten and republished.

There was talk, during the height of government outrage, that Alberici was in talks with the Commonwealth Bank. So it was a surprise then when she revealed plans to head to Meerkat central. Simples!

The new gig is chief strategy government relations and communications officer. Although what relationship she has with the government – given its voracious criticism of her reporting – will be interesting.

CBD hears that her redundancy payout was in the vicinity of $300,000.

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