Looking like it has more in common with a trendy nightclub than an over-lit supermarket, Mercato e Cucina, is bringing a new style of fresh produce shopping to the good folk of Gladesville.
And with parking underneath the 1200 square meter premises, Inner West residents may just love it too…
Expect to find a butcher...
...cheese counter (with tastings including le Dauphin the ‘Prince of Brie’)...
...a 400-bottle wine cellar (also stocking a range of grappas and Italian aperitifs)...
...baker and a restaurant, all under the one roof.
Owner Vanessa Martin, who rose to fame at Inner West favourite Il Piave, is understandably proud of her rather epic endeavour. She pointed out their house-made heat-and-eat lasagnes, which encourage a waste-reducing connection between the restaurant and the fresh food store, with products like “veal bones sent to the restaurant kitchen to make demi-glace”.
Keep your eyes peeled for their own-brand products, like Coffs Harbour honey, which comes from a farm that Vanessa used to walk past every day when she visited her grandparents…
PS: I was hoping to also talk about the restaurant here, but on the day I visited every table was full and the restaurant advised me of a 20-minute wait. Instead I took home a selection of their products, and was mighty impressed...
Mercato e Cucina
297 Victoria Road, Gladesville
Ph: (02) 9817 3457
In January this year, a fire struck The Lansdowne Hotel, closing it for six months.
The good news – for students, indie bands, backpackers and budget eaters alike – is that from those ashes, the Phoenix Diner has risen.
Supported by all-new staff and management, this American diner-style eatery has taken over the first floor of this loosely New York loft-themed hotel.
Most visitors wrap their lips ‘round a burger, and - loaded up with bacon, Pecorino cheese, avocado, coleslaw and chipotle mayo - the Buttermilk Chicken Burger ($14) gives a pretty good indication as to why.
Clever toppings and easy sharing possibilities make their short list of 'Brooklyn Pizzas' appealing.
I got down and dirty with Sticky Fingers ($16) combining 12-hour slow-cooked pulled pork, pear, walnuts, watercress and blue cheese on a crisp, thin base.
Fat Jalapeño Poppers ($6) are hot - despite being stuffed with bacon and cream cheese - so best accompany them with a schooner of Kosciuszko Pale Ale ($5.80) or James Squire The Chancer Golden Ale ($5.80).
The already inexpensive food and drinks further reduce for multiple happy hour(s) and nine-buck Monday to Thursday long lunches (12pm-4pm); while for late-night munchies I’m told their Mauritian chef makes his own Biltong Jerky ($3) (sadly sold out on the day I dined).
*This was my PUB OF THE WEEK on 2GB 873 Fresh! with Luke Grant & Luke Mangan
on Sunday 1st December, 2013: http://www.2gb.com/article/fresh-sunday-d
The Lansdowne Hotel, 2-6 City Road, Chippendale
Ph: (02) 8218 2333
As the sun sets over the Balmain village, there are worse places to be sitting than the front yard of this picturesque cottage.
Throw in a punch bowl of Strawberry Sangria ($32) and you have the makings of a girls’ night out. Watching them through one of the cottage windows, I tell manager Chris Hughes: “I’ll have what she’s having!”
Soon after I had my own glass, resplendent with fragrant red berries – yes, summer’s officially here.
Inside, the kitsch, homely-vibe looks accidental, but is actually expertly crafted by Luchetti Krelle (responsible for Darlo. favourite Hinky Dinks). It’s broken up by an oddity – a large domed wood fire pizza oven – that Chris tells me, somewhat ruefully, is a throwback to the Italian restaurant predecessor.
As I tuck into a De Jamon Pizza ($26) bearing Monte Nevado Jamón Serrano, pear, walnuts, Parmesan and vincotto I’m thankful they didn’t rip it out.
Chef Ellen Young supplements the pizzas with share plates, won by juicy roast Chook ($24) with excellent wild rice pilaf, apricot yoghurt and pistachio crumb.
Throw in a Snow Pea Salad ($13) or her quirky Pumpkin Mousse ($12) and you’ll still fit in the Fairground Plate ($16).
With candied apples, cones, pillowy marshmallows and more, believe me: you want to go to the fair!
The Cottage Bar & Kitchen
342 Darling Street, Balmain
Ph: (02) 8084 8185
As we slide into the season of revelry, padding out our calendars with meetings involving food and cheer, I thought I’d throw in a CBD spot that slides under the radar…
This every-woman (and man) restaurant and bar is great for groups. It specialises in beer, and shows great vertical integration, with them also producing every beer on their (not-insubstantial) list!
Choosing your brew is made easier by knowledgeable staff, accurate tasting notes and smart tasting boards that present a quartet of beers with four snack-sized dishes.
While vegetarians are blessed with their own board, for the purposes of this meal I road-tested Seafood ($25) and Meat ($25).
The former was won by salt and pepper soft shell crab protruding from a compelling Oatmeal Stout, caramelised onion and chilli relish and matched to the quaffable Organic Pale ($11/pint); while the latter impressed most with a seared duck liver and braised red cabbage combination against their banana-flavoured German Wheat Beer ($11/pint).
Pick out a pint of your favourite – perhaps the approachable All Day Breakfast ($13.50/pint) that delights with hops and mango – to accompany a hearty main, like the Duck Triple Treat ($33)...
...or take on one of Sydney’s better burgers: the Beef, Beer and Brioche Burger ($25) which even includes a beer.
Hint: While you're there, keep your eyes peeled for their special seasonal beers!
Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe
201 Clarence Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 3303
October was a very big eating month for me so I'm still catching up on writing about it... Right at the end of October, I popped into the Shangri-La to see what Executive Pastry Chef Anna Polyviou had constructed for the Let's Do Dessert promotion. If you're scratching your head, this is an annual month-long October promotion that allows you to enjoy a dessert (with no expectation to dine) across many of the high-end restaurants and hotels in Sydney, complete with a glass of dessert wine for just $20.
Against a very pretty Victorian 2012 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat, Anna presented a trio of sweet treats in the elegant surrounds of the Shangri-La's Lobby Lounge. While no instructions were provided, I found this odyssey of chocolate ate best from right to left, starting with the white chocolate coated strawberries ‘n’ cream lollipop.
In the centre there's a shot glass that combines a range of flavours and textures, including crunchy cocoa nibs (Grue de Cacao), salted caramel, roasted hazelnut and thyme pear against the tartness of passionfruit curd. It's an adventure that strokes your whole mouth, and easily my favourite item on the platter. .
The last item was an intense milk chocolate delice - a little rich of me, but certainly eye-catching with beautifully tempered milk chocolate sheets
Now while we're talking about Anna Polyviou, this month she joined 37 other pastry chefs in a new cookbook called The New Pâtissiers [RRP $70]. The beautifully photographed collection of 89 recipes includes three other Australian chefs, including John Ralley from Wildfire, as well as a host of international pastry icons, like Noma's Rosio Sanchez. "I'm very excited about the launch of this book and extremely proud to be one of only four Australian pastry chefs showcased," said Anna. So if you think your pastry skills are sufficient to take on her lovely layered Tropic-Anna, you better get yourself a copy!
You can see another visit to this venue back HERE.
Shangri-La Lobby Lounge
176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9250 6144
Alex Harmon got her groove on with some Eastern Suburbs soccer Mums...
New is out, converted is in. A disused sports shed in Centennial Park is the latest ‘found café’ to emerge in the fields of Queens Park.
The space is modern and airy, while maintaining the integrity of its past through rustic finishes, quirky light fittings, and a gorgeous water station that employs the original pipes.
The menu is breakfast and lunch (for now) focusing on healthy, affordable choices that reflect the sporting past – or perhaps the present soccer mums. It’s so great to see a Pulled Pork Baguette ($12) that doesn’t arrive in a plastic basket with fries, but with a tangy piccalilli and paprika aioli.
Chicken, Roast Pumpkin and Avocado Salad ($12) is incredibly fresh, and generous for its size, although...
...the Tasmanian Smoked Salmon Salad ($16) with toasted rye seems a little sparse. The menu is purposely priced to suit the takeaway crew in running shorts.
Looking for a dish with some weight? The Wagyu Burger ($14) is tasty and towering. Meanwhile, give the kids a Queens Park Lunchbox ($14) – it’s like an organic Happy Meal.
Queens Park Shed
Coffee is from Toby’s Estate and there are organic sodas and juices; but don’t neglect the water station where you can almost taste the 130-year history of the park.
Darley Road, Queens Park
Ph: (02) 9380 9350
Jason Williams, Group Bars Manager for The Keystone Group can now add ‘world cocktail champion’ to his curriculum vitae after taking out the London final of the Beefeater 24 Cocktail Competition.
Jason is particularly known for his clever gin concoctions at hip rooftop small bar, The Rook.
I popped in recently for a half-lobster...
...(well truth be told, I also tried one of their lobster rolls) and a Florabotanica, Jason’s update of the classic gin sour made on gin, Cointreau, yuzu, rose syrup and bitters. I may have also tried one or two other gin concoctions...
Now if you’re keen to support Sydney’s small bar industry and attend a cocktail bar competition a little closer to home, the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards take over Cockatoo Island on the afternoon of Sunday 1st December. Your fifty buck ticket buys you Havana Club cocktails, Anchor beers, Rekorderlig cider, and Tempus Two wines, as well as DJs and acts including The ReChords.
Level 7, 56-58 York Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 2505
Last week alongside a couple of hundred chefs and restaurateurs, I headed down to Salt Meat Cheese in Alexandria. We were there for the launch of Sydney’s latest entry in the restaurant guide scene: the 2014 Gault & Millau Sydney Restaurant Guide [RRP $24.99]. This is the international company’s first foray into Australian waters, with plans to launch a Melbourne guide next year. While they certainly made a splash with singers and their own yellow “go me-yo” vehicle driving through the crowd, the guide itself seems a bit hit and miss. What I liked seeing was venues like Glebe’s constantly overlooked Restaurant Atelier get the 16/20 that it has long deserved. What I didn’t like was the ‘mouthwatering’ advertorial style of writing that gives the reader little indication as to whether or not they’ll like a venue; and also fails to give the restaurant any indication of where it might have gone wrong. Excluding some Sydney gems like The Woods and Café Opera (see my review) also implies that these restaurants are below the guide’s minimum standard, which (if my meals were anything to go by) clearly ain’t the case.
Here's a list of the restaurants this new guide contains and their scores, with my reviews linked if I have also reviewed them, and BOLD text to indicate that I've dined at them but not published a review.
Five Hats (18.5 to 19 points)
Momofuku Seiōbo, Quay, Sepia
Four Hats (17 to 18.4 points)
Billy Kwong, The Bridge Room, Chiswick Restaurant and Bar, est., Gastro Park, Jonah's Restaurant, Marque, MoVida, Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sean's Panaroma, sixpenny, Tetsuya's
Three Hats (15 to 16 points)
Altitude Restaurant, ARIA Restaurant, Arras, The Bathers' Pavilion, Bei Amici, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Berowra Waters Inn, Bistro Boulevard, BLACK by Ezard, Busshari, Cafe Sydney, Cara & Co, Catalina, China Doll, Clareville Kiosk, Cottage Point Inn, The Cut Bar & Grill, The Devonshire, Fix St James, Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, 4Fourteen, Four in Hand Dining Room, Fratelli Paradiso, Kitchen by Mike, Longrain, Lucio's, Ms. G's, Otto Ristorante, Pendolino, Pilu at Freshwater, Pony Dining, Popolo, Porteno, Restaurant Atelier, Spencer Guthrie, Spice Temple, Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar, Tomislav Restaurant, Uccello, Verde Restaurant + Bar, Vini
Two Hats (13 to 14 points)
A Tavola, Agape Organic Restaurant, Almond Bar, Ananas Bar & Brasserie, The Apollo, Aqua Dining, Ash St. Cellar, Azuma, Balla, Bambini Trust, Bar H, Barbuto Restaurant, Baroque Bistro Patisserie, Barrenjoey House, Barrio Chino, Bellevue Dining Room, Berta, Bishop Sessa, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode CBD, Blancharu, bloodwood, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, Bondi's Best, Bronte Road Bistro, Buffalo Dining Club, Buon Ricordo, The Burlington, Burnt Orange, Buzo Trattoria, Cafe Lyon, Chef's Gallery, China Beach, Chophouse, Cipri Italian, Cucinetta Ristorante & Bar, deviate, The Dining Room, The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen, Dunes Restaurant & Kiosk, Enopizzeria, Felix, The Fish Shop, Foley Lane, Foveaux Restaurant & Bar, Garfish Manly, Ginger & Spice, glass brasserie, Glebe Point Diner, Gowings Bar & Grill, Grecian Blue, Hartsyard, honeycomb, House, Hugos Manly, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, il perugino, Intermezzo Ristorante, Jah Bar, Kabuki Shoroku, Kalevu, Kobe Jones Teppanyaki, Letoile, La Rosa Bar & Pizza, La Tratt, La Trattoria on Norton, Luke Benchmark, Malabar Darlinghurst, Manly Wine, Manta, Mexicano, Mission Restaurant and Bar, Morena, Mr Wong, Neptune Palace, Neutral Bay Diner, Nilgiri's, North Bondi Italian Food, O Bar and Dining, Ocean Room, Ormeggio at The Spit, Orto Trading Co, Oscillate Wildly, The Owl House, The Pantry, PaperPlanes, Pizza Mario, Pompei's, Public Dining Room, Red Lantern on Crown, Restaurant 16, Ripples Chowder Bay, Ripples Milsons Point, Ripples Sydney Wharf, Rocket Restaurant, Sails on Lavender Bay, Sake Restaurant & Bar, the sardine room, Signorelli Gastronomia, Sokyo, Spice I Am Darlinghurst, Starfish Avalon, Steel Bar & Grill, sugarcane, Sugaroom, sushi e, tapioca, The Tea Room Gunner's Barracks, Three Blue Ducks, Toko Restaurant & Bar, Ume, Verandah Restaurant & Wine Bar, Wilbur's Place, Wildfire, The Wine Library, Xanthi, Yoshii, Zaaffran
One Hat (11 to 12 points)
Aki’s Indian, Angel Restaurant, Antoine’s Grill, BAHBW, Banjo Patterson Cottage Restaurant, Bau Truong, Beppi’s, bills, Bistro Bruno, Bitton Café & Grocer, Blue Eye Dragon, The Boathouse Palm Beach, Booth St Bistro, Brown Sugar, Café Sopra, The Carrington, Cavallino, Chairman Mao, Chat Thai, Chinta Ria Mood for Love, The Cook’s Garden, Courtney’s Brasserie, Danny’s Seafood, Delicado Foods, Din Tai Fung World Square, The Eathouse Diner, Efendy, Emmilou, Fei Jai, Firefly Neutral Bay, Fish Face, 42 Bannerman Trattoria e Bar, Galileo Restaurant, Garfish Crows Nest, Garfish Kirribilli, Gazebo Wine Bar, Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, Grappa Ristorante e Bar, The Grounds of Alexandria, HaNa Ju-Rin, Harvest Store & Kitchen, Hickson Road Bistro, High St Bistro, Home Thai, Hugos Bar Pizza, Iron Chef Chinese Seafood Restaurant, Izakaya Fujiyama, Jamie’s Italian, Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi, Kazbah Balmain, Kobe Jones Sydney, Kujin, La Brasserie, La Grand Bouffe, La Grillade, La Pesa Trattoria, La Scala on Jersey, Lachlan’s Restaurant, love.fish, Lucio Pizzeria, Machiavelli Ristorante, Malabar Crow’s Nest, The Malaya, Mamak, The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room, New Shanghai, Nostos, The Old Library, Oliveto Ristorante & Bar, Osteria Riva, Palace Chinese Restaurant, Palings, Parma, Pony Neutral Bay, Quattro Paste, Queenies, Radio Cairo, Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant, Red Lantern on Riley, Rengaya, Ripples Whale Beach, The Riverview Hotel Dining Room, Safi, Sakana-Ya, Seven Lanterns, Spice I Am Balmain, Stella Blu, Stuyvesant’s House, Szechuan Garden Restaurant, Temasek, 3 Weeds Restaurant, Treehouse, The Union Restaurant, Via Napoli Pizzeria, Vicinity Dining, WAQU, Wildwater Grill, The Winery
In the shadow of their popular buffet, lies one of Sydney’s most underrated restaurants. Despite being missed by both the SMH Good Food Guide and Gault & Millau, the dishes here warrant attention.
From the opening Apple Wood Smoked Duck ($17) pate and candied quinoa lollipops, and leafy green hillock of Grima’s Farm Red Radishes ($15), it’s clear that my meal here will be something special.
The later is esoteric and insubstantial, and while it definitely floated my boat, my dining companion termed it “elf food”.
He was however a convert to the Grilled Cotton Bay Sardine ($16) that employed coal smoke, fennel and crisp sardine skin to expertly balance what he'd normally consider too oily a fish.
While he waxed lyrical on little fishes, I lost my head in a textural Slow Cooked Egg ($27) accentuated by morels, mullet bottarga, salmon roe and a surprising Cups Estate 2006 Merlot ($10/glass) match.
We met again over an ode to Spring - Flinders Island Lamb ($37) - as Chef Julien Pouteau entered the dining room to deliver...
...a goat’s foam so perfect it felt one step removed from suckling an udder’s teat.
Dish-by-dish wine matching makes drinking against this imaginative, produce-driven menu a breeze, particularly if you’re both partial to different wines.
Intercontinental Sydney, 117 Macquarie Street, Circular Quay
Ph: (02) 9253 9396
The Robin Hood Hotel’s distinctive wedge-shaped Art Deco silhouette has long fascinated me on drives through Charing Cross.
(If you’re scratching your head, we’re talking about the intersection of Bronte Road and Carrington Road in Waverley.)
Inside the architecture is shown off to good advantage with a light, open plan front bar that lends itself to daytime thirty-somethings keen for a drink...
...without ruling out pleasing twenty-somethings who pile in for DJs after 10pm on Saturday night.
And despite the odd hipster font used here and there, it’s still the kind of suburban local where you can go without a beard or full-sleeve tattoo.
The menu is short and to the point, but there’s nothing wrong with pub classics when they’re handled well.
Chicken Parmigiana ($17) gives a good slab of schnitzel, with basil leaves and leg ham tucked between the toppings of tomato and gooey cheese.
With decent chips, salad and a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale ($7.70/bottle) lunch is pretty much sorted – unless you wanna split some spicy Buffalo Wings ($12)?
Rested a moment longer, the 250g Grain Fed Rump Steak ($12) with creamy mash and well-executed vegies would win my vote for the best-value pub steak in the East; and their pinot-heavy bottle shop is beaut too!
*This was my PUB OF THE WEEK on 2GB 873 Fresh! with Luke Grant & Luke Mangan
on Sunday 17th November, 2013: http://www.2gb.com/article/fresh-sunday-n
Robin Hood Hotel
203 Bronte Road, Waverley
Ph: (02) 9389 3477