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Review - The Grand National Hotel

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Recently refurbished, The Nash – one-time darling of the Paddo pub scene – is back in business.

And it’s already attracting Paddington royalty, with Bruce Pollack spotted in a booth in the low-key front bar.

It’s been gifted with a down-to-earth, hands-on publican in Lance Burrows (ex-Bar 333), one of a triumvirate of new owners who have all lived locally.

On a Saturday night you can come in and the three of us will be having a beer in the front bar,” Lance explains.

Out back Woods Bagot have created a spacious, relaxed and light-filled space that’ll take you through to dinner with a bottle of Squealing Pig Pinot Noir ($44).

And to ensure you want to stay for tea, Burrows has nabbed Chef Martin Sutedja (ex-Ananas) and got him to put a contemporary spin on pub classics, without losing the steaks the venue’s always been famous for. Consequently, the 250g Bindaree Trinity Pasture-Fed Scotch Fillet ($27) makes for good eating, not least of which for the crisp shoestring fries and excellent Béarnaise to dip them in.

Sutedja’s experience with seafood shows in Queensland Spanner Crab Tortellini ($28) and the even better Hiramasa Kingfish Tartare ($16).

And his Beetroot Salad ($17) with goat’s cheese and pistachios is just what I want to be eating this summer.

The Grand National Hotel
161 Underwood Street, Paddington
Ph: (02) 9363 3096

Grand National on Urbanspoon


Bar Fly: Lonely Only For You

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Viv McGregor ends her bar reviewing year in Redfern...

Lonely Only For You
139 Redfern Street, Redfern (0414) 553 224
After trying most of owner Amelia’s favourite wines, and eating an entire cheese board ($10/person), we come to the tipsy conclusion that Curtis Mayfield is really, really awesome. Lonely Only For You stands out in the Redfern bar scene for being delightfully understated. It’s a dark, elegant and mod-inspired space, and the furniture, the vintage glassware, and every heavily shaded lamp has been selected to compliment the low-key 1960s lounge bar atmosphere.

The bar list isn’t extensive (try not to panic – there are only two beers), but the wines are excellent, well priced and constantly changing. There’s a range of good Australian choices, with the best by far being the Wills Domain Shiraz Viognier ($40 bottle), and a scattering of European and South American wines, like the Argentinian Broquel Malbec ($15/glass). Most astonishing of all are the Brown Brothers house wines, which are five bucks a glass. In Sydney. Five bucks. It’s like I’ve travelled back in time…

Lonely Only For You on Urbanspoon


Review - Fino Par

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Two minutes after walking in the door Brett Harris (ex-Hello Sailor) had me laughing, and loving La Perla ($18).

It’s a unfolding blend of Manzanilla sherry, reposado tequila and pear liqueur with a lemon twist, and my pick of his clever list.

Not that you shouldn’t try the rest - Brett’s enthusiasm for the cocktails he’s making is infectious! Oaxacan Calling ($17) with joven (young) mezcal and fino sherry proves another winner, not least of which for the burnt candied lime floater.

The gently smoky cocktail echoes the flavorsome Seared Wagyu Montadito ($4.50/each), and together they epitomise what this spot’s about: fine pairs.

Utilising the original Vibe Hotel kitchen crew, Executive Chef Nelson Burgos (ex-Foley Lane) has put together a menu that scratches Spanish itches, old and new.

At the traditional end, the Salted Cod Croquettes ($4.50/each) are made from a recipe that Nelson says: “has been in my family for the last 30 years”.

The bright, green Asparagus Tartare ($14), on the other hand, is quite fresh and contemporary; as is...

...his Octopus Carpaccio ($17) cooked in its own juices.

Alternatively, pull up a bar stool and munch “little mounds” of Grilled Chorizo ($4.50/each), black garlic and chilli salsa, as Brett plies you with Barrel Aged Sangria ($8) charged with his own ginger beer… eso es amor.

Fino Par
111 Goulburn Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8272 3300

Fino Par on Urbanspoon


This Week's Food News: My Little Cupcake

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While some might argue that Sydney’s cupcake craze has been and gone, they clearly haven’t visited My Little Cupcake. Darlo’s newest kitsch cupcakery has to be one of the most charming stores I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

It’s decked out with pink planter window boxes and an interior featuring gorgeous chandeliers, carefully selected baubles, scented candles, fresh flowers and (of course) cupcakes.

Beyond looking (almost) too good to eat in an array of pastel shades topped with sugar flowers, these beauties also really taste the part! The moist and fluffy vanilla hidden under vanilla butter cream frosting reminds me of the buttery pound cake I grew up enjoying. As the dashing, personable proprietor Tim Ball explains: “We don't cook with oil, so it's all the good old fashioned ingredients, baked fresh daily.

And if you don’t feel the love in the cooking, you will see it in the packaging, down to separating each cupcake in your box with coloured tissue paper. Certainly an improvement upon so many of Sydney’s cupcake stores, who have been disappointing on the nuts and bolts of the very item they’re selling – cake!

My Little Cupcake
329 South Dowling Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9380 4455

My Little Cupcake on Urbanspoon


Review - The Governor's Table

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Cease your search for the quintessential place to bring visitors and introduce them to modern Australian cuisine.

Blonde wood, part of an understated Scandinavian design aesthetic, makes for a beautiful dining room that allows the sandstone architecture, staghorns and Australian native table decorations to shine.

Earthenware plates arrive bearing a good cross-section of contemporary Australian cooking, with plenty of accessible choices.

While it’s hard to beat seasonally appropriate local Asparagus ($18) grilled and dressed with Parmesan custard, nettle and shiso...

...gently cooked Confit Salmon ($22) with broad beans and blood orange curd also curried favour.

Seared Kangaroo ($24)
will give your guests the opportunity to eat half our Coat of Arms against horseradish and lightly pickled beetroot.

With lamb practically a national past time, they do it here as tasty Lamb Ribs ($22) tarted up with pomegranate and Hunter Valley Binnorie feta, and also as...

...a Lamb Backstrap and Belly ($38) combination under peas and mint.

Team either with a hark-back to our British ancestry: Baby Gem Hearts ($10) with toasted pepitas and salad cream.

A jammy 2011 Fruits of the Vine Grenache Mouvedre ($65) should illustrate the Barossa’s bounty, while...

...the White Chocolate Cream, Puffed Black Rice, Mango and Lime Sorbet ($15) will highlight our proximity to Asia.

Yep, this is Australia in a macadamia nutshell.

The Governor’s Table
Museum of Sydney, Corner Phillip & Bridge Streets, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9241 1788

The Governor's Table on Urbanspoon


Bar Fly: Sky Terrace

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This week Viv McGregor got to wonder what the poor folk were doing, from up high...

Sky Terrace
Rooftop, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont (02) 9777 9000
It’s like a mini (suit-filled) street festival on the rooftop of the casino. There are food tents serving tasty Chicken Quesadillas ($10) and Grilled Pork ($8), bars scattered around the perimeter, a gaming tent, drinks served in blue plastic cups and…oh…a bongo player. While the bongo-DJ-saxophonist trio leaves my date with “mixed feelings,” we’re quite happy to enjoy the sense of superiority that comes from being able to see such an expansive view of Sydney and the harbour… Yes, we are looking down on you with cocktails in hand, tiny, scurrying ant-people.

Mr T’s Legacy Sour ($18), made with Tanqueray, Sloe gin and passionfruit, is delicious and a favourite from the limited menu. Even on a cloudy day, we can appreciate how the crushed ice cocktails, especially the Pear O Nuts ($18), brimming with coconut vodka, Aperol and fresh apple and pear, will be amazing on balmy summer nights.

Sky Terrace on Urbanspoon


This Week's Food News: Gifts

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Chocolates and flowers are both nice gifts, but nothing says that you care quite like…  pie! In keeping with my desire to buy local, artisan and stick to things that people need this season, Pie Society caught my eye. Founder Emma Bagnall tells me the inspiration “was born from the idea that as a society we want to look after each other, but we don’t always have the time”. Their family-size golden, butter pastry pies arrive stuffed with natural and free-range ingredients, inside an insulated box. With flavours like spring lamb; chunky beef, bacon and vegetable; and mushroom and cheese, there’s something for everyone. For a seasonally appropriate gift, their turkey and cranberry pie will set you back $25. You can ensure your lucky gift recipient gets a complete meal by throwing in mash and mushy peas ($6 apiece). My office was particularly impressed with the popular $12 add-on of six American-style chocolate and raspberry brownies.


And we’re talking about buying local, Hellyers Road Distillery, the people I credit with starting me on my own whisky journey, have released the Hellyers Road 12 Year Single Malt Whisky [RRP $99.50]. It’s the latest, well-priced offering from the Tassy-owned and operated subsidiary of Betta Milk. It’s grassy and biscuity, with a hint of vanilla; gentle but it’ll still cope with a splash of Fevertree ginger ale if you fancy a longer drink. Wouldn't mind a bottle myself...


Review - Foveaux St Dining

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Bare tables and thumping 90s rock, featuring Smashing Pumpkins and the Pixies, clue you in immediately that Darrell Felstead’s restaurant reincarnation is no longer a fine diner.

Thankfully long time Felstead fans, including myself, will find a through-line in the dishes making up his choose-your-own-adventure menu of any-day eating fun.

And since fun’s at the heart of things, I’m skipping straight to his Angel Cake ($15): textural, tasty and joyful to consume, this plate of lightly caramelised cake hunks, peppermint jelly, ginger sherbet sorbet and fresh strawberries is a real winner.

Design the rest of your dining adventure using solo snacks, share plates and savvy sides, complemented by a crafted and thoughtful wine list.

Sommelier Belinda Mackie puts the list down to having “good friends”, but I suspect she’s being modest. Her teaming the Yellow Tail Mullet ($3/each) white gazpacho and pumpernickel wafers with the 2011 Domaine Pichot ‘Coteau de la Biche’ ($8/$16/$32) confirmed my suspicion.

The kitchen’s robata grill is put to good use in the Smoked Octopus Salad ($22) featuring Felstead’s trademark (candied) olive smear.

The Braised Tamarind Short Rib ($36) and roast tri-tip combo is accentuated by another Felstead hallmark: robust yet airy eggplant foam.

The Pig’s Head Terrine ($22) sums up everything: laidback yet delicious with playfulness (hello toffee apple) and cheffy flair.

Foveaux St Dining
65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9211 7752

Foveaux St Dining on Urbanspoon


Review - Alfio's

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Leveraging off a series of legendary pop-ups, including one in Opera Australia’s back lot, the Full Circle crew have snaffled semi-permanent digs on a sundrenched back street in Leichhardt.

The early session (6pm) sees a friendly collection of locals, heavy on beards, young parents and loafers without socks, sitting relaxed and convivial around the largest communal table. Behind them an Amalfi coast mural catches the last rays of sun.

Like the hanging Chianti bottles, it’s part of the previous occupant’s décor, which now - with the restaurant populated by hipsters - looks conveniently ironic.

All eyes are on chef Daniel Johnston's daily chalkboard menu; kicking off with house-made bread and butter.

Roman beans, tender from simmering all day in the pot, follow.

The three-night week leaves chef time for the little things, like making creamy ricotta (that adorns char grilled zucchini, mint and chilli) and...

...malloreddus, eggless Sardinian pasta, he dresses in a simple cherry tomato sauce with skinless salsicce  (Italian sausage) and grated ricotta salata.

After a simple grilled leatherjacket main accompanied... generous shared sides, I’m happy to end on Brunet, an indulgent fresh goats cheese from Piedmont.

Surprise honey ricotta fritters are another hint this collective likes exceeding expectations – except with the bill: fifty bucks apiece and no charge for BYO.

71 Renwick Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9560 2447

Alfio's on Urbanspoon


Review - Daniel San

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

With hot pink neon screaming “wax on, wax off” and a name like Daniel San, Karate Kid style Americanised appropriation of Japanese culture is a given.

If you can get past “me love you long time” trophy plaques, replica caged chooks and goldfish in plastic bags, Benjamin Orpwood, former head chef of Toko, dishes up credible beachside izakaya (pub) grub.

Being a drinking venue – and one which seats 350 at that – ordering takes place at the bar.

The Miyagi Mai Tai ($18) will wash the salt off your lips with a well-spiked mix of coconut, pineapple and lime.

Move on to the Well Mannered Rose ($8/glass) as you tuck into fat, deep red slices of Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi ($18.50).

Mounds of tuna and salmon tartare, Tar-Tacos ($14), are fun sharing food, let down fractionally by slightly oily deep fried gyoza crisps.

Owner Fraser Short (The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room) has deep pockets, and you see the effects in the expensive robata grill.

So expect the Japanese barbeque offerings to be highlights, from a trio of blackened crustaceans in Prawn Yuzu Kosho ($10.50) to nicely charred Broccoli ($8) florets on sticks.

And if you need an alcohol blotter, the Porkie ($5/each) bun with honey glazed Berkshire pig and spicy cashew sauce gets the job done.

Don't forget to cross the road and check out the beach!

Daniel San
55 North Steyne, Manly
Ph: (02) 9977 6963

Daniel San on Urbanspoon