What do truffles smell and taste like? Mushrooms, old socks, male pheromones, forest floor, umami and sex were all thrown about during my visit to Madame Truffles. This (genius) business grew from Bernadette Jenner’s disappointment with truffles imported from overseas. And after five years in Melbourne, she’s finally brought the opportunity to smell and taste black truffle terroir from four different Australian regions, to Sydney!
You’ll find her ten-week pop-up shop tucked behind Pasta Emilia on Riley Street, with the artisan pasta-makers collaborating on two truffled ravioli creations in her boutique in-store range. You’ll also find Truffle Salt [$10]; Truffle Honey [$20]; Popcorn with Truffle Butter [$20]; and Truffle Ice Cream [$18]; all made without the use of fake truffle oil.
The most exciting part is getting up close and personal with truffles from four Australian states, to find out that Braidwood NSW truffles throw smoke while Lower Barrington TAS truffles are all about mushroom. In an effort to ensure more people can afford to try them, Jenner goes out of her way to source small truffles, with prices ranging from $2.60-$3.40/gram.
To really experience them though, you will need 4-5 grams per person.
And as one does not simply slice truffles thinly enough with a knife, you may need to invest in a fancy truffle slicer [$45].
I didn’t regret any of my purchases…
Rear, 259 Riley Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (0430) 017 480
Ryan Kennedy found some cheap cocktails in Darlinghurst this week...
Polished concrete, dark wood, bare light bulbs, and heavy slab tables— Civilian has a ready decor for inner-city cool.
Come on a Friday and the Passionfruit Sour ($17)—sweet, smoky with mescal, and topped with thick Italian meringue— is...
...a bargain at ten bucks, and comes with complimentary (and tremendously compelling) truffled popcorn.
Light share meals from new Head Chef Aaron Mihelic steal the show: the Herb Crumbed Hen’s Egg ($12) is a crisp and decadent pleasure, while...
...the generous serving of Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio ($16) with explosions of finger lime, orange soy and puffed wild rice, had me scouring the plate for missed morsels.
Creamy, briny Pemulwuy Oysters ($4/each) are also a refreshing treat, topped with celery, apple and lime granita.
Confit Pork Belly ($27.50) is as crisp, sticky and tender as it ought to be, but an (equally tender) Braised Lamb Shoulder ($26.50) gets a little lost in an overly complex dish.
All is forgiven after tasting the sides; warm cumin-spiced Fried Cauliflower ($10.50) earthy with hummus and freshened by yogurt, and goat’s cheese and pepita-spiked Roasted Pumpkin ($13).
For a sweet finish the Milk Caramel Chocolate Tart ($15) combines a lot of coffee-crunchy-banana elements in an artfully strewn mess, and somehow there isn’t a bad mouthful.
Did I mention the $10 cocktails?
Civilian Bar & Kitchen
248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9361 4162
Salty, sweet, sour and… not.
Fried Chicken Ribs ($10) with chilli-lime glaze were touted as the entrée to choose if you like it hot, but they lack any sort of real chilli kick.
“Vietnamese food is spicy, but we are in Australia, with European/British taste,” Assistant Manager Guillaume Henry says, explaining the structural decision at Mama’s Buoi to make the dishes more widely appealing.
And clearly it’s worked: in the Surry Hills quick-bite-after-work market, this joint is killing it on a Tuesday at 6pm.
Meaning you’ll dance – to Studio 54-esque first wave disco – between counter seating and pretty tiled tables, to reach your seat in this old-school Saigon-styled space.
The A.K. Sour ($16) with aromatic passionfruit proves sweeter than the lemongrass-infused Vietnamese Caipirinha ($16).
Both make excellent companion drinks to crunchy Hanoi Shrimp Cakes ($12) – basically crisp corn, sweet potato and school prawn fritters.
Juicy soft shell crab topping a salad of green papaya and pomelo, makes Mama’s Boy’s Buoi ($20) a winner, especially against Beer Lao ($8).
Giving up on heat, I followed Guillaume’s advice and teamed my Marinated Pork Spare Ribs ($22) from the grill with a surprisingly delicious, vegan-friendly Coconut Tamarind Curry ($16), cooked in coconut cream and milk for six hours.
This still-expanding chain is fresh and stylish, and clearly speaks to the people.
116 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9281 9993
Amie Barbeler made a serious fashion faux pas this week...
There are only two situations in which it's forgivable to wear leggings as pants in public. The first is, if you're actually a child under the age of ten, and the second is, when you're planning on eating more food than regular pants can handle.
Clad in our finest leggings, my date and I excitedly checked out The Norfolk's new Sunday offering: Redfern Asado, where we spent hours hanging out in the sunny beer garden, drinking Pancake Old Fashioneds ($16) (Black Barrel Rum, smoked maple syrup and chocolate) while feasting on delicious South American meats.
With meats being sold by the weight, we decided to get a platter and try a bit of everything. My date raved about the Picanha ($9) (beef with coffee and brown sugar), while I inhaled the Annatto Pork Ribs ($8), pausing occasionally to throw back some Coca Cola rice and habanero corn.
Sundays (from 12pm) are now sad days to be a vegetarian.
The Norfolk, 305 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9699 3177
While I know my pirozhki (filled Russian buns) from my blini (pancakes) I must admit to being a bit lost with Russian cakes. Olga Rogacheva from Izba Russian Treats in Newtown helped me get up to speed, ahead of her new store’s grand opening in Broadway Shopping Centre.
The first thing that will impress you about her Medovik (or Honey Cake) is the perfectly straight and even biscuity layers, separated by airy vanilla-infused sour cream, and sweetened with honey.
It’s the standout of her creamy cake collection, that ranges from the subtler Russia’s #1 Napoleon that intersperses flaky pastry and custard layers, to...
...her namesake Izba, which arrives looking like a pyramid of cut logs constructed from dough-rolled Amarena cherries, glued together by yet more vanilla-infused sour cream.
If you’re not a huge fan of creamy, try the cocoa-dusted Kartoshka. It’s named for a potato, because that’s what they resemble. They were originally a Russian baker’s cheeky way to use up all the cake, biscuit and pastry scraps of an afternoon.
Join Olga from midday on June 28 for the grand opening at Broadway Shopping Centre. Expect tastings and tunes from the Volatinski Trio. Olga tells me: “We will have the entire range that we sell in Newtown available at Broadway, including the scrumptious Salmon Pie, the Newtown locals' favourite.”
Izba Russian Treats
579 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9557 9437
The gentleman at the next table is wooing his date with stories of ICAC. He gestures to another table explaining that they’re barristers, working on a three-week case. When the duo finish rushed plates of Coorong Skirt Steak Tagliata ($34) buried under rocket, our narrator wishes them luck on another all-nighter.
Hearing ‘all-nighter’ makes me want wine, and to that end, this spot delivers. Owner, and former SMH Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year, Stuart Knox, commands a 250-strong wine list. No, I didn’t count them, but over the course of two visits I drank two excellent exemplars: the refined 2013 Eldridge Estate Chardonnay ($99) and its polar opposite, the 2014 Punch ‘Saffron’ Chardonnay ($63) - a whole-bunch fermented “amber” wine.
What comes from the kitchen is remarkably unpretentious. There’s unaugmented Wapengo Lake Oysters ($4/each) and an unexpectedly delicious 18-Hour Minute Steak ($19) teamed with hazelnuts, a carrot ribbon and pumpkin puree.
Warm up with a reassuringly flat Risotto ($28) of cauliflower, nori and cep mushrooms, that’s perfectly al dente with considerable depth of flavour.
The standout - Roast Veal Sweetbreads ($18) with fennel and liquorice – are beautifully cooked and nicely balanced.
Knowledgeable staff and perfectly ripe Holy Goat ‘La Luna’ in my 3 Cheese ($26) selection ensure my next court date will be soon.
Fix St James
111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9232 2767
Ryan Kennedy was a great stand-in Bar Fly this week, drinking cocktails for the team...
There are several large African and Oriental portrait-murals in the downstairs of Mr Tippy’s. Moroccan tiles encase the bar and medina blue is the feature wall colour.
I’m here for the gin cart, a portable trolley of G&Ts (options: Tanqueray 10, Hendricks and Larios with Schweppes tonic water) wheeled by an amiable waitress.
Sipping one, and in the gaze of one of the exotic murals, I’m starting to feel like I’m in an imperial British tearoom outpost.
This is especially so in ‘The Attic’, the more lushly fitted out upstairs area, where they’ll serve you a yet-to-be-named maple syrup Old Fashioned (set to run $19) that is festively spicy, as well as some food.
Tempura rock shrimp with chilli mayo. ($19) are solid bar nosh, and, with the DJ already well and truly on at 6pm on a Friday, everything is lined up for the inevitable excess of a few cocktails.
347 Kent St, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9299 4877
Twenty-six year old Zac Stanning (ex-Public Dining Room) has been a head chef for six months.
Team that with a triumvirate of owners - Stephen Thompson, Tony Binning and Alex Searle – “all sommeliers by profession”, and you have what could be a recipe for disaster.
What you find, however, is a cohesive wine bar and restaurant reflecting the tastes, down to BYO proclivities, of the local area. Both Thompson and Stanning know their audience from their time in neighbouring Balmoral.
Stanning wants to cook “something that people will like”, expressed writ large in his soft, port-sweet Duck Liver Parfait ($17), but also in the wider absence of obscure ingredients.
Instead Stanning makes much ado about Carrots ($17) presenting them as a sweet orange symphony of 24-hour cooked carrots, pickled heirloom carrots, smoked carrot puree and crisp carrot tops offset by pebbles of honeycomb.
Equally exciting, though definitely more savoury, is the forest floor of Sauteed King Oyster Mushrooms ($17) scattered with crisp mushroom bark and a mossy green parsley take on Ferran Adria’s famous microwave sponge.
While seafood dishes from a pretty 12-Hour Cured Queensland Prawns ($18) to Line Caught Snapper ($31) with persimmon, zucchini and yellow squash, are solid and easy to like, desserts felt a little dated.
Wine is (obviously) another strong suit.
Barrel Bar & Dining
3/362 Military Road, Cremorne
Ph: (02) 9904 5687
Ryan Kennedy brushed up on his Italian this week in the CBD...
Despite sitting at the base of Governor Macquarie Tower in the heart of the CBD, Bertoni Farrer Place remains remarkably casual.
Maybe it is the warm Italian welcome, the backslapping enthusiasm of the owners, or the hearty Italian fare, but the end result is a good mix of suits, casual lunchers, and even a bike courier.
Hot out of the open kitchen, Quattro Formaggi Stuffed Zucchini Flowers ($18) are as densely stuffed as all zucchini flowers ought to be, oozing rich cheesy goodness on a necessarily sharp rocket salad; while the...
...classic Vitello Tonnato ($19) is lightened with salad leaves and exceedingly tasty capers.
It would be remiss of me not to tuck into some carbs, and you can’t go wrong with the earthy and shellfish-sweet Farro Risotto ($24), arriving perfectly al dente.
While n’duja spiced Gnocchi Sardi ($24) had a nice porky waft, it unfortunately lacked the flavour punch to match its heat.
An even more porky option is the glistening curl of fragrant Slow-Roasted Porchetta ($23); it's tender and unctuous, with an irresistible ribbon of crackling.
Though it’s worth coming here just for the Tiramisu ($12). Individual portions are served from a large tray that is brought to the table, and it is compulsorily accompanied by a Macchiato ($3.50). What could be more Italian?
Bertoni Farrer Place
Corner Phillip and Bent Streets, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9241 2127
After meeting personable founder of Nissos Craft Beer, Alexandros Kouris, I was keen to give his beer a whirl. What I found was a lovely, clean and refreshing pilsner, with enough flavour not to be boring. Nissos is coming all the way from the Cyclades archipelagos of the Greek islands, so it’s unsurprising that its herbaceous, citrusy and ever so lightly malty flavours are perfectly suited to Mediterranean foods, particularly grilled meats and seafood. (I drank mine with a Lebanese feast, and it went down a treat.) Nissos is definitely the kind of refreshing beer that should do brilliantly in the Australian climate. At this stage, you won’t find it in bottle shops, but you can try it at Nick’s restaurant and bar venues, including Cyren Bar Grill Seafood, Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, Nick’s Bar & Grill, I’m Angus Steakhouse and Adria Bar Restaurant for $9 per bottle, $8.50 on tap and $24 a jug (only at Stacks Taverna). With enough enthusiasm from beer lovers like you and me, hopefully we’ll get some take-home options for this great Greek beer soon - it deserves to be drunk by the sea!