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Review - Casoni

If you loved this spot as Foley Lane, you should breathe easier knowing that Nathan Moses and Julian Marchetto are still very much behind this new incarnation.

They’ve switched out Spanish for Italian; added a cheeky mural to encourage you to drink more wine; and made your choice of aperitif easy by having both Negroni ($16) and Aperol Spritz ($14) on tap.

The boys have installed Head Chef Lachlan Robinson (who has cooked at Pendolino) in the kitchen, so you can expect contemporary Italian eats.

There’s still the option to treat the space as a bar, grazing across small plates like Bucatini and Provolone Croquettes ($8/2 pieces).

Or you can pop in on the way home from work for the ‘Pasta of the Day’ - Beetroot and Tarragon Risotto ($24) topped with braised lamb shoulder – with a glass of vino.

The vividly magenta risotto is well complemented by the 2012 L'Isola Bianco ($15/glass), a Sicilian inzolia blend, whose coastal crispness slices through lamb fat.

Offset the rich burnt butter sins of perfectly formed Pumpkin Ravioli ($22)... an Ocean Trout Carpaccio ($18), scattered with dill, capers and tiny dabs of sour cream.

Alternatively just visit for a nightcap – maybe Amaro with crisp quartet of Cannoli ($12) oozing sweetened ricotta, or an even better Salted Caramel Semifreddo ($12).

371-373 Bourke Street, Darlinghurst

Casoni Italian Bar & Eatery on Urbanspoon

Bar Fly: The Swinging Cat

Bar Fly babe Amie Barbeler was initiated into the joy of the Sazerac this week...

When you visit this New Orleans-inspired bar, squirreled away underneath Subway on the corner of King and Clarence, you'll come for the cool vibe, but you'll stay for the Sazeracs.

Sink into the plush armchairs, gaze over at the open German piano and enjoy what The Swinging Cat does best – classic cocktails.

I recommend starting with either the Peppermint Sazerac ($19); a bitey combo of cognac and bourbon, sugar, absinthe and bitters with a fresh finish of mint, or my favourite, the Ramos Gin Fizz ($18) - a perfectly fluffed, silky blend of gin, cream and egg whites. While you work your way through the cocktail menu (it would be rude not to), try out the excellence that is the wagyu beef and grilled cheese toastie ($14), or share the charcuterie board ($33) (worth getting, even if just for the truffled salami).

There's no way this hole-in-the-wall bar will manage to stay a secret for much longer.

The Swinging Cat
44 King Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 3696

The Swinging Cat on Urbanspoon


Review - Clubhouse

Ryan Kennedy found surf was up in Rosebery...

Land-locked and industrial, Rosebery is far cry from where you would expect to find beachside motifs and a menu to match. However with Surf Life Saving (SLS) Australia’s National Headquarters situated above it, Clubhouse is an incongruous but welcome presence.

Befitting the SLS-connection, high ceilings, an open kitchen, and the wood furnishings and finish throughout, render the industrial space remarkably spacious and light.

Similarly beach-appropriate is the simple but very well executed menu. A pair of ‘slaw-filled Flathead Tacos ($12) are scrunching-sand-between-your-toes good, and the smoked goat’s curd and quinoa in the earthy Pickled Beetroot Salad ($20) feels as healthy as it is delicious.

The richness of an artful tangle of sticky Spiced Lamb Ribs ($24) finds its perfect foil on a bed of tahini and za’atar yoghurt.

Pork Belly Slow Cooked ($29) is everything you’d want pork belly to be, made wonderfully complex with heavily caramelised radicchio, pickles, and a spinach and honey emulsion.

Even humble Steamed Green Beans ($8) exceed their station, courtesy of crunchy garlicky pangritata and horseradish butter.

And to finish, you can’t go past the toffee parfait and honeycomb-crunch-filled ode to childhood nostalgia: the Clubhouse Gaytime ($15). This is one well-cooked taste of the beach in the inner-west, and definitely worth checking out.

789 Botany Road, Rosebery
Ph: (02) 9669 2828

Clubhouse on Urbanspoon


Review - Opera Bar Cafe

Alex Harmon got her breakfast with a view this week...

You can’t get more ‘Sydney’ than breakfast by the harbour, yet choices for Sydneysiders and tourists alike are lacking down on the lower concourse.

Enter the new-look Opera Bar who say: don’t just come for sunset drinks, start your day here, too!

For those who want a lazy breakfast there are plenty of options, our pick would be the Fig, Goat’s Curd, Mint and Walnut Toast ($12) with...

...the barista’s own Single Origin Roasters Cold Brew ($5) which has an ice-cube that rises out of the coffee glass like an over-sized cruise ship.

If you’re on the go, (the café opens at 7am) you can grab a homemade muesli bar or a protein ball (vegan) and a 100% raw, organic Cold Pressed Juice ($8) from Bronte-based juice brand, Cali Press, and be on your way.

Or start the day properly with a Bacon and Egg Roll ($12) with chilli jam, or a Spinach, Mushroom and Raclette Toastie ($12) and a coffee.

The vibe is completely different at this time of day, without the rush of tourists, theatre-goers and thirtieth birthday parties, there’s an unimaginable peacefulness.

It’s arguably the best time to soak up unrestricted harbour views – you just have to share it with the cruise ships.

Opera Bar Café
Lower Concourse Level, Sydney Opera House
Ph: (02) 9247 1666

Opera Bar on Urbanspoon


This Week's Food News: Craft Spirit World

Craft spirits long predate hipsters, Emily Miles, is quick to point out in Craft Spirit World [RRP $39.95]; though our friends boasting “skinny jeans, statement tattoos, and a luxuriant beard” are certainly responsible for their recent resurgence in popularity. In her book, Miles takes the time to define ‘craft’ using descriptors like scale, renegade attitude and honesty (ruling out those sneaky mainstream enterprises who leap upon words like craft and artisan solely for packaging and branding). The bulk of the book is taken up in a spirit-by-spirit, distillery-by-distillery exploration of some of the world’s best craft spirit tipples, complete with information about their processes, photos, tasting notes and websites (so you can buy them). My interest was piqued by Black Cow Gold Top Vodka made from Holstein Friesian cow milk whey, with the curds turned into Cheddar. You’ll also find gin, genever, poitin, moonshine (white whiskey), rum, tequila, mezcal, brandy, absinthe, and there’s even an Aussie distiller in this global collection (I’ll leave you to discover which one). It’s perfect for those who love a good drinkin’ yarn…

Review - Stillery

Using two crazy-good tonic syrups, Bar Manager Aaron Gaulke revolutionised my gin drinking.

Inside this luxurious Double Bay bar, decked out in pale blue and marble with stately gilt settees, Gaulke commands an impressive array of gins.

Give him some buzzwords and he’ll quickly have you loving mother’s ruin.

While the subtle saffron notes of Boudier Saffron Gin ($13) are best sipped straight, many gins benefit from lengthening with tonic.

In that department this bar also excels, offering up an array of choices from artisan syrups like Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic (which I now use at home) to East Imperial’s standard and Burma tonics.

The Cambridge Distillery’s Japanese Style Gin ($22) has an almost nutty flavour from sesame, and suits the lighter East Imperial Tonic.

It’s well matched by Charred Fremantle Octopus ($16) with hunks of mortadella from Executive Chef Julien Pouteau’s tasty bar menu.

Of course some gins scream martini, and Settlers Rare Dry Gin ($11), brimming with citrusy Aussie botanicals like lemongrass and lemon myrtle, is one of them.

At the top end there’s Anty Gin ($105) with red wood ant essence, taken from bottle number 14 of 99 worldwide.

For a nightcap, cough for Bruichladdich Black Art 1989 ($75) and pester Gaulke for a bedtime story of how it came about…

(You probably should also order one of these spectacular dissolving desserts as well!)

Level 1, InterContinental Hotel, 33 Cross Street, Double Bay
Ph: (02) 8388 8388

Stillery on Urbanspoon


Bar Fly: The Soda Factory

Amie Barbeler checked out the huge second birthday party of an favourite this week...

Any bar that serves bourbon and Vanilla Cherry Coke floats, mac and cheese spring rolls and is hidden behind a phoney fifties Coke machine door is an instant winner in my books.

Late-night sweet spot, The Soda Factory, just had one hell of a party to celebrate its 2nd birthday.

There were cute waitresses bearing trays of gourmet hotdogs, chicken wings with blue cheese sauce, fried onion rings and sweet potato fries.

There were bearded men serving up boozy ice-cream floats; and DJ Yella hit the Factory decks while Soda newbies and regulars danced the night away. And the party isn't showing any signs of slowing at this American-inspired diner.

Keep an eye out for Soda's regular specials which include: Movie Mondays (think $5 beer, wine, sides and classic movies), Tuesday's Dollar Dogs (you can't go wrong with a Buffalo Bill, trust me), Fat Bubba's Chicken Wednesday and Soda Saturdays (with music, booze and diner food galore).

PS. You can see a previous review of this space HERE.

The Soda Factory
16 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8096 9120

The Soda Factory on Urbanspoon

This Week's Food News: Late Nights

With the Baird Government being granted another term in NSW, you might have given up all hope of the lockout laws ever being rescinded; especially as you watch Kings Cross rapidly morphed from being our entertainment district into a ‘sought after’ residential address using high-rise developments. However it’s not all gloom and doom: The Powder Keg, a Kings Cross small bar you can enter after the witching hour on Friday and Saturday nights, has a great late night menu running until 2.30am. Chef Elijah Holland will be banging out some burgers - wild boar and fennel burgers with Cheddar cheese and smoked ketchup, that is. You’ll also be able to munch on duck schnitzel lollipops as you imbibe Grant Collins’ fabulous gin creations. And during the witching hour itself (12am-1am) you can enjoy a burger’n’Mary combo for $25, or some mature Cheddar puffs with Volcano Punch for $20. Thank Collins for small mercies…

PS. You can check out my full review here.

The Powder Keg
7 Kellett Street, Potts Point
Ph: (02) 8354 0980

Powder Keg Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Review - Runcible Spoon

As a loyal fan of Golden Cobra coffee, you’ll find me at this Camperdown café quite regularly, tucking into owner/chef Alex Watts’ famous Thai-style fried eggs.

Hearing they’re now opening on Friday nights between 5pm and 10pm, encouraged me to revisit.

Kicking back with a Mountain Goat India Pale Ale ($8) on the large shared table with a crowd of easy-going locals, epitomized everything I love about the Inner West.

The concise menu is inspired by the path Alex takes to work, past Faros Bros in Marrickville. The resulting Salmon Belly ($22) is nicely fatty, and turned slightly Japanese with miso, tahini and a spattering of bottarga.

Enjoy it with Heirloom Tomato, Whipped Feta & Herbs ($14) using tomatoes plucked from his mother’s garden.

Mum is also responsible for the tart rhubarb employed in his Rhubarb and Fig Upside-Down Cake ($10). It’s based on a simple Margaret Fulton recipe, and dished up nighttimes with a lovely vanilla anglaise.

If there’s an overall theme to the dishes, Alex tells me it’s “things I like to eat.” And I certainly did like eating his fluffy pillows of Gnocchi ($24) with broccolini, tomato and judiciously applied anchovies; and deeply smoky Duck ($29) set off by tart blood plum and bitter radicchio.

Think healthy, homey, and relaxed.

Runcible Spoon
27 Barr Street, Camperdown
Ph: (02) 9519 2727

Runcible Spoon on Urbanspoon


Bar Fly: The Royal Botanical

Amie Barbeler did date night in Leichhardt this week...

I'll admit that the colour did drain from my face as I arrived at The Royal, a new date in tow, to be greeted by a gauntlet of half-cut construction workers. But there's a lot more to this pub than meets the eye.

Head upstairs and you'll find a beautiful bar/restaurant called The Royal Botanical. Expect gorgeous views of the sunset, friendly staff, great cocktails and pub food and an atmosphere that is very conducive to an easy and relaxed date.

My date and I kicked off the night with a few vanilla vodka and passionfruit Passion Martinis ($17) each with a shot of Prosecco on the side, before I inhaled the Crispy Pork Belly ($24) with roasted root vegies and she attempted the mountain of meat that is the Black Angus Sirloin ($24) with mash and dark beer gravy.

Pro tip: Stick to the side door if you want to impress your date.

The Royal Botanical
Upstairs, 156 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9569 2638

The Royal Botanical on Urbanspoon