With upmarket noodle soups all the rage, I hit up Salaryman for their Pork & Pippie Ramen ($15/$18).
To be honest I wandered into this semi-industrial space expecting something a little more informal – maybe a hard drinking house pitched directly at Sydney’s cubicle slaves.
Instead I found neon lights, dripping wall-art, exposed copper pipes masking sprayed concrete ceilings, and comfortable Scando-styled chairs.
As for my ramen, the defining flavour of this broth was fat, over the more usual pork bones, which meant my accompanying CRFT K1 Vineyard Gewurztraminer ($53) grew on me, after a somewhat shaky start. Pork chashu was tender and generously applied; house-made wheat noodles were slippery with good bite; and the scattered char-grilled pipis were perfectly cooked.
Across the menu seafood is the standout, as you’d probably expect from Head Chef Stephen Seckold’s extensive time in the Flying Fish kitchen.
Blow-torched Honey Bug Meat ($15/2) served nigiri style on crisp sheets of nori were creamy and delicious, particularly matched to an elegant Amanato Junmai Gingo ($17/100ml).
Glazed Toothfish ($25) is teaming with flavour against a tangle of water spinach.
Pea Tartlets ($20/2) filled with lightly smoked crème frache and garnished with a dab of caviar – felt a bit out of place, but do provide a welcome carb. for those of us who like to spend their weekday evenings double parked with craft beer or Agave Ginger Cider ($12).
Small portions, teamed with floor staff that dispense scant advice on how many dishes from each menu section to order, mean you might want to throw in the sukiyaki-inspired Rolled Wagyu Sirloin ($27) dripping with golden egg yolk. The dense protein hit should round out any corners.
52 Albion Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9188 2985
Sydney Festival is in full swing, with two different Spiegeltents in operation, accessed via the awkwardly rebadged Meriton Festival Village that you’ll find located in Hyde Park North. On opening night, January 7, I popped in to catch the talented Meow Meow in Little Mermaid. The show is the latest in Melissa Madden Grey’s trilogy of Hans Christian Andersen inspired cabaret shows, following directly in the footsteps of Little Match Girl. If you’ve stayed abreast of fairy tales, Little Mermaid was a bit on the dark side: the female protagonist gave up her ability to walk for a lover who didn’t really warrant it. It’s kind of a metaphor for modern day dating on Tinder, no?
The songstress was in particularly fine voice, with her trademark Pro. Domme style audience manipulation less of a focus in this show. That said, you will see three ordinary blokes pulled up onto stage and dressed as mermaids complete with tails and multicoloured wigs. Half the audience is also co-opted into schlepping Ms. Meow around the venue as she crowd surfs over their heads.
Meow Meow works best with alcohol, so consider preloading in the Kirin or Moet & Chandon festival bars.
If you’re tempted towards snacking, the big name stalls are (once again) Porteño and Gelato Messina, both conveniently placed right by the aforementioned bars. The famed Elvis Abrahanowicz was manning his own grill at Porteño on the night I dined, flipping slabs of smoked wagyu brisket for your Reuben Sandwich ($15).
The famed brisket is sadly a bit dry and overdone, but I forgive it because the flavours are on point, and well, it’s festival fare.
The neighbouring Gelato Messina offers a range of sideshow themed concoctions to get your ice cream on.
The Bearded Lady ($10) eats well, with lightly cream cheese flavoured ice cream encased in red chocolate then wrapped in a whirl red fairy floss and dusted with red velvet cake powder. Clutching it made me feel I was about age seven all over again – magic.
Less successful was a phallic Messina Weiner ($10) styled after a corn dog with doughnut and panko crumbed maple syrup gelato deep fried then dipped in plum sauce.
Festival fare is unlikely to appeal to everyone, so if you'd prefer a proper meal somewhere within walking distance of the Meriton (Sydney) Festival Village my recommendations are Fix St James, La Rosa and Nel Restaurant.
Sydney Festival is running until January 26 with a programme of 157 events, including 89 free events: sydneyfestival.org.au/2016/
Alex Harmon is becoming a Francophile after ending 2015 & starting 2016 with French cuisine...
The bar that pays tribute to the literary legend has been Francophile'd with the arrival of new owners Sonia Piantoni and Emmanuel Deleuze. Bringing the experience of owning a Michelin Star restaurant in the French Alps to an already established local hangout can only mean good things.
They’ve ditched the American diner fare for classic French cuisine with a breezy beach feel. On face value, the menu couldn’t get more French it you tried: steak tartare, croque monsieur, cheese plates, you get it, however if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find there’s more than meets the eye. The Tarte Flambée ($15) is a thin crusted pizza with bacon, herbs and marinated onions – proving the simple things go the distance. You could say the same about the pot of Mussels Marinières ($25). It isn’t such a bad thing that they’re truly served ‘sailor style’ with only hints of flavour and beards still intact.
And luckily they get the classic tourist dishes spot on, like Salade Nicoise ($18), Steak Tartare ($27) and Sautéed Spiced Squid ($18).
A bottle of Mont-Redon Reserve Côtes du Rhône ($51) is recommended by the charming waiter for its lightness, despite the strong cherry notes going straight to my cheeks. It's the kind of wine that makes you believe it’s cold outside but you’re somehow comforted by the leather bound books around you.
As a side note, Bill Clinton’s feature in the Book of the World’s Greatest Speeches is worth a read while you have a crack at the Crème Brule ($12). Whether you go for the seaside looks or the leather bound books– you’re in for a good feed. The old man and the sea would both be proud.
48 North Steyne, Manly
Ph: (02) 9976 3030
Every time I swear off sliders, one comes along that changes my mind. This time it’s the Vada Pav ($6.90) at this surprising new Indian joint, which has set up shop in University Hall.
The gently spiced potato patty is encased inside a buttery, soft bun, with brilliantly red ‘spicy gunpowder’ added to taste (go hard, it’s delicious).
Performing a wordless dance in the postage stamp sized kitchen, husband and wife team, Rajoo and Shaloo Gurram, turn out dishes that celebrate West Coast Indian cuisine from the Mumbai region.
The couple’s inspiration are the khau gallis, or ‘food lanes’, mostly concentrated around railway stations in Mumbai. So expect to find classic travelling dishes like Railway Goat Curry ($18.90). You’ll also see Persian influences coming across the Arabian Sea, in Iranian Kheema Pav ($7.90). It’s another buttery bun affair, this time with a tasty bowl of lean, hand-pounded lamb mince.
It goes down nicely with a Kingfisher Lager ($7) in your other hand.
A seamless Konkani Prawn Curry ($18.90) with gently cooked crustaceans, is a ring-in from Southern neighbour, Goa.
It could do with more heat, so either ask for it, or throw in a Chilli Pickle ($3.00). You definitely need a Cheese and Spinach Naan ($4.80) cooked with fenugreek in the tandoor. It’s served in a metal cone in angular slices, a hint at their only step away from authenticity – modernised plating.
On the floor, daughter Manasi Gurram explains their other modern choice: to miniaturise vegetable sides like Pumpkin Masala ($7.90) and vibrant green bean Poriyal ($7.90). Couples in particular should appreciate this sterling idea because a balanced Indian meal suddenly becomes both affordable, and manageable without waste.
Bombay Street Kitchen
University Hall, Corner of Glebe Point Road and Parramatta Road, Glebe
Ph: (02) 9660 3726
The red plastic baskets of Belles Hot Chicken look delicious, and are flying out from behind the steel shutters of this Wulugul Pop Up outlet.
This Melbourne-originating foodie drawcard is designed to lure us down to Barangaroo, and neatly forget any objections to yet another casino seemingly exempt from Liberal Party Lockout Laws.
And on appearance alone, the Really Hot Wings ($16.00) served with Fries ($5.00) dusted red with Old Bay seasoning, quietly filling up your Instagram feed, are likely to achieve just that – acceptance by stealth.
In the eating however, the plump wings stay blisteringly hot from the crisply sealed coating, and tend to feel a bit slimy inside. The fries are a salt-bath, so I’d suggest taking up Almost Arnold’s Beans ($5.00) or the mayo. heavy Coleslaw ($5.00) as your free side.
Mixed Pickles ($5.00) turned yellow by turmeric are useful to cut all the fat, but would benefit from a smidgen of balancing sweetness.
If you’ve chosen to dine from the hotter end of the menu board, you’re going to want Belle’s Ranch ($2.00) or Blue Cheese Dressing ($2.00) to take the sting out – the heat is legitimate and a real creeper, so consider yourself amply warned.
Belle’s Chicken Ribs ($13) with scallions and peach BBQ sauce summon distant memories of sweet and sour suburban Chinese, doubling up on nostalgia by being served on a juice-catching slice of processed white bread.
Though this long-term pop up (finishes August 2016) is unlicensed, it’s perfectly placed to enjoy with appropriately fruit-rich cocktails from Gin & It next door.
Belles Hot Chicken
Wulugul Walk, The Streets of Barangaroo, Sydney
Like half of Sydney, I came for Belles Hot Chicken, but I stayed for the gin.
And you haven’t lived until you’ve sucked back a Worship Street Whistling Shop Cream Gin Martini ($34) while taking in this view.
Yes, it’s expensive, but you can’t buy it at Dan Murphy’s (or anywhere in Australia). The fresh cream and vanilla notes result from cream being added as a botanical before distillation (rather than flavouring the gin afterwards) – producing one heck of a smooth martini with a tantalising hint of sweetness.
The Barber Shop crew have assembled a killer list of gins, which clearly warrant detailed exploration. Some, like the Dutch Vlaardingen VL92XY Gin ($15), look a bit like a science experiment in the bottle - and they’re importing it themselves.
Thinking I’d been burned when my expensive Pineapple & Rhubarb ($16) Bombay Dry Gin concoction was served from a bottle...
...I chewed on the freeze-dried rhubarb garnish and mused that it was one of the best pre-mixes I’ve tried.
Everything (bar the martinis) is bottled fresh daily to reduce wait-times when they’re busy. Drinking a savoury, herbaceous Coriandrum ($18) with Bombay Sapphire gin smoked over apple cedar wood and house-made coriander and celery liqueur, you’d never suspect.
Peach and beetroot shrub (old-school vinegar cordial) makes the earthy-sweet Peach & Beet ($17) another winner.
I’ve half a mind to work my way through the whole list before attempting the crazy interpretive dance moves on the signs at Barangaroo Point Reserve. Yep, this is one pop-up I wish would stay around forever!
Gin & It
Wulugul Walk, The Streets of Barangaroo, Sydney
Where can I find a traditional pub? It’s a question many of you have asked, and sadly the answer seems to be getting further and further outside of Sydney. One exception, tucked inside the Sydney metro limits, is the Royal Cricketer's Arms.
With a beautiful historic frontage (it was first licensed in 1880), and a large, gently refurbished beer garden, it’s a top place to kick back over Scottish Cream Ale and take in a Ploughman’s Board ($23). With cold cuts, cheeses, rye bread, piccalilli, a boiled egg and a traditional English pork pie, the highlight of this nicely presented meal is the tart, dark, Branston pickle, full of vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
In the entertainment stakes, there are cook-your-own steaks on a wonderfully high-temperature outdoor grill and live music, rather than the incessant jingle of pokies.
If you’d rather leave your steak in the hands of experts, the kitchen puts out a Petite Fillet Mignon ($24), wrapped in smoky bacon and dripping Café de Paris butter, with forest mushrooms and fries on the side.
Dessert - whether it's Profiteroles ($13) or in liquid form as glasses of Frangelico and lime on ice - should keep you occupied well into the night.
To get the most out of this pub, book in at Atura Blacktown for their Time Warp Package ($179/couple), a few drunken stumbles next-door.
The package includes overnight accommodation, breakfast for two and tickets to the Skyline Drive-In, with a premium option to get chauffeured and see your movie in a restored 1960s Cadillac.
Royal Cricketer's Arms
Cricketer’s Arms Road, Prospect
Ph: (02) 9622 6498
With a name like Beer Cartel and a weirdly industrial location tucked away at the back of Artarmon, visiting this hidden craft beer oasis feels like it should be illicit.
Strolling the aisles containing what I’m told is nearly 1100 different beers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, however staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and clearly well versed in making recommendations from the extensive range.
Asking for their best pale ale, I’m directed at Shenanigans Winston Pale Ale ($11.50/640ml) and it’s a beauty – refreshing and light with citrus notes and enough bitterness to make it interesting.
I also have a preference for rice beers like Koshihikari Echigo, so I asked to be directed at similar brews. The closest they came up with was the Robot Ninja Pale Ale ($5.50/330ml), which is made on rice and Japanese Sorachi Ace Hops. It’s got malt and caramel notes, but while pleasant, this locally brewed pale ale won’t be unseating my Japanese rice beer benchmark anytime soon.
I’m told Aussie beers make up around 35 percent of the beers on offer here, and I make an effort to include mostly local beers in my selection. Buying ten beers gets you a ten percent discount from the single bottle price – but I found it too hard to limit myself to ten, so ended up walking out with a dozen.
Already a confirmed Stone & Wood fan, the Stone & Wood Garden Ale ($4.50/330ml) was an easy choice. It’s fruity and floral from the Ella hops, with lots of bubbles – perfect to knock back in a garden!
If you’re interested in learning more about hops, the Bridge Road Brewers Single Hop collection is worth a gander. I tried Bridge Road Galaxy ($6.00/330ml) made on Aussie Galaxy hops and their subtler Bridge Road Summer IPA ($6.00/330ml) made on Summer hops. Wolf of the Willows Extra Pale Ale ($7.50/330ml) is floral and fruity with passionfruit and a lingering bitter finish.
For something a little different, Moon Dog’s Breakfast of Champions Bloody Mary Red Ale ($11/330ml) mimics the traditional Bloody Mary hangover cure very successfully by throwing tomato puree and paste, vegan Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and chipotle chillies into the mix, and ends up being an extremely drinkable beer, which will definitely get your lips tingling.
My most expensive purchase, the Nogne O Red Horizon 2nd Edition ($23.50/250ml) chosen admittedly for the cool Japanese-inspired packaging was a bit of a fizzer. A collaboration between the Norwegian brewer and Masumi Sake master brewers in Nagano, Japan, this American strong ale is made on sake yeast No 7 and has a whopping 13.5% ABV. It was thick, and tasted like a combination of boozy Xmas pudding fruit and Bovril if you ask me.
More to my taste the Burleigh Brewing 28 Pale Ale ($5.50/330ml) is simple, refreshing and delicious, I could definitely drink more than one.
A fan of Murray’s Angry Man, I also threw a Murray’s Fred West Coast ($12.50/330ml) into the mix – looks amber in the glass, tastes of pine and citrus.
For another left-of-centre pick, Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta ($9.50/330ml) takes Earl Grey English Breakfast tea and morphs it into a grapefuit and lemon flavoured breakfast beer with reasonable bitterness.
I’ll end on Nomad Freshie Salt & Pepper ($10.00/500ml) - there’s nothing I don’t like about this beer – it somehow manages to take a perfect Aussie summer’s day at the beach and bottle it. Now if only Sydney weather would just co-operate…
By the way you can also purchase and refill Growlers (1.89L) and Squealers (0.9L) when you visit this store, from a rotating list of interesting beers.
9/87 Reserve Road, Atarmon (enter via Taylor Lane)
Ph: (1300) 808 254
Extended beyond the initial end date of November, the popularity of the Sokyo Ramen Pop-Up by Chase Kojima, is undeniable. It’s situated in The Star’s food court, behind a brightly coloured wall of Asian cartoon kitsch. After ordering beneath the hot pink neon sign, you’ll be handed a buzzer that’ll vibrate when your ramen is ready to collect.
The first thing that’ll catch your eye is the sheet of nori (seaweed) with Sokyo Ramen (and the relevant social media hashtag) imprinted on it, adhered to the side of your bowl. It’s a cute touch, that neatly ensures images of it will flood your Instagram.
However at the business end of things, the Spicy Miso Tantanmen ($16) made on pork and seafood dashi, scattered with spicy pork mince and topped with an unmarinated egg, doesn’t quite make the grade. The broth is curiously unbalanced, and the odd tomato and broccolini additions don’t really do much to assist.
The Umami Tonkotsu 2.0 Ramen ($16) fares better: pork, chicken and seafood dashi is dotted with bamboo and black fungus, and adorned with a meager slice of tender pork cheek chashu, and half an unmarinated egg. The ramen noodles in both bowls are pleasantly toothsome. Alcohol isn’t available at this outlet, however you can always replenish the system with a Zico Coconut Water ($4.50) instead.
Sokyo Ramen Pop-Up
Level G, Cafe Court, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (1800) 700 700
That familiar Aussie combination of coconut sunscreen, sizzling sausages and the faint waft of weed, hits me as I walk along Dee Why Beach towards my brunch destination.
Nippers in club-branded budgie smugglers race up the sand, and bikies in Santa gear motor past as I enter the light and airy bar-come-Sunday-brunch hotspot.
Sparkling water and golden sand is right in your eye line if you choose an upstairs perch.
Those who have already overdosed on surf, sun and salt should head straight for the milkshakes - available in a catalogue of interesting flavours from Spearmint ($9) to Pumpkin Pie ($9) – to put your mouth back together before tackling food.
The brunch menu stretches beyond the usual offerings, running from a nicely presented, healthy coconut tapioca called Trifly Good ($14), to...
...a mountainous Sweet Potato and Corn Hash Brekky Sandwich ($18).
Homemade Crumpets ($16) get decked out with maple syrup and sweet corn ice cream (better than it sounds), or a duo of excellent, fruit-heavy preserves made by the kitchen.
They’re a shade doughy inside, but the flavour is on point.
And while it sounds like something a stoner sloth might invent in the midst of the munchies, the Vegemite, Avocado and Tomato Stone Melt ($18) (read: pizza) covered with fresh rocket, is a total winner.
2/23 The Strand, Dee Why
Ph: (02) 99710744