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Review - West Juliett Cafe

Emerging in 2013, West Juliett Café follows in the footsteps of trailblazing Marrickville cafe, Cornersmith. There are plenty of greens on the plates, and a connection to hand-making in their offerings, including pastries and tempting baked goods. The deep verandah, supplemented by a large, airy dining room, gives it a real community centre feel, and locals flock to this grand, old corner store in droves.

My partner heads straight for the breakfast menu hero – Olive Oil Fried Eggs ($18.90) with morcilla and braised lentils – throwing in an additional side of Bacon ($4.90), as men are wont to do.

I steal forkfuls of perfectly braised lentils from his plate, wishing I’d added them as a side to my own Mushrooms on Toast ($15.90) with Poached Egg ($2.50). Both dishes are come garlanded with greens – rocket and cress – with the mushooms further enhanced with caraway seeds, burnt onions and a minimal amount of Greek kasseri cheese.

As another gesture to healthy eating, they’re presented with butter on the side, which is fine with the eggs'n'morcilla (as the toast arrives on top) but requires the complete disassembly of my mushroom dish. Even with buttered toast, the mushrooms are sadly a bit disappointing – watery and flavourless.

I have no such complaint about my Allpress Espresso Latte ($4.50) made super creamy using fresh Jersey milk from Warnembool. It’s so satisfying I manage to escape onto the verandah of prams, dogs and children without purchasing a dark, moist-looking chocolate brownie. It was touch and go for a minute there though...

West Juliett Café
30 Llewellyn Street, Marrickville
Ph: (02) 9519 0101

West Juliett Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Radio Cairo

Approach this place as if you’re having dinner at the home of a well-travelled Auntie. Your Auntie has painted the walls too brightly because she’s a yellow person (from her time in Africa) and clutters them with knickknacks gathered on her travels. Her place is packed to the brim with furniture because she loves to entertain, so you’d do well to expect to find yourself perched on a high stool, when you’d really prefer a chair. And walking to and from your chair feels slightly treacherous along the slippery thoroughfare between her bar and kitchen.

Auntie’s menus are always exotic, featuring a hodgepodge of influences from her travels to Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent and Southern Americas. The Ugandan Nile Perch and Prawn ‘Molee’ ($25.65) sees her launch into a story about the magical cure turmeric has been on her rheumatoid arthritis.

She’s also fond of nigella seeds, using them to dress up her ‘Raita’ Salad ($6.85) of cucumber and yoghurt, tarted up a garnish of red onion.

To be frank, Auntie ain’t big on presentation, as evidenced by her Cuban Juju Sirloin Slippers ($26.75) heaped onto golden potatoes with lashing of sour cream. However she sure loves flavour! The combination of dark BBQ grill marks and Juju-Cubano spice rub make these tender grass-fed Angus beef sirloin steaks a winner, especially topped with freshly cut chillies.

Create your own global fusion adventure by throwing in a heap of sides, from Maghreb Hot-Ass Harissa ($4.85) to South Indian Sweet Mango Chutney ($4.85) to my favourite - a spicy Caribbean Paw-Paw and Date Pickle ($4.85).

Small portions mean you’ll want to throw in some staples – Sri Lankan Kaha Rice ($5.85/2 people) and a Maldivian Roshi Bread ($5.85) with sambar ain’t going to win any awards, but they will fill out the corners.

Auntie does love her sweeties, and a tall glass of Gula Melaka ($8.50) provides just the right, round, palm sugar and coconut milk sweetness (against tapioca pearls) to reassemble your palate.

What’s made clear by the loud and raucous crowd (punctuated by the odd spectacular crash of staff dropping dishes) is that Radio Cairo is everyone’s favourite eccentric Aunt. Rather than fight for your place at her table, put on your best manners and call to let her know you're stopping by.

Radio Cairo
83 Spofforth Street, Cremorne
Ph: (02) 9908 2649

Radio Cairo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - MediTrainean

Applying the sushi train concept to Mediterranean tapas dishes might seem like an unusual idea, however MediTrainean is not even the first Sydney restaurant to do so. That particular honour goes to Mezze Train, who opened in Mascot at the end of last year.

However with Thai Hot Pot recently launching a DIY Thai hot pot train in Haymarket, it’s clear we haven’t seen the last of this 'new' Sydney concept. (In China, shabu-shabu conveyors have already been around for some time.)

The more important question is whether it works? As many Mediterranean small plates can be prepared ahead of time and served cold, the conveyor belt system lends itself to them very well.

While you’re waiting for your drinks, start assembling your own mezze selection, starting with some appetite stimulating Garlic Dip ($4.90) and Flat Bread ($2), before moving onto brightly coloured Red Capsicum ($4.90) dip, flavoured with red harissa and almond meal.

From the rotating salad selection, the approachable Spiced Carrot ($6.90) takes roasted carrots, treats them with dukkah and honey, then rounds them out with chickpeas, crumbled feta and crunchy toasted almonds.

And while cold Casarecce ($6.90) had me looking askance, the resulting free-form pasta-meets-antipasto salad actually impressed with premium quality crispy prosciutto, Grana Padano and olives.

What’s even better with dishes being sushi-plate small and keenly priced, you can be more experimental, taking risks on dishes you're not sure about, or only one of you likes. This is useful, because some of the dishes are hard to identify until you take off their domes and tuck in, especially as there are some off-menu ring-ins the restaurant is currently roadtesting, like Fried Cauliflower ($6.90) with lemon and dukkah, topped with fried pita shards.


Cleverly they’ve kept pastry dishes that won’t cope with sweating under domes off the train. Cheesy Pastry Cigars ($6.90) stuffed with feta and ricotta provolone, or even better Crispy Pastry ($6.90) filled with harissa prawns, potato, coriander, onion and garlic, are ordered from a server and delivered straight to the table.

They’re the type of dishes that suit Barcelona’s pale, quaffing Estrella Beer ($9); though I'd move on to Mythos ($8.50) with your Mussels ($6.90).

Taken cold from the train, these plump and fragrant rice-and-caramelised-onion-stuffed mollusks are actually my favourite dish. Eating them on azure blue share plates in the light-filled space with a drinkable French Private Gallery Chardonnay ($7.50/glass) in your hand feels positively Mediterannean, even in the midst of Sydney winter. And if you fancy better wine, Crows Nest (unlike the CBD) happily welcomes BYO ($3/head).

While you can construct your whole meal using offerings from the train, the central glass box showcases the restaurant's flame-grill where Lamb Skewers ($9.90/3) are turned by a handsome young chef. Accompanied by tzatziki and lemon, they make nice additions to your largely vegetable-based meal.

A trio of dryish Scallops ($9.90) under a sumac-heavy dukkah gratin left us craving dessert. Luckily, like most of our meal, it's rotating just an arm's length away.

From baklava to baked Ricotta Cheesecake ($6.90), the portions are small enough to allow you to choose more than one without looking excessive; so make sure you include a palate-freshing plate of Roast Quince ($6.90) with crème fraiche, halva and rose petals.

55 Alexander Street, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 8970 1521

MediTrainean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


After a quick dabble in Feral Brewing Company’s offerings at the Keg & Brew, I was ushered – along with a bunch of slightly bemused Sydney journalists - onto a Dave’s Brewery Tours bus.

Our impending adventure was designed to increase our knowledge about craft beer before diving head first into the 2016 program launch of Sydney Craft Beer Week, which runs from October 21-30 this year.

Over the course of visiting three craft breweries and two pubs that boast excellent craft beer offerings, we were given a taste of what this year’s Sydney Craft Beer Week (SCBW) program is all about. It will see a record 75 venues across Sydney play host to more than 100 events this year, the sixth year this festival has been in operation. The rapid growth of this festival in such a short period is “a reflection of the craft beer industry’s growing popularity,” explains SCBW Festival Director Joel Connolly.

Rocks Brewing Co. were kind enough to take us behind the scenes to give us a good overview of how craft beer is produced, starting with opportunities to taste the grain, and ending with filling kegs (a hard job if you're stuck there all day in the middle of summer with a wall of heat reflecting silver kegs).

Their intriguing explanation of the way beermakers love making sours, which are the most analogue type of craft beers, aged in old wine and whisky barrels, inclined me to try Wayward Brewing Co. Sourpuss later in the day. One mouthful of this intriguing Berliner Weiss beer flavoured with fresh raspberries and I was hooked, particularly because after the bright, sharp sourness, it ends with lovely bready roundness.

Touring is thirsty work, but the friendly and knowledgeable Dave’s Brewery Tours crew ensured we were well watered at each stop, with opportunities to try upwards of three different craft beers at every stop. They even took care of us with water and pretzels between stops, very necessary on such a big day of beer drinking!

While you can keep your eyes peeled for blog posts with more information about our visits to Wayward Brewing Co. and Willie the Boatman in coming weeks, at Rocks Brewing Co. we got our mitts on three different craft beers. At the lighter end, The Hangman Pale Ale throws citrus and pine notes to delight your nose, and biscuity malts onto your tongue. More to my taste, The Governor Golden Ale smelled like a tropical fruit bowl, and was an easy drinker with citrus notes and subtle bitterness - making it ultimately smashable on a summery day. Not a big fan of porters, I found The Butcher Porter interesting none-the-less, mostly because of the huge coffee, chocolate and toffee notes, that lead to a surprisingly smooth, balanced finish.

Reaching our ultimate destination - the Union Hotel - for the official Sydney Craft Beer Week program launch a little worse for wear, we settled in to get better acquainted with the extensive program, along with some more beer tasting (of course). Here are my four hit SCBW selections:

Marrickville Magical Mystery Tour
Sat 22 October, 11am-5.30pm $95/head
After enjoying my own Dave’s Brewery Tours adventure, I highly recommend letting these knowlegdeable and friendly guys take you on a tour of Marrickville’s breweries, venues and eateries.

Boilermakers with Wayward Brewing & Diageo Reserve Brands
Mon 24 October, 6.30pm-8.30pm $55/head
Whiskey and beer chasers are a thing. If you haven’t been inducted yet, you obviously need to know more, and the popular whiskey bar The Wild Rover is the place to get your first boilermaker on!

Meat, Beer, Axe 2
Friday 28 October, 5.30pm-8.30pm $60/head
Willie the Boatman are combining meat eating, beer drinking and axe throwing in St Peters. What could possibly go wrong?

Batch Brewing Company, Crabs and Cornhole
Saturday 29 October, 1pm-5pm $ TBC
Batch Brewing Company made my favourite beer of the tour - the Marrickville Pork Roll - so I'd be remiss to not recommend checking out their range at Petersham Bowling Club alongside steamed blue swimmer crab done Baltimore Maryland style.

Of course you can also choose your own adventure by checking out the whole 2016 Sydney Craft Beer Week program online here: https://www.sydneycraftbeerweek.com/

Thanks to Cardinal Spin, Dave’s Brewery Tours and Sydney Craft Beer Week for arranging this grand craft beer adventure that took in the following venues:

Keg & Brew Hotel
26 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9212 1740

Union Hotel
576 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9557 2989

Rocks Brewing Co.
Building 2, 160 Bourke Road, Alexandria
Ph: (02) 9669 3600

Rocks Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Travel - Wilderness Lodge, Solomon Islands

If ecotourism is important to you, consider this small Solomon Islands property, Wilderness Lodge.

It consists of two beautifully carved and constructed beach-front bungalows, and two slightly less desirable rooms attached to the main house.

Wilderness Lodge is well-integrated into the surrounding village of Peava on the island of Gatokae, located in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.

It's accessed by a one-hour DHC-6 Twin Otter flight from Honiara to tiny Seghe Airport, then an open boat ride that takes between ninety minutes and three hours (dependent upon weather conditions). Before you wince, it's a very beautiful trip through thirty shades of aquamarine water, that's home to countless vividly green islands that make up some of the Solomon Island's 992 islands.

Being attached to a village means your sun-drenched days playing on the protected lagoon will have the gentle hubbub of everyday village life as their background soundtrack.

For the villagers, it's an opportunity to earn money to pay for things they can't otherwise have in their subsistence lifestyle.

For Jack who served our meals, this was his school fees, but for other villagers it might be money for fuel, or imported products like rice.

Staff are particularly welcoming to visitors; keen to share details of their way of life, and interested in finding out more about yours.

With the Australian federal election taking place while we were there, much discussion took place about politician promises. In the Solomons, the promises offered to convince the locals choose between the two bigfela candidates were tangible items, like solar panels or outboard motors, both very useful in remote villages such as this one.

Snorkeling at the end of the lodge's pier immerses you in upwards of three hundred different species of marine life, including the lagoon's eight or ten black and white tip reef sharks.

They'll visit when the staff clean tuna, caught by villagers, and presented as sashimi and breaded fish for your dinner hours after it was caught.

Outside the lagoon there are three close islands that are wild and uninhabited - Malemale, Bulo and Kicha. All of which you can visit with a local guide on a very inexpensive boat trip.

You'll find turtles and great chasms of coral at Bulo. Make sure they take you to them via the friendly pod of dolphins who leap and dive round the boat with particular glee when it goes fast!

Kicha is very unspoiled as it has been a marine sanctuary for quite some time; while Malemale's protected side was picturesque in the morning sun, and absolutely teaming with fish.

Meals at Wilderness Lodge taken on the deck by kerosene lantern light, are plentiful, with local dishes like cassava pudding and cassava chips added to more Westernised items, ensuring there's always something each guest enjoys.

We particularly enjoyed trying the local river fern, poucha, that made an excellent cooked and salad green.

You'll get as much tropical fruit as you care to eat, served up with each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner, the per night price here includes full board) including banana, papaya, pineapple, soursop, bush lime and jackfruit.

Despite the whole island being Seventh Day Adventists (yep, not much happens here on a Saturday) and not eating shellfish by religious decree, we were even cooked crayfish twice during our eight day stay (it was delicious).

While their protein mainstay is fish, they were able cater to a vegetarian guest while we were staying there. When a fresh catch comes in, position yourself on the wharf where they gut the fish, and watch the lagoon's reef sharks get fed.

For those who are precious about mod-cons: the airy bungalow's bathroom has a toilet and clam-shell sink.

(You can see living clams just off the pier).

The shower is outdoors and cold water only. There was no electricity in the bungalows, bar for very dim solar powered lights, so your devices will need to be charged in the main house (they were perfectly safe there). Wifi on Gatokae Island is limited, and even worse when it's cloudy or raining (satellite), so your iPhone's most useful function while you're at Wilderness Lodge will probably be as a torch to read by.

As a Sydneysider keen to have both a people and technology detox, this made this place pretty close to perfect.

Wilderness Lodge
Peava, Gatokae Island,
Western Province, Solomon Islands


Review - Yakitori Yurippi

In Japan you get your yakitori (chicken-on-a-stick) fix in izakayas, informal gastro-pubs where salary men fill in the void between work finishing and dinner. Heading up a "young but enthusiastic” team, Tin Jung Shea (ex-The Cliff Dive) has recreated the same super-relaxed drinking atmosphere right here in Crows Nest.

Settle in for beverages and bites at the polished concrete bar with a bird’s-eye view of the stick-flipping action, or pull up a table and turn your visit into a casual dinner using clever sides.


First on the agenda is washing away the sorrows of your work-life with a palate cleansing ale. The one to drink here is the golden Orion Draft ($8/400ml) from Okinawa - the hip, sub-tropical outpost of Japan. It’s crisp, refreshing and mild enough to be a great sake chaser if you’re a fan of double-parking.


You know I am, so against a bowl of Edamame ($4.90) and some even better Burdock Root Chips ($4.90) that make a tasty, lightly seasoned alternative to potato chips, I got stuck into sake.

The Yurippi team prepared me three tokkuri (flasks) of different sakes and gave me some tips on which dishes they’d suit best. You can get them to do the same, or skip straight to my favourite, the Yuki-no-Bousha ($25/300ml), which has a full, round flavour that makes it a hit with grilled meat.

Start with the classic – Chicken Thigh and Shallot ($2.90/each) accentuated by sweet soy - before you hit the star: Tsukune ($4.50/each).

Popular in Japan, these house-made chicken meatballs are made by mincing chicken thighs with soft bones for added texture, shallots, ginger and garlic, basted with sweet soy, and served up with a runny 63-degree egg.

They’re also making their own dashi (a Japanese stock) using sake, shitake stems, soy, mirin and kombu, which is put to excellent effect in a delicate, Japanese Omelette ($4.90).

The long, brown seaweed (kombu) is also employed in butter form to accentuate sashimi-grade Scallops ($4.50/each). Handle them carefully though, coming straight off the grill, the shells are scorching hot.

At the more fun end of things, there are Bacon-Wrapped Mochi ($4.50) skewers made using glutinous rice cakes. They have a texture similar to roasted marshmallow, without being as sweet. Or there's Japanese fried chook, called Karaage ($4.90), served up here in a mini fry basket with Kewpie mayonnaise.

Now while kombu is the taste I’ll most remember this spot for – especially on the super simple Cabbage ($4.90) side – eating my first oden was a very close second.

This warming chicken broth is sold in Japanese convenience stores, with the floating additions added like we select lollies in a Pick-n-Mix! You can either let the Yurippi team do the selecting for you by ordering a six-piece Oden Set ($9.90), or choose your own favourites from tofu-wrapped creamy mochi, fishcakes, egg, yam cakes, or wedges of white radish (daikon).

I’d be hard pressed to remember another dish that I’ve eaten that made me feel more like I was experiencing something authentically Japanese. Yes, authenticity is something this tiny but charming yakitori bar has in abundance!

Yakitori Yurippi
7 Falcon Street, Crows News
Ph: (02) 8041 9261

Yakitori Yurippi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Stockroom

It’s a long way down from a beautifully plated almond pastilla with buttermilk, Opalys white chocolate and honeycomb to a somewhat stale trio of Praline Choux Pastry ($15) profiteroles with salted caramel ice cream. Yes, under new Executive Chef Alex Vilches, Stockroom is a very different proposition to the restaurant I first experienced in the hands of the talented Julien Pouteau. Though with hotel guests being notoriously finicky diners, it’s possible that this restaurant’s evolution into an upmarket steakhouse comes at their clients’ behest.

The room remains the same stately affair, thickly carpeted with ornate high ceilings, plush banquettes, and well-spaced, comfortable chairs. It’s moodily dim, prompting many of the mature clientele to read the succinct menu by iPhone torchlight.

Irregular plates give entrees like Maple Grilled Eggplant ($19) dominated by a large slab of haloumi, or the Slow Braised Lamb Belly ($22) with sunchokes and parsnip puree, quite a homey feel.

Perhaps pandering to homesick hotel guests, both dishes feel like something one could successfully replicate at home.

Reproducing the slow grilling over hot charcoal achieved on the hotel’s robata grill in a home-kitchen would be somewhat more difficult. It’s employed to good effect on an O’Connor Pasture-Fed New York Steak ($32/220gm), presented precisely as ordered - medium-rare – striated by thick grill marks.

A plumper Flame-Roasted Grange Silver Certified Angus Rib Eye ($42/350gm) was let down by being cooked past the requested medium-rare.

A few spud slices topped with three oven-dried cherry tomatoes decoratively accompany both mains, so you’ll likely want a generous bowl of Roasted Pumpkin, Orange Gremolata ($12). It’s an intriguing combination but eventually the doubled-up sweetness of pumpkin and orange wears thin. Grilled Broccolini ($11) works against macadamia and warm pepper vinegar, but their stems want for slightly more cooking.

The solid but pricy wine-list will appeal best to those who like drinking local (NSW) wines. Sneakily passed off as a Murrumbateman (NSW) wine, our chosen 2014 Lark Hill Chardonnay ($85) actually comes from Bungendore in the Canberra District. Overly barrel tainted, our off-kilter bottle was quickly and smoothly replaced by a similarly priced 2014 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay ($80) by the savvy sommelier.

His selection carried us through to the Stockroom’s Lemon Meringue Mille Feuille ($14) – sadly an over-engineered feat to eat, with slabs of darkened gingerbread dominating its flavour.

See a previous review of Stockroom here: http://missdissent.livejournal.com/543170.html

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

Stockroom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Nawaz Flavour of India

Twenty-six years is a pretty good innings for a restaurant, particularly in Sydney’s fickle market. This Glebe restaurant, which opened back in 1990, was the original outlet of the Flavour of India restaurant group, which later expanded to include Edgecliff’s Flavour of India, Sydney's Indian restaurant to the stars (and the site of Michael Hutchence’s infamous last meal). After the group split, Nawaz was added to the name of what is also the oldest Indian restaurant in Glebe.

Restaurant Manager Rajiul H. has been running this brightly painted restaurant for more than a decade. He’s particularly proud of the shifts to the menu that have happened over the last seven years, responding to the way we Sydneysiders like to eat.

So expect to see a little flair with presentation on your Kerala Fish Balls ($15.90) which come with three different dipping sauces, and dustings of fresh herbs and chilli freshening up most dishes.

Drizzled with duelling sauces (tamarind and yogurt) Palak Patta Chat ($14.90) takes spinach leaves, batters them in besan (chickpea flour) then then fries them until crunchy. Presented on a bed of gently spiced potato and chickpeas, it’s an engagingly vegetarian dish that’ll please even those suspicious of spicy food.

The same flour is used with added diced mango and shredded sweet potato to turn small prawns into fritters, Prawn Pakoras  ($14.90/3 piece). It's let down a little bit by saucing - sweet chilli sauce has no place in my world.

While I favour beer – a Kingfisher ($7.50) - over wine as a food match with curry, the Beelgara Black Label Grenache Rose ($6.50/glass, $28/bottle) is both inexpensive and inoffensive.

The wine’s berry characters are just the ticket against the robust Handi Goat ($23.90) – my curry of the night.

This slow-cooked goat curry has a rich gravy that begs to be mopped up with bread – and with a tandoor oven here, you can count on the Garlic Naan ($3.50) and Plain Naan ($3.50) to be great.

And while it’s not my usual fare, the Chicken Butter Masala ($17.50) here is better than average as it’s made on tandoori chicken fillets adding a smoky edge to the creamy tomato- fenugreek curry sauce.

Vegetarians are not forgotten with a nicely filling Kadai Paneer ($17), a paneer (cheese) curry with capsicum, onions and tomato. It’s even more filling on their fruit and nut-heavy Basmati Rice Pilaf ($5.90).

Nawaz Flavour of India
142a Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Ph: (02) 9692 0662

Nawaz Flavour of India Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Hotel Bondi

Alex Harmon revisits an old friend in Bondi...

It was one of the first pubs I ever went to... a “few years ago,” I embellish.

So, back when there was carpet,” says manager Luke. Yep, I definitely remember spilling a few beers on that sticky carpet. Fast-forward to now, and the Hotel Bondi has been given a coastal makeover by the Maloney Hotel Group. Fresh wooden floorboards, wide arched windows and chic beachside furniture.

The group also took over the kitchen, keeping the classic staples of a pub menu and giving them a bit of a sophisticated twist. The Salt and Pepper Calamari ($13) isn’t your usual floury chewy mess, but rather delicate, soft squid with loads of flavour.

The Chicken Parmigiana ($21) ($15 during the week) is your pub test and it comes out swinging in size and flavour. Arancini Balls ($10) are popular, I’m told, and they make for a perfect drinking companion - because mateship is alive and well in this establishment.


The fresh new cocktail menu has all the classics for only fifteen bucks, like an Espresso Martini ($15) and the Bondi Raspberry Highball ($15), which is like Bondi’s fruity version of the Moscow mule.


The Pumpkin Beetroot and Quinoa Salad ($15) with Bulgarian feta and walnuts is more substance than style, but seems like great value for its heartiness – what you want in a pub salad, right? Team it up with an Aperol Spritz ($15) or a glass of Fickle Mistress Pinot Noir ($9) and you’ll kid yourself into thinking you're on a summer holiday.

Unpretentious and inviting, Hotel Bondi is still a pub at heart, which if you look around town, these days is pretty rare.

Hotel Bondi
178 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach
Ph: (02) 9130 3271

Hotel Bondi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Encasa Restaurant

If Sydney’s winter suddenly makes the idea of a sizzling cast-iron plate of garlic prawns sitting under your nose, very attractive, get thee into Encasa Restaurant for Gambas Al Ajillo ($16).

What looks to be a small, dark restaurant from the Pitt Street entrance, dominated by the woodfire pizza oven, widens out into a larger white room, filled with animated, Spanish-speaking family groups. Following their lead, we kick things off with Ambar 1900 Pale Ale ($8.50), an easy-drinking Spanish beer.

As fans of the famous Spanish black-footed pigs, we find Tabla De Embutidos ($23) hard to resist. The tabla (board) is covered with thin slices of the aforementioned jamon Iberico, Pamplona (cured, paprika-heavy sausage) and salchichon, a dry-cured, gentle, white pig sausage.

With the board bearing more meat than bread, you might want to balance things out with some Garlic Bread ($3.50) or the slightly more sophisticated Torrades ($5) – sourdough toast you rub with garlic, drizzle with olive oil and eat with freshly sliced tomato.

Another Spanish product I’m fond of is Queso de Valdeón, a blue cheese that has a good balance of salt and spice. You’ll find in a simple but satisfying bowl of Rigatoni Valdeón ($17) or joining three friends – mozzarella, goats cheese and another Spanish beauty, Manchego – on Cuatros Quesos ($15/small).

This four-cheese pizza's thin, wood-fired base allows the golden cheesy quartet to really shine. Round your meal out from the paddock or the sea. Entrana Con Chimichurri ($16) would have to be the most tender rendition of skirt steak I've tried...

...however the quartet of small, saffron-tinted scallops, Vieiras en Azafran ($16/4), served on their shells, also had its charm.

It's pretty easy to see why this popular, long-standing Spanish restaurant group is busy signing new leases - including most recently in Chifley Square - to deliver their generously proportioned, reasonably priced tapas plates to even wider audiences.

423 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9211 4257

Encasa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato