Alex Harmon got her groove on with some Eastern Suburbs soccer Mums...
New is out, converted is in. A disused sports shed in Centennial Park is the latest ‘found café’ to emerge in the fields of Queens Park.
The space is modern and airy, while maintaining the integrity of its past through rustic finishes, quirky light fittings, and a gorgeous water station that employs the original pipes.
The menu is breakfast and lunch (for now) focusing on healthy, affordable choices that reflect the sporting past – or perhaps the present soccer mums. It’s so great to see a Pulled Pork Baguette ($12) that doesn’t arrive in a plastic basket with fries, but with a tangy piccalilli and paprika aioli.
Chicken, Roast Pumpkin and Avocado Salad ($12) is incredibly fresh, and generous for its size, although...
...the Tasmanian Smoked Salmon Salad ($16) with toasted rye seems a little sparse. The menu is purposely priced to suit the takeaway crew in running shorts.
Looking for a dish with some weight? The Wagyu Burger ($14) is tasty and towering. Meanwhile, give the kids a Queens Park Lunchbox ($14) – it’s like an organic Happy Meal.
Queens Park Shed
Coffee is from Toby’s Estate and there are organic sodas and juices; but don’t neglect the water station where you can almost taste the 130-year history of the park.
Darley Road, Queens Park
Ph: (02) 9380 9350
Jason Williams, Group Bars Manager for The Keystone Group can now add ‘world cocktail champion’ to his curriculum vitae after taking out the London final of the Beefeater 24 Cocktail Competition.
Jason is particularly known for his clever gin concoctions at hip rooftop small bar, The Rook.
I popped in recently for a half-lobster...
...(well truth be told, I also tried one of their lobster rolls) and a Florabotanica, Jason’s update of the classic gin sour made on gin, Cointreau, yuzu, rose syrup and bitters. I may have also tried one or two other gin concoctions...
Now if you’re keen to support Sydney’s small bar industry and attend a cocktail bar competition a little closer to home, the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards take over Cockatoo Island on the afternoon of Sunday 1st December. Your fifty buck ticket buys you Havana Club cocktails, Anchor beers, Rekorderlig cider, and Tempus Two wines, as well as DJs and acts including The ReChords.
Level 7, 56-58 York Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 2505
Last week alongside a couple of hundred chefs and restaurateurs, I headed down to Salt Meat Cheese in Alexandria. We were there for the launch of Sydney’s latest entry in the restaurant guide scene: the 2014 Gault & Millau Sydney Restaurant Guide [RRP $24.99]. This is the international company’s first foray into Australian waters, with plans to launch a Melbourne guide next year. While they certainly made a splash with singers and their own yellow “go me-yo” vehicle driving through the crowd, the guide itself seems a bit hit and miss. What I liked seeing was venues like Glebe’s constantly overlooked Restaurant Atelier get the 16/20 that it has long deserved. What I didn’t like was the ‘mouthwatering’ advertorial style of writing that gives the reader little indication as to whether or not they’ll like a venue; and also fails to give the restaurant any indication of where it might have gone wrong. Excluding some Sydney gems like The Woods and Café Opera (see my review) also implies that these restaurants are below the guide’s minimum standard, which (if my meals were anything to go by) clearly ain’t the case.
Here's a list of the restaurants this new guide contains and their scores, with my reviews linked if I have also reviewed them, and BOLD text to indicate that I've dined at them but not published a review.
Five Hats (18.5 to 19 points)
Momofuku Seiōbo, Quay, Sepia
Four Hats (17 to 18.4 points)
Billy Kwong, The Bridge Room, Chiswick Restaurant and Bar, est., Gastro Park, Jonah's Restaurant, Marque, MoVida, Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sean's Panaroma, sixpenny, Tetsuya's
Three Hats (15 to 16 points)
Altitude Restaurant, ARIA Restaurant, Arras, The Bathers' Pavilion, Bei Amici, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Berowra Waters Inn, Bistro Boulevard, BLACK by Ezard, Busshari, Cafe Sydney, Cara & Co, Catalina, China Doll, Clareville Kiosk, Cottage Point Inn, The Cut Bar & Grill, The Devonshire, Fix St James, Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, 4Fourteen, Four in Hand Dining Room, Fratelli Paradiso, Kitchen by Mike, Longrain, Lucio's, Ms. G's, Otto Ristorante, Pendolino, Pilu at Freshwater, Pony Dining, Popolo, Porteno, Restaurant Atelier, Spencer Guthrie, Spice Temple, Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar, Tomislav Restaurant, Uccello, Verde Restaurant + Bar, Vini
Two Hats (13 to 14 points)
A Tavola, Agape Organic Restaurant, Almond Bar, Ananas Bar & Brasserie, The Apollo, Aqua Dining, Ash St. Cellar, Azuma, Balla, Bambini Trust, Bar H, Barbuto Restaurant, Baroque Bistro Patisserie, Barrenjoey House, Barrio Chino, Bellevue Dining Room, Berta, Bishop Sessa, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode CBD, Blancharu, bloodwood, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, Bondi's Best, Bronte Road Bistro, Buffalo Dining Club, Buon Ricordo, The Burlington, Burnt Orange, Buzo Trattoria, Cafe Lyon, Chef's Gallery, China Beach, Chophouse, Cipri Italian, Cucinetta Ristorante & Bar, deviate, The Dining Room, The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen, Dunes Restaurant & Kiosk, Enopizzeria, Felix, The Fish Shop, Foley Lane, Foveaux Restaurant & Bar, Garfish Manly, Ginger & Spice, glass brasserie, Glebe Point Diner, Gowings Bar & Grill, Grecian Blue, Hartsyard, honeycomb, House, Hugos Manly, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, il perugino, Intermezzo Ristorante, Jah Bar, Kabuki Shoroku, Kalevu, Kobe Jones Teppanyaki, Letoile, La Rosa Bar & Pizza, La Tratt, La Trattoria on Norton, Luke Benchmark, Malabar Darlinghurst, Manly Wine, Manta, Mexicano, Mission Restaurant and Bar, Morena, Mr Wong, Neptune Palace, Neutral Bay Diner, Nilgiri's, North Bondi Italian Food, O Bar and Dining, Ocean Room, Ormeggio at The Spit, Orto Trading Co, Oscillate Wildly, The Owl House, The Pantry, PaperPlanes, Pizza Mario, Pompei's, Public Dining Room, Red Lantern on Crown, Restaurant 16, Ripples Chowder Bay, Ripples Milsons Point, Ripples Sydney Wharf, Rocket Restaurant, Sails on Lavender Bay, Sake Restaurant & Bar, the sardine room, Signorelli Gastronomia, Sokyo, Spice I Am Darlinghurst, Starfish Avalon, Steel Bar & Grill, sugarcane, Sugaroom, sushi e, tapioca, The Tea Room Gunner's Barracks, Three Blue Ducks, Toko Restaurant & Bar, Ume, Verandah Restaurant & Wine Bar, Wilbur's Place, Wildfire, The Wine Library, Xanthi, Yoshii, Zaaffran
One Hat (11 to 12 points)
Aki’s Indian, Angel Restaurant, Antoine’s Grill, BAHBW, Banjo Patterson Cottage Restaurant, Bau Truong, Beppi’s, bills, Bistro Bruno, Bitton Café & Grocer, Blue Eye Dragon, The Boathouse Palm Beach, Booth St Bistro, Brown Sugar, Café Sopra, The Carrington, Cavallino, Chairman Mao, Chat Thai, Chinta Ria Mood for Love, The Cook’s Garden, Courtney’s Brasserie, Danny’s Seafood, Delicado Foods, Din Tai Fung World Square, The Eathouse Diner, Efendy, Emmilou, Fei Jai, Firefly Neutral Bay, Fish Face, 42 Bannerman Trattoria e Bar, Galileo Restaurant, Garfish Crows Nest, Garfish Kirribilli, Gazebo Wine Bar, Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, Grappa Ristorante e Bar, The Grounds of Alexandria, HaNa Ju-Rin, Harvest Store & Kitchen, Hickson Road Bistro, High St Bistro, Home Thai, Hugos Bar Pizza, Iron Chef Chinese Seafood Restaurant, Izakaya Fujiyama, Jamie’s Italian, Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi, Kazbah Balmain, Kobe Jones Sydney, Kujin, La Brasserie, La Grand Bouffe, La Grillade, La Pesa Trattoria, La Scala on Jersey, Lachlan’s Restaurant, love.fish, Lucio Pizzeria, Machiavelli Ristorante, Malabar Crow’s Nest, The Malaya, Mamak, The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room, New Shanghai, Nostos, The Old Library, Oliveto Ristorante & Bar, Osteria Riva, Palace Chinese Restaurant, Palings, Parma, Pony Neutral Bay, Quattro Paste, Queenies, Radio Cairo, Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant, Red Lantern on Riley, Rengaya, Ripples Whale Beach, The Riverview Hotel Dining Room, Safi, Sakana-Ya, Seven Lanterns, Spice I Am Balmain, Stella Blu, Stuyvesant’s House, Szechuan Garden Restaurant, Temasek, 3 Weeds Restaurant, Treehouse, The Union Restaurant, Via Napoli Pizzeria, Vicinity Dining, WAQU, Wildwater Grill, The Winery
In the shadow of their popular buffet, lies one of Sydney’s most underrated restaurants. Despite being missed by both the SMH Good Food Guide and Gault & Millau, the dishes here warrant attention.
From the opening Apple Wood Smoked Duck ($17) pate and candied quinoa lollipops, and leafy green hillock of Grima’s Farm Red Radishes ($15), it’s clear that my meal here will be something special.
The later is esoteric and insubstantial, and while it definitely floated my boat, my dining companion termed it “elf food”.
He was however a convert to the Grilled Cotton Bay Sardine ($16) that employed coal smoke, fennel and crisp sardine skin to expertly balance what he'd normally consider too oily a fish.
While he waxed lyrical on little fishes, I lost my head in a textural Slow Cooked Egg ($27) accentuated by morels, mullet bottarga, salmon roe and a surprising Cups Estate 2006 Merlot ($10/glass) match.
We met again over an ode to Spring - Flinders Island Lamb ($37) - as Chef Julien Pouteau entered the dining room to deliver...
...a goat’s foam so perfect it felt one step removed from suckling an udder’s teat.
Dish-by-dish wine matching makes drinking against this imaginative, produce-driven menu a breeze, particularly if you’re both partial to different wines.
Intercontinental Sydney, 117 Macquarie Street, Circular Quay
Ph: (02) 9253 9396
The Robin Hood Hotel’s distinctive wedge-shaped Art Deco silhouette has long fascinated me on drives through Charing Cross.
(If you’re scratching your head, we’re talking about the intersection of Bronte Road and Carrington Road in Waverley.)
Inside the architecture is shown off to good advantage with a light, open plan front bar that lends itself to daytime thirty-somethings keen for a drink...
...without ruling out pleasing twenty-somethings who pile in for DJs after 10pm on Saturday night.
And despite the odd hipster font used here and there, it’s still the kind of suburban local where you can go without a beard or full-sleeve tattoo.
The menu is short and to the point, but there’s nothing wrong with pub classics when they’re handled well.
Chicken Parmigiana ($17) gives a good slab of schnitzel, with basil leaves and leg ham tucked between the toppings of tomato and gooey cheese.
With decent chips, salad and a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale ($7.70/bottle) lunch is pretty much sorted – unless you wanna split some spicy Buffalo Wings ($12)?
Rested a moment longer, the 250g Grain Fed Rump Steak ($12) with creamy mash and well-executed vegies would win my vote for the best-value pub steak in the East; and their pinot-heavy bottle shop is beaut too!
*This was my PUB OF THE WEEK on 2GB 873 Fresh! with Luke Grant & Luke Mangan
on Sunday 17th November, 2013: http://www.2gb.com/article/fresh-sunday-n
Robin Hood Hotel
203 Bronte Road, Waverley
Ph: (02) 9389 3477
After the raging success of their October-long Veuve Clicquot pop-up, Bullion Bar at The Mint, the Trippas White Group have cleverly relaunched the space with another bubbling golden liquid.
Luckily I was on hand for the launch of their Moët & Chandon pop-up, as there were countless gold-plated goblets of Moët & Chandon Impérial to be consumed!
Upstairs on The Mint balcony, guests were treated to canapes created by Moët & Chandon Chef de Cuisine Pascal Tingaud.
They were designed to compliment a range of Moët & Chandon Champagnes, including the Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2002...
...which came up strawberries against a quail egg topped beef tartare en croute. As Chef Tingaud says: "For me, champagne is the most open wine you can have."
We moved inside for a three-course meal also designed by Tingaud, though it was executed by The Mint's Chef Brad Jones...
...to ensure we got the pleasure of Chef Pascal Tingaud's company in the dining room.
Our meal began with snapper ceviche, smartly complimented by a Moët foam.
This was followed by a beautifully plated honey peppered spiced duck breast with heirloom carrots, beetroot and caramelised plum, that proved another good match to the lovely Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2002.
It would have been my Champagne of the evening had the evocative wobble of the textbook coconut panna cotta not beguiled me into loving the fruity Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial best.
The Alternative Media Group Bar Fly was also looking rather beguiling, pictured here with Chef de Cuisine Pascal Tingaud.
At the conclusion of our evening, Chef Brad Jones introduced his kitchen crew for some well-earned applause.
You can visit the Moët & Chandon pop-up at Bullion Bar any Wednesday, Thursday or Friday evening between 3pm and 9pm between now and the 20th December, 2013.
The Mint, 10 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9233 3337
When vivacious owner Sonia Jabbour met me at a party, she declared that she sold the best cinnamon scrolls in Sydney!
Cue me: in Hurstville, the very next Saturday, there to test her claim. Her husband, Tony Jabbour is the baker.
He reinvigorated his Lebanese pizza shop by developing these amazingly moist Cinnamon Scrolls ($15/6) blanketed in icing sugar.
The recipe took him six months to perfect, but now he tells me: “I’ve got four people working every night upstairs, just making scrolls.”
They come in a battalion of flavours from Salted Caramel ($5.90); to a jam-filled Aussie fav. Lamington ($5.90); to my preferred option: Tahini, Sesame and Pistachio ($5.90).
Filled with halva mousse, the latter unites the two seemingly disparate themes of this bakery together.
So, do park yourself at the comfortable communal table in this gleaming white store, for a preliminary (four) Cheese Pizza ($6.50) or...
...an even-better Sonia Special Wrap ($9).
Not a man to rest on his laurels,Tony’s already working on his next big thing – a Scroll/Croissant/Doughnut ($4.50) hybrid.
It’s light and slightly savoury; the perfect foil to my De Gabriel Latte ($3.80), made by their son - and bakery heir - Jayden, sporting a cute topknot in his hair.
And for the record: yes, they’re the best scrolls I’ve eaten.
1/56 Connells Point Road, Hurstville South
Ph: (02) 9546 3666
Chipping through the brickwork to reveal the Asian heart of Walsh Bay, this new dumpling hot spot is already attracting quite a crowd!
The aesthetic is post-industrial Shanghai steampunk, with vintage Edison light globes hanging over a gleaming copper bar...
...and copper utility pipes echoed in footrests, handrails and shelving.
Overhead, boulders in bondage (faux-concrete planters) dangle, whilst on each table pretty ceramics house the requisite chilli, vinegar and soy.
Yes, you’re here for dumplings, and those emerging from the kitchen of Dan Hong graduate Neo Ni, pack quite a punch!
Scallop and Vegetable Shumai ($13.80/4) were an easy favourite; and while some – like Prawn Dumplings ($13.80/4) – might...
...lack the gossamer skins you find elsewhere, they win hands down on flavour.
Accompany them with a kick-ass Burning Mandarin ($18) from their small but exciting cocktail list.
Despite being sorely tempted to explore it further, my Pan Fried Pork and Baby Bok Choy Potstickers ($10.80/4) had me craving Chinese TsingTao Beer ($10).
It arrived in time to accompany Steamed Fish ($28) and a gleaming collection of Wok Fried Green Beans ($18).
Chef Ni dresses them in the usual minced pork, with a leftfield mustard and olive twist, and they’re utterly compelling!
You know, fast pre-theatre food is rarely this exciting…
Lotus Dumpling Bar
3/16 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Ph: (02) 9251 8328
This stately two-storey heritage listed hotel looks like a country pub. Built in 1887, it’s wrapped by wide verandahs.
The downstairs one is the perfect place to sink a ten-buck Frozen Margarita ($10) on a sunny day, watching the people of Randwick pass by.
Though the beer list doesn’t have much to write home about, there’s wine by the bottle for around forty bucks – the Leo Buring Dry Riesling ($43/bottle) is my list favourite.
While the sports bar looks like somewhere you might tangle in a tussle, the rest of this large hotel is bling chandeliers and tasteful art!
And don’t even get me started about the boutique hotel-style accommodation they’ve created upstairs!
Consider splashing out on a date night Queen Room ($150/night), and take in all that Randwick has to offer.
(This ain’t no Formula One style cheap hotel, what with crisp white sheets, fluffy double pillows, and a shabby chic chandelier dangling over the bed!)
As for the eats, they’re another Danny Russo pub menu renovation (last seen at The Oaks).
Here value is the key, with the (sadly grain fed) Rib Eye on the Bone ($27/400g) as the most expensive menu item.
My pick’s his juicy Royal Wagyu Burger ($16) – a cut above your average meat’n’bun affair.
*This was my PUB OF THE WEEK on 2GB 873 Fresh! with Luke Grant & Luke Mangan
on Sunday 10th November, 2013: http://www.2gb.com/article/fresh-sunday-n
Royal Hotel Randwick
2 Perouse Road, Randwick
Ph: (02) 9399 3006
Proving neatly that you can get crabs, even if you use protection, I gloved up and donned a bib for the launch of House of Crabs.
In a flurry of fairy lights and crab pots, they’ve taken over the first floor of The Norfolk Hotel; and suddenly Sydney has its first American seafood boil (common in coastal areas of the United States, like Louisiana and Coney Island).
First pick your seafood from a list that includes Littleneck Clams, Blue Swimmer Crab and King Crab, then pick your sauce (Old Bay is a crab spice blend that originated in Chesapeake Bay).
What could be more communal than tucking into a messy bag of crustaceans with friends?
Now, while we’re talking about Jamie Wirth and his Drink’n'Dine group, my eyes are already set on their next venture: Petersham’s The Oxford. I’m hearing whispers the Inner West will score an American BBQ with a Jelly Wrestle dessert that pays homage to the hotel’s past! Latex gloves may also feature…
House of Crabs
Level 1, 305 Cleveland Street, Redfern
Ph: (02) 9699 3177