Amie Barbeler gets an early start on this year's summer drinking...
Everyone knows that getting drunk during the day is one of the best things about summer, and Zanzibar's recently relaunched rooftop bar provides the ideal setting for daytime drinking. While the 1950s backyard Australia-styled rooftop is the star of the show, Zanzibar is essentially three bars in one. Fun fact: the site was first established in 1832 as "new town store" – from which Newtown actually took its name.
I started my afternoon in the sun with what has become my new favourite drink – the Passionfruit Lynchburg ($18) – Jack Daniels, Tuaca, lemon juice, passionfruit pulp and lemonade. Next up, I tried the vibrant Gimlet Grenade ($18) – Bulldog Gin, pomegranate syrup, plum jam and bitters - it tastes like summer and sherbet in a tall glass. Once the sun goes down and you find yourself craving something a little stronger, head down to level two and grab yourself a whiskey at the 1920's themed Lounge Bar.
PS. Check out a food review of this venue HERE.
Rooftop Bar, 323 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9519 1511
Alex Harmon seemed to pick up some free babysitting with her review this week...
Down the business end of The Rocks you’ll find a hole in the wall café that looks like it has been plucked straight from Surry Hills. Outside you can order from the ‘Little City Window’, from stuff like P. B. & J. Toasted Sandwiches ($7.50) and House-made Doughnuts ($4.50) but it’s worth getting cosy inside on the recycled oak furniture.
The extremely charming owner, Ben Sweeten, a veteran of hospitality (this is his seventh cafe) quickly makes you feel at home.
As it’s brunch, we go for Beef Brisket Waffles ($20) with smoked chilli butter and a poached egg – Parks & Recreation fans should appreciate this marriage.
The Quinoa Salad ($17) is crunch and tasty, but a little too goats cheese heavy for me.
The celebrity of the menu has to be the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($17) served tall on a doughnut bun. No, this isn’t riding on the coattails of those omnipresent freak-shakes, this is a sweet brioche-style bun that also houses ‘slaw, pickles and jalapeno aioli – effing epic.
Coffee is from Single Origin and you can get a clairvoyant reading for $15. “Self-taught,” winks Sweeten. With plans for a bar next-door, according to my own crystal ball, this may be one of 2015’s most exciting openings.
Kansas City Shuffle
195 Gloucester Street, The Rocks
Ph: (0415) 362 038
You’ve probably noticed kombucha popping up at farmers’ and organic markets across town. It’s a fermented tea beverage, popular among a range of cultures (Chinese, Japanese and Russian to name a few) for thousands of years. It’s full of live enzymes and probiotics, and is usually drunk with the intention of improving both digestion and aiding general health. Many of my friends are already nursing their own SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) at home, and creating their own favourite kombucha flavours. If this sounds a little scientific, you might want to try a commercially produced variety. Herbs of Life in the Blue Mountains produce the best kombucha I’ve tried, across four different flavours.
Ginger and Lime is the easiest to drink, though the Ginger and Turmeric is possibly the healthiest drink on the market; as not only is kombucha good for you, ginger and turmeric are too!
In fact turmeric has been lauded as one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories, due to the bioactive compound curcumin. It’s also an incredible antioxidant, neutralising free radicals, and stimulating your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
Oh and if all the health benefits don’t sway you, the Herbs of Life Kombucha range make great vodka mixers too! You can pick them up at Alfalfa House in Enmore for around five bucks a bottle.
113 Enmore Road, Enmore
Ph: (02) 9519 3374
Diving into an established all-male Italian kitchen as the new head chef could be daunting (especially as a half-English, half-Welsh woman) but Naomi Lowry has taken it in her stride.
She’s maintained the menu’s confident Southern Italian focus, notching it up with Sardinian Fregola ($27/$35) resplendent with perfectly cooked cuttlefish, calamari, prawns and mussels, and topped with a generous helping of bottarga.
Bottarga also features (albeit with a lighter touch) over beautifully toothsome Pappardelle Verdi ($26/$34) served like a ragu with tender baby octopus.
Both go gangbusters with a smooth, cherry-like 2012 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico ($110) blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from Sicily.
Produce-centred cooking starts with Naomi receiving a 7am call each morning from her seafood providore, giving her the lowdown on the catch of the day.
It ends in plump Yamba Whitebait ($22) joining the menu as an entree special, alongside Coffs Harbour Swordfish ($36) as her fish of the day.
Deep crosshatched grill marks and a juicy moist centre ensures the swordfish sings against a summery panzanella salad and bright green watercress purée.
Where you will see a change at Popolo is in the desserts, where Chef Naomi smiles about “getting to play”.
And her spherical Coconut Panna Cotta ($17) is a showstopper, cracked open tableside to reveal hidden mango purée.
[You can see a previous review for this venue under a different chef back HERE.]
50 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay
Ph: (02) 9361 6641
I'm left with the distinct impression Amie Barbeler prefers her hamburgers cooked...
The Newington on Stanmore Road has been given a new lease of life; getting a fresh lick of paint and recently being re-launched as Public House Petersham – a funky space where the focus is on the community. The traditional pub decor has been ditched and replaced with cool street artworks, pinball machines, a woodfire pizza oven and a shipping container beer garden.
Perfect for sharing on a warm day is the strange but summery Local Haloumi ($24) – a vibrant salad of haloumi, grilled Hawkesbury squid and watermelon.
Feeling daring, I ditched sliders for the Steak Tartare ($22) this week. "It's basically a deconstructed burger," my date offered. A stolen sip of her New Port Sour ($16) – whisky, lemon, sugar and cinnamon bitters – quickly returned my tastebuds to normal. While I love my whisky, I found my summer spirit drink in the Hard Lemonade ($16) - gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon, thyme and in-house lemonade. Yum.
Public House Petersham
292 Stanmore Road, Petersham
Ph: (02) 9568 3703
Ryan Kennedy got to see some Sydney TAFE apprentice chefs in action last month...
On Tuesday 20 October, the Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce held their third Seafood Spectacular to launch Where the Locals Go—a guide promoting the best of the Pyrmont Ultimo precinct.
By way of live theatre, fourteen Sydney TAFE apprentice chefs were turning out fresh seafood canapés at a rate of knots over various bubbling pots and sizzling hot plates in the Sydney Seafood School. With fish and cooking tips stencilled around the walls and a view over the auction floor at the Sydney Fish Market, it was an appropriate scene for eating fresh and tasty pickings, while celebrating one of the precinct’s most iconic venues. With the students doing apprenticeships everywhere from Wenty Leagues to Rockpool, there were a range of ideas on offer, from simple grilled scallops and gently fried curls of squid, to more elaborate Scandinavian-inspired prawns on toast circles, and sesame grilled tuna on guacamole.
Where the Locals Go was published in October as an insert in the City Hub newspaper as well as produced as a stand-alone glossy, booklet distributed throughout Pyrmont, Ultimo, Darling Harbour and the CBD at key retailers and businesses. Keep your eyes peeled for it while shopping locally!
Ryan Kennedy checked out some food for a cause this week...
At The Two Wolves: Community Cantina, the décor tells a worldly story: the ceiling boasts strings of flags and hanging plants, and the walls are festooned with action shots of volunteers and religious paraphernalia. The purpose here is to sell food and drink to raise money for The Cardoner Project, a Jesuit and Catholic youth network that sends volunteers all over the world to help out communities in need.
My religion is a little rusty, but if that means cheap and tasty food that is made for snacking over Beers ($14/student jug) and Sangria ($12/half litre), then I could be a late convert. With noble intent well established, what of the food?
Along with a bunch of media types celebrating The Two Wolves’ opening, I chowed down on some favourites to see if godly intent translated to flavour. Blessedly warm-spiced and flaky Pope Francis’ Spicy Empanadas ($11) were delightful.
Unfortunately, the Korean Fried Chicken ($11) was disappointingly sweet and soggy, and an oddly vinegary dressing let down the vermicelli noodle salad: Sister Hien’s Bun Thit Nuong ($10).
Fortunately, redemption was at hand with dessert, with the Eton-inspired Bellarmine Mess ($6) washing away all earlier sins. If you ever needed an excuse to drink booze and eat empanadas in good faith, this is it.
The Two Wolves
202 Broadway, Chippendale
Ph: (02) 8039 3595
Our understated country waitress is effortlessly beautiful.
She gestures casually out one window to show where the 2014 Logan Sauvignon Blanc ($12/glass) comes from, then the other to indicate the origins of the Pressed Duck ($36) with lentils and heirloom carrots.
If we hadn’t guessed from picturesque grapevines, her nonchalant answer certainly reminded us we weren’t in Sydney anymore. Surrounded by a food bowl, Chef Shaun Arantz employs symbols on his menu to indicate dishes using more than 75% local produce – it’s buy-local on a whole new level.
Throw in quality art, showcased in a beautifully decorated room, and you start to get the impression that country life doesn’t have to be rustic.
Modern techniques used in beautifully presented dishes like Textures of Corn ($25) and Potato, Leek, Onion ($25) help solidify this.
The former combines sweet corn and ginger puree with burnt corn, corn crisps, slow cooked egg, farro, sautéed cubed potato and wood ear mushrooms without losing the integrity and simplicity of the key ingredient: corn.
Heaped pork rillettes prove the highlight of the generous Charcuterie Board ($25).
Finish frosty green Apple ($18), cucumber, honeydew melon and sweetened goat’s cheese, a dish that will cleanse your palate and probably turn your mind to grapes - ideal with so many Orange wineries on your doorstep.
Scratch beneath the hipster veneer and many venues come up lacking.
Underlying kooky décor that includes a glowing sakura ceiling in the upper bar, and erotic shibari prints, Edison bulbs in birdcages and dangling autumnal leaves downstairs, is both clever architecture (courtesy of FJMT who did neighbouring Surry Hills Library) and a raison d’etre.
Fusing Taiwanese street food and Japanese cuisine came about because owner Gemma Lin grew up in a tiny Taiwanese fishing village where “on a clear day, you can see the coast of Okinawa,” her partner Adam Hunt explains.
Taking cocktails with him at the base of a Japanese maple, it’s hard not to share in his enthusiasm for their “bitchin’ bar”.
Our liquid journey flows from the smooth Brand New Old Fashioned ($19) using Nikka from the Barrel, to Brewing Dude Kamoshibito ($36/300ml) from their interesting sake list. It’s perfect if you like full, funky rice flavours.
Chase it with imported Japanese beers, including my favourite Koshihikari Echigo Rice Beer ($16/500ml).
Maintain control using a steady stream of bar bites, from tender sashimi off cuts in Popcorn Fish ($19) to sticky-sweet Buffalo Wings ($19) topped with chilli threads.
Your must-haves both cleverly employ red Sichuan peppercorns – floating in excellent Homemade Miso Soup ($7) and enlivening pickled cabbage accompanying their achingly tender One Bite Beef ($31).
403 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9331 8881
In the realm of adult soft drinks, richly red Sin-kō-nah Tonic Syrup [RRP: $24/200ml] is right up there, and what’s more, it’s Australian. In fact, owner Sarah Robins tells me, Sin-kō-nah “will soon be the only Australian-made tonic syrup as Blood Moon Tonic is closing down.”*
Expect a bittersweet edge from this drink, which contains about a third less sugar than other tonic waters. The flavour comes from cinchona bark (the natural source of quinine) mixed with locally grown citrus and juniper. It’s great as a stand-alone drink lengthened with sparkling water, but it’s even better in a classic gin and tonic. When it comes to matching your gin, you do have to be wary of herbaceous gins in case the botanicals clash. Keeping the Australian focus, Sarah suggested it's “fantastic with Loch Gin - they are small artisan distillers in Gippsland, represented by the Nip of Courage folk.” I tried mine with Bombay Sapphire gin in a side-by-side comparison with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic, and preferred the Sin-kō-nah by far.
While we’re talking Bombay Sapphire, they’re partnering with Biota Dining from 18 November – 5 December on Project Botanicals – a paired cocktail and dining experience focusing upon the botanicals contained in the gin. For $105/head you’ll receive a five-course menu matched to five Bombay Sapphire cocktails. My interest was most piqued by James Viles’ angelica root dish combining soured crème made from local milks and the freshest green peas matched to an angelica celery sour. Book fast, it’s sure to sell out.
*Edit 27/10/15: Sarah contacted me today to say: "We've since heard of McPhail's tonic, they're onto batch no 3 apparently!"