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Event - Brix Distillers Turns One

Sydney was built on rum. In our early colonial days, rum was used as currency. When Governor Bligh, under instruction from the Colonial Office, tried to prohibit the use of spirits as payment, he was overthrown in an 1808 military coup known as the Rum Rebellion. While the coup was about more than just grog, it certainly centralised the spirit in our history. So, if we’ve been drinking rum since 1788, how is it that Sydney only has one craft rum distillery? On the advent of their first birthday, I headed to Brix Distillery to find out…

You’ll find the distillery on Bourke Street at the base of a beautiful plant-draped eight-storey concrete residential block designed by Woods Bagot.

Brix Distillery is the brainchild of a trio of rum drinkers - Damien Barrow, James Christopher and Siddharth Soin – who you might know from Cammeray’s The Public.

We wanted to make a product that we could take out into the world and show people, not just wait for them to come into our bar,” James Christopher explains, as he takes me on a distillery tour.

Brix have a core range of three products - White, Gold and Spiced Rum – made by former Archie Rose Distillery head distiller, Shane Casey.

Tonight, on the occasion of their first birthday, they’re launching a limited release Citrus Got Real ($99/700ml) rum made using limes from a McLaren Vale winemaker. This citrussy rum is made using lime skin and lime leaves gathered from a McLaren Vale winemaker, sugar cane juice and native lemongrass. It's a tart, summery drop that will appeal to limoncello drinkers. While it’s lovely on ice, for their birthday bash they’re lengthening it into a spritz with soda water and mint. I can also imagine it would make a great rum hot toddy in winter.

The base spirit is their own Brix White ($75/700ml). To understand why they can’t call it rum you need to look to the federal Excise Act (1901), which stipulates brandy, whisky or rum manufactured in Australia must be aged in wood for at least two years.

To call it white rum, the Brix crew would have to stick it in a barrel for two years, then charcoal filter it, by which time the price would be too prohibitive for a drink we tend to use in cocktails. Brix White has a clean, spicy flavour that would work over ice or with FeverTree tonic as an aperitif, or with a sugar cube and a squeeze of lime as a rum punch.

It’s made here in the Surry Hills distillery using premium quality Australian molasses. Molasses is a waste product that comes when you’re making sugar from sugar cane. At the rougher end, it’s salty and complex, and usually used as stock feed because it has high nutrient and potassium levels. The highest quality molasses is the stuff left behind when raw sugar is refined to white sugar. It loses the plant-like complexity and becomes a caramel coloured toffee syrup. Brix take this high-grade molasses and mix it with carbon-filtered Sydney water to make it thin enough for yeast to penetrate it. This wash is transferred to the fermenter where yeast is added. Fermentation produces heat and spits out carbon dioxide bubbles into a bucket as the yeast gobbles up the sugar and creates ethanol.

Alcohol is extracted from the mash through distillation, which is done at Brix in a beautiful 1200-litre copper still. There it’s boiled at a temperature just below that of boiling water, so the alcohol evaporates, climbs up the column of the still as a gas, passing through copper plates along the way to pull out the sulphur. Esters and flavours come from the shape of the still, as well as the molasses they started with. The vapour enters the swan neck or line arm, and finally is cooled using water so it turns back into a clear liquid.

From that point it can be aged, spiced mixed or blended, which is where the craft element comes in. Brix are currently aging rum in Australian wine barrels from NSW wineries including Brokenwood and De Iuliis. They’re also sharing American oak bourbon barrels with Stockade Brewing Co. in Marrickville who have already used the barrels for stout, and will take them back later to make beer in a rum barrel.

While their own rums won't be ready until at least 2021, Brix have put their stamp onto Brix Gold ($87/700ml) by blending two Caribbean rums aged for five and eight years in American oak bourbon barrels in Barbados, then diluted here in Surry Hills using carbon filtered Sydney water. Brix Gold is a lovely sipper that starts hot, then moves through honeycomb to some bourbon characteristics from the barrels. Drink it in a Dark’n’Stormy, a rum Old-Fashioned or just enjoy it over an ice cube. The same rum also forms the base of their Brix Spiced ($87/700ml) where Brix White is infused in different vats with their own blend of botanicals that include fresh Queensland mangos, macadamias, ruby grapefruit, native Australian bush currants and lemongrass, Tongan vanilla and Sri Lankan cinnamon. Rather than the usual fruitcake, Brix Spiced comes up Jaffas for me, with vanilla and hints of fruit and nuts. I reckon it begs to be in a martini style cocktail with a chocolate rim, though I quite enjoy it served Mixed with Capi Ginger Ale ($12) as they serve it in their distillery bar.


Along with their core range, the bar is stocked with more than a hundred-and-fifty rums. Christopher names Santa Teresa 1796 as a personal favourite, though I encourage you to make your own exploration against their menu of South American inspired eats by Colombian chef Ivan Sanchez (ex-Bodega and Porteno). You can also take your own distillery tour and tasting ($35/head) or masterclass ($120/head) where you can make your own spiced rum and take it away with you.

Brix Distillers
350 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9360 5441

Brix Distillers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Granata's

It’s hot and dry on the day I visit Pemulwuy. The suburb is named for an Aboriginal resistance fighter, who battled incursions of British settlers for his homeland, focusing on the nearby Toongabbie settlement.

Today, row after row of identikit multi-storey homes in neutral shades with alternating bright feature walls so you can tell your house from your neighbour’s, seem to imply that resistance is futile. Each house butts up against the next, taking up every permitted inch of land. The divided roads are populated with nature strips; trees planted equidistant from the next, their leaves that particularly Australian shade of olive drab. For two hundred years, this land was used as a quarry, but in 2004 it became a new suburb, and these were the residential developments that followed.

Granata’s has been part of the Pemulwuy landscape for six years.

Run by the Granata family, who are now Merrylands locals after spending thirteen years in the Inner West, this popular spot builds upon their experience at Via Leoni Ristorante in Five Dock.

It’s Real Housewives territory and my dining companion is quickly settled at an outside table with a glass of Lisa Vanderpump Sangria ($8) rounded out with fresh fruit and ice by the restaurant. Taken from a short wine list where everything comes in under fifty bucks a bottle, it’s surprisingly good, with a tannic tea-like grip that dries up nicely on the palate. I suffice with on-tap Peroni ($9.50/500ml) served ice cold to make it a perfect antidote to the hot day.

A bowl of crumbed, feta-stuffed olives kicks off our eats, though the real stars are the Flambe Olives ($18), cooked with Sambuca, brown sugar, olive oil, rosemary and chilli. Accompanied by sticks of pliable pizza bread that you can use to gobble up the tasty juices, these high-quality mixed olives easily justify the outlay.

You guys are lucky! Nonna was here today,” the youngest Granata enthuses as she lands our Polpette ($16). Nonna has a light touch; her not-too-dense meatballs are easy to enjoy against bright Napoletana sauce and toasted bread.

While the menu focuses upon home-style Italian dishes, the Granata’s team “sometimes venture out of the Italian,” Gino Granata explains. He cites the day’s special – a teriyaki chicken stuffed G’s Cheese Stick ($18) as an exemplar - but I’m personally more swayed by the plain version.

The tasty cheese bread sees well-scorched pizza dough folded around a non-oily melted white cheese from Chicago. With a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of rocket leaves, it’s rather compelling!

Grooving along to a solid Nineties soundtrack that jumps from the Spice Girls to Fat Boy Slim to Right Said Fred, we wait for our main meal in this upbeat, family-focussed space. A steady procession of children are escorted past our table to play in the park that forms the restaurant's view.

From the specials board, we opt to eat Creamy Veal Pappadelle ($32), which showcases Granata’s in-house pasta making skills. The thick, hand-cut ribbons of pasta arrive well-coated in an reduced creamy sauce that punches savoury mid-palate quite intensely. The pliable pasta is tangled up with broccolini, mushrooms, veal mince and cherry tomatoes, then freshened up with continental parsley for a robust dish.

Bought in Cannoli ($4.50/each) from Leichhardt’s star Italian pasticceria, Mezzapica, are filled in-house with creamy ricotta and pistachio, yogurt-like chocolate or vanilla.

They’re a good finish for a spot that eats better than the traditional Italian menu reads. Granata's also have the flexibility to give Pemulwuy residents exactly what they want - even if it is teriyaki chicken in an Italian cheese stick.

4 Bellevue Circuit, Pemulwuy
Ph: (02) 9896 4333

Granata's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Soul Dining

With an ellipse of yellow light looping overhead against theatrically blacked out fittings, distressed charcoal concrete walls with splats of exposed bricks, and a serpentine logo that summons caped crusaders, Soul Dining has an edgy, contemporary feel.

It’s a first restaurant for Illa Kim and Daero Lee, with a menu that reflects their both their Korean heritage and their personal pathways to Sydney, which included time in Germany for Kim, and time as head chef in an Italian restaurant (Criniti’s) for Lee. Explaining the origins of dishes, and their connection to Korean cuisine, causes their old friend and third partner in the business, Hyunchul Kim, to giggle to himself more than once.

From the substantial back bar in the rear, I kick off with a kimchi-brine enhanced Bloody Mary ($20). It reminds me of the tomato and clam-broth based version of this cocktail, the (Bloody) Caesar, which emerged in Canada in 1969. Appropriately to the Italianate techniques used in this restaurant, the original cocktail was said to be based upon spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with tomato sauce and clams). I sip the tangy, dill-garnished drink against bread switched out for spongy rice cakes, lathered with salt sprinkled butter.

Encouraged into a Tasting Menu ($65/person) for our first visit, we kick off with a reduced portion of Kingfish in Kimchi Water ($24). Here four toothsome slices of the raw, pale-fleshed fish are topped with white kimchi, creamy avocado mousse and soybean paste with chilli and radish toppers. It’s a good match to the cocktail, though for the rest of the menu the one-page wine list offers a Brave Souls ‘Lighthouse Keeper’ Riesling ($12/glass) from the Barossa Valley that’s very cuisine appropriate. Alternatively, there’s beer – Korean and Australian – plus soju and makgeolli, both served here with added flavouring, perhaps to help ease in drinkers unfamiliar with traditional Korean alcohols.

Wagyu Tartare ($24), served on crisp witlof boats, is made even more accessible with a quick lick of the blowtorch. It’s kept fresh and summery with pear and radish mixed through the lightly torched mince with golden yolk to bind it all together.

Lewd curls of Corn on the Cob ($15) are finger-lickin' good, lathered in garlic butter and dragged through crème fraiche to make pistachio crumbs stick.

Zucchini Flower Mandu ($24) might be called dumplings here, but they look like pretty standard Italian battered zucchini flowers to me. The Korean twist comes from a filling of tofu cream, shiitake mushrooms and chives, and a soy and chilli-based sipping sauce.

Gnocchi ‘Gang-Doenjang’ ($27) isn’t actually on the tasting menu, because the eye-catching cheese-joined gnocchi topper has to be fried off full-size. For a small surcharge ($8/each), the kitchen is happy to accommodate our request to try the popular dish, which slathers tender beef cheeks in a tasty, thick peanut-studded soybean sauce before crowning the lot with the golden pan-fried gnocchi cap.

Barbecue Beef Short Rib ($38) is given a French-style sous-vide cook before being served up on the bone with elegant potato pave and galbi jus. The golden bricks of pressed, creamy potato and tender sliced rib slices help take the flavours of traditional Korean galbi somewhere quite refined.

We end with a shared crepe parcel stuffed with mascarpone and ice cream. It’s drizzled with jochung, which is a dark rice syrup Korean sweetener that is reminiscent of salted caramel, and dusted with soybean powder. It’s just the kind of cross-cultural mashup I want to be eating on a plush, royal blue banquette, in the formerly vibrant restaurant strip on Devonshire Street, Surry Hills. Here's hoping Soul Dining helps restore this eat street to its former, pre-light rail glory.

Soul Dining
204 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (0430) 961 007

Soul Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Gami Chicken & Beer

Gami Chicken & Beer are an Australian chain of Korean fried chicken stores. The popular chain is the work of four former Korean students who studied together at Monash University in Melbourne. Central Park is the first of two NSW outlets, with another one in the ACT, and a pair over on the west coast of Australia, joining the tonne of shops across Victoria.

While it begs to be treated as late night drunk food, Gami Central Park closes at 9pm each night, with an 8.30pm last order deadline. We start drinking early and scrape in at cut-off time, joining a crowd of mostly young people. We’re quickly seated in the brightly lit space, decorated with a shipping container corrugated iron aesthetic painted in the brand’s key colours – bright yellow and royal blue. Taking in a mural by Brooklyn-based Aussie artist, Brolga, our heads are quickly bopping to Kideko’s The Jam. The whole soundtrack feels like being at Day Club – a phenomenon that Sydneysiders enjoyed before the current NSW Government ruined everything (including late night kitchens).

Needless to say, as hungry drinkers, our first need is beer, and Gami obliges with on-tap Gun:Bae ($6/300ml) that you can also have by the Jug ($19.50) or Oak Keg ($64) if you were smart enough to descend upon Gami with a big enough crew. It’s a quaffable, slightly cloudy pale lager made exclusively for Gami by Thunder Road Brewing in Brunswick.

We clean our palates for the Korean fried chook onslaught with cubes of pickled daikon. From the selection that includes their popular boneless chicken, we opt for a Half Chook ($19.50). These tasty, bone-in fried chicken morsels are coated with Gami’s signature seasoning mix of mystery herbs and spices, then slathered with sweet chilli, soy garlic or spicy chilli (each of which can also be served as a dipping sauce on the side).

Taken in spicy, the RSPCA-approved chook is genuinely hot – the fierceness sets it apart from many other over-sweet Korean fried chicken that I’ve tried.

Moderate it with forays into the accompanying cabbage coleslaw or pile it up onto your plate with a topping of stringy-sweet Corn Cheese ($11).

While the keen-to-close kitchen rushed out this hot plate of seasoned corn kernels topped with scorched mozzarella cheese, meaning it was a bit too milky, it’s still delicious smeared over chook or jeon. At Gami the traditional Kimchi Pancake ($16) sees coarsely cut kimchi, onion and shallots coated in pancake batter and fried until it’s a semi-crisp orange disc. It arrives with a soy and rice vinegar dressing that cuts through the stodge rather nicely.

With the aptly named Potato Heaven ($16) being somewhat of a Gami signature, we’re unable to say no to some layered cheesy potato goodness. While it’s slightly sweet from plentiful lashings of sweet chilli sauce, the sour cream topped dish sandwiches melted mozzarella cheese between creamy mashed potato and wedges – it’s nothing a pot of Spicy Chilli ($2) can’t fix. When you combine this mash, the coleslaw and your spicy fried chook together, you’ll wonder why all your childhood memories of KFC family boxes suddenly seem lifeless and bland.

Gami Chicken & Beer
Lower Ground, Central Park Mall,
28 Broadway, Chippendale
Ph: (02) 8067 0304

Gami Chicken and Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Peca

Despite growing up in Sydney’s South West, I’d never even heard of Gledswood Hills before dining at Peca. Feeling out of touch was eased when I found out the suburb, named for the 1830 Gledswood Homestead, only came into being in 2011. As with many newer suburbs, random corner stores and double-sided main drags lined with shops and restaurants, have given way to drive-in retail precincts. Accordingly, you’ll find Peca inside SOMA Wellness – a one-stop medical hub where you’ll find everything from chiropractic to pathology.

While the exterior architecture is reasonably plain and functional, experienced Western Sydney restaurateur Antonio Tarzia, has certainly made the most of the double-storey interior space.

Licensed to take 380-people, 140 of whom will be in the yet-to-be-launched upstairs space, Peca is South Western Sydney’s new place to celebrate.

Despite only opening earlier this year, Tarzia tells me weekend functions are already fully booked out until the end of the year.


The interior is slick and contemporary, with double height allowing room for dangling statement lights. The extra air space is also filled with small trees housed in concrete-look pots that help to break up the room.

The openness, especially when combined with so many hard surfaces, running from polished aggregate floors to a marble bar, will undoubtedly be loud when Peca is at capacity.

We smartly slide in for a quiet mid-week dinner, and accordingly get good access to Tarzia’s time. He shepherds us through an unfamiliar wine list that currently centres upon Italy but will later expand to include some Croatian wines to match the menu's coastal Adriatic leanings.

For now, they just use Graševina in the Port Lincoln Mussels ($26) where the light, fruit-forward Croatian wine makes a delicate broth that leaves a lovely hole to taste bivalves.

It’s rounded out with cherry tomatoes (pomodorini), chilli, shallots and subtly-handled garlic in a dish that will have you crying out for focaccia even if you initially said no bread.

We were also wrong about not ordering warmed Toolunka Creek Olives ($8), but it was easily rectified.

Our Sicilian 2016 Nino Barraco Vignammare Grillo IGP ($95) is a seafood wine, with enough oomph to stretch to the excesses of porchetta (Italy’s fatty, spit-roasted pig). It’s salty, minerally and fruit-driven, with a medium weight and well-sold by Tarzia to match our dinner that kicks off with well-handled South Australian Sardines ($24). Lightly grilled and balanced by a caper and parsley vinaigrette, their liquid surrounds present another use for the almost cakey bread.

Western Australian Scampi ($32) arrive looking a little cremated, even in the super-low light room, but in fact turn out to be beautifully cooked. The creamy moist crustaceans get a wonderful flavour infusion from the smoked rosemary butter and confit garlic – I only wished there were more of them.

Peca is not solely about seafood – their Gnudi ($18) are not to be overlooked. These pillowy-soft cousins of gnocchi are made with seventy percent ricotta, and served in a burnt butter sauce with sage, pancetta and almonds, the richness cut by a whisker of sharpness.

Granita Limone ($5) will also help to put your palate back together before your main, with today's flavour being a pretty basil and lychee combination. I also highly recommend adding locally grown Lettuce Leaves ($10) to your meal. With a trickle of white balsamic, these Leppington-grown greens arrive looking so fresh, it’d be easy to think they were still planted.

They’ll help you digest Pugliese Grain-Fed Porchetta ($36) that arrives glistening with extra virgin olive oil and raw honey pan jus, cut slightly by caponata.

Lucky it’s very thinly sliced, because against copious servings of Whipped Polenta ($12), brown butter and sautéed local mushrooms, it’s the kind of artery-hardening dish that cardiologists’ fortunes are made upon. Peca’s polenta, by the way, is next level amazing; I like it so much I’m tempted to swap bowls and make my Carnaroli Risotto ($30) our shared side.

Dotted with peas, crisp smoked pancetta and lily pads of stracciatella cheese, this risotto has a lovely savoury flavour, though I personally prefer rice with more bite. It’s a small critique for a new restaurant that really builds upon Tarzia’s success with Grano in Wetherill Park. South Western Sydney should be very proud.

SOMA Wellness,
No. 7 Gregory Hills Drive, Gledswood Hills
Ph: (02) 4622 0812

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


Review - Cucina Espresso

Cucina Espresso has racked up nearly eight years of operation. You’ll find the family-run café in Concord’s main shopping strip, which takes up the better part of three blocks of Majors Bay Road.

Cafes and restaurants make up a good many of the businesses in this strip, so competition for the weekend breakfast spend is fierce.

Cucina Espresso have risen to the challenge with an expanded menu of unique breakfast items, all while keeping a core menu for the bacon-and-eggs brigade.

Rather than employing fusion, chef Carlo Calautti’s menu innovations are unified by staying faithful to Italianate flavours and techniques.

His Breakfast Arancini ($16.90) is a moment of pure genius. To make it, Calautti captures a soft poached egg and a scoop of mixed mushrooms inside a porcini and truffle-infused potato and rice arancini. It’s presented on an artful splat of truffle porcini cream, with Bacon ($2), if you so desire.

Cutting into the beautifully crumbed ovoid sees oozing golden yolk mingle beautifully with the earthy, creamy flavours of the truffle cream. While the price might seem expensive for a reasonably small breakfast, it accurately reflects the amount of work that goes into making this clever dish.

Saturday sees this popular café bustling with business, both takeaway and eat-in, with many opting to sit in the narrow but attractively kitted out interior. Despite the cold and windy day, we opt to sit outside at their sidewalk tables, and quickly attended to by friendly staff who get a heater lit for us, and the gas bottle changed as soon it extinguishes.

Coffee, made on quality Little Marionette roasted beans, arrives promptly and is well made, across both a Caffe Latte ($4) and a Flat White ($4) with an Extra Shot ($0.50). Additional beverages are offered without the need to flag down staff.

We’re told chilli oil is the most requested item at Cucina Espresso by a friendly waitress, who procures us some immediately to go with our baked eggs. This is another category where Calautti has worked his magic, kicking off with the usual tomato-based offering, and adapting it into six different baked egg renditions.

Uovo Aglio, Olio e Peperoncini ($18) sees the eggs baked in extra virgin olive oil, Mexican garlic, chill, parsley and buffalo mozzarella, then topped with shaved grana Padano. For an extra five bucks you can throw in moist curls of quality prosciutto and wild rocket leaves. This dish feels both fresh and satisfying when scraped onto the toasted pane di casa that surrounds it, and it sings against the lovely green chilli oil our waitress presented.

Calautti has also played around with eggs Benedict, switching out the muffins for Italian rice and potato croquettes. While there are four different renditions, I’m particularly delighted to be eating the Croquette Mushroom Benedict ($18), because it sits on a bed of beautifully sautéed mushrooms.

The fungi are cooked so well it prompts me to say that Cucina Espresso is really a restaurant masquerading as a café, run by a chef, not a cook. I particularly like the way Calautti has implemented menu change in a community-minded way, to ensure both old and new Concord residents and visitors can eat the breakfast they’re looking for.

Cucina Espresso
89 Majors Bay Road, Concord
Ph: (02) 9743 4088

Cucina Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Firepit (The Paper Mill Food)

Flicking over from an apartment display centre to a food hub, Liverpool’s former 1868 historic paper mill is now home to a quartet of restaurants and eateries, known collectively as The Paper Mill Food.

Taking advantage of the beautiful saw-tooth roof line, designer Paul Papadopoulos from DS17 (the team responsible for Nour Sydney and Alpha Restaurant’s fine interiors) has showered the original brickwork with loads of natural light.

While the eateries and airspace are all interconnected, this review will focus upon Firepit, The Paper Mill’s premium offering, which offers table service and its own dedicated eating area running from fountain to firepit in the rear.

Firepit is a very attractive dining proposition, with fake plants dangling from overhead steel girders, and a range of modular private dining rooms down one side.

They are separated from the main space with glass walls that open to allow airflow. Inside them, the aggregate floors are softened with plants, woven basket lights and floor-length, flowing grey drapes.

To escape prying ears and eyes, pull aside the quirky, porthole-mounted door in the rear to find a special mirror-decorated space fit for an intimate board room dinner.

We’re seated in Parisian, red and white woven chairs in the main space.

They add a pop of colour to an area that’s mostly furnished with post-industrial metal framed seats. The metal carries through to a steampunk-inspired clock with Roman numerals and its gears on display, right over our heads.

Eye-catching black, white and gold tiles set apart the service areas, including the marble-topped charcoal station, where a white-clad chef is toasting focaccia batons over licking red flames.

Backed by a pair of wood-fired ovens and a rotisserie, the flame grill is the restaurant’s key attraction, so I weight my meal towards the offerings cooked over charcoal.

It’s no coincidence that Wood-Roasted Oysters Rockefeller ($26/6) were named after the richest man of the day (1899), John D. Rockefeller. The warm bivalves are rich and buttery, with a big garlicky, parsley kick that needs a good squeeze of lemon to cut through and actually taste the oyster.


The 2017 Vinum Chenin Blanc ($54) is a classic oyster wine, with lemon and a bit of butter, made in Stellenbosch in South Africa. Entry-level wines scrape in just under forty bucks a bottle on the compact but interesting wine list. There is also a treat yo’self section where you can crack into French bubbly like Pol Roger ($230/bottle), Dom Pérignon ($230/bottle) or Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque ($520/bottle), if you’re rollin’ with homies richer than my mob.

Scraped onto a charred focaccia baton that I watched the chef firing earlier, Wood-Roasted Bone Marrow ($18) is expertly handled. Topped with a well-dressed salad of parsley, red onion and green olive, with a scrape of hot English mustard to cut the fat, the warm veal marrow toast is rich and indulgent.

From the rolling hills of the Darling Downs, the 300g F1 Rump Cap ($55) arrives well rested at our server’s recommended medium. Served tagliata (sliced) with beer battered fries and your choice of sauce, it’s smoky (from the grill) and satisfyingly chewy, without blood pouring onto the large oval plate. Unable to choose just one condiment, we try it with excellent Béarnaise, and pleasantly spicy fermented green chilli.

While there are a handful of well-dressed leaves, some extra vegetables wouldn’t go astray. Charcoal Sugar Cabbage ($13) arrives beautifully blackened on faro and whipped ricotta, with a mint and lemon dressing, playing to the strengths of Palestinian-born, executive chef Nader Shayeb.

What I wasn’t expecting from Shayeb was the best Pork Ribs ($59) I’ve eaten in Australia. With rashers of surprise bacon glued to them using a beautifully balanced barbeque glaze, this smoky rack is so good, it will have you throwing away your cutlery and gnawing on the bones to make the most of your high-priced, but supremely good, baby back ribs.

Sticky fingers give you a good reason to check out The Paper Mill Washroom. With period appropriate concrete trough sinks, and gorgeous glass and metal detailing over the dunny doors, every last detail is well-considered in Liverpool’s first multimillion-dollar food hub.

The Paper Mill
20 Shepherd Street, Liverpool
Ph: (02) 8742 4033

Firepit - The Paper Mill Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Manta Restaurant & Bar

You don’t think of restaurants like Manta Restaurant & Bar as updating and improving.

With close to two decades in its Woolloomooloo wharfside digs, there is a tendency to think of it as somehow trapped in time.

This is a mistake. Today’s Manta feels modern, and, with ten years of dining at this restaurant under my belt, I think it’s now eating better than ever...

The last gasp of winter sees us arrive at the wharf on a grey old day, so we look to Verve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut ($26/glass) to inject some Sydney sparkle.

The longevity of floor staff here adds up to great service. They know the menu, how it has developed – the Scampi Ceviche ($24) is both delightful and new – and will instruct you on how much to order.

Today staff are excited that Angasi ($7/each) oysters from Merimbula have popped back onto the daily list. We try the four-strong oyster selection and make our own comparison.

Merimbula Rocks ($5.50/each)
are briny and big; Wogonga Rocks ($5.50/each) have a meaty edge; and – at least to my taste buds – the plump, deep cupped Pambula Rock Oysters ($5.50/each) win on balanced texture and flavour over the flat, plate-like angasi.

Manta’s whole menu, which was updated just a few days before I dined, is appealing. Staff clue me in that many diners come for individual seafood entrees before embarking upon a shared main - the kilo-plus Rib Eye on the Bone ($12/100g) procured from owner Rob Rubis’ family property in Texas, Queensland.

The wine list is also excellent. In the full page of Chardonnay choices, there are plenty I’ve loved, and a fair few I haven’t tried, including the 2017 Dexter Chardonnay ($92) from the Mornington Peninsula. It arrives in a big glass you can actually get your nose into, bright and fruit-forward, then warmed into an utterly pleasurable drop very well matched to seafood.

Coffs Harbour Cuttlefish ($26) are delicately charred. The creamy, white flesh pops, then tenderly yields, as you bite into it. It’s set off by intense fermentation (black garlic) that is well balanced by preserved lemon and fresh mint, in a unique dish with a long, satisfying palate length.

Anticipatory service sees a Beluga-branded throw arrive the second the wind picks up, before I’ve even had the chance to consider whether I might be cold. Manta's outdoor tables offer up prime people watching opportunities, so they’re hard to cede even when the weather takes a turn for the worse. However we’re quickly and efficiently moved one row back before the second scampi dish arrives (they're easily my favourite crustacean).

Char-Grilled Scampi ($24/100g) are served split on the shell with your choice of sauce. I opt for bottarga butter, and the salted cured fish roe proves the perfect foil for the delicate crustaceans – so good in fact, we ask for bread to mop up any remainders. The scampi are perfectly handled - every last one of them pulls out cleanly from the shell in one piece.

Seafood handling remains on point across a Manta Bouillabaisse ($62). While it has been a menu stalwart for some years, Manta’s updated seafood soup feels modern and summery, made on blue swimmer crab stock, with a hint of garlic bitterness, fregola and tangy tomatoes.

With Abrolhos scallops served on the shell, Coffin Bay vongole clams, Boston Bay black mussels, South Australian King George whiting, and a grilled Yamba king prawn, it’s a far cry from its origins as a simple, poverty-cuisine fish stew, invented by Marseille fishermen to use up the fish they were unable to sell to restaurants.

It's a very good example of what Manta does best: present the bounty of the sea in a way that captures how we like to eat today.

NOTE: See previous visits to this venue back HERE, HERE and HERE.

Manta Restaurant & Bar
6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
Ph: (02) 9332 3822

Manta Restaurant and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Event - Eat Your Heart Out Liverpool

Festooned with lights, the Norfolk Serviceway in Liverpool looked more like Melbourne’s popular laneways than the serviceable car park it usually is. After a nuclear sunset – the skies seem bigger out here – the sky darkened to midnight blue, highlighting the area’s new residential towers.

Their presence made a perfect backdrop for Eat Your Heart Out Liverpool, a festival designed to showcase the offerings of the suburb’s rapidly developing CBD.

Mimicking the towers in front of them, children were kept entertained building soaring towers from colourful soft blocks. As with most Liverpool City Council events, it was an all-ages affair, with free activities provided for the young, old and everybody in between.

As I cruised the circled food trucks trying to decide upon dinner, the small but enthusiastic crowd played with oversized chess and checkers sets.

If you told me last year that I’d be sipping a well-balanced Lime Margarita ($7) and drinking an eye-catching craft beer sour in a street art-filled laneway in Liverpool, I’d probably have laughed. But there I was doing it, thanks to the good folk from Macquarie Hotel, a popular Liverpool watering hole.

The cool can of Hope Brewery Raspberry Sour ($7) I was enjoying was brewed in the Hunter Valley. It was the perfect foil to a Beef Brisket Burger ($14) from Rangers Texan BBQ.

Conveniently located right by the bar, this professional market outlet had their big black smoker belching out some truly mouth-watering aromas of Texan-style barbeque, right in front of another piece of Liverpool’s funky street art.

Not to be outdone, the women at Fritz’s Wieners lured in the eaters with rotating rows of fine, Germanic sausage.

Sandwiched inside a freshly baked baguette bun, you could choose to take your sausage mild or spicy.

We chose the Spicy Bratwurst ($10) – a beef and pork sausage that has been hot smoked over manuka wood –
opting to top it with both sauerkraut and onions.

Saucing is a self-service affair, done at the front of the food truck, with honey mustard scrubbing up well against the nicely spicy snag.

With big non-drinking components in Liverpool’s multicultural makeup, Lebanese juice bar, Tropicana Cocktails were on hand with fresh juices. Running on a gold-coin donation system at the festival, their impossibly large juices were tart and freshly squeezed.

Multiculturalism is better realised in food festivals in Sydney’s South West.

Here you’ll find poffertjes – tiny Dutch pancakes – sitting beside znoud el sett – Lebanese sweets whose name roughly translates to the ‘upper arm of the lady’ (a reference to their shape).

Entertainment follows the same principle. Clad in a turban and a sweat-shirt that pays homage to his home in the South West, L-Fresh The Lion busts out his latest song to the small but enthusiastic crowd.

The song, Born to Stand Out, is about being confident in your own skin.

It’s nice to see artists like this one inspiring young people to feel pride in themselves and their postcode.

And if nothing else, Eat Your Heart Out Liverpool, aptly demonstrates that there's plenty to feel proud about within the confines of this diverse and upcoming local government area.

My final shout-out goes to the two polite and well-groomed young men from Nefiz by Salman who, by the side of the stage, fought valiantly to keep up with the demand for Kunefe ($8). Heating the Arabic sweet at the speed required for a hungry festival crowd proved too much for their portable equipment, so the ingenious young men were running back and forth ferrying warm filo pastry-crusted, sweet cheese from their bricks and mortar store.

Nefiz by Salman is the brainchild of Berrin and Salman Genc, and has been open on Memorial Avenue for just a month. Their aim is to introduce the people of Liverpool to well-priced Turkish dishes like traditional burgers (kumru) and filled Turkish-style baked potatoes (kumpir), along with a range of pastries running from baklava to fried dough tulumba. If the kunefe I ate was anything to go by, just like the rest of Liverpool, they’re worthy of your attention.

Nefiz by Salman
54 Memorial Avenue, Liverpool
Ph: (0451) 991 448

Nefiz by Salman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lured in by a clever care package of bacon, maple syrup, ham and waffles, I spent International Bacon Day at Sunshine Meats.

I have a lot of time for this small, family-run business, located in Milperra’s industrial zone.

Along with an excellent range of charcuterie (which I will talk more about later) made in the cleanest pork factory I’ve visited, the women of the Pereira family have created a visually pleasing, inviting space within this factory setting.

Whether it’s the outdoor café setting decorated with pot plants and proto-feminist slogans encouraging women to keep their husbands well in hand, or the brimming deli display, great effort has been made to personalise the business.

It’s not what you expect from a factory eatery in the middle of a manufacturing zone.

For International Bacon Day, the Sunshine Meats team added to their regular Saturday offering with a collection of market stalls that celebrated their suppliers.

This included The Bread & Butter Project (who make many of their bread products) and smaller suppliers like Lenkie Lou’s, who make a Sweet Capsicum Jam ($14) you will find on their shelves.

After trying the jam on a cracker with some brie, we picked up a jar to go with our selections from the Sunshine Meats cheese collection.

With a colourful range of Fresh Fodder dips (try their taramasalata) that are made in Orange, the olive bar was another winner.

Beyond bright green Sicilian olives that had a lovely soft bite, there were tubs of hot peppers, dolmades and Marinated Mushrooms ($4) that looked so good, I took some home myself.

By now the maddening smell of spit-roasted pork was starting to get to me.

The day’s hot food offerings kicked off with a reduced selection from The Charcuterie Room’s regular café menu, and ended with suckling pig that was looking right on track to be ready at lunch time.

Arriving bright and early, we started our day with a Bacon & Egg Roll ($10) with a Havarti Cheese ($1) add-on.

Made on Sunshine Meats’ Traditional Short Bacon ($5.50/200g) and free-range eggs, it’s a hefty handful wrapped up inside a French-style panini from Bakers Maison (a business that kicked off in neighbouring Revesby).

The bun is soft and enjoyable, while still maintaining enough structural integrity to showcase the lovely bacon made here at Sunshine Meats using only Australian pork.

The Bacon and Chorizo Roll ($10) ate just as nicely, with Sunshine Meats' accessible Portuguese chorizo sliced lengthwise to make it similar in thickness and shape to the bacon.

We loaded ours up with barbeque and chilli sauce and enjoyed every bite.

From an outdoor Duccio Gelato counter, both the young and the young at heart, were able to keep up their bacon quotient with Gelato Sundaes ($6.50).

This basically entailed a scoop of your favourite flavour – we tried a traditionally styled caramel gelato morphed into salted caramel with a bit of additional salt, and an even better peanut butter gelato – being topped with maple-infused shortcut bacon pieces, chopped up waffles and maple syrup.

Suitably fuelled up on sugar and bacon, we tackled the Sunshine Meats deli, which was full to bursting as they promised ahead of the event.

While their own charcuterie items are the mainstays of the business, they’ve accentuated their considerable range of award-winning bone-in leg hams, double smoked chilli chicken breast, and extensive duck products with a hand-selected product range.

I’m a big fan of the La Banderita tortilla range - they make nice pliable tortillas that shit all over that Old El Paso supermarket rubbish. We picked up some 6” Flour Tortillas ($7.50) to team with our ham and Manchego Cheese ($45/kilo) for a quesadilla lunch later in the day, accentuated with our early purchase - sweet capsicum jam.

We threw in a packet of Portuguese Codfish Cakes ($10) (pasteis de bacalhau) for an easy mid-week dinner, pan-fried until they are golden brown and served with mayonnaise and Muraca Spicy Hot Cream Peppers ($6.20/280g). What you'll like about the Sunshine Meats range is that there are a whole heap of easy meal ideas that jump out from their over-stuffed shelves, and nothing feels particularly over-priced.

NOTE: You can see a previous visit to this venue back HERE.

The Charcuterie Room @ Sunshine Meats
360 Horsley Road, Milperra
Ph: (02) 9774 5543

The Charcuterie Room @ Sunshine Meats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato