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Review - Social Brew Cafe

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Hugging the edge of a tiny park that’s pretty despite being low on leaves in winter, Social Brew Café is nicer from the inside than it looks from the outside.

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The shiny metal, glass and grey paint exterior frames a mostly green urban vista.

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With plastic drapes protecting you from the wind, you can actually feel the warmth of the winter sun on your lily-white skin.

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Actually, there's so much sun, that five minutes into my recent al fresco lunch I started wishing I’d brought my sunglasses.

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The second thing that sets this café apart from its café brethren is that it is licensed, making it just the place for a cheeky wine with lunch. Or, if you feel the need to balance your indiscretions, a booze-spiked freshly squeezed juice. We try out Watermelon Passionfruit and Pineapple with Sailor Jerry’s Rum ($12). It’s good, but I’d probably ask for them to use Ketel One Vodka next time because the delicate watermelon was dominated by the rum. I’ve got no complaints about the Pineapple Orange and Turmeric with Beefeater Gin ($12) - I mean what could be a more perfect brunch drink than O.J. and gin?

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The team at Social Brew Café regularly dream up eye-catching specials like the M&M Spill ($22) to woo in those who like to construct their personal identity through a curated Instagram feed. With a gravity-defying stream of M&Ms, this plate of waffles has it all – and by all, I mean two thick Belgian-style waffles drizzled with salted caramel sauce, a jar of milk chocolate and ristretto to pour over, a quenelle of Chantilly cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, all scattered with edible blooms. It’s too sweet to be my kind of breakfast, but I know many who would vehemently disagree!

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What I do want to say though, is that while this café is clearly adept at luring in influencers, they also serve real food. I was super happy with The Brew Vego Board ($22). It’s not about looks, but flavour and balance, with a fluffy pair of corn and zucchini fritters and crisp kale leaves sitting on spiced, smoked labneh. There’s grilled haloumi, pickled egg, and a juicy cucumber and dill salad, with just enough bread to suffice. I’d come here to eat this dish again, even if it won’t lead to Insta-fame.

Social Brew Cafe
224 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9571 8792

Social Brew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Ichi-ban Boshi




With food court ambience, Ichi-ban Boshi clearly isn’t about fancy trappings. What lures in diners is simple and tasty Japanese fare. Located near the Japanese bookshop giant, Kinokuniya, mark it down as a solid spot for a night of wintery self-care - kicking off with a warm noodle soup and concluding with a new book to read.



When I arrive on the stroke of 6pm, Ichi-ban Boshi is already full. The self-serve waiting system allows you to request a table, either solo or shared, then hover in the wings as you wait for your number. Despite both of their tonkotsu ramen selling out at 3pm, I’m still delivered menu cards touting these signature items. It’s a bit of a tease, heralding the start of an affable but error-ridden table service.



Fair pricing across the menu sees us precede our ramen with snacks and sake. The house-brand junmai daiginjo, Ichibanboshi ($25/300ml), is pleasant enough, cutting against the intensity of cucumber dragged through salty pickled plum sauce.



Chikuwa Isobe-Age ($7) make even better drinking snacks. Shaped like bamboo shoots, they are battered fish cakes which have been seasoned with dried seaweed (nori).



For something more fun, the Tempura Salmon Roll ($10.50) is a deep-fried salmon roll. It has been lightly covered in tempura batter then drizzled with chilli mayo. and sprinkled with shallots. It’s filling and tasty, and cooked so quickly and gently that the interior salmon stays cool and raw.



Wanting something tasty, I eventually (after trying for both signature tonkotsu ramen) opt for the Aburi Chashu-men ($14). This noodle soup has a light soy pork broth, firm noodles, bok choy, nori, shallots and bamboo shoots, but the centrepiece is really the aburi chashu - charred slices of fatty roast pork.



I order it with a Special Boiled Egg ($2) that is forgotten, but rectified quickly. I find my ramen enjoyable but salty. When our second Sparkling Water ($3) finally arrives (a long time after the first one), I polish it off quickly.



My vegetarian dining companion also ordered a Special Boiled Egg ($2) to bulk up her Vegetable Ramen ($14), though this time the kitchen got it right. It was a generously proportioned mound of nicely firm egg noodles (ask for udon if you don’t want any animal products) and vegetables – corn, carrot, cabbage, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and more – presented a soybean stock. This stock also saw her work up a thirst.

Despite the continuing queue, we weren’t hurried, and enjoyed this unpretentious meal in a casual setting, right in the heart of the CBD.

Ichi-ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries,
500 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 7677

Ichi-ban Boshi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen




Making a splash on Darling Street, Balmain, Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen gave away free felafel last weekend. Along with adding some energy to the restaurant strip with pumping Arabic music and a colourful belly dancer, the felafel free-for-all heralded the return of Lebanese cuisine to a peninsula that has lacked it for many years.



Named for the red felt hat symbolic of Arabic culture, Tarboosh is a second outlet for owner and chef, Sam Matar, who opened a sister restaurant by the same name in Crows Nest last year.



With a wine list created by Robert Dessanti (the Wog with the Grog), Tarboosh is set to be a restaurant destination for more than just special occasions. Tuesday nights, for example, will be Mezze Nights, where the chef will send out all-you-can-eat mezze for $25/head with the purchase of a glass of wine.



While the dishes will be at the chef’s behest, they may include their moist Kebbe ($15/4). These football-shaped fried lamb mince balls are fragrant with cinnamon and cloves from the use of baharat, a Lebanese seven-spice blend. Ladies Fingers ($14/4) filled with feta and parsley are another winner; their oozing, salty cheese provided some amusement at our table.



Sadly the much-touted Felafel ($13/6) fell flat for me; I found them too crisp and brown, but I admit I'm currently obsessed with the Iraqi version. Wrapped up with Hummus ($11) in soft Lebanese bread, they’re still easy to eat, especially as the creamy chickpea puree is nutty (from tahini) and well balanced (with lemon).



I also tried Baba Ganoush ($13) and Labne ($11), with the latter proving my favourite, with the sharp tang of yoghurt offset by dried oregano and mint.



Served under a fresh tomato peak, the eye-catching Tabouli ($14) was more about parsley than mint.



It needed a good stir, because all the lemon juice was sitting at the bottom; so my fork kept gravitating towards the Fattoush ($14) instead. With red cabbage, tomato, cucumber, radishes, shallots, capsicum, mint and parsley, topped with crisp Lebanese bread, this salad is nicely complemented with a sweet and sour dressing of lemon and pomegranate molasses.



Bowls of Battata Kezebre ($11) – deep fried potato cubes dressed with sumac, garlic and lemon - rounded out my corners at this lunch. I did eye off the grills menu, and have earmarked one of the mixed plates for a later visit.



There’s plenty to explore on this wide-ranging Lebanese menu, and for afters, there’s a glass box of Lebanese sweets sitting on the counter that you can explore. Word is, there’s also going to be negroni sorbet...

Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen
237 Darling Street, Balmain
Ph: (02) 8068 0864

Tarboosh Lebanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang




Malatang is the cure for all that ails you during this cold and rainy month. To eat this Northern Chinese, spicy numbing soup, get thee to the Burwood outlet of the popular Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang chain.



Despite being part of the hip new Burwood Chinatown development, the restaurant itself is totally lacking in ambience. It’s covered in stacked boxes and over-lit with an ugly office ceiling. All the light, combined with the fact that everyone is focused down into their soup bowls, does make it a perfect spot for people watching. It also allows you to get a good look at the ingredients you’ll be putting in your soup.



When you arrive, walk past the waiting hoards (they're collecting takeaway) straight to the front counter, and pick up a bowl and tongs. Walk to the far end of the counter and start loading ingredients into your bowl.



Choose from a dazzling array of fishcakes and fishballs, various forms of tofu (they are all excellent in the soup), crinkle cut Spam, thinly sliced beef and pork meat (and innards), cubes of pig blood jelly, fish fillets, calamari and crab claws and sticks. Fried items - from dough sticks to battered crab claws - go very well in this soup. On this visit I fell in love with an intriguing chewy fish stick stuffed with a semi sweet egg mixture.



There are also plentiful vegetable options, running from thinly sliced potato and carrot, to cauliflower florets, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts. Mushrooms are a highlight, and you'll find king, enoki, oyster and shimeji mushrooms as well as leafy brown woodear fungus that scrubs up a treat in soup. Be generous with the leafy greens - everything from Chinese cabbage to bitter chrysanthemum, coriander and bok choy - they cook down a lot in the broth.



Diversity is key, so make sure you add a good range of items, even if you don’t know what they all are. Nothing here tastes bad in soup! Noodles are another must-have – they soak up broth beautifully - so choose your favourite between cellophane, rice and egg noodles, or mix and match the various types.



Don’t fret about taking things that are in large pieces – the kitchen will chop down king mushrooms and fish balls for you, ensuring everything is bite sized.



Overfilling your bowl is a rookie malatang mistake - only take what you think you can eat. When you’ve finished deciding, offer your bowl to the cashier to be weighed. All ingredients are all the same price: $12/500g. My bowl came to $13, while my dining companion hit the wall before finishing his $19 bowl.



After you hand over your weighed bowl and money, you’re given a numbered key chain and it’s time to secure a table. Don’t fret, this is a Chinese street food, people eat and move on very quickly, and your bowl will give you about twenty minutes of grace. When your number is called, you collect your bowl of soup from the cashier. She’ll dress it rapid fire with messy ladles full of creamy garlic, chilli, sesame oil, black vinegar and sugar. Just say yes. This lady knows what she’s doling out. If you are a chilli lightweight, skip the additional chilli on top, as the soup already contains some.



Give it a good stir and the play guess the ingredient as you slurp soup, rich with pork and chicken bones, garlic, ginger, Sichuan pepper, chilli and soy sauce, from your own personalised hotpot.

This restaurant is extremely popular for a reason.

Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang
Burwood Chinatown, 127-133 Burwood Road, Burwood
Ph: n/a

Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Chama Brazilian Style BBQ




A couple of months back, Sutherland Shire locals, Kathy and Sam Bakafoukas purchased Caringbah Churrasco from the restaurant group. While new to Brazilian restaurants, the pair are experienced restaurateurs, with over twenty years in hospitality. Along with extensive time in multiple venues inside Leichhardt’s Italian Forum, the pair also own Southside Makaroni, an Italian pasta bar that sits under the same block of apartments as the newly renamed Chama Brazilian Style BBQ.



With a recent visit to the former Coogee sibling under my belt, it was hard not to compare the pair, especially with the two restaurants still looking very much like sisters.



Seated at one of the same long wooden tables, we’re quickly set up with sides for our All-You-Can-Eat ($39/head) meal.



At Chama this means bowls of black beans and plain white rice, fluffy farofa that you sprinkle onto your meat to soak up the fat, fresh tomato salsa and a mild red chilli sauce.



Here the spicier green chilli sauce is only available on request – so we immediately ask for some. It’s great at cutting through the excesses of rich, fatty meat; unlike the warm potato dish, which here tastes too much like salty chicken stock to provide any relief.



The pão de queijo – little cheese breads - are just the same; and give our hungry bellies something to work on while we decide upon drinks.



We opt for a shared jug of White Sangria ($35) and it proves to be a really pleasant drink. While the glass carafe doesn’t feel particularly good value in terms of volume, it does impress with high quality eating fruit – fragrant strawberries, crisp green apple, orange segments and kiwi fruit.



Friendly South American floor staff, who have stayed with the restaurant through the ownership change, arrive at our table with undercooked Parmesan zucchini, and heavily dressed coleslaw.



There’s also a barrage of chicken – maybe because it cooks more quickly than some of the other meats, and we’re dining close to when the restaurant opened. While stylistically different – honey soy chicken, then Brazilian chicken – the birds are all a bit bland for my liking.



Just when I was despairing that Chama wouldn’t live up to Churrasco’s benchmark, out come the meats. We move from very evenly cooked rump, to scotch fillet that tastes even better.



The cooking is consistent across two different rounds of scotch fillet, and it’s hard to say no to this buttery, tender, great quality meat.



Chama's roast pork is also a winner – the skin is crisp and crackly, covered in salt with a hint of lemon or vinegar cutting the fat.



Chicken sausages and mild chorizos punctuate the onslaught of beef and lamb.



While I’m not dead keen on chimmichurri lamb, I do like the lemon lamb that follows - it tastes a bit Greek.



We work our way through everything from marinade-dominated shish kebab to pepper beef that is tender, with a good peppery crust.



This is all without the person manning Chama's rotating metal skewers missing a beat. Chama, by the way, is Portuguese for flames.



Even secondary cuts, like those used in Chama’s Parmesan beef, eat better than Churrasco’s version. Here the beef is served rarer, with the cheese sauce tangoing with irony richness.



Sides from an average Caesar salad to a better mix of rocket, Parmesan cheese and caramelised vinegar keep circulating, as do generous bowls of shoestring fries.



I’ve only got eyes for fat golden fingers of haloumi, which are fluffy perfection here too.



Dessert is a bit of a disappointment – the fried bananas are too firm and floury, and the pineapple is sharply acidic – perhaps it would have improved with more time on the grill. However you don't come here for the sides - Chama do excel at cooking meat.


Chama Brazilian Style BBQ
Shop 3, 277-281 The Kingsway, Caringbah
Ph: (02) 9525 7717

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

Event - Sydney Korean Festival




There sure were a lot of politicians in attendance at last month’s 2018 Sydney Korean Festival. Representatives from all tiers of Government flocked to Tumbalong Park to pledge allegiance to the importance of Australian Korean business relationships. I just went for the snacks...



Well, to be fair, I’m actually fascinated by Korean food and culture, and have been a regular attendee at the Korean Cultural Centre for many years. Volunteers at the well-attended event included many of the centre’s Korean language students, who formed a brightly clad honour guard, tasked with directing VIPs to their allocated seats.



I was more interested in checking out the food stalls. The ring of stalls offered up a collection of highbrow and lowbrow Korean dishes.



We saw everything from Korean-inspired fusion dishes like Korean tacos (Korean Mexican) and Korean bao (Korean Vietnamese) to the street-food mainstay, Korean fried chicken.



You could also pick up more typically Korean dishes, like fishcake (eomuk) slathered in gochujang by G & A Foods. Having already encountered this outlet at the Burwood Festival (they also own Tori in Chatswood) I found their products too hard to resist.



With the sun beaming down and no trees for shade in this newly redeveloped part of Darling Harbour, beverage outlets were particularly popular. Oishi Japan Australia – a media company - worked the young crowd’s interest in Instagram-worthy items using drinks served in light bulbs.



We eschewed the pricier plastics for ordinary cups, but enjoyed our tart and fragrant Yuzu Lemonade ($5) and earthy Iced Matcha ($5) regardless.



With our lunch supplied, it was a bit torturous to wander the stalls, seeing everything from chewy tteokbokki (rice cakes) to kimchi fried rice to japchae (glass noodles made from sweet potato) being prepared and served to hungry attendees.



After a barrage of speeches running from Mr. Sangsoo Yoon, the Consulate General of Korea, to a tardy Jodi McKay, Member for Strathfield and NSW Shadow Minister for Transport, we adjourned to the umbrellas for lunch.



Colour me surprised that my favourite part of the day wasn’t the sushi lunch, but the amazing Taekwondo demonstration presented by Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo Headquarters.



I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – they’re the organisation that sets the global standard for Taekwondo, and are tasked with preserving the martial art's history, and sharing the spirit of Taekwondo beyond Korean shores. Their students flew through the air with a lightness I’ve only seen in movies; doing so at heights that I assumed were only possible using hidden wire work.



We wrapped up the day with Korean rice cakes, made using rice flour, salt and sugar, and topped with sweet white kidney bean paste and cream cheese. The flowers were flavoured with sweet pumpkin and purple taro; while the cakes themselves had a unique, almost sponge-like texture, without containing any egg.

Sydney Korean Festival 2018
Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour

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Travel - Bao Brothers Eatery




You’ll find this grungy but hip Taiwanese-inspired bao house on Hunter Street, Newcastle’s main commercial thoroughfare.



It’s at the western end of the central business district in Newcastle West, where street parking seems a bit easier to come by.

 

While the front room feels a bit fast food - dominated by a counter, and encircled by stools facing a narrow eating trough; there’s also a long bamboo and Astroturf corridor, and a booth room, that both have a bit more atmosphere.



We opt for the latter, and are soon tucked into a low-lit booth in a small room that has been given a nicely lowbrow makeover with exploitation film posters.



While I was surprised to not be able to order an alcoholic drink, it does make sense that the city that first instituted lockout laws a decade ago, also handicaps new businesses with the same slow licensing approvals we have in Sydney. The ‘Newcastle solution’ is after all, what Sydney’s unjust lockout laws were based upon.



Despite this, local lads David Griffin and Nathan Martin have tried to keep drinking interesting, offering up tart House Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soda ($6) and a Bubble Shake ($7). The shake is milky, creamy and big on vanilla, with caramelised white chocolate, super soft tapioca pearls and miso. I just would have preferred it to arrive a lot colder, and not in disposable packaging when I'm dining in.



The menu is short, and obviously centres upon Taiwan’s most famous street food – gua bao. While bao may be well on the way to replacing the taco on Sydney menus, not all bao are created equal. You’ll find the steamed buns here to be softer than most, and wrapped around an interesting selection of contemporary fillings. Soft Shell Crab ($8.50) teams crisp crab with fermented chilli jam, pickled green paw paw and Kewpie mayo. It’s good, but the Beef Rendang Croquette ($7) from the daily specials list is even better. Inside the crumbed croquette, you’ll find long strands of tasty, pulled rendang beef. It's nicely accentuated by charred onion puree, fermented sambal and fresh herbs, but if you want more heat, you’ll also find two types of sriracha on the table.



You probably want at least two bao per person, and you’ll still be able to handle some snacks. The Woodear Mushroom Spring Roll ($4/each) is a particular winner. The soy mayonnaise has a nice savoury middle, and wood ear fungus scrubs up as a flavoursome treat inside.



Crispy Korean Rice Cakes ($7), or tteokbokki, are coated in a watered down version of gochujang (red chilli paste). While they have the same compelling texture (the rice cakes are chewy) they lack the spicy interest of the Korean original. You’ll have to lift your game, Newcastle, and allow Bao Brothers Eatery to make them much spicier!

Bao Brothers Eatery
701 Hunter Street, West Newcastle
Ph: (0421) 550 997

Bao Brothers Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - The Junction Coffee Co.




The P&R logo remains etched into the wooden table numbers; and bags of Pablo & Rusty's coffee still line the shelves at The Junction Coffee Co. It’s refreshing to see the new owner, Pritesh Patel, only changed the things that needed changing, after taking over this former Pablo & Rusty’s spot.



The hip, mock-industrial surrounds have also been left unaltered. Don’t scratch your head too hard about what repurposed industrial items you’re dining on when you sit down at the communal table inside the small space.



The two level zinc-clad table is actually a custom-build by Contempo Furniture. Designers Giant Design clearly didn't want to trouble themselves with the whole repurposing caper. I will say that the warm orange glow emenating from inside the  dangling rusty metal milk crates, and rows of custom-made milk bottle lights, do give the metallic workshop-like interior some warmth on this cold, wintery day.



With the strong emphasis on takeaway - the café sits in Lane Cove’s popular outdoor plaza which offers up plenty of places to dine – The Junction Coffee Co. operate with an order at the counter system.



While you’ll find the bulk of the café’s menu written on chalkboards over the counters, you'll find the daily specials seem to be only written onto plates located on the front counter.



With the temperature low, the Shakshuka ($16) special proves irresistible, before I remember I actually came here to eat one of the café’s abundant breakfast boards. Having only seen them in photo form, I take a stab and order the Meat Board ($19), but it’s curiously disappointing.



I feel like this would be better served on a plate because it’s a pretty standard breakfast,” my dining companion says with a slight frown. She’s on the money – the unused real estate of the platter takes away from generosity, despite it containing a decent amount of bacon, mild chorizo, freshly sliced tomato, and pair of poached eggs on twin slices of unbuttered toast. Even our communal table neighbours break the social contract to exclaim surprise on the sheer size of the plate.



The shakshuka on the other hand, served in a two-handled cast iron pot on a much smaller wooden board, is much better. It’s with a single slice of toast that someone’s whispered the word butter to, but the spicy tomato stew is well balanced and compelling. I get harissa and a hint of cumin, plus the more obvious onions, garlic, capsicum and – a bit left field – mushrooms (but they work). There’s also more grilled mild chorizo (I mind it being mild less in this dish because the underlying stew has some spice), feta, and a pair of poached (rather than baked) eggs, which is also non-standard. I suppose it does ensure those yolks stay runny. Authentic or ad-lib, it is a tasty, winter appropriate breakfast dish.



As you'd expect, the Pablo & Rusty’s coffee, across both a standard Latte ($3.50) and an 80g Cold Drip ($5) sourced from Kirimiri, Kenya, continues to drink well.


The Junction Coffee Co.
The Plaza, 13 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove
Ph: (02) 9418 8005

The Junction Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Solander Dining & Bar




Even with the addition of coloured lights, the West Hotel Sydney cuts a modest profile on Sussex Street. Despite being a Hilton property, it doesn’t immediately shout hotel. Part of that is the property's size – at just 182-rooms, it’s not huge – and part is attitude. Opening in January this year, West Hotel Sydney is the first of Hilton’s Curio Collection properties to open in Australia. It forms part of a global collection of more than sixty hotels that have been assembled with an emphasis upon personality and unique character.



At the front of the hotel you’ll find Solander Dining and Bar. It’s a dark and moody space that really belies being a fancy hotel’s lobby bar and restaurant. The Woods Bagot interior is inviting, offering up plump, solo settees for a spot of window-side drinking, or comfortable, round-backed chairs, tables and banquettes where you can engage more deeply with Head Chef David Vandenbeele’s menu.



In my case, the well-cushioned chairs were just the ticket for escaping the rain, and unwinding into a glass of the 2016 John Duval Marsanne Viognier Roussanne ($13).

 

The restaurant is named for the first fleet botanist, Daniel Solander. In coming weeks Vandenbeele intends to incorporate botanicals into his winter menu. On this rainy night, I suffice with some sliders. Vivid Sliders ($16/3) is a special running until the end of the twenty-three night light festival, which happens this weekend. Each burger has a different coloured bun and filling. The best of them is called The Roo, and contains a kangaroo patty decked out with beetroot relish, blue cheese and pickled cabbage ‘slaw. You’ll also get a pork and chorizo slider with spice barbeque sauce, Swiss cheese and caramelised onion; and a slightly less inspiring chickpea burger with avocado salsa, cheese and pickles.



Behind the bar, Matteo Rosini, is already playing with plants. While obviously also a star behind the bar making cocktails, Rosini explains: “I prefer to be in the back room experimenting and making things.



That's not really surprising; the Solander kitchen has some whizz-bang technology, including sous vide and a Polyscience Rotary Evaporator – that allows Rosini to create fresh concentrated essences out of herbs, fruit and vegetables.



Rosini explains excitedly that he can even distill chillies so that the hot part – capsaicin – is left behind, providing an opportunity to really appreciate the chilli’s flavour. He slips me a macadamia essence to try, that has been made on Spirytus, a Polish pure spirit, before we get into the real business at hand - road-testing two cocktails inspired by Vivid Sydney.

 

We start with Purple Reign ($16), a cocktail made using 3-year-old Havana Rum. “We decide to make a Mojito profile but with blackcurrant,” explained Rosini. He’s kind of underselling the icy purple cocktail garnished with mint leaves and fresh raspberries. The rum is blended with blackcurrant cordial, fresh lime, mint leaves, soda water and topped with a foam kept stiff using blackcurrant and thyme syrup, egg white and lemon. It's a bit more interesting, and lot less acidic, than a summery mojito.

 

More to my personal taste, The Nebula ($16) is a Beefeater Gin affair.



Green Chartreuse and whiskey barrel bitter add intrigue; roasted beetroot syrup give the drink an earthy middle; while black and green pepper bitter and lime add some top notes.

 

The drink is shrouded in a cloud of rosemary fog (poured at your individual table) and garnished with a beetroot and toffee shard. It drinks very coherently, and makes me want another. It also makes me want to explore their regular cocktail list.

With Vivid Sydney ending on Saturday 16 June, you've only got a couple of days to get down to the West Hotel Sydney to take advantage of these specials. I'll be heading back to give the Solander menu a good going over soon.


Solander Dining & Bar
West Hotel, 65 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8297 6500

Solander Dining and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - William Blue Dining




Framed in the window onto George Street, we’re seated in what was formerly Rockpool’s top table; right where the savvy restaurateur would tuck his celebrity diners, showing them off to passing foot traffic. These days it’s the home of William Blue Dining, the training restaurant for the William Blue College of Hospitality Management; a practical classroom where their students get to hone their skills and showcase their talents to paying guests.



Replacing art on the restaurant's walls you’ll find glossy graduate posters of their alumni, who now hold positions everywhere from Rydges and the Park Hyatt, to head chef at House of Crabs.

   

As a diner, William Blue Dining offers you the chance to eat a three-course meal in a fancy setting at a mere fraction of the price you’ll pay in Sydney’s other fine diners. Three Courses ($43/head) is pretty hard to beat. What makes it all the more incredible is the fact that you're eating the same Pepe Saya butter and Milly Hill lamb cutlets, that the big hitters are serving. There’s also good value to be found on their wine list, which ventures beyond the standards, into interesting drops like the 2016 Radford Dale Chenin Blanc ($62) from Stellenbosch, South Africa. Citrusy with a lick of salt and minerals, there’s a subtle hint of malolactic fermentation that keeps this wine interesting until the last drop.



It also makes it a cracker of a wine for seafood, like the delicate Spanner Crab and Prawn Rémoulade ($13) dished up with samphire (a beach plant), smoked mussels, pickled kohlrabi and shellfish espuma. (Don’t get intimidated by the culinary terms - espuma is just another word for foam.) Vinegar from the pickle and low acidity works to give this cold seafood and creamy rémoulade dish a seasonally appropriate feel. It enlivens the palate and gets your stomach ready for more wintery excesses.



Sweet Corn and Lemongrass Soup ($10) poured over pan-seared scallops is delicious. While my tongue finds some cheeky cuts in the scallops where the chef has checked whether they’re fully cooked, it’s a lack of cooking confidence that you'll find replicated in many of Sydney’s fully-fledged restaurants.



Rather than trend-based or fashionable, the dishes at William Blue Dining are designed to teach the students specific cooking techniques. The floor staff should be able to explain any words you don’t understand in layperson’s terms, and it’s a good exercise for them to answer questions. With the Pan-Roasted Duck Breast ($20) you’ll find a textbook leek and mushroom pithivier (pie) made with tasty rehydrated porcini mushrooms and flaky pastry. There’s also a parsnip fondant, where the humble parsnip has been shaped and slowly browned in butter and stock until it’s glazed and full of flavour. The French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) are also beautifully cooked.



Roasted Milly Hill Lamb Cutlets ($20) arrive juicy, pink and nicely presented. Lamb shoulder rillettes add some intensity to the dish that is broken up by the confit tomatoes, crisp cauliflower and gentle jus.



This dish wants for a side, and the Lyonnaise Salad ($7) answers the call admirably, with springy mixed green leaves, crunchy coutons, crisp bacon and a perfectly poached egg.



Break up the egg and mix it through the salad to give it some winter weight. The watercress is a particular standout, as is the sharp vinaigrette that cuts through the richness like a knife.



The kitchen here, as I observe on the path to the quaint bathrooms, is spotlessly clean. No mark, no smears, no handprints appear anywhere on the shiny metal pass.



The kitchen is also excellent at portion control: the entrée left me hungry for more, the main was filling but not so big I didn’t enjoy my side, and my Pecan Pie ($10) was dainty and delightful. The moist pie was served with a curl of pumpkin spice ice cream, and a cloud of whipped buttermilk cream, capped off with candied pecans.



You want it with the Turkey Flat ‘Pedro’ Ximenez ($10) from the Barossa Valley. This Aussie dessert wine has a wonderful nose – I could smell it for days – but drinks with less intensity than its Spanish cousins. With the pecan pie it brings up cookie dough flavours, adding to an all-round American adventure.



Friendly staff – our waiter’s name was John - encourage me into trying the 2012 Singlefile Botrytis Riesling ($9/glass) from the Great Southern. It’s got a petrochemical nose and tastes of honey, making it way too sweet for me; that is, until I start eating my dining companion's Orange Savarin ($10). This puffy little, booze-soaked cake with marmalade ice cream, dehydrated citrus and candied kumquat entices me into loving the wine. I enjoy every last bite. As I mentioned before, the portion control (a chef’s key to profitability) here is really on point.


William Blue Dining
107 George Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9492 3290

NOTE: See a previous review for this venue HERE.

William Blue Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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