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Review - Nighthawk Diner

With the easy charm of genuine American diner, Nighthawk Diner, have made their permanent digs in a building that used to house the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Both inhabitants utilising this space, decked out with exposed wooden beams and an adjoining garage, cater to all comers.

Where outreach vehicles packed full of condoms once rested, a shiny silver Airstream trailer now sits. Alistair Fogg began his exploration of classic American fare back in 2013 with a series of food trucks, and they continue to roam the streets.

The long open kitchen, framed by backlit menu boards and caged ingredients, dissolves the barrier between diner and chef.

Floor to ceiling windows let in the red brake light parade of Abercrombie Street at peak hour. Concrete floors and roughly cleaned up bricks help to keep everything gritty and real; with exposed hanging bulbs lighting up the urban ‘backyard’. A row of three comfy barber’s stools face the white-tiled kitchen, staffed by five friendly men. As opposed to a food truck experience, what this space offers is a chance to sink your arse into a padded banquette and throw some light on the subject.

Rest your peepers on the golden brown curves of a soft, hoagie roll – an American submarine sandwich – presented as a classic Philly Cheesesteak ($15). The beef brisket is slow-cooked in-house for 12-14 hours, and then sliced and tossed on the grill to order. It’s teamed with melted cheese, onion and jalapenos, and then slathered in a smoky, creamy, cheesy mess that has a hint of American mustard.

In my hands, it’s more about sploshing than eating; which, with a serviette dispenser on the table, I’m okay with - though I sure am glad I’m not eyeballing the kitchen from those well-padded bar stools. Eventually I admit it’s too creamy even for me, and reach for the sriracha to help cut through.

Better boozing is the other fixed venue advantage, running from tinnies to a short list of wine; to boozy shakes and cocktails. We take the edge off with a Bloody Mary ($13.50) and a Piña Asado ($13) that teams roasted pineapple-infused gin with lime and pineapple Jarritos (a Mexican soft drink). They both drink well, without taking the art of cocktail mixology too seriously. For a throw-down – or as my dining companion call them, a cocktail chaser – the Philter Brewing XPA Extra Pale Ale ($9) does nicely.

The floor team are wonderfully laid back, taking their time at our table to ensure we feel at home. They save us from our usual pelican syndrome - where our beaks hold more than our bellies can – by suggesting that a taco apiece followed by a sandwich will be more than enough. Fogg and his team make their own tacos from masa (corn flour), stock and lard, ensuring they are soft, tasty, and gluten-free. Beef Brisket ($8) showcases the taco quality against slow cooked beef, red salsa, some greens and smoked provolone cheese.

Speaking of dietary requirements, don’t be dismissing the vegan taco - Fried Broccoli ($8). Arriving filled to the brim with broccoli, charry grilled onions and refried beans, it was actually my favourite bite!

For the late night sandwich masterpiece though, it's all about the Miami Cuban ($16). Citrus pork and maple bacon are glued into a toasted hoagie roll with chipotle mayo. and luminous American cheese. Plentiful pickles keep it upbeat and easily digestible.

I’d like to meet this sandwich in a dark Chippendale back street again soon.

Nighthawk Diner
69 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale
Ph: none provided

Nighthawk Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - LuMi Bar & Dining

What a pleasure it was to return to Lumi Bar and Dining! I’d engineered my return visit by suggesting it to a friend for their fiftieth birthday celebration. The friend had asked me to triangulate the near impossible juncture of water views, great food, and a restaurant that deals well with vegetarians. Knowing he was a discerning drinker made an excellent wine list another must.

My hat is off to Chef Federico Zanellato and his team, who exceeded my expectations on all fronts. While I usually dine as a two-up when reviewing - celebrations can be pretty distracting - I couldn’t help but publish something about this extraordinary meal.

We kicked off with Oysters ($30/6) and an Alma Cuvee Bellavista so dry it sucked all the moisture from my mouth. This Italian sparkling wine is mostly chardonnay, and impressed with tiny, frothy bubbles and mingling hints of bread dough, pear and citrus, without intense acidity.

It made me want a second glass, which was kind of awkward, because the next wine of our Wine Pairing ($95/person) didn't really kick in until after the rye & spelt brioche arrived, much later in the meal. This is a fabulous bread with the ancient grain and rye both adding more texture and taste into the crust than one usually finds in brioche.

The slow booze is probably my only niggle at LuMi, because just like the array of snacks that arrives to ease your hunger quickly, I always enter a restaurant keen to get drinking underway before slowing down later in the meal. With such a pricy pairing package, ordering a side drink to tide you over shouldn't feel necessary. I did avail myself of my favourite Gin Mare ($13/30ml) and Capi Tonic ($5) combination from their dedicated choose-your-own gin and tonic adventure list.

Before the bread, there are snacks, rapid fire, to convince your stomach that the rest of the meal can occur at a more leisurely pace. There's uni – sea urchin roe – an indulgent lobe each on a nori-wrapped ship, swirling in your mouth like a rock pool.

Tiny cones of pale pink tuna are turned quasi-Mexican with spicy mayo.

Crisp rye crackers hide crunchy zucchini flower under a mound of Parmesan.

They are quickly eclipsed by a raw kangaroo tart, with shaved foie gras adding a layer of richness and complexity to this texturally impressive bite.

The unveiling of the chawanmushi momentarily distracts our whole table. The tiny pots of Moreton bay bug and dashi-infused savoury custard are eaten in silence; long wooden spoons ensuring that even metallic clinking doesn’t detract from the pleasure of eating this subtle dish.

The ensuring three and half years since my first visit have brought added maturity to this restaurant. Despite the labour intensive degustation menus – our group of twenty all ate Ten Courses ($150/head) – the open kitchen is quiet and unhurried.

Floor staff take their time at our table, showing patience and generosity, with a willingness to repeat dish descriptions even after I’d actually eaten my achingly beautiful Moreton Bay bug tart.

And that's even after I ignore their instructions to pick it up rather than thump it with my fork.

The creamy raw bug is sandwiched inside a tart made of seaweed pastry with a wafer-thin Jerusalem artichoke lid dusted with sea lettuce powder. It’s delicate but intense; with the Japanese and Italian elements interacting like strands of a DNA double helix, intertwining in a dance between shadow and forefront.

Tomato & Strawberry is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The soft subtle dressing allows the interplay between the hyper-acidic tomatoes and sweet strawberries be the point.

Agnolotti on the other hand, look unexciting, but explode on your palate “like a savoury Lindt Ball,” as one of my dining companions exclaims. They’re matched very nicely to the 2012 Gewurtztraminer M. Shatzel from Alsace. This is one of the meal's better wine pairings; though next time in terms of both value for money and matching success, I'd choose to find my own way through their interesting chardonnay list.

Seeing my interest in photo documentating my own dishes, my vegetarian dining companions eagerly offered up their own. Their delight in not being an afterthought was palpable, and their dishes looked equally intriguing.

We moved through Glacier 51 Toothfish, glazed but left reasonably unadorned. Shitake mushroom and fermented chilli-glazed turnips were all you really needed to offset the pork belly-like luxuriousness of this deep sea-dwelling fish. Sake, in the form of the Dewanakura Omachi ($20/60ml) was a pleasant, if obvious, match.

Wrapping up our savoury eats, duck, marinated in kombucha for a week, arrived in three glistening bands of skin, fat and flesh.

Their richness is balanced by little pots of duck rice flavoured with mandarin peel and star anise, then dusted with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder). Portion control here is so exacting, I'm satisfied without losing any of my eagerness for dessert.

We cleanse our palates with kakigōri – Japanese shaved ice – in lemon myrtle and plum, made beautiful by fresh plum vinegar. It’s all the better because we’re dining on a blisteringly hot day, the kind of day where you feel faint after walking between your car and the restaurant.

Salted Geranium knocks dessert out of the park, particularly against the 2012 Visner di Pergola Selezione Vino di Visciole, a wine co-fermented with cherries. Combining meringue, salty cherries, violet mousse and a blackcurrant reduction, this little pink mushroom has everything I didn’t know I wanted in one dessert: sourness, sweetness, saltiness, richness and complexity, all scaped up into each spoonful.

Just when I thought I was done, kaput, sated, satisfied and more than ready to nap, I was enticed into a moist square of pistachio and pumpkin seed cake.

You know it's in the little things, like your last bite of cake, where you can really feel this restaurant’s measure. Nothing is faxed in or forgotten.

NOTE: Read my 2014 review of this restaurant back HERE.

LuMi Bar & Dining
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9571 1999

LuMi Bar & Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Pablo

While I dutifully lined up like everyone else to get my airy Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake, I wasn’t so impressed with the result to endure a long line when two more of Asia’s biggest cheese-based dessert brands opened Sydney stores. I did however nip in quietly to World Square, where the Malaysian-owned Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart kiosk sits, and collect a box of Japanese-inspired cheese tarts ostensibly for my work colleagues to try. What I found was interesting enough to get me over the line toward visiting Pablo.

With a proper store (rather than a kiosk) on Goulburn Street, one reason to choose Pablo is the opportunity to eyeball their mesmerising production line. They’re making cheese tarts. Eaten cold, they’re a bit like a baked New York-style cheesecake, with a short-crust pastry base. Eaten warm, they have an oozing, just-sweet cheesy mousse-like texture.

To try two different flavours we opted for the mini tart version, in Pablo Mini Plain ($4.20/each) and Pablo Mini Matcha ($4.50/each). While I preferred the tart shell at Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, I was a fan of Pablo’s semi-sweet cheese filling and apricot jam glaze. Surprisingly, the matcha tart was even better than the original, with a wonderfully aromatic burst of green tea. I’m tempted to head back to eat the large version, which has the additional flavour and textural elements of shiratama (white pearls made from rice flour) and blobs of azuki red bean paste.

What will drag me back to Pablo even faster are the Sabrel Cheese ($9.90/box). The black and white cow-print boxes contain nine individually wrapped cheese biscuits. In each foil-wrapped package you'll find two 'langues de chat' (cat's tongue), light crunchy French biscuits, sandwiched together with a Parmesan and Gouda cream cheese. They’re mellow yet intriguing – a perfect, bite-sized savoury cheese snack.

605 George Street (enter Goulburn Street), Sydney
Ph: (02) 9267 2945

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


Review - Radley's

What would happen if you took the old rotisserie chicken shop of your childhood memories, and professionalised it into a modern cafe capable of producing the exact same juicy, whole chook every time? Former chef, Jason Pope, has set about finding out; beginning his exploration in Singapore, where he’s owned The Rotisserie for nine years.

After 22 years in Asia, Pope has finally brought those lessons to bear here in Australia, opening up his first corner chook shop meets café called Radley’s.

It’s a little oasis from the madness of Chatswood Chase, with Scandinavian-inspired chairs, padded booths, hanging greenery, and a decent separation between the tables.

We kick off with an Asian-inspired Crispy Chicken and Kimchi Slider ($10/2) from the on-counter chalkboard specials. Bigger than sliders, these are basically small burgers, offering you great value for your spend. Pope ensures the French milk buns are toasted perfectly every time by using a burger bun machine. The buns are soft and tasty, but not so soft the sliders dissolve in your hands before you can eat them. The fried chicken interior is generous and juicy, without being overly fatty, helped along by a crunchy, fresh, house-made kimchi.

Drawing inspiration from Dallas Restaurant & Bar, another of the 28 brands Pope has developed in Asia, the Prime Rib Steak ($15) served with hot chips, is another ridiculously low priced speciality at Radley's. They slow cook a whole Black Angus cube roll in an oven, and then char your sliced off steak upon service. It’s ridiculously tender, with the melted marbled fat flavouring the quality beef, and an absolute bargain at the price.

Fifty thousand dollars of Frymaster equipment in the Radley’s kitchen helps to ensure Hot Chips ($4) are perfect every time. They’re crisp and almost hollow, after being fried for a precise four minutes. “You’ve really got to execute every time,” explains Pope, as I mull over memories of hunting for the few crisp chips in the paper-wrapped bundles I ate as a kid.

Caramelised onions make the Radley’s Beef Burger ($12.50) another nostalgia-inducing winner. With bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and their own ‘special sauce’, it’s everything you wished McDonald’s would be, only better. The same Black Angus beef I mentioned earlier is fashioned into a patty that has flavour and texture. Once again, the lightly toasted milk bun holds up well, avoiding a sloppy, drippy disaster.

As for the chicken, you can eat your Lilydale free-range bird as rotisserie chook, or as a panko-crumbed Chicken Schnitzel ($12.50) with your choice of two salads. The salads rotate daily, but you’ll always find the classics like potato salad and coleslaw. Both of them taste like memory against the moist, crumbed chicken, lightly seasoned with their in-house blend. It's a little too lightly for my liking, but with old-fashioned salt & peppershakers in the table, who can complain? You can also level out the light seasoning with their wonderful pan-juices gravy made from the drippings of their rotisserie chook.

Technical precision from a Dutch Fri-Jado rotisserie is only part of what makes a Quarter Rotisserie Chicken ($11.50) with two hot vegetable sides so appealing. Radley’s brine the 1.7kg Lilydale birds with eight secret ingredients overnight. The moisture-infused fowl are treated to a rub, then spend 70 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius, before landing on your plate.

I was skeptical about the nostalgic aspect of Jason’s dream to “turn that hole in the wall into a café” but the care and attention he has put into professionalising the cooking of each element on every plate really gets Radley's across the line for me. I look forward to visiting their upcoming CBD store, slated to open in July this year.

Chatswood Chase Sydney, Lower Ground Dining Court
345 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
Ph: (02) 9412 2272

Radley's Rotisserie Chicken & Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Inca's Restaurant, Cafe & Bar

Peruvian cuisine as a whole has never really taken off in Sydney, despite ceviche becoming a menu fixture in so many spots.

Inca’s Restaurant Café & Bar
has been trying to remedy that since 1995; first in Newtown, just down from the Enmore Theatre, and now in a much larger venue in Darlinghurst.

However more than two decades on, you'll still find the restaurant is taking an educative role, with flat screen televisions showing off scenery, dishes and articles about Peruvian food. The imagery is just one pillar of their immersive Peruvian experience, which also includes music. Familiar songs are given a perversely Peruvian twist, like Sounds of Silence or ‘Sonido del Silencio’, which a Peruvian covers band takes somewhere even folksier using pan flutes.


One possible explanation for our slow adoption of Peruvian cuisine is the difficulty in arranging secure supply lines. “We have issues sourcing Peruvian beer, so we decide to import it ourselves,” owner Marco Handabak explains, while we get stuck into our first ever Cusquena Lager ($10). The beer is malty rather than hoppy, which makes sense because Peru doesn’t have the long daylight hours required to grow hops; making for a plain but refreshing lager.

Handabak, who is also the chef, is in the process of revising his menu. He’s secured production of five different chillies central to Peruvian cuisine right here in Australia.

You can give one of them a whirl in his Ceviche Classico ($29). It’s the first time I’ve eaten orange roughy, a fish that can live to 150 years of age. They’re slow to mature, reaching sexual maturity somewhere between 20 and 40 years of age, which means they’re particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Throw in that they’re bottom dwelling (so usually caught by trawling), and they’re on my ‘don’t eat’ list in terms of sustainability.

Unfortunately, as I found out with this dish, orange roughy are also delicious. The fillets have firm flesh and a delicate taste that is wonderful against lime juice, garlic, coriander and punchy yellow chillies. If Peru's idea of 'mild chilli’ gets a bit much, take a bite of the sweet potato the ceviche is piled upon, or eat some of the cancha, roasted corn kernels, to give your mouth a break.

From the colourfully lit bar, your go-to chilli-soothing beverage if (like me) you eat one of the whole chillies (probably a mistake) is the Pisco Sour ($14). They’re usually served in singles, doubles and Catedral ($17), which are known to pack a punch. Based on distilled, fermented grape juice (white brandy), the cocktail is a smooth, rounded drink where the potency of the alcohol is balanced by lime, Angostura bitters and egg white foam.

We also try Chilcano de Pisco ($13), which is a pleasant mix of the same Pisco Quebranta (Pisco made from a single grape varietal), lemonade, lime and bitters. Less to my personal taste, Inca on the Rocks ($13) takes a blended Pisco and teams it with Inca Kola, a lurid greenish-yellow soft drink that is popular in Peru. Inca Kola is flavoured with lemon verbena, but probably closest to what we might call creaming soda. This sweet drink probably would be better balanced with more lime.

From the upcoming menu, we try Pescado a la Chorrillana ($30), an intriguing boneless white fish dish. The flour-coated, pan-fried fish is teamed with prawns, potato, garlic and more of those punchy yellow chillies, in an intensely salty, tomato-based sauce.

The saltiness makes me grateful for a Jenga-like arrangement of Yucas Fritas ($7) that give my mouth a rest. These cassava chips are really well cooked – crisp on their golden exterior, and fluffy inside.

This meal, made by a man clearly passionate about sharing authentic Peruvian culture, is a solid showing for a cuisine I’d definitely like to eat more of in Sydney.

Inca's Restaurant, Cafe & Bar
71-73 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 8971 0768

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


Event - Quanjude

Here’s hoping it’s third time ducky for Quanjude, who’ve just taken over a space where two Peking roast duck restaurants have already tried and failed. After making a moderate update to the duck-centric setting that once housed China Republic and Tang Hui (The Plump Duck), Quanjude launched their flagship Sydney store. Quanjude have been making Peking roast duck since 1864, yep, that’s 154 years of experience, so if anyone can make this spot a success, it’s probably them!

Quanjude have stripped away the blackened windows to let in some natural light, and allowed guests to enjoy it on all sides of the bar.

The bar stools are a great place to take in the theatre of the duck in the open kitchen, though it’s not the only kind of theatrical performance you might see.


On the small stage, there will also be nightly Bian Lian performances. For those still scratching their heads, this ancient Chinese dramatic art involves brightly coloured clothing and fast-changing masks - rather like the giant mask in the entranceway.

Drinks-wise you can expect bespoke, cuisine-appropriate cocktails, including a clever number I tried featuring green tea.

There is also an extensive wine list, and an array of premium Chinese spirits, running all the way up to 15-year-old Kweichow Moutai ($2980).

Duck is obviously the showpiece of the menu, and while a whole Beijing Duck ($118.80) feels pricy, they are made in a traditional, labour intensive way that sees them pumped with air between the meat and the skin to ensure crispness, brined, hung, glazed and then roasted, all before they’re cut into 68 individual pieces.

The menu does offer up some cheaper ways to dabble in duck. Roast Duck Rolls ($30.80/6) were what I wrapped my lips around, enjoying the pliable pancakes encasing thin slices of crisp duck skin and meat, shredded cucumber, shallot and sweet soy bean paste.

There are also duck spring rolls; carrot and lettuce salad topped with duck slices; marinated duck wings and duck meat buns to play with. If you’re feeling adventurous, head straight for duck web with mustard, or the spicy duck gizzards. I’m looking forward to heading back to give the menu a proper going-over myself - after visiting Shanghai, I'm a big fan of Northern Chinese cuisine.

Shop 10.41 World Square,
644 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9267 7288

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

Review - The Factory Grind

The Factory Grind was one of those cafes that sat on the edge of my consciousness. I’d noted it always had full tables when I was visiting venues in the renovated St. Margarets complex, but had never actually made the time to visit. A recent brunch with a friend demonstrated just how negligent I had been...

About a year and a half ago, The Factory Grind was taken over by Efe (Eddie) Topuzlu. While keeping the same name, Efe has set about earnestly trying to resurrect the look and the fading reputation of this once-popular spot.

With dangling greenery, geometric wallpaper, a curved banquette and light flooding in from two sides, the interior is much more inviting than I was expecting from the old garage exterior.

With the afternoon sun still hitting Bourke Street, we opt to enjoy our late lunch outdoors on the sheltered Short Street side. Efe – if you haven’t already guessed by his name – is Turkish, and has placed his own cultural spin on the café’s updated menu.

The Turkish Breakfast Board ($24), served all day long, is a great way to graze with friends. You’ll find a combination of fresh ingredients, like tomato, cucumber, purple cabbage salad and dark olives, complemented by cheeses, like stringy halloumi and marinated feta; with feta also featuring inside a flaky, burek cigar.

The board normally comes with a boiled egg and sucuk (spicy sausage) though if you ask nicely (or if you happen to be Turkish), you can get a pan of sucuk scrambled eggs instead.

Use the accompanying plate of bread to mix and match between sweet and savoury snacks by combining it with the generous pot of house-made cherry jam and dried apricots. Best thing I put in my mouth was the dried apricot that I dragged through kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) and honey.

While it might not be Turkish, Scrambled on Arepas ($21) remains one of the café’s most popular items. It’s an updated throwback to a previous owner, delivering you two Colombian cornmeal arepas (like crisper savoury pancakes) with Turkish scrambled eggs (menemen) tossed with lightly cooked tomato and green capsicum. The plate is adorned with a swathe of mashed avocado, topped with a crunchy cucumber, green olive, cherry tomato and jalapeño salsa, and an ascending row of puddles of chipotle mayonnaise. It’s an interesting and well-balanced vegetarian breakfast that I’d happily order again.

As for the all-important coffee, it’s actually a pretty big deal here. You’ll find 12-hour extraction cold drip, batch brew filters and Turkish coffee, all on the menu. My dining companion’s Latte ($4) was smooth and didn’t require sweetening against ordinary cow milk. It was made on Sweet Spot, their house blend of Colombian and Sumatran beans, roasted in Botany by Deluca.

I stayed faithful to the café’s point of difference and drank a Turkish Coffee ($6) that was both smooth and strong, served with pistachio-rolled Turkish delight and a palate-cleansing lemon mint sparkling water.

The last thing you need to know about this Darlo gem is that they never close. Put them in your head for those pesky public holidays, that is, if you can’t get here sooner.

The Factory Grind
1/344 Bourke St Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8021 8026

The Factory Grind Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Event - The Birdcage

When a chook shop has a burlesque night have we reached peak burlesque saturation in Sydney? This question was on my mind when I accepted an invitation to preview The Birdcage, a new dinner and burlesque cabaret show at Whirly Bird in Pyrmont.

Kicking off this Saturday evening (14 April), The Birdcage is intended to be a weekly affair. It will delivers you dinner (a three-course meal) and a show, for just shy of $90, with your spend including a welcoming flute of Mumm 'Grand Cordon' Champagne (normally $18/glass) to get you in the mood for titillation.

If this is your first burlesque adventure, and you feel the need for more lubrication, you’ll find The Birdcage bar in full cocktail-making operation.


They’ve got a short list of burlesque inspired drinks, like Shaken & Fun ($18) a gin, grapefruit, peach and bubbles combination that wasn’t my thing; and a more complex Stirred & Serious ($18) affair of gin, Champagne and dill reduction, Suze Gentian and grapefruit bitters, that I enjoyed. You can also order from Whirly Bird’s regular list – my go-to is Frank’s Wild Years ($18) a smokin’ blend of Scotch and Suze Gentian with ruby grapefruit. I tried to like Dusty in Memphis ($18), which sees rye, Cocchi Americano and lemon mingle with beetroot Fanta Tang,  but despite the burlesque-appropriate deep magenta hue, and my own propensity for weird cocktails, the bafflingly salty drink was a bridge too far.

With the 1920s Great Gatsby-style theming to the night, I was surprised the bar ignored the obvious classics, like the French 75, Mint Julep and South Side. You can however opt for a pre-Prohibition era drink in the form of the House Martini ($18). With the house pour – Tanqueray gin - and thyme-infused vermouth, it’s an easy-drinker, though for once, I’m going to say the Ketel One Vodkatini ($18) was better.

Sufficiently lubricated, I finally take a good look around. For a chicken restaurant, Whirly Bird scrubs up a surprisingly well as a cabaret club.

The night is actually a strange collision of worlds for me, as I’ve booked burlesque acts for over two decades in my own monthly club night, The Sydney Hellfire Club.

Former-showgirl, dance choreographer and “showgirl fairy godmother”, Wendy Brown has put together the show via her company WB Productions. Wendy is best known for putting on larger scale shows in suburban clubs, like Marrickville RSL's topless review, Canterbury Leagues, Bankstown Sports and Revesby Workers.

From her performers, including hostess Robyn Loau, you get a lot of spinning, singing and sequins for your spend.

Wendy has pitched her show directly at mainstream audiences, using popular (though not era specific) numbers like Chita Rivera’s All That Jazz, and Carmen Miranda’s earworm, I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much).

By and large the show is light-hearted, upbeat and coy, bar from an out-of-place chair dance by Ivy Mystique that broke away from the coquettish charm of classic burlesque.


From the two star acts – Porcelain Alice and Diesel Darling – you get a real glimpse of what Sydney burlesque is capable of. The featured performers, who are both responsible for their own spectacular costumes (a cut above those of Brown’s showgirls), both work the audience with nuance and sophistication.

Alabaster-skinned Porcelain Alice outdoes Dita Von Teese in a spectacular pale pink sequined outfit, complete with flouncy ostrich feather hat, undulating fans, and an air of lip-curling contempt that's quite compelling; before returning to the stage later in the evening with a serpentine reptile.

Similarly, Diesel Darling does a beautifully costumed, classy number with well-placed fringing and light up wings to showcase her strength and powerful allure.

In between sets you’re served a meal in three stages. The shared entrée platter featuring mozzarella and saffron arancini, treacle-cured salmon, salumi and antipasti, duck liver parfait and crushed edamame and jalapeno guacamole with tostada chips; is generous, if incoherent. Some platter elements, like the grey, oxidised parfait, would benefit visually and texturally from being pulled out of refrigeration later, though it still ate well with date relish, smeared onto lavosh crackers.

The kitchen missed some obvious puns by moving away from their do you prefer breast or thigh, poultry stomping ground.

That’s not to say the apple and fennel-stuffed pork and the well-rendered slow-roast duck leg weren’t tasty.

Both ate well against chilled green bean salad, with fennel, hazelnut and tarragon; roast carrots with pomegranate, pistachio and mint yoghurt; and duck fat-roasted potatoes with Parmesan and thyme that would have been excellent if they were hot.

While non-heated plates were a problem during my visit, because I’ve already dined here, I’m inclined to say they likely won’t be when you visit, as this was the restaurant’s first whole-of-restaurant gig.

Do remember that this isn’t Whirly Bird food, but banquet food, so if you’re keen on really seeing what this restaurant can do, The Birdcage isn’t the night to come.

With the decimation of Oxford Street from the Liberal Lockout Laws, the advantage this spot has over similar offerings at Slide, is better food, and the opportunity to kick on at The Star afterwards if gambling and drinking is your thing.

Oh and don’t fret a “bad” table, the show roves all over the dining room.

Before you cringe, the audience participation is quite minimal, bar from my dining companion having tequila free-poured down his throat.

Nothing the performers did required anyone to leave their seat - and after all the cocktails you will undoubtedly consume, that's probably safest. Plan to arrive and leave with Uber, because even the concluding banana semifreddo hides a little rum kick.

Whirly Bird
84 Union Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9660 7134

Whirly Bird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Whirly Bird

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Sydney's hip chicken spot explosion continues with Whirly Bird joining the burgeoning flock currently populated by Le Coq, Juicy Lucy, Belles Hot Chicken, Butter, Chicken Institute and Thirsty Bird.

Whirly Bird has slotted into the vacancy left by 84 Union St. in Pyrmont. Keeping the bones of the former bar, the cosmetic refit includes a chequerboard ceiling, dangling dome lights and large half-moon mirrors, in the style of a retro American cafeteria. It’s enhanced by a soundtrack plucked from the fifties and sixties, with a good dose of surf instrumental.

At Whirly Bird, Anthony Prior, formerly of Keystone Group, is collaborating with two other ex-Keystone colleagues, Rollo Anderson and Liam Doherty-Penzer, from The Rook.

The pair have collated their musically inspired cocktail magic inside record covers – mine features accomplished baritone, Harry Secombe.

Sgt. Peppers ($17) arrives with an appropriate Beatles coaster. It's a quaffable blend of Pisco, guava and bitters with a grapefruit twist. Pink peppercorns nudge it from being a pretty drink to something a bit more serious. Appearing under a Tom Waits’ coaster, Frank’s Wild Years ($18), envelops you in a cloud of ‘coffee and cigarettes’. It’s a Scotch-based cocktail that drinks smoothly and inclines me to want another.

Both cocktails are a little on the small side, so you might want a Wild Yak Pacific Ale ($9/400ml) chaser if you’re actually thirsty (water is for wusses after all).

While you can head down the bar snacks or burger route, it’s actually very easy to construct a well-priced, reasonably healthy sharing meal here. With spit roasted quarter chickens on offer, we're able to pit Butterflied & Spiced ($10/quarter) and Whole Brined Overnight ($12/quarter) against A Bunch of Crispy Bird ($18/5 pieces) without blowing the budget. Wild fennel, sage and liver stuffing gives a meaty complexity to the juicy, flavoursome brined bird.

Lemon, peri peri and marjoram keep the butterflied version light and bright, combining into a lovely chicken jus.

With our fried bird, we had trouble choosing between the chilli, honey caramel, and Whirly Bird’s house-made barbeque sauce, so we asked for both, with the chilli honey caramel proving the best. While the pieces of this one seem small, it’s because they have been really well manicured. I kept expecting to find little bones, but they’re not there.

Half-serve sides mean two-ups like us don’t feel like inconveniences in a bar geared towards groups. White Guy Kimchi Slaw ($5) - a salad taming the Korean staple - keeps my dining companion’s obsession with fermentation at bay.

I’m kept happy with some greens in the form of Sprouts, Cabbage and Broccoli ($5) cooked in miso and sesame oil with a crisp eschalot topping. My only gripe – even with an empty bar, the fast-paced kitchen ignored our charming Italian waitress’s instruction to go slow and not bring everything at once. She was profoundly apologetic.

While it would be easy to dismiss Whirly Bird as just another hipster chicken joint, it's actually a good spot to eat a well-priced and surprisingly honest chicken dinner.

Whirly Bird
84 Union Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9660 7134

Review - Ha Long Vietnamese Restaurant

Named for the beautiful Ha Long Bay in Northeast Vietnam, an area known for emerald green waters and thousands of tiny limestone islands, Ha Long Vietnamese Restaurant is a fairly ordinary spot on Enmore Road. Housed in a characterless modern brick, three-storey block, it’s part of the shifting face of medium density Newtown.

We’re only dining because we emerged from a sake tasting class at P & V Wine + Liquor starving, unable to wait out the queues at the more popular restaurants over the road, like Stinking Bishops and Chinese Dumpling Master. Ha Long’s modest dining room is empty, bar for a smiling Bà (grandmother) sitting in one corner.

They’re putting out simple, home-style Vietnamese, including the ubiquitous Crispy Pancake ($15.90). It’s golden, it’s crisp, and it arrives quickly, much to the happiness of my starving dining companion, though he’s not quite as impressed by the bathrooms.

Those bathrooms are stabby mcstab stab,” my tipsy dining companion says, after taking endless corridor turns to a toilet that he thinks, “looks like somewhere you might die.” I cross my legs and try not to giggle. I'm soon distracted by rolling little fingers of Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaf ($22.90) up into Vietnamese rice paper rolls with the accompanying bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, average greens and pickles. The carrot pickle lacks the lightness of touch I usually associate with Vietnamese pickles, coming off too sweet; and the low quality beef lacks the smoky, lemongrass intensity I was craving.

Lured into Stuffed Squid ($14.90) by a good menu photo, in the resulting dish, the tube of stuffed squid is barely visible at all. The squid is chewy and the stuffing largely flavourless. The whole thing drowned in a thick, bready batter.

There are many better places to eat Vietnamese food in Sydney.

Ha Long Vietnamese Restaurant
80a Enmore Road, Enmore
Ph: (0411) 447 285

Halong Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - The Ternary

Emerging from the escalator, The Ternary is awash with colour. The bright hues distract you from feeling like you’re entering the restaurant and lobby bar of a major hotel, without taking anything away from the sparkling city skyline.

It has been three years since this restaurant launched with a splash, and I’m delighted to find it has settled in well. What’s even more delightful is to meet many of the same staff I encountered on my first visit.

Culinary Director Anthony Flowers has been with the restaurant since inception. After returning from watching one of his young chefs graduate, he pops past my table to say hello.

As soon as I walked upstairs I got the ginger and the garlic from my wok, and I thought: that’s what I want,” enthused Anthony when I mention The Ternary feels miles away from a sterile hotel environment.

I’m seated ringside at the grill station, one of two Masterchef-style well-lit cooking arenas, where you can get amongst the action. These stations are perfect for solo hotel diners craving a bit of banter, or for anyone who enjoys live cooking shows.

The real strength of The Ternary in staff training (and retention) shines, with all staff eager to answer any questions you throw at them - even whilst delivering your Garlic and Cheese Naan ($8).

Cooked in a tandoor in their Asian Kitchen, it’s a better naan than I’ve had at many of Sydney’s dedicated Indian restaurants.

You’ll also see the Novotel focus upon staff development in The Ternary’s third pillar – the bar. Along with an array of signature cocktails, their young bartenders are all able to contribute their own cocktail to the menu of Bartender Signatures, which are priced slightly beneath their regular range.


Murdoch introduces us to Something Different ($19) – his light-hearted, sweet and sour blend of pineapple, lemon juice, Hayman’s Sloe Gin, house-made spice syrup, egg white and rhubarb bitters, beefed up by a slurp of yellow Chartreuse.

The tropical flavours make it a good foil for our Pan Seared Scallops ($19/4), cooked so they remain translucent in the centre, then finished off with a Thai-inspired salad, kaffir lime leaf and a roasted peanut dressing.

For a quiet midweek night, it's impressive to see The Ternary are still servicing 130 diners. Being a hotel restaurant, means that by necessity, their menu must please a wide range of people. An upstanding cigar of Pulled Peppered Beef ($19) in crisp pastry is very accessible, elevated slightly with a drizzle of tamarind and a balancing lime squeeze. We enjoy it with Blue Steel ($19) a fruitier Dark’n’Stormy style cocktail made on Kraken Rum, and presented by bartender Dave, who is also celebrating his three-year anniversary with the restaurant.

We move through good quality Lamb Cutlets ($27/4). Cooked in the tandoor, their smoky exteriors hide pleasantly pink centres, with the charry intensity balanced by lemon and zingy beetroot puree.

Celebrating quality produce calls for good wine, and I’m super glad to be drinking the 2014 Shaw+Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay ($115/bottle) when the Grilled King Prawns ($27) arrive. The fat New Zealand crustaceans are a meal highlight, not least of which for the clever miso and black garlic sauce. It's only that I'm sitting right at the well-lit grill station that stops me scooping up more of this salty umami with my finger.

Things start getting raucous when our neighbours – regulars at the restaurant - get a monstrous half-kilo platter of Balmain Bugs ($58). The accommodating chef even poses for a photo, to enable the guests to better inspire envy from their social media following.

To prevent us getting order envy, we’re also gifted with a split open bug perched on top of our shared 400g Op Rib ($75).

Pulling it out from the shell in one piece, it’s clearly another well-handled crustacean; and one that may well incline me to come back for the whole half-kilo shebang one day soon.

Below it we found a generous serve of tender, dry-aged Pinnacle grass-fed Angus beef, served tagliata with a flourish of shallot red wine jus.

The rest of my night passed in a blur of cocktails and sugar, culminating in a bespoke dessert board featuring of all of The Ternary’s desserts.

A bit overwhelmed, I sampled my way through their Dark Chocolate Tart ($15) and the Mango and Vanilla Panna Cotta ($15) before coming to rest upon the Lychee Crème Brulee ($16) with its lovely coconut sorbet accompaniment.

It’s easy to see why savvy Sydneysiders have ensured that only half of The Ternary’s guests are actually inhouse hotel guests – the food and dining experience here are both really something.

NOTE: You can see a previous review of this venue back HERE.

The Ternary
Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour,
100 Murray Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9934 0000

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