Aided by a small but diligent team of writers (Alex Harmon, Amie Barbeler, Ryan Kennedy and DJ Hookie) this food blog has brought you over 215 restaurant, bar, café, product and event reviews. 2015 also marks the end of my nearly 9-year tenure as the Group Dining Editor for Altmedia’s suite of newspapers. But never fear, I’ll still be reviewing here!
Looking back at the year that was, here are NINE 2015 food and drink trends that made us excited, and ONE summing up the things we could have done without...
1. Foraging and Beach Plants
Foraging continues to be a food trend we're excited and inspired by. Weeds, flowers and, in particular, beach plants, continue to catch our eye on menus, and make it hard to order any other dish. Notable beach plant excitement this year came from Silvereye, particularly for Neptune's pearls, Cottage Point Inn for edible flowers and weeds, and Lotus @ The Galeries who showed us ice plants even work with Modern Chinese cuisine.
However if there's one place you should go to sample this trend, it's The Powder Keg to experience the dishes of keen beach forager, Chef Elijah Holland. In fact, if there's one name you should remember to watch out for in the future, it's Elijah Holland - we think this chef will go far!
2: Small Bar Influx Slows
Sadly Sydney small bars seemed to stop multiplying at quite the same rate this year, with those pesky Liberal Party Lockout Laws continuing to put a dampner on our late night good times. While newcomers Bloody Mary’s and Rosie Campbell’s both piqued my interest, The Powder Keg (which actually opened at the end of 2014) was my favourite 2015 bar review, though the gin tasting I did at Stillery was also pretty memorable.
With less new bars, I resorted to old favourites: Grain still rates a mention, though it was Tokyo Bird I found myself returning to the most times. However if I had a spirit bar, it’d have to be Goros. There's definitely a crazy night inside that whacky space swilling sake and Yona Yona Japanese beer in my future.
[Of course the lady with more bars in her brassiere this year is Bar Fly Babe Amie Barbeler - read her favourites HERE.]
3. Less Fussy Food
There seems to be a rise in the number of high quality, simpler food offerings without all the fine dining trappings. Restaurants like One Ford Street and the new Popolo (in the capable hands of Chef Naomi Lowry) are ditching everything from molecular gastrontomy to white tablecloths to those rigidly structured dining experiences. And if you ask me, their food offerings are all the better for it!
4. Pub Renovations
Pub renovations continued apace in 2015 with two standouts being Hotel Palisade and Public House Petersham. What's notable is they both seemed to avoid the over-used hipster pub cliches of 2014; renovating whilst still keeping the heart of being a pub where locals feel comfy enjoying a beer.
5. The Rise of Regional Cuisines
This year we were still excited when we saw new, regionally specific versions of cuisines we thought we knew a lot about. Mrs Mi, showing off the Shanxi region of China, gave us new reasons to eat Chinese food. Sydney's Japanese offerings also widened in 2015, with Osaka Bar trotting out the dishes of Osaka, the city that gave us takoyaki and pressed, rectangular oshizushi.
6. New Products Galore
While we tried more products than we can mention in 2015, the ones that we're still salivating over were the Japanese baked goods from Bake Kobo; food writer Stephanie Clifford-Smith's eggplant kasundi at Clifford-Smith Handmade; the melt-in-the-mouth steaks from Hereford Red Beef; and pretty much every cocktail product we've ever bought from Only Bitters, starting with their excellent range of tonic syrups.
Our favourite pop-up this year was Madame Truffles who took over the space below Pasta Emelia and filled our lives with pungent, aromatic black sex. We're sitting eagerly, truffle slicer in hand, waiting for her to return next year! We also loved spending vintage with Eden Road Wines, and tasting all their 2015 releases.
7. Fancier Feeds We Haven't Stopped Talking About
In no particular order the restaurants that most impressed in 2015 were The Gantry Bar & Grill, O Bar & Dining and Dragoncello. (We're also still madly in love with the beef short rib at LP’s Quality Meats - just so you know.)
In the degustation category, we think that Nel Restaurant offers up Sydney's most accessible degustation, giving you all the plating and presentation wows, without any difficult-to-love ingredients. Though the degustation that really blew our socks off in 2015 was the 17-course offering at Silvereye.
8. Everyday Smile Makers
We don't expect every meal to transport us somewhere magical, but we do expect everyday eats to deliver on quality and price. Our top everyday eats this year were The Cross-Eyed Dog (at the nearly completely renovated Zanzibar set to relaunch in January 2016); 'pizza 2.0' at Da Vinci's in Summer Hill; and the modern Korean offerings at Damda (incidentally the restaurant we returned to the most in 2015). In fact, we can't over-state the excitement we have at finding a hip, local Korean in Leichhardt!
9. In It For The Long Haul
In a time when the world seems to be moving more and more quickly, it seems pertinent to recognise the stayers. This year we loved being able to celebrate 25 years of quality Indian cuisine with Abhi's in Concord, and we may have shed a quiet tear over the departure of Satasia (one of the most successful Asian fusion restaurants we've ever dined at) after 33-and-a-half years in Balmain.
10. We're Bored With...
Boards still appearing under pretty much everything, slate tiles, overfilled jam jar freak-shakes sucked through doughnuts, plastic syringes and injectable garnishes, and sliders… well except for that one at Capriccio we want to eat again. Value for money felt important this year, so we raised an eyebrow at $46 for a single Western Australian marron at Firedoor - 'cause, well, it ain't a lobster. We're also tiring of tiny, overpriced hipster versions of poverty cuisines and street foods. While there's nothing wrong with the flavours in the pasta portions at ACME, the eighth of a cabbage at Master, and Bang's Bangladeshi street food, something in their very conception feels awry...
Catch you all in 2016.
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?