Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Awards

Last night, the Victorian food scene celebrated the illustrious The Age Good Food Guide 2012 award ceremony.

Crowned as Best Restaurant of the Year was Attica from Melbourne’s Ripponlea. While their chef Ben Shewry was unable to receive the award, owner David Maccora accepted it on his behalf. Despite this, Good Food Guide editor Janne Apelgren said “Ben serves poetry on a plate.”

And impressively, last year’s Best New Country Restaurant was this year’s Regional Restaurant of the Year. Astrid and Aaron Turner of Loam have created a modern, “curious” menu that clearly impressed the judges. Golden Fields took home the Best new Restaurant while Philippe Mouchel took home the Vittoria Legend Award.

For a full list of the awards, follow this link

Overall, 81 restaurants were awarded with hats, three fewer than last year. Among them were seven entirely new restaurants, including the Asian-tinged Spice Temple, Golden Fields and Dandelion.

Anna Lisle

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Sydney welcomes The Bridge Room

The crème-da la crème of the culinary world shared a glass of Bollinger last night to welcome The Bridge Room to the Sydney dining scene. A short meander from the Museum of Sydney and Circular Quay, The Bridge Room will open its doors tonight with ex-Rockpool chef Ross Lusted behind the stove.

We were treated to a selection of nibbles including cucumber and spanner crab roulades, peanut and citrus dressed Sydney Rock oysters and bundles of wrapped enoki mushrooms. All the guests agreed that if this is what we can expect from owner’s Sunny and Ross Lusted, The Bridge Room is well on its way to success.

The guest list at the opening included chef Peter Gilmore (from Quay), editor of Gourmet Traveller Wine Judy Saris, journalist John Newton and businessmen Leon Fink (the brains behind Quay and Otto). The Bridge Room has certainly already made its mark on some of Sydney’s most powerful.

Goose Liver Custard

Anna Lisle

The Bridge Room on Urbanspoon

Read more about The Bridge Room here

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2012 Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

The Australian Gourmet Traveller 2012 Restaurant Awards were held last night and we’re excited to announce the top 100:

1. Marque, NSW
2. Quay, NSW
3. Cutler & Co., Vic
4. Vue de Monde, Vic
5. Rockpool, NSW
6. Tetsuya’s, NSW
7. Est., NSW
8. Bécasse, NSW
9. Guillaume at Bennelong, NSW
10. Royal Mail Hotel, Vic
11. Berowra Waters Inn, NSW
12. Attica, Vic
13. Rockpool Bar & Grill, NSW
14. Bentley Restaurant & Bar, NSW
15. Aria, NSW
16. Bilson’s, NSW
17. Sepia, NSW
18. Jacques Reymond, Vic
19. Flower Drum, Vic
20. Porteño, NSW
21. Sean’s Panaroma, NSW
22. Circa, the Prince, Vic
23. Ortiga, Qld
24. Rockpool Bar & Grill, Vic
25. Universal, NSW
26. Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, NSW
27. Garagistes, Tas
28. Claude’s, NSW
29. Pier, NSW
30. Loam, Vic
31. Restaurant Amusé, WA
32. Pilu at Freshwater, NSW
33. Provenance, Vic
34. Café Di Stasio, Vic
35. Grossi Florentino, Vic
36. Buon Ricordo, NSW
37. Aria Brisbane, Qld
38. Rockpool Bar & Grill, WA
39. Ezard, Vic
40. Lake House, Vic
41. Gastro Park, NSW
42. Appellation, SA
43. Urbane, Qld
44. Penfolds Magill Estate, SA
45. Yoshii, NSW
46. Otto Ristorante, NSW
47. Flying Fish, NSW
48. The Buffalo Club, Qld
49. Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill, SA
50. MoMo, Vic
51. Cumulus Inc., Vic
52. Four in Hand, NSW
53. Bistro Moncur, NSW
54. Vulcans, NSW
55. Manly Pavilion, NSW
56. Ormeggio, NSW
57. Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, SA
58. Bar Lourinhã, Vic
59. Lucio’s, NSW
60. Tartufo, Qld
61. Spice Temple, NSW
62. Golden Fields, Vic
63. Stokehouse, Vic
64. Bodega, NSW
65. Celsius, SA
66. Bistrode, NSW
67. Felix, NSW
68. MoVida Aqui, Vic
69. The Press Club, Vic
70. Wasabi, Qld
71. Bistrode CBD, NSW
72. Longrain, NSW
73. Nu Nu, Qld
74. Catalina, NSW
75. The Manse, SA
76. Lochiel House, NSW
77. Lotus, NSW
78. Ad Lib Bistro, NSW
79. MoVida, Vic
80. Dandelion, Vic
81. Annie Smithers, Vic
82. Spice Temple, Vic
83. Pearl, Vic
84. The Stackings, Tas
85. Verge, Vic
86. Biota Dining, NSW
87. Restaurant Assiette, NSW
88. Buzo, NSW
89. Dear Friends, WA
90. Coda, Vic
91. Sarti, Vic
92. Glebe Point Diner, NSW
93. Billy Kwong, NSW
94. Saint Peter’s, Vic
95. Izakaya Den, Vic
96. Absynthe, Qld
97. Embrasse, Vic
98. Longrain, Vic
99. E’cco, Qld
100. The Atlantic, Vic

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It’s the little things that you remember most about a restaurant. Whether it’s the type of hand soap in the restaurant’s bathroom or the manner in which the bill is delivered – it is always a culmination of these smaller details that create the overarching memory.

Floor-to-ceiling pinewood panels create an entrance into Graze, allowing soon-to-be diners the chance to politely look around the small restaurant (and check out the most impressive looking dishes). With just 22 seats on the bottom level, the atmosphere is intimate and personal. The dark lighting and soft jazz music keeps the vibe upbeat but the general atmosphere is unpretentious and homely.



Warm sourdough rolls arrive at the table with a generous ramekin of salt-sprinkled butter. I butter the bread, longingly hopeful that the soft-golden liquid adorning my fresh roll is churned in-house. Terrified my presumptions are about to be shattered, I slowly, tentatively raise the bread to my lips. But as I chew, fireworks explode. The butter is definitely churned in-house. Big tick.

Michela, our petite maitre’d, welcomes us with a big smile and her polite energy is contagious. We begin with soft shell crab from the ‘nibble’ menu. It is anything but ‘nibble’ size. Large dollops of soy mayonnaise and chilli jam accompany the crunchy morsels of crab flesh and macro herbs elegantly garnish the dish. Next, the roast quail breast, crisp confit leg, braised witlof, puy lentils and carrot puree entree sends a distinctively French message, a stark contrast from our Modern Australian/ Asian ‘nibble’. The cauliflower ‘milkshake’ rocks the boat yet again and I have images of my friend and I sitting in an American diner slurping candy coloured milk from red and white striped straws.

Cauliflower Milkshake, Jamón and Cheese Toasty

While the main courses of seared kingfish and Murrayland lamb shoulder draws on European-inspired flavours. Each dish is perfectly composed and it is clearly an experienced chef behind the stove. The presentation is artistic, inspiring and elegant.

Seared Kingfish, Confit Fennel, Bouillabaisse Reduction, Orange and Almond

While some may find the trot-across-the globe confusing, I would argue the contrary. In order to appreciate fine food, we must continuingly challenge our palates and keep them refreshed and inspired. Plus, dining like this is exciting and unpredictable. Just think, why is Heston Blumenthal and restaurants like Noma so successful and popular? Graze takes dining to another level. It is an experience rather than ‘just another dinner’. I will be back. And not just for that butter.

Anna Lisle

Graze on Urbanspoon

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Cafe Opera at the Intercontinental Sydney

Walking through the entrance of the Intercontinental Hotel, one cannot ignore the history that this building is steeped in. Built around the restored Treasury Building of 1851, the hotel is a dynamic mix of tradition and modernity. Three tiers of sandstone arcades create a soaring atrium that, tonight, are beautifully illuminated, creating an atmospheric and moody surrounding. Slender women in ballgowns delicately rearrange their styled hair while sipping champagne (Veuve Clicquot, I’m sure) in the hotel lobby and I’m suddenly conscious of my somewhat un-ballgown-esque attire. But, fortunately, I’m quickly assured that they are attending an upstairs charity ball and that I am most adequately dressed. Phew.

As I wait for the lift to go to Cafe  Opera, I’m mesmerized by the opulence of the hotel building and on entering Cafe Opera, I’m not disappointed. Antique mirrors, marble flooring and high ceilings are in keeping with the hotel’s luxurious vibe. This, combined with customer service that in today’s world I thought was purely reserved for royalty, conjures thoughts of an era when people took time to dine. When a meal wasn’t simply a process of feeding a hungry tummy. But modern touches, such as the market-style chalkboard with handwritten buffet specials and the live cooking stations, remind me that, yes, we are in the 21st century. But these are not unwelcome reminders – especially after sampling grilled lobster, which charming young chefs cook right in front of you.

Grand surrounds

Catching glimpses of Sydney Rock oysters, Crystal Bay prawns and Balmain Bug, I don’t hesitate in selecting for the buffet entree. I must admit, I’m the first person to turn my nose up at a buffet-style restaurant but this cannot even be considered in such a category. Diners peruse the stainless-steel food stations, scrutinising over salmon sashimi, slow roasted shoulders of lamb and steamed scallops. The food is presented immaculately and waiters flutter around like angels, clearing plates and suggesting wines and dish combinations. The French inspired a la carte menu is fine-dining on every level. The pan-seared line-caught barramundi is perfectly seasoned and while the fillet is small, it’s still moist and succulent. Organic glazed carrots perch on top of the fish and a sophisticated mussel emulsion presented in the form of an aerated mousse takes the dish to another level. My only complaint is that my stomach isn’t as big as my eyes.

Extensive seafood buffet

Anna Lisle

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Read more about Cafe Opera at the Intercontinental Sydney here


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Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year Awards

Last night I was pleased to attend Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards presented by leading wine distributor, Fine Wine Partners and Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine, held at Doltone House in Pyrmont. This award offers the most highly prized accolades for Australian wine lists with 380 restaurants, hotels and clubs entering these prestigious awards. Gourmet Traveller WINE Readers’ Choice Award went to ARIA Sydney

AUSTRALIA’S WINE LIST OF THE YEAR went to Pilu at Freshwater with their Sommelier Lara Caraturo winning the Judy Hirst Award

ACT – Rubicon
South Australia – Apothecary 1878
Tasmania – Me Wah
Queensland- Aria Brisbane
New South Wales – Pilu at Freshwater
Victoria – Royal Mail Hotel
Western Australia – Rockpool Bar & Grill

Rockpool Bar & Grill – Melbourne (2010)
Rockpool Bar & Grill – Sydney (2009)
Taxi Dining Room – Melbourne (2008)
Aria – Sydney (2003)
Circa, The Prince – Melbourne (2001)
Syracuse – Melbourne (1999)
Walter’s Wine Bar – Melbourne (1996)

Best Club Restaurant – Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron – Sydney,
NSW Best Pub Restaurant – Healesville Hotel – Healesville, VIC
Best Small List – Fino – Willunga, SA
Best International Hotel Restaurant List – Glass Brasserie – Sydney, NSW
Best Wine Bar List – Must Winebar – Highgate, WA
Best ACT List – The Ginger Room – Parkes, ACT
Best SA List – Appellation – Marananga, SA
Best WA Restaurant – Friends – East Perth, WA
Best WA Restaurant – Must Winebar – Highgate, WA

Best Wine Bar – Melbourne Supper Club
Best Food & Wine Matching – Jacques Reymond,
Best Digestif List – Acqua e Vino,
Best Country Restaurant – Royal Mail Hotel,
Best Cafe/Brasserie – European, Best Beer List – Healesville Hotel.

New South Wales was awarded Best Small List
Blancharu, Best Restaurant
Pilu at Freshwater
Best By the Glass List – Glass,
Best International Hotel Restaurant – Galileo,
Best Aperitif List – Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney.

West Australia’s Settler’s Tavern collected their third win for Best Pub Restaurant with the new Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth winning Best New List.

Queensland took out two awards this year, Best Regional List – Ortiga and Best Club Restaurant was awarded for a second year to the Brisbane Club.

All these great restaurants are on our site, so look them up to get further details.

Anna Lisle


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La Capannina Restaurant

By daytime, family-run La Capannina looms in the shadows of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli and by night, diners catch glimpses of yachts and boats ferrying about in the harbour. The seafood-dominated Italian menu features specialties from the owner’s hometown, Capri.

Walking across the bowling club greens, sparkling fairy lights hanging from a leafless tree create a magical entrance to La Capannina. But our journey from car to restaurant is briefly interrupted. We accidentally walk into the next-door community hall where a dance class is about to begin and after an awkward encounter, we retreat to La Capannina and the warm embrace of our host Lino Mascolo. A far-cry from the accepted ‘red-and-white chequered table cloth and violin-playing’ scenario so often encountered at Italian restaurants, there is a simple yet elegant air about La Capannina. Classy chocolate hues and modern lines dominate the restaurant space with areas for both intimate, romantic meals or round group tables for a little fun.

A fairytale setting at La Capannina Restaurant

Owner Lino Mascolo and his daughter, Francesca run the restaurant like clockwork in a dynamic that only seems to occur when working with family. While the father-and-daughter duo may have done away with Italian-themed furnishings, the loving, warm and boisterous Italian hospitality remains. As guests stream into the restaurant, Lino and Francesca welcome each guest like old friends and perhaps they all are. But that’s the thing about the hospitality industry, if a restaurateur treats you well, they will quickly develop a loyal crowd of regulars. And my suspicions are affirmed when, by the time our food arrives, the restaurant is close to full on a rather chilly Tuesday night. Usually it’s only the cheap Thai joints, opposite Hoyts, that are full with the ‘tight-arse Tuesday movie’ crowd.

Our entree arrives with perfect timing – Fritturina mista di pesce – a crisp selection of lightly fried calamari, prawns, octopus, zucchini and eggplant. We plunge each bite-size morsel of salty seafood in a creamy dill and lemon mayo. Usually my ‘oh-so-manly’ better half will skirt around the vegetable additions in a dish but not tonight. He greedily finishes the eggplant and zucchini before I’ve even had a chance to sample one. But I don’t complain. Rather, I make a mental note that will be voiced when our mains arrive.

Fresh seafood entree

Now, if pizza is your penchant, then this isn’t the place, but if seafood reigns supreme, then you won’t know where to look on the menu. While Italian in feel, the menu is dominated with classic Capri seafood dishes. The seared john dory is crisp and fresh and sided with a raw fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad and crisp potatoes. The crispy pork belly is served on a salty yet sweet eggplant puree with toasted pine nuts and feta cheese. The restaurant may indeed attract an older crowd of yacht-sailing Lower North Shore types but the reasonably-priced food, which is ridiculously hard to fault, will undoubtedly draw in a greater demographic of die-hard-foodies in the search for fine Italian food matched with good, honest hospitality.

Delectable desserts

At daytime, it looms in the shadows of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli. Ten minutes from the CBD, across Sydney Harbour Bridge and directly below Milson’s Point train station. Water taxi service also available to the wharf which is a five minute walk away.

Lino Mascolo, former owner of North Sydney’s L’Incontro, and his daughter Francesca, have taken over the former Kirribilli bowling club venue for La Capannina.

Anna Lisle

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Read more about La Capannina here

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