Monthly Archives: September 2011

Review: Jet Bar Caffe

Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and watch the world pass you by and at Jet Bar Caffe you can do just that. Floor-to-ceiling windows give diners an uninterrupted view of the beautiful, historic Town Hall building and a chance to watch the crowds outside. Securing a window seat, I watch as office workers hurriedly buy their power-lunches while tourists casually linger around outside, taking snapshots of the impressive Queen Victoria Building landmark.

The interior of Jet Bar Caffe

The location of Jet Bar Caffe is perfect but it is only until you walk in the grand entrance that you can appreciate it in its entire glory. The restaurant has recently undergone a full-scale renovation complete with a take-away espresso bar, wine bar and upper level open kitchen area. Antique furnishings, long communal black marble tables and brass edges create the sophisticated, refined new look.

Italian buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil salad

The menu has also had an overhaul with Southern Italian chef Danny Russo creating the new Italian-Australian menu. Russo explains, “it’s the Italian food we love but with a bit of retro feel”. Skeptical of how this actually translates, the menu is a melange of dishes from burgers, antipasti, pasta and pizzas. However the menu also caters for those seeking a fine-dining experience with whole fish of the day and rib-eye steak options.

Lemon panna cotta, poached rhubarb and almond biscotti

An insalata of Italian buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil is like a party of colours on the plate. The colour of each ingredient is so vibrant and rich, it is clear this kitchen is not buying ingredients on the cheap. And once a fork-full of mozzarella, tomato, basil- (all doused in lashings of extra virgin olive oil) hits my lips – my observations were confirmed. For me, this is what I love about Italian food. Simple yet so full of flavour that you feel like you’re eating a meal that would have taken a year to prepare. The generous serving of grilled barramundi with roast peppers, zucchini, olives and almonds was the perfect main to follow the insalata. A dessert of lemon panna cotta, poached rhubarb
and almond biscotti has nice textural contrasts and the flavours compliment one another. So by the end of my meal, if by “retro”, Russo means “homely” and “delicious”, he certainly taps on all the right taste buds.

With all the talk about the new Westfield “glam” food court, I just hope this little treasure won’t get overlooked.

DETAILS
Located on the street level of the Queen Victoria Building, fronting onto George St. (Shop 55). Antoinette and Tony Mowad are the co-owners behind Jet Bar Caffe and have experience in the hospitality industry spanning over 20 years.

Anna Lisle

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Launch of Zest Waterfront Venue, The Spit

It was a night of glitz and glamour at the launch of the Zest Waterfront Venue at The Spit. Over 100 guests made the journey to Mosman to share in the celebration where the champagne, wine and food flowed freely.

The Middle Harbour 16’ Skiff Club has been revamped into an exquisite, elegant space by eminent designer Michael McCann. While the look is modern, the venue stays true to the former boathouse feel with warm timbers, bronzed glowing ceiling coffers, imported natural stone and white awnings over a deep outdoor terrace. The luxurious venue is managed by Zest, who in recent years has scooped the Restaurant and Catering Association’s major food and venue awards, winning ‘Best Wedding Caterer’ and overall ‘Caterer of the Year’ Australia-wide.

Zest, The Spit

We were all blown away by the venue, but it was the food that left a mark. We were surrounded by tables overflowing with bowls of chocolate dipped strawberries, macaroons, stands of dumplings and a giant paella pan. Quite simply, it was all amazing.

We were also fortunate to hear the Principal of Zest, Raphael Kahn, speak about how this spit icon has been reborn into a special and unique venue. His words were brought to life as we all looked over the marina – charmed by the nightlights that sparkled over the water.

Thank you for a beautiful night and we wish you all the best,

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Review: La Vucciria

As soon as I opened the red lacquered door of La Vucciria, a spell was cast over me. I felt like I was in a fairytale, only for adults. Moody tea-light candles seductively flickered in the window and racks of wine winked at me from behind the gray-veined marble bar. A vibrant playlist of reggae, blues and modern tunes echoed off the polished wooden floorboards and a prickly pear tree cheekily sat in the corner of the restaurant. Despite feeling exhausted, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around. And smile I did, for the entire evening.

Photographs of La Vucciria – a centuries-old food market in Palermo

For my visit to La Vucciria, I recruited a friend who had just returned from a six month holiday where, lucky for me, she had spent much of her time in Sicily. As soon as we took out seats, a beautiful wine list bound in leather arrived on our laps however we left it up to the experienced hands of sommelier Brad Dickson to choose a drop. As we sipped our wine, my friend couldn’t stop gushing about how everything in the restaurant reminded her of Sicily – from the black and white photographs to the religious paraphernalia and Sicilian pottery scattered around the restaurant. But the food was to be the true test.

The menu is written in white chalk on a blackboard at the back of the restaurant – and the menu changes daily, depending on what Fabio finds at the market. Luscious Sicilian olives arrived in a white porcelain bowl with a platter of thinly shaven slices of prosciutto. As we sipped our sweet, crisp wines, the saltiness from the prosciutto and olives were the perfect match. The arancini prawns were light and fresh– not loaded with parmesan and butter – and biting through the crisp exterior, the prawn inside was a textural surprise. While I usually steer clear of any kind of braised fish dishes – on the waiter’s recommendation, I opted for the tuna tagliata. The pink fish was tender and packed with flavours with a sweet balsamic jus and salty, crisp sage leaves.

The floor-to-ceiling blackboard menu

As we neared the end of the night, we were told that the strawberry tiramisu was a house speciality however I only had eyes for one thing. The chocolate pistachio cake. The vibrant green nuts created a crust on the top of the cake that contrasted perfectly to the moist and rich interior. Each dish throughout the evening offered something special and the menu is a tribute to the experience and knowledge of a chef who is quite clearly working in his element. Fabio’s food is made with love, just as it should be in a fairytale.

Location:
160a Flinders Street, Paddington NSW

Anna Lisle

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Launch of EAT LOVE PIZZA

It is a happy week for Italian aficionados (particularly pizza fanatics!) with the opening of EAT LOVE PIZZA in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. The Dockside Group officially opened its doors this week and I had the pleasure of attending the media launch and meeting owner Chris Drivas and the Dockside team who were there to look after everyone in true Italian style.

Maureen de Groot, Chris Drivas (owner) and Kim Atwells

The sun was out, the service was incredible and the food was outstanding. Everything from the antipasti platters to the risotto, pasta, pizzas and desserts, was impressive. I spent some time in Italy last year, and I must admit, the food brought back memories of the many meals I enjoyed in Rome and the Italian Riviera. The atmosphere is fast-paced, family-friendly and fun with a focus on theatre-style cooking which allows diners the opportunity to watch the skilled chefs cut quality-cured meats and gourmet cheese from the comfort of their table.

EAT LOVE PIZZA

Located on the ground floor of the IMAX Theatre in Darling Harbour, EAT LOVE PIZZA has replaced the Ice Cube Seafood Restaurant and I have no doubt this will become one of the most popular restaurants in Darling Harbour.

Within walking distance from our office, we will indeed be coming here on a regular basis.

Buon Appetito!

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Cara and Co

Mannequins decorated with delicate silk dresses, retro bicycles and children’s wooden rocking horses fill the window display at Cara and Co. I double-check the address. I look around the level and there are only clothing stores. But then, I notice a menu just beside the glass entrance – the only hint that there is more than just beautiful clothes inside this fashion-filled wilderness.

Cara and Co

Walking through the store, upbeat catwalk music and metal clothing racks filled with exquisite garments create quite the entrance and a quick skim of the latest clothing line certainly works up an appetite.

The restaurant’s interior is much like that of the clothing store – it is retro yet modern, cool yet elegant and somehow it works. The lime green glass floor, retro leather seats and regally upholstered chocolate lounge make it feel as though I’m on the set of the Brady Bunch show. I look around, almost expecting Jan and Peter to walk out from the kitchen and play host for the night.

A mixed eating and fashion experience

As I peruse the menu, I’m distracted by a flash on the restaurant’s walls. I quickly realise that a high fashion runway show is being projected for diners to watch. At first, this seems odd however, as it grows on me, I realise that it is in fact quite appropriate. Cara and Co is smack, bang in the heart and soul of the glitzy and glamorous Westfield Sydney – one of Australia’s most exclusive and luxury fashion meccas.

Cara and Co’s signature dish: “Just Lamb”

As our starter of “I’m too healthy for my soup” arrives, everything that I was thinking about quickly fades away into insignificance. And this is what I love most about the power of food. Pureed jerusalem artichoke and ground hazelnut create the base of the soup however it is the grated granny smith apple, lime and chunks of roasted hazelnut that triumph. Being the first day of Spring, I thought it appropriate to order the lamb. And while the dish is titled “just lamb”, all I have to say is that it is anything but just lamb. A picturesque plate with precisely placed pieces of lamb neck, rib and steak scatter the porcelain-white dish. A subtle pistachio jus is smeared on the side and seasonal root vegetables are sweet and seasoned. Describing it as art on a plate doesn’t do it justice. It doesn’t take into account the intensity of the flavours nor does it account for the intricate textures that dance in your mouth. As I gush over the dish, the waiter can’t help but join in. Excitedly, he tells me, “The flavours are just so real, you can taste every ingredient. The dishes are so complex and yet, the taste is so clean and fresh.” His energy is contagious and I have to agree, Cara and Co is pretty special

Anna Lisle

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Read more about Cara and Co here

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Johnandpeter Canteen @ CarriageWorks

Some restaurants have a warehouse ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ however Johnandpeter Canteen literally is in a warehouse. The old Eveleigh Rail Yard’s workshop has been converted into an area that is now used for the increasingly popular Saturday Eveleigh Farmers Markets and the inside theatre space hosts performances such as dance and drama. And now, it is home to the beautiful Johnandpeter Canteen.

The vision for the CarriageWorks site was to create an “artistic hub” and on entering the glass doors into the building, this theme is evident. The restaurant’s space is not bound by walls but rather by a raised polished wooden floorboard. The original structure of the railyard workshop remains, with rusted wrought iron beams looming overhead and steel box panels protruding from the side walls. At first, the restaurant seems cold with the high ceilings and open space but as you look around and absorb the history of the building, it forces you to think about a time long ago – a time that we will never know. When people aren’t constantly connected with iPhones, Blackberrys and iPads. A time when food couldn’t be delivered via the phone and land on your door step 15 minutes later. Thinking about all this is oddly warming and comforting.

Johnandpeter Canteen foyer

It may be called a ‘canteen’ but the formal dining setting and menu suggest otherwise. Dishes such as milk-cooked pork neck with curds and desiree mash and seared rare tuna, kohlrabi, capers and anchovy butter offer serious options for the finer-diner. However, there is also more casual meals available for takeaway with sandwiches and quiche. Whether you opt for a formal meal or otherwise, each dish screams quality. From the freshly churned anchovy butter which melts over the seared tuna, to the crisped artichoke with garlicky crushed broad beans – each component is clearly straight-from-the-sea, straight-from-the-paddock and straight-from-the-kitchen. The food is my kind of food – it’s honest, fresh and delicious.

Johnandpeter Canteen seared rare tuna, kohlrabi, capers and anchovy butter

LOCATION

On Wilson Street in Eveleigh inside the CarriageWorks building.

Anna Lisle

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The Deck

Harbourside dining rarely gets any better than at The Deck. While the entrance is hardly glamorous – under the Luna Park jaws with the garish flashing lights – once inside, The Deck is a little haven. Despite what you may assume, there are no kids yelling and screaming nor is there any carnival music blaring. The only noises to be heard are the celebratory clinks of cocktail glasses and the soft acoustic music from the restaurant’s sound system.

The Deck

As we take our seat beside the floor-to-ceiling glass window, we’re momentarily silenced by the view. The huge wrought iron panels of the Sydney Harbour Bridge loom overhead while the sparkling lights of Circular Quay remind us how close we are to the city. We look slightly to our left and the Opera House is proudly illuminated. Cruise boats and yachts returning to the harbour after a day at sea look like tiny lights on the water, bobbing up and down, as if they’re dancing in front of us. Crowds of suits and corporates momentarily block our view as they disembark the ferry at the Milsons Point stop just below us but we don’t mind, we have the whole night to absorb this special place.

As the sun slowly sets, we hurriedly order, not wanting to miss a moment of the view. Efficient waitresses, dressed in navy blue striped shirts, hover around, ready to fill our water glasses, top up our wine and replace napkins. Our seafood platter-for-two pays tribute to Australian seafood and reminds us how spoilt we are to have such fresh food right at our fingertips. A Mediterranean fish soup, served in small china espresso cups, acts as a delightful amuse bouche. The flavours are subtle yet fresh – the perfect entrance into a meal. Chorizo and pine nut stuffed baby squid take the dish to another level while the crisp, cumin-crusted fried whitebait are simply moreish. The combination of the whitebait’s crunchiness and saltiness keeps the hand moving from plate to mouth, in a rather speedy manner. A crisp sauvignon blanc from the extensive wine list, which features both local and international wines, works perfectly with the dish. In an attempt not to confuse the palate, we continue on our seafood frenzy. The blue eye Trevalla is moist and sided with a gorgeous chermoula spiced zucchini, eggplant and pine nut tartar. The golden seafood stew is anything but stew-like however it is the side of green beans that stands out most. It’s funny how something so simple can leave such a mark – the crunchy, bright green sticks are doused in lemon juice and quality extra virgin olive oil with a small sprinkling of sea salt. It fits the bill and brings each dish together. We finish our meal and despite spending the night gazing at the view, we continue to watch the city’s lights, not ready to leave.

Blue Eye Trevalla with Chermoula Spiced Zucchini, Eggplant and Pine Nut Tartar

Location

The Deck is located at Milsons Point, just inside the Luna Park Face. It is five minutes from the city and is easily accessible by train, bus, ferry and car.

Anna Lisle

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