Monthly Archives: October 2011


I didn’t exactly book into with sustainability in mind – nor do I ever even think twice about ethical issues when ordering a piece of fish. I’m not proud of this, but, I am also very forthcoming to being educated (especially anything to do with food). So it was with an open mind that I headed over the Anzac Bridge to

Located just off Victoria Road, at the Rozelle end of Darling Street, is this gorgeous little restaurant. The fit out is clean and modern however lime “green” tinges add a freshness to the otherwise black-and-white theme of the restaurant. A huge mirror runs along one side of the restaurant giving the long, narrow interior a more spacious impression and allows any guests who are not facing the open kitchen a glimpse of the chefs at play.

On a Thursday night, this neighbourhood eatery is absolutely chockers. Owner Michelle and Michael Grand-Milkovic opened with a simple philosophy in mind: to deliver beautiful seafood in the most sustainable way possible. While the restaurant staff don’t seem to preach to their customers about ethical or sustainable eating, the food speaks for the philosophy instead. Each dish- from the Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio to the King George whiting fillets – was refreshingly uncomplicated. The carpaccio wasn’t laden with “extras”, only a simple splash of shellfish oil accentuated the sweetness of the kingfish while a couple of wedges of pink grapefruit added a tart contrast. A sprinkling of macro herbs on top and the dish was picture perfect.

Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio, shellfish oil and pink grapefruit

Each of the main dishes at are served very simply – no fanciness – just the piece of fish (grilled or beer battered), served with a wedge of lemon. However, with over ten side dishes and house-made sauces, this is where the excitement lies. Unable to choose between the butternut pumpkin, black lentil and mint pesto or the cauliflower mash, green beans and romesco, we go for both.  Add a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc and we are in seafood-heaven.

The tagline for this restaurant is “the fish bar with a green heart” and as I scrape the plate of the last ounce of romesco sauce, I can’t think of another sentence that could describe it better. I just wish I lived down the road because, with a philosophy like theirs, I could happily justify eating at a couple of times a week.

Anna Lisle

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Book launch @ Bentley Restaurant & Bar

It was bread makers a couple of years ago, yoghurt makers more recently and now, it’s Thermomix. I have to say, I was more excited about the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Bentley chef Brent Savage rather than this “bees knees” machine but when I arrived at the launch, I was absolutely enthralled by it. Touted as a God-send for chefs, like Brent, the Thermomix is said to be fantastic for creating large quantities of dishes such as crème anglaise that normally require a lot of maintenance and involve many steps.

Author Dani Valent and Bentley chef Brent Savage

With champers on arrival, we all eagerly watched on as author Dani Valent created a beetroot, pistachio salad (which, of course, we got to sample) and then she concluded with her “party trick” which involved de-seeding a pomegranate using the machine. Brent Savage then took over the Thermomix creating a parmesan custard which was more than impressive.

Sydney Morning Herald Food Editor Joanna Saville and celebrity chef Dan Hong were all there to celebrate the launch of the Thermomix recipe book (“In The Mix”; $60) and, after the presentation, I was able to have a chat to Brent about his new, more casual version of Bentley, set to open in the CBD at the end of the year.

Me with Woolworths Editor Christine Sheppard

While I may not purchase a Thermomix to take up the entire bench space in my tiny terrace apartment, I can certainly see its benefits for industrial kitchens (or any mums churning out thousands of biscuits for children’s’ charity days!).

Anna Lisle


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Launch of Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card

As the country’s top restaurateurs prepared for last night’s Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS National Awards for Excellence at Luna Park, de Groots Media has launched the first specialised dining gift card program to assist in driving patronage.

Australian Shadow Minister for Tourism, Bob Baldwin last night commended the initiative, saying that due to the high Australian dollar and other factors, the tourism and hospitality sector has been doing it tough – with more Australians holidaying overseas than ever before. 

“The Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card is not only the perfect way for employers to show their appreciation to staff this Christmas, it’s also a great way to support our local restaurants at a time when they need it most,” Mr Baldwin said.

From tomorrow, diners around Australia will be able to pay for meals using a Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card, said hospitality icon Maureen de Groot, publisher of the Best Restaurants of Australia and Best Hotels of Australia.

With the Australian gift card market set to follow overseas trends and double in the next 12 to 24 months, Ms de Groot said that the Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card has come at the ideal time for the hospitality industry.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for restaurants to tap into a broader “gift giving” market, particularly with Christmas just around the corner,” explains Ms de Groot.

Hon. Bob Baldwin MP and Maureen de Groot

The Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card does not attract surcharges that apply when diners use credit cards, and is a safer option than carrying cash. With over 400 of Australia’s best restaurants on board, many of which are award-winning and hatted, the Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card provides a great way for the hospitality industry to tap into one of the fastest growing retail products – gift cards.

Gift Cards are available to purchase online and will also be sold through major retailers such as Coles, Woolworths, Australia Post and many more from mid November.

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“Discovering Pisco” at Morena

 My only experience with Pisco was when my Grandfather had just returned from a trip to South America, bringing back a malicious looking bottle of it. He whisked the egg whites, squeezed the lemon juice, prepped his glass and added the sugar before shaking the cocktail maker with a cheeky grin on his face. With pride, he filled my glass to the brim, complete with a dash of bitters. Eagerly, I took a gulp of my swish looking drinking. He watched as the liquid ran down my throat and my eyes widened in horror- there had to be something wrong. In shattered response, he gingerly took the glass to his lips. He burst out laughing. Instead of sugar, he had added mountains of salt to his beloved Pisco. So let me assure you, my first Pisco certainly was sour.


So it was with these memories that I sat down for an evening at Morena Restaurant – where I was not only about to re-discover Pisco but also experience my first taste of Peruvian food. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, an open kitchen and formal dining settings, the space at Morena is modern yet there are various design elements, such as the exposed wooden floorboards and disordered champagne glass display, that create a more “down to earth” vibe. A pisco cocktail arrived promptly at the table and in anxious trepidation, I took a sip. The result was glorious. Not the soap-in-the-mouth experience I was expecting. I finished mine, and my partner’s, and then longingly looked at the waiter for more. He knew I had caught the bug. I was addicted.  I had officially discovered Pisco.

Alejandro’s Andean Garden

Always a stickler for service, the wait staff truly were amazing. It doesn’t matter how good the food is at a restaurant, if the service is comme ci, comme ça, then it still won’t be a good night. Each staff member was equally bubbly, engaging, knowledgeable and warm. It was like they were all old friends. However the food refused to play second fiddle. Under Chef and owner Alejandro Saravia, the menu is described as Latin American, with a strong Peruvian influence. An entree of grilled Queensland king prawns arrived in all its plump and succulent glory with a roasted almond puree that tasted almost chocolatey. A small dollop of squid ink caviar created a textural shift to the dish and the almost-fruity flavour worked well with the rich puree. Two wisps of dehydrated lettuce sat on top, giving the dish height and elegance. The 48-hour braised alpaca brisket was served with a dehydrated quinoa salad which was bursting with fresh herbs however it was the tres leches dessert which won my heart. This traditional Latin American sponge cake was soaked in three kinds of milk which meant it was moist and yet still light however it was the cinnamon in the cake that reigned supreme. Served with a side of roasted pineapple ice cream and an incaberry compote, Morena, I will be back for more. More of your service and more of your cake.

Lucky me with Chef Alejandro Saravia

On Bourke Street, Surry Hills.

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Nespressos’ launch of Aquila

 We can safely say that Nespresso is to Italy what champagne is to France. And, as coffee has been around for over 11 centuries – with over 400 billion cups consumed every year (especially in our office here at de Groots!) – it was a must that we attended Nespressos’ launch of Aquila – the latest in coffee machine technology.  


While sampling gastronomic delights accompanied by great wines and themed coffee infusions, we discovered that the worldwide pioneers of coffee have since built their success in the professional market with the smart invention of this amazing machine.

Steve Mcarthur, Maureen de Groot and Chef Michael Moore

The evening was beautifully catered for by the overseeing talents of legendary executive chef Peter Gilmore at Quay Restaurant, Circular Quay. The event provided an opportunity for industry professionals to discover the product benefits first-hand. Nespresso has perfected the barista tradition with this new machine, which is equipped to deal with times of peak demands and delivers consistent results cup after cup.

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Review: Est.

The crème de le crème of restaurants, Est. embodies the luxury and opulence of fine dining. Having “ooohh-ed” and “ahhhhh-ed” about friends’ experiences at Est. and having read the menu a thousand times over, I had only but high hopes for my evening at Est. But like most things that you confront with such high levels of excited anticipation, there is always the anxiety that things just mightn’t match up.

As we stepped off George Street and entered the Merivale Empire that Est. is housed in, my stomach was aflutter with nerves. Up the elevator to the first level and finally the doors opened revealing the dining room. The almost all-white interior and high ceilings combined with elaborate columns and chandeliers, evoke thoughts of a wedding scene, and I smiled in appreciation. It is not sterile, as I had heard nor was it particularly over-the-top. It was surprisingly peaceful and calm.

The dining room at Est.

The maitre d’ swiftly took us to our table-for-two where a lovely, smiley waiter introduced himself. Two sourdough bread rolls arrive before I could even take off my coat and were served with olive oil that, given the chance, I would have poured into a glass and drunk straight.

Looking as though he’d only just learned how to shave, our waiter’s knowledge was beyond impressive and feeling immediately safe in his hands, we allowed him to guide us through both the menu and wine list. The result was a night of culinary crescendos – where each sip and taste of both wine and food created little fireworks in our mouths. An entree of spanner crab was followed by a moreton bay bug with artichoke hearts and a lemon emulsion. It was a celebration of everything I love about Australian dining – divine seafood served in a unique and special way. My expectations were not only matched but I now fear that no one, other than Head Chef Peter Doyle, will make my taste buds happy.

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Review: Ruby Rabbit

Standing proudly on Oxford Street – in all its fluorescent pink glory is Ruby Rabbit. I must admit I was initially slightly perturbed by the name. I mean, the outside is hot pink – not even ruby. But as I walk in the entrance, I feel like Alice when she climbed down the rabbit-hole – “down, down, down” – and then suddenly, Alice emerges in a wonderland, as do I and it all makes sense.

There are three levels to this fairytale venue. On the ground level, iron birdcages hang from the ceiling, providing dim, atmospheric lighting while the walls are creatively painted with flowers. An elaborate bar is adorned with a candy-pink sequinned manikin, an Elvis-style guitar and other rock-star paraphernalia. It’s bright, it’s crazy and the energy is contagious.

On the second level is the nightclub known as “the upside down room”.  With a roaming dance floor, fluorescent lighting, stainless steel bar tables and childbook-style wallpaper that is plastered on the walls upside down – the space is mismatched and crazy. But the piece-de-resistance comes in the form of an entire couch seating area that is fixed upside-down on the ceiling. It’s true, after a few cocktails I do feel a little upside down but I have to say, I don’t think this room’s fitout is going to help anybody’s drinking disorientation.

The “Upside Down Room” Nighclub

Another little staircase and we reach my favourite level – the cocktail lounge on the third floor. A retro blue theme runs throughout the space with antique-style paintings of ducks dressed in royal attire. At one end of the room there is a cosy corner of blue velvet pin-cushioned couches while at the other it is an open space with a decadent chandelier towering above. The whole thing is odd, quirky and super refreshing.

The Cocktail Lounge

With a fit-out like this, you couldn’t do an average drink and the cocktails at Ruby Rabbit certainly don’t disappoint. The food is also a standout. Owner Sue Loumbos explains the ad-hoc menu of burgers, salads, fajitas and chips is just a list of all her favourite foods. And I have to say, we must have pretty similar tastes. The ocean trout is simply beautiful – seared to a crisp yet pink and fleshy on the inside. The onion bhaji adds a crunchy spiciness that works well with the zesty watercress salad. The sirloin steak with gratin potato isn’t lost in the béarnaise sauce which is inspiring and the meal will please the manliest of men but is also a nice dish for those yearning a tender cut of red meat.

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