Monthly Archives: November 2011

The perfect lunch destination: Nielsen Park Restaurant

I am forever trying to think of restaurants for lunch – something that’s in a nice location, preferably with waterfront views, but which doesn’t completely blow the budget. And as the editor of a restaurant website, you would think I would have hundreds of ideas up my sleeve, and yet, every time I’m asked for a lunch recommendation, I still stammer in response. “Errr, Catalina – but that’s expensive. North Bondi Italian – beautiful, but you’ll probably have to wait for a table”. Then I stop.

This was before I discovered Nielsen Park Restaurant. And, it was my sister-in-law, who lives in the country, that suggested this lunch destination. As we drove down the Vaucluse headland, she reminisced about her days of living in Sydney when she used to escape the city franticness by retreating to this beautiful heritage parkland. From the outside, Nielsen Park Restaurant simply looks like a little beach shack with glass windows and weathered sandstone steps. As we walk in the doors, though, the interior blows us away. It is simple and casual yet exudes a classic elegance. The pristine white interior is complete with fresh flowers in glass vases, chic aqua-blue antique furniture and oak timber floorboards. It is everything I love about beachside dining.

Nielson Park

A friendly waitress welcomes us and takes us to our table. We look around, a smartly-dressed group of Eastern Suburbanites fill the room, sipping cold glasses of Chardonnay and nibbling on their salads. As our one-year-old starts to energetically giggle, we look at one another, worried about the “appropriateness” of a child in such a place. But as we take a seat, the charming waitress whizzes off to get a high chair. We sigh in relief.  Finally, a child-friendly cafe in the East – what a God-send.

The view from Nielson Park Restaurant

The menu is immaculate. I order crisp skinned barramundi with a fennel and watercress salad. The barramundi is plump and buttery with flavour while the skin is crunchy. With the aniseed zing from the fennel and slight tang from the watercress – it is all I dream about for a summer lunch meal. My sister-in-law’s poached salmon salad arrives with a dollop of mayonnaise, sprinkled with dill and colourful with slices of capsicum, cherry tomatoes and julienned cucumber. The coffee rivals the inner-city’s best and, a little note to soy aficionados: they even have Bonsoy.

For casual fish ‘n’ chips by the beach, the cafe next door is fantastic. Rustically served in cardboard cone-like boxes, the chips are chunky and the fish is lightly battered and fresh. But if the wind is out (or you have an energetic one-year-old in tow), head next door to the main dining area. I dare say Nielsen Park Restaurant has just become my new city refuge and, of course, my number one summer lunch spot suggestion.

Anna Lisle

Nielsen Park Kiosk on Urbanspoon

Read more about Nielsen Park Restaurant here

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Tapas Crawling in Granada – from our travelling amigos, Yolanda

Ever since I could remember, I have always loved Spanish food.  One of my earliest memories was when my Mother popped me up on the bench in the kitchen when I was four and put a spoonful of paella in my mouth. She watched my response in dismay. Rather than screwing up my face like any normal toddler with a mouthful of peppers, I licked my lips to get every last morsel.

So as soon as I was old enough to travel alone, I boarded a plane, picked a country with a cuisine that I loved and  voilà, I had landed in Granada, Spain.

Granada City

Food for me has always been a reflection of the people. Every city I travel to, I find myself looking down at the plate in front of me and looking up at the people around me – and, for me, this is like looking at a new landscape or seeing a place for the very first time.

Granada is one of the only places in the world where tapas is still served for free with any drink order. And this is what makes Granada so special. It doesn’t take long to make a connection with the people behind the bar or to find something in common with the people sitting beside you. And so began my admiration for this incredible city.

Yolanda inside of St. Germain

Most food lovers who like travelling would have visited or know of San Sebastian in the North of Spain but few may be aware of the wonderful culinary food delicacies that Granada, deep in the south, has to offer.

These days, most areas in Spain charge for tapas, because locals do not mind paying 1 or 2 Euros for a small plate of food to eat while they drink their beverage to support their local bar.  However, in Granada, tapas is still seen as a gift; a friendly gesture from the restaurant to the customer. From a friend to a friend.

Yolanda chatting with a local

Even if you travel alone, you will never feel alone in this city. Everywhere you go – bars, streets, parks, museums – you will always find a local who is willing to share their experience with you.


1. Don’t catch a taxi- Try to book a hotel near Grand Via and throw on your flats (the streets are cobble stoned so you would be crazy to wear heals, even on the best of times)  and go on a tapas crawl! Walk, walk and explore. If you are lucky, like I was, you may even discover an unrehearsed Spanish Flamenco band playing in the parks- a true Woody Allen Vicky Christina Barcelona moment.

2. Whether you are fluent in Spanish, Spanglish or can only go as far as saying “Hola”, do not be afraid to grab the nearest bar stool and sit up at the bar. I can assure you that you will not regret the experience- and walk out with a full belly of food, wine and love- for this city and its people.

3. Find the style of tapas bar you like – authentic, modern gastronomy, etc – and ask the waiter for his recommendation. Because, remember, great minds think alike!

* Restarante Chikito- Located in the heart of Granada, a visit to Chikito is a must. Serving traditional Granadino dishes, we recommend trying the Tortilla Sacromonte –  a brains and sweetbread omelet.
* St Germain- A great starting point for any tapas-inspired adventure. Tucked away in a laneway off the main street, this trendy tapas bar is tiny, but the welcoming service more than makes up for its size. Fabulous wine list and, of course, free tapas.
* Las Titas- A beautiful open-spaced restaurant with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, located on the banks of a river and surrounded by the gardens of Genii. Las Titas is a great place to go in the afternoon to people-watch, while you sit on the outdoor terrace and sip on an aperitif.

Start with my top 3 recommendations. Off you go…. Enjoy!

Yolanda de Groot

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Bar Review: Hunky Dory Social Club

On the not-so-cool end of Oxford Street, just up from Taylors Square, is Hunky Dory Social Club. Downstairs is Bruno’s Italian Restaurant, while, upstairs is where the beautiful people of Sydney go to mingle. With an unspoken rule that all females must sport 3-inch stilettos and wear Dolce and Gabbana dresses, the crowd at Hunky Dory Social Club is certainly of a certain social milieu. However, despite this, the vibe isn’t at all stuffy and pretentious – it is eccentric and super fun.

Hunky Dory Social Club

Hunky Dory definitely follows the too-dark-to-see and too-tiny-to-move trend that has engulfed the Sydney bar scene, but perhaps, that is half the fun. Scoring a position on the rooftop – overlooking Oxford Street – is like winning the lottery. And so accordingly, if you are one of these lucky few, all efforts must be made to ensure the best night ever.

With exposed brick walls, brown leather pin-cushioned lounges and rustic wooden bar tops, the multi-levelled space is a miscellaneous mix of the old and new. With regular live DJ’s, Sunday sessions, happy hours and weekday lunch pizza pleasers, there is always a crowd looming outside Hunky Dory. The drinks list is top notch, with a great list of important and boutique beers, and the cocktails are dangerously good.

Anna Lisle

Hunky Dory Social Club
215 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Hunky Dory Social Club on Urbanspoon

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2011 NSW Tourism Awards held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre last night

With great excitement, the de Groots Media team last night attended the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Having worked closely with the tourism industry for over two decades, it is always a fantastic night where the winners of each tourism category are rewarded for all their hard work.  

Over 700 people attended the event

NSW Tourism Awards held last night

With over 700 people in attendance, MC Mike Whitney kept us amused throughout the evening as we clapped and clapped and clapped. While my hands were a little sore by the end of the evening, it was a brilliant event and I met some lovely people.

Now in its 22nd year, the NSW Tourism Awards managed by Tourism Industry Council NSW supports the development of the tourism industry which contributes $28.7 billion per year to the NSW economy.

Winners of the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards

Special mention must go to Jon Hutchinson, outgoing CEO of Business Events Sydney, who was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to Tourism and to Lori Modde, who was recognised for her Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism.

We wish all the NSW Tourism Award winners good luck at the National Tourism Awards, which are held in Cairns in March 2012.

The Full List of Winners:

Category                                                                                                           Winner

Adventure Tourism                                                                                        Tri State Safaris
Backpacker Accommodation                                                                    Sydney Harbour YHA
Deluxe Accommodation                                                                             Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel
Ecotourism                                                                                                        Lane Cove River Tourist Park
Festivals and Events                                                                                       NSW Caravan, Camping, RV & Holiday Supershow
Heritage and Cultural Tourism                                                                 Written in Stone
Hosted Accommodation                                                                             Mollymook Beach Waterfront
Indigenous Tourism                                                                                       Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery
Luxury Accommodation                                                                              Sheraton on the Park
Major Festivals and Events                                                                          Bluesfest Byron Bay
Major Tour and/or Transport Operators                                                Moonshadow Cruises
Major Tourist Attractions                                                                             Taronga Zoo
Meetings and Business Tourism                                                               Shoal Bay Resort & Spa
New Tourism Development                                                                      Tandara
Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism                                Lori Modde
Outstanding Contribution to Tourism by an Individual                 Jon Hutchison
QANTAS Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism                  Lane Cove River Tourist Park
Specialised Tourism Services                                                                    Newcastle Airport
Standard Accommodation                                                                          Scone Motor Inn
Tour and/or Transport Operators                                                             Tri State Safaris
Tourism Education and Training                                                               Travel 21fiftythree
Tourism Marketing                                                                                         The Legendary Pacific Coast
Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services                                        Margan Restaurant
Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Boutique Breweries                Wyndham Estate Winery
Tourist and Caravan Parks                                                                           BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort & Caravan Park
Tourist Attractions                                                                                          The Magic of Jenolan
Tourist Pubs                                                                                                      Shoal Bay Country Club Hotel
Unique Accommodation                                                                             Somewhere Unique – An Escape for 2 in the Hunter
Visitor Information and Services                                                              Greater Port Macquarie Visitor Information Centre
Young Achiever in Tourism Award                                                          Ollie Philpot


Maureen de Groot

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Restaurant Consultant Michael Fischer heads to Noosa

The former President of Restaurant and Catering NSW and former National President of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Australia, Michael Fishcher, spent the week in Noosa to relax, get fit and dine at some of Queensland’s best restaurants. Follow him on his culinary adventure, where he shares all his foodie high and lows.


16 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads

07 5449 4754

Cato’s is the restaurant and bar for The Sheraton Hotel and it is probably unfair to compare the culinary experiences of other restaurants and cafes in the region. Basically, it is a nice and airy space and is essential to satisfy the eating/dining requirements of the hotel guests. But, food wise, it’s pretty ordinary. Actually, it is very sad to see good quality produce cooked and presented in such an ordinary way. I’d rather not comment any further other than to say – that if the effort put into selecting the staff employed in this enterprise was converted into producing better quality food – then Cato’s has the potential to be a world beater. In other words – the staff were sensational.


25 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads 

07 5447 3747

Season Restaurant is one location which has been responsible for creating the dining aura that surrounds Noosa. Located in a narrow alleyway, with a slight frontage overlooking the beach, the standard at Season Restaurant has been consistently good over the years. We enjoyed a crisp fetta and caramelised onion pizza which was light, tasty and with a base that didn’t sag – an ideal starter. My wife, Barb, ordered spatchcock which had been chopped into eight segments – roasted beautifully, with a crunchy skin and meltingly tender meat, all dipped into a slightly acidy gazpacho. My gnocchi – light potato pillows – was served with chorizo and fresh prawns but, unfortunately, was overpowered by a smoked tomato sauce. It was a tasty but unbalanced dish. I enjoy going to Season – especially on a warm, balmy night when the plastic awnings are rolled away and we are exposed to the sound of the crashing waves and the aroma of being on holidays.


301 Weyba Road, Noosaville

07 5449 7441

Hastings Streetis known as one of the most expensive areas to rent inAustralia and so, as a result, many newer restaurants are opening in Noosaville – just along from Noosa Heads; through Noosa Sound, over theNoosa Bridgeand nestling along the Noosa River. With much more of a village atmosphere, Noosaville already has an array of restaurants, cafes, bars but there are also plenty of opportunities for genuine retail therapy. I have always liked the River Cottage Restaurant. It’s an old Queensland Cottage – not too big, but open, spacious and elegant. The menu is an interesting read. One of the complaints I have about dining in Noosa in general, is that there is sameness about all the menus. Many play the “safe” option and give the customer what they think they want as opposed to being individually creative and making “dining out” more of an adventure. The River Cottage menu makes for difficult decision making. I really enjoyed the entrée of pressed smoked duck confit with a foie gras and a pungent onion chutney that cut through the richness of the dish. I have to say, the only negative about this dish was that the portion size was too large for my liking. Foolishly, I ordered a sensational rib eye for my main. Cut off the bone and served with a mushroom and speck tartlet, the steak was cooked to perfection (rare) with a salty, crunchy crust enclosing a melt-in-your-mouth meat sensation.  Barb really enjoyed her gnocchi with white asparagus, chantarelles and broad beans tossed in a truffled tomato sauce. Overall, a really wonderful dining experience. 


Corner Thomas Street and Gympie terrace Noosaville

07 5470 2224

Chef David Rayner left River Cottage and opened Thomas Corner Eatery. New location; different style but still with delicious and contemporary food. After a week of dining out, we were getting to a stage where the novelty of a food adventure was wearing thin. Wanting a simple meal, we were assured that we would really enjoy Thomas Corner. Unfortunately, their menu got the better of us and we proceeded down a familiar track of ordering too much food, too many courses and suffering from too much eating. But who can resist such temptations. Our entrees (shared between four of us) included a salad of chilled watermelon, nectarines, mozzarella, marinated young leeks and raspberry vinegar dressing. You really can’t blame us – you’d order that too if you read it on a menu. Next was a duck liver parfait, white balsamic jelly, grapes, mint and cress salad. The dish was lifted to a heavenly status by the jelly – a perfect complement to the richness of the duck liver parfait. My main course of pan-seared kingfish, with grape tomatoes, olives, cuttlefish, chives and verjuice buttered liquor – was just what I needed. It was light, fresh, tasty, beautifully served and just the right size. This was a first for us at Thomas Corner and I can highly recommend it is a venue for casual, relaxed and interesting eating.


2 Quamby Place, Noosa Sound

07 5449 2443

This had to be the best dining experience of our short break in Noosa. Out on the Sound, Wasabi was a very different dining experience to its last incarnation in Sunshine Beach. Here we are talking about a serious world-class operation. Initially we were asked where we wanted to sit – choices being sitting on the floor or a more Western tradition of chair seating. Dining with my Dad and Judie – there really was no option, it needed to be a chair. On entering the restaurant, however, sitting on the floor turned out to be less of a physical challenge than we had imagined. All it involved was sitting on the floor with a recess cut into the floor for both the table and our legs. The waiters walked tall (on the natural floor) and gave the appearance to us, sitting at a lower lever (on chairs), of Lilliputians. However, seating should not become the dominant factor. Its food and service we were there to enjoy. The menu made for intense scrutiny. Typical Japanese menus, which we have become accustomed to, didn’t prepare us for this exciting and very different menu. The waiters were clearly used to dealing with Wasabi Virgins, talking us through each dish. I ordered Suichin Sake to share with my Dad and we both expected the sake would arrive in a warm vessel. How wrong we were. Rather, it arrived chilled, and yet still so ‘warming’. We started our meal with Hiramasa Kingfish sashimi; followed by Mooloolaba tuna tartar, tempura asparagus, black tobiko and ginger dressing – what a sensational dish – crisp, crunchy, moist, tasty and such contrasting flavours; followed by gyoza – six crispy, pan-fried Japanese pork dumplings with spicy ponzu dipping sauce and a pickled cucumber salad. We all could have continued eating from the Kondante menu – but there were wonderful delicacies in store for us. The main courses followed: Shichimi Niku – Japanese seven-spice grass-fedHerefordtenderloin, wasabi sweet potato mash, enoki and shimeji mushroom sauce. But, if I had to have a highlight of the night, and if I had to give you a recommendation to order, it would be the spatchcock teriyaki. A whole free-range, corn-fed spatchcock, deboned and stuffed with hijiki rice, torigara shoyu, roasted golden eshallot, nama shitake and warm Japanese mushroom salad. I can’t think of anything that could describe the enjoyment we got out of eating this dish. The only trouble was – who could eat anymore? Wasabi must go on your list of places to dine at when next you visit Noosa.



Cnr Park Road and Hastings Street Noosa Heads

07 5447 4235

Noosa is my spiritual haven. I go there to feel better within myself. In reality, I go there to completely veg-out. I switch off my mobile for 20 hours a day – I sleep in, I eat well, I sit on the beach for as long as I can but each afternoon, between 4 and 5 o’clock I take off for my spiritual sojourn through The Noosa  National Park. This is a combination of an amble, stroll, walk and jog. Starting along the beach, my journey continues up and down several hills and that’s even before I get to the park. And every evening, just as I’m about to embark on my wilderness leg, I get to gaze up at the strategically located Sails Restaurant. And, night after night, I admire the fact that they are booked out with yet another wedding. What a great business this must be – but how tough for those of us “under-fed” tourists looking for variety in our gastronomic adventure in Noosa. It was our last night in Noosa and as I looked up from my walk, I noticed there was no wedding to be seen anywhere near Sails. As I struggled, for the very last time, to complete my 90 minute regime, I made the momentous decision to go there for dinner. What arrogance I displayed, expecting a booking only hours before. But as I picked up the phone, my positivity seemed to blossom through. Rejection?  No, for once my chutzpah and politeness paid off, not only did we get a table for two but we got the best table for two in the restaurant. Directly at the front and and in the centre, complete with a cool breeze and a view. I have to say, as the culmination of our “fine-dining” for the week, our night at Sails left us with a delicious taste in our mouths. Sails is  brilliant. We started with a salad of roasted beetroot with spoonfuls of creamy goats curd, zucchini flowers and chunky capers. Obviously not enough kilojoules or us in this exceedingly healthy salad, which we shared, so we garnished our salad with a freshly-baked pizza with black olives, roasted garlic, parmesan and rosemary. A great variety of textures, colours, flavours and it did the job in stimulating an over-exposed and jaded palate. Main courses were likewise – very interesting. It read well – but so often, the poetic licence used to write up menus disappoints as the story unfolds. But rather than following down this familiar path, Sails chose to take a different turn. My king prawns in a green papaya curry topped with toasted coconut just hit the spot. The curry was flavoursome, spicy and generous. Barb enjoyed her Balmain Bug tails with a creamy skordalia and a butter bean and cherry tomato salad.

But there comes a time when enough is enough and by now we had definitely had enough. No more food, no more choices to make – sometimes the thought of a toasted cheese and vegemite sandwich is mesmerising. But then again, I look forward to visiting Noosa again in the not too distant future.







Michael Fischer

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Review: Asakusa Restaurant, Newtown

The doors of Asakusa are wide open on a balmy summer night, welcoming passersby off the hectic King Street sidewalk into their restaurant’s sanctuary.

Asakusa Japanese Restaurant

With red paper lanterns, polished wooden floorboards and chalkboard specials – this Japanese restaurant is almost completely full, and it’s only early in the evening. As I head to the back counter to inquire about a table, I’m welcomed by a petite elderly woman sitting at one of the wooden tables kneading mounds of dough and then shaping them into delicate fresh gyoza.

I’m immediately sold – if the maitre d’ can’t offer us a table straight away, we are definitely waiting. If only to get my lips around a crisp gyoza which has been so lovingly created right before my eyes.

But we’re lucky, it isn’t long before we secure a table. Ordering quickly, an assortment of sushi, creative maki rolls (think salmon XO sauce, egg, cucumber and mayo) and crispy squid arrive. While the service is efficient, the staff tend to avoid interacting with the diners. Understandably, the restaurant does always seem to be busy, however I just wanted to tell them how much I loved their gyoza.

Asakusa has an exciting vibe that is great for large groups. Fussy eaters will be sure to find something on their extensive menu while Japanophiles will be impressed by their traditional dishes.

Anna Lisle


119 King St
Newtown 2042 NSW

Asakusa on Urbanspoon

Read more about Asakusa here

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Rescuing food with OzHarvest

Arriving at the OzHarvest head office in Alexandria, I was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t wait for my chance to don on a yellow t-shirt and be part of the OzHarvest team for the day.

With white plastic tubs stocked in the back, my driver Andrew and I set out for a day of rescuing food. First stop was a nearby cafe and while the owners were only able to give us a couple of sandwiches, Andrew quickly explained that Ronnie Kahn (CEO) fosters every relationship- whether it is the tiny corner cafe or the big businesses. I was only fifteen minutes into the morning and I was already hooked.

Andrew and I were on the Eastern Suburbs route which included stops at Harry’s Cafe in Wolloomooloo, some Aldi supermarkets in Edgecliff before heading Bondi way. Each cafe, restaurant, butcher, fruit shop and grocer that we visited welcomed us with the friendliest of hellos and the biggest smiles. The warmth and energy was absolutely contagious. Curious as to whether it is just me that was riding this excited wave, I asked Andrew if all the energy of this good-will diminished after a few weeks. “No”, he said, “I love doing what I do, every single day”. It is this kind of attitude, this kind of passion that makes organisations like OzHarvest so successful.

Restaurant consultant Michael Fisher, who is also on the OzHarvest Board of Directors, got me involved in the incredible work of this organisation and now, de Groots Media is looking forward to working with OzHarvest in every way we can. And, it is with great excitement that OzHarvest celebrates rescuing and delivering 10 million meals in Australia. And to commemorate this incredible feat, OzHarvest is producing an OzHarvest cookbook called ‘Ten Million Meals’. The book will be a collection of recipes using left overs, submitted by celebrity chefs, friends of OzHarvest and you. For more details and to submit your recipe, please see here.

The closing date for submission of all recipes is 30th November 2011.

Anna Lisle

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