Monthly Archives: March 2012

Restaurant Review: Missy K

It’s only been open for eight months but Missy K already has a loyal following of dumpling addicts. We visit on what I thought would have been a quiet Tuesday night. As we walk up Fitzroy Street, past Vietnamese favourites, Cochin and Non La, Missy K is packed. Lucky to get a table, we watch as takeaway orders whip past us faster than the two female waitresses can handle. But despite the apparent popularity of the place, the wait for food isn’t long and when it arrives, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Eclectic interior

The interior of Missy K is like a tiny jewel box, scattered with trinkets and colourful teapots. In one corner, a huge basket is filled with traditional rice-picking hats while black bamboo sticks and tea light candles line the bright red walls. The main attraction, however, is the open wooden counter where dozens of dumplings are kept warm in huge bamboo steamers. Diners watch as the heat evaporates into the air, letting the lure of the fragrant pork and chive filling ooze through the restaurant space. It makes it criminal not to order dumplings.

Peking duck pancakes

The menu is written on a chalkboard at the entrance of the restaurant. Among the appetisers, the Peking duck pancakes stand out, with lashings of moist duck proudly sitting inside the thin pancake. The hoisin sauce is not too sweet however the cucumber and shallots are a little too chunky for the delicate entree. The drunken noodles are rich with chilli and bamboo shoots, served with a wedge of lime for an acidic counterpoint, while crunchy bean sprouts add a freshness to the dish. However, as Kim, the owner and head Chef at Missy K explains, it is the dumplings that are the major draw-card here. Pork and coriander, fish, vegetarian, beef and leek, lamb and onion, chicken and shitake, prawn or pan-fried, these babies come in every shape and form.

Anna Lisle

Missy K on Urbanspoon

Read more about Missy K here


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Restaurant Review: Bel Paese

Tucked inside a large office building on Berry Street, Bel Paese is one of North Sydney’s oldest restaurants. At the heart and soul of this Italian stalwart are husband-and-wife duo, Pino and Chris Russo, who have owned Bel Paese since 1990.

The first thing you notice about this restaurant is the welcoming and warm sensibility of the Bel Paese team. From Pino and Chris, the owners and also maître d’s, to John, their head waiter, who has been with them for 18 years, every single staff member is clearly passionate about the hospitality industry. The waiters aren’t uni students, they are knowledgeable about the menu and wine list, suggesting popular items or clarifying any ingredient queries.

Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the restaurant

The restaurant space is open with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering 270-degree views of a small garden oasis, complete with a water feature and manicured lawns. The tables are all wide apart and the high ceilings swallow sound, so you can actually have a conversation while you eat. It is the perfect space to take a business client where the food impresses, yet the space is still quiet, creating a professional environment to discuss any private matters.

More than just a business lunch destination, Bel Paese has a loyal following of local clients who return meal after meal, to appreciate what, owner Pino, describes as “classic Italian food”. The menu represents the entire Italian spectrum with antipasto, whitebait fritters and prawn linguini for primi while the secondi options range from slow roasted pork belly, eye beef fillet with red wine jus to baked scampi and veal scaloppine topped with sage and prosciutto.

Angel hair pasta with scampi and cherry tomato sauce

A simple wild mushroom and eschallot tart is topped with a watercress salad, that adds a freshness to the buttery filling, with the entire dish has the perfect pastry-to-filling ratio. In simple dishes such as these, the proof in the pudding is all in the ingredients so it’s of no surprise that I discover that at 4am every week, Pino can be found at the Flemington markets wandering the stalls to find the freshest of zucchini flowers and the most flavoursome of herbs.

Beyond the ingredients, every member of the kitchen staff have Italian roots and Ridolfi, their head Chef, travels home to Italy once a year where he returns to the Bel Paese kitchen inspired and invigorated. Bel Paese is a true Italian restaurant with its warm and unwavering hospitality and relaxed but sophisticated atmosphere.

Anna Lisle

500 metres from North Sydney station. Only 3ks from the CBD across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in North Sydney.

Bel Paese on Urbanspoon

Read more about Bel Paese here

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Taste of Sydney

After a rocky start to the weekend with the cancellation of the Thursday night opening night, this year’s Taste of Sydney proved to be bigger and better than ever.

The ultimate of pop-up restaurant festivals, Taste this year featured over 60 dishes from Sydney’s leading and hatted restaurants including Ormeggio at the Spit, Sake, L’etoile, Flying Fish and A Tavola, to name a few.

Giovanni Pilu at the Taste Kitchen

The Best Restaurants of Australia team were excited to be a part of the event, working at the Australian Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen where chefs such as Justin North and Giovanni Pilu taught us some of their culinary magic with a live cooking masterclass. At the end of each cooking demo, Best Restaurants of Australia awarded one lucky winner with a $200 Best Restaurant Gift Card. We look forward to hearing which restaurant our winners dined at.

Watch our beautiful video from the weekend here:


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Launch of Chiswick

Chiswick has big shoes to fill. Even at the launch last night, many of the guests reminisced about evenings spent at the former Pruniers. This chat, however, soon dissipated as skewers of sliced kingfish with breakfast radish and lemon aioli and oysters with lemon, ginger and rice wine were handed around. The conversation quickly turned to the food. Each dish served throughout the evening was, quite simply, outstanding. A simple ceramic dish with pickled purple, yellow and orange baby carrots was not only aesthetically pleasing but tasted as plentiful in flavour as a 12-hour roasted leg of lamb. Oysters with lemon, ginger and rice wine created a delightful sharpness in ones’ mouth while the crisp butter milk chicken with cabbage, harissa and mayonnaise was a well-balanced, simple dish that you could imagine enjoying at home on the couch on a Sunday evening. It’s the type of food that makes you feel at home.

The Chiswick interior

Sharing is at the heart of the Chiswick philosophy. Matt Moran explained in his welcome speech that this new restaurant is about embracing group dining – it is about passing huge platters of food around a table with loved ones. About enjoying some wine and nibbles while pondering the world. As Matt shared his vision, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. As a country girl, this is exactly how I like to eat.

Steak tartare

The crowd at the launch was a far cry from your standard FABs – female Asian bloggers (sorry, Terry, I couldn’t resist stealing your abbreviation). Kerry Anne Kennerley enjoyed sparring with Matt Moran mid-speech, while Manu Fiedel and Gary Mehigan played up to the cameras in a mock punch-up pose. A host of media who’s who including Channel Ten presenter Sandra Sully were all there while Kirk Pengilly shook up the standard foodie/media crowd.

Joanna Savill, Manu Feildel and Maureen de Groot

It was a great night and we wish Matt and Peter best of luck. We are very excited to welcome Chiswick as one of Australia’s Best Restaurants.
Read more about Chiswick here

Review to come soon.

Maureen and Anna

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Filed under Chiswick, Events, Woollahra

Restaurant Review: Brass

When I saw the brand new Brass, I couldn’t help but smile. Despite a major design overhaul, the charming bright banana yellow exterior of former Yellow Bistro and Food Store remained. In an otherwise grey and white suburb, Brass, like Yellow before it, adds a touch of eccentric thrill.

The vibrant yellow exterior remains

Inside, however, the colour seems to stop. The theme is clean and bold with polished wooden floorboards, black bar stools and tables, and waxy beige walls. Lashings of reflective gold panels create atmosphere in the otherwise simple design. These glamorous panels also line an impressive bar set up – which dominates the restaurant space. The bar’s shelves are lined with bottles of wine while the counter boasts a range of house-made sweet goods including macaroons and pastry.

Seating is divided with the option to sit outside at a cute little porch on Maclay Street or inside, surrounded by huge rectangular angled mirrors. The mirrors are a great addition, creating an illusion of space in what would otherwise be a very close and intimate seating and table arrangement.

The Bistro bar

The hero at Brass is the food, and namely, executive Chef, Darren Taylor. After training at Troisgros – a 3 Michelin star restaurant in France, he then worked as Executive Chef at Kinselas, Bilson’s, Fine Bouche and Buon Riccordo. The menu is a mix of French and Italian delights – including roasted Thirlemere spitchcock, ocean trout croquettes, charcuterie and minute steak bordelaise. Each dish is simply presented, the salad of poached Atlantic salmon sits plumped on a well-dressed bed of spinach, rocket and plump cherry tomatoes. A smooth pesto adds a splash of colour to the dish and combines the simple flavours.

Poached Atlantic salmon, greens, pesto and cherry tomatoes

Gnocci is certainly not the most visually impressive dish however Darren’s tomato, buffalo mozzarella and parmesan version is appealing. The gnocci is moist and light but the buffalo mozzarella, – now that is the ingredient that speaks for the dish.

Anna Lisle

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The Brass dining room is ideal for an intimate and sophisticated dinner however, the restaurant is also great as a takeaway cafe with a selection of sambos, salads and sweet treats. The choices change daily, according to the chalkboard next to the bar. The coffee is Single Origin and the pastries are all made in house.

Brass Bistro

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NSW Wine Festival at SMH Growers’ Market

Anybody who knows me is well aware of my obsession with farmers’ markets. Much to my other-half’s dismay, weekends are spent driving across Sydney from the Everleigh Markets in Redfern to eat some of Kylie Kwong’s delights, all the way back to the Crows Nest Organic Market for my favourite cured salmon. And, even as the rain bucketed down, this Saturday was no exception.

NSW Wine Festival at SMH Growers’ Market

As part of the NSW Wine Festival month, Joanna Saville and the SMH team featured wine tasting sessions at 9am at the Pyrmont Grower’s Market. The usual team of stallholders were happily there hiding underneath their not-so-waterproof tents.

Chatting to the Gwydir Grove stall owner.

The feature of today was wine expert Huon Hooke. With Crave Food Festival director Joanna Savill by his side, Huon took us through a NSW wine tasting, suggesting particular produce from the markets that would be appropriate to match with each wine. As a rather amateur wine connoisseur, it was rather insightful.

Wine guru Huon Hooke with Joanna Savill

The excitement of the NSW Wine Festival continues. We will be heading to Clareville Kiosk on Wednesday as part of Dine with NSW Wine. Check out all the restaurants taking part here:

Watching on as Huon suggests a match for Willowbrae goat’s cheese.

See you all at Taste this weekend – come and say hello.


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Review: Pilu at Freshwater

The unassuming facade of Pilu gives diners little idea of what to expect behind the walls of this restored heritage-listed weatherboard beach house. Vibrant paintings of yachts on Sydney Harbour adorn the pristine white walls while, above, the high ceilings reveal exposed original white timber beams. At the centre of the restaurant is the semi-open kitchen and bar while the stunning balcony offers 270 degree views of the beach below. Glass cabinets full of aged grappa and wine line the restaurant, and efficient staff strut around in blue-and-white striped shirts, overflowing with knowledge about everything from the cooking process of their home-made sourdough to the specifics of a merlot on the 42-page wine list. Pilu at Freshwater is a classic mix of old and new – from the ages of the waitstaff to the restaurant’s sleek, yet classic design.

270 degree views of Freshwater Beach

The menu speaks to the inner Italian in us all with classics such as pecorino, mint and burnt butter ravioli and osso bucco. But it also celebrates the best of our Australian produce from the Sydney rock oysters to the Crystal bay prawns. An entree of lightly battered zucchini flowers and Claire de Lune oysters, with fried squid and Crystal Bay prawns is the perfect teaser – with just the right amount of crunch and saltiness to get the taste buds in action. The secondi feature King salmon, served in a ‘crazy’ water with baby golden beets, purple carrots and watercress. It is simple, yet elegant.

King salmon with baby golden beets, purple carrots and watercress

The meal has now ended and yet I don’t want to move. Savouring the last flavours of the ‘crazy’ water in my mouth, I put my knife and fork gently down and sit very still, gazing out over the beach below. Dark now, the water sparkles as it reflects the lights from the surrounding houses. A night at Pilu is like escaping life for a few short hours. It is a fine-dining restaurant, minus the pretension. It is warm and relaxed. Reluctantly, I ask for the bill, turn my phone back on and prepare myself to come back to reality.

Anna Lisle

Pilu at Freshwater

Read more about Pilu here

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