Monthly Archives: April 2012

Melbourne Private Dining Rooms

Got a special occasion coming up? Looking for a private dining room? Here’s our pick of Melbourne’s most glamorous and elegant private dining rooms.

About: Positioned at St Kilda’s sea end, Sapore restaurant offers a stunning view, fine Italian food at fair prices, and boasts an elegant and warm interior created by impressive light installations.

Holds: 18

About: Located 35 floors above the Paris end of Collins Street in the Sofitel Melbourne, No 35 is an elegant restaurant where rich timbers, vibrant tones, contemporary artworks and a world-class contemporary European menu preside over commanding views of Melbourne.

Holds: 16

About: A destination restaurant with a swag of culinary awards to boot, Taxi Dining Room offers the complete culinary experience in the heart of Melbourne’s arts district with Modern Australian cuisine that takes all the best cues from Asian and European flavours.

Holds: 40

About: Comme Kitchen is a fine  example of what Melbourne does so well: a wonderful laneway building housing a fine contemporary restaurant. Its elegant 19th century frame remains intact with high ceilings, a grand staircase and the smell of history lingering in the air.

Holds: Up to 50 people

About: Housed within a historic woolshed, in the centre of the city, Bluestone Restaurant Bar is one of Melbourne’s most established venues. A favourite for corporate entertaining and special events, Bluestone boasts a gorgeous dining room upstairs and a chic lounge downstairs that has become a coveted locale for tapas, wood-fired pizza’s and after work designer cocktails in a relaxed eclectic environment.

Holds: Up to 33


Located in the heart of Melbourne, The Italian offers a sophisticated and suave dining experience. Complete with dark wooden floorboards, red leather booths and a sophisticated marble bar, The Italian is ideal for an intimate dinner party.

Holds: 30

About: Cho Gao’s interior is rich and modern, decorated with worn recycled Asian furniture and inspired by nature’s elements – earth, air, water and fire. Here you can discover the robust flavours of East Asian cuisine from Vietnam to Indonesia, and experience the best ofAsian streetculture. The dynamic, raw setting is perfect for dinner with friends or simply call in for a casual beer after work.

Holds: Up to 55

About: Dining on a grand scale is accomplished with ease at the Park Hyatt Melbourne’s Radii restaurant which spreads art deco-inspired decor and modern Australian cuisine over several spectacular levels.

Holds: 14

About: At the base of the Adelphi Hotel, Ezard is one of Melbourne’s best restaurants – refined and understated, with exciting Asian-influenced food.

Holds: 14

About: Melbourne hotspot Red Spice Road is unimpeachably stunning, and offers a unique communal sharing dining experience with a twist of Asian cuisine. This restaurant offers an open courtyard and a fabulous, large dining room.

Holds: 60

About: The Willows boast spectacular façade and timeless interior coupling modern minimalism & elegance in a distinctive, yet refreshing way. With restaurant, conservatory, courtyard, dance floor, grand architecture, high ceilings & granite topped bar The Willows can accommodate an intimate groups or large scale celebrations.

Holds: Up to 150

About: Circa, the Prince has been one of Melbourne’s leading drinking and dining destinations for decades. Under Head Chef Jake Nicolson, the menu is a salute to Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Holds: up to 120

About: After the huge success of Rockpool Sydney we are treated to Rockpool Bar and Grill, a slightly more relaxed take on its sibling, which fuses the Rockpool ethos with a classic North American steakhouse. This Southbank restaurant elevates the steakhouse concept.

Holds: Up to 50

About: Experience the fine art of authentic Cantonese cuisine at Silks amid a striking interior located in the Crown Entertainment Complex. With world-class chefs, this Southbank restaurant takes fine dining to a new, luxurious level.

Holds: Up to 20

About: An old Fitzroy building turned into a restaurant with a contemporary approach, Cutler and Co is the latest venture by chef Andrew McConnell. The dining room features stripped-brick walls, timber floors and high ceilings with clever flounced lights that add a touch of whimsy to the space.

Holds: 32

About: Melbourne’s very own Spice Temple is a celebration of fiery Chinese cuisine and Chinese culture that Australians embrace so excitedly. Living up to its name, Spice Temple serves traditional seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes with the added kick of vibrant chilli flavours. Rich gold, red and black hues engulf diners to create an unparalleled sensory experience.

Holds: 70

About: “Quaff” is to eat and drink something heartily, which is just what this Toorak restaurant is encouraging with their European inspired menu and extensive wine list. A favourite with the locals who sit street side taking in the village ambience or opt to sit indoors in the elegantly renovated dining room with dark wood panelling, soft plush chairs and crisp linen.

Holds: Up to 60

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Restaurant Review: Saké Restaurant & Bar

In 2009, Terry Durack reviewed Saké Restaurant & Bar, saying: “we now have our Nobu Sydney, only better”. Three years down the track, we have Nobu Perth and a mass of other big Japanese restaurant, which leads us to ask, is Saké Restaurant & Bar still that good?

If you go by the fact that it has retained a Chef Hat every year since its opening, then yes. But is the ‘Hat Criteria’ what everyone still desires of their dining experience? The recent shift towards more casual and accessible bistro-style restaurants suggests otherwise. We decided to head to the historic Rocks to find out what Saké Restaurant & Bar offers in 2012.

The sleek interior

At the heart of Saké Restaurant & Bar is Executive Chef Shaun Presland, so a review would not be complete without a brief look at his career. A proud Queenslander, Shaun is now one of Australia’s pre-eminent chefs of Japanese cuisine. His career began in a Ryokan in the mountains of central Japan, where he crafted the skills of the traditional local cuisine. Returning to Australia, he joined the Merivale clan, setting up Sushi-e and later, Ivy Teppanyaki and Sushi Choo. He then headed to the Bahamas where he became executive sous-chef at one of the famous Nobu restaurants. Backed by the omnipotent The Bavarian Hospitality Group (BHG), Saké Restaurant & Bar was born in 2009 with Shaun as Executive Chef. 12 months later, the Sydney Saké was awarded a Chef’s Hat and Brisbane became the home for another Saké restaurant. The evolution of Saké is the ultimate restaurant success story.

Chef Shaun Presland and Chef Shinichi Maeda (from Saké Restaurant & Bar Brisbane)

If you want a traditional sushi bar, then Saké Restaurant & Bar is not for you. It is sleek and modern – with chefs scuttling around wearing red-and-white chequered bandanas and a menu that features popcorn chicken. With various dining spaces – including four exclusive dining rooms, communal banquet tables, sushi bar seating and also a traditional Japanese sunken table – Saké Restaurant & Bar is adaptable and dynamic. The staff, while efficient, border on being overbearing and pretentious. However, the menu will exceed the expectations of even the most fastidious lover of Modern Japanese cuisine. The kingfish and salmon sushi cannot be faulted, the miso marinated butterfish lettuce cups offer a refreshing Japanese take on san choy bow while the teriyaki Wagyu 7+ skewers is beyond tender. The spicy eggplant kushiyaki isn’t memorable however the ‘S express’ sushi roll, filled with scallops, seared salmon and spicy mayo, is the pinnacle of my Saké Restaurant & Bar appreciation.

Anna Lisle

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The 7 hottest new restaurant openings in Sydney

Paper Planes – Bondi

Nestled beside Sonoma and Miss Chu in the new Bondi Beach complex is Paper Planes. Under Head chef Jin Kung, the menu features modern Japanese dishes. The fit out is cool with the roof lined with skateboard decks and aluminium origami.

The Grounds of Alexandria

Holistic cafes are popping up everywhere around Sydney but The Grounds of Alexandria is the crème de la crème of this new trend. They roast their own beans, the ingredients on the menu are sourced from their own organic kitchen garden and the cafe is encased in a rustic, industrial and heritage-listed warehouse in Sydney’s west.


A degustation-only menu at Sixpenny may be brave choice in these tough hospitality times but with chefs’ Dan Puskas and James Parry behind the venture, the boys will be sure to pull it off. Replacing Stanmore stalwart The Codfather, Sixpenny’s interior is simple, yet elegant, with wooden tabletops and warm-toned hues.

Buffalo Dining Club

From the boys behind Table for 20 and uber-cool Sticky Bar, both in Surry Hills, it really is no surprise that Buffalo Dining Club is a little different. With 90 per cent of its menu featuring buffalo milk products, this is a fresh new concept for the Darlinghurst dining scene.


Located in the stunning surrounds of Chiswick Gardens in Woollahra, Chiswick is the latest venture from Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan. The menu embraces a simple approach with a range of dishes – from seafood to Matt Moran’s famous lamb – designed for sharing.

Little H

Not quite a new restaurant but Surry Hills’ favourite Bar H has opened Little H. Open for lunch, Little H’s menu looks lovely.

Bondi Picnic

With Little Marionette Coffee, sweet treats from Luxe and a cool, breezy vibe, Bondi Picnic is a great little addition to the Bondi social scene. With a couple of big names behind the venture, including Bondi Icebergs’ Andrew Crabbe, Bondi Picnic is set to rally up a loyal local following fast.

Anna Lisle

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2012 International Food Safari at King Street Wharf

For two weeks, between Monday 25th June and Sunday 8th July, King Street Wharf will be hosting the 2012 International Food Safari.

See what’s on show here:

Produced by Best Restaurants of Australia and de Groots Media Productions.

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Restaurant Review: The Grounds of Alexandria

You wouldn’t notice this place if it wasn’t for the crowd of people standing in the driveway.  Tucked away in a backstreet in Alexandria, between warehouses and large industrial buildings, The Grounds of Alexandria is the latest in a stream of concept cafes to open in Sydney.

The line waiting for takeaways

The owners behind this ambitious new venture include hospitality names; Jack Hanna, the former world latte art champion, Ramzey Choker, food importer and hospitality icon and the team from Jack & The Bean coffee wholesalers.

The kitchen garden

The Grounds hasn’t been done on the cheap. Interior designers, The Artistry, who list Beach Haus, Darling Island and The Oaks on their portfolio, have created a space which retains the charm of the industrial building while adding a modern and chic edge. Rustic exposed brick walls, high wood ceilings and moss green trimmings, combined with subtle globe lighting and retro-coloured coffee cups creates a dynamic space that is functional yet also beautiful.  In the back area of the cafe, just near the open kitchen, coffee roasters are hidden behind floor-to-ceiling windows, giving diners a glimpse into how their lattes have been made. The educational focus of The Grounds is clear, especially with the addition of a “research facility”, dedicated to experimenting with blends and roasting processes. Blackboard crash-course diagrams about how to roast coffee line the walls while a rare La Marzocco espresso machine sits proudly, in all its lime green glory, pumping out takeaways.

Rhubarb Tart

If you happen to arrive at peak hour, simply grab a sweet treat and a takeaway coffee and perch in the garden, where edible herbs and trimmed hedges grow in healthy abundance. Once you manage to snag a table, the menu is in keeping with the wholesome and natural approach of the entire cafe, focusing on rustic and homemade dishes such as breakfast quinoa, house baked muesli and innovative sandwiches and salads. The slow-roasted pull-pork sandwich is a must but if you are after something lighter, any dish that includes a slice of their artisan bread (it has a bakery too), will be a highlight.

Anna Lisle

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Sydney’s best pub dining

With Anzac Day just around the corner, we thought we would put together a list of a few of our favourite pubs. So get your mates together, play some two-up and enjoy a fine meal at one of Sydney’s best pubs.

The Four in Hand Dining Room

With Two Chef Hats to its name, The Four in Hand is a far-cry from your standard pub. While meals are exxy, the bistro-style dining room still has the charm and character of a pub and Chef Colin Fassnidge’s food is definitely worth it.

Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel

Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel is one of the more casual pubs in the Eastern Suburbs serving classic Mod Oz pub fare, at reasonable prices. Overlooking the water with the Botanic Gardens just a short walk away, this is a great pub to take tourists.

Uncorked at The Union Hotel

Uncorked at The Union Hotel is one of North Sydney’s best kept secrets. Decked out with white leather booths, black wood panelling and hot red carpet, Uncorked offers a French-inspired menu.

Bistro Balmain at Exchange Hotel

Located in the grand heritage-listed Exchange Hotel, Bistro Balmain offers a chic dining space a menu that offers everything from tapas and beer snacks to elegant Mod Oz dishes. Boasting city views, the outdoor verandah is ideal for balmy summer nights.

Bellevue Hotel

One of Paddington’s beloved heritage pubs, The Bellevue has undergone a serious makeover. Tucked away at the back of the Bellevue, the light and airy dining room has a relaxed and welcoming environment, making it a favourite among the locals.

Grand National Restaurant

Tucked away in the backstreets of Paddington, the Grand National Restaurant offers a casual bistro-style menu. The daily blackboard specials are worth a try.

The Light Brigade

Standing proudly on the corner of Oxford Street and Jersey Road, The Light Brigade is a Paddington stalwart. Fitted out in Art Deco style, the restaurant offers impressive pub fare.

The London

Forget Jump On It or Spreets, The London has some of the best meal-deals around and you can actually get a table. On Tuesday you can get a pizza and drink for $14, on Monday the menu is $15 and from Sunday to Thursday, between 5-6pm, kids eat for free.

Lord Nelson Brasserie

As Australia’s oldest pub, this wouldn’t be a pub-guide without listing The Lord Nelson. The elegant upstairs Brasserie restaurant features exposed convict quarried sandstone , creating the perfect setting to soak in the history of The Rocks. Great for tourists.

Anna Lisle

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The launch of The Bar at the End of the Wharf

Last night, the Best Restaurant’s team welcomed a new addition to the Sydney hospitality scene –  the Sydney Theatre Company’s The Bar at the End of the Wharf.

STC’s The Bar at the End of the Wharf

Literally perched on the edge of water, with the Harbour Bridge looming overhead, and the STC just upstairs, The Bar at the End of the Wharf is casual and relaxed. Despite its stunning location, the restaurant prices are more than reasonable and the atmosphere hasn’t an ounce of pretension. Put more simply, STC artistic director Cate Blanchett said, “it’s the kind of place you just want to hang out at – have a drink, read a book and use the free-wifi.”

The lack of late night dining options in Sydney will also draw in customers with the kitchen open till the wee hours of the morning. With its hip fit out, billion dollar views and value-for-money menu, I can only envisage that The Bar at the End of the Wharf will be so much more than a pre- and post- theatre dinner option.

Anna Lisle

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Best meals for under $20 in Sydney

Chat Thai

There is Thai and then there is Chat Thai. With lines queuing at all hours outside their Haymarket restaurant, it’s no surprise that their Westfield addition is equally popular. Our pick: red curry of roasted duck with pineapple and holy basil $20.

Level 5, 500 George Street, Westfield Sydney

Hugos Bar Pizza

Hugo’s Bar Pizza is a cool bar and pizzeria catering to Sydney’s young socialites. Situated below Hugo’s Lounge, one of Kings Cross’s hottest nightspots, this restaurant is a funky nightspot that serves some top notch pizza. Our pick: Margherita pizza with roma tomatoes, fresh buffalo milk mozzarella, parmesan and basil $20.

33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross


Tucked in the far corner of a courtyard beside Christine Manfield’s Unviersal, Phamish is constantly abuzz with in-the-know locals craving their famous Peking duck pancakes and salt and pepper squid. BYO too, this place is a winner. Our pick: Chilli and kaffir lime leaf prawns $20.50; salt and pepper squid $18.50.

Republic 2, 50 Burton Street, Darlinghurst

Barrio Chino

A Mexican food revolution has hit the Sydney dining scene and leading the way is Barrio Chino. Tucked away on Bayswater Road in Kings Cross, the glam young duo behind Potts Point’s Fei Jai, Peter Lew and Nicole Galloway, offer Mexican street food in a dining table style. Our pick: A selection of Mexican delights; baja fish taco $6 and beef brisket taco $6 and grilled sweetcorn with chilli and lime $5. ($17).

28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

Wilbur’s Place

Another one from the Bourke Street Bakery Boys, Wilbur’s Place offers casual lunch and dinner menus that are simple and healthy. This hole-in-the-wall is located on Llankelly Place in Potts Point. Our pick: Brisket Ragu with mushrooms, orecchiette, gremolata and bread crumbs $19.

36 Llankelly Place, Potts Point

The Argyle

Despite its prime position in the heart of the historic Rocks, The Argyle is among the most affordable restaurants in the area. With a suave and sexy fit out, complete with soft-lit VIP sections, open courtyards and an industrial-sized bar, The Argyle also serves fantastic pub grub. Our pick: Wagyu burger with BBQ sauce and fries $18.

18 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney CBD

Sushi on Stanley

Lines queue along Stanley Street at all hours with people eager to snag a table at this tiny Japanese joint. Value-for-money is what it’s all about at Sushi on Stanley, where the meals are huge and the sashimi as fresh as you would get at the fish markets. Our pick: Dinner box with chicken teriyaki, salmon and avocado California roll, miso soup, rice and salad $12.

85 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst

Anna Lisle

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Restaurant Review: Three Blue Ducks

The story behind Three Blue Ducks is simple. A couple of mates who all happen to share a love of eating and cooking decided that they needed to find a job that would not only foster passion for food, but would also let them surf. The answer: to open a cafe in Bronte. At first, the people of Sydney came here to experience the magic of one of the Blue Ducks, former Tetsuya chef Mark LaBrooy. Once the masses got a taste of Three Blue Ducks, in all its effervescent and energetic glory, the rest of the Three Blue Duck story is history.

Three Blue Ducks at night

What started as a casual cafe, the Three Blue Ducks have since taken over the pizza parlour next door, offering the perfect space for a more formal bar and dining room. With Mark at the pots and pans, the other two members in the duck-trio is Sam Reid and Chris Sorrell, as barista. The winning formula of this bustling place is the well-priced menu, house-made pastries and baked goods and staff who look like they actually like they actually want to be there.

Beef, burnt onion and mustard seed

If you head there on a weekend, queues wait outside, creating an excited buzz that surrounds the periphery of the 20-seater cafe. By night, however, the vibe is more chilled out. There are no tablecloths or snooty waitresses. The printout menu is without all your usual bows and whistles yet the food impresses with the use of quality produce and some seriously talented chefs. Check out the dinner menu here:

Anna Lisle

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Best new cookbooks

With four glorious days up your sleeve this Easter weekend, now is the perfect time to have some fun in the kitchen. Here at Best Restaurants, it goes without saying that love to dine out but our passion for food doesn’t end there – we are also keen cooks.

Here are 3 new gorgeous cookbooks (and our favourite recipe from each one). Follow the link to download each recipe.

  1. Mum’s Jam Tart from My Mother’s Kitchen– Guy Grossi ($49.95; Penguin Books).

1. Mum’s Jam Tart

  1. Chilled Pea Soup With Crab Salad And Black Olive Oil from Manu’s French Bistro – Manu Fiedel ($49.95; Penguin Books).

Chilled Pea Soup With Crab Salad And Black Olive Oil

  1. Alaphias Chocolate Cake from Best-ever baking recipes – David Herbert ($49.95; Penguin Books).

Alaphias Chocolate Cake

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