Monthly Archives: June 2012

At the forefront of sustainable dining, Cornersmith

If you’re craving a piping hot bowl of Vietnamese pho, but don’t want to trek out to Cabramatta, then Illawarra Road at Marrickville is the next best thing. But rice noodles are not the only dish on the menu at this up-and-coming urban hotspot.

Like most good cafes, it’s hard to get a table at Cornersmith, especially with a large group. Perched on the corner of Petersham and Illawara Road, at the site of a former sewing shop, the only sign of Cornersmith’s existence is the steady stream of customers that linger outside. Organised and structured, like much of the cafe, a clipboard at the front door acts as the booking system – where diners can write down their name and number and wait for a table.

Be prepared for a wait if you visit on the weekend

Despite the line, the wait isn’t long and we eagerly snag a table beside the huge floor-to-ceiling windows. A strong latte is soon delivered, and like always, the Mecca beans are exceptional. However the coffee is not the drawcard of the cafe, specifically. Cornersmith is part of a new wave of foraging cafes that is staunchly devoted to sourcing local, seasonal, organic and ethical produce. With a rooftop bee-hive, which is part of the local Urban Beehive project, and a menu brimming with free range eggs, house-made pickles and jams and organic juice, Cornersmith is at the forefront of sustainable dining.

Run by husband-and-wife team James Grant (formerly at Mecca Espresso) and Alex Elliot-Howery, Cornersmith is a homely little cafe that is well worth a drive to Sydney’s Inner West.

It was only open for six months when Cornersmith was announced as Local Hero at the SMH Good Cafe Guide 2012 (also holding a 3 cup status).

Anna Lisle

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One of Melbourne’s most iconic restaurants: Cookie

You can’t call yourself a foodie in Melbourne if you haven’t been to Cookie. Lauded as one of Melbourne’s most iconic dining experiences, Cookie is a quirky little place, in the heart of the city.

It may not have received a Hat from The Age Good Food Guide but booking a table at Cookie is harder than getting into Harvard. It was so difficult, in fact, that I booked a table for 5.30pm. On a Sunday. Feeling like I had gone into early retirement, I arrived at the Swanston Street destination as the sun was just beginning to set. Cookie is located on the first floor of a renovated 1920s building known as Curtin House, with sister venues’ The Toff and Choo Choos’ just upstairs.

Cookie’s eating house

Rather than walking into an empty restaurant, I was surprised to see large groups of tables excitedly flicking through menus, tossing around options and giggling to one another. Clearly, there are a few small prices you pay to experience one of Melbourne’s most sought-after locations. Partitioned off into sections, Cookie somehow manages to combine a disco, eating house and beer hall in the one space. Unlike the beer hall, the eating house is open and spacious. The walls are lined with old photographs of Swanston Street and inner city Melbourne and the tables are set with white lace doilies and floral crockery. Large Victorian windows open out onto Swanston Street, while an open bar runs along the opposite wall, stocking over 350 wines, many of which can be ordered by the glass.

Chef Karen Batson (who also heads the kitchen at Choo Choo’s and Prahran’s Colonel Tan’s) has created a modern Thai menu that matches well to a long dinner with family or friends. While it is nice for two, a night at Cookie is far more fun with a big group –when you can share a range of dishes.  Standout dishes include rice noodle rolls with bamboo shoots, prawns and pickled chilli soy, drunken noodles with minced pork and green chillies and and deep fried snapper with bok choi tamarind and crispy shallots. In keeping with the kitsch theme, at the end of our meal the bill is delivered in a vintage children’s book, a great touch.

Childhood nostalgia, machismo, plus a dash of Melbourne eccentricism: this sums up the atmosphere at Melbourne sweetheart, Cookie.

Anna Lisle

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Launch of The International Food Safari

To celebrate Sydney’s newest food festival, de Groots Media and King Street Wharf last night joined arms for the launch of The International Food Safari.

Maureen de Groot, Scott Winter and Magdalena Roze

Hosted by celebrity Chef Ben O’Donoghue, the evening was celebrated overlooking Sydney Harbour in the elegant surrounds of The Loft.  Maureen de Groot gave a witty opening to the celebrations, thanking all those who have been involved in the organisation of the event. Drums, salsa dancing and the live music kept the atmosphere buzzing late into the night and the effervescent Magdalena Roze posed for the Daily Telegraph cameras.

Kim Atwells, Chef Ben O’Donoghue, Anna Lisle and Maureen de Groot

Guests were taken on a culinary trip across the globe with food stations from each of the participating restaurants offering a speciality dish. The excited crowd enjoyed dishes such as lollipop sushi from Kobe Jones, pizza from Casa Di Nico, spanakopita from Georges Mediterrean Bar and Grill and oysters from Nick’s Seafood Restaurant.

To get a glimpse of what is to come, see the King Street Wharf International Food Safari video:


Are you Flying Virgin Australia Domestic this month? Then see our video above on in-flight LIVE 2 AIR CHANNELS. Held from Monday 25th June to Sunday 8th June, check out King Street Wharf’s website for a list of The International Food Safari events.


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An indulgent treat, The Dining Room at Park Hyatt Sydney

After a $65 million revamp, the newly redesigned Park Hyatt Sydney brings a new level of contemporary luxury to the edge of Sydney Harbour. From the hotel’s penthouse suite to the lobby below, the new Park Hyatt Sydney epitomises opulence and luxury. Perhaps a weekend away in their Rooftop Suite is out of the option? Don’t worry. Instead, book a table at the Park Hyatt’s signature restaurant, The Dining Room, and experience an indulgent treat.

Views rarely get better than this

At the heart of the Park Hyatt’s revamp is The Dining Room. Formerly Harbourkitchen&bar, the new restaurant has been transformed in keeping with the hotel’s new residential styling and direction. Taking full advantage of its coveted harbour front position, the simple and elegant interior of The Dining Room boasts four-metre-high floor-to-ceiling windows. Perfect for impressing visitors to Australia, diners can wine and dine while looking directly across Sydney Harbour to the Opera House. And unlike many waterfront restaurants, The Dining Room is equally impressive at night – with the Opera House lights illuminating the water below.

Tamarind and molasses glazed Blackmore Wagyu beef brisket, beetroot and horseradish

The view however is not the only draw card of The Dining Room. When the Executive Chef of a restaurant can rattle off New York’s Daniel, Tokyo’s New York Grill, Beijing’s Aria Restaurant, Paris’ Three Michelin-star Pavillion de Ledoyen and Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, as just a few of the restaurants he has worked, guests are sure to be impressed. Under the relentless guidance of Executive Chef Andrew McKee, the menu showcases seasonal, organic and free-range Australian produce. Working directly with local suppliers, Chef McKee’s menu features David Blackmore’s Wagyu beef, Murrayland lamb and Sydney rock oysters. One of his signature dishes, Charcoal grilled Blackmore Wagyu beef and celeriac rémoulade cannot be described as anything less than sublime while the dessert menu, featuring dishes such as hazelnut dacquoise and caramel mille-feuille with praline, give new meaning to the word indulgence.

An experience at the Park Hyatt Sydney’s The Dining Room cannot be described as anything less than luxurious. However, luxury does not need to come with a hefty price tag: The Dining Room’s lunch menu offers one course for $39, two courses for $59 and three courses for $69, and includes a glass of wine selected by the sommelier.

Anna Lisle

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Filed under Reviews, The Dining Room, The Rocks

An inner city French oasis: Melbourne’s Mr Mason

“I drink to make other people more interesting”. Scribbled by hand on the restaurant’s walls, this Ernest Hemmingway quote is one of the first things that I notice, and love, about Mr Mason.

An adult’s playground, Mr Masonis divided into three separate spaces, including a lounge, dining and terrace area. Small injections of drama can be seen throughout the restaurant space from the large wooden beams, taken from Melbourne’s original train station, to the thick, wrought iron fencing mesh that is used to separate the formal dining area and bar. This transparent barrier allows guests to enjoy an intimate meal, while still being entertained by the bar staff.  For those not interested in people watching, original, black-leather bound, editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica Wooden line the dining area’s shelves, while hand-written quotes (in a similar vein to Ernest Hemmingway’s above) and bottles of Veuve Clicquot decorate the walls. The lounge area is equally charming in a masculine, New York style way with an open brick fireplace, black leather chairs and copper lights that hang seductively from the ceiling. As one of the only venues in Melbourne’s CBD that offers an outdoor dining area, Mr Mason’s terrace is cool and casual with green and yellow stools and a wall garden at one end.

One of Mr Mason’s elegantly presented dishes

Divided into small, medium and large dishes, the French-inspired menu is presented in rustic and honest sensibility. In keeping with this attitude, the portion sizes are more than generous; however, this is done without compromising the quality or the elegance of the dish.

Some of the culinary thrills are the hushed kind, like the way lightly fried river prawns are scattered over the crisp skin and white flesh of roasted hapuka. Others are scene-stealers, like the pretty mound of salmon tartare, luxuriously covered in crème fraiche and scattered with nasturtium flowers. A few of the features are flat-out luxurious, like the small bundles of bone marrow adorning tournedos of beef and sitting on a carpet of little potato fondants.

Owned by The Publican Group and under the relentless guidance of Manager Jason Weaffer, Mr Mason offers an elegant French-inspired dining experience that is well-worth the somewhat difficult task of actually finding the restaurant.

Anna Lisle

Mr Mason on Urbanspoon

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The Best comes to Melbourne in the form of Pei Modern

When it comes to dining in Australia, it is the North versus the South, Sydney versus Melbourne. It is a rivalry that has existed for decades and one which has only but intensified in the past few Masterchef-obsessed years.

So when Sydney’s Best comes to Melbourne, it is hard to avoid the commotion. The “Best” comes in the form of Pei Modern, a new fine-diner in Melbourne’s inner city. A double entendre, Pei Modern is the creation of Mark Best, of Sydney’s Marque Restaurant. As one of only five restaurants in New South Wales to be awarded the highly coveted title of 3 Chef Hats, Marque is the epitome of fine dining in Australia.

While Marque devotees may be disappointed to hear that Pei Modern is quite different from its Sydney sibling, Pei Modern does draw some similarities. The restaurant space, like Marque, is simple and elegant with upholstered seats and ambient lighting.

Caramelised tomato stuffed with twelve flavours and star anise ice cream

The similarities tend to stop about here. Rather than being located in the epicentre of Melbourne dining, as Marque is on Crown Street in Surry Hills, the location of Pei Modern is slightly unusual. Tucked away at the back of Collins Place, diners walk through an empty retail centre, where only a handful of couples, box of popcorn in hand, can be glimpsed heading downstairs to a movie at Kino Cinemas.

Rather than a multi-course degustation, diners to Pei Modern can enjoy simple a la carte fare, at more than reasonable prices. A selection of eight elegant dishes comprise the main menu, with matching sides, while the bar menu offers more casual drinking fare such as chicken liver parfait and croquettes. Not interested in the dinner menu? Unlike Marque, it doesn’t cost $160 to experience the Best, at Pei Modern, you can put the Best to test with breakfast for just $8.

Anna Lisle

The name Pei Modern is Mark’s tribute to the architect I.M. Pei, responsible for the famous inverted glass pyramids at the Louvre. The team behind Pei Modern include Mark Best of Sydney, together with Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh, both from MoVida. The Head Chef is Matt Germanchis (formerly of Pandora’s Box, MoVida, Fat Duck) and the restaurant manager is somellier Ainslie Lubbock (formerly of Royal Mail Hotel and Attica).

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A lovely surprise on Cleveland Street, The Norfolk Hotel

The Norfolk Hotel doesn’t appear to have a lot going for it. For one, Cleveland Street isn’t exactly a sought after location. And for two, the pub’s exterior makes one assume that there could be nothing more than a drab old pub inside. And their website doesn’t help, either. But, if you block out the traffic screeching by outside and ignore the pub’s exterior, The Norfolk might just surprise you.

The hotel’s interior is bipartite. The front area reminds me of my local country pub back with magazine covers of topless girls scattered around the pub’s walls. Sporting paraphernalia features too, just like back home, with black and white footy photos and Australian flags hanging from the ceiling.

Perfect for sunny days and balmy nights, The Norfolk’s backyard beer garden

Walking out the back, The Norfolk changes its stripes. Pretty lights hidden in the trees create a magical and mystical atmosphere in the backyard beer garden while a more formal dining room, with mellow, seductive music, exists just inside. The almost-solemn mood that exists in the front bar transforms into an upbeat, hip haven, perfect for those Surry Hills’ trendsetters.

The menu travels across the globe with Spanish, Mexican, American and Aussie pub grub. The chilli fries with chilli mince, Jalapenos and nacho cheese are the perfect beer food and mains like Asian salmon salad, please the calorie-counting crowd. While not as cheap as your local Thai takeaway, The Norfolk does offer some wallet pleasing deals like $3 tacos on Tuesdays.

Anna Lisle

The Norfolk on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Reviews, Surry Hills, The Norfolk Hotel

Serious coffee-drinking territory: Coffee Alchemy

Coffee Alchemy is a little café tucked away in the backstreets of Marrickville. Winning the title of “Best Coffee” in the 2011 SMH Good Cafe Guide, Coffee Alchemy is serious coffee-drinking territory. The first thing that you notice about Alchemy is that the mood is sombre. There is no music blaring overhead and there are no waitresses dizzily trotting around. The focus here is on one thing only: coffee.

There are only coffee magazines in this cafe

A group of people twitch nervously outside, having ordered a takeaway, these caffeine addicts are in no mood for patience as they wait to get their first hit of the morning. Inside, the atmosphere is just as stiff, as those who prefer to sip their liquid gold out of porcelain eye off the limited seating as they wait to order their coffee. With only two long benches, customers sit like sardines, tightly pressed next to each other. Awkwardly, customers attempt to take tentative sips, accidently elbowing the person next to them in the process. If you happen to score a seat, don’t plan a long lazy morning of newspaper reading, the unspoken rule is to drink your coffee and then get out. Once your coffee has arrived, all the sterility and hostility instantly dissolves. That first sip makes everything worthwhile. Coffee Alchemy certainly does serve one of the best coffees in town.

Anna Lisle

Coffee Alchemy on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Coffee Alchemy, Marrickville, Uncategorized

A timeless gem, Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse

In the hospitality industry, where restaurants open and close quicker than you can say “under new management”, consistency is one of the most valuable commodities. Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse, at Woolloomooloo Wharf, is one of the most reliable restaurants in Sydney. Night after night, meal after meal, Kingsleys delivers impressive food, great service and all in one stunning location.

Sydney’s famous Woolloomooloo Wharf

Don’t be perturbed by the restaurant’s name, Kingsleys is a far cry from your classic two fisted steakhouse. Boasting a formal fine-dining restaurant setting, spread over two levels, the tables on the ground-level wharf are one of the restaurant’s most prized assets. Booked out almost every weekend, a wharf table at Kingsleys gives diners an uninterrupted 180 degree view of the city’s skyline and Sydney Harbour. The perfect destination for impressing tourists and out-of-towners.

Salt and pepper baby octopus

It goes without saying that this meaty mecca certainly gives carnivores a cause for rejoicing, however Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse impresses equally in the seafood department. An entree of salt and pepper baby octopus is crispy and tender, served with a sweet balsamic glaze that brings the dish together. A ceviche of wild kingfish, offers an interesting textual experience that is offset by crunchy prawns and a housemade mayonnaise. And while Kingsley’s is renowned for its sumptuous serves of QLD chilli mud crab, there was no way I was going past a 400 gram aged rib on the bone. Because, we must remember, rather than being just your average steakhouse, Kingsley’s is, in fact, THE steakhouse. With nothing else on the plate, the aged rib was served as is, without a piece of shrubbery to taint its meaty goodness. Initially questioning how I would get through such a large slab of meat, the aged rib was quietly devoured and all that was left on the plate was a meat-less bone.

Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse is a timeless and reliable gem.

Anna Lisle

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse on Urbanspoon

Read more about Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse here

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Finalists announced for the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards 2012

This week, the finalists for the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards 2012 were announced. The program recognises young hospitality talent from around Australia with three different categories.

Young Chef State Finalists
Adrian Winoto (Demi Chef, Essence Restaurant, Jupiters Casino, Townsville QLD)
Benjamin Wallace (Sous Chef, Longrain, Melbourne VIC)
Jay Lee (Chef de Partie, Mosaic Restaurant, Westin Sydney, Sydney NSW)
Joshua Gertig (Commis Chef, Hilton Adelaide, Adelaide SA)
Kah-wai Lo (Chef de Partie, Hare & Grace, Melbourne VIC)
Matthew Bugeja (Chef de Partie, Becasse, Sydney NSW)
Michael Fox (Head Chef, Henry and the Fox, Melbourne VIC)
Michael Demagistris (Executive Chef, Sorrento Golf Club, Sorrento VIC)
Nick Street-Brown (Head Chef, Coast Restaurant and Bar, Hervey Bay QLD)
Richard Spencer (Junior Sous Chef, Beaufort St Merchant, Highgate WA)
Richmond Rodrigues (Apprentice Chef, Hilton Cairns, Cairns QLD)
Sarah Knights (Sous Chef, Uccello, Sydney NSW)
Stewart Wesson (Head Chef, Culinetic, Adelaide SA)

Electrolux Australian Young Waiter State Finalists
Alexander Tuckett (Asst Restaurant Manager, Pilu at Freshwater, Freshwater NSW)
Christopher Sarandis (Sommelier, The Marquis, Adelaide SA)
Christopher Rose (Sommelier, glass brasserie, Sydney NSW)
Damien Byrne (Sommelier, Grossi Florentino, Melbourne VIC)
Guy Barker (Manager, The European, Melbourne VIC)
James Audas (Head Sommelier, BLACK by Ezard, Pyrmont NSW)
Michael Bascetta (Waiter, Attica, Melbourne VIC)
Nic Wright (Waiters, The Burlington Bar & Dining, Crows Nest NSW)
Pierre-Etienne Geoffroy (Ast. Manager, Jacques Reymond Restaurant, Prahran VIC)
Shaun Eto (Senior Waiter, Icebergs Dining Room, Bondi Beach NSW)
Simone Spicer (Senior Waiter, Pei Modern, Melbourne VIC)

Young Restaurateur State Finalists
Amelia Birch (The Book Kitchen, Surry Hills NSW)
Daniel Wilson (Huxtable Restaurant, Fitzroy VIC)
Justin Markos (Utopia @ Waterfully Gully, Waterfall Gully SA)
Katrina Birchmeier (Garagistes, Hobart TAS)
Peter Harrington (Sage Restaurant, Braddon ACT/NSW)
Rebecca Lines (Bar H, Surry Hills NSW)

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