Monthly Archives: August 2012

Coney Island circus fun at Hilton Sydney’s Zeta Bar

Cotton candy cosmos, tarot reading, popcorn and clowns on stilts. The media launch of a lifetime, the Best Restaurant team were in for a surprise last Thursday night when we headed to Hilton Sydney’s stunning Zeta Bar.

Snack of the night – the sorbet

To celebrate the launch of a new concept – the sleek and sophisticated space of Zeta Bar was turned into carnival Coney Island. We spent the evening sipping long island iced tea snow cones while being entertained by circus-inspired freak shows, strongman acts and circus sideshows. With skyrocketing sugar levels, we snacked on cider-spiked toffee apples, hot dogs and pink candy floss.

With Michael Bourne (General Manager of Hilton Sydney)

Want to relive your childhood circus days? “The Greatest Show On Earth” will be held every Friday from 6pm (for a limited time) at Zeta Bar.

Read more about Zeta Bar here

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Filed under Events, Sydney CBD, Zeta Bar

Paddington’s best kept secret, La Scala on Jersey

It used to be said that any publicity is good publicity. After Darren Simpson, the former La Scala Head Chef, endorsed a burger range for fast-food giant KFC, I doubt restaurateur and owner, Dean Haritos would necessarily agree. But unlike many restaurants, La Scala is still standing and standing proud it is.

The decadent dining rooms at La Scala

Sitting snugly between the iconic Light Brigade Hotel and hatted restaurant Buzo Trattoria, the entrance to La Scala is discreet. Once inside, however, discreet isn’t a word that comes to mind. La Scala flamboyantly displays its Italian heritage with bold feature walls, gilted vintage mirrors, a funky cocktail bar and glass bowls of fresh produce such as bright red capsicums strewn around the various dining spaces. A chair installation protrudes from pin-striped walls and giant metal whisk lights spiral elegantly from the ceiling.

The restaurant’s design may be theatrical but the menu at La Scala on Jersey is deceptively modest, showcasing a down-to-earth display of classic Italian cooking. Ruben Martinez, who was formerly Darren’s Sous Chef, fronts the kitchen. Martinez, who has done time in some of Sydney’s most successful restaurants including Aqua Luna, La Sala and Barrenjoey House, has created a menu that implements organic cuts of meat, local seafood and house made sorbet and gelato.

La Scala’s signature dish: Brodetto Marchigiano – a classic fish stew from Marche

Keeping things local, we start with a small bowl of organic marinated Lakelands olives and a glass of 2006 Montose Omaggio (barbera) from Mudgee. While the wine list does predominantly feature Australian wines, there are also has a range of French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and New Zealand drops on offer. Salty, luscious and textural, the Lakelands olives are a standout, and I take note to return at a later date purely to get a second taste of these. Brodetto Marchigiano (a classic fish stew from Marche), is one of La Scala’s signature dishes. Aesthetically, it is a spectacular display of seafood, topped with a crusty slice of herb bread. The stock-based stew is overflowing with octopus, barramundi, mussels and squid, with strong hints of saffron and marjoram. The Italian lamb or “nose to tail eating”, comes highly recommended by wait staff and once it is placed in front of us, we can see why. The free-range lamb is sourced from the clover pastures of North Motton in North West Coast of Tasmania and the dish is served with different cuts every day. Another on my “must-return-for” list is the sformato, similar to a soufflé, it is a smooth blend of Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts.

From the food to the service, the restaurant runs like clockwork and Andrew Carson, the restaurant manager, is key to its success. The sophisticated private dining room, which seats up to 26 people comfortably, is an impressive location for corporate and private events. For larger occasions, the restaurant and bar can be exclusively hired for up to 200.

Anna Lisle

Read more about La Scala on Jersey here

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Filed under La Scala on Jersey, Paddington, Reviews

A tough reservation: Bondi Hardware

Rather than doing the whole “we’re too busy to need reservations”-thing, the owners of Bondi Hardware have made a compromise. Half the restaurant is for bookings, while the other half is reserved for walk-ins. What a great idea, or so I thought.

A week before my desired dining night, I rang to book a table for three. Politely, I was told that there were no reservations available but walk-ins were welcome. “But I don’t welcome walk-ins”, I wanted to respond. Instead, I decided to live life on the edge and simply rock up on an extra-chilly Friday (and hope that the Gods would be on my side.)

The rustic and edgy aesthetic of Bondi Hardware

As we approach Bondi Hardware, a happy clamour of noise leaks out the door into the street. A small crowd are gathered in a small huddle trying to escape the gusty coastal winds, clearly waiting for a table. There was no way we would get straight in. The waitress politely warns us that there would be atleast an hour wait. Feigning optimism, we add our name to the list and traipse down Hall Street in search for a drinking spot. Three vodkas down and my phone trills into life. We rush to the restaurant to secure our seat. Perched on high stools, we watch as two vivacious bar staff pour, shake and sip on an array of serious-looking cocktails. The lights are fairly low and the music is playing so loudly that we can hardly hear a word that the waiter says as she rattles off drink suggestions. But it doesn’t really matter – our conversation is somewhat exhausted after we have just spent the last hour in idle chit chat at Ravesis, waiting for the call.

The calculatedly rustic setting feels like a cross between Shady Pines Saloon and Grasshopper, but more elegant. Exposed bricks, low slung industrial lights and worn timber tables dominate the restaurant while bits and bobs are placed around the space in a measured and conservative manner. The crowd is a dizzyingly weird mix of middle-aged suits, leggy blondes and some chilled-out surfer bros. And despite the unusual clientele, the room has a happy and excited buzz.

Head Chef Justin Walshe has created a diverse menu of share plates, wood fire pizza, snacks and cheese boards. The food arrives quickly, thank goodness. Pan-fried ocean trout with a rocket, goats cheese and pickled red onion salad is robust and flavoursome while the salt and pepper squid is as it should be – crispy and tasty. The prawn, roasted garlic and chilli pizza is simple but pleasant however it is the chargrilled zucchini, olive and anchovy pizza that really lets the side down.  Service is as crisp and professional as a hatted restaurant but the food is mostly mediocre.

We must remember though, Bondi Hardware is not a fine diner – it is all about having fun, enjoying a cocktail and letting your hair down with some fine tunes. And Bondi Hardware certainly achieves this, better than most.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Bondi Hardware here

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Filed under Bondi Beach, Bondi Hardware, Reviews