Monthly Archives: October 2012

Très bien to Trippas White

Since when did the Art Gallery of NSW suddenly become a dining destination? I’ll tell you –  since Art After Hours became ‘a thing’ and Trippas White Group put The Restaurant on the hospitality map.

The impressive exterior of the NSW Art Gallery

The Restaurant’s design is as minimalist as its name. An excitable blush of cherry carpet marks the only trace of colour, whilst dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows take in a view of Woolloomooloo Wharf and the tall terraces at Potts Point. As part of Crave Sydney, English bred chef Marc Cartwright created a four-course Modern French menu, inspired by the latest photographic exhibition by Eugene Atget.

Head chef Marc Cartwright with our food writer, Sami Jo.

To begin – an amuse of seared oysters, with foamy artichoke cream, pickled cucumbers and parsley. Now oysters and I haven’t had the most favourable relationship. They leave me feeling as though I have been French kissed by an old fisherman with salt-stained lips from years at sea. So you can imagine my hesitancy when the dish arrived. Let’s just say I think our Facebook status would now read “it’s complicated”. The second course was a deconstructed nicoise salad with raw kingfish that was wistful and eloquent. A classic main of perfectly pink filet mignon was generous and robust, but it was dessert that left the biggest impression. An ‘assiette de chocolat’, dolled up in fairy floss was a sinful trio that left my palate on edge. Sensual and seductive, our table could only say four words of our experience: ‘très bien Trippas White’.

Sami-Jo Adelman

Read more about The Restaurant here

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Filed under Events, Reviews, Sydney CBD, The Restaurant

The Morrison rocks

Light my fire, love me two times…touch me. No, I’m not trying to seduce you. I am, like The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room, paying tribute to rock legend, Jim Morrison. For those out of touch with rock history, Jim (or “The Lizard King”) was the lead singer of The Doors – an iconic 1960s band which had a long list of seductively titled hits as aforementioned.

oyster bar

The Morrison may have been inspired by this rock legend but there isn’t a guitar or vinyl record in sight. And thank goodness for that. Instead, The Morrison features an elegant array of round tables featuring pretty mosaics of pastel-coloured diamonds while low slung light globes hang from the sky-high polished wooden ceiling (yes – I said ceiling, not floor). Pot plant trees break up the brown-dominated vista and exposed brick edges add a touch of grunge to the otherwise civilised nature of the venue. Does it look and feel like an oyster bar? I have to admit, I wouldn’t really know. Sydney has never really done the oyster bar thing – it’s something we have always left to our trendier New York cousins. But Chef Sean Connolly, unafraid to test new waters, gives it a crack – and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good one.

split sashimi scampi with chilli, micro leaves and sea salt flakes

Sean isn’t your standard limelight-loving chef and while he may be a quiet achiever, his food demands attention. Take the oysters, for example. Each day, there are a handful of recommended selections on offer– today it’s Port Stephens rock and Shoalhaven River rock. Cleanly shucked and served on ice, each dish is served with a dish of zingy homemade tomato ketchup with grated horseradish. An elegant dish of split sashimi scampi arrives swimming in extra virgin olive oil and scattered with slices of hot chilli, micro leaves and sea salt flakes. Garlic and pernod prawns, cooked over coals and served with parsley butter, reinforce Sean’s motto: “everything tastes better on the bone or in the shell”. It’s an indulgent dining experience that showcases the finest and freshest assets of the ocean.

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room here

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Bloggers salute Peru at Hilton Sydney’s glass wine bar

To celebrate all things Peru, glass wine bar at Hilton Sydney recently hosted an intimate bloggers event with celebrity restaurateur Luke Mangan and  world-renowned chef and Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef 2011” Ricardo Zarate.

As a Peruvian native based in Los Angeles, Ricardo has thrilled critics as one of the leaders in nouveau-Peruvian cuisine in Los Angeles. He has two restaurants in Los Angeles, Mo-Chica and Picca, the latter recently cited in GQ Magazine as one of the “Ten Best New Restaurants in America.”

Pisco sour with the evening’s delights

Going off the “eaten track” and digging into his cultural heart, Ricardo demonstrated his cooking prowess and featured one of his signature canapés – Cerviche Criollo, whilst a captive audience imbibed on traditional Pisco Sours and South American wines chosen specially by glass brasserie’s chief sommelier Kim Bickley. Bloggers mixed ‘n’ mingled and feasted on Peruvian bites including spicy yellowtail causa with cucumber and puffed rice; uni crostini with tomato and yellow Peruvian chilli and a snapper cerviche “shooter” with coriander. The evening was a lovely Peruvian taste tester – a cuisine that Sydney has only recently embraced. We can’t wait for next year!

Anna Lisle

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Luke Mangan at Thomas Dux – a Crave showstopper

It’s not every day that you find yourself slightly intoxicated walking around a grocery store, running your hands over artisan (read slightly overpriced) products and pondering the use of Fluff Marshmallow Spread. And it’s not every day that you get an 8-course feast cooked for you by chef, restaurateur and providore Luke Mangan.

But as good food month rolls on, Crave continues to pull out all the stops. Last night at Thomas Dux Grocer in Crows Nest, the handsome grocery space was transformed into a pop-up restaurant for 60-odd diners, all wanting to rub shoulders with the celebrity chef.

Mangan took us on a global tasting experience from Morocco to Mexico via a tapas-style feast showcasing dishes from his restaurants and using oils and spices from his providores (product placement overload, but all in good fun). We started with what was perhaps the best dish of the evening – Moroccan spiced steak tartare, which arrived on large wooden planks with a sea of tiny quail eggs perched atop the meaty nest. Roasted garlic flat bread accompanied the dish and was the perfect vehicle to mop up their golden yellow entrails.  Feta, tarragon, mint and sumac stuffed zucchini flowers followed on a pillow of creamy corn puree and was a definite crowd-pleaser.

By the end of the night everyone was best friends (plentiful food and wine always seems to make this happen), so facebook details were exchanged, wedding dates were swapped (who knew pop-up dinners attracted such a large posse of newlyweds?) and someone even offered to host a falafel party for the table. The night culminated in a sweet crescendo of warm chocolate filled doughnuts with vanilla bean ice-cream and anglaise and Luke Mangan goodie bags for everyone.

Sami-Jo Adelman

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Filed under Crows Nest, Events, Reviews, Thomas Dux Grocer

Finishing The Bellevue chapter, Pignolet is back

Pairing a restaurant with the perfect chef can be as rocky as finding one’s soulmate. Some never do. Epicure and Short Black mourn weekly over the latest broken hearted eatery left reeling when its head chef walks out for a younger, trendier establishment. But like all good love stories, when the perfect partner is found, it’s like fireworks. Damien Pignolet and Claude’s, back in 1981, was one of those magic combinations and as a young food writer, I have always wished I was born just a little earlier. Pignolet, together with Tim Pak Poy, created what was touted as the quintessential French dining experience, receiving much acclaim across the country.

Pignolet’s history with the Bellevue Hotel began when he bought the hotel in 2005

But it is not all about Claude’s, throughout his high profile career Pignolet has established nine successful restaurants including Butlers Restaurant, The Old Bank in Darlinghurst, Bistro Moncur, Moncur Terrace, Bistro Deux at the Sackville Hotel, Cleopatra Restaurant and Guesthouse at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. Hold on, I’m almost finished the bio – Pignolet’s history with the Bellevue Hotel began when he bought the hotel in 2005, before selling it in 2011. His return to the iconic pub brings much excitement but also a chance to complete his original vision. “To me, it [The Bellevue] was always an unfinished chapter,” explains Pignolet.

Smoked duck with king brown mushroom carpaccio

Hidden at the back of the two-story building, The Bellevue dining room boasts a modern edge with a beautiful open glass ceiling and white washed concrete walls. The place oozes understated elegance with subdued decor, seasoned service and Pignolet’s magic touch on the menu. Weight watchers will have food envy with dishes such as pork, veal and fennel sausage with mashed potatoes and pork belly and duck confit cassoulet stealing the limelight. A simple crisp skin salmon glaze with shellfish butter is pleasurable, as is a generous prawn and mussel linguine.

Take an iconic heritage-listed Paddington pub, combine it with a stunning refurbishment and then throw in one of Australia’s most renowned chefs – The Bellevue Hotel has all the makings of a great dining experience.

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Bellevue Hotel here

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Filed under Paddington, Reviews, The Bellevue Hotel

What a food-filled month…

For Sydney foodies, October is undoubtedly one of the best months of the year. To celebrate the Crave Festival, our Best Restaurants team have been booked out – enjoying the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park, popping into the Barbeque Madness at Pyrmont and attending Brown Sugar’s “A World of Taste”.

But this week’s favourite was the prohibition dinner at The Owl House in Darlinghurst. For its unique Crave event, The Owl House decided to travel back to the 1920’s to the Prohibition era in America where, according to the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution, it was forbidden by law to sell, manufacture or transport alchoholic beverages. Prohibition was characterized by speakeasies, glamour, gangsters and average citizens breaking the law. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  Donning our best temperance attire, we headed to the honky-tonk end of Crown Street for a taste of 1920’s New York City.

Salad of quinoa, broad beans, Boston Bay mussels and zucchini flowers

For only $65, we enjoyed three-courses with matching cocktails. The first champagne-based cocktail gave us just the right amount of flutter to enjoy the entrée – a pretty Spring salad of quinoa, broad beans, Boston Bay mussels and zucchini flowers. This was followed by a hearty brioche bun Wagyu burger, served on a wooden plank with a side of hand-cut chips. A bloody mary and a few other strong cocktails (which were too tasty to remember their names), The Owl House certainly put on a good show. The night came to a sweet crescendo with a butterscotch panna cotta, served glass jar and topped with caramelized nuts, coffee liquor and almond chocolate candy. Need we say more?

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The hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar-Party-supporting… the launch of The Workers

Entering The Workers is something akin to approaching a secret Masonic Temple. You pass under a nondescript doorway flanked by wrought iron lamps and travel up a narrow timber staircase that opens out into a large hall. Dark timber beams run overhead and exposed brick walls are plastered with graffitied political slogans and artfully crumbling concrete. Giant pictures of Labour party greats smile down on patrons and give the impression that the building Australian workers come “home” to has been loved by generations of locals. And, of course, it has.

Everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside

The Darling Street home of The Workers was a trades and labour hall in the 1890s and is steeped in Labour Party history. Conscious of its place in the narrative of the hard-working, straight-talking, blue collar Party, everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside. The menu cries, “Viva La Tacos!” and guarantees the bartenders will “whet your whistle.” Indeed, The Workers satisfies at both the bar and in the Canteen, aka the kitchen.

Guests sampled prawn tacos – along with a selection of Mexican bar food

Following a stellar opening by former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who was as irreverent and down-to-earth as an old school politician should be, we sampled a variety of sliders, including Alaskan crab cakes with yellow pepper, preserved lemon and caper mayo, crispy buttermilk fried chicken wings and the show-stopping “mini mac” which is just like its big brother, only cooler. All the food has a definite Mexican twist, with enough spice to keep things interesting but not enough to see you grab your glass. You’ll be keen to reach for a drink for other reasons though; The Workers’ quality wines hail from Australia, France and Italy and the bartenders mix up drinks inspired by such diverse pop culture icons as Rudolph Valentino, Carrie Bradshaw, The Bronx (the Zoo, not the Borough). Like any working man’s watering hole, beer is on the menu in a big way, and patrons will find a vast array of local and international labels bottled and on tap.

A DJ mixes trendy house tunes behind the bar and patrons can sit at communal tables down the centre of the room or in the cosier booths that run around the perimeter. Opening night saw The Whitlams’ Tim Freedman woo the crowd and The Workers promises regular live gigs to keep the plebs entertained. Venturing through a wall of foliage takes you to a funky astro-turfed open air balcony, strung with coloured lights and candy-coloured garden furniture. For patrons looking for a quieter, more intimate place to chill out, a series of “private” rooms are fitted out in a style reminiscent of an office of a ‘60s Prime Minister, all tartan carpet and distressed leather armchairs.

Down the trendy, restaurant- laden of Balmain, it’s refreshing to find a bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re a local, we can see The Workers becoming your regular watering hole. Hell, even if you’re not, you’re guaranteed to feel right at home.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about The Workers here

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Filed under Balmain, Events, Reviews, The Workers