Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sydney’s top 10 most delicious dishes

Gone are the days when formal fine dining and degustation menus to match. This year, Sydneysiders are craving an honest meal and a bunch of friends to share it with. We’ve seen the rise of communal share plates, bistro dining and dude food, and it’s been a tasty ride. Read on for our picks of 2012’s most memorable dishes.

1.     Raw wagyu shoulder, grilled enoki mushrooms with fresh horesradish and soft pickled chilli

The Asian-European menu at The Bridge Room is cushioned somewhere between fine dining and bistro and Ross’ version of a modern interpretation of beef carpaccio is its perfect representative.

Ross Lusted, The Bridge Room, Sydney CBD

Raw wagyu shoulder, grilled enoki mushrooms with fresh horesradish and soft pickled chilli

Raw wagyu shoulder and grilled enoki mushrooms

2.     Wood roasted Moran family lamb

My best food memories involve a simple, laid-back meal with friends. The quality of Matt’s wood roasted lamb speaks for itself and I love the concept that everyone just digs in and helps themselves.

Matt Moran, Chiswick, Woollahra

Wood roasted Moran family lamb

Wood roasted Moran family lamb

3.     Split sashimi scampi with chilli, micro leaves and sea salt flakes

If you’re squeamish about oysters, steer clear of this dish. Generous hunks of scampi arrive swimming in extra virgin olive oil and scattered with slices of hot chilli, micro leaves and sea salt flakes. This dish is a textural treat.

Sean Connolly, The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room, Sydney CBD

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

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

 4.     Salad of slow roast pork belly, prawns, pomelo and jellyfish with nuoc mam

China Lane is all about sharing dishes that boast an abundance of fresh, Asian flavours. This dish puts all other salads to shame with its perfectly balanced salty, sweet, sour and bitter flavours.

Ben Haywood, China Lane, Angel Place

Slow roast pork belly, prawns, pomelo and jellyfish with nuoc mam

Slow roast pork belly, prawns, pomelo and jellyfish with nuoc mam

5. Moreton Bay Bug with burnt butter mayo, passion fruit jelly, vegemite croutons

I’m not one to be influenced by the media but there was a reason Chase’s Moreton Bay bug with vegemite croutons made headlines. The texture combinations of this dish –  the sweet jelly, fresh Moreton Bay Bug sashimi, crunchy salty croutons and thick mayo – work in absolute harmony.

Chase Kojima, Sokyo, The Star, Pyrmont

Moreton Bay Bug with burnt butter mayo, passion fruit jelly, vegemite croutons

Moreton Bay Bug with burnt butter mayo, passion fruit jelly, vegemite croutons

6.     Caramelized banana with banoffee mousse, peanut brittle and vanilla ice cream

This dish embodies what I imagine is the Shangri-La philosophy – luxury and decadence. The crunchy shards of peanut brittle and the texture of the banana work harmoniously with the sweet-as-banoffee-pie mousse and vanilla ice cream. If you’re partial to caramel, then this is a must-order.

Steven Krasicki, Altitude Restaurant, Shangri-La

Deconstructed banoffee pie

Deconstructed banoffee pie

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

Sydney dining at its best – sit on the edge of the water, looking straight at the iconic Opera House, and tuck into this rich dish of glazed Wagyu beef brisket. Make sure you come with an appetite.

Andrew McKee, The Dining Room at Park Hyatt Sydney

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

Tamarind and molasses glazed Blackmore Wagyu beef brisket

8.     Seared scallop and ocean trout tartare with amazu ponzu and white truffle oil

Japanese cuisine is renowned for its subtle flavours and this dish is a stunning representation of what happens when Japanese technique is paired with Australian produce.

Adam Lane, The Alibi, Darlinghurst

Seared scallop and ocean trout tartare with amazu ponzu and white truffle oil

Seared scallop and ocean trout tartare with amazu ponzu and white truffle oil

9.     Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna, Beetroot, Witlof & Radish 

A glammed-up version of fish ‘n chips, this grilled yellow fin tuna tastes as though it has jumped straight from the ocean below your feet and onto the plate. Order a bowl of shoestring chips, it is true blue comfort food.

Steven Skelly, The Sailors Club, Rose Bay

Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna, Beetroot, Witlof & Radish

Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna, Beetroot, Witlof & Radish

 10. Petuna ocean trout with shaved radish, celery, endive and citrus emulsion

Perched 47 floors high, at the top of the Harry Seidler designed Australia Square, take a seat at the rotating restaurant, O Bar and Dining. The menu here is simple and healthy but still tasty. Our pick is this colourful ocean trout sashimi with radish.

Michael Moore, O Bar and Dining, Sydney CBD

Petuna ocean trout with shaved radish, celery, endive and citrus emulsion

Petuna ocean trout with shaved radish, celery, endive and citrus emulsion

Anna Lisle

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Jamie Oliver. Need I say more?

When you’re Jamie Oliver, you don’t have to try very hard to get the crowds queuing at your restaurant door and Oliver’s first Australian restaurant has managed to sustain its hype amongst foodies, nearly eighteen months after it opened.

Jamie’s Italian, on Pitt Street, takes bookings for dinner at 6.00pm or 8.30pm, but only for groups of 6 or more. For couples and smaller groups, there is a now-accepted expectation that if you want to dine at J.O’s, then you’ve got to work for it – with waiting times fluctuating from anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours. But Jamie’s devotees are not easily deterred, especially when great food and great times are guaranteed to land on your table.

Chilli and mussel linguine

Chilli and mussel linguine

Oliver has built his restaurants with the understanding that there is more to a dining experience than just food. Spread over two levels, his Pitt Street hangout boasts a warehouse chic vibe with exposed metal and concrete walls. It’s dimly lit, yet not so dark that you can’t see your food. There is a constant hum of excitement in the air, especially as it’s absolutely packed, night after night. When you arrive at a place where everybody’s pumped, even on a Monday night, the food becomes an afterthought.

This isn’t to say that the Naked Chef lets his famous antipasti platters or home-made pasta dishes fall by the wayside. It’s just that diners are having such a great time that the impressive menu becomes a bonus. His “fish in the bag” is a must for seafood-lovers, with the cracked wheat-based dish overflowing with mussels, fish and clams.  Again, the seaside risotto offers an abundance of aqua-inspired delights, while the wild rabbit tagliolini is a rich and indulgent homage to the land of the boot. The crisp polenta chips with rosemary and parmesan is a must-order, as is the fennel and apple salad. Daily specials keep the regulars interested and a diverse selection of Italian drops and beers work perfectly with Oliver’s rustic Italian fare.

Sure, there are plenty of Sydney restaurants that offer delicious food and great service. But Jamie’s Italian guarantees an element that they don’t award Chef Hats for – and that’s damn good fun.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Jamie’s Italian here

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Altitude? Views. Quay? Snow egg. Cervo? …

All dining experiences leave you with one last, resonant image. Altitude? Views. Quay? Snow egg. And Cervo, the north shore’s latest Italian offering? It’s got to be the deer.

Interestingly located in the leafy suburb of Northbridge, a couple of doors down from Northbridge Plaza, Cervo clearly takes its namesake seriously. A giant wall-mounted deer head makes eye contact with diners, nudging them towards the bar for another drink. Another deer (this time with its body attached) is brought to life in chalk on the back wall, and appears to be clambering up the dining room stairs. Like the décor, the menu pays homage to deer-like dishes from venison carpaccio to prosciutto and chorizo pizza.

Cervo is Italian for deer

Cervo is Italian for deer

There is something about a low-lit room that makes people let their hair down and Cervo’s got the ambient lighting thing down pat. Distressed timber floorboards line the walls on one side of the room, while the other half is darkened with blackboard paint. White chalk trees sprout out of deep brown leather booth seats that run the length of the dining room and continue the “cabin in the woods” feel of the restaurant. It’s chic enough for a business lunch while being hip enough for the beautiful young locals to make it their hangout.

Eye fillet of beef with kipfler potato, porcini mushroom, spinach and herb butter

Eye fillet of beef with kipfler potato, porcini , spinach and herb butter

The kitchen seems to be getting on its feet. Some Italian staples, like mushroom arancini, are good, but inconsistent. Likewise, the pizza has the potential to be impressive; the bases were perfectly thin and crispy but the toppings could use refinement and some balance.

We hope that Cervo’s word association will soon have stronger ties to its handmade Italian fare than its fit out. That’s when the Northbridge locals will decide whether Cervo is a wooded adventure worth staying up for, even when everything around it is closed.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about Cervo here

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Just when you thought to yourself ‘my thighs can’t take another pulled pork taco!’, BAM, another must-try Mexican joint swings open its doors. With #Mexican being one of the post popular Twitter hashtags, this new eatery in Surry Hills is right on trend.

The flamboyant interior

MEXICO’s flamboyant interior

On the corner of Randal and Chalmers street, just a short stroll from Central Station, MEXICO is a fun-filled eatery and bar from the savvy Kiwi team behind District Dining. The fit-out is simply fantastic. It’s Mexican overload, but somehow it remains eclectic and bold without being kitsch. Waltz in through a graffiti emblazoned entrance, moodily lit by lights encased in glass jars, and step inside into a long room with a cherry-lit bar down one end. Red-spiced walls with splashes of olive and canary yellow are further enlivened with sombreros, snapshots of Mexican revelry and posters of Frida Kahlo.

Soft shell taco selection

Soft shell taco selection

The menu combinations are creative, with a list of daily changing specials. Sadly, the soft tacos need a good hit of lemon and salt (should be easy enough in a place like this?) and the fried chicken, which declares itself as ‘not to be missed!’ can drop the exclamation mark. Surprising highlights are the salads. Most notably, the blood orange, peanut, beetroot and feta salad is an esteemed combination and perfectly balanced.  A snack of crispy potatoes tossed in celery lime salt with spicy tomatillo dressing are also delightful, generous for the price and wonderfully moorish.

Options include beef brisket, chicken, pork, fish and vego

Options include beef brisket, chicken, pork, fish and vego

There are house wines on offer or BYO ($20 corkage applies), and a solid list of cerveza and top-shelf tequilas. However, you really can’t go past the margaritas, which come by the glass or carafe.

Sami Jo Adelman

Read more about MEXICO here

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Sydney’s best private dining rooms

Looking for a venue to host a special event? Here’s our top picks in Sydney.


A first class dining experience from the dizzy heights of the Shangri-La’s 36th floor. Altitude overlooks Sydney’s most iconic attractions – the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Sydney Harbour.

Holds: 18

Altitude at Shangri-La Sydney

Altitude at Shangri-La Sydney


ARIA offers private dining experiences that encapsulate Sydney’s picture-perfect lifestyle with its stunning views of Sydney Harbour, an innovative and contemporary menu, extensive wine list and seamless service. The brainchild of celebrity chef Matt Moran and business partner Peter Sullivan.

Holds: 60-120

Bathers’ Pavilion

At Bathers’ Pavilion, guests enjoy stunning views of Balmoral Beach in a dining room with silver-lined walls that bring the glow of the light on the ocean indoors. Come for the sophisticated seasonal menu, rare wines and digestives; stay for the view.

Holds: 102

Bells at Killcare

Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Restaurant and Spa is a luxury coastal retreat that’s home to hatted Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s. Guests will dine on dishes thoughtfully prepared with estate-grown produce and locally harvested meat and seafood, while taking in views of the property’s expansive manicured gardens.

Holds: 70

Guillaume at Bennelong

Guillaume restaurant at Bennelong is nestled beneath the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House, commanding unique views of Sydney Harbour. A number of private dining spaces are available, but all offer exquisite French cuisine, fine wine and impeccable service.

Holds: 60


Not quite Sydney, but well worth the hour and half drive to Bowral. The innovative restaurant supports local farmers and growers, with fine artisan produce transformed into exceptional dishes that are curated to showcase the beauty of the natural world.

Holds: 55

Biota Dining

Biota Dining

Bistro Lilly

With its prestigious Observatory Tower location and traditional French cuisine, Bistro Lilly offers a warm, intimate dining experience at the heart of The Rocks.

Holds: 25

Café Opera

Sydney Intercontinental’s beautiful 1851 Treasury Building is home to Cafe Opera, famous for its market-fresh buffet and refined a la carte menu. The hotel’s beautifully styled private dining areas offer the ultimate luxury experience.

Holds: 30

Cafe Opera at InterContinental Sydney

Cafe Opera at InterContinental Sydney

Café Sydney

With its view of the Harbour Bridge from the rooftop of Customs House, Cafe Sydney offers diners the chance to experience the essence of the Harbour City. The restaurant is a regular haunt for business people and beautiful people, who flock in for the views, the fresh food and the great wines on offer.

Holds: 14

Flying Fish

Flying Fish restaurant holds court at the end of a heritage-listed wharf, with a unique view to the Harbour Bridge through the industrial docklands of Pyrmont. It offers diners seclusion, style and a menu brimming with delicious seafood.

Holds: 30

Public Dining Room

Public Dining Room offers the ultimate beachside dining experience with views that stretch from Balmoral to Manly and beyond. The restaurant has perfected the art of casual fine dining, with a sophisticated and summery Mediterranean menu.

Holds: 30-110

Ripples at Chowder Bay

Ripples at Chowder Bay is one of Sydney’s most picturesque venues, overlooking Chowder Bay at Mosman. The historical site boasts chic interior styling and the meals on the Modern Australian menu are executed with an Italian twist.

Holds: 100


Whether you’d like to wrap your lips around one of the most exclusive (and extensive) ranges of sake in Sydney or spectacular hot and cold Japanese fare by master chef Shaun Presland (of Sushi e, Teppanyaki and Nobu fame), private dining at Saké Restaurant and Bar in The Rocks is guaranteed to be a meal like no other.

Holds: 30

O Bar and Dining

Perched 47 floors above the city, O Bar and Dining is one of Sydney’s most spectacular culinary experiences. The private dining room, Salon Prive, showcases breathtaking 360 degree views of Sydney Harbour and beyond, while bespoke menus and dedicated wait staff add another element of luxury.

Holds: 28

O Bar and Dining

O Bar and Dining


About: Squeezed in among the eateries that line the Surry Hills strip, Toko Restaurant and Bar brings a splash of urban sophistication to traditional Japanese fare. The izakaya offers a melange of small dishes to share, complemented by a sterling sake list.

Holds: 12 to 20


Located in the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Wildfire’s views of the Harbour are spectacular but the decor of the restaurant is just as impressive. The private dining room is encased in glass, with a birds eye view of the main restaurant and the Harbour.

Holds: 45


Marque, the Surry Hills icon owned by one of Australia’s best loved chefs, Mark Best, also offers private dining rooms for its guests. Expect the wondrous French-inspired constructions that earn Marque its Chef Hats and a wine list that will please even the most discerning diner.

Holds: 14

Balla at The Star

Balla has fast become the “it” Italian dining destination for Sydney’s beautiful people. Its main dining room and private dining areas are fitted out with the swankiest decor but the star of the show is the restaurant’s spectacular harbour view.

Holds: 25

Balla at The Star

Balla at The Star


Otto Ristorante

At Otto Ristorante, the famous Otto’s experience involves a spectacular view of the city skyline, a modern Italian feast and being waited on by tuxedo’d staff. Enjoy all these elements in private with the exclusive use of an intimate 100-year old wool lift that’s suspended above the restaurant.

Holds: 8-14


Rockpool Bar & Grill

One of Sydney’s most impressive restaurants, dining at Rockpool Bar & Grill is even more spectacular when enjoying its meals in a completely private dining room. The restaurant is famous for its meat, but the menu ventures into seafood in spectacular style.

Holds: 6-50


Black by Ezard 

Located in The Star, Black by Ezard is a Modern Australian steak and seafood restaurant with an encyclopaedic wine list and million dollar views of Sydney Harbour. Visit if you’re after a cut of meat beyond grass-fed angus and nine-plus wagyu or if you’re looking for a celebrity dining experience – Black’s private dining rooms have their own entrances.

Holds: BLACK by Ezard features two stunning and intimate private dining rooms seating 10 and 16 people.

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It’s a bar, at the end of a wharf…

The name isn’t misleading. This is a bar, at the end of a wharf, in Walsh Bay. Follow the rustic wooden path to the end of Pier 4 and the stunning venue that is the Sydney Theatre Company’s bar opens before you. The Harbour Bridge looms overhead, the water laps at the piers’ wooden beams below and the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light.

Natural light floods the restaurant's space

Natural light floods the restaurant’s space

In the artsy spirit, The Bar at The End of the Wharf is a chilled out space that works for pre-theatre drinks, weekday lunches or even just a casual coffee. In fact, it’s so chilled out that you could easily take up a seat on the deck and read a book or even just use the free-wifi. What a treat, right? No tutting waiters ordering you out the door as soon as you’ve taken your last sip of wine and certainly no hoity toity formal dining setting.

The concise menu is on-trend with dishes such as wagyu sliders and charcuterie platters taking centre stage. Some of the other mains may not be instagram-worthy but they’re value-for-money and tasty. What more could you ask for with a location like this?

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Bar at The End of the Wharf here

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