Category Archives: Features

Top Sydney Cooking Schools

Whether you’re a budding chef or passionate home cook, cooking classes are a great way to meet new people, indulge in delicious food and earn some serious cred at your next dinner party. Here are our top picks for getting a casual culinary education in Sydney.

Cucina Italiana, Annandale

If you’re looking to master the art of Italian cooking in Sydney, what better place to do it than in a heritage-listed villa in Annandale? Luciana Sampogna opens up her kitchen to those who love artisan cuisine as much as she does, with classes including “long Italian lunch,” “wood fire oven,” “gluten-free,” and, especially for the little ones, “bambini in cucina.”

For more information, go here

Luciana Sampogna  has been running Cucina for the last 10 years

Luciana Sampogna has been running Cucina for the last 10 years

Cheeky Food Group, Surry Hills
Cheeky Food Group reckons food is the perfect vehicle for relationship building and the Surry Hills establishment runs over 400 team-cooking classes a year to prove it. The interactive events span a range of cuisines, with tapas, Spanish paella, Italian gnocchi and Magic of the Middle East among those foodies can choose from.

For more information, go here

Signorelli Gastronomia, Pyrmont
The Signorelli family’s reputation for producing premium food and wine precedes them into the world of education. Naturally, their cooking school has an Italian bent, and even if you don’t leave with an ability to produce flavour like a Nonna, you’ll walk away from Signorelli Gastronomia’s kitchen having downed a glass of prosecco, the house’s famous antipasto and the meal you cooked up, plus you get a Signorelli Gastronomia shopping bag and recipe notes to take home.

For more information, go here

Sydney Seafood School, Pyrmont
Renown across the city as the destination of choice for foodies hunting for the freshest seafood for their celebrations, Sydney Fish Markets also offers a specialised cooking school. Students work in small groups in a state-of-the-art kitchen, then enjoy their handiwork in a stunning dining room with 360-degree views of Blackwattle Bay.

For more information, go here

Simon Johnson Cooking School, Alexandria
Sydney’s most renowned gourmet food purveyor, Simon Johnson, offers a range of cooking classes including two hour chef demonstrations and “Talk Eat Drink” sessions. All classes are held in their custom-built demonstration kitchen in Alexandria and each class is limited to 40 people. Guest chefs include Collin Fassnidge (4Fourteen; Four in Hand), Jonathon Barthelmess (The Apollo) and Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room).

For more information, go here

Guest chef Collin Fassnidge at Talk Eat Drink

Guest chef Collin Fassnidge at Talk Eat Drink

Accoutrement, Mosman
Accoutrement is the place to visit if you’re looking for culinary tips from the best in the business. The Mosman cooking school hosts private and group classes with celebrity chefs, plus they offer overseas and interstate gourmet food tours.

For more information, go here

Urban Graze, Kellyville
The kitchen at Urban Graze, is custom-designed to host hands-on cooking classes for up to 10 people. Adults and kids can sign up for a relaxed culinary experience that could take them anywhere in the world, from Sicily to Turkey and Japan.

For more information, go here

Urban Graze Junior forms part of the Urban Graze cooking school and is aimed at teaching 7-11 year old kids the basic principles of cooking

Urban Graze Junior forms part of the Urban Graze cooking school and is aimed at teaching 7-11 year old kids the basic principles of cooking

Spice Up Your Life, Alexandria

Ever thought you could find the man/woman of your dreams, all while cooking an organic soufflé? At Spice Up Your Life, participants can spend a fun evening mingling or reconnect with a loved one. Classes are broken up into age categories, with both singles and couples classes available. With just 8 people, the singles-only classes start with a drink and hors d’oeuvre’s, followed by organic gourmet meal. Spice Up Your Life also offers corporate team building classes).

For more information, go here

Kids Cooking Classes with Sheridan Rogers, North Sydney
Specifically designed for little hands, Sheridan’s kids’ cooking classes aim to teach children to prepare wholesome, nutritious meals they will love to eat and can reproduce easily at home. Classes take place in Sheridan’s home in North Sydney during school holidays periods, with a mixture of demonstration and hands-on cooking aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 14.

For more information, go here

Sheridan Rogers is an award-winning food and travel writer, broadcaster and food stylist

Sheridan Rogers is an award-winning food and travel writer, broadcaster and food stylist

Majors Lane Cooking School, Hunter Valley

Enjoy vineyard views and an Asian cooking class at Hunter Valley institution, Majors Lane Restaurant. Under Head Chef Ben Sales, Majors Lane offers Thai, Balinese, Sichuan, Indonesian and Vietnamese classes. With a maximum of 14 people, classes are small and hands-on. Private classes are also available for groups of 10 or more people.

For more information, go here

Nadine Abensur, Mosman, Byron Bay (and various locations across Australia)
Best-selling international cookery writer Nadine Abensur offers vegetarian cooking classes across Australia. Guests learn to use wonderful but often neglected vegetables such as fennel and celeriac, and inject new life into staples with delicious techniques such as gratins, braises, pestos and tagines.

For more information, go here

Biota Dining, Bowral
Whether you’re a culinary novice or an experienced cook looking to improve your repertoire, Chef James Viles and his team at Biota Dining in Bowral will share their passion for food, focusing on artisan produce and seasonal botanicals, whilst supporting both local farmers and growers alike to create simple yet delectable cuisine.

For more information, go here

Biota is just a two hour drive from Sydney

Biota is just a two hour drive from Sydney

Flavours of the Valley, Kangaroo Valley
Just a two hour drive from Sydney in the beautiful surrounds of Kangaroo Valley, this cooking school offers a range of hands-on Mediterranean classes. From Italian and Moroccan to the Farmers Table six-course degustation class, ingredients are all sourced from local farmers, gardeners and artisan producers. Flavours of the Valley also offers private bookings for special occasions and events.

For more information, go here

Urban Food Market, Marrickville
Focusing on ethical sustainability, Urban Food Market offers quirky cooking classes like “Bacon Curing and Smoking”, “A Lebanese MeatUp” and “Butchery 101”. Urban Food Market is also a catering company and wholesale retailer, supplying Sydney chefs with free-range meats. All cooking classes are 2.5-3hrs in duration and include a comprehensive session on ethical and sustainable farming practices and on how to shop ethically.

For more information, go here

Victors Food Cooking School, Waterloo

Release your inner chef at Victors Food – from “French Bistro Cooking” and “Learn to Be a Chef” to “Perfect Paella” and “Thai Street Food”, Victors offers a range of classes to suit a every skill level. Cooking classes are built around a banquet menu so you learn more and get to experience several dishes while you create part of the meal. Classes are limited to 14 people. Victors also offers Sydney Produce Market food tours (Farm Fresh Feast) which includes a cup of Toby’s Estate coffee, market guide, tastings, demonstrations and samples to take home.

For more information, go here

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Melbourne’s Best Bars

Melbournians are justifiably proud of their bar culture and thirsty citizens are never short of a place to drink. We noticed the city is becoming grungier in its dining habits, but drinking seems to have gone upmarket. Here are our top 10 picks for Melbourne bars, be they the high-glam, low brow or secret laneway variety.

The Everleigh

The Everleigh

EDV. 1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne.

This cocktail bar with a whisky focus is hidden, fittingly, in a lane called Malthouse. EDV’s penchant for cocktails is balanced by its masculine decor; think jazz tunes, leather and polished mahogany. Bring your friends for a cocktail degustation dinner, a brave new territory where a five course food extravaganza meets and greets the very best of booze.

Izakaya Den. Basement  114 Russel Street, Melbourne
Notoriously difficult to find, descending into Izakaya Den can fill the uninitiated with nervous excitement , but never fear, what you’ll find here are friendly faces and a space devoted in equal parts to the art of Japanese eating and drinking. Note the performance art that goes on behind the open kitchen and bar, with the chefs and mixologists dancing around each other. Obviously, all drinks have a Japanese bent, from sake to imported beers, but the range is wide and there is something for all tastes.

The Everleigh. 1/150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

The Everleigh’s location, hidden so that only those looking for it will notice it, says a lot about its character. It’s a proper American-style cocktail bar of old, when drinks were bespoke and each glass was treated with courtesy. Candlelight glints off vintage chandeliers, well heeled patrons slide into mahogany booths and the air is filled with smooth jazz tunes that make you feel like you’re drinking in a golden age.

The Black Pearl. 304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

Cocktail powerhouse The Black Pearl is the place to visit if you’re looking for a classy bar where you can drink posh without having to maintain a ramrod-straight spine. Downstairs, drink beer or whisky from vintage ‘70s tankards. Upstairs, in The Attic, maroon-shirted waiters serve exciting cocktails in crystal cut Royal Doulton glassware. Table service makes The Black Pearl personalised and civilised, but on the weekends, the bar is swamped three-persons deep with patrons determined to have a knees-up good time, whatever their poison.

Kodiak Club. 272 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

If you’re going to name a bar after a 500kg native American bear, you might as well have one represent. And the Kodiak Club does. Melbourne’s only bourbon bar is dominated by a wall-mounted Kodiak that watches over its patrons as they dig into all-American bar food. The space is warm and welcoming, much like a mountain lodge in a blizzard, and the bar is dominated by bourbon and rye whiskies, with a smattering of quality wines, beers and cocktails, plus some trashy Mexican beers for good measure.

The Kodiak Club

The Kodiak Club

Cookie. First Floor, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Any bar that describes itself as a “disco eating house and beer hall” is bound to make its patrons happy. Cookie somehow manages to fuse beer hall, cocktail bar and modern Thai restaurant with flair. The bar stocks a plethora of micro-brews and 350 different wines, plus, a hidden corner bar pours an endless stream of innovative cocktails. Cookie is smack-bang in the middle of the city, but transports you to a cooler plane, with its pastiche of French doors, Juliet balconies and manga inspired murals.

Red Spice Road QV. QV Melbourne, 31-37 Artemis Lane, Melbourne CBD.

Overlooking the hustle and bustle of Lonsdale Street, Red Spice Road QV may be more of a restaurant, but it does a cracking martini.  Sweet, sour or short, the cocktail menu is well-researched and the perfect side to the spicy cuisine of South East Asia. Take up a seat at one of their communal tables and enjoy a Red Spice mojito jugtail, the perfect complement to one of the restaurant’s banquet menus (either $60 or $75; with vegetarian options available).

Red Spice Road QV

Red Spice Road QV

Lily Blacks. 12 Meyers Place, Melbourne.

Lily Blacks is a high end gin joint and cocktail connoisseur’s dream that’s open till 3.00am, every night of the week.  The decor gives a little nod to the 1920s speakeasy, with its potted palms, a wooden bar and doilies under the ashtrays. Lily Blacks takes a sophisticated approach to booze – the classics are served with a twist and assembled using the freshest ingredients and a flair for drama. There is a generous list of wines by the glass and for drinkers who prefer a simpler brew, there are numerous beers and ciders on tap. We recommend lining your stomach with Lily’s bar snacks, like charcuteries and cheese platters, olives and brandy-soaked prunes.

Rooftop Bar. Level 7, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Curtin House. Seven floors up. There’s a bar on the rooftop. What more is there to say? This venue is unquestionably one of the best for an open-air drink that’s as good as the view. In summer, opening hours are extended, burgers, wraps and ice cream sandwiches are on the menu and you can pull up a deck chair and catch a movie. Don’t despair the winter months, that’s when the Rooftop Bar’s relationship with MissChu bears fruit – in the form of rice paper rolls and other Vietnamese goodies, that is.

The Waiting Room. Lobby, Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank.

The Crown Towers lobby plays host to The Waiting Room, with its glamorous low lighting and mirrored jewel box interior. The bar has revived the sophisticated art of mixology, with cool cocktails, classic martinis and premium champagne the order of the day. Of course, the drinks have to share the limelight with Neil Perry’s impressive array of bar snacks and light meals.

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Still haven’t booked a restaurant for Valentine’s Day?

If you have a boy like mine…Valentine’s Day has been conveniently forgotten about. So, to assist in the romance stakes, we’ve put together a list of the sexiest restaurants in each state, so you can make this February 14th a day that your other half will remember.

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Sydney
Altitude at the Shangri La, Sydney CBD
Watch the sun set over Sydney Harbour with your sweetheart and enjoy Altitude’s stunning five-course tasting menu, served with a glass of champagne, for $195 per person or $250 per person with matching wines. For bookings, (02) 9250 6123 or dine.slsn@shangri-la.com [more]

Flying Fish, Pyrmont
We guarantee arriving at a restaurant by water taxi will set the mood for a romantic evening, so escort your valentine across the water to Flying Fish at Jones Bay Wharf. The restaurant has set an intimate table for you with views of Sydney Harbour, plus they have created a siganture three-course menu for Valentine’s Day. $165 per person. [more]

La Scala on Jersey, Woolahra
No one does romance quite like the Italians. Cosy up next to your long-time lover or newfound partner at La Scala on Jersey, where you can pick and choose from their a la carte menu or spoil yourself with their specially-designed five-course Italian lovers’ menu. Reserve your table on +61 2 9357 0815. [more]

BLACK by Ezard at The Star, Pyrmont
Intimate and indulgent, you’ll be falling in love with every bite of Black by Ezard’s seven course menu. First seating at 6pm, second seating at 8.30pm. To book, call 1800 700 700. $130 per person. [more]

Tumbling waters retreat, Stanwell Tops
Just an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD, Tumbling Waters Retreat at Stanwell Tops is the perfect escape for a romantic rainforest getaway this Valentine’s Day. The restaurant is perched on the edge of an escarpment, so your dinner includes stunning ocean views, romantic candlelight and soft music. [more]

Flying Fish, Pyrmont

Flying Fish, Pyrmont

Melbourne
Nobu at Crown Melbourne, Southbank
Step into the contemporary and stylish surroundings of Nobu Melbourne and experience the world’s most recognised and innovative modern Japanese cuisine. For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant is offering a delicious eight course omakase menu accompanied by a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rosé. $260 per couple. [more]

Church St Enoteca, Richmond
Despite being one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants, the atmosphere at Church St Enoteca is relaxed and warm. The team at Church St have created a three course limited a la carte menu for Valentine’s Day. $185 per couple, contact Claire or Carolyn on +61 3 9428-7898 for menu and booking enquiries. [more]

Stokehouse, St Kilda
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone special overlooking the St Kilda foreshore at Stokehouse. Enjoy three courses, plus a flute of Veuve Clicquot on arrival, for $150 per person. Bookings are essential. [more]

Red Spice Road QV, Melbourne CBD
Spoil your loved one this Valentine’s Day with one of two exclusive dining packages from Red Spice Road QV. Option one includes a four-course banquet and glass of Billecart Champagne on arrival, $89 per person. Option two includes a four-course banquet, cocktail on arrival, a bottle of Billecart Champagne (to share) with your meal plus one signed copy of the Red Spice Road cookbook per table! $150 per person. Bookings on +61 3 8660 6300 or QV@redspiceroad.com. [more]

Melba at The Langham, South Bank
Located inside the luxurious, five-star Langham Hotel, Melba is the perfect Valentine’s Day dining destination. Offering panoramic city views from its prime position on the Southbank promenade, Melba is offering a special Valentine’s ‘midday romance sampling lunch menu’. Cost is $59 per person or $75 per person with a glass of Moet. Their Valentine’s dinner menu includes oysters served five ways and dinner is available from 6pm for $175 per person. To book, call on 1800 858 662. [more]

Melba at The Langham, South Bank

Melba at The Langham, South Bank

Queensland
Watt Restaurant and Bar, New Farm
Spoil your special someone this Valentine’s Day with a romantic waterfront dinner at Watt Restaurant and Bar. For $79.00 per person enjoy a three-course meal including a glass of French sparkling. [more]

Prive 249, Brisbane CBD
Indulge in the finest French service this Valentine’s Day in the intimate surrounds of Prive 249. A candle-lit five-course dinner costs $179 per person, including a bottle of Moet Rose. [more]

Vintaged Bar & Grill at Hilton, Brisbane CBD
Treat your someone special to a four-course dinner at Vintaged Bar & Grill at the Hilton Hotel, for $125 per person, including a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. [more]

Bistro Algeria, Milton
Share an intimate tapas meal with your loved one in the terracotta surrounds of Bistro Alegria this Valentine’s Day, for just $70 per person. [more]

Walnut Restaurant and Lounge Bar, Brisbane CBD
Sleek and elegant, The Walnut Restaurant and Lounge Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a three-course meal this Valentine’s Day. $159 per person includes your meal, a Demi bottle of Moët & Chandon to share, a long stemmed red rose and a take-away box of macarons. Sweet! [more]

Vintaged Bar & Grill at Hilton, Brisbane CBD

Vintaged Bar & Grill at Hilton, Brisbane CBD

Western Australia
The Terrace Hotel, Perth CBD
The tree-lined courtyard of the heritage-listed Terrace Hotel is perfect for an elegant dinner date. Spoil your loved one with a three-course dinner for $180 per person, plus a gift of handmade Nakamura Chocolates. [more]

Vasse Felix, Cowaramup
Vasse Felix is a stunning piece of architecture, with a cavernous timber ceiling and wraparound windows that offer sweeping views of the Margaret River’s oldest vines – perfect for Valentine’s Day dining. [more]

RiverBank Estate, Caversham
Located in one of the most scenic areas of the Swan Valley Region, RiverBank Estate offers outstanding views and premium estate wines to match. $80 per person. [more]

C Restaurant Lounge, Perth CBD
Book a window booth and take in the panoramic views from this revolving restaurant. A glass of Moet Rose is included in the Valentine’s dinner special at C Restaurant. [more]

Greenhouse, Perth CBD
Made of recycled timber and plastic, with a rooftop garden of produce, Greenhouse could have been designed to be a serene escape for laid-back lovers. [more]

The Terrace Hotel

The Terrace Hotel, Perth CBD

South Australia
The Apple Bar, Adelaide CBD
The pink hues of Adelaide’s The Apple Bar are a fun way to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit. Split over two opulent levels, Apple fuses the appeal of an ultra exclusive lounge with a high-energy nightclub for those lovers in the mood for partying. [more]

Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill, Bridgewater
Set inside an 1860s flour mill in the heart of the South Australian wine growing region, Petaluma’s is a quaint venue, ideal for an intimate Valentine’s Day date. Petaluma’s is only open for lunch. [more]

Celsius, Adelaide CBD
Celsius is sure to impress your date with its innovative Australian cuisine, made with organic ingredients foraged from the region’s surrounds. [more]

The Appellation at Louise, Marananga
Named Top South Australian Restaurant 2012 by the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, The Appellation at The Louise in the Barossa Valley is a world class dining destination, when only the best for your date will do. [more]

The Playford Restaurant, Adelaide CBD
The Playford Restaurant uses organic, biodynamic and free range produce and its staff know how to be helpful without being obtrusive. Perfect date material. Set menu is $72 per person. [more]

Celsius, Adelaide CBD

Celsius, Adelaide CBD

Canberra
Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse, Canberra CBD
Kingsley’s special Sparkling and Oysters combo is perfect for a Valentine’s day date, with half a dozen natural or kilpatrick oysters, served with a glass of Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV for $24.99. [more]

Aubergine, Griffith
The Sydney Morning Herald named Aubergine Canberra’s finest night out and awarded it 2013 Regional Restaurant of the Year and Regional Wine List of the Year. Dinner here is sure to be special. [more]

Courgette Restaurant, Canberra CBD
One of Canberra’s classiest establishments, this restaurant is far more refined than its humble namesake. Candlelight and cream velour chairs make a romantic setting to enjoy Courgette’s special three-course Valentine’s Day dinner menu. $75 per person. [more]

Italian and Sons Canberra, Braddon
A cool and contemporary setting coupled with a wood fire-driven menu is what makes Italian and Sons Canberra’s most sought-after restaurant. A great choice for the low-key couple in the mood for a delicious, hearty feed. [more]

Sage, Braddon
Nestled inside a 1920s heritage-listed building in the heart of Canberra, the award winning Sage Restaurant is a tranquil fine diner with great service and lighting low enough to set the mood for romance. [more]

Aubergine, Griffith

Aubergine, Griffith

Tasmania
Frogmore Creek, Cambridge
You would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque, romantic setting than Tasmania’s Frogmore Creek winery, with sweeping views of the Coal River Valley. This restaurant is open for lunch only. [more]

The Stackings, Woodbridge
Located in the bountiful region of Woodbridge in southern Tasmania, The Stackings dishes up seasonal produce in a manner that will impress the most sophisticated date. This Stackings does not accept bookings. [more]

Stillwater, Launceston
Stillwater is one of Tasmania’s most talked-about restaurants, set in a beautifully restored 1830s flour mill beside the picturesque Tamar River in Launceston. Four-course menu is $90 per person and with matching wines is $120 per person. [more]

Alexanders, Battery Point
Alexanders restaurant is cradled in the superb colonial mansion Lenna, built in 1874 by renowned Hobart seafarer, Alexander McGregor. Dinner here will make a night to remember. [more]

Wildside Restaurant at Tarraleah Lodge, Tarraleah
Perched high on a ridge overlooking the Tasmanian wilderness, Wildside Restaurant offers fine dining of the highest standard and the attentive service you want for that someone special. [more]

Stillwater, Launceston

Stillwater, Launceston

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London and Barcelona calling

With the opening of our office in London I managed to find some time to visit the U.K. and my daughter Yolanda, who is working on some exciting new projects. Flying to London on Virgin Australia was exceptional with a short stopover in Hong Kong, I highly recommend their Premium Economy, it felt like first class.

La Boqueria Market, Barcelona

A trip highlight – visiting La Boqueria Market, Barcelona with Yolanda

Yolanda and I did not waste any time when I arrived the first day walking to Nottinghill to have brunch at Bill Grangers latest venture in the UK, Granger & Co. The restaurant was packed with very smartly dressed locals and tourists, couldn’t help but notice the collection of Bentleys, Aston Martins and Rolls’ parked out the front, but unfortunately, Hugh Grant was nowhere to be seen.

The next day we were invited to The Ledbury, also in Nottinghill, where Aussie chef Brett Graham generously took some time to show us around. It’s great to hear that this very talented Aussie chef is running one of the most popular restaurants in London, with the restaurant booked out months in advance.

The Ledbury

Maureen at The Ledbury

The Christmas spirit was in full swing everywhere in London, particularly at Harrods where we spent a full day just going from floor to floor, marvelling at the beautiful Christmas decorations. Harrods is one of the most recognized tourist attractions in London with the ground floor offering a range of exceptional dining options, we decided on the sushi bar – certainly not your average sushi prices, but worth every cent.

The perfect end to a day Christmas shopping in Harrods

The perfect end to a day Christmas shopping in Harrods

Equally atmospheric and full of amazing Christmas decorations was Fortnum and Mason.  Founded in 1707, Fortnum Mason is a unique department store renowned across the world as a purveyor of fine foods, hampers, teas with an amazing ice cream parlour, wine and restaurants. It was well worth the wait to line up for afternoon tea, which is served in fine bone china with cucumber sandwiches and scones. Clichéd, I know… but I was a tourist so why not make the most of it?

The highlight of my visit to the UK however, was a surprise weekend trip to Barcelona which Yolanda had organized. Once we arrived, there was an even bigger surprise – Yolanda had bought tickets to the Diana Krall concert. I have been an avid fan of Diana Krall for many years and she certainly didn’t disappoint, belting out many of her favourites to a full house of Spanish admirers. Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities in Europe, with an amazing bar scene, and one of the most colourful food markets in Europe. We capped off the last day in Barcelona at a waterfront restaurant on the pier enjoying a gaint paella and glasses of sangria. What a treat and what a surprise – this was one of the best weekends of 2012.

The idyllic setting at La Manoir

The idyllic setting at Le Manoir in Oxfordshire

To top off my visit to London, Yolanda and I decided to catch the train to Oxford to have lunch at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons at Le Manoir – Raymond Blanc’s 2 Michelin star restaurant. Lunch was followed by drinks around the fire and a tour of the mansion and their famous cooking school. Created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir is renowned for delivering one of Britain’s finest gastronomic experiences. Set among lawns and orchards decorated with sculptures, the luxury hotel boasts an idyllic, typically English setting with vegetable and herb gardens that are used by both the kitchen and its acclaimed Cookery School, where we were invited after lunch. This was one experience I will never forget and will definitely be on my itinerary when I go back to the UK.

Enjoying La Manoir

Enjoying La Manoir

Another restaurant that should definitely be on anyone’s visit to London is Roux at Landau, where Michelin-star chefs Albert and Michel Roux bring the legendary Roux gastronomic excellence to The Langham Hotel.  The menu is a brilliant combination of classically-constructed French dishes, as well as traditional British favourites. A highlight of the meal was a beautiful dish of citrus cured organic salmon with crème fraiche, beetroot and caviar.

A couple of bike rides around Kensington Gardens, food shopping at Portebello Markets  and a couple of musicals just added to the  enjoyment of the trip.

Loved London but after a few weeks of grey skies and temperatures, I was pleased to return to warm weather and blue skies, but what a wonderful holiday or could I call it a business trip? Maybe not… I think I had too much fun.

Maureen

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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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Sydney’s best private dining rooms

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

Altitude

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

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

Biota

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

Sake

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

Toko

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

Wildfire

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

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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Give yourself a break…leave Christmas to the professionals

December 25…you’re sweatily rushing around the kitchen, tripping over the kids’ toys and struggling with trays while your family pick from half-finished plates to provide “feedback” on your dry, overcooked turkey. If you’ve ever found yourself up to your elbows in stuffing wondering why you indulge in the self-inflicted torture of cooking Christmas lunch, it’s time to start a new festive tradition. Celebrate with your loved ones at a beautiful restaurant – it means no menu planning, no grocery shopping and the best bit – no washing up!
Here are our top picks for Christmas Day dining…

1.glass brasserie at Hilton Sydney, Sydney CBD

Christmas is a time to indulge, so go all out and book a table at Hilton Sydney’s glass brasserie. Celebrity chef Luke Mangan has created a special Christmas-inspired three course menu. We’re pretty sure your family will be satisfied enough here to keep their cooking tips to themselves.

glass was awarded One Chef Hat – SMH Good Food Guide 2012-2013

2.360 Bar and Dining, Sydney CBD

Christmas Day lunch with revolving views of our glorious city sound good? Watch Sydney sparkle while you toast to great food and great company. Adult: $140 / Child: $50. Reservations are for 11.30am or 1.30pm.

3.Biota Dining, Bowral

Take a well-deserved mini break in the beautiful Southern Highlands to enjoy a special Christmas Day lunch at critically acclaimed Biota Dining for $165 per person. Cost includes a glass of champagne on arrival. Children aged under 13 only $65. For reservations, please call +61 2 4862 2005.

This Southern Highlands restaurant takes the words “locally-produced” to a new level

4.Botanic Gardens Restaurant, Sydney CBD

Enjoy a festive three course lunch at Botanic, featuring a range of traditional and seafood options. Adult guests will be welcomed with a glass of celebratory bubbles. Adults: $150 and children: $50. Lunch will be served at midday, with a second sitting at 2.30pm. Bookings are essential.
5.Altitude at Shangri-La Sydney, The Rocks

Take your Christmas celebrations to new heights, 36 levels above the harbour at Altitude Restaurant. Christmas Eve Dinner includes four courses and a glass of Champagne: $150 per adult and $75 per child. Christmas Day Lunch includes five courses and matching wines: $295 per adult and $150 per child. Christmas Day Dinner includes four courses and a glass of Champagne: $195 per adult and $130 per child. For bookings please email mansi.kant@shangri-la.com or call (02) 9250 6427

36 levels above Sydney, Altitude is the perfect Christmas dining destination

6.Bistro Fax Restaurant & Bar, Sydney CBD

Christmas for under $30!? You read it right! Bistro Fax is bringing the festive cheer with freshly baked bread to start, followed by a healthy summer salad and a mouth-watering main course served with crispy beer battered chips. Best of all, it comes with a complimentary glass of wine and free WIFI internet access. Available leading in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
7.Centennial Parklands Dining, Centennial Park

Enjoy a BBQ in the surrounds of the beautiful Parklands, when Centennial serves up a banquet lunch for the whole family. With traditional and seafood BBQ cuisine on the grill, this relaxed atmosphere offers the quintessential Aussie Christmas experience. Adult: $130 / 5-11 years: $60 / 2-4 years: $30. Lunch is served from midday until 4pm.

Surround yourself with parkland, in the heart of the CBD. Centennial Park
Credit: Evoke Photography

8.Ormeggio at The Spit, Mosman

In Australia, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the water in sight, and with absolute waterfront tables at Ormeggio, plus an incredible four course menu on offer, this is a day that absolutely MUST be booked in advance! Enjoy Italian hospitality with a unique and memorable menu and location. Buon Natale!

Ormeggio’s risotto with red capsicum and crab

9.The Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral

If your idea of a perfect Christmas involves sun, sand and sea, Bathers should be in your sights. Enjoy brunch for $125 per adult, 9am start – 10.30am finish. The Restaurant, Cafe and Room are open for Christmas lunch: *RESTAURANT – 4 courses, $275 per adult. 12 noon to 2.30pm. *CAFE – 3 courses, $195 per adult. 11.30am to 2pm OR 2.30pm to 5pm. *Buffet lunch in the ROOM. $210 including drinks, 12 noon to 3pm

Anna Lisle

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