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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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Tapas makes a comeback at Aquaviva’s

Remember when tapas was all the rage? Well, it is alive and well at Aquaviva’s on Stanley Street. And here, they do it properly. Owned by father and son duo Viv and Antonio Fernandes, Aquaviva’s hasn’t an ounce of the “I’m-too-cool-for-school” ‘tude that many of its neighbours exude.

The restaurant’s double doors open onto the street, beckoning customers into the refreshingly unpretentious two-storey terrace space. On street-level guests can mingle at the polished bar before retreating to the more formal dining area upstairs for dinner. Spent the day in the office? Head to the rooftop bar for a boutique beer and a generous bowl of warm, fennel-marinated olives.

Aquaviva's rooftop bar

Aquaviva’s rooftop bar

Described as a blend of Modern Australian and colonial Portuguese, the concise menu changes weekly and is designed for sharing. Most of the ingredients are made in-house such as the garlic and bay butter and the rhubarb vinegar that accompanies the complimentary basket of bread. This extra attention to detail is reflected not only in the flavour combinations but also in the presentation of each dish. A pretty dish of young calamari, cucumber and coriander, dressed with a perfectly balanced coconut and tamarind vinaigrette is subtle yet memorable.

young calamari, cucumber, coriander with a coconut and tamarind vinaigrette

young calamari, cucumber, coriander with a coconut and tamarind vinaigrette

The chickpea ‘jenga’ looks scarily similar to the children’s game with its crisp-to-bite-yet-fluffy-on-the-inside rectangles stacked in a pile and served with a smear of spiced yoghurt and pink peppercorn salt. Split prawns, topped with a nondescript foam are served with a side of peer-pressure, as diners are strongly encouraged by the chef to eat the entire crustacean – yes, that’s head, tail and flesh. It wouldn’t be fair to end a Portuguese dining experience without trying the reverse chicken and it doesn’t let the team down. But the pièce de résistance at Aquaviva’s? The chef serves every dish personally, with a detailed spiel explaining the cooking process and ingredients.

The dining room at Aquaviva’s is littered with vintage lounges, grand mirrors, guitars and mini cellos – a fitting taste of Portugese history and the passions of the family that are looking to share it with Eastern Suburbs diners.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Aquaviva’s here

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Can’t get enough of Darlinghurst’s new izakaya restaurant… Kaya

The smell wafts out onto Oxford Street and hits us before we even enter the front door. If I hadn’t already booked a table at Kaya, I would have ditched my original plans and made a reservation here. “It’s the robata,” explains Tim Lackey, Kaya’s energetic co-owner who greets us at the door, “It’s seriously amazing.” Suddenly, we’re ravenous.

Moody and atmosphere, Kaya is perfect for first dates

Moody and atmospheric, Kaya is a perfect first date restaurant

Once home to the darling of Darlinghurst, Rambutan, Kaya’s interior has been designed by the visionary team, Splinter Society. Kaya’s dining room draws inspiration from traditional Japanese izakaya bars, whilst utilising Australian materials such as cypress pine from the Dandenong Ranges to create a dynamic space that incorporates high and low-tech features from sound-proof walls to manga graffiti.

Straying away from your standard sushi and sashimi Japanese offering, the menu at Kaya stays true to the traditional notion of “izakaya” dining —that is, a series of small dishes designed to share while you drink. With the seductive smell wafting around the restaurant, robata dishes are our main priority… that is, until we see the venison tataki and sashimi don on the table next to us. We start with the rice wine and seaweed cured kingfish and ocean trout, sweet shell-grilled scallops doused in a zingy citrus ponzu and miso eggplant.

We recommend you start with this rice wine and seaweed cured kingfish and ocean trout

Start with this rice wine and seaweed cured kingfish and ocean trout

Being don-devotees, we can’t resist ordering both the sashimi and chicken yakitori options. At that point, the shell grilled scallops and venison were competing for the title as ‘favourite dish’. That was until the (take a deep breath for this) 600 gram, 24 hour slow cooked, glazed wagyu rib arrived in front of us. The race was over, a winner was declared.

“It’s a Friday night – of course you’ve got to have a cocktail!” I have to admit, it doesn’t take long for my efficient waiter to convince me to order the green appletini and as soon as I take a sip of smooth combination of freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple, vodka, lime and sugar, I’m in a picture of satisfaction.

From the moment we smelled the robata grill to that first mouthful of venison tataki – we were hooked. There isn’t much that falls short of amazing at Kaya.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Kaya here

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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.


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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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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… 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 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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Crown’s hot new couple – Mr and Mrs Hive

The launch of Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar’s new Spring menu has aptly coincided with Melbourne’s gradual acceptance that summer, and the holiday season, is finally approaching. Located inside the beautiful Crown Metropol Hotel, Mr Hive is abuzz with activity as Melbourne’s foodie elite all arrive to taste the exciting new dishes on offer.

A bar is conveniently located at the entrance to the restaurant, providing guests with a liquid kick-starter to tonight’s celebrations. Already looking like spring has sprung, the sun-drenched dining room features a faux-grass floor and blonde wood tables, creating the perfect backdrop to sample the works of Head Chef Tom Lawson. Lawson, who has trained under Raymond Blanc and been awarded The Age’s Best Young Chef of the Year 2011, has established a star-power in his short career.

Mr Hive is Crown Metropol’s signature restaurant

Highlights of the evening’s menu included Mr Hive’s signature corn bread, which is bursting with fresh kernels and slathered in homemade honey butter. A jicama ravioli, where pasta sheets are ingeniously replaced with a thin sliver of this Spanish root vegetable, are stuffed with avocado, vegetables and micro-herbs. Another standout is a very British-inspired ocean trout, served on a bed of potato and celery salad. Each plate is perfectly paired with bio-organic white wines from around Spain and France for a lovely summery touch.

Berry eton mess

Savoury may be good, but sweet is definitely better. Especially when the whimsically named Mrs Hive’s Dessert Bar is involved. Located in one corner of the dining room, rather than showcasing bottles of hard-liquor, Mrs Hive’s shelves are stacked extravagantly with an assortment of hard candies and homemade chocolates – enough to give diners a toothache from just looking at it. A signature deconstructed bread and butter pudding is made from crumbled cardamom-spiced bread and served with blueberry compote, and a luxurious white chocolate and cauliflower ice cream.

 Aphrodite Vlahos

Read more about Mr and Mrs Hive here

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More than your average pub, The Forresters

According to Michael Delany-Korabelnikova, the man who has recreated iconic Sydney pubs such as The Abercrombie, Flinders Hotel, The Norfolk on Cleveland and The Carrington, there is, in fact, a specific formula that can be applied to ensure the success of a pub.

This formula comes in the form of a new type of hybrid venue. Pub Disco Diner. Not generally three words used to describe the same place but, it is these three elements that, once combined, will create pub magic.

The former Forresters was tired and run-down but positioned in a cool enough location to warrant a steady weekend crowd. After Michael’s touch, The Forresters is now trendy and glamorous, with just the right amount of “I don’t give a sh*t” attitude that 20-something hipsters tend to like.

The elegant upstairs dining room

In the “about us” section of The Forresters website, five things are listed: cold beer, hot pizza, rotisserie meats, wine and pasta. For a pub that has just spent a substantial sum in renovations, surely there has got to be more than that. And thank goodness there is – from the 1950s American-style diner, complete with leather booths and a smoking room with candy striped banquettes, to its sort-of beer garden out back – The Forresters offers a bit of everything and somehow it all seems to work.

According to Michael’s pub wisdom, food is the key ingredient and The Forrester’s menu doesn’t disappoint, especially the weekday $10 specials lunch menu. Think pappardelle Bolognese, smoked mozzarella aracini or duck, fig and pecorino salad. Or you can really bust the budget and for $12 order a generous piece of crispy skinned barramundi served on a bed of saffron and mint fregola.

Standout dish: crisp skinned barramundi served on a bed of saffron and mint fregola

Great food, a lively atmosphere and a prime location, The Forresters is worth a visit.

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Forresters here

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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

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Restaurant Review: Mondo Organics

Tucked away in Brisbane’s West End, Mondo Organics is Australia’s first licensed organic restaurant. Opening in 2000 as a restaurant, cooking school and catering company, Mondo Organics is a stalwart in the Brisbane dining scene.

Co-owner’s Brenda Fawdon and Sonja Drexler have created an unpretentious dining space with timber slated window shutters, blue feature walls and wooden chairs. Guests can choose to seat inside in the bistro-style dining room or alfresco, in the street entrance courtyard area.

The superb presentation at Mondo Organics

On a balmy Friday night, we opt for the courtyard where the lighting is dimmed and seductive, slow music plays overhead. Accustomed to the more upbeat Sydney dining scene, the atmosphere here is relaxed and tranquil. Expecting things like alfafa, tofu and bean sprouts to feature on the menu, Mondo Organics abandons the traditional expectations of what diners expect from organic restaurants. Each dish on the menu is presently elegantly and simply. An entree of cured ocean trout is rustically served on a wooden chopping board with a cauliflower puree and sprinkled with micro herbs. The mushroom consommé arrives with a grey ceramic cup – storing the broth – to be poured over the poached quail egg. The result is a subtle combination of flavours and textures – and as you eat it, you feel nourished. The gnocci is served with chorizo and a rich, piquant sauce while the Mulloway is simply pan-friend and served with grilled parsnips, puffed kamut and spinach. The chefs at Mondo Organics don’t push culinary boundaries but, rather, they simply work with quality ingredients. The result is a delicious and healthy dining experience, where guests leave feeling neither too-full nor too-hungry.

As for the wine list, organic and bio-dynamic drops sit beside hand-picked grapes and international big-time names. The diversity in both the wine list and the menu allows each guest to forage their own dining experience. Whether you are gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan or a meat-loving maniac – Mondo caters for all. In a society where fussiness appears to be a God-given right, places like Mondo Organics are a blessing.

Anna Lisle

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Filed under Mondo Organics, Reviews, Uncategorized, West End