Tag Archives: best restaurants

The “new” Neild Avenue

It’s a mammoth task to reinvent a restaurant, anyone will tell you that, but things get even trickier with a restaurant that’s in the public eye like Neild Avenue. Since it first opened, Neild Avenue has been accused of being too dark, too noisy and too expensive. So after spending three million dollars on its initial design, what has owner Robert Marchetti done about the public response? He’s changed the interior, shaken up the menu and abandoned the no-bookings policy.

Start with drink in the suave bar area

Start with drink in the suave bar area

The “new” Neild Avenue is a happier, brighter place, thanks to the adept touch of Dinosaur Designs artist Stephen Ormandy. I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know, Anthony Lister’s blurred superhero animalia remain on the front timber-framed ‘house’. Ormandy has painted a second ‘house’, which has been carefully decorated with the mod 60s shapes and bold colours synonymous with the Dinosaur Designs brand.

A long, elegant bar splits the restaurant space in two, with a suave lounge area to one side and the restaurant’s dining area to the other. A mini charcuterie counter sits at the entrance, where cured meats hang behind glass cabinets; visual reminders of Marchetti’s Italian background.

The new look is courtesy of Dinosaur Designs artist Stephen Ormandy

The new look is courtesy of Dinosaur Designs artist Stephen Ormandy

We start with a drink in the bar area. This is the perfect way to take in the unique space; perched on a soft leather lounge, dimpled beer mugs full of cold Birra Moretti in-hand. Efficient waiters, dressed completely in white, flit around the room. The bar menu puts a Mediterranean slant on your standard booze food – souvlaki mini slider buns, flashed fried calamari and sliced-to-order cured meats are substantial enough to call dinner.

The hip staff uniforms

The hip staff uniforms

The revamped restaurant menu has taken hints from sister restaurant, North Bondi Italian. There’s the “cartoccio style” crab spaghetti, baked in a bag with tomato sauce, and those light-as-a-feather arancini balls. North Bondi Italian Food may be one of my favourite restaurants, but tonight we’re here for Mediterranean food. Central to the menu is Marchetti’s stance on sustainability and simplicity. The calamari is line-caught, the lamb is milk fed, the chicken is organic and the meat is free-range. Seafood dominates much of the menu, with a range of whole fish main courses, served with bold salads such as frisee, mint, radicchio and zucchini. The coal grill takes the spotlight with various cuts of beef on offer, while the spit roast takes care of the souvlaki. Each dish is generously portioned, perfect for sharing.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Neild Avenue here 

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Filed under Neild Avenue, Paddington, Reviews

Keep calm and eat chocolate

The Sydney food scene is serious business. Even hip, casual restaurants seem to warble in a state of self-reflection. Are we hip enough? Please notice our designer light fittings. That’s why it’s so refreshing to go to a place with a bit of carefree whimsy.

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups. A place where you can check your cool in at the door and wear a gaping grin as you wander past huge vats of warm chocolate and follow the maze of pipes that run across the ceiling with markings assuring you that their contents are “100% chocolate”. One corner of the Broadway store is styled as a vintage sweet shop, like something you’d find in Diagon Alley or at the end of the yellow brick road.

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups

A place with a motto like “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” may seem ditsy, but this guy approaches the humble cacao bean with precision, innovation and overwhelming affection. For those of us who find ourselves mindlessly polishing off a packet of Tim Tams in front of the telly, Max Brenner’s brand of chocolate appreciation is a new world.

The restaurant has developed its own cutlery and crockery specifically for the needs of the chocolate connoisseur; a hug mug allows you to caress your hot chocolate made by the professionals or you can take a stab at concocting your own with the Suckao, a mug with a tea light candle beneath it, served with a jug of milk and a small mountain of chocolate drops for experimenting. It is Max Brenner’s signature straw-spoon, however, that is quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread. What could be more ingenious than an implement enabling you to drink chocolate milk through a straw, but also scrape the gooey chocolate goodness that’s left behind at the end?

Titti-frutti waffle – warm Belgian waffle, melted chocolate, ice cream,  strawberries and banana.

Titti-frutti waffle – warm Belgian waffle, melted chocolate, ice cream, strawberries and banana.

The chocolate dishes, too, are developed with imagination, but executed with a flair that comes with knowing how to handle the glorious bean. Of course, there are Belgian waffles drizzled in chocolate sauce and served with strawberries, ice cream and banana. There is a rich chocolate soufflé, oozing molten chocolate from its centre. Look out for the exploding chocolate shots, which involve popping candies suspended in melted chocolate. Then there’s the nostalgia-inducing I Scream Max-Wich, an enormous hunk of vanilla ice cream bookended by giant soft-baked chocolate cookies, served with melted chocolate and hundreds-and-thousands. It’s every (big) kid’s sweet dream.

A word of warning for the uninitiated; the servings at Max Brenner are very generous and it’s likely that your eyes will be bigger than your stomach (piles of sweets tend to have that effect on us, too). Bring a friend and wear stretchy pants, because everywhere you look, the Bald Man entices you to share in his love story. It’s a calorific affair, but hey, you only live once.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about Max Brenner in Paddington here
Max Brenner Chocolate Bar on Urbanspoon

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It’s the Côte d’Azur of Australia, Watsons Bay Beach Club

Tourist hotspots don’t generally appeal to locals. It’s something about those piercing American accents, bum bags and over-sized, under-used professional cameras. However, the recently renovated Watsons Bay Beach Club, may well be an exception to your anti-tourist radar.

The view from Watsons Bay Beach Club

The view from Watsons Bay Beach Club

Formerly the Watsons Bay Hotel, this new “beach club” takes you to a white-washed seaside oasis. It’s like the Côte d’Azur of Australia, except without the chic French accents. The “club” in the title refers to the multi-purpose use of the venue; there’s dine in or takeaway, a BBQ area, the “Miss Watsons” bar, table tennis, a bottle shop and accommodation plus various function spaces. You can rattle on about the colourful umbrellas and the staff’s Bassike blue-and-white striped uniforms but the main attraction here is the cracking view of Sydney Harbour, the city skyline and the Bridge. If you don’t get that tingly “wow-I-live-in-one-beautiful city’ feeling, then I suggest you hand in your Australian residency because it doesn’t get much better than this.

The nautical theme of the venue

The nautical theme of the venue

When you have views like this, you can’t expect the food to impress too, right? I bite my tongue as we sample Sydney rock oysters and a smoked Snowy River trout pate. Enjoyed with a chilled glass of Stony Peak sav blanc, the quality of the produce impresses. In the mains department, I’m not a tourist but it’s hard to go past the “famous” fish and chips. Sadly, the Coopers batter doesn’t have that light, crisp fluffiness but the chips give this dish a capital F for famous. From the “fresh and green” options, the char grilled chilli and lime octopus salad isn’t char grilled and the dressing could do with some work but it’s a kilojoule-friendly dish for the yummy mummies.

Chilli and lime octopus salad

Chilli and lime octopus salad

Leave your Jesus sandals and matching khaki outfit at home and throw your Polo knit over your shoulder, pull on your chinos and slip on your boat shoes because the Watsons Bay Beach Club is as good as Sydney gets to the French Riviera. If only Johnny Depp thought the same thing too.

Anna Lisle

Read more about the Watsons Bay Beach Club here.

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Filed under Reviews, Watsons Bay, Watsons Bay Beach Club

Serious soul food at Sean’s Panaroma

Is this the most unpretentious hatted restaurant in Sydney? Sean’s Panaroma (note: say and spell, ‘pan aroma’) is a Sydney institution which opened on Bondi’s Campbell Parade, way back in 1993. A man before his time, Sean Moran was one of the first chefs to implement a paddock-to-plate eating philosophy. He’s against genetically modified foods and he, together with partner Michael Robertson, have designed their Bondi restaurant with a closed loop system that involves composting and recycling. Aside from the ethical eating to be done there, one of the big draw-cards of this restaurant is view. Stunning vistas of Bondi’s coastline can be observed from the dining room and it’s a landscape that doesn’t disappoint, regardless of the weather.

The humble dining room at Sean's

The humble dining room at Sean’s

The menu at Sean’s is simple. Four entrees, four mains and four desserts are scribbled on swinging chalkboards and dishes change daily. Rather than an over-descriptive explanation of each dish, Sean simply lists a couple of ingredients. We opt for the “mulloway, tarragon, pippies” and “hogget, eggplant, rosemary”. Steamed in a bag, the mulloway is served on a bed of lemon, olive oil, tarragon and snow peas, all of which are generously topped with pippies. The lemon is slightly overpowering but the olive oil broth is so well developed that any of the bitterness is lost. The hogget (mature lamb) is served as a rack and roasted. The meat is slightly overcooked however, coupled with an eggplant mash and snow peas, the dish is wholesome and tasty. This is the type of food that you would eat at home, sitting at your mum’s kitchen table. The food may not be perfect but it’s made with a bucketful of love. Sean offers serious soul food.

Mulloway, tarragon, pippies

Mulloway, tarragon, pippies

The wine list offers a selection of boutique Australian varietals, vintage and non-vintage French champagnes, and a range of digestives. You can also BYO for $20 per bottle. Sean’s may not be cheap and you certainly aren’t paying for the décor but each dish is absolutely delicious and also generously portioned. Plus, how can you put a price on love?

Anna Lisle

Read more about Sean’s Panaroma here

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Filed under Bondi, Bondi Beach, Reviews, Sean's Panaroma

The latest from the Bentley boys, Monopole

Taking over the former Sailor’s Thai space, Monopole is right at home in this trendy part of town. Dark, sleek and sexy, Monopole is located just down the road from hospitality heavy weights The Apollo and Gastro Park. The idea, according to Savage and Hildebrandt, was to open a wine bar and eatery where they could experiment with a “more casual concept”.

Monopole has been designed by Melbourne architect Pascal Gomes-McNabb

Monopole has been designed by Melbourne architect Pascal Gomes-McNabb

Monopole isn’t casual – it’s actually quite intimidating. Designed by Melbourne architect Pascal Gomes-McNabb, the dark and moody interior is dominated by a long bar that borders the open kitchen. Perch at the bar and get amongst the action as the bartenders sip, squeeze and shake their liquid concoctions before you. Order a charcuterie platter and watch as the cured meat is freshly sliced right before your eyes.

Salt cod, green peas, mint vinaigrette and pea shoots

Salt cod, green peas, mint vinaigrette and pea shoots

Despite the credentials of its owners and its terribly trendy location, Monopole is surprisingly unpretentious. There’s a liveliness about the restaurant that demands attention. And perhaps, gives the restaurant some leeway when it comes to the overpriced menu. The quality of the produce is all there – from the grilled scampi and roasted suckling pig to the Iggy’s bread and shaved heirloom vegetables –  but quantity, as well as robust flavours, are lacking.  However, the house cured and smoked duck breast and cured venison on the charcuterie platter are exceptional and make a visit to Monopole worth your while.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Monopole here

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Filed under Monopole, Potts Point, Reviews

Location, location, location… The Bucket List

Sydney living doesn’t get much sweeter than this. Sprawling out onto Bondi’s promenade, within the Bondi Pavilion, is The Bucket List. It may be touted as the ‘playground of the Pacific’ by The Bucket Lists’ owners but to me it feels more like the ‘playground of Bondi’s beautiful people.’ Loose white singlets, Tsubi shorts and Ray Bans are the order of the day, as are ice buckets of lime wedge-topped Coronas and jugs of sangria or Pimms.

Not interested in beach views? The Bucket List is perfect for people-watching

Not interested in beach views? The Bucket List is perfect for people-watching

Snag a table outside and you’ll be blessed with panoramic views, not only of Bondi Beach but also of the Eastern Suburbs hipsters who wander along the promenade out front. The best bit though? Whatever day of the week, night or day, the atmosphere is abuzz. It feels like nobody has a worry in the world – no work deadlines, no houses to clean or mortgages to pay. Everything here is happy and carefree.

Roast chook with quinoa tabouli

Roast chook with quinoa tabouli

Despite its location, the prices are reasonable and the food offers a range of nibbling options, as well as more substantial delights. Looking to impress an out-of-towner? The Bucket List is your answer.

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Bucket List here

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Filed under Bondi Beach, Reviews, The Bucket List

Surrender to the warm Italian arms of Fratelli Fresh

Slip down the sandstone stairs and fall into the warm Italian arms of Fratelli Fresh. Fratelli, meaning brother in Italian, has established a unique retail/restaurant concept in Sydney’s dining scene – with outlets in Walsh Bay, Waterloo, Potts Point and lastly, Bridge Street.

Wander the aisles of Fratelli Fresh for some gourmet food shopping therapy

Wander the aisles of Fratelli Fresh for some gourmet food shopping therapy

Hidden in the depths of an old sandstone building in the heart of Sydney’s bustling CBD, Fratelli on Bridge Streets exudes a romantic and old world charm. There are several little nooks that make up the surprisingly large underground space – with two private dining spaces called Cuvee Louise dining room and Campari Bar.

Tuna crudo with walnut pesto

Tuna crudo with walnut pesto

There’s a mozzarella bar for a quick post-work glass of pinot and an antipasto platter and a retail area where you can purchase some gourmet delights for your next dinner party. Got time to spare? Take a seat at Café Sopra and settle in for the evening. We recommend sharing a selection of dishes such as tomato and mozzarella salad, meatball orechiette and arancini. The staff, while helpful and energetic, are a little bit inexperienced so try drag along a wine snob friend for advice in the beverage department.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Cafe Sopra Fratelli Fresh Bridge Street here

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Filed under Fratelli Fresh Bridge Street, Reviews, Sydney CBD