Tag Archives: Paddington

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
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Finishing The Bellevue chapter, Pignolet is back

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

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

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

Smoked duck with king brown mushroom carpaccio

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

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

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Bellevue Hotel here

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Darcy’s – a pillar of traditional Italian cuisine in Sydney

In a society of Twitter and Facebook addicts, it’s easy to forget about restaurants like Darcy’s. This Paddington institution swung open its doors in 1968 and continues to remain at the forefront of the Sydney dining scene today. An impressive feat in an uncertain time for the hospitality industry.

While many know of Darcy’s, standing proudly on the corner Hargrave and Elizabeth Street, this regal restaurant is not often frequented by our food-obsessed, hip youngsters. Too busy working through their lists of cafes/bars/restaurant from SMH guidebooks and standing in the queues of small bars in Bondi or concept cafes in the Inner West, the focus tends to be on quantity, not quality. In a society like this, loyalty is a forgotten-about commodity. Restaurants like Darcy’s, however, are all about loyalty. Loyalty to their staff, suppliers, producers and, of course, their customers. At the heart of Darcy’s is one man. Italian-born Attilio Marinangeli visited Australia over 40 years ago and never left.

The upstairs private function room

Stepping into Darcy’s is like stepping back in time. Elegant and intimate, the restaurant features dark wood fittings, gold patterned wallpaper and Norman Lindsay artworks. We are welcomed at the door by Attilio himself. Dressed in a dinner suit, complete with a bow-tie, Attilio is a true man of hospitality. Gracious and affable, Attilio flits about the restaurant, serving wine and food and, for those interested, sharing a story along the way.

The menu features traditional Italian favourites, with an emphasis on Central and Northern Italian flavours. For primi, we share beef carpaccio with parmesan and olive oil and a dish of grilled asparagus with burrata cheese that Atillio regularly has flown in from Italy. Simply presented, the quality of the produce speaks for itself. The special of the day, pork belly with a prune relish, is rich and luxurious – perfect for a chilly winter evening while a grilled fillet of John Dory is fresh and unpretentious. The desserts will ensure a memorable finish to your meal, and are well worth a kilojoule blow-out with classics such as crepe suzette, tiramisu and crème brûlée a highlight on the restaurant’s menu.

Off the special’s menu – seared scallops wrapped in crispy pancetta and served with avocado, lemon and mixed leaves

Darcy’s has not featured on Masterchef, nor has it ever offered a Groupon or Living Social deal. It has, however, hosted Britain’s longest serving prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and been the desired destination for power lunches between socialites like horse-racing trainer Anthony Cummings and mining magnate Nathan Tinkler. It may tend to stray from the hospitality limelight but Darcy’s is one of Sydney’s most respected restaurants, establishing itself as a pillar of traditional Italian cuisine in Sydney. Now add that to your list.

Anna Lisle
Darcy's on Urbanspoon

Read more about Darcy’s here

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