Tag Archives: restaurants

Thaitown’s best asset – Chat Thai

I made the announcement to a group of close friends. There was a deafening silence at first and then the reprimands began. ‘You haven’t been to Chat Thai? Like, none of the Chat Thai’s?’  No, I whisper. ‘But you love Thai food?’ I try to defend myself by explaining how the first time I tried to go it was a 2.5 hour wait. But it was pointless. The group were unanimous in their decision– there was no excuse.

I may not have dined there but I do know all about Chat Thai’s founder and owner – Amy Chanta. A migrant success story, Amy moved to Australia in the early ’80s, leaving her two small children in Bangkok with a Chinese nanny. Two years after working as a machinist, Amy finally had enough money to bring her children to Australia. Stints at U-thong in Cammeray and even McDonalds gave Amy the skills to open her own restaurant and so the Chat Thai empire began.

Each dish is overflowing with fresh herbs and vegetables

Unlike most restaurant chains, each Chat Thai outlet offers something slightly different. There’s the Chat Thai at Manly Wharf – delivering piping hot takeaways to hungry office workers who’ve just jumped off the ferry and then there’s the flash new Westfield one – tucked beside Xanthi on Level 6 – with its super cool dessert degustation delights. Tonight we’re at Haymarket – where a late night supper menu feeds shift and hospitality workers until 2am.

A must order – khanom buaing – sweet thin wafers are filled with meringue and threads of candied egg yolk

Chat Thai’s Thaitown offers an ever-changing menu that specialises in market food from different regions of Thailand, bridging the gap between takeaway and fine dining. Start with fried fish cakes or gai satay, following by the popular crying tiger – char grilled beef with smoked chilli and tamarind relish. The pad ki mao with roasted duck comes highly recommended, as does bpla raadt prik – a whole snapper deep fried and served in a roasted chilli and garlic sauce. Throw in a green papaya salad and a chicken larb and there’s your DIY Thai banquet. If you don’t want to expand your culinary repertoire then there’s always pad thai  and we are happy to vouch that this is undoubtedly the Rolls Royce of all pad thai’s.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Chat Thai here

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Filed under Chat Thai, Haymarket, Reviews

Rustic and wholesome, eat well at The Hill

In a town bent on reinventing the wheel, The Hill Eatery offers a humble change of pace. There are no tablecloths, waiters are dressed casually and the menu is simple and honest.

Designed by renowned architect Michael Benson, The Hill’s interior boasts a minimalist warehouse-chic decor. Uncovered light bulbs hang from ropes; there’s an unpolished wooden floor; and exposed ducts run along the ceiling. It is simple and elegant without an ounce of Bondi pretension. It is also nice to discover that the rustic-looking floor and tables are actually rustic, having been made using recycled timber from Botany.

Simple and stunning – with a vase of colourful poppies

This sustainable approach extends from the decor to the food. Owner and Chef Sam Smith (from Perth’s Balthazar and Duende and Paddington’s L’Etoile), together with Sarah Hendriks and Michael Benson (owners of Porch and Parlour, North Bondi), pride themselves on what they call “food excellence”. Rather than doing the token, “organic- this” and “eco-friendly-that”, these guys have put money where their mouth is. At the restaurant’s official launch, their beef producer from Scone discussed the “paddock-to-plate” process with the media crowd. The syrups used in the tales (cocktails) are all homemade (by the way, we strongly recommend the “Garden Fresh”) and Sam’s dad catches the fish in Port Lincoln. So when Sam says, “provenance is our mantra”, this is exactly what the man means.

Falafel salad, quinoa tabouli and tahini dressing $19

The menu speaks to the inner-health freak in us all with wholesome dishes such as falafel and quinoa tabouli salad, grilled calamari with crunchy greens and dukkah and pan-seared King George whiting with avocado salsa. For those not bothered by calorie-counting, the classic parmigiana gets spruced up, with the meat courtesy of Thirlmere and served with fettucini and cherry tomatoes. Got some English blood? The slow braised organic beef is served in individual ceramic ramekins on a wooden chopping board, with a side of pea and mint mash. The flavours in each dish are clean and simple with just the right amount of oomph to satisfy. The Hill Eatery is the type of place that nourishes you, both inside and out.

Anna Lisle

Read more about The Hill Eatery here

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Filed under North Bondi, Reviews, The Hill Eatery

Catching up with Sydney’s small bars: York Lane

I have felt behind the eight ball in recent months. Keeping up-to-date with restaurant openings and cafes has always been easy, but getting to every new small bar, wine bar, cocktail bar, absinthe bar…. now that has been a struggle. So… I have spent the last month exploring Sydney’s bourgeoning drinking hotspots.

Shady Pines Saloon is quirky and different, whereas Stitch is crowded, but worth putting up with the odd jab in the rib and spilt drink. Mr Cooper’s Wine Bar is sophisticated and elegant, perfect for the Woollahra/ Paddington crowd and Baxter Inn is moody and atmospheric but with an added stiffness that comes from a crowd that is predominantly wearing suits. Bondi Hardware exudes that effortlessly casual chic that one associates with the Campari-sipping, North-Bondi-Italian-eating Eastern Suburbs crowd. But York Lane, tucked away in the heart of the CBD, can be described in three words: Tiny. But. Fabulous.

The well stocked bar at York Lane

The bar doesn’t try too hard. There is no theme, colour scheme or particular design. But… it is certainly not devoid of character. Instead of paintings, bicycles hang on the walls and rather than proper seats, patrons perch on child-sized red and white wooden stools. A chalk board offers cheeky descriptions of drink specials and round copper lights dangerously hang from the ceiling. And unbeknown to many, all the furnishings in this tiny, split-level space are recycled.

An espresso machine pumps out takeaway lattes by day but as the sun sets, York Lane transforms into a licensed restaurant and tapas bar. Small clipboards are handed out with brown recycled paper listing a handful of tapas dishes and drinks, which change daily. Duck pancakes with hoisin sauce are the perfect accompaniment to a crisp pear cider but I eye off another table’s order of pork belly with chilli jam and buffalo wings. I make a mental note to order these next time. Because, yes, there will definitely be a next time at York Lane.

Anna Lisle

York Lane on Urbanspoon

Read more about York Lane here


Filed under Events, Reviews, Sydney CBD, York Lane

Best new cookbooks

With four glorious days up your sleeve this Easter weekend, now is the perfect time to have some fun in the kitchen. Here at Best Restaurants, it goes without saying that love to dine out but our passion for food doesn’t end there – we are also keen cooks.

Here are 3 new gorgeous cookbooks (and our favourite recipe from each one). Follow the link to download each recipe.

  1. Mum’s Jam Tart from My Mother’s Kitchen– Guy Grossi ($49.95; Penguin Books).

1. Mum’s Jam Tart

  1. Chilled Pea Soup With Crab Salad And Black Olive Oil from Manu’s French Bistro – Manu Fiedel ($49.95; Penguin Books).

Chilled Pea Soup With Crab Salad And Black Olive Oil

  1. Alaphias Chocolate Cake from Best-ever baking recipes – David Herbert ($49.95; Penguin Books).

Alaphias Chocolate Cake

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Restaurant Review: Watts on Crown

Just like a cafe in Paris, the dream behind Watts on Crown is to create a one-stop-shop for every dining desire. The man behind this vision is chef and owner, Hamish Watt, who cut his teeth at none other than Neil Perry’s Rockpool and who has spent the last decade working in the Britain. With wife and front-of-house, Tiffany, the duo hope to transform the old Vespa site on Crown Street into a neighbourhood hangout with a wine bar, formal dining area and a top-notch bistro menu.

The elegant upstairs dining room

With two-levels, the restaurant’s space is a combination of bar, cafe and dining areas. Upstairs acts as a formal dining room with black and white walls, wooden floorboards and rectangular mirrors framed with heavy gold lacquer while downstairs offers a latte-sipping scene with an open counter bar and a mix of both stool and table seating.

Owner and Chef Hamish Watt, with wife and front-of-house, Tiffany.

The menu is similarly multi-faceted with an array of small plates available throughout the day and then separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The food is classic bistro fare, with dishes such as chicken liver parfait, scotch eggs and goats cheese stuffed zucchini flowers however, of worthy mention was an entree of ceviche with a seawood and sesame salad. A wasabi oil lined the plate, creating a bitey zest to the toasted sesame. The roast barramundi had a crisp skin, while the flesh was moist and rich in flavour. A fennel puree was rich and luscious while julienned snow peas created a welcome crunch and freshness. There is also a strong emphasis on native ingredients with one of their signature dishes featuring a roast kangaroo loin with roasted beetroot, poached rhubarb and Agro Dolce sauce.

Roast kangaroo loin with roasted beetroot, poached rhubarb and Agro Dolce sauce.

Offering over 100 wines, most of which are available by the glass, drinking at Watts on Crown is not going to break the budget. If you are dining upstairs, guests can also BYO at $6 a bottle. This family-friendly local restaurant also offers offsite catering and the entire space can be booked out for functions up to 60 (upstairs).

With renovation plans in sight, Hamish and Tiffany have hopes to create an alfresco dining area out the back, complete with a small herb and vegetable garden for the kitchen.

Anna Lisle

Watts on Crown on Urbanspoon

Read more about Watts on Crown here


Filed under Reviews, Surry Hills, Watts on Crown