Tag Archives: Sydney CBD

Just Pure Bistro at Swissotel Sydney

There is a tingly feeling that comes with dining in a luxury hotel. The place seems to exist on its own frequency, which gives even the jaded local the delicious feeling of rendezvousing in one’s own town. This is especially true of Sydney’s Swissotel, with its practically-hidden entrance on Market Street, across the road from the high-octane glitz of Topshop and the State Theatre.

Meredith goat cheese croquettes

Meredith goat cheese croquettes

The Swissotel’s new signature restaurant, Just Pure Bistro, also thrives on unexpected appearances. The mirrored elevators and marble tiles of the hotel sharply contrast with the styling of the restaurant’s entrance, which is piled with bales of hay strewn with pumpkins and wheels of cheese. Executive Chef Stephan Tseng is breaking into territory so far untouched by Sydney’s high-end hotels; the reasonably-priced bistro. JPB has all the makings of a budget-blowing restaurant – the Stolzle Lausitz glasses, plush furnishings and ambient lighting – but the menu has been thoughtfully constructed with comfortingly familiar dishes at equally comforting prices.

Grilled swordfish with organic soba noodles, smoky eggplant and stuffed zucchini flowers

Grilled swordfish with organic soba noodles, smoky eggplant and stuffed zucchini flowers

We are seated in one of the glass atriums that line the outside wall of the restaurant, the sinewy cables of Sydney Tower rise directly before us and the magic of the city skyline looms beyond. The hospitality of the staff is at once professional and homely. The delivery of the menus is accompanied by an insight into JPB’s focus on sustainable, ethical dining and a well-informed explanation of the farms that supply the kitchen with its produce. There is a complimentary serving of house-baked spelt with olives and a side of deliciously fruity olive oil from a small producer in Megalong in regional NSW.

Frozen nougat with fresh berry salad and green tea ice cream

Frozen nougat with fresh berry salad and green tea ice cream

What follows is a theatre of country-style flavours executed with five-star technique. The Hunter Valley organic chicken is served with a crispy, golden skin on a generous pile of green beans, mushrooms and puy lentils. The lamb rack, plate after plate of which seemed to be coming out of the kitchen for every occupied table in the restaurant, was juicy and flavorsome. The mille-feuille was a ballerina of a dessert, all wafer-thin layers of crisp pastry constructed with delicate slivers of pear and light vanilla custard.

Sydneysiders are notoriously image-conscious. Long-trapped between the desire to be seen in a dining room with class but wary of spending a small fortune on a weekday meal, JPB breaches the gap nicely.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about Just Pure Bistro here

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Filed under Just Pure Bistro, Reviews, Sydney CBD

Not much wrong with Mr Wong

Every man and his blog has “checked in” at Mr Wong. Foodies, socialites and cashed up executives flock here to experience sexy Cantonese fare and a killer drinks menu that features everything from sake to cider.

 

Mr Wong is swank central. Spread over two levels, the restaurant is littered with timeless colonial furnishings –  quirky lampshades, antique Chinese cupboards and quaint pieces of china – but rather than feeling stale and stuffy, Mr Wong exudes a sultry, ‘I’m-on-the-set of-Sex-in-the City’ vibe. Yes, there are token ‘Chinese restaurant’ touches, like a couple of waving cats, but design king Michael McCann has ensured the end result is all glamour and style.

 

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining – bookings can only be made for six or more and the restaurant is furnished with mostly round and rectangular tables. The menu, too, is best approached with a horde of hungry friends to ensure you get a taste of at least a few of the 80 dishes on offer.

 

Mr Wong embodies all the assets of a truly great restaurant. From the moment we walked in the doors, we were met with efficiency and courtesy. We soon forgot about the fact that we had to wait for an hour to get a table, thanks to the two ‘complimentary cocktail’ vouchers we received to use at their sister venue, Palmer and Co, just around the corner.  The food refuses to play second fiddle to the restaurant design, with classic dishes such a Chinese roasted duck and soy braised chicken with ginger scallion sauce taking centre stage. Steamed, poached, pan-fried and baked dim sum make up the lunch menu while dinner dishes are graced by roasted meats and live seafood from the tank. We recommend the XO twice-cooked green beans with pork mince and the stir fried chilli king prawns. Both are outstanding.

There are over 80 dishes on offer

There are over 80 dishes that make up the Cantonese menu

The food doesn’t come cheap but when you consider that Justin Hemmes put in a casual $4 million to give life to Mr Wong’s, the bill isn’t quite as outrageous. The service is smooth enough, perhaps a few more men in tuxedos would help, but the “people-watching” is unparalleled – especially if you nab a table on the top floor with views of the entire restaurant.

 

The no-bookings policy has meant a visit to Mr Wong has, in hindsight, been regrettably long overdue.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Mr Wong here

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Filed under Circular Quay, Mr Wong, Reviews, Sydney CBD

It’s all about DIY at the David Jones Wine Bar

‘You have to do it yourself?’ I hear a smartly-dressed lady ask her equally well-dressed friend. It seems like a very “un-David Jones” thing to do but yes, at their new wine bar – the novelty is Do It Yourself.

Tucked away in a discreet corner of its sprawling basement gourmet food court is the David Jones Wine Bar. There are a handful of stools that line the bar for solo dining and a few large tables are perfect for groups of up to six. One wall is lined with emerald green floral Tea2 teapots, cups and saucers, adding a touch of frivolity to the otherwise serious bar-like surrounds.

Tea2 teapots, cups and saucers line the bar's back wall

Tea2 teapots, cups and saucers line the bar’s back wall

The idea is simple: put some credit on a plastic card and then walk over to the glass wine cabinets that run the length of the wall and touch the button above your wine selection. Not a wine connoisseur? Never fear! The David Jones philosophy of selling “the best and most exclusive goods” still applies to its high-class vending machines and there isn’t a glass on their wine lists that isn’t worth drinking.

The DIY nature of the wine bar may not be for everyone, but it’s a novelty that’s worth a visit – even if you just wind up with a bagful of chocolate-coated-strawberries from the main food court on your way out.

Anna Lisle

Read more about David Jones Wine Bar here

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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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There’s no sin in gluttony here

Moom mam? Mum Mam? How the hell do you say the name of this place? Let’s just call it “Little Glutton”, which is a very appropriate description for the restaurant and also the meaning of its unusual Thai name.

A colourful wall mural livens the restaurant’s space

On a Wednesday night, Little Glutton is packed. Is it full of people who couldn’t be bothered waiting in the queue for MoVida? Having visited pre- and post-Camorra craziness, I can happily assure you, it has nothing to do with Frank. Rather, the queue may be accounted for by a vegetarian and gluten-free menu that actually looks appealing even to a carnivore. Or perhaps it’s the unusual selection of Thai flavoured gelato and desserts? Maybe the reasonable prices and the option for BYO? For me, it was none of the above – all it took was a shredded banana blossom salad, bursting with prawns, roasted cashews and coriander.

Banana blossom salad with roasted cashews, coriander and prawns

Alright, I’ll admit, I’m not that easily won over. Turmeric grilled spatchock with a green papaya salad and the ‘crying tiger’ wagyu beef both made a stamp in my culinary consciousness. Add to that a couple of dishes from the specials board – including ocean trout larb and a prawn and chilli jam stir fry – and I was sold.

Trout and caviar betel leaf with coconut, ginger and tamarind

It’s not as cheap as your local takeaway, but the food is a definite notch above your mid week snatch and grab meal anyway. The atmosphere is lively and the décor suave. I fear Muum Maam has turned me into a little glutton.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Muum Maam here

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Filed under Muum Maam, Reviews, Surry Hills

Fine dining, with a touch of theatre – QT Sydney’s Gowings Bar and Grill

Whatever your memories of the Gowings building, the latest incarnation of Sydney’s historical department store will blow your mind. Somehow, the old and new worlds collide in a moodily lit art deco dreamscape now home to the boutique hotel QT Sydney.

The first floor of QT is pocketed with intimate lounge areas decked out with mod-Italian furniture and backlit by vintage films of D-Day parades but the second floor is where the magic happens. Follow the neon-lit Broadway sign and head upstairs to Gowings Bar & Grill where you’ll be immediately reassured that, while the wait staff are dressed to the nines, their ethos is good, old-fashioned service.

The vibrant design of QT

We start with a basket of fresh artisan bread rolls (on the house), hand dived wild scallops with garlic basil butter and a delightfully zesty detox organic vegetable salad. The menu is broad and driven by the wood-fired oven; selecting just one main each is a challenge. The quail is surprisingly meaty, and the smoked ham and pea stuffing provides layers of homely flavour. The beef bourguignon falls apart at the slightest touch and its sauce is rich and creamy. The men of the table unsurprisingly both settle on rib eye Black Angus steaks, with sides of shoestring fries and Paris mash. Always brutally honest, when I ask for their expert carnivorous verdict – neither look up from their plates – “really, really good” was all I get out of them before their dishes are scraped clean. For dessert, the hot German doughnuts sound too irresistible to leave and our decision pays off – the dough is as light as a feather and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg sugar.
A trip to Gowings is something of an adventure. While the journey no longer ends with a new suit or a rucksack of camping gear, visitors in the 21st century are rewarded with an elegant dinner and a show (of class). Each nook and cranny here tells a story. We recommend you come with plenty of spare time to explore its hidden treasures.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about QT Sydney’s Gowings Bar and Grill here

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Filed under QT Sydney's Gowings Bar and Grill, Reviews, Sydney CBD

A matter of taste… Bayswater Diner

Sloppy joes, hickory smoked pork ribs and shrimp gumbo. It’s the cool thing right now. American diner food, that is. And while Bayswater Road may be haunted by a dark past of failed restaurants, the team behind Fei Jai and Barrio Chino are breathing new life into Kings Cross with their latest venture – Bayswater Diner.

For Americans, the diner concept is as familiar as malted milkshake and pecan pie. In Australia, however, the Jerk-chicken-wing concept is somewhat foreign.  Perhaps this is why owners Peter Lew and Nicole Galloway have held back with their disappointingly conservative reincarnation of a classic American diner? There are the token white paper placemats, plastic bottles of ketchup and mustard and leather booth seating but there is something missing. Maybe it’s just too elegant to be the real deal?

Beef Short Ribs with grilled corn, potato salad and slaw $28

The menu, on the other hand, features all your favourites with cheeseburgers, corn dogs and cobb salads dominating. A clumsy dish of beef short ribs is served with grilled corn that is simply begging for a dollop of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of parmesan and a dusting of chilli. I mean, really – if you wanted to be healthy – you would have ordered the pan fried barramundi, not ribs. While on the barramundi-topic, the skin is crisp and the flesh is moist. Not only aesthetically beautiful, the fish is served with salsa crudo and steamed broccolini – both of which work well together. The haagie roll beef brisket sloppy joe gives Bayswater Diner street-food-cred however it is the pecan pie served with Jack Daniels cream that is a taste of the true America. For those not convinced by the diner-effect, there are plenty of non-grease options such as heirloom tomato salad with house smoked goat’s curd and house made pasta with ricotta and basil.

Bayswater Diner will happily satisfy, just as long as you have a wallet that can cope with a little beating.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Bayswater Diner here

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Filed under Bayswater Diner, Kings Cross, Reviews