Tag Archives: Sydney

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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Jamie Oliver. Need I say more?

When you’re Jamie Oliver, you don’t have to try very hard to get the crowds queuing at your restaurant door and Oliver’s first Australian restaurant has managed to sustain its hype amongst foodies, nearly eighteen months after it opened.

Jamie’s Italian, on Pitt Street, takes bookings for dinner at 6.00pm or 8.30pm, but only for groups of 6 or more. For couples and smaller groups, there is a now-accepted expectation that if you want to dine at J.O’s, then you’ve got to work for it – with waiting times fluctuating from anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours. But Jamie’s devotees are not easily deterred, especially when great food and great times are guaranteed to land on your table.

Chilli and mussel linguine

Chilli and mussel linguine

Oliver has built his restaurants with the understanding that there is more to a dining experience than just food. Spread over two levels, his Pitt Street hangout boasts a warehouse chic vibe with exposed metal and concrete walls. It’s dimly lit, yet not so dark that you can’t see your food. There is a constant hum of excitement in the air, especially as it’s absolutely packed, night after night. When you arrive at a place where everybody’s pumped, even on a Monday night, the food becomes an afterthought.

This isn’t to say that the Naked Chef lets his famous antipasti platters or home-made pasta dishes fall by the wayside. It’s just that diners are having such a great time that the impressive menu becomes a bonus. His “fish in the bag” is a must for seafood-lovers, with the cracked wheat-based dish overflowing with mussels, fish and clams.  Again, the seaside risotto offers an abundance of aqua-inspired delights, while the wild rabbit tagliolini is a rich and indulgent homage to the land of the boot. The crisp polenta chips with rosemary and parmesan is a must-order, as is the fennel and apple salad. Daily specials keep the regulars interested and a diverse selection of Italian drops and beers work perfectly with Oliver’s rustic Italian fare.

Sure, there are plenty of Sydney restaurants that offer delicious food and great service. But Jamie’s Italian guarantees an element that they don’t award Chef Hats for – and that’s damn good fun.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Jamie’s Italian here

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Filed under Jamie's Italian, Reviews, Sydney CBD

Spencer Guthrie pushes the green envelope

Holding an unassuming position beside an overwhelming collection of cheap Asian eateries and eclectic cafes, Spencer Guthrie is an intimate restaurant that pushes the green envelope without pretension.

What was once an old Thai takeaway is now a 30-seater fine diner with a polished bar and kitchen up the front and a long narrow stretch of floor space opening into a small dining area up the back. From the table-tops to the floorboards, all the furnishings at Spencer Guthrie are recycled, with much of it sourced from iconic wharves across Sydney. There are also visual reminders of the restaurant’s eco-friendly credentials including a wall of fern green foliage and weathered plaster walls featuring textural canvasses of countryside settings.

The Spencer Guthrie team hard at work in the open kitchen

The vibe emanating from the open kitchen is focused and assured with seasoned chefs and close mates Troy Spencer (ex L’Etoile) and Oliver Guthrie (ex Lucio’s) at the helm. The Modern Australian menu is a reflection of the quite confidence of the duo with prettily plated dishes that offer a serious experience with textures and flavours. There are five entrees and five main courses which all reflect the sustainable, locavore philosophy of Spencer Guthrie. Meat is sourced from Feather and Bone and the Urban Food Market while fish such as Red Gurnard and Ocean Mullet is caught in Australian waters.

There are five entrees and five main courses that change weekly

We are immediately won over by the two meat mains featuring Milly Hill lamb and Wagyu 5+ oyster blade. A glass of light biodynamic ‘Kalleske Grenache Shiraz Mataro’ from the Barossa Valley is the perfect match to the perfectly-pink and buttery texture of both meat dishes. The wine list is concise but over priced by the glass, so go for for a bottle instead. Alternatively, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are BYO, with $15 corkage per bottle.

The highlight of the evening is the ‘all things chocolate’ dessert, which in itself is a feat of textural ingenuity. A base of salted dark chocolate crumbs is topped with three cornels of white, milk and dark chocolate mousse and buttoned with cubes of dark chocolate jelly and cacao rich chocolate pieces. The only part of the evening that can rival the resplendence of dessert is the service – personalised, passionate and well-informed.

Portion sizes are petite, so don’t come expecting to satiate a ravenous appetite. But if you’re after a meal where quality is of the essence, then Spencer Guthrie gets the green thumb of approval.

Sami-Jo Adelman

Read more about Spencer Guthrie here

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Modern British delights at Orto Trading Co.

When the winter sets in and it’s cold outside, nothing beats a cosy nook and comfort food. Orto Trading Co. on the Waterloo strip of Surry Hills may not be tiny but it sure is warm and friendly– both indoors and out. The fit out alone is worth a visit: the main dining room is light and airy with tall glasshouse walls and bare Scandinavian tables that are paired with two-tone wooden chairs. An exposed brick wall features at the back of the bar and an innovative installation of recycled glass bottles and flowers dangle over the wooden counter.

Glass jars filled with tea-light candles adorn the outdoor marquee which is well-heated however blankets are readily available for those who can still feel the winter chill. But, we can assure you, as soon as the restaurant fills up, which is very quickly, body warmth is all you’ll require.

The beautiful interior dining room and bar of Orto Trading Co.

The menu follows the rhythm of the seasons and dishes often change to accommodate the new bounty. However there are a few regular fixtures that steel the limelight. We start with one of the house specialties – a scotch duck egg is encased in a crusty shell of house-made pork sausage and served on a wooden plank. The British home-style undertones extend through to main course with a hearty slow-braised beef and ale stew with corn meal dumplings and winter vegetables. The market fish, a crispy skin snapper, arrives atop a mound of creamy cauliflower puree that is silky and smooth. The plate is scattered with watercress, crunchy macadamia nuts and crispy pancetta strips that lend textural complexity to a well-balanced dish.

The food is made for sharing and accordingly portions are incredibly generous. If you have a ravenous appetite, be sure to order the house bread, which comes toasted with a smattering of oregano and fresh roasted garlic (my absolute favourite) for you to smear across the surface.

Sami- Jo Adelman

Read more about Orto Trading Co. here

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A culinary journey to Piedmont, Italy at The Star

I was so pleased to be invited to Stefano Manfredi’s restaurant Balla at The Star this week to experience a culinary trip to Piedmont in Italy. With my daughter Yolanda heading to Venice on a superyacht from France this week, this was at least one way of experiencing a vicarious trip to one of my favourite holiday destinations in the world.

On the second Tuesday of every month, celebrity Chef Stefano Manfredi and Balla Head Chef Gabriele Taddeucci, hold a four-course dinner with matching Italian wines to showcase a menu representing each of the various culinary regions of Italy.

The stunning interior of Balla

Tonight it was Piedmont, in northwest Italy, an area where most of its wines are produced on family estates which are made up of relatively small parcels of land. Each dish served throughout the evening featured the very exotic truffle, which is now found in all states of Australia.

Throughout the evening Stefano mingled with guests in the dining room, sharing his many cooking influences and his knowledge on truffles. We were all encouraged to touch and smell these exotic food items and, of course, we were treated to an exceptional four course dinner with matching wines.

Chef Stefano Manfredi presenting the Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle dessert

We started off with antipasto which included vegetable puree with fontina and black truffle, followed by an entree of pasta, reggianno and black truffle. The main course, however, was the standout of the evening – Sella di coniglio al tartufo con lenticchie e cavolfiore gratinato – or, to us non-Italian speakers – rabbit loin with bread and truffle stuffing, braised lentils and Reggiano. This dish was simply spectacular. We finished the evening on a sweet note with an Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate truffle which, again, impressed.

Other regions of Italy explored on the menu in the following months at Bella include Lombardia, Sicily, Emilia Romanga, Puglia plus a special ‘Buon Natale’ traditional Christmas menu. Highly recommended for lovers of Italian cuisine and Italian wines. Phone +61 2 9657 9129 for reservations or click through here.

Maureen de Groot

Read more about Balla here

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One of Sydney’s most authentic Japanese restaurants, Masuya

At Masuya, in Sydney’s CBD, you won’t spot any celebrities, the way you might at lavish, trendy Japanese pleasure palaces like Sake or Toko. What you will see are tables filled with Japanese businessmen, ordering authentic Japanese cuisine that is more like Tokyo than you will find anywhere else in Sydney.

For the Japanese novice, be prepared to encounter some unusual flavour combinations. A far cry from your standard teriyaki-chicken-roll joint, the menu at Masuya features dishes such as lobster sashimi and kingfish wings cooked with mirin, soy, ginger and served with tofu. For those keen to avoid any unwanted surprises, stick to Australianised-Japanese favourites such as salmon sashimi, nasu miso (deep fried miso eggplant) or tempura. But I dare say, after you try Masuya’s version, you will soon be snubbing your local Japanese takeaway.

Rainbow Roll – covered california roll with salmon, tuna, white fish and avocado

One of Misuya’s signature dishes – a Mulloway jewfish fillet rolled in a potato net and served with a dill and soy butter sauce – is a delicious adventure, well worth a try.  Masuya’s desserts also pack a punch – for the brave, try the tofu and cream cheese cake or the homemade green tea brulee. Tofu and green tea has never tasted so good.

Masuya is one of most authentic Japanese restaurants in Sydney.

Anna Lisle

Masuya Japanese Seafood on Urbanspoon

Read more about Masuya here

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A timeless gem, Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse

In the hospitality industry, where restaurants open and close quicker than you can say “under new management”, consistency is one of the most valuable commodities. Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse, at Woolloomooloo Wharf, is one of the most reliable restaurants in Sydney. Night after night, meal after meal, Kingsleys delivers impressive food, great service and all in one stunning location.

Sydney’s famous Woolloomooloo Wharf

Don’t be perturbed by the restaurant’s name, Kingsleys is a far cry from your classic two fisted steakhouse. Boasting a formal fine-dining restaurant setting, spread over two levels, the tables on the ground-level wharf are one of the restaurant’s most prized assets. Booked out almost every weekend, a wharf table at Kingsleys gives diners an uninterrupted 180 degree view of the city’s skyline and Sydney Harbour. The perfect destination for impressing tourists and out-of-towners.

Salt and pepper baby octopus

It goes without saying that this meaty mecca certainly gives carnivores a cause for rejoicing, however Kingsleys Steak and Crabhouse impresses equally in the seafood department. An entree of salt and pepper baby octopus is crispy and tender, served with a sweet balsamic glaze that brings the dish together. A ceviche of wild kingfish, offers an interesting textual experience that is offset by crunchy prawns and a housemade mayonnaise. And while Kingsley’s is renowned for its sumptuous serves of QLD chilli mud crab, there was no way I was going past a 400 gram aged rib on the bone. Because, we must remember, rather than being just your average steakhouse, Kingsley’s is, in fact, THE steakhouse. With nothing else on the plate, the aged rib was served as is, without a piece of shrubbery to taint its meaty goodness. Initially questioning how I would get through such a large slab of meat, the aged rib was quietly devoured and all that was left on the plate was a meat-less bone.

Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse is a timeless and reliable gem.

Anna Lisle

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse on Urbanspoon

Read more about Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse here

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