Thursday, July 26, 2012

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant

Located in Westfield Sydney's Level 6 Dining Precinct, Xanthi Bar & Restaurant headed by David Tsirekas, certainly dishes out some great Greek food. 

Jumping at the opportunity of The Chefs Club promotion from Westfield last month, a group of us got together and sampled their special Tuesday night menu. It was a cold and rainy night but when we finally left the restaurant, two bottles of wine and a load of delicious food later, none of us could feel much of the cold. 

With delicate golden fabric draped from the ceiling, it felt as if we walked into a circus tent, one that's rather elegant and luxurious.

Lamb Skaras
The Chefs Club menu changes monthly so it gives patrons a good opportunity to try different dishes. Our set menu came with a traditional Greek SaladPork Belly Baklava (twice cooked pork belly with a date and pistachio filling, served with a date mastic sauce and pork crackling), Lamb Skaras (Perama's famous slow braised lamb shoulder, marinated in paprika, garlic and olive oil. Barbecued and served with lemon, olive oil baste, baked lemon oregano potatoes and steamed string beans, and last but not least, Caramel Baklava Ice Cream (Sliced layers of vanilla bean ice cream, caramel fudge and baklava nuts).

We chose Kir Yianni Akakies Rose 2010 Xinomavro from Amydeon, Macedonia to accompany our meal, a light, fragrant wine that doesn't distract us from the flavourful food presented to us. There is also a selection of beer and cocktails should your palate prefer something other than wine, or you can always pick something from the Ouzo cart that has 20 different Ouzos as well as Tsipouro ad Raki.

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant: Level 6 Westfield Sydney. Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St, Sydney, NSW 2000  Xanthi Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mad Cow (CLOSED)

Sydney is going through a long and cold winter this year, but thanks to winter specials popping up in bars and restaurants around town, it meant braving the cold could lead to a great meal that won't break the bank. So with a friend in tow we checked out Merivale's Mad Cow last Friday night.

The deco inside is nothing like what you'd expect for a steakhouse; with its white, yellow and gold colours, oversized lampshades and leafy green foliage, it oozed elegance and left me feeling a tad underdressed. The leather booth seating might not look very comfortable, that is until you sit down and hours later still want to stay seated.

Located on the same floor as the ivy bar, Mad Cow is currently running their Holy Cow promotion, where $40 will get you 2 courses and a drink. Pretty good deal if you ask me, especially when the mains you get to choose from are around $30-$40 themselves.

I opted for entrée and main for my 2 courses while my friend went for the main and dessert combo. Feeling quite hungry we added a few Sides from the full menu as extras to share. Half way through dinner we realised that we probably could have done without the Hand cut thick chips with murray river pink salt, not because they weren't good, in fact, they were excellent, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, but after the complimentary soy and linseed and sourdough bread that came with some seriously creamy and soft butter, plus the not-so-small bowl of shoestring fries served with my main, we ended up with too much food on the table.

Hand cut thick chips and Broccolini
What caught my eyes during the meal was the Broccolini, lemon, chilli side dish, its vibrant green colour lured me to try it as soon as it arrived at the table. Crisp-tender, it tasted as good as it looked!

The Sydney rock oysters, mignonette sauce, lemon I had as entrée were fresh but nothing to get excited about; the Minute steak, 200g with café de paris butter served with shoestring fries and green salad had a warm and mostly pink-red centre that was tender and juicy. In other words, it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, just the way I like it. I finally had my steak craving satisfied after a very disappointing experience at a steakhouse two weeks ago, where a prime piece of Scotch fillet was ruined with too much salt.

Given the generous servings, a plateful of Risotto of mushrooms, peas, sage, parmigiano reggiano had my friend seeking my help when it came to dessert time. The Pavlova, pineapple, passion fruit was simple and delicious, the sweetness from the crisp crust and soft, fluffy centre was well balanced by the acidity from the fruits.

Espresso Martini and Bramble
With another friend joining us towards the end of the meal we decided to stay for a few drinks before heading over to Pool Club. Instead of the usual coffee or tea our waitress suggested Espresso Martini (Belvedere Vodka, Kahlua, dash of sugar and fresh espresso) as a little after dinner pick-me-up and they came with some delectable buttery shortbread and gooey brownie petits fours. Staying away from the late night caffeine hit, I ordered myself a sour but refreshing Bramble (Plymouth Gin and lemon juice stirred with crushed ice, crowned with Crème De Mure).

Considering the top notch service, mouthwatering steak and great cocktails, it was no wonder our meal ended up being over 3 hours long. Good thing we went for an early dinner.

Mad Cow: Level 1, ivy, 330 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Mad Cow on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Misschu Bondi

Charlie's Iced Tea
I'm pretty clueless when it comes to whisky, but one can always learn to appreciate it, just like I did with wine. And bar manager Ben Eakins was more than happy to show me the large range of premium and rare whiskies he's got stocked on the shelves at Misschu Bondi. Yep, you've heard me right, we now have a whisky bar in a Vietnamese eatery. 

Not a whisky fan? No problem. Wine, beer and cocktails are also on offer. The cocktail list is small but features all the main spirits, with some Asian influence mixed in. Charlie's Iced Tea (Absolute Wild Tea, Green Tea Syrup, Cucumber, mint and apple juice) was my first choice, refreshing and easy to drink. The Tree Fiddy (Beefeater 24 Gin and St Germain Elderflower liqueur with crushed pineapple and cardamom, served with cardamom pods floated over the top) was smooth and definitely had a kick to it. 

Wagyu Beef Pho & Rice Paper Rolls
Self-claimed as Queen of Rice Paper Rolls, the food at Nahji Chu's Misschu certainly do not disappoint, and that's not just limited to the rice paper rolls. The blackboard specials is a great place to start. The use of ox tail in the broth of the Wagyu Beef Pho (traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup) definitely paid off, flavourful without MSG. Even though the Traditional Duck Pancakes come highly recommended, make sure you give the Steamed Dumplings a try. Scallop & prawn and Shanghai pork are my favourites. For dessert, the Gluten free Cheery Chocolate Brownie and the Tapioca Pearl Pudding with coconut cream rounded off our meal perfectly. 

Another thing I love about this tuck shop in Bondi is their Steam Boat and all you need is two people for it. For me, eating fresh veggies, meat and seafood cooked in a delicious broth right on the table in front of you is one of the best ways to battle the winter cold. 

Unlike the hole-in-the-wall Misschu tuck shops in Darlinghurst and Regent Place, Misschu Bondi is a proper eatery where you can sit back, relax and let Liz and her team look after you. The deco is funky with lots of wood, while the rackets and helmets hung from the hooks on the wall are obviously part of the deco, coats from patrons often find their way onto the hooks. You'll also find hooks on the side of tables and under the bar, perfect for hanging handbags. The missing bricks in the wall allow you to have a peek into the newly opened Potato Ghetto next door (also from Nahji Chu). So grab a bunch of friends and have a steam boat party, or find a seat at the bar and learn all about the world of whisky. 

Misschu, Bondi: 178 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026  Misschu on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 30, 2012


After failing to find a parking spot around Potts Point last weekend, our original dinner destination, we decided to head towards Bondi, and as luck would have it, we drove by CHISWICK, which instantly became our dinner venue for the night. 

Communal table and open kitchen
Co-owners Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan have certainly put some thoughts into Sydney's hottest new restaurant. While reservations are taken for the main dining room, a large bar area caters for walk-ins, where causal communal dining is the way to go. There are also outdoor seatings, which would be perfect when the weather warms up.

Once the garden of Chiswick, a mid-nineteenth century private house, the grounds are lush and beautiful. It was too dark and cold for me to try to get a glimpse of the 150sqm kitchen garden that's unique to CHISWICK, but it's good to know that what we get on our plates are fresh and home-grown produce.

Greeted with a warm smile, we were quickly seated in the bar area. Just looking at the dishes coming out from the open kitchen had us salivating in no time.

CHISWICK Bloody Mary
The drink list caters for just about anything you'd want, be it cocktails, beer, cider, wine, spirits or even home-made sodas. I could not resist the CHISWICK Bloody Mary (Belvedere Bloody Mary vodka, tomato, chilli, celery salt & cucumber) and my friend went for The Bold & The Beautiful (Marker's Mark bourbon, chestnut liqueur, earl grey tea & fresh lemon). When our drinks arrived I had to do a double take on mine, yep, the glass was rimmed with chilli flakes! Very cool in my books.

The food menu is divided into sections, so you can order your food depending on how hungry you are. We skipped "Nibbles" and went straight to "Small Plates" and zoomed in on the Chicken liver parfait, date puree, grilled bread and Salad of beetroot, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, feta. It was harder to decide when it came to the "Mains", while the Roasted snapper fillet, celeriac, walnuts, bois boudran sauce caught my eyes, the Wood roasted Moran family lamb, chick peas, mint from the "To Share" section won us over.

When taking our orders, our waiter kindly warned us that the lamb dish is rather big, so we decided to pass on the chicken liver parfait for the time being. In hindsight, we probably should have left out the Hand cut chips, thyme, black garlic aioli too. You should have seen our faces when the lamb was brought to our table. My concept of a "to share" dish is for two, but looking at the whole lamb shoulder that was sitting in front of me, I was sure it could feed a family of four!

Wood roasted Moran family lamb
Roasted on the bone in a wood-fired oven for 8hrs, the lamb shoulder is served with a knife and fork stubbed into it. Very dramatic presentation. The meat was juicy and tender, simply fell off the bone with the slightest touch from your fork.

The Salad of beetroot, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, feta was delicious but not what we expected, both of us thought it'd come with some green leaves, perhaps the Steamed broccoli with garlic and chilli would have been a better choice.

Even though we barely finished the lamb, good effort we were told, I just couldn't resist ordering the Rhubarb éclair, with poached rhubarb, custard apple. And am I glad I ordered it. Soft and creamy, sweet and tangy, oh it was heavenly! 

I really enjoyed the casual communal dining environment, but next time I think I'll give the main dining room a go, just to experience the difference. Plus I already picked out the dishes I want to try: Char grilled scallops, artichokes, burnt butter, tarragon and Beef, pearl onions and ale pie; I may be swayed to try the Poached quince crumble with ginger ice cream, but it may have to be on top of a serving of the Rhubarb éclair!

CHISWICK: 65 Ocean Street, Woollahra, NSW 2025  Chiswick on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jamie's Italian, Sydney

There has been a lot of buzz around Jamie's Italian ever since it opened last year, While most comments I've heard are positive, there were a few that weren't so kind. Keeping an open mind, I arrived at the restaurant with a group of friends. The couple in front of us was told there is an one hour and 20mins wait for a table, thank heavens we had a group big enough to make a reservation.

We were seated upstairs with a view of the open kitchen below. The whole place has an industrial feel to it, dark, lots of metal, graffiti walls, red banquets, wooden tables and metal chairs.

To kick off our meal, we ordered a meat plank and soon enough the waiter came around our table with two giant cans of Italian tomatoes. A few brows were raised, eyes met and the question "what are we suppose to do with these?" hung in the air.

Antipasti Meat Plank
The mystery was solved when our waiter brought the plank to our table and balanced the long wooden board on the cans, and all of a sudden we had an antipasti feast in front of us: cured meats (San Daniele prosciutto, Wagyu bresaola, finocchio & capocollo), cheeses (Buffalo mozzarella & pecorino with chilli jam), pickles (curly green chillies, green & Gaeta olives & caper berries) and a lovely crunchy salad (shaved root veg with chilli, lemon & mint).

What I love about Italian food is the way you eat it. It's all about sharing, and a big group means you get to try a bit of everything. The stand out dish of the night was one of the antipasti plates, Crispy Stuffed Risotto Balls (smoked mozzarella & porcini arancini), luckily we didn't have to fight over the last one as we had just enough to go around the table.

Opinions on the mains were divided, the general consensus was that the pastas were well made, be it the Wild Rabbit Tagliolini (Slow-cooked McLeay Valley rabbit ragù with garlic & herbs, mascarpone & Amalfi lemon), or the Tagliatelle Bolognese (old-school classic ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & Parmesan with crunchy herby breadcrumbs). However, when it came to the Angus Sirloin Steak (Aussie pasture-fed Sirloin with grilled mushrooms & dressed peppery watercress), I was told it was rather ordinary and since the guy who ordered it does eat steaks often, I don't imagine he'd be far off with his taste buds. I could even hear the disappointment in his voice.

Dessert was well received by the whole group, the Ultimate Brownie (Chocolate, raspberry & amaretto brownie with vanilla ice cream) and Tiramisu (Coffee-flavoured trifle with orange mascarpone & chocolate) definitely worth a mention. They are must tries for chocolate and coffee lovers!

I do love watching Jamie Oliver's 30-minute meals on TV, but honestly, it'll probably require quite a bit of practice before I could do one of those meals so quickly and having them turn out looking just as good. The best solution? Dine at one of his restaurant.

Jamie's Italian: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Chefs Club

Westfield Sydney recently launched The Chefs Club, where each of the participating restaurants would offer a $30 menu on Tuesday nights, giving us a chance to try restaurants headed by the top chefs on a budget. Along with live entertainment and $10 valet parking, I think we can forget about cooking at home on Tuesdays for a while. 

Participating restaurants:
  • Cara&Co Restaurant
  • Chat Thai 
  • Chinta Ria...Mood for Love 
  • Quarter Twenty One
  • Spiedo Restaurant & Bar 
  • Xanthi Restaurant & Bar

New addition from July: 360 Bar and Dinning

The Chefs Club: Level 4 - 6, Westfield Sydney. Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St, Sydney, NSW 2000

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Generation Hunter Valley Pop Up Wine Bar

I have never been much of a wine drinker till about a year ago so I'm still learning about wine, from grape varieties to wine types, and what one should look for when doing wine tasting. Tonight's pop up wine bar by New Generation Hunter Valley was a great opportunity for me to explore wines from six different winemakers from the oldest wine growing region of Australia.

The New Generation Hunter Valley is made up of a new breed of winemakers, namely, David Hook (David Hook Wines), Andrew Thomas (Thomas Wines), Rhys Eather (Meerea Park), Nick Paterson (Mistletoe Wines), Mike De Iuliis (De Iuliis Wines) and Andrew Margan (Margan Wines). These boys have been establishing their own unique styles of distinct regional wines over the years, working with old vineyards using contemporary methods and producing wines reflective of their own personalities. 

This group of talented winemakers are travelling along the east coast of Australia showcasing some wonderful wines from their own vineyards. The massive journey has been dubbed as the Caravan of Courage 'On the Road Again' with the first event kicked off in Melbourne followed by Newcastle, tonight in Sydney and a few more stops next week along the coast before finishing at the Noosa International Food & Wine festival. 

My absolute favourite wine of the night was the Kiss Shiraz  by Thomas Wines, from the Pokolbin Estate vineyard which was planted in 1969. The winemaker noted it as a beautifully structured, medium bodied wine. It was not until much later did I discover this is actually their flagship wine. 

Put your nose to the glass and you'd be hit with a wall of aroma featuring berry, oak, vanilla and a hint of cherry liqueur perhaps? A quick taste even sent my not-so-wine-wise taste buds to heaven. Elegant and savoury, I simply loved its earthy complexity, floral and pepper spice with a hint of tannins. With its beautiful purple crimson hue and a clean long finish, Kiss Shiraz 2010 is one rich yet smooth, seductive red. I think I'm in love.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farmer's Market @ Zeta

Last Friday evening Zeta launched its new themed night - Farmer's Market, where you get to pick your own ingredients to make a bespoke cocktail. 

"Shoppers" are invited to wander through the stalls with a grocery bag and the option to select a few seasonally fresh fruits or vegetables, plus a herb or spice before heading over to the "Farmer's Market counter"; where one of the "Grocers" will mix and shake the contents of your grocery bag with your choice of spirits into an unique and delicious cocktail. 

If you are not too sure where to start, perhaps a Farmer's Market Special such as Beetroot Mojito (fresh beetroot, 10 Cane rum, creme de mure & mint) or Nitro Milk Bottle (Vodka, Kahlua, milk plus liquid nitrogen) would interest your taste buds.

The Ono's
The fun part of the evening is of course watching your very own cocktail concoction being brought to life and then naming it. The bartenders were very friendly and helpful, they talked us through the making of our cocktails and answered all the questions we could possibly think of throwing at them.

Two of my favourite mixes on the night were the Ono's (lychee, raspberry, lime, apple juice, mint, basil, lychee liqueur and vodka), and my very own creation, Red Lady (strawberries, pomegranate, cranberry juice, coriander, citrus vodka, Cointreau and rosewater syrup). While most people stayed with the more common mix of fruits and herbs, one of my friends was brave enough to put tomato, ginger, onion, chilli and vodka together, the end result tasted like a weird version of Bloody Mary. Thumbs up for his bravery in trying out a wacky combination, but I think our taste buds ran the other way. Maybe he should've left out the onion.

The Farmer's Market experience is not complete without a bit of dirt and a worm or two, so keep an eye out for the edible pot plants, mini pots filled with edible "soil" and jelly "worms", they were tasty little treats.

Get your creative juices flowing, grab some friends and give putting together your own bespoke cocktails a try. Farmer's Market at Zeta will run every Friday night from 6pm till the end of June.

This event truly showcases the talents behind the bars at Zeta as cocktails are created on the fly, sometimes with rather challenging combination of ingredients.

Zeta Bar: Level 4, 488 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Zeta Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Zipporra SS 12/13 Launch

It wasn't hard to spot that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week took over Sydney last week, but for those who support our local up and coming designers, you'd have heard Zipporra recently launched its Spring/Summer 2012/13 Poison Arrow Collection at District01, a creative space in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

I loved the fact that the launch party had a cool theme, Mad Hatter's Tea Party, but more so that a good cause was attached to it. The collection was launched in collaboration with Cancer Council's Biggest Morning Tea to raise awareness and funds for cancer research, prevention and support.

Walking down the stairs with bubbles floating around me, I found myself stepping into a mini version of Wonderland, where branches, picture frames, Lipton Iced Tea and marshmallows dangled from the ceiling, and a DJ booth was setup in a mini garden that came complete with a cow print lounge and white picket fences. The fashion conscious crowd sipped on sparkling wine and Lipton Iced Tea around a long table full of delicious treats.

The collection featured gorgeous jackets and dresses in vibrant colours, bold prints and hand-dyed silks, all inspired by the Amazon rainforest.

I was lucky enough to get designer Karen Fulton (KF), the talent behind Zipporra, to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions:

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
KF: I think it all happened when I was a little girl. I have always loved clothes, drawing clothes and shopping of course. My grandmother was incredible, she was so timeless, stylish and always took my breath away. She influenced me greatly and so I think I always knew what I loved doing in life from a young age.

Q: What motivates and inspires you?
KF: So many things inspire me in fashion design. I look at fashion design as an art form, so a great variety of things from the environment to different fabrications. I love what I do and that is what keeps me motivated.

Q: What's a typical day like for you?
KF: Completing orders, working on the new range, PR work, accounting, working my other job at Coles.

Q: What trends do you see being big for 2012/13?
KF: Lots of prints.

Q: How would you describe your own personal style?
KF: Edgy and little bit vintage and quiet street, always in Doc Martin's or connies!

Q: What is your favourite piece of clothing you cannot live without?
KF: My Doc Martin's.

Thanks to Christopher McLaren from A Series of Fortunate Events for the invite and one of the best invitations I've seen! Absolutely adored the "message in a bottle" detail. 

If you are keen to support our local designers then check out the twilight fashion market Bizarre Bazaar that pops up every second month in some of the coolest laneways and hideaways Sydney has to offer. Many beautiful clothes and accessories from a bunch of very talented people are waiting to be discovered by you. Oh and if you are in town, don't miss Bizarre Bazaar's first birthday special event at Angel Place on the 17th of May. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Circle Park Menswear Launch @ The Backroom

Last Thursday night The Trish Nicol Agency presented a new men's streetwear label, Circle Park and its brand new collection Son of Leisure at a media and industry launch party at The Backroom in Potts Point. 

The Backroom Sydney
The small and intimate club itself is decked out with disco balls hanging from the ceiling, antique furnitures and plush old chesterfield sofas that are so comfortable you won't want to get up once you've sat on one. 

Guests were treated to Absolute Vodka 'Park Punch' and PureBlond along with American diner styled food such as sliders and deep fried twinkies. Designer Tim Turner-Sutton was in attendance but special guest US rapper Big Sean was a no show, leaving the resident DJ to entertain the crowd with a mix of RnB, Hip Hop and some of the best of the 90s songs. 

Circle Park 'Son of Leisure' Collection
The collection included tanks, tees, shirts, knits, cardigans, blazer, jeans and chinos with a super low crutch, simply put, streetwear with attitude. My favourite pieces are probably the Anti Social Cardigan with the label's crest embroidered on the front and the Grandpa's Alley Knit, a bathrobe style knit hoodie with cardigan style buttons. They looked and felt super comfy and warm, something a girl could borrow from her man on a cold day.

This is a label about having fun, not taking life too seriously but to enjoy it, just read the message on their website:

Welcome to Circle Park. Take a look around, stay as long as you want and hit us up if you've got any questions or just wanna chat. We're a friendly bunch.. Most of the time. Depending on the size of the night before..   

No doubt those chino pants with super low crutch will be spotted at the Bondi Skate Park soon?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quarter Twenty One Cookery School (CLOSED)

Lucky me scored an invited to the first Google Places Power User event for Sydney - a hands on cooking class at Quarter Twenty One Cookery School. The icing on the cake was revealed when Anna, our lovely Sydney Google Places community manager, told me that, Chef Justin North would be our teacher! Wow, can I say that again? WOW!

Put a bunch of foodies and a great chef in one room and you are bound to have a great night. Actually, my exact words (or tweet) on the night was the word 'awesome' pales in comparison with tonite's cooking class with Justin...

Armed with some delicious appetizers (tapioca crisp, melon with duck prosciutto, crab cucumber chamomile, Bécasse artisan bread and butter) we settled around our work benches, eager to learn from one of the best in the business on how to create a classic French dish, the Provençal seafood stew or Bouillabaisse.

It was mesmerising watching the master at work; we even had to be reminded to eat our appetizers, and several times at that.

Part of the hands on task was to prepare our own fish for the stew, I have never filleted a fish till that night, but the way Justin handled the knife made it look so easy, that is until we got to the hands on part.

For someone who has never handled a whole fish before, looking at the snapper was a bit daunting; but under step-by-step guidance, I managed to fillet my very first whole snapper. Removing the bones were a little bit more tricky, the fact I didn't find any bones in the stew meant I did something right.

Provençal seafood stew
While we enjoyed our own fruit of labour, the Provençal seafood stew, which was delicious if I may say so myself, Justin demonstrated the hows of making a quince tart tatin, cumin caramel and Armagnac Chantilly. I think that's what a foodie heaven would look like if there was one, being served dessert by one of the best chefs around! 

You won't find a group of people more passionate about food than Chef Justin North, Cookery School director Libby Travers and the team of talented chefs behind some of the best restaurants around town. They will not only teach you how to cook but also how to think like a cook, so give it a go and learn to cook for the soul.

If the food at the cookery school we got to sample is anything to go by, I can only imagine how amazing the dishes at Quarter Twenty One and Bécasse would be. Can't wait for the chance to head over there for a meal or two! 

Quarter Twenty One:  Level 5, Westfield Sydney, cnr Pitt St Mall and Market Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Quarter Twenty One on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 6, 2012

Speakeasy Bar

Located minutes from Bondi Beach is a small neighbourhood bar called Speakeasy, and when I say "small", I meant it literally. With enough seats for only 20 people, this casual and unassuming wine bar was the perfect place for us to escape a cold and wet Autumn afternoon.   

The dim lit space is decorated with low comfy couches, dark wooden tables and chairs, mirrors and red lanterns that reminded me of acorns. The menu offers both local and international wine by the glass or bottle, each wine comes with single line of description giving you a quick insight to its tasting notes. There is also a handful of liqueurs and spirits listed on the gold menu pages, but you'll have to ask the waiter about beers. 

Food here is designed for sharing and are grouped into "Little bits" such as warm organic bread,  olives, muhammara; "Bigger bits" like Mushroom medley with zataar, pinenuts & shaved manchego cheese, Moroccan spiced chicken wings served with herbed yoghurt dip; and breakfast dishes such as Bruschetta with boiled eggs, roast potato, prosciutto and aioli for the weekends. Several cured meat and cheese plates are also on the menu while specials and dessert are written on the chalk board on the wall.

Wagyu beef, fig, pumpkin tagine
Looking for something to tide us over till dinner, we ordered the Chicken liver pate with sweet & sour onions & organic sourdough toast and warm organic bread with chalk board special Wagyu beef, fig, pumpkin tagine. The pate came in a jar with a layer of protective butter, it was soft and rich, spread smoothly across the toasts. The Wagyu beef was slow-cooked to perfection, the addition of fig, chickpeas, pumpkin and herbs gave the dish a beautiful spicy, yet fresh Moroccan flavour. 

I asked our waitress to suggest a wine to go with the beef and Postales’ oak aged malbec Patagonia from Argentina was poured, needless to say it matched the dish nicely.

It was its prohibition era name that drew us in, but once inside the wine and food kept us happy and its bohemian decor, in particular the large nude painting near the window made some great talking points. Small and intimate, Speakeasy is a great place to relax and catch up with friends over a glass of wine and a few delicious Asian and mediterranean inspired dishes. 

Speakeasy Bar: 83 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026  Speakeasy Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hudson Meats

Hudson Meats, Surry Hills' local butcher has been expanding its wings across town over the past few years, adding stores in Cammeray, Lane Cove and most recently, Mosman.

Jonathan talking about the whole Suffolk Lamb
I was among one of the lucky winners of a Google Places contest to attended a Talk & Taste evening at Hudson Meats. We were treated to a butchery demonstration of how a whole Suffolk Lamb is broken down into different cuts!

It was quite a sight to see a whole lamb on the table and watching our lovely Irish butcher Jonathan and star apprentice Diana, expertly cutting into the lamb and breaking it into more recognisable pieces was strangely fascinating. 

Ever wondered why dry-aged beef dishes in restaurants are always so expensive? Well, I finally found out the reason behind it. It is not only because of the quality of the meat, but the fact that 20% of the meat is lost during the 6 weeks long dry-aging process.

What I also found out during the evening is that Hudson Meats follows the Paddock to Plate philosophy and specialises in sourcing regional produce and often work directly with the farmers. Two thumbs up right there.

The best tip from the evening? How to make the perfect roast. It's always better to cook the meat for longer over lower temperature than the other way around; and always, always rest your meat, that is, once the oven is turned off, ajar the pot lid open with a wooden spoon while the oven cools, this will give you a moist, tender roast.

Hudson Meats Surry Hills store
Co-owner Jeff suggested that when shopping at Hudson Meats, be prepared to ask questions, but also get ready to answer questions at the same time. The more they know about what you are planning or want to do with the meat the better they can help you.

A team of passionate butchers who love to teach their customers all about the food they are buying and would happily take on any challenge thrown their way, this is just the kind of stuff that makes you want to call Hudson Meats your local butcher even if you don't live close by. If only we had more butchers of this calibre...

Hudson Meats: 410 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marquee Sydney

Projection stage with LED DJ booth
While I'm usually out and about after work, finding me in a nightclub mid week would be pretty rare, but I could not pass on the opportunity to attend the preview evening of Marquee ahead of its official launch this weekend. If what I saw last night was any indication of what's to come, then Marquee will be THE hottest club this year. 

The 30 foot projection stage with an LED DJ booth in the Main Room literally wow'ed me. The sight was impressive. I shall find my way back here one weekend and give one of the two dance floors a good wear. 

A little further into the venue is The Boom Box, it boosts its own DJ, reserved seating and an outdoor patio area. Head to the bar and take in its cool design with a touch of industrial feel and a bright sign will point you towards The Library, the third room in the club. It offers a more relaxed lounge experience, with books on the wall and a working fireplace. 

Want to be pampered and be treated like an VIP? You need not look further. Book a table for your night out and you'll be looked after by your very own cocktail server and waitstaff who will do their best to fulfil your every need. I think I'm going to need a better paying job to support my love of partying it up in the VIP area. 

At the back of the club is a chill-out area with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and city skyline, the white unisex bathroom lounge is spacious and bright, eyedrops and hairspray are on hand if the need should ever arise. 

Sharing the same operator as clubs of the same name in New York and Las Vegas has to be a major bonus. Given Tao Group's massive network and relationship with some of the top artists in music, it won't be long till we see some big names come our way.

Marquee opens its door this weekend, while invites to the private launch party on Friday night featuring Afrojack are hard to come by, I'm still hoping for mine to magically appear in my mailbox; you can breath easier for the official opening night on Saturday with in the DJ booth, tickets are on the door.

Could the hype due to its novelty? Well, that's a question only time can answer. So in the mean time, boys and girls, dress to impress and check out what is destined to be the hottest clubbing venue in town.

Marquee Sydney: The Star, Pirrama Road harbourside entrance, Pyrmont, NSW 2009

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Blocks by Penfolds

The search for great wine, food and art on a windy Friday afternoon led us to The Blocks, a collaboration between Penfolds and renowned London-based designers Studio Toogood.

Located in one of the warehouse spaces on the wharf in Walsh Bay, this pop-up wine bar encourages visitors to explore, learn, and discover their palates through sight, touch and smell.

Gubinge (Kakadu Plum)
While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, we got to try some Gubinge or Kakadu Plum, native to Western Kimberly, a traditional source of bush tucker, antiseptic and a healing remedy for the Indigenous people. Even though they don't look like much, these stone fruits have been identified as the natural source food with the highest vitamin C content on the planet.

A large part of the warehouse space is taken over by more than 260 bespoke Toogood pieces and art installations by five emerging Australian artists. The Experience is all about exploring the Blocks, five giant wooden totems and corresponding art installations, followed by tasting some of the best wine and food matched by executive Chef Jock Zonfrillo (Magill Estate). Friendly sommeliers are on hand to explain the concept to visitors.

There are 5 groups of wine, each represented by a wooden totem and art installation, while each totem is impregnated with different bespoke scents produced in conjunction with a perfumer for this event; the art installations are local artists' interpretations of the words used to describe the flavours, colours and aromas of each group of wine.

After taking some time wandering through the bespoke Toogood pieces and taking in the art installations, we settle around a table and began our tasting journey. Most of our table opted for a tasting (4x75 ml glass) from one of the five wine brackets and several of the Chef's recommended food pairings.

Wine can also be ordered by the glass or should you fancy, by the bottle. However, Mary Penfolds is the only cocktail on the menu and sorry boys, no beers at this wine bar.

I went for number 4, Regional. Notes for this bracket are: authentic; of the land; organic; real; defined borders; expressive of a sense of place; honest. The wines for tasting in this bracket are:

2010 Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
2010 Penfolds Cellar Reserve McLaren Vale Tempranillo
2007 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Barossa Valley Sangiovese
2010 Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre. 

Wagyu, truffle
A very worthy mention is the Wagyu, truffle dish, it was simply divine when matched with the wine. We loved it so much, we had to order a second serving.

If you are a wine lover then you must go and explore this amazing space that houses great wine, delicious food and beautiful art all under one roof.

Make sure you keep an eye on the date as this pop-up venue will only be in Sydney till the 5th of April, then it's off to Melbourne before touring around the world.

Blink and you'll miss it.

The Blocks: Pier 2/3, 13 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, NSW 2000  Blocks By Penfolds on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bondi Hardware

A stone throw away from the beach, Bondi Hardware was buzzing on a cool autumn night.

The ceiling looks like upside down planter boxes, especially with the hanging plants coming out of them. I found the small water glasses rather cool, it made me feel like I was about to have a shot of vodka each time I went to pick it up for a sip of water.

For the real deal, my friend sipped on a Section Seventy Seven (white rum blended with Pama Pomegranate liqueur, coconut, pineapple, lychees and ice) while I went for the Green Grass (Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka with pear syrup, lime & home-made green apple juice served very long over rocks with a splash of soda), it was refreshing but definitely had a kick to it.

We weren't very hungry so decided to order a few dishes to share, starting with the Tuna ceviche with avocado & toasted sour dough toasts. For those who are not familiar with ceviche, it is a dish typically made of raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers, served with ingredients that compliments its flavours. A simple but amazing dish.

The Nicoise of ocean trout (with tomato, olives, capers, kipfler potato, green beans, boiled egg & white balsamic dressing) not only look good but tasted fabulous. Oh and the Chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables with rosemary & garlic dressing, one word, WOW.

This is a great place to chill with friends, it does get pretty loud as the room fills up, especially during the weekends, but the great cocktails and delicious food, plus super friendly staff makes it all worthwhile.

Bondi Hardware: 39 Hall Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026  Bondi Hardware on Urbanspoon