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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hemingway's Manly

After a late lunch at a near by cafe just off Manly beach, we decided to drop by Hemingway's to kick up our heels and chill with a few cocktails. As we settled around the corner wooden table near the bi-fold red windows, a dark brown apothecary-styled bottle and 4 glasses with ice were brought to our table, Hendrick's Gin on the rocks to start our afternoon? Not a bad idea, but, it was just water. 

Self described as a small bar and casual dining place, Hemingway's Manly pays homage to the American author and journalist who was known to enjoy his drinks, perhaps a little too much.

The dining room upstairs is a relax and intimate affair and at dinner time serves up dishes such as 'kiev' (spatchcock, black garlic, corn, asparagus) and 'sticks & stones' (scotch quail eggs, marrow, crostini, salsa verde). I must remember to come here for a meal when I find myself in the neighbourhood again. 

Hemingway's Cup
The bar downstairs is casual and friendly, white metal garden chairs and tables, bar stools, wooden tables and cushioned benches and a bookcase filled with books of various topics against a feature wall.

The menu is made up of pages stabled inside old encyclopaedias. The "Liquor" section offers beer & cider, wine, suggested mixers and house cocktails. A selection of bar food and desserts can be found under the "Food" section. 

The house cocktails are an interesting bunch. My friend's Coola (Gin, apple, Cottee's, lemon, Midori, aeroplane jelly) reminded me of a kid's cordial drink with its bright green colour; whilst my Hemingway’s cup (Hendricks Gin, rose & apple tea, cucumber, sugar & spice) made me think of high tea. It was served with a floating rose bud in a tea cup, and accompanied by sliced cucumbers instead of biscuits. Both cocktails were light and refreshing and would suit a nice summery day to a T.

One dish caught my eyes while I was looking through the desserts page, and I just had to order it: pb&j (peanut butter parfait, raspberry, brioche, jelly, sorbet, brittle, jam). It sounded delicious on paper, looked extremely appetising on the plate, and tasted like guilty pleasures with its sweet frozen peanut butter parfait ice cream, crunchy bits of peanut brittle and brioche, and finished off with melt-in-your-month freeze dried raspberries. 

Sipping cocktails while looking out through the open bi-fold windows and enjoying the view of the beach and water across the road on a late Sunday afternoon, now, that was time well spent.

Hemingway's: 48 North Steyne, Manly, NSW 2095  Hemingway’s Manly on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 16, 2012

Felix - Bistro and Bar

A little slice of Europe has found its way into an alleyway right in the middle of Sydney CBD. Under the Merivale group banner Felix Bistro and Bar, designed as a romantic homage to the classy French brasserie, serves up a classic French inspired menu complete with a long list of French wines.

Occupying the space across from Ash St Cellar, Felix was the perfect late night stop for us after a few rounds of cocktails at the Den. A bar at one end and open kitchen at the other, the large space is elegantly decorated. Tiled floors, walls featuring authentic subway tiles from Paris, ornate bread stations, banquettes, booths, bentwood chairs and fringed table lamps sitting on crispy white tablecloth gave it the perfect finishing touch. The longer I sat at the table, the more I felt like I was back in Paris. And the fact that I was just sitting down for dinner at 9.30pm and being served by friendly and helpful waiters in traditional long aprons reminded me even more of the time I've spent in the city of light.

Felix Bloody Mary
After all the cocktails I drank earlier in the night, I was going to be good and keep my dinner alcohol-free, it was a school night after all. That is, until my friend gave me the drinks menu and pointed out the Felix Bloody Mary (Coriander infused Belvedere vodka served with Felix summer mary mix).

Ever since my Hawaii trip I have been on the hunt for a good Bloody Mary that could match the version created by RumFire in Waikiki, and almost a year later I think I have finally found one. This was THE best Bloody Mary I've had in Sydney so far. I went for the spicy version and got completely hooked on it after the first few sips, I could easily sit there and drink it all night long.

A complimentary basket of freshly sliced bread arrived soon after the Bloody Mary, and I have to say, it came with the softest creamy butter.

Duck Confit
We decided to skip entrée and go straight for the main as it was quite late. There were some classic French dishes on offer, but I went straight for the Duck confit, red grapes, walnut, frisee and radicchio. The meat fell off the bone with the slightest touch from my fork, it was moist and soft, its flavours well balanced by the bittersweetness from the grapes and radicchio. Delightful. My friend had the Grilled pork neck, roasted nectarines, baby spinach, honey and mustard and she loved the way the nectarines complimented the pork.

When it came to dessert time, it didn't take long for us to agree on the Bombe Alaska with lemon curd and berry compote. Sweet and sour, light and soft, perfect finish to a delicious meal.

With impressive walls of wine and a special dish for each day, Felix is definitely worthy checking out. I'm very tempted to head back for the Beef bourguignon, the Plats Du Jour for Thursdays, and their Bloody Mary of course. 

Chefs Lauren Murdoch and Nathan Johnson have certainly done a great job with the menu, a well deserved One Hat from SMH's 2012 GFG

Bon appétit!

Felix: 2 Ash Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Felix - Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuscan Tuesdays @ Hugo's Bar Pizza

It has been a while since I last visited Hugo's Bar Pizza, but I've always loved their "Sunday Sessions". A bunch of friends and half priced pizzas, great way to chill out on a Sunday afternoon. And now Hugo's has given us another reason to drop by, but this time it's during the week - Tuscan Tuesdays, where a glass of wine, starter and main (pizza or pasta) will only set you back $30. That's right people, you heard it right. And we are not talking about some cheap and cheerful food here, as long as I can remember, the food at Hugo's have always been excellent, tonight was no exception.

My friend knew that I could never pass on the opportunity to order a cocktail, as soon as I sat down she pointed out that while waiting for me to arrive she has ordered herself The delicious sour (Applejack, Creme de Peche, freshly squezzed lime juice & sugar, served with a sugar crust rim), a smooth, citrusy blend. Looking for a more fruity drink, I settled on the Notorious Cobbler (muddled citrus fruits mixed with rich fig and blackberry liqueurs, Martell VS, sugar & fresh lemon, served tall over ice) and I was not disappointed. 

Wagyu bresoala
For our Tuscan Tuesdays meal I had the 42˚ South Pinot Noir, its red berry flavours went extremely well with the starter, Wagyu bresoala and artichoke crostini with whipped goats curd, served with toasted crusty bread, which I loved.

When dinning out my preference of pasta tend to be one with tomato based sauce, but tonight I thought I'd go with something different, and it certainly paid off. The Angel hair pasta with rare tuna, chilli, capers, Parmesan, rocket & extra virgin olive oil was delightful. Soft and velvety tuna, piquant and tangy cappers, rich and peppery rocket and just enough chilli to give the dish a hot spicy taste that's well balanced and not at all overpowering.

The Pork belly pizza (slow roasted pork belly with sweet & sour onions and radicchio) was flavourful and the contrast between the sweet and sour onions and the bitter radicchios worked extremely well. No wonder Hugo's has won many Best Pizza awards over the years, just look at the delicious combinations they come up with! 

Pineapple semifreddo
I have always felt that a meal without dessert is just not a complete meal, so if you still have room after all the food, then there is no excuse not to check out the desserts. The Pineapple semifreddo with Italian meringue & ginger infused pineapple was the perfect conclusion to my meal. The ginger infused pineapple caught me off guard, but in a good way. The flavour was intense, sweet, spicy and very savoury. Of course if you love pizza as much as my friend does, then you can't go pass the Chocolate & hazelnut pizza with ricotta, banana, icing sugar & vanilla gelato. 

The night started out pretty quiet, only a few people were around when I walked in, but by the time we left around 10pm, conversations were abuzz, a very decent turn out for a Tuesday night. Causal, relaxed setting paired with attentive and friendly service, Hugo's Bar Pizza is a great place to catch up with friends, be it on the weekends or after work during weekdays. The soft mood lighting in the evening also makes it an ideal place to take your date out for a meal or a few drinks. If nothing else tempts you, the value for money Tuscan Tuesdays should at least please your wallet.

Hugo's Bar Pizza: 33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, NSW 2011  Hugos Bar Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 5, 2012

Design Bar by Classique

Dreamtime and Whisky Sour
Design Bar by Classique, formerly known as C-ique Design Bar, reopened its doors in January after a complete makeover. 

The bar itself occupies the ground floor and produces some excellent and creative cocktails. For a  refreshing drink, go for The Nightingale (Hendrick's gin, Pimm's No. 1, French Canton ginger liqueur, fresh mint leaves, lime juice, pressed lemon zests, ginger beer). Or if you are feeling patriotic, try Dreamtime (Tasmanian vodka, Tambourine Mountain lemon myrtle liqueur, house eucalyptus syrup). During happy hour, a complimentary sharing plate will come with every two cocktails purchased, so bring your friends and share the love!

Up the stairs is the furniture showroom that doubles as a function centre, all the fabulous Italian and French designer furnitures will make you feel like you are visiting someone's house rather than attending an event at a function centre. Whilst I can't tell the difference between a Phillippe Starck and Matteograssi, I can still appreciate the beauty in the pieces. Each and every one of them simply oozes elegance, prestige and screams "take me home". If only I had more room at home...

Even though we were there on a Friday night, given the wet weather, the bar stayed quiet, which suited us just fine. No crowd meant no wait at the bar! It'd probably been a very different story if the sun was out. The outdoor area expands into the courtyard and the lounges looked ridiculously comfortable.

Sipping cocktails while lounging on beautiful designer furnitures, what's not to like?

Design Bar by Classique: St. Margrets Urban Village, 423-4235 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010  Design Bar by Classique on Urbanspoon