Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sydney Private Dining Rooms

Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners S.r.l

Something I get asked on a regular basis is “which restaurants have private dining rooms” – so I have compiled a list, reasonably comprehensive but certainly not exhaustive! Some of them are semi private, and of course many restaurants will allow “exclusive use” (ie book out the whole thing) for larger events. Other things to check
* many will have a compulsory service charge
* most will have a minimum spend, regardless of whether you are using the room to its capacity. This often varies depending on the night of the week
* some have an additional room hire charge

If you’re just after a group banquet, and not necessarily a private room, here’s my banquet guide.

& Location
Number of Guests Website
Rushcutters Bay
Up to 14
Up to 25
A tavola,
Up 28
Aria, Sydney Up to 60
Azuma, Sydney 4 to 34
Bar H, Surry Hills Up to 25
Pavillion, Balmoral
30 to 100
Up to 70
Bishop Sessa,
Surry Hills
Up to 40
8 to 16
Blue Eye
Dragon, Pyrmont
Boathouse on
Blackwattle Bay
11 to 32
Buon Ricordo,
Up to 55
Cafe Sydney,
Up to 14
China Doll,
Up to 44
China Lane,
Up to 10
Republic, Sydney
6 to 60
20 to 40
The Commons, Darlinghurst 16
Est, Sydney Up to 16
Flying Fish,
Up to 30
Four in Hand,
Up to 30
The Gantry,
25 to 40
Century, Haymarket
8 to 24
Glass, Sydney Up to 14
Guillaume, Paddington Up to 12
Indu, Sydney 12
Ivy, Sydney Up to 22
La Scala,
Up to 26
Surry Hills
Up to 18
Lotus, Sydney CBD 8 to 40
17 to 32
Manta, Woolloomooloo Up to 32
Meat and Wine
Co, Circular Quay
10 to 12
Mercato E
, Gladesville
Up to 12
Mr Wong Up to 12
Nomad, Surry
Up to 14
Nour Restaurant, Surry Hills Up to 16
O Bar and
Dining, Sydney
Up to 28
Wildly Newtown
Up to 16
8 to 14
10 to 55
18 to 45
Surry Hills
12 to 40
Prime, Sydney Up to 32
Public Dining
Room, Balmoral
Up to 30
QT, Sydney Up to 55
Circular Quay
Up to 32
Restaurant Hubert, Sydney 8+
Rockpool Bar
& Grill, Sydney
8 to 30
Up to 14
Sake, The
Up to 30
Sepia, Sydney 20 to 30
15 to 25
Spice Temple,
Up to 12
Sugarcane, Coogee Up to 20
10 to 60
The Apollo,
Potts Point
Up to 12
The Dining
Room, Sydney
10 to 12
The Winery,
Surry Hills
16 to 40
Toko, Surry
Up to 18
6 to 18

The Botanist, Kirribilli

Run by the team behind SoCal and Bondi Hardware, the Botanist is a relaxed watering hole, combining a little history (Botanist Fothergill once occupied the space) with a contemporary feel. And while its more bar than restaurant, you can easily find plenty to eat with some unexpectedly good small bites, and a few larger sharing dishes.  Once upon a time, and for many years, fine diner Milsons occupied the space.  It now feels bigger, warmer, and more inviting, with plenty of botanistical (ok that is a made up word) touches in the décor.  There are some clever cocktails and also ‘shared cocktail jugs’ if you’re with a group.

First up we try crab and prosciutto croquettes – delicious little balls


Next up some sliders – classic beef and cheese with gherkin and relish, & southern fried chicken with aioli and sweetcorn.  I heard someone say recently that sliders are “so yesterday” but hey, who is listening to them, sliders are still great bar food


Then some filo parcels.  I don’t remember what was in these, but even though it is a couple of months since my visit, I still remember how incredibly light and flaky that filo was.


Then some kingfish tartare with avocado, jalapeno, and marjoram. This one had too much acidity which overpowered the kingfish


Next some grilled haloumi with pomegranate & bulgur wheat tabouleh – nice salty haloumi, with freshness from the pomegranate, though would have like a bit more of it.


And finally some spiced lamb skewers – this one missed the mark with overcooked lamb and a little bland


There are also some very well priced group banquet menus.

A pleasant little spot to have a nice relaxed catch up with friends.

The Botanist, 17 Willoughby St Kirribilli, Ph 02 9954 4057

The Botanist Kirribilli on Urbanspoon

Mamma Rosa’s Lemon Biscuits

When I read the recipes my mother wrote out for me in a little book, they often make me laugh. Her recipes for biscuits, dough, and bread, contain phrases that translate to “add how much flour the mixture will hold” or “add however much flour it needs” and (a favourite), “cook until ready”. But that’s because she’s never really cooked from a recipe – its always from feel, sight, and taste, so it was a really challenge for her to attempt to convert everything into quantities for me.

And I must admit if you make certain things enough it does work that way. For my morning coffee biscuits, which I make on a regular basis, I never measure the flour – I can tell if it needs more by the texture and the look of the mixture. So for this recipe, which contained two of the aforementioned phrases, the flour amount here is an approximation – add flour such that the biscuit dough will still be a little sticky, but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. I used less sugar than her originally suggested 1 1/2 cups as I didn’t want them too sweet. They are just perfect with a cup of tea. I used a tablespoon measure to measure out the dough for each biscuit, and ended up with 80 or so – Mamma Rosa doesn’t believe in small batch recipes – you need enough to hand out to your neighbours and for any visitors that come by to take home. And she proved to be right – with a few people dropping in and sending some away the first 40 were gone very quickly!

lemon biscuits (2)

Grated rind of 3 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
5 eggs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 900g self raising flour
Icing sugar, for coating

Making them
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced
2. Using an electric beater, combine the eggs and caster sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add the olive oil, grated lemon, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined
4. Fold in the baking powder and flour until combined
5. Form the dough into little balls, sprinkle with icing sugar, and place on trays with baking paper leaving 3cm or so between each biscuit
6. Cook until ready (mum’s words) – mine were done in 15 minutes or so. They go from white to brown very quickly so don’t stray too far from the oven!
7. Put on a wire rack to cool and then sit down and enjoy one or two with a cup of tea

ricetta limone

Pastry class with Lorraine Godsmark @ Accoutrement

Confident. Knowledgeable. Precise. That about sums up Lorraine Godsmark, a recognised pastry maestro in Australia, from Lorraine’s Patisserie. I’m here with a friend at the Accoutrement cooking school in Mosman for Lorraine’s pastry class. One of Accoutrement’s most popular classes,  it sells out months in advance.

Pastry has always been a bit of a nemesis of mine. I can whip up a cake or a batch of biscotti with reasonable ease these days, and although I’ve tried a few tarts, I can never be confident about the outcome, and if my effort will result in a ball of unmalleable flour and butter ending up in the bin. So who better to learn from? There are fourteen of us in the class, nice and intimate, one of whom is a very entertaining Lorraine Groupie who has followed her from shop to shop over the years.

The evening is peppered with lots of great tips, anecdotes from her time at Rockpool where it all began, and how she learned over the years from her mistakes – so she encourages us to all watch each other’s pastry making, pointing out what we need to be aware of and helping us individually with our technique . Mildly critical of modern cookbooks, she thinks recipes are often shortened by publishers to appear simple and doable for the home cook, often leading to disasters in things like pastry where precision is a must – she takes account of the fact, for example, that an egg shell weighs approximately 5 grams. For that reason Lorraine is a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s books, which are very exact in their instructions.

That night, over the course of the three hours, we go through making three pastries, and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. We only have time to make the pastry – which we get to take home – not the fillings, but the cooked final result is given to us to try (“and here’s one we prepared earlier”).

The first is a cream cheese pastry, which, as it contains no sugar, can be used for sweet or savoury. She gives us plenty useful tips
* Take your butter out of the fridge about half an hour before so that it is still hard, but not rock solid
* For this pastry she likes butter with high water content, such as Western Star, as this creates steam during the cooking process which leads to flaky pastry
* Don’t knead pastry dough. Always use a pastry cutter (which the lovely Sue from Accoutrement gave us to take home). For almost all her pastries, she uses a French technique called fresage, which involves pushing the pastry mixture in long streaks with the heal of your hand – she is very anti brining your pastry to a crumb in a food processor like in most recipes
Another common mistake is making our dough into a ball before we refrigerate it, which means it needs to be worked more when it comes to rolling time. She prefers to shape it into a flattish circle
* “Relax” your dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight before you roll it out to put into your tart tins
If you are making a big batch of pastry, after it has been relaxed it can be frozen. The best thing for frozen dough is to defrost it in the fridge overnight before use. Uncooked pastry freezes very well.
* Most recipes tell you to line your baking tin with baking paper for blind baking. She always chooses foil (spray it with a bit of canola first) as it is easy to shape right into the tin crevices, and make sure it is full to the brim with baking beads. Often we think our pastry shrinks, but it’s actually the lack of support while it is baking that causes it to lose shape rather than shrink



This pastry is used for pear and ginger brown butter tarts, that have a brown butter topping. Words can’t describe how devine these are!


The second pastry is called a Pate Sucre. She says its as close as she’ll get to giving away the date tart pastry recipe. Again for this a butter with a high water content is best. She describes this as a much “fattier” pastry, as unlike the first one it contains sugar, eggs and milk in addition to the butter. This one is also made using the fresage technique. Lorraine believes in minimising machine use for pastry.  Other than literally 10 seconds of pulsing in a food processor – it is all handworked, and when I see for myself what goes into it I fully appreciate why a slice of the date tart is $15. We try a quince franjipane tart made with this pastry. It is soooooooooooo flaky. Oh, she recommends cutting tarts with a hot knife – apparently at the bakery they heat up the knives before slicing.


The final pastry is a shortbread pastry, and for this one she recommends cultured butter. This has a different technique and involves whipping sugar and egg yolks to begin with. Its more of a biscuit type base, and I definitely prefer the first two. We try a salted caramel with a macadamia tart made with it, just gorgeous. “You’ll have to wait for the book to come out to get the filling recipe for that one”, Lorraine says, laughing (nudge nudge wink wink to publishers).


Such a wonderful evening! Stay tuned, I’ll be trying the complete recipes at home myself.

Accoutrement, 611 Military Rd, Mosman Ph (02) 9969 4911

Lorraine’s Patisserie, Shop 5, Palings Lane, Sydney, Ph (02) 9254 8009

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part I


When I did my write up on Sydney’s best cake, cannoli – a traditional Sicilian sweet – should have featured. But my favourite cannoli were from Sulfaro in Haberfield, which unfortunately closed down (Update 2015: I hear Sulfaro has now re-opened but it is different owners and not the original cannoli!). So I thought I’d compare those from a few other Italian pasticcerie around town. Cannoli are a fried pastry filled with either ricotta, a vanilla crème patissiere or a chocolate custard. Traditionally the ricotta ones (my favourite and usually the only ones I will eat, whereas the husband goes for vanilla and the kids the chocolate) will contain chopped nuts or candied peel, and there’s also often a touch of alcohol. For a mere couple of dollars, these are a great little treat. Most places will make mini and larger size ones, and most don’t fill the casings until you order them, to prevent the pastry from going soggy. They are best eaten as soon as you can after the casings are filled with your desired flavour.

On my little trip to the Inner West, where I go regularly to the Italian delicatessans, I tried those from Blue Star, Marineve, Dolcetti, and Tamborrino. Blue Star has been around for as long as I can remember. The wave of Italian migrants to Australia in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, among them my parents, would eventually change the face of dining in Australia. But back then, they struggled to find the food and products they were used to eating at home.

Blue Star was one of the early ones, bringing a piece of the familiar to a little corner in Five Dock; their “continental cake” was a standard order in our family growing up – it was there for every birthday, christening, communion, anniversary and any other special occasion. When we became teenagers we moved away from it, wanting to try things that were modern and more “trendy”. But recently we’ve gone back to the continental cake, and it fills us with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Marineve is very similar to Blue Star, the sweet Italian nonna behind the counter, and beautiful traditional sweets in the counters are just waiting to be eaten (I also recommend Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). They are old school, you won’t find a website, their customers are those they’ve had for 30 years, and their children and grandchildren.Tamborrino and Dolcetti are two of the ‘newer’ ones, though still with plenty of longevity – they serve a mixture of the traditional and the new.

So onto the taste test


The verdict? Well, frankly, they were all pretty damn good. I think they could be put into two groups in terms of style – Blue Star and Marineve in one, Dolcetti and Tamborrino in the other.

Blue Star and Marineve were more similar, and more traditional in style with a thicker ricotta filling, and chopped nuts, though Blue Star’s filling was a little sweeter. And Dolcetti and Tamborrino were similar, with the ricotta filling being thinner, probably combined with cream. Tamborrino had no nuts or peel for texture, but it did have slightly more alcohol giving it a lovely flavour. Tamborrino also had the thinnest pastry casing and Blue Star the thickest. The pastry of all of them had a good crunch, as you’d want and hope with good cannoli. So I think it depends on how you like your filling and if you like texture. Out of Blue Star and Marineve I prefer Marineve, and out of Tamborrino and Dolcetti I prefer Tamborrino. My husband and I also compared the vanilla fillings and our preference on that one was Blue Star (I also adore Blue Star’s conchiglie biscuits). But hey, you won’t go too far wrong with any of these places, and many of their other sweets.

See part II here

Blue Star Cakes, 267 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, Ph (02) 9713 9940
Marineve Pasticceria, 71 Ramsay Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 2293
Dolcetti Pasticceria, 294 Great North Road, Wareemba Ph (02) 9713 8880
Pasticceria Tamborrino, 75 Great North Road, Five Dock, Ph (02) 9712 1461

Blue Star Cakes on Urbanspoon

Marineve Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

Dolcetti Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

My mother’s recipe for a happy home

One year, a few months before my birthday, I told my mother that as a gift I would like a book with all her recipes written out for me. On the first page was this recipe, which I thought I would share for Mother’s Day. The translation is below. Thanks mum for everything. Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere. x

To my dear daughter, a Recipe For a Happy Home
Take two hearts, dissolve into one, add a lot of love and mix well with respect.
Combine kindness, smiles, joy, faith and hope, and a great deal of care. Add understanding and don’t forget a lot of patience.
Add an ear that listens, let it grow, then scatter with smiles, hugs, kisses and put in the oven, for the rest of your life.
With all the love in the world, your mum.

mums recipe

Recipe for a Happy Home



Chur Burger – Sydney’s finest?

Ok, so I’m the last person with a food blog in the Southern hemisphere, and possibly the universe, to try and then write about Chur Burger. Well, I’ve been busy, and also I’m not a burger fanatic so don’t go traipsing around Sydney especially for them. In case there is someone out there who has been trapped in a cave for several months, Chur is the burger haven of Warren Turnbull. He had the fine diner Assiette, decided fine dining was dead, opened the more casual Albion Street Kitchen, which then got burnt down in a fire (awful). He decided then he’d go with a casual burger joint, which by all accounts has paid handsomely, selling over 3,000 of the $10 burgers a week, plus fries $5, and $8 milkshakes. Never have I seen so much hype about a bun cut in half with a slab of something in the middle. Parlour Burger subsequently pretty much copied this formula (but theirs are definitely smaller for the same price, and less preferable).

I didn’t go to the original Surry Hills venue, but stumbled across their new one at Manly Wharf, near Papi Chulo. We tried the beef (with cheese, tomato jam, mustard mayo, pickle), the fish (with pickled cucumber, lemon mayo, and dill), and the pulled pork (with Chur BBQ sauce, red slaw, fennel mayo). What did we think? Not as mindblowing as the huge amount of raving led us to expect. The classic beef was my pick and the one I liked most – good quality meat and liked the tomato jam, this one is a good feed. And the others? The fish was decent but a touch underseasoned, the pork was very tender, but was missing the mark on flavour and was probably slightly on the sweet side. The brioche buns are probably a touch too soft and also seem more suited to something sweet. So I can’t proclaim this the best burger in Sydney, but I haven’t really tried enough to compare.  For $10 its not bad, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.  For $10 I’d probably prefer Asian noodles from one of Sydney’s many holes in the wall that dish up great cheap food.




Chur Burger, Manly Wharf Hotel, Surry Hills, and Paddington

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Menu Dictionary


I do often wonder if wait staff around Sydney get tired of answering “and what’s this?” when it comes to menus, and quash the urge to roll their eyes. I’ve been to a few restaurants in my time (just a few) and am constantly seeing new ingredients which leave me clueless. “Salisfy”, for instance, sounds more like a verb, than a noun (“I salsified my carrots”). And are konbu and kombu actually the same thing but someone has spelled it wrong? A quick scour of current menus at hatted establishments around town revealed that ingredients ‘du jour’ include amaranth, konbu, ponzu, wakame, and Glacier 51 toothfish (as opposed to Glacier 52, terrible quality apparently)……..and of course, kale – in fact I think Parliament may have now passed legislation that prohibits kale’s absence from any menu. Anyway a little guide to keep in your back pocket, so you can nod knowledgably when your waiter is going through the specials of the day.

Agretti                      An edible leaf also known as salt wort
Agave                       A type of succulent plant that can be made into a sweet nectar
Ajvar                         Croatian relish, typically made from bell peppers
Albacore tuna          A white tuna with milder flavour
Allemande sauce     French sauce based on a veloute but thickened with cream
Amaranth                 A seed, often referred to as a ‘superfood’
Amuse bouche         Meaning “to please the mouth”, a complimentary course , typically spoonful
or bite size, as a precursor to your meal
Bagna cauda            Italian for “hot bath”, a type of warm dip often served with julienned
Black pudding          A blood sausage, typically made from pigs blood
Bottarga                   Salted cured fish roe originating from Sicily & Sardinia
Brandade                 A puree of salt cod and potatoes
Burrata                     Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream (devine)
Cassava                    A type of root plant. It can be made into alcohol, cooked as a side dish, or
milled into a type of flour
Cavolo Nero            A black leaf kale, part of the cabbage family
Ceviche                    A seafood dish where the seafood is basically cooked using lemon or lime
Chirashi                   Vinegared sushi rice topped with vegetables or sashimi
Cotechino                Italian cured pork sausage, containing pork skin as well as meat. Must be
cooked before eating
Daikon                     White radish
Escabeche               Fish dish where fish is either poached or fried
Farro                        An ancient wheat variety with a somewhat nutty flavour
Feijoa                       Plant native to South America, often called pineapple guava
Freekeh                   Green roasted wheat
Fregola                    Type of Sardinian pasta in the shape of little beads, usually made from
Glacier 51 Toothfish   A brand of sustainable toothfish from WA vicinity
Katsuobushi            Japanese dried and fermented tuna
Kimchi                     Traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage or daikon
Kohlrabi                  A vegetable, part of the cabbage family
Koji                          A type of fungus, often used in Korean and Japanese cuisine
Kombu lettuce       Type of seaweed
Konbu                      Type of seaweed
Labne                       A Middle Eastern cheese made from strained yoghurt
Manchego               Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk
Meuniere sauce     Simple French sauce of butter, parsely, and lemon, typically used for cooking
flour coated fish
Miche                      A rustic French sourdough
Mignonette           Sauce typically served with raw oysters containing shallots, vinegar, pepper
Mojama                  Salt cured tuna
Nam Prik                Chilli based Thai hot sauce
Nasturtium            Type of edible flower
Oba leaf                 Edible green leaf used in Korean and Japanese cuisine
Oloroso sauce      Thick sherry sauce
Padron                   Variety of green pepper
Pandan                  An Asian green tropical plant whose leaves are often used in Asian desserts
Ponzu                     Japanese citrus sauce
Purslane                Also known as pig weed, an edible member of the succulent family
Remoulade            A French sauce, similar to a mayonnaise
Riberry                   A red native Australian berry
Rillette                   A rillette is like a meat ‘spread’, typically made with pork but can also be made
with duck or rabbit
Romesco               Spanish sauce usually made with almonds and red peppers
Salmoriglio           A green Italian condiment often served with meat containing parsely, oil,
lemon juice, oregano
Salsify                   A root vegetable also called the oyster plant
Salty ice plant      A plant from the succulent family
Samfaina              A vegetable sauce typically made with onions, eggplant, peppers and tomato
Sancho                 Japanese pepper
Shanklish              Type of Syrian cheese
Shiso                     An Asian herb related to mint
Skipjack                Medium size type of tuna
Sous vide             Method of cooking food in a sealed vaccuum bag submerged in water
Sukiyaki               Japanese hot pot
Sweetbread        Nothing to do with actual bread. It is the thymus gland, especially of the calf and lamb
Tahini                   A paste made from sesame seeds an oil
Takuan                Pickled radish
Tobiko                 Flying fish roe (that orange stuff you sometime see on top of sushi rolls)
Tonnato              An Italian mayonnaise type sauce flavoured with tuna
Trompette          A dark mushroom sometimes called ‘false truffle’
Umeboshi          Pickled ume fruits, often called Japanese salt plums
Upland cress      A type of herb with a peppery taste
Vacherin             Type of creamy cow’s milk cheese
Veloute               A French soup or sauce, usually made from chicken, veal or fish stock and
thickened with butter and flour
Verjuice              An acidic juice made from unripe grapes; also verjus
Wakame             Another type of edible seaweed

Papi Chulo, Manly


Papi Chulo apparently means “pretty boy” or similar in Spanish. Was Justin naming the venue after himself? It’s the Merivale empire’s first move to the Northern Beaches. Looking out over Manly Wharf, the vibe is laid back, the salsa and other Latin American tunes humming in the background. Woodfire, charcoal, and smoking feature heavily on the menu, which is a mixture of South American and the “deep South of the USA” (with a very sideways twist to Vietnam for a salad). Since my better half is a vegacquarian, we didn’t try any of the BBQ meats (and I have had mixed reviews on these from friends with a few disappointed) but the seafood and vegetable dishes we tried were all great.

It’s not perfect, but there is no doubt Justin Hemmes has another hit on his hands.

Summer pea guacamole with tortilla chips. A clever idea using peas instead of avocado – it was fresh, vibrant and had a good chilli kick.


Grilled corn on the cob, smoked cheese, lime. There was also a sprinkling of paprika. Tasty combination.


Croquettes mushroom and heidi gruyere croquettes – delicious, but awfully small for $12 – should have been a few more.


BBQ baby octopus – grilled zucchini flowers, spring onions, soft herbs.  The octopus was wonderfully smokey and went well with the fresh herbs, probably our favourite dish.


Jumbo king prawns, lemongrass and coconut dressing. Huuuuge prawns! And a great tangy dressing.


As sides, we got the Curly fries (crunchy but not particularly tasty) and the refreshing Vietnamese coleslaw.


Not so cool – there is a Papi Chulo burger with the works on the menu, we got a plain cheeseburger version for the offspring, and they charged us full freight for it – $18.

We finished with the warm chocolate chip cookie, vanilla malt ice-cream, butterscotch sauce, macadamia brittle. It’s a rich dessert so good for two to share. Particularly loved the texture and flavour of the macadamia brittle.


Papi Chulo, 22-23 Manly Wharf,Manly ph (02) 9240 3000

Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon