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.

Restaurant
& Location
Number of Guests Website
ACME,
Rushcutters Bay
Up to 14 http://www.weareacme.com.au
Ananas,
Sydney
Up to 25 http://www.ananas.com.au
A tavola,
Darlinghurst
Up 28 http://www.atavola.com.au
Aria, Sydney Up to 60 http://www.ariarestaurant.com
Azuma, Sydney 4 to 34 http://www.azuma.com.au
Bar H, Surry Hills Up to 25 http://www.barhsurryhills.com
Bather’s
Pavillion, Balmoral
30 to 100 http://www.batherspavilion.com.au
Bentley,
Sydney
Up to 70 http://www.thebentley.com.au
Bishop Sessa,
Surry Hills
Up to 40 http://www.bishopsessa.com.au
Bloodwood,
Newtown
8 to 16 http://www.bloodwoodnewtown.com
Blue Eye
Dragon, Pyrmont
10+ http://www.blueeyedragon.com.au
Boathouse on
Blackwattle Bay
11 to 32 http://www.boathouse.net.au
Buon Ricordo,
Paddington
Up to 55 http://www.buonricordo.com.au
Cafe Sydney,
Sydney
Up to 14 http://www.cafesydney.com
China Doll,
Woolloomooloo
Up to 44 http://www.chinadoll.com.au
China Lane,
Sydney
Up to 10 http://www.chinalane.com.au
China
Republic, Sydney
6 to 60 http://www.chinarepublicrestaurant.com.au
Chiswick,
Woollahra
20 to 40 http://www.chiswickrestaurant.com.au
The Commons, Darlinghurst 16 http://www.thecommons.com.au
Est, Sydney Up to 16 http://www.merivale.com.au/est
Flying Fish,
Pyrmont
Up to 30 http://www.flyingfish.com.au
Four in Hand,
Paddington
Up to 30 http://www.fourinhand.com.au
Fred’s,
Paddington
8 http://www.merivale.com.au/freds
The Gantry,
Sydney
8+ http://www.thegantry.com.au
Garfish,
Manly
25 to 40 http://www.garfish.com.au
Golden
Century, Haymarket
8 to 24 http://www.goldencentury.com.au
Glass, Sydney Up to 14 http://www.glassbrasserie.com.au
Guillaume, Paddington Up to 12 http://www.guillaumes.com.au
Indu, Sydney 12 http://www.indudining.com.au
Ivy, Sydney Up to 22 http://www.merivale.com.au/ivy
La Scala,
Paddington
Up to 26 http://www.lascalaonjersey.com.au
Longrain,
Surry Hills
Up to 18 http://www.longrain.com
Lotus, Sydney CBD 8 to 40 http://www.lotusdining.com.au
Lucio’s,
Paddington
17 to 32 http://www.lucios.com.au
Manta, Woolloomooloo Up to 32 http://www.mantarestaurant.com.au
Meat and Wine
Co, Circular Quay
10 to 12 http://www.themeatandwineco.com
Mercato E
Cucina
, Gladesville
Up to 12 http://www.mercatoecucina.com.au
Mr Wong Up to 12 http://www.merivale.com.au/mrwong
Nomad, Surry
Hills
Up to 14 http://www.restaurantnomad.com.au
Nour Restaurant, Surry Hills Up to 16 http://www.noursydney.com
O Bar and
Dining, Sydney
Up to 28 http://www.obardining.com.au
Oscillate
Wildly Newtown
Up to 16 http://www.oscillatewildly.com.au
Otto,
Woolloomooloo
8 to 14 http://www.ottoristorante.com.au
Pendolino,
Sydney
10 to 55 http://www.pendolino.com.au
Pilu,
Freshwater
18 to 45 http://www.piluatfreshwater.com.au
Porteno,
Surry Hills
12 to 40 http://www.porteno.com.au
Prime, Sydney Up to 32 http://www.gposydney.com
Public Dining
Room, Balmoral
Up to 30 http://www.publicdiningroom.com.au
QT, Sydney Up to 55 http://www.qtsydney.com.au
Quay,
Circular Quay
Up to 32 http://www.quay.com.au
Restaurant Hubert, Sydney 8+ http://www.restauranthubert.com
Rockpool Bar
& Grill, Sydney
8 to 30 http://www.rockpool.com
Rockpool,
Sydney
Up to 14 http://www.rockpool.com
Sake, The
Rocks
Up to 30 http://www.sakerestaurant.com.au
Sepia, Sydney 20 to 30 http://www.sepiarestaurant.com.au
Sixpenny,
Newtown
TBC http://www.sixpenny.com.au
Sokyo,
Pyrmont
15 to 25 http://www.star.com.au
Spice Temple,
Sydney
Up to 12 http://www.rockpool.com
Sugarcane, Coogee Up to 20 http://www.sugarcanerestaurant.com.au
Tetsuyas,
Sydney
10 to 60 http://www.tetsuyas.com
The Apollo,
Potts Point
Up to 12 http://www.theapollo.com.au
The Dining
Room, Sydney
10 to 12 http://www.diningroom.com.au
The Winery,
Surry Hills
16 to 40 http://www.thewinerysurryhills.com.au
Toko, Surry
Hills
Up to 18 http://www.toko-sydney.com
Waitan,
Sydney
6 to 18 http://www.waitan.net.au

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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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
http://thebotanist.com.au/

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)

Ingredients
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

lorraine1

lorraine2

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!

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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.

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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).

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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
http://www.accoutrement.com.au

Lorraine’s Patisserie, Shop 5, Palings Lane, Sydney, Ph (02) 9254 8009
http://www.merivale.com.au/lorraines-patisserie/

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part I

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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

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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.

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Chur Burger, Manly Wharf Hotel, Surry Hills, and Paddington
http://www.churburger.com.au

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon