Category Archives: Eating out

Bacco Osteria e Espresso, Sydney

A cobbled laneway.  An Italian osteria.  Chefs who know Italian food.  It’s all looking positive for Bacco, recently opened in Ash Street.  Since Fratelli Fresh fell into the hands of a large dining conglomerate and Andy Bunn left the scene, it isn’t quite the same, so was good to see a new casual Italian diner around this end of town.  It’s a handy spot to catch up with a friend for a chat, who is about to make me jealous with her itinerary of three months of travel.

The interior is unfussy, true to an osteria style.  And the menu is compact but broadly appealing, other than some specific offal dish which doesn’t tempt us.  Be prepared to get to know your neighbours, the tables along the side wall are so close to each other that they may as well have been joined.  Not the place if you’re looking for privacy.

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The dishes we try are tasty and the flavours good. What lets them down that night is the service. Drinks have to be chased, attention is hard to come by, and when my credit card payment doesn’t get processed properly there’s more waiting because the waitress disappears so fast that I can’t catch anyone’s eye to fix it. A runner would have been easy. So there’s a bit of work to be done but it’s early days. Anyway here is what we try

A couple of simple potato and prosciutto croquettes. I’m partial the odd croquette, especially when they have a good crunchy coating.

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The artichokes with straciatella is Italian simplicity done well. The straciatella is gorgeous

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Grilled quail with witlof and pine nuts.  Simple, nicely cooked quail but the dressing is a little tart for my liking.

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The pasta dishes are very nicely executed. Though at $24 and $26 they don’t have the portion generosity of a Flour Eggs Water. CBD rents and all that.

Gnocchi with pistachio – petite little pillows combine with nutty crunch

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Strozzapretti with a pork and guanciale ragu – very nice indeed.

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Bacco Osteria e Espresso, 1 Angel Place, Sydney Ph 02 9235 3383
http://www.bacco.com.au

Bacco Osteria e Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tel Aviv, Israel

After four days in Jerusalem, our next stop was Tel Aviv, city by the sea.  Our meeting schedule here was jam-packed.  We were all inspired and excited by the companies and people we met, but we were all pretty shattered by the end of the trip.  We crammed in an incredible amount in eight days in Israel (plus over 50 hours to get there and back, transit connections are not ideal so be prepared!). There were a few office sandwich and salad meals but we did have some lovely dinners.

One of the people we met was the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai. What a character! 18 years on the job and so full of enthusiasm and love for his city, very big on connecting people and creating community, physically and via their “smart city” technology.

For something different, we had a meal at Spoons in Jaffa, run by Hila Solomon, a private dining experience rather than a restaurant.  Here we heard from six extraordinary women making a difference in different fields from medicine to law to impact investing, while eating some beautiful home style food. Among them was the leading neuroimmunologist Professor Michal Shwartz, whose work on the brain and immune system could have groundbreaking consequences on diseases like Alzheimer’s.

There was also Sivan Borowich Ya’ari, the founder of Innovation Africa, who, by bringing energy to remote villages, has had transformative impact; for instance many medical clinics could not store basic medicines and children’s vaccines because they did not have refrigeration but could once they had electricity, thus having implications for reduction in illnesses.  Energy has also allowed villages to pump water out of the ground, so that children don’t have to spend hours looking for water, and can go to school instead.

This spatchcock dish, with sumac and pomegranate molasses, was a standout.  I have asked Hila for the recipe.

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And this bread was like a cross between a pita and a pancake.  So fluffy!

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My whole life I have disliked Turkish Delight, but that is clearly because I have never tried the real thing. On the left is Turkish Delight and quince cubes. On the right is an Israeli milk pudding called malabi; extremely smooth but on its own it does not have a lot of flavour and definitely needs the extras.

Here is lovely warm Hila.  She divides her time between Tel Aviv and Sydney, and will be doing private dinners in Sydney later this year.

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I thought it was fitting that after a dinner with nearly 50 women, a man did the washing up!

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Between meetings one day, we did a super quick stop at Caesarea (“2000 years of history in five minutes”, joked our guide), a town built by Herod the Great.  There is a lot to see and explore in this sea side town, but we only had time to stop at the amphitheatre, which is now used for very select artist performances.

As I mentioned in my post on Jerusalem, I’ve written about the business aspects of this trip separately, but I will mention one company here because I really like the potential global impact of what they are doing, and, it is food related! TIPA are making compostable food grade packaging.  All those sandwich bags, cracker packets and so on, instead of taking 500 years to decompose, take six months in the TIPA product version.  The founder, Daphna Nissenbaum, founded it after getting frustrated by the amount of plastic waste simply arising from her children’s lunchboxes every day. Here’s a (crushed from my suitcase) sandwich bag I bought home.

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Now, a lot of us talk the talk on plastic waste, but will we as consumers walk it and  actually pay extra for these kind of products? At the moment, having not achieved scale and manufactured in Germany, the products are more expensive than your 500-years-to-go-away stuff. So let’s see.

We had a couple of meals at Jaffa Port, a seaside port in the Old City of Jaffa, where there are a number of restaurants, cafes, and a few shops.  It’s a pretty stretch.

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One of the meals was at The Old Man and The Sea, which gave the ultimate opportunity for a flat lay shot!

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We stopped in at this bar afterwards, not sure what the deal was with the camel’s head.

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Do also go to the Carmel Markets, full of wonderful food, and the neighbouring craft market.

There are also some pretty boutiques and cafes around the upmarket area of Neve Zedek. We passed a real estate agent and nearly keeled over at some of the apartment and house prices.

One evening we had a meal at the home of a local Muslim woman as part of the Mama program.  By catering for a meal for a group of women, it provides a form economic empowerment. Her home garden was a fertile surbuban oasis full of colour. While here we heard from the extraordinary Dr Orna Berry, who was Israel’s first female Chief Scientist, and was the first sale of an Israeli startup to a large foreign company, in her case to Seimens.

We also went to the Charles Bronfam Auditorium for a performance of The Marriage of Figaro by the Israel Philharmonic

I think we saved the best till last with a meal at Kimmel Restaurant.  The food here was just fantastic, my favourite of the trip. Though the staff told me that the restaurant was closing at the end of June after 25 years, what a shame! However the chef does have two other restaurants, one of which is called Blue Rooster.  I have gotten in contact and asked for a couple of the recipes, see how we go.

During the meal we heard from Emi Palmour, the Director General of the Department of Justice, who is absolutely awesome.  What she has done in the department in terms of achieving diversity and inclusion deserves applause.  She has built a department that is not only diverse from a gender perspective, but also diverse in its ethnic minority groups, age, and disability. There has got to be benefits in a justice department that better reflects the society it is serving.

A few other random Tel Aviv snaps below!

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Jerusalem, Israel

This month I was fortunate to attend a Women Leader’s Trade Mission to Israel, with 40 diverse and fabulous Australian women, organised by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce; our group spent four days in Jerusalem and four days in Tel Aviv. There to examine and try and understand all things innovation, it was a wonderful opportunity to experience such a complex and fascinating country.  I’ve written on the business aspects of the trip elsewhere, so here I’ll share with you some of the meals (in our 16-18 hour days we had to eat!) and our lightening fast version of sightseeing in between meetings.

With little time to waste, after our early morning flight arrival and a quick freshen up we headed to the Israel Museum.  It’s a fabulous building, and regarded as one of world’s best museums after extensive renovations in 2010. A must for archaeology fans, as it houses some of the world’s oldest pieces.  The 5,000 year old butter churner had me intrigued. (Is dairy allowed in Paleo? We’ve been eating it for a while it seems, Pete Evans). Set on 20 acres, I loved the large corridors and spaciousness and surrounding gardens. Our tour guide, Elana Ben Chaim, was just charming and delightful – grab her if you can!

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That evening for dinner we headed to Kedma, which you arrive at after a stroll through the very pleasant outdoor Mamila Mall.

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The food was delicious, and here we got a taste of the mezze style of dining we would see a lot of over the next eight days.  Vegetables and dairy feature heavily in the diet here, and very little processed or deep fried food. Every eggplant dish we tried throughout the trip was fantastic – I’m not sure if it is the variety of eggplant, the soil, the water, or the cooking technique!  The focus also seems to be more on savoury rather than sweet, with desserts taking a back seat.  I did find that in general red meat tended to be overcooked compared to what we are used to in Australia, though that may be due to kosher style of butchering, so after trying it at a couple of meals I generally skipped it. Besides there were just too many fabulous vegetable dishes to try. The Marito would have a field day in this country.

From Kedma there is also a great view of the city and the night light show against the Western Wall.

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By far the most confronting part of the trip and of life in general was our visit to the Yad Va’shem Holocaust Memorial the following morning.  An imposing and stark building, what you see inside will leave your heart heavy, your face solemn, and make you drag your feet. You can’t take photos inside but what you see will stay with you.

The capacity for unnecessary human evil is fully on display here, and walking on the pavers of the Warsaw Ghetto, seeing the abandoned shoes, the house keys that people took with them thinking that they would return home one day, touching the carriage that took children to Auschwitz, leaves you silent and rather distraught. There are lots of displays and videos but the sensitive and learned guide we had made clear enormity of the suffering of the six million lives lost.  One and a half million of them were children, amongst them newborns, who are honoured and remembered in the separate Children’s Terrace.

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At Yad Va’Shem you will also see Schindler’s List, the list of all the Jewish people Oskar Schindler saved.  Number 123 is man who now lives in Melbourne, who told our guide that his first stop whenever he visits Israel is the Catholic Cemetery to pay his respects at Schindler’s grave.

One fact our guide shared of which I was unaware, as were most of our group, was the heroism of Denmark.  They refused to accede to Hitler’s demands and brand people with stars or treat them differently, and then organised for their safe removal to Sweden. Denmark is the only country that appears in the Avenue of the Righteous.  This is a path that circles the museum which has the names of people from all around the world who risked their lives to save others from Nazi hands.  One of those is a man who now lives in Melbourne, who was honoured in 1991. Another who is honoured is Irena Sendler, a Polish Social worker who saved over 2,000 children.

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We stopped at Nafour Restaurant to recover and for a mezze refuel. It has a nice outdoor courtyard at the back.

From here we went for an unfortunately too short visit of the Old City of Jerusalem. I would have loved more time wandering the cobbled streets, so do leave yourself a good amount of time if you find yourself here.  There were some very interesting looking market stalls and an endless selection of spices.

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The Old City, a UNESCO World heritage site, is divided into quarters – Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.  In the Christian quarter you’ll come across the Holy Sepulchre.  Inside is the site of the crucifixion of Jesus, where his body was laid to be shrouded, and the site of his tomb.  I sent some photos to the Small People as I walked through and one of them replied “surely that’s not real?”.  You have to make up your own mind.

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If you’re walking through the Old City, particularly in the evening, it is also hard to miss The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic Temple and holy site and one of the world’s oldest examples of Islamic architecture.   At the moment, visitors are not allowed inside, so you can only wander the outer square.

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We also did a breakneck speed stop at the Dead Sea.  It was one on my bucket list! The Earth’s lowest elevation, it is about ten times saltier than your average ocean.  Doesn’t smell the best either and avoid splashing, apparently it tastes even worse.  But yes you do float straight away, it’s a really weird feeling!  Girlies no shaving beforehand, you’ll feel the sting of all that salt! We did give ourselves a good body scrub though, it was a good laugh.

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deadseaOne for ancient history lovers is Masada, the site of Herod the Great’s Fortress.  How on earth did they do that 2,000 years ago? For the fit and those ready to brave the heat, you can climb to the top via stairs, otherwise there is a cable car.

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We had a traditional Sabbath Dinner and heard from  Rabbi Yael Kari, a female Rabbi from the Israel Movement for Reform, a modern form of Judaism.  She was so lovely and serene.  And I’m not sure if all Sabbath dinners are like this, but there was a crazy amount of food, including good old Jewish Penicillin, chicken soup.

One evening after a geopolitical briefing (the geopolitics of Israel will make your head spin) we headed to the Western Wall, a very holy place of prayer for Judaism. At 9.30pm it was very busy.  There are separate sides for men and women; the male side looked quite social, with many men sitting and having a chat, whereas the female side was definitely less so and pure prayer was the order of the day.

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You can wall the full length of the Western Wall in the underground tunnels, very cool, and not one for the claustrophobic.

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Oh I must mention the breakfast at the King David Hotel where we stayed.  One of the best hotel breakfasts ever!  Just loved the salads and the vegetable tarts and pies in particular.

 

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It is a very grand old style hotel, and also a very busy one, I have never seen so many families and children running about in a luxury hotel. I shot took this picture of the foyer early one morning in a rare moment of quiet.

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A few more snaps of Jerusalem below, some from my fantastic fellow travellers.   A truly interesting city and would love to go back and spend more time there.

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Next stop – Tel Aviv.

 

Restaurant Hubert, Sydney

Push open the heavy door. The sound of Jazz music comes up the spiral staircase.  Descend said stairs past thousands and thousands of mini-bar style bottles.  To my right is a queue of people waiting for a spot at a cosy bar with its own bar menu.  To my left is the restaurant, full of relaxed, post work chatter.   A grand piano sits on a small stage, red curtains behind it.   It is waiting for someone to belt out some Gershwin or Piaf.  Welcome to Hubert, dripping in atmosphere and conviviality.

Hubert was one of the hottest openings of 2016, it was near impossible to get a spot unless you were willing to get there for a Nursery Hour dinner or, at the other end of the spectrum,  at the time you’d usually be lining up at Golden Century for post drinking salt and pepper squid.  The website had people cursing in frustration – in the first few months there was no menu to peruse, no bookings except for 6 or more and only allowed within a certain number of days in advance, no phone number if you needed to make a change, dinner only, lunch mas non, and truly suboptimal lighting for ‘Grammers.  Other than the booking policy and the lighting, the other things have thankfully changed.

On my first visit I thought that the place was perhaps a wee bit overhyped.  On my second visit though, coinciding with their one year anniversary, I bought into the dream. There’s some pretty fine French fare going on here so take a bunch of your friends so you can work your way through it, some of the plates are too big for two to share.  There was a wonderful sounding whole duck special that night, but designed for 3-4. No surprise that the place got a two hats debut.

The very long wine menu makes for some entertaining reading, peppered with a staff Q&A. There are several pages just of whisky, so my friend thought that no pinot gris by the glass was a little black cross.

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The bread bought to the table is just excellent, and so is the butter; it would be easy to gorge on it.  But I’m surprised that it is what goes with the smooth and delicious duck pate, I would have preferred some thin crisps instead.

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Love the wagyu tartare (what’s left of it, I forgot to take a photo); unusual combo with the French fries, which are smattered in herbs and finger licking good

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The Clams Normande come in a light buttery fish stock, I dip the bread in so as to soak it all up.

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The pickled octopus with kipfler is a bit too acidic for me, but that’s my fault for not reading the word pickled on the menu.

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I’m also not that big a fan of the much talked about Malakoff, a deep fried gruyere.  One mouthful does the job, it is quite rich.

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But I love the lobster spaghetti, done in a lobster sauce with cherry tomatoes and chives.

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The John Dory provencal is simply done, poached with a topping of tomato, olive oil and basil.

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The crew put their own spin on Pommes Anna, taking the potatoes vertical instead of the typical French horizontal.  Ah that beurre blanc.

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On my second visit though the four dishes my friend and I had ordered were bought to the table all in extremely quick succession and we ran out of room, perching one precariously on a wooden divider. Gotta turn those tables folks. Long and leisurely is not the name of the game if you eat before 8.30pm.

I did love both the desserts I tried.  They are very generously sized, and easily shared between two.

The Santa Claus melon with finger lime, sorrel jelly and young coconut sorbet is wonderfully refreshing.

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Having had a few enjoyable vacherin desserts in my time – typically layers of meringue and cream – I decide to try theirs.  It makes me chuckle, it looks like it should have a barbie doll sticking out of the top of it – remember those barbie toilet roll holders? Lurking behind the cream is the meringue, which when smashed though reveals a delicious combination of sauternes ice cream, honeycomb, lemon and mandarin.

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There’s a private dining area available and also a banquet menu for groups.

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Restaurant Hubert, Basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney
Ph 9232 9881
http://www.restauranthubert.com/

Restaurant Hubert Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flour Eggs Water, Tramsheds Harold Park

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The folk from A Tavola know their pasta and do it well, and they’ve expanded the family with the opening of Flour Eggs Water at the recently redeveloped Tramsheds precinct.  It’s a long narrow space where you can sit at a bench or on a communal table, and where you’ll be warmly welcomed by the staff, as I was on both my visits.   It isn’t an overly long menu, but one that changes regularly depending on what’s seasonal, and you’ll recognise a few favourites from the original A Tavola in Darlinghurst.  The menu is a little bit of a meander through Italy, as you’ll see a bit of Sicily, a bit of Sardinia, and some Calabria and Piedmonte thrown in for good measure.

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Start off with some beautiful San Daniele prosciutto and a hunk of buffalo mozzarella. It was gone in seconds.   They also give you some house focaccia which is so light and airy, but we ate it too quickly to take a picture of it!

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We tried the cuttlefish with fregola and pane carasau (there’s your Sardinia) with watermelon and mint. The latter ingredients added beautiful freshness and the cuttlefish was well cooked, but I did find the dish a little dry, it needed more of a dressing.

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On the other hand the beef tartare is a bit too saucy and acidic and the beef is a bit lost.  Excellent crunchy slivers of bread served with it though.

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But then the pasta arrives and shines.  Even Mamma Rosa gives it a tick of approval, so it must be good.

The malloreddus with pork and porcini is fragrant and rich and just gorgeous.  It’s a very generous serve too.

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Vegetarians will be absolutely delighted with the agnolotti dal plin (there’s your Piedmonte), with eggplant, scamorza, ricotta, salata.  The problem is it is so delicious the non vegetarians will want to steal it.

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Crab fans will enjoy the mezzelune with crab, ricotta and asparagus.  They come in a bit of a bisque.  One of my sorelle finds it a bit too fishy but I enjoy it.

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I also rate the chittara al nero di sepia with prawns, basil and pistachio (hello Sicily).  Chittara means “guitar”, the pasta being so named as it is traditionally made using a tool with strings, like a guitar. Lovely flavour combination, must try and make this at home.

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The pappardelle with lamb is one of their signatures.  The pasta is silky smooth. I do like lamb, but not in ragu form, so this wasn’t a favourite for me.

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Accompany your pasta with a refreshing salad.  Loved the red cabbage salad with raisins and walnuts.

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Otherwise there’s radicchio with witlof with fennel, orange mint and lemon.

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If you have room for dessert, there’s a few A Tavola favourites.

There’s the tiramisu, which in taste reminds me very much of my version.

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Or the cremino al cioccolato (from the original Darlinghurst venue), which looks like a cappuccino but isn’t.

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If you’re too full but just want a little sweet, try a cannolo.  It’s pretty good with a crunchy casing, but there are others that I prefer.

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Overall, its a lovely spot for a casual Italian meal, one you can easily drift to regularly.  Tutti a tavola!

Flour, Eggs, Water, Tramsheds Harold Park
Ph (02) 9188 7438
http://www.tramshedsharoldpark.com.au

Flour Eggs Water By A Tavola Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Queen Chow, Enmore

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The Merivale winds, having blown North, South and East, have found their way to the Inner West, this time transforming Enmore’s Queen Victoria Hotel. Gone are the Indiana Jones pinball machine, the pool table and the pokies.  Instead you’ll find a variety of taxidermy (!), a baby elephant figure,  a Roman statue, and some mighty fine Chinese.

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Downstairs, while flanked by a long bar, is a bit more sombre and restaurant-y. Upstairs is The Smelly Goat bar, with some cool and cosy little nooks, and a lovely light filled enclosed outdoor dining verandah.  The staff are on top of it all and very welcoming.

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We start of course with dumplings (Eric Koh is in da house) which are all delicious. The Marito and Small People particularly rate the prawn har gau, and the casing is definitely more delicate than elsewhere.   I had my eye on the lobster and asparagus dumplings for my second visit but they had disappeared from the menu!

The duck spring rolls remind me very much of Mr Wong, which is not a bad thing at all.  There’s a reason why Mr Wong is still packing them in every night 5 years on.

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There’s a twist on the classic cheung fun – here the cuttlefish is wrapped it a fried bread crumb then the rice noodle.   The Marito gives this a big thumbs up.

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I love the salt and pepper squid, silken tofu and prawns with chilli bean mayo.  Done with such a light hand.

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I also really like the “slightly fires the emperor” of cuttlefish, macadamia and garlic chive (though there isn’t much cuttlefish). Its fresh and the macadamia and crunch of baby corn add some good texture.

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But I’m a little disappointed with the angus beef, served with baby king oyster mushrooms and potato.  Its a little dry, the beef is chewy and the potatoes are bland.

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The barbecue duck though, is juicy and tasty

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Back onto seafood, we’re winning.  The steamed market fish (that day barramundi) with ginger, shallot, and white soy, is a deftly executed Chinese classic.

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The Moreton Bay bugs with kombu butter and asparagus are dressed to impress.

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And make sure you leave room for the fried rice.

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There are desserts on the menu, but its pretty hard to resist the lure of Cow and Moon right next door, where we bump into fellow diners.  However you will get fortune cookies with your bill.

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On behalf of Italian Mammas, I do have a bone to pick with you Queen Chow – shall we take it outside?

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Queen Chow, 167 Enmore Road, Enmore
Ph 02 9240 3000
http://merivale.com.au/queenchow

Queen Chow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Encasa, Lane Cove

Encasa in the CBD has long been a popular place for Spanish tapas and cured meats. Over the last year, owners Maria Barona and Francisco Rodriguez have expanded, opening two more city venues including an “express” takeaway in Chifley Plaza, and this cosy restaurant in their home turf of Lane Cove.  A couple of friends and I checked it out the other night, and were pleasantly surprised by the tasty, well priced food, and the added benefit of being able to BYO.  The staff were also very attentive and friendly.

There’s lots to tempt on the largely meat and seafood menu, though there are not too many options for vegetarians.  I’d love to see something like a ceviche or fresh fish dish added to the menu. Here’s what we tried

The jamon Iberico croquettes were delicious – crispy coating and gooey cheesey centre

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Scallops with a saffron cream sauce – a tasty smooth sauce and plump fresh scallops

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The tortilla de patata, a potato and onion omelette, didn’t look terribly exciting on the plate but delivered on flavour

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Sizzling prawns had a delicate hit of chilli and were also enjoyable

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I was looking forward to the beef cheek, and it was tender, but it didn’t pack the flavour punch of a similar dish I’ve had a few times at MoVida, and it could have used a bit more cauliflower puree.

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I really wanted to try the crema catalana for dessert but clearly so did everyone else as it was sold out! Next time.  I’m not big on churros as they remind me of donuts which I don’t like at all, but the girls were keen for a serve and I had a nibble – they were light and crispy.

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Banquet menus are available for groups of 8 or more priced between $42 and $55, and there’s a nice range of Spanish goodies you can buy to take home.  There’s a short kiddie menu too.

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Encasa Lane Cove, 132 Longueville Road, ph 02 9418 8577
https://encasa.com.au/landing-page/home-lane-cove-restaurant/

Encasa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato