Category Archives: Eating out

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

Burnt Orange, Mosman

You’ll find Burnt Orange in a pretty cottage amongst the trees at Middle Head in Mosman looking out over the water, so it is understandably very popular for breakfast and brunch.

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They have four morning sittings on a weekend for breakfast at staggered half our intervals starting from 8.30am with an hour and a half per sitting. We and our friends opted for the first one. The breakfast menu is pretty standard – eggs, bacon, pancakes and the like, and all quite well executed. The sourdough bread is delicious. Though we do ask for a fried egg for one of our Small People and are told “ah no, we can’t do that, it requires a different griddle and it’s too difficult”. Um, didn’t think a small fry pan would be all that hard really, or maybe fried eggs are taboo in Mosman, not sure which. And although we are the first sitting and it is not busy we need to chase our drinks, which arrive after our meals.

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I go for the breakfast board, which has a very nicely done confit of trout. But I find the Avoca brown bread extremely dry and dense so don’t eat it, and pinch some sourdough instead.

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Attached to the café is a retail shop with a variety of treasures. I raise my camera to take some snaps. “Oh, no, you’re not allowed to take photos here”. Ok. I’ll take them in the Louvre or the Vatican instead, they don’t seem to mind.

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Burnt Orange, 1109 Middle Head Road, Mosman, Ph 02 9969 1020
http://www.burntorange.com.au

Burnt Orange Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Osaka Trading Co, Tramsheds

Saturday night, booking in hand, the Marito and some friends and I headed to the recently opened Tramsheds re-development.  It’s well designed with a good variety of venues at various price points, where you could easily find yourself going regularly. There’s also a large supermarket, a nail bar, a barber and a bottle shop.  Some of the restaurants such as Fish & Co do takeaway, so you can sit in the casual eating area if you prefer this, as well as an area with pop ups that changes very frequently.

We headed for the modern Japanese eatery Osaka Trading Co which we all really enjoyed and would happily go to back to.  Service was friendly, if a little distracted given how busy they were, and we were pretty impressed with how a teeny kitchen churned out the food.

A refreshing cocktail and some edamame to start, and we were off.

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Our first dish was a special that night, prawn katsu, rather than the traditional pork katsu. Made with minced prawn, this was so delicious with crispy fresh lettuce and a mayonnaise.  We were tempted to order another round of it but we knew we had a lot more food coming.

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Loved the grilled Hokkaido scallops, served with sweet soy onion butter, a beautiful velvety sauce.

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The tempura zucchini flowers were the right amount of crispy but I wasn’t a big fan of the fish mousse inside

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The octopus, while tasty, was unfortunately a little chewy. The little cubes crisp potato were very morish.

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Also on the specials board that night was Hapuka fillet with buckwheat, shio koji (salted rice malt) and sorrel.  This was lovely, the fish was so delicate, and it would make a great individual main if you preferred that to sharing.

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The heirloom tomato salad came with yuzu kosho which is like a citrus chilli pepper and gave it a good kick.

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Last was wagyu tri-tip with Japone sauce which was so tender and so juicy. Beautifully cooked.

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The dessert menu was short, three desserts or so, but we opted to head over to Messina for a gelato, which was doing a roaring trade.

Osaka also have a banquet menu available for $50 per person.

We will certainly be back at Tramsheds (in fact we have already since this first visit, and the Small People have their eye on The Butcher and The Farmer for their birthday dinner), the thoughtful mix of venues and regularly changing pop ups ensures there is likely something to tempt everyone.

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Osaka Trading Co, Ph +61 2 8880 0717
http://www.osakatrading.com.au/

Osaka Trading Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1821, Sydney

I’m not going to talk about the significance of 1821 in Greek history, sorry.  It’s on a plaque on a wall in the restaurant if you want to read it.  I am going to talk about the great food David Tsirekas and his team are producing in the kitchen.

Some of the menu at 1821 has carried through from his days many years ago at rustic Perama in Petersham (which I visited quite a few times), where getting a table became difficult once the world spread; it then appeared at fine-dining-doesn’t-work-in-Australian-shopping-centres Xanthi.  He’s had various pop ups and gigs after that, but is now hopefully permanently housed in the somewhat in your face on Pitt St frontage at 1821.   Do take some friends because there is a lot you’ll want to try and the larger plate sizes are quite generous, and so are the desserts.

There was for me just one miss on the menu, which was the Greek San Choy Bow we started with – smashed roasted tomato with herb and vegetable rice in iceberg lettuce.  It was a bit messy and sloppy to eat, missing that distinctive SCB lettuce crunch.  All I could think of was the  Katering Show’s “hot wet rice” (if you haven’t seen this, you must, its bloody hilarious).  But it was onwards and upwards from here.

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The wild greens and leek pie  in filo pastry on a bed  eggplant purée reminded me of his Perama triangle but even better – the lightest, flakiest filo and a delicious greens filing.

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In my view the Greeks are the kings of cooking octopus, and this bbq octopus dish was no exception.  Beautifully tender and served with pickled cucumber & cauliflower and some taramasalata

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I absolutely adored the prawn manti (egg pasta dumplings, carrot purée, feta, candied  walnuts, burnt butter currant dressing, fried mint  leaves) and would gladly eat a dish or two of these on my own.  So much flavour!  As my Greek friend with us said, “I have no idea what is Greek about this dish, but it’s damn good”.

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The sweet and savoury combination in the pork belly baklava is pulled off, and the crackling is extra crunchy

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As well as octopus, lamb is another protein where Greeks show culinary skill.  The bbq lamb shoulder is tender and tasty; it is generous enough for four to share if you are trying a few other dishes.

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The baklava ice cream I remembered well from Xanthi and we had to order it. Yum.  It is not as sweet as actual baklava and I love the crunch of the pistachio.

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The garden of aphrodite – a sheep yoghurt panna cotta with seasonal fruit – is pretty but I don’t love it.  It is served with pieces of walnut cake which I find a little dry.

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The real surprise comes with the custard filo pie.  It is to die for, I would love the recipe for this. I gather its a take on the Greek bougatsa.  Once again, incredible flaky filo and filled with a luscious creamy vanilla semolina.

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There is also a banquet menu available for groups.

1821, 122 Pitt St, Sydney, Ph +61 2 8080 7070
http://www.universalhotels.com.au/1821restaurant/

1821 Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food highlights 2016

This year simple ruled.  The dishes I remember and liked most were unfussy and just plain tasty.

For instance I loved this Schiacciatella at Sud in Concord.  A very simple pizza crust with a tomato base, cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of oregano, served with olive tapenade and pesto.

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Also brilliantly simple was the asparagus triangoli from Fred’s

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The baked mash at Bouche on Bridge was silky and well seasoned, I could have easily demolished the whole bowl, but I didn’t want to look like a greedy guts!

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And the roast short rib from Ho Lee Fook in Hong Kong, sooooo tender

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On the sweet front, the almond croissant from Lune in Melbourne was spectacular, best I’ve had.

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And the vanilla masalada from Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu, for $1.50, was a total winner.

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And finally – the dessert trolley at Bistro Guillaume full of good old French classics was a sight to behold

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And my favourite recipes I made this year?

This crispy potato roast has very few ingredients but looks and tastes fabulous and will be making an appearance on the Christmas table

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Similarly, this roast capsicum dish is so easy, and great if you have a table of shared dishes

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Also on the vegetarian front is this zucchini and spinach pasta, which I make regularly

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These sweet ricotta fritters are gorgeous and it was one of my most popular posts of 2016

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I’ve perfected Mamma Rosa’s almond bread, I was very pleased with my Christmas batch

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So that’s a wrap for another year.  Thanks to all of those who read and comment! I wish you all a lovely and peaceful festive season, and see you in 2017!

 

 

 

Fred’s, Paddington

Unlike many of Merivale’s other venues, Fred’s, on Oxford Street, is a little more intimate, seating only sixty. But that may well be intentional, because they want it to feel like a bit of a home away from home. Walk past the bar at the front (where you can also eat the full restaurant menu)….

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…and into the warm dining room, where the kitchen is more than just an open kitchen, it’s an integral part of the room. You can sit at the kitchen bench, as you would when you are visiting a friend, or at the various tables. Head chef Danielle Alvarez, whose impressive resume includes Chez Panisse and French Laundry, is all warmth and delight.

Fred’s took a lot longer to open than planned, but it seems that this has resulted in a better end product, giving the team time to source from the farmers and suppliers they wanted to work with, and more importantly to Danielle, develop personal relationships with them.

We start with some fougasse, which is meant to be the French equivalent of focaccia. Light and airy, it comes with some delicious whipped butter, and we spread generous lashings of it on the bread.

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The Merivale group’s head sommelier, Franck Moreau is in the house that night. One of only three Master Sommeliers in Australia, and one of the top ranked of his ilk in the world, Franck oozes passion and French charm. Lucky for us, he married an Australian who dragged him over here to live. I can’t get a good shot because he is so animated talking about wine! I tell him I’m partial to pinot noir and he selects one from the New Zealand’s Marlborough region by Pyramid Valley which we all rate.

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The food comes out much quicker than you’d expect. Why? Not because anything has been pre-cooked, but because the quality ingredients, all ethically and sustainably sourced, have been tampered with so little. An entrée, main course and dessert will set you back about $90 – or you can have the 5 course “Danielle’s menu” for $95 – but you can pay for it with a  very clear conscience.

There are two pasta dishes that night, the asparagus triangoli and the casarecce with rabbit. The first is all spring freshness; and in the second the rabbit is beautifully braised. There is also a woodfired squid dish which one of our table tries and loves, and I earmark it for next time.

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We also try a simple salad of golden beets and radicchio. So pretty and so refreshing.

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For main course we try roast duck, ocean trout (which has been cooked rapped in fig leaf), and lamb (roasted over the hearth), with a side of roast potatoes. It is all brilliantly simple and enough to (temporarily) silence a group of feisty talkative women as we savour what is before us.

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We order one of each of the desserts . A chocolate mousse, the rhubarb tart, and the macadamia meringue –  or you can also opt for a cheese plate – and for me the meringue is the stand out, with strawberry and yoghurt sorbet on top.

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Underneath the restaurant is a bar, Charlie Parkers, which has its own bar food menu, and is heaving with patrons trying the inventive drinks menu one week into opening. And although we have already had dessert, I have to try the burnt salted caramel ice cream with rum. So good.

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There are cosy nooks in Charlie Parkers that you can book for groups of six or more, as well as a small private room at Fred’s.

But who exactly is Fred? That will remain a Merivale Mystery.

Freds, 380 Oxford St Paddington, Ph +61 2 9240 3000
http://www.merivale.com/freds

Charlie Parkers
http://www.merivale.com/charlieparkers

Fred's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bistro Guillaume, Sydney

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The Small People are not so small any more.  I blinked and another birthday had arrived. As has become custom, the four of us go out to dinner.  With the Marito being a vegacquarian and our home meals centring around that, our identical little carnivores like to go out for a good steak.  I knew that recently opened Bistro Guillaume’s steak frites would deliver, so off we went.  Guillaume is presiding that evening, in a kitchen that seems to be a remarkable oasis of calm.  He spots us playing a game of Uno at the table – a special birthday request of the Small People – and has a chuckle; I doubt its something he sees too often at his restaurants.

The restaurant itself is classic and spacious; dark floors, comfortable chairs, a smattering of banquettes. The staff are excellent, attentive and knowledgeable and we are very well looked after that evening.

We have our eyes on dessert so skip entrees that night and go straight to mains, though I do want to go back and try a few, in particular the steak tartare and the chicken liver parfait.  They also seemed to be doing a roaring trade in the charcuterie plate.

But first some lovely Iggy’s sourdough arrives at the table with some house butter. I also start with a refreshing Guillaume Spritzer.

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The boys get their desired Steak Frites, which they pronounce to be up to standard.  The Bernaise, which we request on the side, is creamy with the right amount of vinegary tartness.

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My confit of duck is on the small side compared to other mains but rich and delicious. The Small People, whose eyes tend to be bigger than their stomach, like it too.

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The star is the whiting Colbert, Colbert being a French presentation technique. It is completely deboned, and there is some serious chef flair on display here. Totally delicious and the Marito generously hides his reluctance in letting us all try a bit.

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Never ask Guillaume how much butter is in his Paris mash, he won’t tell you, just enjoy it.  And the beans come with a tasty pistachio pesto, though I did not expect them to be cold.

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There are a few individual desserts on offer like the apple tart and the profiteroles, which one of the Small People opts for. The waiter goes to drizzle chocolate sauce on top but the boys have their own idea and hold onto it for later. The vanilla bean ice cream is fantastically vanillery (yes that is a made up word).

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The rest of us only have eyes for the Dessert Trolley, which attracts saucer type eyes from surrounding guests when the waiter wheels it over.  For $25, you can try a bit of each, or as few or as many as you want. I say to our waiter, “So if I just want Paris brest and nothing else, would you just give me half of that wheel?”. “Pretty much”, he replies.

We opt for the lemon tart (the Marito says One.Of.The.Best.Ever), the Paris brest (gorgeously rich and with pronounced hazelnut cream, as it should be), Mille Feuille (wonderful pastry, but overall not as good as the one I had at Jacques Genin in Paris, but I’m being picky), and chocolate mousse (devoured by Small People, not my kind of thing).

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No sweet tooth? Choose from the cheese trolley instead.

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If you don’t want a sit down meal, on the side you can grab takeaway coffee, sandwiches, quiches, and tarts. There was also a rumour floating around that he is planning to air freight in croissants from Melbourne’s famed Lune – hope so, I’m lining up for the almond.

You wanted it to be a Taste of Paris, Guillaume? I think you’ve done better than that.

Bistro Guillaume Sydney, 259 George St, Sydney Ph 02 8622 9555
http://www.bistroguillaumesydney.com.au

Bistro Guillaume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato