Category Archives: Eating out

A Bromance and a Chinese dinner

Like me, one of my Sorelle also has two boys.  The bromance between her two and my Small People is a strong one; I often joke that we should park the four of them in an apartment and just pop in to visit once a week.  When the school holidays come around there is avid pestering by all parties to spend days and nights together.  So on the first Monday of these school holidays they were re-united, the joy on the occurrence giving the impression that they had not seen each other for months rather than weeks.

For dinner, my Sorella, who spoils them, took them all out for Chinese.   One of my Small People penned a review, which he insisted that I post.  I don’t think Terry Durack or Jonathan Lethlean are at risk just yet.

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On a Monday night, we all had different thoughts of which restaurant to eat at. The choices were Italian, Chinese or the Hunters Hill hotel bistro. The Italian restaurant was closed so there was two choices and by a unanimous agreement, we voted to go to Chinese.

The restaurant was called Grand View Restaurant and it was called Grand View for a reason. The view from our position was very exotic as we saw the sunset.

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Once we were seated, we chose what to eat. We ordered prawn dumplings, 2 servings of dim sims, fried rice, chicken chow mein and sizzling beef.
On arrival, we were given prawn crackers. They were peculiar, they looked funny, they were light pink and we all described them as “a crispy, hardened texture”. I though they tasted like fish, and I decided it was best to save some space to eat all the rest of my meals. My brother had the same opinion as me. On the other hand, Josh and Max really liked them as an appetiser

The prawn dumplings came first. They were definitely the dish of the night for me. It was interesting to see how Josh and Max would like them as they had never eaten them before. We had mixed opinions about the dumplings. I loved them both taste and texture. Josh said, “I liked the texture but not the taste”. My brother said, “These were the best prawn dumplings I have had” and Max said “the dumplings tasted really good

grandview2Not long after, the pork dim sims were served. This was my first time eating them and all of us thought they looked like brains. We all seemed to like them even if they did look like brains. Josh and Max liked them with soy sauce whereas my brother and I though they tasted good in their original formgrandview3

Although we gorged on the dumplings, we still had enough room to eat the fried rice. My brother and I split the rice in half. The fried rice was definitely a highlight of the night for me. The flavours were well balanced and it was very easy to eatgrandview4

The chicken chow mein was served a while after the fried rice. I didn’t order it, but I was lucky enough to try some of Josh’s chicken chow mein. The chicken was cooked in an unusual way, with a slimy texture. It tasted good own its own but was better when mixed with the noodles and other componentsgrandview5

The final dish of the night was the sizzling steak. It looked very appealing with its sizzling effect, this made us satisfied. I thought there was too much marination, which took away the flavour of the meat. I thought it wasn’t my kind of thing to eat. Even with all the setbacks, I thought it was well presented and with less marinating, it would be bettergrandview6

Overall, I thought the restaurant did a very good job. I rate it an 8/10. I liked all the dishes and I should come back some time soon.

The Festival of Nonna

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The Festival of Nonna celebrates the Italian matriarch, the epicentre of the clan, the recipes that have been handed down verbally by generation, without measurements but by feel, taste and a love of simple and fresh ingredients.  The series of dinners, being held in Sydney and Melbourne between 8 October and 26 October, feature Italian chefs and their mothers, Nonna to their children.

This evening we have Luca Ciano, who came to Australia from Milan Michelin starred restaurant Il Luogo, and his delightful mother Nonna Anita, at A Tavola in Sydney’s Darlinghurst.  She is full of energy and enthusiasm, in spite of having ended her 20 plus hour journey from Italy that morning, and just adorable.  Together they start making Anita’s Bolognese.  It begins with a classic “soffritto” of onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil, followed by the addition of mince of veal, pork and meat from an Italian sausage.  Red wine, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaves are next.  She also adds thyme, I’ll have to give that a try next time.  Like me, she does not include garlic, which would probably surprise a lot of people.

Such a sauce would typically slow simmer for hours, and Nonna Anita is a little mortified that we are tasting it before it is fully cooked, served with some fluffy gnocchi that Luca has whipped up in the blink of an eye in the meantime.  The gentle ribbing and arguing between them in Italian is very funny and reminds me of my conversations with Mamma Rosa.  There’s plenty of opportunity to chat to them both through the evening, as they hand out jars of special Festival of Nonna pasta sauce, and while we enjoy a beautiful and extensive Italian menu, accompanied by very drinkable prosecco and wine. The lighting is not great, so apologies for the photos which don’t do any justice to the food.

It is the nature of these special relationships, often developed in the kitchen, that led the Lubrano family behind Sandhurst Fine Foods to launch the Festival of Nonna last year. Mimmo, his wife and Nonna Geraldine, the Sandhurst Matriarch, are there that evening and I have a wonderful time talking to them.  I’ve always wondered why an Italian family company has a name like Sandhurst so it was great to ask them in person.  When they bought the farm in the 1960’s – then owned by a Russian, a Pole and an Englishman – it was called Sandhurst Farm and they never changed it.  Back then Geraldine and husband Vince ran a deli.  Vince was a fisherman in Italy before coming to Australia; neither of them really knew much about farming, manufacturing, and distribution.  But like many Italian migrants who came to Australia for a better life, hard work did not scare them and they seized the opportunity.  And so it began.

It was all in for the family, with their two sons Mimmo and Ray being embedded in the business from the beginning. I love hearing that the family still sits down to lunch every day, prepared by patriarch Vince who is 86.

Over time, they looked for other family businesses to work with who would provide them with the quality of ingredients they expected. Sitting next to us is a couple from far north Queensland, the Torrisi family, who’ve been supplying them all their basil for twenty years.  Similarly, the eggplant they use comes from a family in Mildura.  The importance to them of family relationships extends to long lasting business relationships.

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I want to adopt Nonna Geraldine, and I’m sure she means it when she gives us an invitation to join them for lunch one day.  A few weeks ago I became Nonna-less.  I was very blessed in both my Nonnas – kind, strong, selfless and loving women who never breathed a word of complaint about the hardships they endured and the poverty of post war Italy.  My Nonna in Italy, who I am named after, had a wicked sense of humour and was remarkably open minded for one of her era.  I’ll never forget her laugh.

The Festival of Nonna, October 2017
http://sandhurstfinefoods.com.au/nonna/events/

Napoli Restaurant Alert dined as a guest of Festival of Nonna

Jade Temple, Sydney

Neil and his new backers have swapped Australian fine dining for an attempt at high end Chinese speckled with (and I quote) “more contemporary interpretations”.  It is not very jade-y, nor very temple-y, and a few Rockpool bits still linger, covered up with some lanterns and windows of duck ready to be roasted.

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When word got out that this was opening, many commented how close in location it was to Mr Wong, and would it have any impact on that insanely popular venue, but really they are very different in atmosphere and style.  Mr Wong for me has more vibe.

I visited twice, once at lunch and once at dinner. The verdict – a mixed bag.  Great cocktail menu though, very reminiscent of Spice Temple which is a good thing.

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The oysters with ginger and black bean were delicious; loved the big green bowl even more.

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But were they kidding themselves with these chicken wings? Three little chicken wings for $19 (and some ordinary sweet and sour sauce), with a very sub par batter.

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Likewise these pork short ribs (I think that’s what it was, I tried to put it out of my mind) were rather ordinary.

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The pork and prawn shumai (3 for $12, same as Mr Wongs) were at standard.

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Liked the texture in these crystal dumplings with truffled mushroom but I found them a bit dry.

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The “pineapple” bbq pork bun was very good indeed, tasty pastry, flavoured meat, but really didn’t look anything like a pineapple that the menu description implied.

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I did love the XO pippies though, a great XO.  We tried them with the crunch noodles for something different but steamed would be better for absorbing the sauce.

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On the second visit I tried the XO with steamed scallops.

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The Madarin style bass grouper has unusual flavour, but in a good way, I can’t quite pick it.

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I recommend the rusty razor blades, had it on both visits, pork with caramel and chilli.  I was worried it would be too sweet but the balance of the sweet and the spice is spot on.

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Beautiful steamed noodles, so silky,  but the shrimp floss was too salty for me.

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So while the savoury was a mixed bag, the desserts shone.

The flavours of Phil’s vacherin must be a shout out to the Rockpool vacherin, and delightfully refreshing.  The lemongrass spoke Thai to me rather than Chinese, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment.

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I love sago, it’s one of those things people love or hate, so I really enjoyed the sago and mango pudding.

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And we all just adored the fried vanilla and date ice cream, splashed with maple sauce. So good.

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For groups, there are banquet menus for $75 and $95.

Jade Temple, 11 Bridge Street, Sydney
http://www.jadetemple.com.au

Jade Temple Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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