Tag Archives: Modern Australian

Bennelong, Sydney

Recently, I was invited to a lovely lunch at Bennelong.  Now in the hands of Peter Gilmore, I haven’t been here since Guillaume was at the helm.

When Guillaume’s lease was up back in 2013, the space was put out to tender with a brief that it would be “more accessible”, and Guillaume wasn’t keen on a more casual type venue.  The Van Haandels, behind Melbourne’s Stokehouse, won the tender and planned to open it seven days a week including breakfast on weekends.  While it was not going to be cheap, the plan was to make it more affordable than a fine diner and not such restricted opening times.  Imagine going there for a breakfast or brunch on a special occasion like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or going just because it’s a beautiful Sydney morning.  It never happened though, with the Van Haandels’ Melbourne restaurant tragically falling to a fire, and their attention had to be focussed on rebuilding that.

In steps Peter Gilmore to take over. And I’m not sure what happened to the whole desired more casual vibe that made Guillaume walk away, as it’s very much a fine dinner, with lunch only three days a week and dinner seven days.  And I don’t think the whole “accessible” thing has really been achieved with a three course meal at $135 for lunch and $145 for dinner; add a few wines and coffee and $200 per head is not a normal meal for most people, even the well healed, so special occasion it is.  Bit of a shame as more people should get to experience this unique space.

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Now I will say that I’ve always thought Peter Gilmore’s Quay was a little overrated, and I’ve been a few times.  If I was going to splash out, it wouldn’t be on my list. So I was curious here.  And it was a really lovely and beautifully presented meal – with entrees outperforming mains –  but I didn’t walk away thinking I’m dying to go back, and there is a dish I must have again, and I must take the Marito and and and…

On the menu that day:

Tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu with horseradish cream, capers, parsley and crispy beef tendon.  I love a good tartare and this was well balanced with the horseradish and the textural element.

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Confit tomatoes with straciatella, smoked almonds, sherry caramel and linaria (which is a herb apparently).  Essentially Italian cheese and tomatoes – a very classic combination, but a richness was added with the caramel.

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Yellowfin tuna with kohlrabi remoulade, anchovy emulsion, black rice and lava chips.  Beautiful quality tuna.

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And for the mains, pink snapper with radish, shellfish broth and lobster roe emulsion.  So tiny for a main course, and not sure where the broth was.

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Grass fed lamb, spring cabbage, fermented rye peas and blossoms.  Again a very small main course, and this was disappointing as the lamb was cold and a bit chewy.

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Onto dessert. Now this dish, strawberries and cream, did wow me.  I don’t really do strawberries much, but this was just a wonderful combination of flavour and texture and tasted so lively and fresh.

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Finally chocolate cake from across the water (does that mean Tassie?).  I’m not big on chocolate and found it bitter, but the chocolate fans on the table liked it.

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Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Ph 9240 8000
http://www.bennelong.com.au

Bouche on Bridge, Sydney

Bouche is the latest venue to join the blossoming line up on Bridge St, but one that is easy to miss with a discreet and slightly set back door.  Chef Harry Stockdale-Powell presides in the kitchen, hailing from Rockpool and Marque.  The influence of the latter is evident in particular, with some decidedly Marque-esque plating and little, but not too much, trickery.   The vision is a “new take on fine dining” and you can see where they are going – no tablecloths, an attractive bar, and quality produce on the menu, sparsely worded as seems to have become the norm. But the staff, as I found on my couple of visits, are truly excellent and more than happy to fill in the blanks and aid your decision making, or not.   The food itself was mixed – some excellent dishes, some good, and some a miss; I’m sure a kitchen team of this pedigree will iron out the kinks over time.  It was the smaller dishes overall that didn’t hit the mark for me.

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We start with oysters with a blood orange granita and wakame.  Great oysters, but too much blood orange and they were a little drowned and lost.

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The combination of kingfish, beetroot and pomelo is a good one but it was a little dry and needed some dressing.

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It was the duck neck sausage with marsala prunes that disappointed most, we were looking forward to it but it just lacked flavour and tasted very fatty, nor did I enjoy the marsala prunes. It was also a cold dish which was unexpected.

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However I loved the Jerusalem artichoke, an underrated vegetable, done sous vide and then grilled, served with a parsley root oil and sheep’s milk.

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The eschallot tarte tatine with parmesan ice cream is a clever dish.  Generously sized, it could be shared as an entrée between four trying a few plates or make a main course for a vegetarian. A little more seasoning wouldn’t have gone astray, and the ice cream is silky but the parmesan flavour too subtle.

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The main course proteins though, rock it.  The short rib with horseradish and sorrel is butter meltingly tender and just delicious.

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So too is the Wessex saddlebag suckling pig.

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And then oh! The baked mash! Don’t miss it whatever you do.

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If you do feel like dessert but not something overly sweet go for goats cheese with beetroot and liquorice sponge.  I’m not a fan of the sponge but I adore the texture and freshness of the beetroot sorbet.

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The caramelised nectarines with a fine honeycomb disk and a frozen sorrel also wins me over.

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The hazelnut and chocolate ball with malt is huge and easily shared (in fact, all the desserts are generous) and a bit too rich for me, but any chocolate lover would be very happy indeed.

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Bouche on Bridge, 6 Bridge St Sydney, ph +61 2 8278 9400
http://www.boucheonbridge.com

Bouche on Bridge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

No 1 Bent St by Mike, Sydney

Mike McEnearney, like a few other chefs, has migrated to the CBD.  There’s been a flurry of openings this year down this end of town – Mercado, Huberts and Indu spring to mind – with 1821 and Balcon soon to follow.  He’s taken over the short lived Acqua Pazza site, though it now looks much bigger with its polished concrete floors and a variety of tables, including some communal.

The first visit, some three weeks into opening, left me a little gobsmacked when our server said that it was $2 per person for tap water because of “our awesome filtration system”.  They couldn’t be serious, but yes they were, our group paid $12 for Special Sydney Tap.  By my second visit a few weeks later, I was waiting for a repeat of that line, but by then they had cottoned on to the fact that this wasn’t a such a good idea and the awesome filtration water was given free.  The service too was smoother by then, but my dining friend thought it lacked a little warmth and sincerity.

And of course the food, the main event? Well that I think was better on my second visit too, though a mixed bag. But while the food is designed to share, the portions are on the small side.

I will say that overall I think the vegetables overall outshine the protein.  For instance the beetroot, rhubarb and edamame salad was a lovely fresh start.

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So too was a simple watermelon, tomato, mint and haloumi salad

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The chicken liver pate was tasty, but the bread was a little miserly.  We had to ask for more, which was readily provided, but its such an easy thing to be generous with upfront.

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I was a fan of these sweet and sour sardines, ship those in.

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But another seafood based entrée – orange cured mackerel with fennel, endive and pistachio – I found a bit odd.

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The slivers of grilled squid I could find in this dish with beans and chorizo were tender, but the dish needed a bit of salt.

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The beef cheek and bone marrow pot pie had absolutely gorgeous pastry.  A rich and satisfying dish, but $37 is also a rich price for a relatively small pie meant to be shared

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The cabbage was delicious, but the pork stuffing a little bland.

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The whole flathead is a little confronting when it comes out.  It is served on the terracotta tile on which it is cooked, so was a little dry.

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Spit roast chicken – delicious and juicy.  Again for a main with a $39 price tag, its pretty small for a dish designed to share.

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Tender lamb, complemented nicely with sweet pear

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Brussel sprouts with black cabbage and chestnuts – yum.

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No 1 Bent St By Mike, 1 Bent St, Sydney Ph 02 9252 5550
http://www.onebentstreet.com.au

No. 1 Bent St by Mike Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kensington Street Social, Chippendale

Kensington Street in Chippendale for a good while was rather derelict and abandoned. Now bought to life, the stone paved street is home to a string of unique eateries, among them Spice Alley, Automata and Bistro Gavroche.  Today we’re visiting Kensington Street Social, whose concept and menu was put together by British chef Jason Atherton.  Atherton has a number of “Socials” around the world – Pollen Street Social in London,  Aberdeen Street Social in Hong Kong, Marina Social in Dubai – you get the drift.    Now his talent has landed in Inner Sydney, and though he no longer personally presides over the hot plates, those left in his wake know what they are doing.

It was the service that let them down a little that day.  Somewhat neglected in our corner and with staff seemingly not communicating with each other (“has no one explained the menu yet?”), and the food was slowish to arrive.  And though they knew we were sharing everything, no serving cutlery was provided, other than a knife for the first dish.  Small things, early days, I’m sure it will all come good in the competitive Sydney restaurant game.

Eventually we get our hands on some cocktails. Fun, playful, clever, delicious.

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We start off with the vine tomato which comes with Vannella burrata, 25 year aged balsamic vinegar, and a size of tomato seasoning.  Absolutely gorgeous, it looks like a forbidden fruit and is a pleasure to eat.

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I love the freshness of the garden pea salad – an assemblage of snow peas, sugar snaps and pea tendrils – and keep going back for more.

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The tataki Hiramasa kingfish falls into the nondescript “nice” category and is much better done at many quality Sydney Japanese establishments.

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The spanner crab comes with a refreshing frozen cucumber gazpacho and, interestingly, rhubarb. It works.

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Next up is the crispy skin mulloway with pippies (just two so it can be plural on the menu) and baked potato.  Pleasant but standard mod Oz fare.

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The roast marron tail with curry butter on the other hand I would rather not have shared.

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For our iron hit we finish with a couple of meat dishes.  The first is a juicy wagyu rib eye,  with miso butterscotch and eggplant. The eggplant is delicious.

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And finally a modern take on the Sunday roast – lamb rack and braised shoulder, with a cauliflower couscous.

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I could have happily fit in dessert, but as I said it was pretty slow and we ran out of time. But it is indeed a pretty cool space to get social in.

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Kensington Street Social, 3 Kensington Street Chippendale, Ph
(02) 8277 8533
http://kensingtonstreetsocial.com/

Kensington Street Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Annata, Crows Nest

The original thinking behind recently opened Annata was that it would be a wine and cocktail bar that served a bit of food. But you could also look at it as a place with great food, that serves some good wine. With some heavily hatted experience behind the bar and in the kitchen – its a meeting of minds with skills gained from Rockpool, Bridge Room, and Café Paci – Annata lifts the bar on the lower north shore. The staff who looked after us that night were friendly, enthusiastic and knew their stuff – it seemed like they were really happy to be there.

The well thought out wine list is good fun, with sections like The Funky Bunch, The Big Boys, and CBA (Chardonnay Back Again). There are also some clever cocktails. I tried the Heather & Stone (Jasmine Jamieson, Pistachio, Suze, Lime, Whites) which had a delicious almost biscuit of pistachio in it (petit four in a cocktail, yeh!); and the Dipolmat (Havana 3, Apricot Jam, Orgeat, Cardamom, Bitters).

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There are four of us and the staff recommend we share, kindly suggesting which dishes we double up on. We start with some superbly fresh Sydney Rock oysters served with pickled black fungus

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We spot zucchini flowers on the menu – with broccolini, goats milk custard, black garlic and fennel salt – and know it’s a given they’ll be ordered. In our minds we’d pictured them in typical stuffed format, but it’s a ‘deconstructed’ version. The broccolini add texture and the custard is silky smooth.

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Next is a dish almost too pretty to eat – plums with heirloom tomatoes, smoked avocado (oh so good, smoked with beechwood), basil and roquette oil. The girls love it, but I find the plums a too sweet; a bowl of that avocado with some bread instead please!

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We all adore the scallops. The sliver of guanciale is delicious, and lurking underneath is like a hazelnut and mushroom paste (a hint of porcini methinks?) which we love.

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Our next dish is also seafood. This time some prawns with a devine miso corn butter, tasty chargrilled corn and curry oil. We all agree though, that the prawns are just a little underdone.

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The pork neck comes with a roasted apricot butter and pickled shitake. Its tender meat and here the fruit works well.

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The side of greens is fresh and crisp and comes with a smooth butter sauce.

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We finish with the flathead done wrapped in seaweed and kataifi pastry, served with peas, pomelo and oyster mayonnaise. I’ve had fish done like this before, but this one is not quite right and needs a little finessing.

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Annata is the kind of place you’ll linger either a little or a lot, and overall I’d happily do the latter again.

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Annata Menu

Annata, 69 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, Ph (02) 9437 3700
http://annatasydney.com

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

Firedoor, Surry Hills

You’re in a bit of trouble at Firedoor if you don’t like a hint (or a whack) of smokiness in your food. In the electricity-less kitchen, everything is cooked on fire, and the taste is distinct.   One of the hot openings of 2015, in the early days it was near impossible to score a table, and we’re glad we finally get to road test it and see if it is worthy of its one hat. Our friendly waitress gives us the menus and suggests an appropriate number of dishes to order between four – the menu is designed to share – and leaves us to ponder.

We start off with some bread. Big, thick slabs of bread with butter. Sprinkled on top of the butter is smoked salt – the smoke journey begins – and I love it. They should sell jars of that salt. The bread also comes in handy for mopping up some of the lovely sauces and juices that come with subsequent dishes.

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The first handful of dishes arrive quickly, almost too quickly, and the table gets crowded.

A simple dish of asparagus comes with a delicious accompaniment of mussel sauce

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It’s followed by one of the table favourites, these little school prawns, done with a nice hint of chilli and garlic shoots. Loved this dish and would gladly have it again

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The ricotta is pretty to look at and yes, the smoke is there, but I think I’d rather have my regular serve of Paesanella.

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We move onto the strawberry clams. It’s a pretty small serve for $48, and I also find them a little overcooked and chewy

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The squid with ink and macadamia doesn’t blow me away either, but the celery is refreshing

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We’re back on track with this whiting with some chargrilled zucchini. Beautifully cooked, juicy fish with delicate vegetables.

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So too does the Jurassic quail get a big tick, served with toasted spelt with caper raisin.

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We have to wait a very long time for the lamb, and the waitress is apologetic, but it turns out to be worth the wait. This photo is of a half eaten dish, oops.   Like the whiting, it is expertly cooked and a definite crowd pleaser.

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But the one thing about Firedoor is that you will get sticker shock, the bill does add up very quickly, especially when drinks come into the equation. Steer clear of the steak – the 500g wagyu rib comes in at $89 and the 500g dray aged rib at $139. Now given how well they cooked our other meat dishes, I’m sure that these would be nicely done, but the prices seem a little excessive, even though they are designed to share. The chef’s menu $85 banquet may be the best way to go.

Firedoor, 1a/23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills, Ph (02) 8204 0800
http://www.firedoor.com.au

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

Kingsley’s Steak & Crabhouse, Woolloomooloo

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Genetics is a funny thing. As regular readers would know, the Marito is a vegacquarian. I’ve never been a big meat eater, and even less so since we’ve been married. Yet our progeny are two of the biggest carnivores I’ve ever come across. A slab of expertly cooked meat and a side of green beans is one of their ideal meals. So it was no surprise when I asked where they wanted to go for lunch for their birthday that they suggested a steakhouse. Being spring, I thought Woolloomoloo would be very pleasant for an outdoor waterside meal, and Kingsley’s it was. I thought then, it was only fair, that they write up their thoughts on our experience. I would only add that the service was excellent, with extremely attentive and friendly staff.

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Now before you think we are mean by not letting them have any more, they were keen on ordering another 250g steak a piece…..half a kilo of meat each for 25kg kids…hmmm….maybe not.

We also sampled a refreshing tomato and burrata salad

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And some tasty dressed king crab with avocado (though average brioche on the side)

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Kingsleys Woolloomooloo Wharf, Cowper Wharf Road
http://www.kingsleys.com.au/sydney/home

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rockpool on Bridge – $79 lunch special

In an effort to capture more of the lunch trade, many of the fine diners around town offer some fabulous lunch deals.  Often dinners at these toqued establishments are degustation menus in the $150-$200 per person range, and beyond, and if this isn’t in reach, the lunch is a great alternative.  Come noon, Rockpool offers one course for $52, two courses for $69 or three courses for $79.  Similarly places like Aria offer $46 for one course and $74 for two, and Est three courses for $95.

I had been to the original Rockpool on George a few times, but this is my first visit to the new digs on Bridge. We are celebrating the birthday of my friend at A Tea with the Queen. The “new” Rockpool has a different feel to it – darker, more sophisticated, a little bit like it has now grown up and come of age.  I actually met Neil Perry last week, and he talked about his evolution as a chef – from wondering why he was running a restaurant serving French provincial food on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, to his immersion and connection with Asian cuisine. This is a man who is very passionate about what he does.

The staff are polished and on top of their game (except for one waitress who does a runner towards the end of our meal with our not yet empty wine glasses, but this is quickly rectified) and we feel warmly welcomed.  There is plenty to tempt on the menu, and I opt for the Asian influenced dishes, as in my opinion this is where Neil Perry’s cuisine shines.

But first we are bought some bread, with butter and also some ricotta.  The bread itself I don’t find anything special but this is butter like no other.  It has a caramel like consistency and a slight sweetness, I want to smother my bread in it (the only other butter that rivals this is Tetsuya’s truffle butter, which I think I could live on).  Similarly the ricotta is magnificent with a smoky undertone and creamy.

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My first dish is the scallop cake with herbs, peanuts and prawn broth. The seafood is beautifully fresh and I scoop up every drop of that divine broth.   This rivals the crab congee on the dinner menu.

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I then move onto the smoked Burrawong chicken hotpot with braised fungus, chestnuts and dragonwell rice.  The rice is bought out first, dragonwell tea is poured over it and it is left to infuse.  Shortly after the chicken arrives and I know I have ordered very well today….so well that I dig in and forget to take a photo of the actual chicken!

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Most of the table opts for the short rib with creamed spinach, hoisin and black vinegar for their main course.  This is a $10 supplement and no wonder – it is enormous.  Some find it a little salty; I’m kindly offered a little to try and it is meltingly tender with a beautiful smokiness.

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None of the desserts tempt me that day (I have a different agenda anyway) but the popular choice at the table is the chocolate gran cru of Valrhona with peanut butter and jelly.

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Instead I opt for one of the best deals around town – a petit four of Rockpool’s original 1984 date tart for $3, which Neil developed and Lorraine Godsmark perfected; she sells a full slice at her patisserie for $15.

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Fancy a lunch at Rockpool? You won’t be disappointed.

Rockpool on Bridge, 11 Bridge Street, Sydney ph (02) 9252 1888
http://www.rockpool.com

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Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Sydney CBD

I did something a seasoned restaurant diner would normally never do. I went to Bentley on the second day it opened. Usually, I will give a new place a few weeks to find their feet and resolve any teething issues.  But my thinking was that Bentley isn’t “new new” – it’s a solid team that has just changed premises (and I’d been to the Crown Street original) – so I figured they would be on top of the situation.  The new premises are in the CBD at the Raddison Blu Hotel, on the former Bistro Fax site.  There’s been a bit of a restaurant migration to the CBD of late, which tells me that the corporate dollar, while sparser than it used to be following that terrible acronym the GFC, is still important.

The fit out is what you would call modern elegance.  Plush carpet, beautiful veneer tables, gorgeous cutlery and plates (looks like the same guy that does the handcrafted dinnerware for Ormeggio?), with what Gourmantic aptly described as “pick up sticks” hanging from the ceiling.  On the service side, the staff were simply wonderful.  We had a little family challenge and drama that day, as is prone to happening in our household, and our booking time became somewhat fluid.  They were fabulous about accommodating us.  The staff were also all very knowledgeable about the dishes, and clearly adoring of the talents of the chef.

And if you’re up for a drink there is a seriously awesome wine list.

The menu too has that trend of modern minimalist wording. I’m fairly fluent in the matter of Language Menus, having passed LM101 some years ago and now doing the Advanced Course. But I did need some help with things like purslane, cardoons, quangdongs, samphire and the like (a succulent, an artichoke thistle, a fruit, a ‘salty’ plant, for those who also require interpretation).   After our well informed waitress had enlightened us, this is what we ordered.

Southern Calamari + Carrots + Squid Ink + Sea Blight. How pretty! The paper thin carrots looked like a flower. We got too busy eating it, but underneath was this gorgeously swirled calamari and a delicious squid ink sauce, which I soaked up with the excellent sourdough.

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Moreton Bay Bugs + Smoked Sweetcorn + Shellfish Broth – delicious and beautifully cooked.

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It came with a side to mop up the broth.  We’d been eyeing this off at the adjacent table.  From a distance it seriously looked like a brownie, but a brownie with your main course? Turned out it was a squid ink brioche.  The squid ink served in my mind to give colour rather than flavour, as it did just taste like a traditional buttery brioche. It came with a sea urchin emulsion, which I wasn’t a fan of.

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Pork Loin + Macadamia Milk + Wattle Crumbs + Quandongs. It wasn’t a big piece of pork loin, but it was so rich that I couldn’t possibly have eaten more of it. I adored the combination of the macadamia milk and wattle crumbs, with the redness and flavour of the quandong.

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Cape Grim Beef Tenderloin + Roasted Parsnip + Nettle Salsa. Again very well cooked and a lovely dish.

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Aerated Chocolate + Fig Leaf Ice cream + Lemon Aspen. This was like eating one of those Aero bars and was good fun. Great ice cream.

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Apricot and Black Cardamom Ice-cream + Cumquats + Saffron. This one didn’t do it for me – “interesting” is probably the word I would use. The cumquats, which I think were poached, were too intense for my liking, but my husband (the subject of the birthday message!) really liked them.

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On my next visit (and I’m sure there will be one given the new location nice and close to the office), I would probably go heavy on the savoury and skip dessert.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, 27 O’Connell St, Sydney, ph (02) 8214 0505
http://www.thebentley.com.au

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Vue De Monde @ Rialto, Melbourne

Is fine dining dead? That is the message we read a lot in food press lately. Apparently these days its all about ‘casual’, and there are so many recent pointers: the closure of three toqued Claudes after a few decades, with Chui Lee Luk opening a ‘relaxed’ eatery called Mr Chow; the morphing of Pier into The Sailor’s Club; the booting of Guillaume from the Opera House for something more ‘bistro’; Warren Turnbull ditching Assiette for Chur Burger, where he apparently offloads more than 3,000 burgers a week; and Momofuku, in its three hatted glory, having kitchen staff serve you wearing baseball caps.

Well, I can report that fine dining is alive and thriving at Vue De Monde on Rialto. Having been to its former Little Collins site a few times, I was curious to see what changes had been made. First off, it’s in an office building. There’s a dedicated Vue De Monde reception in the foyer, where the receptionist was somewhat of a Sergeant Major, trying to stop people who wanted to sneak up to the bar, and advising restaurant guests when they could go up. We go into a dedicated lift, which looks like a nightclub, glossy black walls with stripes of white neon lighting. Arriving at Level 55, the view over Melbourne is magnificent. You see the gorgeous Lui Bar, which holds about 60 guests, and its no surprise that people were trying to run past Sergeant Major to have a drink there. One of the restaurant staff is waiting at the lift to greet us, and then it gets all a bit James Bond with buttons being pushed and mirrors that are actually doors opening, and finally we are inside the restaurant.

Although Shannon Bennett has chosen a new location, I’m relieved to see he hasn’t gone mass market. It still only seats just over 40 people, and still has a ridiculous staff to patron ratio – you know you’re going to be looked after. The other thing I love is that the tables are HUGE. Even for two, the table is very generously proportioned, so there will be no shuffling of glasses and dishes to fit something else on it. Having so much space feels luxurious, the seats are comfortable, and you barely notice the other people in the restaurant. The one downside of the layout at Rialto versus Little Collins is that not all tables get a view of the kitchen, and the theatre that goes with it.

020I ask for the cocktail menu , and laugh when I see its like one of those pop up birthday cards, with one pop up and one cocktail per page. I’m sure they are fabulous, but there’s too much writing, and I want to relax, so I decide ordering a cocktail is too much effort and instead opt for wine. The sommelier is friendly and charming, and has us in hysterics over his “life changing” experience with Chateau Y’quem, which they actually sell by the glass (at $115 mind).

Before we discuss the menu, we are presented with five different “snacks” – oysters with finger lime, salt cured wallaby, truffle marshmallow, smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar, and potato crisps with a macadamia butter. These where a nice little introduction, in particular the chips with the macadamia; the only one I didn’t enjoy was the marshmallow, which was a little odd and didn’t taste of truffle.

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After we’re done, they come over to discuss what, and how much, we’d like to eat. It starts at a four course a la carte ($150), ends at a ten course degustation ($250), or anything in between. They tell us its totally flexible. Six courses, all savoury? Fine. Seven courses, but four desserts – we can do that too. Choose ten but decide you’re full after course eight – no problem, we can stop there. Any ingredients you detest – we will be sure not to include them. This is how you do fine dining.

We opt for six courses, the first of which is a king prawn with seaweed salted duck yolk and wasabi. They encourage us to eat the head, which is crunchy. The prawn has been cooked by sous vide, but it just tastes like raw prawn. Didn’t really enjoy this one.

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Next is marron with brown butter and pork floss. Delicious. The brown butter is thick and rich, and goes well with the fresh marron.

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Then is emu egg, onion, and truffle. As you’d expect, the yolk is huge. They bring a warm bag of bread to the table and we mop up the tasty yolk.

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Our next course is a palate cleanser takes the form of interactive dining. There is a little bowl of herbs, over which they pour dry ice. A little pestle is placed in front of us, and we crush it till it is a fine powder. Over the top goes a cucumber sorbet and we mix it together. Beautiful and refreshing, could eat a big bowl of it.

Following this is barramundi and nettle, lovely and delicate.

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Meat time – blackmore wagyu (which they cook at the table), a cube of beef cheek rilette, beetroot, and salt bush. Outstanding dish, I only wish there was more of it.035

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038Another little palate cleanser, a kale, celery and coconut juice. When the food press does their usual year end round up of ‘big ingredients of the year’, surely kale has to be top of the list in 2013?
Its refreshing before we move on to desserts – a chocolate soufflé, and a buttermilk with malt cream and hay. The latter is more savoury than sweet, its unusual and unexpected but not unpleasant.

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We are then given petit fours, but don’t expect anything traditional. These pay homage to Australia rather than France – there’s a chocolate mousse lamington, a jelly with an Australian Penny motif, a salted caramel shell, and the pretty pink balls were a eucalyptus sorbet.046

When we leave, they present us each with a little bag. “Its breakfast for tomorrow morning”, we are told. A take home goody bag! Inside is a lovely brioche loaf, some chocolate chip cookies, tea, granola (which was really yummy), and honey. I’m pretty happy with that.049

It doesn’t end there though. We are accompanied down the lift, assisted with our coats, and gracefully thanked. Everything just smacks of luxury and six star service, and if you like that, this is definitely the place for you, and perfect for a special occasion. Though I was not as wowed by the food as my visits to the original, and I will admit that I probably had a better meal at Cutler and Co – but they didn’t make me feel like royalty.

Vue De Monde, Level 55 Rialto, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne ph (03) 9691 3888
http://www.vuedemonde.com.au

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