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

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


So too is the Wessex saddlebag suckling pig.


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


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.


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


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.


Bouche on Bridge, 6 Bridge St Sydney, ph +61 2 8278 9400

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

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

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

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

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

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