Tag Archives: Review

Queen Chow, Enmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The barbecue duck though, is juicy and tasty

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

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

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And make sure you leave room for the fried rice.

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

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

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

Queen Victoria Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Encasa, Lane Cove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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