Tag Archives: Surry Hills

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

Gardels Bar, Surry Hills


One Saturday night, a group of Cool Chicks descended on a bar in Surry Hills. (For the purposes of this review, I will temporarily be classified as a Cool Chick). Nestled above Porteno and run by the same crew, Gardels Bar – named after tango king Carlos Gardel – is a grown up bar. Sophisticated, moody and dimly lit, it is about more than just the looks, being a bar that also serves some clever food, earning it Best Bar For Good Food in this year’s 2015 Good Food Guide Awards. There is some great house made charcuterie on offer, among other things.


The Cool Chicks opt for one of the “bar banquet” menus, by the end of which we are totally stuffed. But of course we also want some drinks to go with it, and at 8.30pm on a Saturday night, they have “run out of glasses”. Say again? “ummm, yes, your drinks will be here as soon as we clean some glasses”. And, half of the (quite compact and not overly complicated) cocktail menu is “not available”. Well, they did win Best Bar for their food, not for their drinks. Oops. They were very apologetic though, and did send over some free champagne later in the evening (once glassware supplies were restored).

So what did we have? There certainly was some interesting food going on, and is a good one for those on the 5:2 diet where you can throw caution (and hopefully cholesterol) to the wind.

Oysters Sangrita – wonderfully fresh – and a Broccoli & Ricotta Empanada, a delicious little mouthful.

Piquillo Pepper filled with Rice, Pine Nuts, Currants & Marinated Fetta; and house cured salmon (yum) on a little brioche toast

Crumbed ricotta and spinach balls and stuffed zucchini flowers – both delicious

Beef empanada – wasn’t keen, there was too much of a spice, was it cumin?

Next, house made Mortadella & Fontina Cheese Sandwich (the Italians at the table like their mortadella cut paper thin, and this was a bit thick); and Chorizo Porteño with Romesco Sauce BBQ. It was a big chunk of chorizo, would have been good if it was grilled or rendered in some fashion.

The Brussel sprouts with sweet lentils we weren’t keen on either, the sprouts were quite tough.

But then came the lamb Ribs with Chimichurri; yes they were fatty, but oh, they were good.

And then in probably the biggest surprise of the evening – a knock out desert! This is what they call their “pavlova cake” – there is a layer of biscuit, dulce du leche, poached strawberries, a meringue, a cream layer then honeycomb and pistachios on the top. Wow!

Gardels Bar, 358 Cleveland St, Surry Hills, Ph (02) 8399 1440

Gardel's Bar at Porteño on Urbanspoon

Chur Burger – Sydney’s finest?

Ok, so I’m the last person with a food blog in the Southern hemisphere, and possibly the universe, to try and then write about Chur Burger. Well, I’ve been busy, and also I’m not a burger fanatic so don’t go traipsing around Sydney especially for them. In case there is someone out there who has been trapped in a cave for several months, Chur is the burger haven of Warren Turnbull. He had the fine diner Assiette, decided fine dining was dead, opened the more casual Albion Street Kitchen, which then got burnt down in a fire (awful). He decided then he’d go with a casual burger joint, which by all accounts has paid handsomely, selling over 3,000 of the $10 burgers a week, plus fries $5, and $8 milkshakes. Never have I seen so much hype about a bun cut in half with a slab of something in the middle. Parlour Burger subsequently pretty much copied this formula (but theirs are definitely smaller for the same price, and less preferable).

I didn’t go to the original Surry Hills venue, but stumbled across their new one at Manly Wharf, near Papi Chulo. We tried the beef (with cheese, tomato jam, mustard mayo, pickle), the fish (with pickled cucumber, lemon mayo, and dill), and the pulled pork (with Chur BBQ sauce, red slaw, fennel mayo). What did we think? Not as mindblowing as the huge amount of raving led us to expect. The classic beef was my pick and the one I liked most – good quality meat and liked the tomato jam, this one is a good feed. And the others? The fish was decent but a touch underseasoned, the pork was very tender, but was missing the mark on flavour and was probably slightly on the sweet side. The brioche buns are probably a touch too soft and also seem more suited to something sweet. So I can’t proclaim this the best burger in Sydney, but I haven’t really tried enough to compare.  For $10 its not bad, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.  For $10 I’d probably prefer Asian noodles from one of Sydney’s many holes in the wall that dish up great cheap food.




Chur Burger, Manly Wharf Hotel, Surry Hills, and Paddington

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Nomad, Surry Hills

Nomad: (Greek, νομάς, nomas, plural νομάδες, nomades; meaning one roaming about for pasture, pastoral tribe), is a member of a community of people who move from one place to another, either with their livestock (pastoral nomads) or subsisting on hunting and gathering.

Move from one place to another? I hope not, they’ve spent an awful lot on a terrific fit out, converting what was once a furniture shop into a welcoming, spacious restaurant – the cured meats hanging which you see as soon as you walk in, the bar seating around the kitchen, and various shaped and well spaced tables.  The name instead refers to the “hunting and gathering” food to table philosophy, with the kitchen run by a seasoned professional (Nathan Sasi) who has worked for big names Neil Perry and Heston Blumenthal.

The menu reflects Nathan’s travels and experience and you can see the global influence. Service was great, an extremely bubbly and friendly waitress (in fact I thought she was going to slip her phone number into the pocket of one of my dining companions) and the other staff that helped serve our group of 7 were also warm and professional.

We start with the Housemade Nomad Charcuterie – this was really quite outstanding, in particular the beef cheek (the dark red) and the jamon.  For something a bit out there, there is also wallaby salami


I’m a sucker for anything with foie gras, so the Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait with radish and Iranian plum is a no brainer. And it’s silky smooth and served with quality thick slices of toasted sourdough.  One of the best liver parfaits I’ve had in a while.


Although the pastry was a little dry, the filling of the Smoked Pork Empanada was succulent and delicious.  I thought it was great as it was, but my dining crew preferred it with a splash of the house harissa hot sauce they bought to the table.


Summer tomatoes with shanklish and sumac.  Shanklish, by the way, is a Syrian cheese (why is it that menus don’t come with a glossary?). A beautiful summer salad, can’t go too far wrong here. There was a bit of dissension in the ranks about ordering of carrots (“how hard can it be to barbecue some carrots?”) but I don’t make labna at home and that was a beautiful accompaniment to some very tasty root vegetables.


Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi with BBQ zucchini, pinenuts, raisins – simple and delicious.


Squid, squid ink, sobrasada, coriander – this was a little disappointing, the squid wasn’t fall apart tender. I had envisaged something as good as the Hartsyard octopus dish when I saw it on the menu.


BBQ Mulloway Tajine with green beans and read onion pilaf – I was disappointed that this wasn’t actually served in a tajine, as when I asked the waitress about it before ordering she mentioned it was cooked in one.  It was in the ‘nice’ category, nice being a word you use to describe food when there’s nothing unique about it, but nothing bad about it either.


Wood Roasted Pork with romesco aioli and lemon.  Crunchy skin, fatty pork, great romesco.


Pedro Ximenez Magnum – flavour 10/10, eating functionality 1/10.  They really needed to serve these with little individual bowls.  While they could easily give Streets a run for their money, they fell apart on the first bite and the ice cream melted almost instantly, with most of us holding the delicious mess in our hands.


Buneuelos with rosewater and cardamom custard.  Anything doughnut-y goes in the lamington category with me (bleuh!) – so I didn’t try these, but the custard was great.  The feedback on the buneuelos – “not worth the calories”.


There is also a $65 banquet menu for groups.

Nomad, 16 Foster St, Surry Hills, Ph (02) 9280 3395

Nomad on Urbanspoon

Marque Surry Hills, menu Prix Fixe

I have to say it was with some trepidation that I entered the doors of Marque. Some of you reading this will remember a dinner a few years ago where we were presented with a deep fried pigeon’s head, beak, eyes, and all, with some rocket leaves on a plate.  It was quite affronting and I think I never quite recovered. I found the food to be tricked-up-try-too-hard food. But hey, every one deserves a second chance. On Fridays they have the three course Prix Fixe menu for $45 which sounded like good value. As I discovered you also get an Amuse Bouche and a ‘post dessert’, which makes it even better.

I was somewhat surprised to see the former sparky Mark Best there himself rustling up the meals with his team. These days the big names behind all the hatted restaurants often aren’t, too busy on Masterchef and doing soup commercials and what have you.

With the image of that pigeon’s head still in my mind, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.To start, an Amuse Bouche of a tomato gazpacho with a tomato paper.  Light and refreshing and a great way to start on a summer’s day.


Next, chicken, oyster and cress. The chicken really was delicious, as was the paper thin crispy skin. But underneath was a green sauce that you can’t see in the photo, think made from cress, it really didn’t add anything to the dish and the flavour was unremarkable.


Then grilled swordfish with beetroot, blackcurrent and juniper. It was such a pretty dish and I loved the beetroot foam. However the sliced vegetables where a little too crunchy for me, and overall I was neutral on this one.


Then hazelnut mousse with poached apricot, olive and thyme, beautifully presented. The mousse was rich and decadent, offsetting nicely with crunch of the chopped nuts and the fresh sweetness of the apricot. Dish of the day. Skip the olive and thyme though, didn’t like it. It needed some other texture, like a firm champagne jelly or something.


And finally a little extra, a custard with sauterne syrup on top. Yum, I adore a good custard, and this one was among the best.  Also very rich and the small serve was just right.


The food is all pretty as a picture, but if the aim of the Marquevalue Menu is to entice you into coming back for the whole shebang Big Night Out $160 degustation, it doesn’t quite get there. For now, this place stays on my Overrated List. But if you really want to try a Three Hat awarded restaurant and not sting your wallet, the Fix Prixe is the way to do it.


Marque Restaurante, 5/355 Crown Street  Surry Hills ph (02) 9332 2225


Marque on Urbanspoon

MoVida Sydney

Frank, welcome to Sydney! Its great to have you here. The MoVida “empire” is growing, with three MoVide (I’m making up my own plural) in Melbourne, a bakery and taco offshoot, and even a bar at Tullamarine airport. Rapid expansion can be worrying, so of course an investigation of the family’s new addition was required to ensure it was all up to scratch.

Geez, 10 minutes to noon on a Friday and already a queue is forming out the door.  Like the Hosier Lane original, the place doesn’t have a lot of seats.  But the other good copy cat feature is that there is a section for walk ins. If you time it right (ie camp out) you’ll snare a seat.  This may be the way to go, as I hear dinner bookings are already very hard to come by. Also familiar are the booths for the bookings, and the bars and stools for the walk ins. I love the rich wood they’ve used for the tables and seating.

Our waiter advises that they’ve bought a few dishes across the border, but that they are trying to create something different and distinctly Sydney. I was hoping to see the pate with the Pedro Ximinez foam (devine) but it seems that one unfortunately didn’t get a passport.

One thing I’ve always really liked about MoVida is that you can order individual tapas items, rather than a serve. This means that when I’ve been with my vegacquarian husband, I can still indulge my carnivore tendancies and get to try a few different things.

Value, as always, is excellent, the food was less than $45 a person and I was comfortably full.

On the menu:

Zucchini filled with crab served with pea and mint gazpacho. A gorgeous fresh dish, almost a Japanese/Spanish fusion in my mind. Big tick to begin.

Burrata (roll those r’s baby) with vegetables, a special.  Nice and creamy, as burrata should be, but not as good as what I’ve had at some Italian restaurants.

Jamon Croquetas, a visiting special from Melbourne. Crunchy outside, creamy and flavoursome inside

Beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez with cauliflower puree. Silky smooth puree (a bigger dollop next time please) and fall apart tender beef. The beef on its own is very rich, but combined with the puree it is just right.

Spicy Pork Ribs on Charcoal. Finger licking good as ribs should be.

Charcoal grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce. The Romesco was a standout, could have had a bowl of that alone to spread on some fresh sourdough.

Really, we could have stopped here, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try desert. Leche meringue with candied almonds and caramelized fig, a special. While they called this a meringue, it was sort of a cross between a sorbet and an ice cream. It worked, especially with the gorgeous crunchy almonds.

Eyeing off the dishes of neighbouring tables, I’ll have to come back and try the zucchini flowers and the pork belly and the bocadillos, for starters.

Melbourne, we’ve sent you down Neil Perry, Mark Best, Shaun Presland, and Martin Boetz to name a few, thanks for sending Frank Camorra our way.

MoVida, 50 Holt St Surry Hills ph (02) 8964 7642
MoVida Sydney on Urbanspoon