Last night, NSW’s best restaurants, caterers and cafe operators were recognised at the annual Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence.
2015 marks the 17th year of the awards with PR guru and long-term industry advocate Stewart White national chair of judges for the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence. The Savour Australia HOSTPLUS Awards for Excellence is a nationally recognised, independently judged awards program that recognises exceptional service and culinary talent across Australia.
We would like to make special mention for many of our Best Restaurants client – a huge congratulations to the following finalists and winners.
China Doll, WOOLLOOMOOLOO
WINNER – Red Lantern on Riley, DARLINGHURST
Intermezzo Ristorante, SYDNEY
WINNER – Kazbah, BALMAIN
Ripples, MILSONS POINT
Chefs Gallery, SYDNEY
The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant, HAYMARKET
Zilver Restaurant, HAYMARKET
CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN RESTAURANT – FORMAL
360 Bar and Dining, SYDNEY
Catalina, ROSE BAY
CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN RESTAURANT – INFORMAL
Botanic Gardens Restaurant, SYDNEY
WINNER – Ripples Chowder Bay, MOSMAN
Sydney Tower Buffet, SYDNEY
FINE DINING RESTAURANT
WINNER – Quay, THE ROCKS
Tetsuya’s Restaurant, SYDNEY
ITALIAN RESTAURANT – FORMAL
Aqua Dining, MILSONS POINT
WINNER – Intermezzo Ristorante, SYDNEY
Otto Ristorante, WOOLLOOMOOLOO
Coogee Pavilion, COOGEE
Kazbah, POTTS POINT
Saké, DOUBLE BAY
The Governor’s Table, SYDNEY
The Spice Room, SYDNEY
WINNER- Efendy, BALMAIN
GPO Cheese and Wine Room, SYDNEY
Kazbah, DARLING HARBOUR
The Meat & Wine Co, CIRCULAR QUAY
The Meat & Wine Co, DARLING HARBOUR
If you’re not hot on the foodie trail, you might be forgiven for thinking that Fat Noodle inside The Star is another stock standard Asian eatery. It is in fact the brainchild of Luke Nguyen, Red Lantern’s celebrity chef and television star.
Drawing inspiration from his travels around Asia, Luke has created a hawker style menu with some of his favourite dishes. Unlike Red Lantern, Fat Noodle isn’t a straight-up Vietnamese restaurant. Rather, there’s a medley of South East Asian cuisines on offer, with a dynamic mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai dishes to choose from.
We opt for one of the new menu items to start, the Lijiang chicken topped with shallots and doused in vinegar dressing. The chicken is soft on the inside with a satisfyingly crispy skin. Tempered with the acidity of the vinegar dressing and pickled radish, each mouthful of the chicken boasts a melange of flavours, which is quickly devoured with the accompanying jasmine rice and chilli sauce.
Leaving without trying the famed Fat Noodle Pho would almost border on sacrilege. The trademark pho dish is cooked in Luke Nguyen’s signature 20-hour beef broth, in 400 litre kettles with oxtail and wagyu. As with any bona fide pho, there’s a side of hoisin sauce as well as fresh basil, bean sprouts, chilli and mint, meaning you’re able to tailor the flavour to your liking. The broth is fragrant and rich, highlighting the flavour of the thin slices of Angus sirloin that sit atop the silky rice noodles.
Situated on the main gaming floor at The Star and open til late, Fat Noodle hits the spot whether you’re after a post-show meal, or simply craving food of the Asian persuasion. Gambling is always a risky business, but the pho is unlikely to disappoint.
Nothing could stop us from visiting Waterman’s Lobster Co. Our dining party of 10 dwindled to just four, as our group, one-by-one fell prey to the nasty cold currently engulfing Sydney. The weather Gods turned against us too, promising nothing but torrential rain and even a few spots of hail, to add to the drama of trying to find a park in Potts Point. Alas, our loyal quartet arrive, slightly soggy but in good spirits, eager to feast like royalty.
Potts Points’ Waterman’s Lobster Co pays homage to the Maine lobster roll (pictured), popular in New York.
The menu’s attention is drawn towards the sea, which will undoubtedly work a treat on hot Sydney summer days. We whet the palate with an Asian-ified tartare of Kingfish, seaweed and radish which hits the spot and gets us in the right head space for our Maine-style lobster roll. Claw and knuckle meat is tossed with a decent amount of mayo, butter, flecks of celery and a squeeze of lemon. Stuffed inside a not-too-sweet hot dog-shaped bun and served with matchstick fries and a pickle, there’s nothing to criticise. It’s perfect. It seems odd to order the lobster salad but once it arrives, there’s no regrets – tossed with fennel, orange and bottarga (which we requested on the side), the only thing lacking was a dollop of aioli, which was quickly brought to the table and completed the dish. There’s sides galore and we opt for a purple cabbage slaw and a baby cos salad with smoked oyster mayo and croutons, which are happily devoured. Even with such adversity, our Waterman’s experience is flawless – we will be back with the full troop.
Waterman’s Lobster Co.
William Blue Dining is a live classroom where the future stars of the hospitality industry showcase their talent to the public and, let me be clear, there is talent to be shown. The waiters, as well as the chefs and kitchen staff, are students at William Blue College of Hospitality Management. The restaurant is part of the students’ training and it gives them an opportunity to get first-hand experience with paying customers.
Kingfish ceviche, blue swimmer crab, baby coriander, lime, chilli, mustard cress (GF)
Residing in the beautiful space that was once home to Neil Perry’s Rockpool, the menu features all your fine dining favourites. Braised pork belly with fennel puree or a simple kingfish ceviche with baby swimmer crab make a strong start to a three-courser. Follow this up with a crisp skinned Ora king salmon, paired with braised witlof and a sort of sweet corn puree or stick to the tried-and-trusted eggplant and mozzarella tian.
Grilled Ora King Salmon fillet, crispy skin, pink pepper sauce, sweet corn, prawn, chives, braised witlof (GF)
Dessert-wise, we loved the old-school rice pudding, vanilla scented and studded with poached apricots and poached rhubarb. At $38 for a three-course meal, you’d be hard pressed to find better value for money in The Rocks – in fact, based on the quality of the ingredients, I dare say this might be the best bang for your buck in Sydney.
Vanilla rice pudding, stewed rhubarb, sesame nougatine, poached apricot
If this is the future of the Australian hospitality industry, then we’re in safe hands.
William Blue Dining
Photography: Jenny Wang
“Fast food, slow food values” is the mantra declared on the walls of Burger Project in World Square, Sydney. The restaurant’s décor is similarly oppositional; exposed concrete, bare ceiling ducts and functional moulded tables are a stark contrast to the fine dining-esque bright open kitchen, unique pendant lights and beautiful sanded wooden benches.
The Burger Project is the brainchild of chef Neil Perry and his team from the famed Rockpool Group (whose portfolio includes Rockpool Est. 1989, Rockpool Bar and Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta), and they have extended their love of quality and environmental consciousness to the masses at this World Square outpost. The philosophy centres around the meat (as surely all good burgers should) – the beef for both Rockpool and Burger Project comes from Tasmanian grass-fed stock. This is carved and ground in store at the Project, and indeed, you can see the bright red sides of beef being expertly prepared through the kitchen’s glass walls.
The first bite of every burger we try is a celebration of the hearty goodness of beef; however, it isn’t all about the meat. The beef-to-bread-to-condiment-to-salad ratio is perfect in each burger offering. The cheese and bacon burger is satisfyingly carnivorous, with the mild cheese and fresh veggies bringing the dish together. The bacon project burger is similarly substantial, with a great salty hit of bacon for the porcine connoisseur. We also try the two types of spiced chicken wings, either rolled in Szechuan chilli pepper for a fresh crunchy bite, or as a spicy punch with hot sauce. Another highlight is the American-diner-style milkshakes. We try the vanilla, which is smoothly sweet with dark flecks of vanilla throughout, and the salted caramel, which delivers honeyed happiness in each sip.
The takeaway message from the Burger Project is that fast food really doesn’t have to bad for you, or for the environment. The restaurant even promotes its commitment to recycling waste and charitable fundraising on the tray matts. Good food, served fast and friendly – a very tasty combination.
Two wood-fired ovens, four grills and a cast-iron Aga oven. That’s it. For most chefs of a certain calibre, this almost-archaic kitchen would be like stepping back in time. For Lennox Hastie, head chef at Firedoor, this is the type of kitchen that dreams are made of.
Photo credit: Nikki To
The Fink Group have opened two of the most anticipated restaurants across Australia within months of one another – and they couldn’t be more different. Bennelong, residing in the iconic Opera House is a multileveled glamour-house with all the trimmings of a fine dining restaurant, while the pared-back Firedoor, tucked away on Mary Street in Surry Hills, prides itself on simplicity.
Photo credit: Nikki To
The kitchen burns five to six different types of wood a day; hay, ironback, pecan, orange, wine barrels and pear, to name a few, each used to infuse the various dishes on the menu that night. Prawns, butterflied and grilled on orange wood, are unadulterated – perfect in their no-frills state. Brussels sprouts pop up on almost every on-trend restaurant but these, char grilled and served in a thick pool of rich stock with chunks of smoked ham hock, put others I’ve tried to shame. Unsurprisingly, sea fare dominates the menu however a Ranger’s Valley Wagyu rib eye will make anyone believe they could happily go paleo for the rest of their lives. At Firedoor the produce is served as-is, in all its flawless glory. This philosophy has challenges though – there’s nowhere to hide even the smallest mistake. Thank goodness Hastie is a genius.
A cold winter’s day is the perfect excuse to go in search of hot and filling comfort food, even if it means braving the hustle and bustle of World Square in Sydney’s CBD. Arriving at Ramen Zundo, one immediately feels comfortable and welcome. There are exposed wooden beams outside giving it a rustic feel while rows of colourful lanterns decorate the window, and a conga-line of wooden tags emblazoned with Japanese characters surround the pass to the open kitchen. “Irasshaimase!” call the staff as we enter, which is just as welcoming as the delicious aromas from the kitchen.
The menu has so many classic and rare dishes, we over-order at the temptation to try everything. The classic light Zundo original ramen is a picture-perfect bowl of noodles with tasty fat-marbled chashu pork and scattered with seaweed sheets and chopped spring onions. This is served with Ramen Zundo’s special pork broth, cooked for 12 hours to create a rich, complex flavour. We also sample the Shio original, with a lighter chicken-stock broth, served with karaage (Japanese fried chicken). We add the chicken katsu curry and rice to our growing meal, where the chicken is crisp and doused in a thick and tangy sauce.
By now, I’m sure you won’t believe we ate more… but we did. We sample the tsukemen original, where thicker-style noodles are served cold, ready to be dipped into the hot, thickened broth full of delicate chashu pork pieces as you eat. The combination of hot and cold is surprisingly refreshing – it’s no wonder this dish is said to be a favourite of chef Neil Perry.
This comfort food and welcoming Japanese hospitality really is touching in a busy shopping centre setting. Cold weather or otherwise, I’ll be visiting Ramen Zundo again soon.
There’s something to be said about Japanese food. After all, there’s a reason why the Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world. The portions are small and delicate, and the cuisine is refined and elegant. Chef Raita Noda seems to be a direct manifestation of these Japanese attributes. He’s gentle and softly spoken – there’s no Gordon Ramsey rambunctiousness here. Perhaps best known for his eponymous restaurant in Surry Hills called Raita Noda, he is also one of several chefs who contribute to the Washoku Lovers project, an initiative aimed at promoting the Japanese food culture in Australia.
As the host of Washoku Lovers’ inaugural cooking class, it’s fascinating to watch Raita Noda demonstrate how to prepare his own version of traditional dishes. Sukiyaki is typically served in a hotpot but Chef Raita gives the dish a modern twist by creating a sukiyaki roll, wrapping rice with wagyu beef in a sushi mat, before searing the roll and serving it with tempura egg and a salad of julienned leek, shallots and tong ho (chrysanthemum leaves). There’s a level of meticulousness that you appreciate when you watch an accomplished chef cook – Raita Noda carefully rinses the rice twice and lightly massages it each time. The second dish is smoked marinated tuna accompanied with soy sauce and salad. Who knew you could smoke fish by pouring smoke into a glass then covering the fish?
Putting our newfound knowledge to the test, we try our hand at preparing the dishes ourselves inside the hands-on kitchen within Sydney Seafood School. My self-made dishes lack finesse but the wagyu beef is rich and succulent and the blue fin tuna sashimi is deliciously smoked. Washoku Lovers is onto a good thing – Japanese food is truly a celebration of the flavours, textures and colours of fresh produce.
To find out more information about Washoku Lovers, visit http://www.washokulovers.com/.
It’s not every day that you arrive at a restaurant by water taxi. Perched on the edge of Sydney’s harbour and housed within Manly’s Q Station, Boilerhouse almost seems to be in a world of its own. The restaurant is a short walk from where we dock and looking down over the Manly peninsula, it’s hard to believe that for 150 years, the building was used as part of the former quarantine station that contained people suspected of carrying infectious disease. Today, (thankfully) Boilerhouse boasts a charmingly rustic chic interior, with a corrugated roof and exposed brick walls.
Chef Matt Kemp (ex Gazebo Wine Garden) is host to Boilerhouse’s Winter Wine Feast, and he has no trouble showing off his culinary prowess in the open plan kitchen on the ground floor. He jokes and jives whilst deftly preparing and plating each dish on the central table, before we are presented with the dishes ourselves on shared tables on the mezzanine level.
Boilerhouse hasn’t used the term “feast” lightly. We start with servings of delectably braised duck leg croustillant with beetroot, and a comforting Jerusalem artichoke and chestnut pie, to whet our appetite. The baked fillet of Palmers Island mulloway accompanied with a side of creamed veggies and smoked pork belly proves to be, in my opinion, the pièce de résistance. Fish isn’t usually my preferred meat of choice, but the fillet is baked to perfection and with a few squeezes of lemon, quickly scoffed up. The next main is a 48-hour short rib of beef accompanied with creamed onions and charred leeks adding a delicate smoky flavour, tempering the saltiness of the beef. A proper feast would not be complete without dessert; we finish off the night with a refreshing poached quince jelly with lemon posset and a baked Eve’s pudding served with homemade rum and raisin sauce doused over icecream.
Q Station is probably best known for its ghost tours, but Boilerhouse has proven it is a destination in itself that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Boilerhouse’s third instalment in their Culinary Dinner series “Meet Your Maker” is on Thursday, 24th September.
$125 per person for 6 courses with matching wines from 7PM.
It’s always exciting to find somewhere new to eat in Chinatown, packed away among the narrow streets and vibrant lanterned nightlife that makes the area so iconic for Asian food lovers. Hidden away on the top floor of Market City in Haymarket, when we approach The Eight modern Chinese Restaurant for dinner, it feels like a childhood dream; breaking into the mall after hours to discover something magical. Photos of grinning celebrities and politicians crowd the opulent entranceway as we arrive; we are clearly not the first to taste this culinary discovery.
As a sister restaurant to the renowned Zilver on Hay Street, The Eight spans a huge square-footage, catering for busy yum-cha lunch dining and big banquet meals in the evening. We are greeted by busy attentive staff and an impressively extensive wine list – the whole experience feeling a mix of up-market tradition and festive foody relaxation. A pair of businessmen nearby laugh and joke over a sumptuous crab dish, and a packed family table next to ours jealously eyes the procession of dishes that arrive for our live mud crab & peking duck banquet.
Our feast of dishes are worthy of coveting. We begin with crispy duck and hoisin pancakes, sliced and prepared at our table, followed by diced duck sang choy bow with a sauce that drips deliciously down my hand as I bite through the fresh lettuce. The following main course staggers us with its variety, generous portions and enticing aromas – I can hardly stand waiting as our photographer snaps away at the Lazy Suzan-covering spread. The Szechuan-style sautéed prawns are sweet-and-sour heaven with a kick of spice, and the stir-fried scallops soft and succulent. A delicious whole silver perch is an instant table favourite, with its smooth hot broth and fresh tender meat. However, the knock-out piece is the fried mud crab with Singapore style fried buns – its tangy sweet sauce is scooped out with our brioche-like bread, as we all try a hand at cracking some crab shell to reach the tasty flesh inside.
Accompanied by the traditional hot Singapore noodles and delicately braised Chinese vegetables, the meal has been filling and comforting as we relax over a light Pinot noir to finish. My fortune cookie dessert tells me that I’m “very expressive and positive in word, action and feelings”. I’m certainly remembering that deliciously positive experience as I write now.