Booze, Burgers and Beards

What do booze, burgers and bearded men have in common? They all reside at Rupert & Ruby’s in Darlinghurst of course, and each is a sight for sore eyes.

Let’s start with the beards. A good-looking troop of bearded boys fronts the kitchen with Canadian head chef Eli Challenger at the helm (okay, he’s not bearded…but he wears great specs). They maintain cool composure behind the pass, despite the fact that the 90-seat restaurant is always buzzing with boisterous youths boozing up stairs and a wall of sweetheart wooers below.  The team works together effortlessly allowing time for banter and collective humming to the sweet classic rock tunes pumping from the speakers.  If you are perched at the bar, feel free to join in. Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ makes for a great sing-a-long.

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Vancouver born chef Eli Challenger with his fabulous spectacles

The team began at the IconPark venue in August, taking over from the popular Stanley Street Merchants. The venue is the world’s first crowd-funded restaurant and bar, which supplies budding restauranteurs with a ready-to-trade, licensed location to showcase unique and temporary dining concepts that the public have ultimately chosen.

Ruby’s BBQ, a Deep South barbecue joint, was the original idea proposed by Eli, his wife Ruby and friend/great-bearded business partner Aaron Pearce (from Fat Rupert’s in Bondi). The concept was so popular at the Taste of Sydney festival that the talented team was invited to take up the second residency. This time round, the trio combined the best of Ruby’s BBQ and Fat Rupert’s to create a traditional American meets modern Australian dining experience that operates from breakfast through to dinner.

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The famous Big Poppa Burger filled with spiced smoked brisket

The food is rustic, honest dude-food that is not for the calorie conscious. Think Big Poppa burgers filled with 12-hour smoked brisket, oozing cheese, lettuce, onions, and pickles paired with a bowl of crunchy rosemary and lavender salted shoestring fries. Crispy fried chicken (prepared and soaked in buttermilk for two days prior to cooking) is another house specialty, owing to the batters blend of secret spices. Vegetarians may find the menu harder to navigate, but a colourful salad of grilled witlof, cauliflower, apple and toasted walnuts with pleasant charry undertones is a good option. The food tangos nicely with the punchy cocktail list, but it’s the Stone & Wood Pacific Ale with its big fruity aromas that will truly steal your heart.

Although Rupert & Ruby won’t be around for a long time, they can definitely promise a good time. This Thursday night the venue hosts an extravagant Halloween party with neighbouring Kubrick’s and the Hazy Rose, followed by Melbourne Cup shenanigans, and finally a traditional Thanksgiving feast on November 27th that will give Aussies a taste of the much-loved American celebration, and of course more booze, burgers and beards.

Sami-Jo Adelman

Rupert & Ruby 

S’il vous plaît Salon De The

My Dad has always told me that nothing in life is for free. While I couldn’t agree with him more, there’s no denying how excited I become when I receive a freebie. I’m not talking about winning business class tickets to Europe or anything like that, (not that that would happen; I’m one of those people who enters everything but wins nothing) but I’m referring to the complimentary bowl of popcorn served with a drink (hello Shady Pines Saloon), 2-for-1 dinners (The Clock, Surry Hills) and Tuesday $1 hot dogs (yep, The Soda Factory). In an expensive city, these are the small wins that put a smile on my dial.

The restaurant is on level one while the bar is upstairs

The restaurant is on level one while the bar is upstairs

After walking up a dark stairway, we arrive at the sleek and slightly sterile Salon de The. Pronounced “teh” not “the”, the minimalistic space juts out over Victoria Street, featuring very little other than a wall of vodka bottles and a long mirror. Imagine my surprise when I receive not only complimentary tea but also complimentary nuts, as soon as I sit down. It’s not the ordinary stuff either; the tea is organic green with native Australian lemon myrtle and fennel seeds while the pepita, cashew and almond mix are roasted with a spiced salt. Experience has taught me that perks like this are only reserved for dive bars and run of mill restaurants, not a restaurant owned by hospitality heavyweight Maurice Terzini and the Ciroc Collective.

Despite the bar specialising in martinis, we order a bottle of Hoddles Creek pinot gris (Yarra Valley), which surprising goes down well with a cup a tea. Rice paper rolls are stuffed with a generous slab of Hiramasa kingfish with flecks of tart ruby grapefruit nestled amongst al dente rice noodles. Dunked into a traditionally-hot nuoc cham, this is authentic Vietnamese food at its finest. The yellow curry of soft shell mud crab is rich and full of body, served with cubes of pumpkin in lieu of potato and topped with fried lotus root.

The menu features French inspired Vietnamese fare

The menu features French inspired Vietnamese fare

Then there’s the baby kale, nashi pear and goji berry salad, dressed with a pumpkin seed ponzu, followed by a slaw of wood grilled chicken and lemongrass. The menu largely stems from Vietnamese roots with flashes of Japanese genius and traditional Thai flavours.

The tea and nuts are a great start but the winner at Salon de The is the work of French chef Julien Perraudin who has created a menu that is laced in traditional South East Asian flavours, served with a modern day finesse.

Anna Lisle

Salon De The

Cockle Bay’s very own Cafe Del Mar

The original Café Del Mar is not in Sydney – it’s in Ibiza, the bohemian party playground, where chilled out beats play all day long while long-legged beauties mill around in short jumpsuits, sipping coconut-inspired cocktails. Short of booking a trip to Spain, this Cockle Bay Wharf restaurant flavours the senses with fruity cocktails, Mediterranean flavours and smooth tunes. An interpretation of its international sister, the Sibella Court designed interior is split into a contemporary dining room and a lounge bar area with lush sofas. There is also a private dining room accommodating up to 30 seated guests.

Crumbed surf clams, and toasted almond romesco

Crumbed surf clams, and toasted almond romesco

Head chef Ben Fitton has worked across the globe, in Shanghai and America, which translate into a Modern Australian menu with hints of Spanish, Moroccan and Italian flavours. Generous dishes of premium, Australian produce dominate the menu; try the pasture fed, lamb shoulder sourced from South Australia or the Blackmores wagyu beef bresaola with potato skordalia and poached egg. Sitting beside the harbour, seafood feels like a natural choice; Hiramasa kingfish ceviche is served with cubes of star-anise scented sweet potato with a shot of vodka “tigers milk” (a Peruvian citrus marinade) while torched scallops sit atop a sweet tomato jam and rich, crunchy lentils.

Raspberry tart

Raspberry tart

Dishes are designed for sharing; the crisp skinned barramundi, served with gorgeously yellow saffron potatoes and steamed mussels lathered in a vibrantly green mint paste, coupled with the suckling pig and roast fennel, make a hearty dinner for two. Other shared mains include a lamb shoulder, which is marinated for two days in chermoula before being slow cooked for eight hours.

Anna Lisle

Café Del Mar offers express lunch deals for $25, including a glass of chandon or peroni.

Crafty business at Customs House Bar

Executive Chef Hemant Dadlani is passionate about Modern Australian cuisine. His experience in the Caribbean, Malaysia and now multicultural Australia has led him to understand what the cooking style actually means (an amalgamation of European and Asian food traditions), and it is reflected superbly in his gastro pub menu at Customs House Bar. 

From succulent braised galangal beef short ribs that are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, to crispy tempura prawns with preserved lemon aioli and juicy pork steamed buns, the progressive menu plays with culinary cultures like a DJ mixing Bhangra beats. 

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Mirza’s favourite cocktail: an old fashioned 

 

Nothing works better with this hearty mod-Oz fare like beer, and bar manager Mirza Baig knows it. He brings a worldly outlook to the humble brew, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He can rattle off beer names as though each was an old childhood friend, and his historical knowledge of the craft beer scene is infinite (note, he loves to be challenged). 

Mirza has expanded the Custom House Bar’s repertoire to include over 20 different local and international beers, with six rotating brews on tap. Like the food, the beer is dictated by the rhythm of the seasons with hoppier styles showcased in the winter, and lighter stouts in summertime. Brownie points are awarded to boutique breweries and those with a sense of tradition, like Sierra Navada and Weihenstephan, the old monastery brewery of the Benedictine monks in Bavaria. 

Warm heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad

Warm heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad



Now if all this sounds overwhelming, and you’re thinking to yourself, can’t I just order a Carlton Draught? Well, No. But don’t fret, to the left of the bar, the team has created a beer behaviour board, divvied up into four sections – ale, lager, sweet and bitter. The beer label is placed on the table according to its character, which makes it easier to understand the overall flavour. Matilda Bay’s Bees Neez, a sweet handcrafted wheat beer is agreeable and crisp on the palate, whilst other robust options include White Rabbit’s Dark Ale and Rogue’s incredible Hazelnut Brown Nectar, which sings caramel and chocolate notes. Opting for a beer flight is a fantastic way to sample what’s on offer and test your senses. 

Sami-Jo Adelman

Customs House Bar

How to Score Great Dining Deals for Less

Gone are the days when the definition of a good meal was food that simply kept people’s bellies full. Food culture is on the rise, with the huge success of food shows, foodie websites and food festivals; few people can say that a delicious meal doesn’t make their day! And of course, a good dining experience is made all the more enticing if a great discount or reduced price can be enjoyed. Here’s how to score some of the best dining deals in town.

Browse coupon and daily deals websites for dining specials
Websites such as scoupon.com.au, coupon.com.au, cudo.com.au and livingsocial.com.au are chock full of dining discounts and deals. Now and then you’ll find a real gem at a lauded local restaurant or a hot new bar or pub. For instance, you can have lunch or dinner at a great discount at Watts on Crown in Surry Hills.

The best time to scout around for deals is the lull between major holiday seasons like Christmas and Easter. Put yourself on their mailing lists if you don’t mind receiving regular promotional emails as it’s a great way to be the first to find out about the latest deals.

Take advantage of food festivals
All year round, food festivals all over Australia celebrate specific dishes, cast the spotlight on up and coming restaurants and tantalise hungry visitors with exciting degustation menus.

If you’re keen to try new cuisines and tastes and want the luxurious experience of dining at upmarket restaurants without breaking the bank, take advantage of food festivals such as Taste of Melbourne, as well as Good Food Month, which spans the entire month of October each year and is Australia’s biggest food festival.

During Good Food Month, top local and international chefs, restaurants, producers and food and wine experts descend upon the city in a four week-long culinary fiesta. If you’ve always wanted to sample the set menu at establishments such as The Star’s signature Sydney restaurants, Balla, Black and Sokyo, now it is your chance to score mouth-watering lunch menus for $38 only.

Sokyo at The Star

Sokyo at The Star

Scout out deals and packages if you’re attending a show or tour
Lots of restaurants located near major entertainment venues or in tourist precincts participate in tie-ups or offer specific deals that can save you time and money.

If you’re taking in a performance at the Sydney Opera House, enjoy a range of pre-show and dinner offers before and after the show. Likewise, catch a performance at the Sydney Lyric theatre or a concert at the Star Event Centre and enjoy fantastic pre-show dining offers.

At The Rocks, the Sydney precinct located right next to many famous attractions such as the Harbour Bridge climb, Luna Park and various museums, local hotels offer excellent packages such as the enticing Stay and Dine Package at Boutique Hotel Harbour Rocks, including accommodation, a hearty breakfast and dinner. Melbournians can enjoy a special Italian pre-show dinner package throughout the entire opera season at Tram Bar, which turns into an Italian pizzeria just for the occasion.  Australia’s major cities are home to many irresistible food and beverage establishments, and deals and offers that enable diners to enjoy discounts at all types of eateries from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants abound. So keep your eyes peeled and always be on the alert for fantastic deals and packages.

 

 

 

Meat, smoke and water views

One oft-quoted piece of advice from entrepreneurs is that above all else you should focus on one idea and execute it exceptionally. Do not spread yourself too thin; just do one thing and do it well. At Papi Chulo, the first Merivale restaurant to cross the bridge, restaurateur Justin Hemmes does lots of things; and he does them all very, very well. Right on Manly Wharf, Papi Chulo is part steakhouse, part Brazilian cantina and the menu takes inspiration from all over the globe.

Ceviche with mango, chilli, coconut dressing

Ceviche with mango, chilli, coconut dressing

It’s packed on weekends, it’s packed at lunchtime, and it’s packed when the ferry comes in from the city, any time after 5.30pm. If it was open for breakfast, it would probably be packed then, too. Why are Sydneysiders going nuts? It’s got to be the food. Start with something fresh like the lime cured yellow fin tuna ceviche with guacamole. Move on to the hot-stuff, such as the split jumbo king prawns, marinated in lemongrass and coconut.

Papi Chulo BBQ platter (serves 2-4) – Smoked lamb ribs, 150gm each of: wagyu brisket, pulled pork and mapple black pork belly platter, served with coleslaw and soft bread 86

Papi Chulo BBQ platter (serves 2-4) – Smoked lamb ribs, 150gm each of: wagyu brisket, pulled pork and mapple black pork belly platter, served with coleslaw and soft bread 86

Then, tie-on your bib, grab a handful of napkins to wipe your sticky fingers and get stuck into the some smoky suffolk lamb ribs with Papi’s BBQ sauce. Tear the meat off the bone and stuff it into a fresh brioche roll, with a few dill pickles. This is comfort food, at its best. Especially when washed down with a coconut water, vodka, mint and lychee slushie.

Anna Lisle

Papi Chulo

Best Restaurants has relaunched!!

We’ve been telling you for months “the best is yet to come” and now, it’s here with a fresh design, new features and a faster interface! The NEW Best Restaurants is not only easier to use, but it’s jam-packed with Top 10 features, the latest restaurants, hole-in-the-wall bars and quirky cafes. With our new “Where the Best Chefs Eat”, we’ve gone straight to the experts – the chefs themselves—to discover their favourite spots for everything from big breakfasts to late-night feasts.

Best Restaurants is better than ever

Best Restaurants is better than ever

Our favourite bloggers also give us their insider tips to their best kept secrets and special occasion dining. Plus, our team of foodie experts will deliver weekly top 10 articles covering all the important issues, like where do you find Sydney’s top 10 steaks or the best meals for under $20?

Our monthly newsletters will continue to bring you the latest restaurants specials and events, including private dining and Christmas function features, and of course, fab foodie competitions and giveaways. To enter our current competition to go in the draw to win a cookbook by Billy Law, click here.

Our new features include Where The Best Chefs Eat, Where the Best Bloggers Eat and Top 10

Our new features include Where The Best Chefs Eat, Where the Best Bloggers Eat and Top 10

The new website is a work in progress, so bear with us but if there’s anything you love or perhaps something you’d like to see more of, please drop us a line at anna@bestrestaurants.com.au.

Check out the new Best Restaurants here- happy browsing!

The new charo cross is boss

Forget about Crown Street in Surry Hills or Victoria Street in Darlinghurst, shuffle East and head towards the water and you’ll stumble across a foray of Eastern Suburbs foodie hotspots. Let’s start with a macchiato at Top Hat Coffee Merchants, before stopping off at Three Blue Ducks for a bowl of bircher muesli, lunch has got to be at Ruby’s Diner, then pop into Adriano Zumbo for afternoon tea, before finishing off with a cocktail and dinner at the Charing Cross Hotel. Perfect Sunday, don’t you think?

Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil

Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil

Before you respond, let me tell you about The Charo, as it’s fondly referred to by locals, because this isn’t the Charing Cross Hotel you knew 12 months ago. Waverley local Warren Livingstone took over this Eastern Suburbs stalwart, transforming it into smart space that is both modern and edgy but also pays tribute to venue’s history with original art deco features. At the heart of the pub is a marble topped, corrugated American oak clad bar that lends itself to dining, not just drinking.

Rhubarb crumble

Rhubarb crumble

It’s a treat to have Chef Matt Kemp (ex-Balzac and Montpellier Eating House) back in the kitchen and doing what he does best – classic combinations, served with an English twist. It may not be for everyone but the crispy pigs head is a winner in our books, served with piccalilli (a curried cauliflower pickle) that tastes better than it sounds. I usually sit on the sideline whenever perilla (a strong herb related to mint) is involved but served with seared swordfish, pink grapefruit and cucumber ribbons, the dish is fresh yet satisfying. If you’re craving some red meat, the grilled rib eye, topped with a textural bordelaise butter, will curb your craving and some.

Now, let me hear your answer. Perfect Sunday or what?

Anna Lisle

The Charing Cross Hotel

Guillame kicking goals in Paddington

In rugby union, as in many sports, a player’s experience is measured in caps. The more caps, the more experienced the player. It may well be finals season, but why bring up footy when we’re talking about one Sydney’s most anticipated restaurant openings in years? Well, this was the analogy used by Guillaume to explain his team at Paddington. With two-thirds of his ‘team’ having migrated from Bennelong, Guillaume says that while most of his ‘players’ have hundreds of caps he also has a number of débutantes to the test-arena that is Paddington’s newest fine dining destination. Despite the team’s varied experience, everyone has come together and coach-Guillaume feels as though they’ve been together for seasons, not the meagre 6 weeks that they have.

At home in his new venue

At home in his new venue

I had a soft spot for Darcy’s, with its gilt-framed paintings and old-world charm but Guillaume has slipped into this Hargrave Street institution and transformed it into something truly magical. It feels like a Parisian version of a beach house in the Hamptons with its Pierre Frey wallpaper and gold trimmings. Then there’s the food. Degustation menus don’t really excite me, but Guillaume’s did. I didn’t have the stamina (or deep enough pockets) for the eight-course menu but the abbreviated four-course version took me on a journey that I will remember for quite some time and one that can only be achieved through a degustation.

I could have stopped at the amuse bouche of spanner crab and avocado, served in a petite pastel-hued mud ceramic. As the cold starter, the Saikou salmon with wasabi and apple sets the scene for what is to come. I’m not sure if I can taste that the salmon has been hand-fed in the southern alps of New Zealand or that the fish are bred in cold water, all year round, between 6°C to 16°C. The salmon, however, cuts like butter and at this point I’m willing to believe anything. The squid tagliatelle is a seafood-lover’s delight with scampi, oysters and mussels, topped with a charred leek and beurre blanc.

Chestnut dessert

Chestnut dessert

Each dish is a reminder of why you shouldn’t mess with classic techniques and flavour combinations. It’s the small things that make the experience at Guillaume. The complimentary sparkling mineral water and Iggy’s breadrolls. The pastel hued Mud Australia dinnerware and the blue Murano glass chandeliers that have come directly from antique markets in Paris. The waiters, that have mastered the act of being attentive without being overbearing, and the presence of Guillaume himself, who greets each table in the same manner that you’d expect he’d greet his own friends, at the end of service.

Anna Lisle

Guillaume

I pray for après

Having skied only a handful of times before, I can’t say I was overly-enamoured by the thought of a trip to Falls Creek. Admittedly, I am quite competitive and the thought of hitting the slopes with my better half, who has skied since he was a child, was not entirely motivating. Throw in the fact that I was definitely going to encounter sore legs and probably a bruise or two and I think I had valid reservations. When I found that we had made reservations to stay next door to The Gully by The Three Blue Ducks (now actually, Five Blue Ducks), however, my attitude shifted. All it took was a simple breakfast and I was sold. The Gully is the best table in town. Period.

Graffiti and artwork is courtesy of talented artist Caleb Reid

Graffiti and artwork is courtesy of talented artist Caleb Reid

There’s a reason why there are queues outside their Bronte café in Sydney weekend after weekend, the same applies on the Victorian slopes. While snow snacks are renowned for being outrageously expensive, without delivering on quality, The Gully bucks the après trend. Humble chef Darren Robertson and partner Mark LaBrooy serve enormous and outrageously delicious dishes – from the duck maryland with chilli jam to 12 hour Angus brisket with massaman sauce. At our table of six, not one of us wasn’t blown away by their dish. For me, the whole salt-roasted local rainbow trout epitomises my perfect dinner; healthy, wholesome and delicious. The richness of the trout was offset by a subtlety-flavoured leek puree while the roasted artichokes, almost potato-like in texture, provided substance.

The Gully Potstickers

The Gully potstickers

Ingredients, in true Blue Duck style, are all sourced locally and you can tell (even the wine menu lists the distance, in a straight line, from the Gully to the vineyard). If you can fit anything after your main (thank goodness skiing is exercise), a single serving of sticky date pudding is as big as your fist and the smashed lemon tart is anything but smashed, instead it arrived as a gorgeously deconstructed dish. I’ve learnt that Falls Creek doesn’t have to be all about the skiing. Unbuckle the boots and enjoy the après lifestyle.

Anna Lisle

The Gully by Three Blue Ducks