Author Archives: Anna Lisle

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

Everything happens for a reason

With the Best Restaurants of Australia offices just around the corner, I’ve walked past Sydney-institution, Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab Restaurant what feels like a thousand times, though I never set foot inside. I have to admit, I was disappointed when it was replaced by Surry Hills Eating House, the latest restaurant to join popular Thai group, Spice I Am. What do they say? You want what you can’t have? All of a sudden, after three years of walking past, morning and night, I was craving a huge bowl of Singapore chilli crab, doused in that sticky, sweet and salty sauce.

Pork floss with ginger, chilli and Chinese broccoli leaves

Pork floss with ginger, chilli and Chinese broccoli leaves

Adamant not to make the same mistake again, I made a vow to visit Harry’s replacement and did so in its second week of opening. It was a cold, rainy Monday and the clock had just struck 6pm. Most Sydneysiders had thrown in their gym towels or cancelled dinner plans, just to get home, don their trackies and curl up for a juicy episode of The Bachelor. That is, everyone except those dining at Surry Hills Eating House. I was expecting a ghost-town though to my surprise, Surry Hills Eating House was packed.

Phuket style curry chicken with masala and roasted coconut

Phuket style curry chicken with masala and roasted coconut

The mieng ka naor is a Thai-version of san choy bau with crispy pork floss and Chinese broccoli leaves, used instead of iceberg lettuce cups. It’s “same, same but different” and when I say “different”, it is different in a very good and special way. There’s just the right amount of chilli to wake up sleepy tastebuds and although the dish doesn’t have an oyster or soy-based sauce that is often found in Chinese restaurants, it isn’t dry but rather accentuates the punchof green chilli, ginger and eschalot. Don’t get confused; pad thua is not pad thai. This stir-fried green bean dish is topped with a rich sauce of southern curry paste and dried shrimp. The salty, sweet and sour flavours of the dish fight for attention like depraved reality television stars. If you’re not a fan of shrimp paste, perhaps stick with the gai pae sa (a spicier version of Hainanese chicken) and the gaeng pla neung. (Southern style bar cod fillet, Thai black mushroom and betel leaf); both of which are phenomenal. I mightn’t have dined at Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab Restaurant but I’ll happily make up for it but dining at Surry Hills Eating House regularly. I just wish I didn’t have to walk past it every night because, like most foodies, I haven’t got much self-control.

Anna Lisle
Surry Hills Eating House

Congratulations Cuckoo Callay

Just outside Newtown Station, Cuckoo Callay is a newcomer in the trendy Inner West scene. Inspired by the playful and whimsical nature of Lewis Caroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ poem, Cuckoo Callay cleverly utilises their space and ties in numerous design elements to create a quirky and relaxed cafe environment.

Ricotta hotcakes

Ricotta hotcakes

The Instagram worthy “Hashtag Brown” is a proven favourite, the  crispy potato hash brown is topped with an oozing poached egg and accompanied with pea puree, wedges of avocado and your choice of bacon steak, house cured salmon or grilled haloumi. While I’m satiated, there’s no way I can turn down a delicious salted caramel thickshake. At this point, I didn’t think it physically possible to eat any more, however one bite into the triple chocolate brownie served with icecream and I am reminded of why they say dessert is a second stomach – it is quickly demolished.

Triple chocolate brownie

Triple chocolate brownie

Owners Ella & Ibby’s attention to detail is not only apparent in the carefully constructed cafe menu, but in the modern and chic decor too. The walls are brightly painted, the mirrored walls create the illusion of a larger space and a custom-made cuckoo clock hanging from the ceiling befittingly cuckoos every hour. Cuckoo Callay offers convenience for local commuters on the lookout for delicious coffee and other takeaway options. For everybody else, sit back and enjoy amazing cafe food with a freshly squeezed juice or a cheeky “cuckootail” or two.

Jenny Wang

Cuckoo Callay 

Coogee’s got a keeper

700 people walked through Coogee Pavilion’s doors on its opening night. These are figures that most restaurants only dream about but for hospitality mogul, Justin Hemmes, this is probably just another day-in-the-life. The Merivale portfolio now includes 50 restaurants, pubs and nightclubs across Sydney, employing over 2,000 people, with every venue proving a success. But despite what you may think, Hemmes isn’t one to sit in a boardroom, barking orders. He’s often seen in his restaurants, well before they open their doors, as was the case at Coogee Pavilion.

The games area features table tennis, a giant scrabble board and more

The games area features table tennis, a giant scrabble board, petanque, theatrette 

Once home to the iconic Beach Palace Hotel, Coogee Pavilion is the most recent addition to the Merivale family and speaking of family, this is the venue’s target audience. While the ripped-faded-denim, boyfriend-jean-wearing crowd sip on their homemade almond mylk (yes, mylk, not milk – doah) and kale smoothie, their equally-trendy kids can play in the games zone out the back.

Kingfish ceviche and a chilled Pacifico

Kingfish ceviche and a chilled Pacifico

This sounds clichéd but it truly is a one-size-fits-all eatery. You can spend big or small, come for a coffee or enjoy a seven-course degustation. It’s home to a pizzeria, oyster counter, grill section, juice stand, cafe, cocktail area and raw bar. There’s even a dog-parking area outside for your furry friends and a pokies room out the back. Forget to go the hairdresser? Pop into the barbershop. Need flowers? Swing by the florist. Bored of your dining company? Watch a movie in the theatrette.

Anna Lisle

Coogee Pavilion

The Cliff Dive opens underground tuckshop Yurippi

Who would have thought a Papuan dancehall-cum-bar could be such a hit? Having won over Sydney’s clubbing scene, Cliff Dive co-owners Alex Dowd, Jeremy Blackmore and Russell Martin are set to tap into another demographic; our foodies.

“We’re constantly on the lookout for ways to improve The Cliff Dive experience. And the best way we figure is to make the experience last longer" says Alex Dowd

Yurippi is the name of Cliff Dive’s new yakitori eating house

As you descend the stairs of Cliff Dive, get ready to be transported to a place that’s warm and tropical, despite the lack of a white sandy beach. To compliment its beach island vibe, complete with bowls of pineapples and a legit Bali long boat as the backbar, Cliff Dive now offers “yurippi” – South East Asian inspired skewers. The chef, referred to as “Honky”, fell in love with yakitori after spending some time in Japan and this is exactly what you’ll now discover at our favourite Darlinghurst themed bar. With ingredients sourced from local Thai grocers, each skewer has its own unique marinade, with standouts including the wild ginger beef, turmeric lemongrass pork and chilli octopus. Teamed with some house-pickled vegetables and pandan coconut rice, you won’t even have to go via Hungry Jacks just across the road for a midnight feast.

Anna Lisle

Chase ends here for Sydney’s best sushi

There’s sushi and then there’s sushi. At Sokyo, the sushi melts away on your tongue like good chocolate. In fact, it’s not just sushi that makes an impression, every dish of our ten-course dinner has carved itself into my memory as an event on its own. Writing this, I feel as though I’m recalling a dish I ate moments ago, so vivid are my mental notes. That’s the power of great food – a mouthful can snap you out of consciousness and take control of my senses. I liken this sensation to yoga meditation – where one achieves a stillness of mind and a heightened sensitivity to your immediate surroundings.

The menu has a social vibe offering a variety of considered dishes that are conducive to sharing

The menu has a social vibe offering a variety of considered dishes that are conducive to sharing

The first course is a deceptively simple-looking dish of seared tuna, arranged on a pretty salad of enoki mushrooms, edible flowers and micro herbs. As you gather each ingredient on your chopstick, dollops of charred leek aioli emerge from underneath and, on closer inspection; a translucent pickled ginger jelly is delicately dotted around the plate. The combination of flavours and textures are a stroke of genius. The next dish includes skinny fried potato matchsticks that hide hunks of fresh kingfish, marinated in a chilli and miso sauce. The potato doesn’t detract from the kingfish but, rather, adds a salty earthiness that elevates this from merely sashimi to a complete, balanced dish. Next, we hit the robata grill with Kurobuta pork belly, alternated with spongy chucks of daikon and served with a mustard aioli. It feels like an Australianised version of robata but it’s delicious nonetheless. I keep muttering, dish after dish, “I think this is my favourite”. By the fourth or fifth course, my nonchalant dining partner rolls his eyes and my statements fade into insignificance.

Chef Chase Kojimo is truly one talented chef

Chef Chase Kojima started his career at the age of 11, working in his father’s Japanese restaurant

The pressure point dish is undoubtedly the miso cod. I take a mouthful, anxious to see if it’s up to scratch. Moments later, I’m scraping up the last morsels of caramelised miso from the plate and any anticipation I held diminishes. I want to eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between. Feeling surprisingly perky the next morning after Sokyo, I decided to take a yoga class. As I lay day on my mat in savasana and concentrating on my breathing – trying to “still my mind”, all I can think about is seared tuna, charred leek aioli and pickled ginger jelly.

Anna Lisle

Sokyo

What makes a good pub?

What makes a good pub? In a city where hospitality groups are pumping millions of dollars into revamping pubs, it’s a question worth asking. To me, a great drinking establishment has less to do with the wallpaper and more to do with the people who stand behind the bar and sit on the stools. It’s the charismatic bartenders who remember to ask about your footy grand final and the familiar faces of the regulars who perch at the front bar. A good pub is all about whether there’s spirit.

The private dining room seats 24 guests

The private dining room seats 24 guests

When the Kurrajong Hotel became The Swanson, after a three month refurbishment by the Balmain Pub Group (who also own Riverview Hotel in Birchgrove and the Balmain Hotel in Balmain), it become more than a pub. Spanning over two levels, there’s a public bar on the street level, and an 80-seater restaurant upstairs. Truffle gnocchi, kingfish carpaccio, crispy duck with quinoa and lentils… the menu upstairs is serious and head chef Brad Sloane (former AHA chef of the year), delivers seriously good food on the plate.

Kingfish carpaccio with zucchini flower, grapefruit and chilli

Kingfish carpaccio with zucchini flower, grapefruit and chilli

There’s a pie, but it’s no ordinary pie- it’s a Wagyu beef pie, served with a garlic mash and broccolini. A spatchcock dish is served butterflied and chargrilled, with sautéed lentils, speck and brussel sprouts. For bargain hunters, there’s “2-for-1 pizzas” on Thursdays and ‘$10 Wagyu burgers” every weekday lunch. From fancy fine dining to hearty pub grub and boutique beers to inventive cocktails, there’s something that will please everyone at The Swanson.

Anna Lisle

The Swanson