Taking up a prime position on the corner of Anzac Parade and Borrodale Road, Niji Sushi Bar is one of Kensington’s best kept secrets. The dynamic team behind Niji include owner Raji Khanal, bar manager Binod Shrestha and head chef Kohji Matsuda, all of whom worked at Toko in Surry Hills. Doubling as a sushi bar and an a la carte restaurant, Niji seamlessly taps into two restaurant markets where diners can either enjoy a quick snack of sashimi and nigiri or settle in and linger over an Izakaya style meal.
180 gram grain-fed wagyu beef (marble score 9+) with Amayaki Sauce
The design is modern and simple, which allows diners to pay proper attention to the experienced sushi chefs who work their magic from an open kitchen. The star attraction, however, is a 32 metre sushi bar which wraps around the kitchen, while small tables line the periphery of the restaurant space.
Miso marinated Atlantic Salmon grilled in charcoal with home-made pickled vegetables
On a Friday night, the 120-seat restaurant is packed, with a small queue waiting at the door. Both the food and beverage menus cover all the bases – from fruity cocktails and wine-by-the-glass to soba duck soup and yakitori. The “coco-lico” cocktail is a sweet mix of coconut syrup, pineapple, kaffir lime leaf and Malibu while the “flamingo rose” will woo any martini-lovers. The dynamite roll comes highly recommended, filled with raw tuna and topped with sesame seeds and a chilli Japanese spice as does the duck skin roll which is doused in a sweet plum sauce and filled with creamy avocado. However, it is the 48-hour cooked pork belly, which is then charcoal-grilled on the robata, that steals the show. It only takes one dish to solidify a restaurant’s place in the foodie scene and Niji’s pork belly does just that. And did I mention, I’m not a huge pork fan?
Read more about Niji Sushi Bar here
The Sydney CBD has taken the concept of ‘underground’ dining quite literally, with a growing number of small bars and restaurants humming away beneath pavement pounding office workers and corporate types. King St has joined the ranks, with Parisian-style bistro Le Pub taking over the old PJ Gallaghers basement-level space.
Escargots de bourgogne
The room is open plan, with dining at one end and the pub at the other. The bistro area blends shabby-chic with Parisian-class, with round marble tables, shiny cushioned chairs and stripy brushed velvet banquets in muted tones of green, gold, red and blue. White, lettered wall tiles give a scrabble-style effect, with words like ‘Napolean’ and ‘Croque Madame’ hidden across.
Confit de canard
It may be called Le Pub but there isn’t an ounce of pub grubbiness on the menu. The salad au fois grois is textural perfection, with julienne green apple, sticky shards of honeycomb and toasted hazelnuts hidden amongst a tumble of red sorrel leaves, dressed with creamy micro-shavings of fois gras. The menu presents French classics that are served with a modern twist. Take the twice-cooked confit duck leg, for example, while the flavours stay true to a classic duck a l’orange, the dish is served with pretty salad of micro herbs and dehydrated mandarin segments. The collet d’agneau, an equally-attractive dish of lamb neck, cauliflower puree and pea salad, arrives sprinkled with a herb quinoa crumb.
A heady glass of Louis Latour Pinot Noir Aloxe from Burgundy comes highly recommended. A dainty board of petite fours is perfect to linger over, featuring oozy caramel chocolates, house-made honeycomb and, Francophiles will be delighted to discover, Caramac bars.
Aside from providing a truly satisfying power-lunch, Le Pub also makes a convenient post-work date destination – dim lighting and dark wooden floorboards maintain a moodily romantic, old-school atmosphere.
Read more about Le Pub here
Sydney socialites, media moguls and foodies last night celebrated the latest addition to the infamous Bayswater Road strip, Crane Bar and Restaurant. Kimono-clad geishas and Japanese percussionists ushered guests into the venue where an oriental oasis was revealed. Cherry blossoms covered the entry halls while the back courtyard was home to a lush Japanese garden.
Cocktails and beverages were created by Crane Bar Restaurant’s resident mixologist Thiago Santos
The food lived up to the venue’s design with a selection of Japanese dishes impressing the crowds including barramundi in white soy, crispy chicken karaage and Crane’s legendary spicy prawn rolls. Executive Chef Taichi Ito stole the show, however, when he transformed a 50kg whole, fresh Tuna into bite sized servings of the highest-quality sashimi.
Co-owners Sarah Budge and David Fedele
With two large bars, two DJ booths, a private VIP or meeting room, a sashimi bar and an open kitchen, Crane is great for a range of functions and events. And with a 24-hour license, Crane has become a favourite late-night dining haunt for Sydney’s socialites and A-listers.
Read more about Crane here
The Lower North Shore is an unlikely location for a restaurant and bar of this calibre. As part of the Applejack Hospitality Group (who also own Bondi Hardware), The Botanist has put Kirribilli back on the foodie map.
The fitout is (refreshingly) not over-the-top
Historic botanist Gerard Fothergill, who was said to have spent the declining years of his life at the Kirribilli Street site, is the restaurant’s namesake and the inspiration behind the venue’s design. Thus, it’s only fitting that guests perch at wooden tables amongst pot plants while spindly ferns hang from ceiling – it’s unique without being over-the-top (how refreshing). The drinks list also takes cues from its botanical theme with cocktails themed “Mexican garden” and “The Pacific Isles” while the menu delivers a global spin with everything from sliders and pizza to tacos and pork knuckle.
Salt and pepper squid
As the saying goes, when you have your finger in too many pies, you often can’t do them all well. The Botanist is the exception. Not only does it successfully function as a bar and a restaurant but it also manages to skip between Mexican, Italian, Asian and Modern Australian. Tacos, at 4 for $20, are not only value-for-money but are generously filled with marinated beef strips and onion relish. A vibrant bowl of Szechuan prawns would rival any Thai dish from the ever-popular Stir Crazy down the road while a classic, salt and pepper squid, is tender and lightly crisp.
The drinks list also takes cues from its botanical theme with cocktails themed “Mexican garden” and “The Pacific Isles”
The Botanist is exactly what the doctor ordered for the North Shore – upbeat music, great food and a buzzy atmosphere. In fact, this place may be even worth traipsing over the bridge.
Read more about The Botanist here
The unassuming façade of the Town Hall Hotel, located on a quiet street in Fitzroy, gives diners little inkling of what to expect inside its walls. From owner and Hatted Chef Harry Lilai, Town Hall Hotel (THH) combines hearty Italian food with warm good-old hospitality.
Seared beef carpaccio, truffled beef tartare and reggiano shavings
There’s a relaxed vibe at THH with the space effortlessly designed and sparsely decorated, with bare white walls and worn timber flooring. It’s the sort of place you could easily stay at for a few hours on a leisurely weekend lunch. Downstairs, a dimly-lit cellar houses a private dining area and one of Melbourne’s most extensive wine collections north of the river.
Home cooking coupled with refined restaurant technique ensures Lilai’s reputation is upheld
The simplicity in the dining room lets the food speak for itself. A contemporary version of home cooking coupled with refined restaurant technique ensures Lilai’s reputation is upheld. Start with the chickpea battered oysters, served in the shell, on a bed of pickled fennel. Crisp on the outside and with the essence of the sea still packed inside, the flavours are clean and approachable, as is the plate of paper-thin bresaola that follows – piled with beef tartar and parmesan shavings. Larger courses see pumpkin and ricotta stuffed generously into silky ravioli and a robust osso bucco utilises saffron-laced risotto Milanese to soak up the remnants of sauce.
Snapper fillet, lemon spinach and puttanesca sauce
To end, you can’t go wrong with the tiramisu or fluffy bomboloni, but for something more contemporary, try the coconut pannacotta with pineapple salsa looking very 50 shades of white in it’s frosted glass.
A relaxed ambience, good food and quality wine set the Town Hall Hotel apart in Fitzroy, a place you could easily keep returning to, especially for more of those oysters.
Read more about Town Hall Hotel here
El Celler de Can Roca in Girona has long been hailed as one of Spain’s most exciting places to eat and having spent two years at no.2 on the list, it has swapped places with Denmark’s Noma, which held the top ranking for the last three years.
Celebrating the best chefs in Asia with lunch hosted at Singapore’s Pollen
Australia’s Attica takes home the Highest New Entry award, sponsored by LesConcierges.com, making its debut on the list at no.21, which also makes it the recipient of the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Australasia award.
S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World 2012 – Noma, Copenhagen
Sydney also makes it mark on the list with Peter Gilmore’s restaurant Quay, coming it at no. 48 for the fifth consecutive year. Australian-born chef David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok is ranked at no.32 while another Aussie, Brett Graham, comes in at no.13 for Notting Hill restaurant, The Ledbury.
For the full list, go here
Sydney is in desperate need for a good New-York style deli so when news of Lox Stock and Barrel hit the foodie-press, I promptly texted a fellow bagel-lover: 140 Glenayr Avenue.
Lox and bagels are to New Yorkers what meat pies are to Aussies. They’re part of the national identity and with such a cult-like status comes high expectations. As a New Yorker- wannabee, I was delighted when Brown Sugar brother-and-sister-duo Neil and Lianne Gottheiner, expanded their operation and opened Lox, Stock and Barrel. The name, not only a tribute to the NYC delicacy, “lox”, known in Australia as smoked salmon, is also a cheeky take on Guy Ritchie’s award winning British crime film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The fitout is bare but chic
The menu is a mix of standard Bondi café offerings (ancient grain porridge and pumpkin salad) together with Jewish classics (challah and homemade brisket pastrami on rye). A panzanella salad is nondescript however a roasted cauliflower and chickpea dish, served with almonds and a tahina dressing is a standout. There are four varieties of bagels that are boiled onsite every day which taste just like they do in NYC; moist, dense and perfect when topped with some cream cheese, capers and smoked lox.
Free range holmbrae chicken, root vegies, egg noodles – can be ordered as a main or side dish
Does Lox Stock and Barrel fill the New York deli gap? It certainly isn’t as cheap and it’s not exactly a grab-and-go kind of place. Instead it melds together a unique crowd of black comedy fans, lox-and-bagel aficionados and Bondi hipsters – and perhaps this odd sortie is something that fits more with our Aussie psyche.
Read more about Lox Stock and Barrel here
A long-standing icon in Richmond, the multi-award winning Church Street Enoteca has been serving authentic Italian food long before the suburb was pronounced a culinary hot spot.
The restaurant itself is steeped in history, housed at the site of a former metal works factory, with the original hardwood flooring still in use today. Inside the art-deco dining room, simple white walls are adorned with Italian pop-art posters, while hanging light fixtures form two lines dividing the centre of the room. It sounds cliché but the atmosphere can’t be described as anything but romantic with its cosy linen-draped tables, Riedal glassware and full silver service.
Grass fed eye fillet, egg yolk emulsion, fried capers, onion rings, parmesan tuille, truffle oil
The seasonal menu offers modern Italian dishes, each of which are executed with adept precision. A dish of vitello tonnato is elevated to fine dining standards without losing its origins, pairing slices of lightly seared tuna and poached veal with a thin tuna aioli. The crayfish and snapper tortelli is testament to the skill found in the kitchen – with handmade parcels floating in a clear, condensed broth that captures the subtle essence of crayfish.
Main dishes progress into heartier plates such as Umbrian pork chop, atop a mixed bean and a crispy pork belly salad, while a dish of braised duck leg and steamed duck breast balances out the rich flavours with pickled wild mushrooms and a parsnip puree.
“Strawberries and Cream” – set vanilla cream, strawberries, mint, balsamic
Dishes on the dessert menu are aptly named by their key flavours. Take the ‘coffee and donuts’, the restaurant’s contemporary take on tiramisu; the dish is topped with espresso foam and served with warm Italian bomboloni. It’s large enough to share, so be warned.
Church Street Enoteca is testament that good, classic Italian food will always have a place on the culinary scene.
Read more about Church Street Enoteca here
This recipe is extracted from Flavours of Urban Melbourne by Jonette George – a lavishly designed coffee table book that takes readers on a culinary journey through the best restaurants, cafes and bars in the North, West, East & South of Melbourne. Published by Smudge Books, February 2013 (RRP $69.99). Sequal to ‘Flavours of Melbourne’. www.smudgepub.com.au
Cutler and Co’s Earl Grey Ice Cream, PX Prunes, Chocolate and Honey
100g good quality dark chocolate
10ml extra virgin olive oil
5g egg whites
- Blitz chocolate and cocoa to a fine crumb in a food processor. Whisk together oil, egg whites and salt.
- Add this to the chocolate mix, and pulse briefly to incorporate.
Earl Grey Ice Cream
50g condensed milk
3/4 tbsp earl grey tea leaves
- Add the tea leaves, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Pass through a fine sieve, leave to cool in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Churn in an ice cream machine.
300 ml Pedro Ximenez
50 ml water
50 g castor sugar
1tsp vanilla paste
- Bring the syrup to a gentle simmer then add 200g prunes.
- Turn the heat down to very low and cook gently for around 30 minutes, until the syrup is reduced and sticky and the prunes are plump and juicy.
100g good quality dark chocolate
10ml extra virgin olive oil
5g egg whites
- Bring the milk, cream and glucose to a boil over a moderate heat. Meanwhile whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl to form a sabayon. Pour the boiling mixture into the egg mix, whisking quickly to incorporate. Put back into the pot and cook out over a low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour this mixture over the chocolate then mix with a spoon to combine. Leave to cool to room temperature for around 30 minutes. After this, fold in the whipped cream, pour into a container and allow to set in the fridge.
2½ leaves of gelatin soaked in cold water
- Caramelize the honey in a small pot over a medium heat. After it begins to smell like a caramel, add the water to arrest the cooking. Taking care as the honey may split.
- Bring back up to the boil, add the gelatin and melt. Pour through a fine sieve into a small tray lined wth clingfilm.
- Leave in the fridge to set. Once set cut into small cubes, around ½ cm.
- Melt 120g good quality dark chocolate in a small bowl set over a small pot of gently simmering water. Once melted, spread thinly with a palette knife on a small metal tray. Leave the chocolate to set for 5-10 minutes in the fridge.
- Remove from fridge, using a scraper, push the scraper against the chocolate, it should curl and form the shape of cigarettes. If the chocolate is breaking apart, it is too cold and will have to warm to room temperature a little more. If it comes off the tray, but doesn’t curl up, it is too warm and will need to go back into the fridge to cool.
- Once you have formed the cigarettes, leave to set in the fridge for 10 minutes. Using the scraper, gently push the cigarettes in the opposite direction to which you scraped them, to break them free of the tray. Store in the fridge.
- Arrange six serving bowls.
- Spoon two large tablespoons of the chocolate crumb into the bottom of the bowls, in a line across the plate.
- At either side of the line of chocolate crumb, using a teaspoon dipped into hot water, form quenelles of chocolate ganache, dipping the spoon back into the hot water before each one. Put a prune next to each quenelle of chocolate (2 per plate).
- Arrange 4-5 pieces of honey jelly around the other garnishes. Finally, using a dessert spoon, dipped in hot water, form the Earl Grey ice cream into large quenelles, one per plate. Garnish with 4-5 chocolate cigarettes on top of the ice cream.
Read more about Cutler and Co. here
As soon as you enter The ArtHouse Hotel, you get the sense that there’s been a lot of history created within its walls. The building itself dates back to 1836 and was once home to The School of Arts. However, today’s ArtHouse is home to a stylish taproom, four bars and the elegant dining room aptly titled Dome.
Dome restaurant doubles as an exhibition area for hanging artworks by Sydney artists
High gilded ceilings, 19th century plasterwork and large arched windows set the stage for an elegant dining experience at Dome Restaurant. Guests can start with a drink in the lounge before taking a seat in the large dining area complete with white-clothed tables and polished wooden floors. The refined menu commands as much respect as the restaurant’s surroundings with dishes such as squid ink linguine, Chinese marinated quail and New Zealand salmon.
New Zealand king salmon served with butter beans, bacon and tomato passata
In keeping with the hotel’s artistic bent, Dome also doubles as an exhibition area for hanging artworks by Sydney artists. The ArtHouse also regularly features creative arts events such as life drawing, art exhibitions, burlesque, cabaret and DJ/club nights.
Please note: There is a dress code that rules out singlets, thongs, tracksuits, sneakers and hats.
Read more about The Dome here