Author Archives: Anna Lisle

Tutti A Tavola – ‘everyone to the [La Scala on Jersey] table’

Perched above Paddington’s iconic Light Brigade Hotel and beside hot new experimental restaurant Pinbone, the revamped La Scala has taken a step back, offering casual, neighbourhood dining in humble surrounds. At first glance, the restaurant isn’t radically different; only subtle changes like the removal of tablecloths and the addition of timber fixtures. What is left is a more down-to-earth space, thanks to the adept touch of designer Annie Snell.

Mamma Maria’s pickled carrots, goats curd, oregano and mint

Mamma Maria’s pickled carrots, goats curd, oregano and mint

This same approach has been applied to the menu, with a focus on seasonal and local produce, without all the usual fine dining fluff. Massimo Mele is the face behind this menu and he’s as charming (and good looking) as one would expect from an Australian-Italian; born in Tasmania but raised in Naples, Italy. Like all good Italians, Massimo’s love of food came from his mother; growing up in the Mele household “every day was Sunday and every Sunday was like Christmas.”

Zeppole, Italian doughnuts, nutella and vanilla custard

Zeppole, Italian doughnuts, nutella and vanilla custard

When it comes to pre-dinner cursors, Massimo plays tribute to his childhood, offering Mamma Maria’s pickled carrots, goats curd, oregano and mint; Nonna’s antipasto of marinated octopus salad with potato, celery heart, chilli and fennel; and an Amalfi Coast classic of grilled lemon scented veal meatballs. The menu changes weekly, depending on what is available from The Cooks Co-Op, who supply the restaurant with produce from the Hawkesbury region. La Scala on Jersey also offer monthly winemaker’s dinners that take place in their private dining room, which can seat up to 26 guests.

Anna Lisle

Bib up and dig in

 Gloves. Check. Bib. Check. Scissors. Check. Crab pick. Check. Dining at House of Crabs is as surgical as it sounds, though rather than pain, you experience nothing but tastebud bliss. There’s no plates around me. Just a steaming plastic bag containing one full Snow Crab swimming in a pool of sauce.

lobster BR

Choose from Blue Swimmer, Snow and King Crab

Then comes the equipment. I’ve got to say, I’m a bit of crustacean rookie so I start delicately and slowly, dissecting each piece. A few mouthfuls in, I’ve tossed away a few empty crab shells and with that, my dining dignity. It’s too tasty to waste time on manners and etiquette. Sauce is splashed on the table and all over our clothes and I dare say, even Manu would be impressed by this amount of liquid gold.

As I come up for air midway through the bag, I look around the room – fishing and seaside paraphernalia adorn the roof and walls and the bar is in the shape of boat hull. It’s quirky and fun but there’s no time to waste, the real magic is in that plastic bag. Nurse, the crab cracker, stat.

 Anna Lisle

Singing Italy’s praises – Popolo

Experience has taught me that if a restaurant bears the title “authentic” in its name or menu, it’ll be anything but. At Popolo, there’s no mention of it anywhere but the evidence is where it counts – on the plate. The menu is influenced by seasonality, with a pesce dish that changes daily or weekly, depending on what’s been caught that morning from the fish markets.  The menu delivers regional classics without scaring off your conservative Italian dining companions (you know, those friends who won’t order anything but margherita pizza). Inspired by the heritage of co-owners Flavio Carnevale and Fabio Dore, both ex Fratelli Paradiso, there’s hints of Sardinia and Basilicata dotted throughout the menu.

Popolo is not only open for dinner. Next time I'll be trying the breakfast and lunch menu

Popolo is not only open for dinner. Next time I’ll be trying the breakfast and lunch menu

To start, the swordfish carpaccio, a fleshier and more textural fish, marries well with a dehydrated mandarin peel crumb and toasted almond flakes. If I had to find a fault, the dish could have used a squeeze of lemon that would have taken it to the next level. The squid ink tagliatelle, cooked al dente, involves just a few ingredients, as the best Italian dishes do, with hunks of spanner, king and blue swimmer crab, a handful of sun ripened cherry tomatoes and torn shreds of basil. The fish of the day is a piece of crisp-skinned snapper, served with roasted baby zucchini flowers and cherry tomatoes. Classic flavour combinations, executed perfectly – this dish was a reminder that simple is often the best.

Ceci e Tria - originally from Lecce, pasta strips cooked two ways, chick peas, pecorino mousse

Ceci e Tria – originally from Lecce, pasta strips cooked two ways, chick peas, pecorino mousse

Co-owners Flavio and Fabio explain the motivation behind Popolo: “We want our guests to be able to close their eyes and be transported to Positano, Puglia, Basilicata and Sardegna with every mouthful.” I’ve got to say, dinner at Popolo was undoubtedly an inexpensive Italian holiday, albeit a little short.

Anna Lisle

ClubsNSW Chef’s Table competition – demonstration day

As part of Club NSW’s The Chef’s Table Competition, a handful of chefs from across Sydney took part in the demonstration day, held at Game Farm in Galston. It was a huge pleasure to be asked to visit the farm, which is today the largest multi-species game bird producer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Demonstration Day is part of The Chef's Table competition

The Demonstration Day was part of The Chef’s Table competition

After touring the Game Farm, we tucked into a delicious breakfast of teriyaki quail and burgers made with quail eggs. From Avocado Australia, Chef Lauren Murdoch from 3 Weeds Restaurant, together with Stuart White from Whiteworks Public Relations, took us through a master class, demonstrating a few quirky uses and avocado recipes.

Chef Lauren Murdoch from 3 Weeds Restaurant, together with Stuart White from Whiteworks Public Relations

Chef Lauren Murdoch from 3 Weeds Restaurant, together with Stuart White from Whiteworks Public Relations

The day was a huge success and it was great to meet some of our up-and-coming chefs, competing in The Chef’s Table. This fantastic initiative is aimed at developing and challenging the skills and knowledge of chefs and apprentices working in registered clubs in NSW. Celebrating its 10th year in 2014, The Chef’s Table competition has been fundamental to the club industry providing a channel to showcase clubs as true dining destinations.

March into Ms. G’s

The charismatic multilevel space of Ms G’s certainly plays to a moneyed crowd, luring in Potts Point socialites and Bondi hipsters who only drink coconut-water. It’s an eclectic clientele but food is their common ground.

March into Merivale $33 meal deal - 2 courses and a glass of wine @ Ms G's

March into Merivale $33 meal deal – 2 courses and a glass of wine @ Ms G’s

You can hear Ms G’s before you see it. Hip tunes and excited prattle waft along Victoria Street, luring undecided diners to join the restaurant’s queue, which there inevitably is with a no-bookings policy. The buzz of the room’s neon lights can be distracting, but the food is worth paying attention to. Spicy snow crab, sweet and salty all at once, served in a bitter sesame leaf is the perfect starter. Topped with a dollop of sour cream, together with the crunch of tiny small balls of fried something-or-others create small explosions of flavour with each mouthful. The next dish is a creative take on scallop ceviche. The plump chunks of flesh are tossed with tomato and a creamy miso dressing and served in a fried cassava cup (think south east Asian pappadum). Al dente egg noodles are doused in a fragrant XO sauce, which could have been a little punchier but, served with shreds of braised duck, it’s a forgivable oversight. The hero, however, is a still-translucent piece of crisp-skin barramundi, lathered in a fire-engine red sambal sauce.

Anna Lisle

Jamaican me hungry

They say it’s going to be the next Mexican… Jamaican cuisine, that is. I’m intrigued but not convinced, yet. The Drink & Dine Group have applied their tried and tested restaurant/pub formula to The Forresters, transforming upstairs into the Caribbean-themed restaurant Queenies. In classic Drink & Dine style, the fitout at Queenies is over the top but not in a bad way. There’s a straw-thatched ceiling, wooden floorboards and photos of former Miss Jamaica contestants lining the walls.

Pork, jicama and peanut San Choy Bow

Pork, jicama and peanut San Choy Bow

It’s sometimes hard to take the menu seriously, especially with themes such as the “Bob Marley Chowdown” and “Wake and Bake” but don’t be deterred. Here, it’s all about the jerk chicken and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. A sure-fire crowd-pleaser, rich and spiced chicken pieces are cooked to a smoky barbecuedness, coupled with some sweet potato chips, it’s 10/10 for tastiness. Beyond jerk, the menu delivers some Jamaican classics like BBQ corn and dirty rice, with a twist plus a few random additions like vego curry puffs thrown in for good measure.

At Queenies, you’re not going to be blown away by the food but you won’t be disappointed either. Here, the atmosphere is just as important as the food and drinks but what’s wrong with that? There’s more to a good night than the food.

Anna Lisle

A fresh take on French at The Dining Room

Looking smack-bang across to Bennelong and Australia’s most famously-shaped house of opera, with water lapping on the edges of the wharf just below, dining at the Park Hyatt encapsulates everything we love about Sydney’s burgeoning food scene.

Blue fin tuna tartar, crunchy vegetables, mango & passion fruit sauce

Blue fin tuna tartar, crunchy vegetables, mango & passion fruit sauce

The Park Hyatt is the Rolls Royce of Sydney’s five star hotels (former guests include Elton John, Bette Midler, Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few), and the food at The Dining Room reflects the kind of service you’ll receive if you’re lucky spend a night upstairs. Despite the location and its pretences, the restaurant is surprisingly relaxed and cosy. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant itself is bathed in natural light, which allows diners to focus on what’s important – the food and the view.

Green pea & mint gazpacho, organic goat’s cheese.

Green pea & mint gazpacho, organic goat’s cheese

Some chefs think they know everything. Franck Detrait is not one of them. When he arrived in Sydney late last year to take over the kitchen, rather than immediately asserting his power with a classic French menu, he sought the advice of Sydney chefs and suppliers. “I wanted to use local produce”, explains Franck, “and I created a menu around those ingredients, rather than the other way around”. The menu is not shackled by classic flavour combinations, instead, Franck’s menu features tuna tartare with mango and passionfruit and duck foie gras with Jamaican peppercorn jelly and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum).

Lamington cake, white chocolate & Malibu ice cream

Lamington cake, white chocolate & Malibu ice cream

For me, the standout dish was one which didn’t challenge any culinary conventions – simple flavours but executed to the highest standard; plump Hokkaido scallops, quickly seared, served with a ginger, coconut and lemongrass bouillon, poured at the table – magnifique. To top it all off, there’s a superb wine list and the service is politely old-fashioned, but not stuffy.

For more information see here

Anna Lisle

24 hours in…Potts Point

It may be right next door to Sydney’s seediest strip but Potts Point is one of Sydney’s most affluent suburbs with its tree-lined streets boasting a host of trendy cafes and art deco buildings.

Anna Lisle

 

Breakfast – Fratelli Paradiso

It may not have made its name as a breakfast go-to but this Potts Point institution offers lip-smacking Italian fare and sweet and flaky pastries that are made in-house daily. Try the ricotta cannoli.  (12-16 Challis Avenue, Potts Point. http://www.fratelliparadiso.com.au/)

Hard to beat breakfast @ Room 10

Hard to beat breakfast @ Room 10

Coffee – Room 10

This trendy espresso bar and café fits in perfectly with the fast paced Potts Point crowd. It takes the art of the local friendly coffee shop back to basics with genuinely friendly service, great coffee and tasty light snacks perfect for a quick pit stop at any time of the day. Cash only.  (10 Llankelly Place, Potts Point. https://www.facebook.com/room10espresso/info)

Long lunch – Ms. G’s

This funky noodle bar displays an irreverent edge, with super-charged Asian classics and an “anything goes” kind of style. Enter beneath the restaurant’s neon pink signage to take in the cool decor that includes a graffiti wall, communal dining tables and courtyard veggie garden. (155 Victoria Street, Potts Point. www.merivale.com.au/msgs)

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Afternoon sweet treat – Bourke Street Bakery

The glass cabinets at Bourke Street Bakery are laden with all sorts of tempting treats that will win over even the most discerning sweet tooths; the only trouble here is choosing between a deliciously light and fluffy carrot and flourless chocolate cake, a luscious lemon tart or a fruit danish. (46a Macleay Street, Potts Point – entry via Crick Avenue, www.bourkestreetbakery.com.au)

Happy Hour – Monopole

Head to Monopole for a pre-dinner tipple where guests choose from an exciting list of organic, biodynamic and rare wines that you can buy either by the glass or by the carafe. But Monopole is more than a bar; it offers an impressive menu that stretches from snacks to share plates, plus, it makes its own charcuterie, a sure fire sign that head chef Brent Savage (of hatted CBD restaurant Bentley) knows what he’s doing. (71A Macleay Street, Potts Point. www.monopolesydney.com.au)

Dinner – The Apollo

The Apollo is proof that a Greek taverna can be both hearty and classy. Here, ancient and modern Greek flavours meet over a contemporary dining ethic. The Apollo’s pared-back dining room features unclothed tables and bentwood chairs, which set off the simple beauty of the restaurant’s vintage arched windows, through which diners can watch the trendy Potts Point set go by. (44 Macleay Street, Potts Point. www.theapollo.com.au)

The Bourbon

The Bourbon

Late night snack – The Bourbon

End the perfect Potts Point day with live music and a bowl of fried chicken at the iconic Bourbon Hotel. Chef James Metcalfe offers a menu inspired by New Orleans flavours, served with a contemporary twist.  (22 Darlinghurst Rd
Potts Point
, www.thebourbon.com.au)

 

Noteworthy Mentions

Kyu:b

LL Wine and Dine

Yellow

Gastro Park

The Fish Shop

Café Sopra

Buns and Balls

Jimmy Liks

 

 

 

 

 

Cool and class collide @ North Bondi Fish

Cool and class collide at this hip eatery, which has been virtually booked out since it opened last year. North Bondi Fish has the comfortable air of a neighbourhood place, the sort of restaurant that ought to be serving burgers and beer. Instead there’s a suave bar at the entrance and the menu has the finesse you’d expect of chef Matt Moran and restaurateur Peter Sullivan, the revered team also behind ARIA and Chiswick.

Yellowfin tuna ceviche , daikon and shallots

Yellowfin tuna ceviche , daikon and shallots

As the restaurant’s name insinuates, the preferred food group here is seafood. With Bondi’s sparkling beach winking at you every time you twist around to admire the sunset, who would want anything but? All the fish is well prepared and served with imaginative sides, standouts including a tart celeriac and kale salad and a sort-of caponata. Start with a few morsels of charcoal grilled Fremantle octopus, dipped into a blood-red romesco sauce or get your hands dirty with a prawn bun. Next, it’s the big bites, and you really can’t go past the beer battered flathead fillet with chips and tartare sauce however for the calorie conscious, the grilled snapper fillet with asparagus and avocado won’t leave you unsatisfied.

Dish of the day - beer battered flathead

Dish of the day – beer battered flathead

Desserts are homey and not too sweet, with things like fresh fruit platters and homemade mango and passionfruit sorbet. If you’re meal isn’t complete without a sugar kick, opt for the donuts served with a spiced chocolate sauce. The food is simple, but it’s simple, done well.

Anna Lisle

La Dolce Vita at Cipri

I adore everything about Italy – from the simple and fresh food philosophy to the way the locals seem to welcome complete strangers into their homes and Cipri, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, embodies everything that I love about that boot-shaped country.

Brothers Joe, Anthony and Carmelo are the driving force behind this Paddington stalwart, while their mum, Maria, can still often be found out the back, rolling fresh pasta. Vintage photos line the restaurant’s walls, telling the Cipri family story. As soon as you walk in the door, you know that this restaurant has been in the family for generations; true blue (or should I say, “vero azzuri”?) hospitality is in the Cipri family’s DNA.

Layered eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, basil and tomato coulis

Layered eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, basil and tomato coulis

In true Italian style, the menu features dishes with just a handful of ingredients, paying utmost respect to the quality of the produce. We start with burrata (a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream), which sits proudly on a colourful heirloom tomato salad.

Slow roaste Hawkesbury suckling pig, red cabbage salad, mustard fruits and pistachio

Slow roaste Hawkesbury suckling pig, red cabbage salad, mustard fruits and pistachio

A smoky, yet creamy eggplant puree is the perfect complement to sesame crusted tuna, the seeds creating a textural contrast to the meaty flesh of the fish. Squid ink ravioli, stuffed with snapper, calamari and crab, is coupled with a subtle broth of cherry tomatoes, prawns and asparagus. Cipri stands for the two things that I value and appreciate most in life – food and family and it is a pleasure dining there.

 

Anna Lisle