Category Archives: Events

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 

Criniti’s 10th birthday bash

Their motto is “Italians do it better” and this week, the Criniti’s family certainly proved this true. In celebration of their 10th birthday, Criniti’s pulled out all the stops for a bash that featured everything we love about the Italian approach to socialising; which is pretty much summed up by the adage that more is more.

Criniti's glitterati - the guest list certainly left us feeling a little star struck

Criniti’s glitterati – the guest list certainly left us feeling a little star struck

The guest list left us feeling a little star struck, with celebrities and us regular folk rolling up in their monochromatic best for the black and white dress code.

The ravishing Ricki-Lee Coulter

The ravishing Ricki-Lee Coulter

Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without champagne, and the fountains of Veuve Clicquot, along with a steady stream of cocktails and red, white and green canapes, went down a treat.

Rooster's star Anthony Minichiello

Rooster’s star Anthony Minichiello

Congratulations to the winner of the Criniti’s Facebook competition, who scored a trip to Rome, including flights, accommodation AND $2k worth of spending money. Bravo bellissimo!

Keep your eyes peeled for the video of the night on our YouTube page.

* Photography courtesy of www.jonesphoto.com.au

An Amazing Bathurst event to remember – the Country Larder Leisurely Lunch

One of the highlights of 2012 was my weekend in Bathurst in October to celebrate the launch of Amazing Bathurst, a collaborative project undertaken by local business operators, passionate about offering world-class experiences in the heart of the Central West. It was such a pleasure to be a guest at this wonderful event and I must say one I will not forget. Christine Le Fevre owner/operator of Bishops Court Estate Boutique Hotel had very kindly invited me to attend the lunch and stay the weekend.

Amazing Bathurst’s first project came to fruition on 13th October – supporting All Saints Cathedral to raise funds for the restoration of its historic bell tower. The event was held at the private chapel of the magnificent Mayfield Gardens near Oberon, one of the largest privately-owned cool climate gardens in the world, nestled within a 5,000 acre working farm.

Wandering the stunning surrounds of Mayfield Gardens

Wandering the stunning surrounds of Mayfield Gardens

Christine came up with the concept of ‘The Country Larder Leisurely Lunch,’ a totally unique spring event that was aimed to bring people together to literally break bread and share good food, wine and the passion of Amazing Bathurst. In true country style, the lunch table was set with traditional jars full of preserves, condiments and other delicious things all made with passion from family recipes.

“We wanted to celebrate traditional values and local produce, so the starting point was to bring a team of volunteers from All Saints to my kitchen at Bishop’s Court to make everything from preserves and terrines to freshly baked country tarts from old heritage recipes. We made everything from marinated local cheeses, figs infused with earl grey, citrus and thyme jelly, cranberry and onion jam and beetroot relish just to name a few, all presented with handmade tags and labels explaining their history to really conjure up the sense of a true country larder,” Christine said.

Dean Anne Wentzel, Mary Moody and Christine le Fevre

Dean Anne Wentzel, Mary Moody and Christine le Fevre

In the chapel, guests were seated at tables laden with an abundance of country larder, local wines and homemade lemonade. Bishop Richard Hurford broke the first loaf of bread and everyone proceeded to share the preserves around and settle in for the leisurely feast – all prepared offsite with passion and transported with care to the chapel. Local author and gardener Mary Moody, who lives part of the year in France, was called on to MC the event and ensured that all 90 guests enjoyed plenty of French-inspired conviviality.

We had many of our Amazing Bathurst members on board – wine was provided by Renzaglia, Vale Creek and 3 Views Wines, along with Stone Pine Distillery. Legall Patisserie baked 60 loaves of bread and provided their sensational pastries for dessert and the meal ended with coffee from Fish River Roasters and gorgeous sweet treats made lovingly by the Anglican ladies.

The table was overflowing with local cheeses, home made breads, preserves and relishes

The table was overflowing with local cheeses, breads, preserves and relishes

Christine had invited two very talented musicians Rob Shannon and Veren Grigorov to play guitar and violin throughout the meal, which created a wonderful ambiance.

Thank you, Christine for the invitation, I am looking forward to promoting Bathurst this year and coming back to your beautiful hotel. It is one of the best places I have ever stayed in Australia and I could easily compare it to some of the boutique hotels in Europe. Readers, put Bathurst and Bishop’s Court on your itinerary this year, as it is definitely worth the drive over the mountains to experience the hospitality, food and wine of the Central West.

Maureen de Groot

Read more about Bishop’s Court Estate here.

Stars come out for a Taste of Tennis

The Australian Open is in full swing, and we were lucky enough to be invited as guests to the launch of Swisse Taste of Tennis at the Grand Hyatt last week. Over the past 13 years, AYS Sports Marketing has produced this fantastic event in New York to kick off the US Open Tennis Championships but this was the first time it has hit Australian soil.

George Calombaris, Kerri Anne Kennerley and Lleyton Hewitt

George Calombaris, Kerri Anne Kennerley and Lleyton Hewitt

Kim Attwells and myself had no hesitation in accepting the invitation from Brian Hester, the organizer of the event, who had flown out from the USA. We spent the night mingling with the guests, chatting to the chefs and playing ‘spot the celebrity tennis player.’ With over 400 guests, the event was a great success. There was just one problem – we must have missed the memo that stated, “must be mid-20’s, tanned, good looking, have long legs to attend”.

Maureen with Sake chef Shaun Presland

Maureen with Sake chef Shaun Presland

The fun continued at the after party at Silk Road. Here we had drinks with a very good-looking Argentinean who introduced himself as Horacio Rearte – at the time, we weren’t sure if he was one of the players so we didn’t display our ignorance and ask about his day job, but on googling him back in the hotel room we discovered he is one of the of the world’s most prominent tennis coaches, who has trained the likes of Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick.

Melbourne's top chefs and restaurants helped kick off the Australian Open

Melbourne’s top chefs and restaurants helped kick off the Australian Open

Staying at The Grand Hyatt topped off our Melbourne trip, not just because it’s such a beautiful hotel but we also got to rub shoulders with many international tennis stars. It was a lovely treat to just “bump” into the athletes in the lifts and lobby, but going to the gym for a workout riddled us with anxiety. The thought of being on a treadmill besides Roger Federer or doing a few laps alongside Maria Sharapova in her swimmers wasn’t as appealing. Fortunately, our self-esteem remained intact as we were able to work out celebrity-free.

Events like Taste of Tennis make the many hours of working to build de Groots Media worthwhile. It was such a fabulous couple of days and now watching the tennis back in Sydney is even more exciting, having met many of the players and coaches that grace the television screen. I was only disappointed Rafael and Roger were not at the event. Would have loved a pic with them for the de Groots album!

Maureen

de Groots Media goes international… first stop, London

What a great decision it was to take some time off from de Groots headquarters in Sydney and fly to London to see Yolanda, who has been living here for the past year, setting up the company’s UK venture. Sydney was picture perfect when I flew out, all summer sunshine and blue skies. London has turned out to be its dreary self – grey clouds hang low and dense like a bunker, the sun disappears by 4.00 in the afternoon and a constant veil of rain obscures our vision. But I don’t regret the city swap for a moment.

A dreary yet beautiful welcome to London

Yolanda has set up an office in Lancaster Gate – not a bad address for the new office – across from Hyde Park and within walking distance to Mayfair. We have had a number of business meetings to discuss our exciting new venture, in between riding bikes in Hyde Park, spending an afternoon at the Christmas Markets at Embankment, window shopping in Mayfair and Bond Street and sitting in London pubs enjoying a glass of wine. We also shopped till we dropped at Portobello Markets and Covent Garden before a well-deserved brunch at Bill Granger’s restaurant in Notting Hill, Granger & Co.

Yolanda’s London life – at Roux at The Laudau – Langham Hotel

The highlight of my stay would certainly be today’s lunch at The Ledbury in Notting Hill, one of London’s leading restaurants. It was opened in 2005 by one of Australia’s best exports, the young Brett Graham. The boy who started his career in a simple fish shop in Newcastle has built such a reputation for his restaurant that it now bears two Michelin Stars to its name. Brett blazed a trail to London via a stint working under Liam Tomlin at Sydney’s highly acclaimed Banc restaurant, where he won the Josphine Pignolet Award. This recognition is one of many he has amassed, but possibly the most influential, as it granted Brett a trip to the UK, where he secured a job at The Square under Chef Phillip Howard.

Chef Brett Graham is one of Australia’s hottest exports

Needless to say, The Ledbury is busy every day and evening, so Yolanda and I were very lucky to get a table when we visited and delighted when the restaurant manager invited us down to the kitchen to meet Brett.

Yolanda and Maureen, the dynamic mother-and-daughter duo behind de Groots Media.

I have been looking forward to next week, when we will get down to business and discuss our UK plans, but Yolanda had another surprise in store for me before we get too engrossed in official business. She has booked a weekend in Barcelona so we are off to Spain tomorrow. I guess we will have to make time over tapas and wine or whilst walking through the Gaudi to discuss business – or maybe I’ll just have to extend my stay here, it seems the office is running perfectly fine without me.

Maureen de Groot

AQUA/ HTN’S Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship for work experience at London’s Ledbury with Brett Graham

It was with much excitement that I received the news of the 2012 Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship. Fuji Taukatelata was the winner of this prestigious scholarship that recognises young culinary students with a commitment and passion to excel in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is a tough business to be in, especially for the younger generation trying to make a break. Opportunities such as this Young Culinary Achiever Scholarship, established by HTN and Aqua Dining Group principal Bill Drakopoulos — are invaluable for the future of our industry and we are indebted to those who invest their time and energy in these programs.

Aqua Dining Group principal Bill Drakopoulos with Lyndey Milan, Fuiji, Simon Thomsen and Kurt Van Buren

Judges Lyndey Milan, Simon Thomsen and Kurt Van Buren were unanimous in their decision to award Fuji the coveted prize of work experience in London with renowned Australian chef Brett Graham at his 2 star Michelin restaurant Ledbury, $1,000 spending money, airfares and accommodation.

“Fuji’s dish showed a variety of skills – a lot of dexterity to bone her Quail Galantine dish and managing to keep the quail moist, as well as a well developed philosophy of what food is all about” said Lyndey Milan.

The Awards were held at a sumptuous dinner at Aqua Dining with the popular broadcaster Jonathan Coleman as MC, to a packed house of sponsors, families, friends and chefs with whom the contestants work.  The two runners up were Kyiah Jones from Garfish in Manly, and Tommy Ly from the CBD’s Ash Cellars.  The trio each created starter dishes in a 5 course degustation dinner.

Winner Fuji Taukatelata with runners up Kyiah Jones (Garfish, Manly), and Tommy Ly (Ash Cellars, CBD).

Fuji works at Campbelltown Golf Club and studied at TAFE Ultimo. Her achievements include Taste of Success Graduate/Scholarship winner 2012.  She is the present Ambassador of HTN, and the Face of Ultimo TAFE.

“I owe my Mum a lot” said Fuji .This fabulous prize will benefit me and also my family, employers past and present who have shaped me into the chef I am today.  Work experience with Brett Thomas will help me further develop my skills in this fast paced, spontaneous and rewarding industry.”

Maureen de Groot

Regional research – Best Restaurants does Tassie

Our tourism content manager Kim Attwells took off to beautiful Tassie last week to call on some of our clients and check out the burgeoning food and wine scene. Tasmania has been getting huge traffic from all over the world so we thought it was time to take a break from our busy Sydney life and to discover why our viewers were so drawn to this unique part of Australia.

We hope Kim doesn’t get too comfy in her little cottage at Piermont – she looks very at home!

From the pics alone, you can understand why Tasmania is the perfect getaway with its amazing food and wine, stunning landscapes, luxurious resort spas and rich sandstone buildings all over the island. But just wait until you get there. Kim said there were many highlights but a few memorable occasions include the drive up the Tamar to Pipers Brook (like driving along the Rhine in Europe), lunch at Stillwater in Launceston and also Meadowbank Winery in Hobart.

Stillwater’s assiette of Belgian chocolate. Blink Photography

Accommodation-wise, Kim highly recommends staying at either Peppers Launceston or Henry Jones in Hobart. But the one place that Kim can’t stop talking about is Villa Howden – just 15 minutes from Hobart, on the edge of the Huon Valley, you will feel that you are in a villa in the south of France. So make sure you book a night.

Villa Howden. Ralph Alphonso

Another highlight was the boat trip from Hobart on Peppermint Bay’s luxurious 23 metre catamaran, called Peppermint Bay II. The cruise takes in the harbour, the River Derwent and the magnificent waters of the d’Entrecasteaux Channel, on its way to Peppermint Bay where you have a fabulous shared plate lunch before returning to Hobart by boat.

Maureen de Groot

Très bien to Trippas White

Since when did the Art Gallery of NSW suddenly become a dining destination? I’ll tell you –  since Art After Hours became ‘a thing’ and Trippas White Group put The Restaurant on the hospitality map.

The impressive exterior of the NSW Art Gallery

The Restaurant’s design is as minimalist as its name. An excitable blush of cherry carpet marks the only trace of colour, whilst dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows take in a view of Woolloomooloo Wharf and the tall terraces at Potts Point. As part of Crave Sydney, English bred chef Marc Cartwright created a four-course Modern French menu, inspired by the latest photographic exhibition by Eugene Atget.

Head chef Marc Cartwright with our food writer, Sami Jo.

To begin – an amuse of seared oysters, with foamy artichoke cream, pickled cucumbers and parsley. Now oysters and I haven’t had the most favourable relationship. They leave me feeling as though I have been French kissed by an old fisherman with salt-stained lips from years at sea. So you can imagine my hesitancy when the dish arrived. Let’s just say I think our Facebook status would now read “it’s complicated”. The second course was a deconstructed nicoise salad with raw kingfish that was wistful and eloquent. A classic main of perfectly pink filet mignon was generous and robust, but it was dessert that left the biggest impression. An ‘assiette de chocolat’, dolled up in fairy floss was a sinful trio that left my palate on edge. Sensual and seductive, our table could only say four words of our experience: ‘très bien Trippas White’.

Sami-Jo Adelman

Read more about The Restaurant here

Bloggers salute Peru at Hilton Sydney’s glass wine bar

To celebrate all things Peru, glass wine bar at Hilton Sydney recently hosted an intimate bloggers event with celebrity restaurateur Luke Mangan and  world-renowned chef and Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef 2011” Ricardo Zarate.

As a Peruvian native based in Los Angeles, Ricardo has thrilled critics as one of the leaders in nouveau-Peruvian cuisine in Los Angeles. He has two restaurants in Los Angeles, Mo-Chica and Picca, the latter recently cited in GQ Magazine as one of the “Ten Best New Restaurants in America.”

Pisco sour with the evening’s delights

Going off the “eaten track” and digging into his cultural heart, Ricardo demonstrated his cooking prowess and featured one of his signature canapés – Cerviche Criollo, whilst a captive audience imbibed on traditional Pisco Sours and South American wines chosen specially by glass brasserie’s chief sommelier Kim Bickley. Bloggers mixed ‘n’ mingled and feasted on Peruvian bites including spicy yellowtail causa with cucumber and puffed rice; uni crostini with tomato and yellow Peruvian chilli and a snapper cerviche “shooter” with coriander. The evening was a lovely Peruvian taste tester – a cuisine that Sydney has only recently embraced. We can’t wait for next year!

Anna Lisle

Luke Mangan at Thomas Dux – a Crave showstopper

It’s not every day that you find yourself slightly intoxicated walking around a grocery store, running your hands over artisan (read slightly overpriced) products and pondering the use of Fluff Marshmallow Spread. And it’s not every day that you get an 8-course feast cooked for you by chef, restaurateur and providore Luke Mangan.

But as good food month rolls on, Crave continues to pull out all the stops. Last night at Thomas Dux Grocer in Crows Nest, the handsome grocery space was transformed into a pop-up restaurant for 60-odd diners, all wanting to rub shoulders with the celebrity chef.

Mangan took us on a global tasting experience from Morocco to Mexico via a tapas-style feast showcasing dishes from his restaurants and using oils and spices from his providores (product placement overload, but all in good fun). We started with what was perhaps the best dish of the evening – Moroccan spiced steak tartare, which arrived on large wooden planks with a sea of tiny quail eggs perched atop the meaty nest. Roasted garlic flat bread accompanied the dish and was the perfect vehicle to mop up their golden yellow entrails.  Feta, tarragon, mint and sumac stuffed zucchini flowers followed on a pillow of creamy corn puree and was a definite crowd-pleaser.

By the end of the night everyone was best friends (plentiful food and wine always seems to make this happen), so facebook details were exchanged, wedding dates were swapped (who knew pop-up dinners attracted such a large posse of newlyweds?) and someone even offered to host a falafel party for the table. The night culminated in a sweet crescendo of warm chocolate filled doughnuts with vanilla bean ice-cream and anglaise and Luke Mangan goodie bags for everyone.

Sami-Jo Adelman