Category Archives: Reviews

Fat Noodle in The Star – Sydney

If you’re not hot on the foodie trail, you might be forgiven for thinking that Fat Noodle inside The Star is another stock standard Asian eatery. It is in fact the brainchild of Luke Nguyen, Red Lantern’s celebrity chef and television star.

Drawing inspiration from his travels around Asia, Luke has created a hawker style menu with some of his favourite dishes. Unlike Red Lantern, Fat Noodle isn’t a straight-up Vietnamese restaurant. Rather, there’s a medley of South East Asian cuisines on offer, with a dynamic mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai dishes to choose from.


We opt for one of the new menu items to start, the Lijiang chicken topped with shallots and doused in vinegar dressing. The chicken is soft on the inside with a satisfyingly crispy skin. Tempered with the acidity of the vinegar dressing and pickled radish, each mouthful of the chicken boasts a melange of flavours, which is quickly devoured with the accompanying jasmine rice and chilli sauce.


Leaving without trying the famed Fat Noodle Pho would almost border on sacrilege. The trademark pho dish is cooked in Luke Nguyen’s signature 20-hour beef broth, in 400 litre kettles with oxtail and wagyu. As with any bona fide pho, there’s a side of hoisin sauce as well as fresh basil, bean sprouts, chilli and mint, meaning you’re able to tailor the flavour to your liking. The broth is fragrant and rich, highlighting the flavour of the thin slices of Angus sirloin that sit atop the silky rice noodles.

Situated on the main gaming floor at The Star and open til late, Fat Noodle hits the spot whether you’re after a post-show meal, or simply craving food of the Asian persuasion. Gambling is always a risky business, but the pho is unlikely to disappoint.

Jenny Wang

Fat Noodle

William Blue Dining – Restaurant Review – The Rocks, Sydney

William Blue Dining is a live classroom where the future stars of the hospitality industry showcase their talent to the public and, let me be clear, there is talent to be shown. The waiters, as well as the chefs and kitchen staff, are students at William Blue College of Hospitality Management. The restaurant is part of the students’ training and it gives them an opportunity to get first-hand experience with paying customers.

Kingfish ceviche, blue swimmer crab, baby coriander, lime, chilli, mustard cress (GF)

Kingfish ceviche, blue swimmer crab, baby coriander, lime, chilli, mustard cress (GF)

Residing in the beautiful space that was once home to Neil Perry’s Rockpool, the menu features all your fine dining favourites. Braised pork belly with fennel puree or a simple kingfish ceviche with baby swimmer crab make a strong start to a three-courser. Follow this up with a crisp skinned Ora king salmon, paired with braised witlof and a sort of sweet corn puree or stick to the tried-and-trusted eggplant and mozzarella tian.

Grilled Ora King Salmon fillet, crispy skin, pink pepper sauce, sweet corn, prawn, chives, braised witlof (GF)

Grilled Ora King Salmon fillet, crispy skin, pink pepper sauce, sweet corn, prawn, chives, braised witlof (GF)

Dessert-wise, we loved the old-school rice pudding, vanilla scented and studded with poached apricots and poached rhubarb. At $38 for a three-course meal, you’d be hard pressed to find better value for money in The Rocks – in fact, based on the quality of the ingredients, I dare say this might be the best bang for your buck in Sydney.

Vanilla rice pudding, stewed rhubarb, sesame nougatine, poached apricot

Vanilla rice pudding, stewed rhubarb, sesame nougatine, poached apricot

If this is the future of the Australian hospitality industry, then we’re in safe hands.

Anna Lisle

William Blue Dining

Photography: Jenny Wang

Burger Project – Review – World Square Sydney

“Fast food, slow food values” is the mantra declared on the walls of Burger Project in World Square, Sydney. The restaurant’s décor is similarly oppositional; exposed concrete, bare ceiling ducts and functional moulded tables are a stark contrast to the fine dining-esque bright open kitchen, unique pendant lights and beautiful sanded wooden benches.

The Burger Project is the brainchild of chef Neil Perry and his team from the famed Rockpool Group (whose portfolio includes Rockpool Est. 1989, Rockpool Bar and Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta), and they have extended their love of quality and environmental consciousness to the masses at this World Square outpost. The philosophy centres around the meat (as surely all good burgers should) – the beef for both Rockpool and Burger Project comes from Tasmanian grass-fed stock. This is carved and ground in store at the Project, and indeed, you can see the bright red sides of beef being expertly prepared through the kitchen’s glass walls.


The first bite of every burger we try is a celebration of the hearty goodness of beef; however, it isn’t all about the meat. The beef-to-bread-to-condiment-to-salad ratio is perfect in each burger offering. The cheese and bacon burger is satisfyingly carnivorous, with the mild cheese and fresh veggies bringing the dish together. The bacon project burger is similarly substantial, with a great salty hit of bacon for the porcine connoisseur. We also try the two types of spiced chicken wings, either rolled in Szechuan chilli pepper for a fresh crunchy bite, or as a spicy punch with hot sauce. Another highlight is the American-diner-style milkshakes. We try the vanilla, which is smoothly sweet with dark flecks of vanilla throughout, and the salted caramel, which delivers honeyed happiness in each sip.


The takeaway message from the Burger Project is that fast food really doesn’t have to bad for you, or for the environment. The restaurant even promotes its commitment to recycling waste and charitable fundraising on the tray matts. Good food, served fast and friendly – a very tasty combination.

Liz Stern

Burger Project 

Firedoor – Restaurant Profile – Surry Hills

Two wood-fired ovens, four grills and a cast-iron Aga oven.  That’s it. For most chefs of a certain calibre, this almost-archaic kitchen would be like stepping back in time.  For Lennox Hastie, head chef at Firedoor, this is the type of kitchen that dreams are made of.

Photo credit: Nikki To

Photo credit: Nikki To

The Fink Group have opened two of the most anticipated restaurants across Australia within months of one another – and they couldn’t be more different. Bennelong, residing in the iconic Opera House is a multileveled glamour-house with all the trimmings of a fine dining restaurant, while the pared-back Firedoor, tucked away on Mary Street in Surry Hills, prides itself on simplicity.

Photo credit: Nikki To

Photo credit: Nikki To

The kitchen burns five to six different types of wood a day; hay, ironback, pecan, orange, wine barrels and pear, to name a few, each used to infuse the various dishes on the menu that night. Prawns, butterflied and grilled on orange wood, are unadulterated – perfect in their no-frills state. Brussels sprouts pop up on almost every on-trend restaurant but these, char grilled and served in a thick pool of rich stock with chunks of smoked ham hock, put others I’ve tried to shame.  Unsurprisingly, sea fare dominates the menu however a Ranger’s Valley Wagyu rib eye will make anyone believe they could happily go paleo for the rest of their lives. At Firedoor the produce is served as-is, in all its flawless glory. This philosophy has challenges though – there’s nowhere to hide even the smallest mistake. Thank goodness Hastie is a genius.

Anna Lisle


Ramen Zundo – Restaurant Review – Best Restaurants

A cold winter’s day is the perfect excuse to go in search of hot and filling comfort food, even if it means braving the hustle and bustle of World Square in Sydney’s CBD. Arriving at Ramen Zundo, one immediately feels comfortable and welcome. There are exposed wooden beams outside giving it a rustic feel while rows of colourful lanterns decorate the window, and a conga-line of wooden tags emblazoned with Japanese characters surround the pass to the open kitchen. “Irasshaimase!” call the staff as we enter, which is just as welcoming as the delicious aromas from the kitchen.


The menu has so many classic and rare dishes, we over-order at the temptation to try everything. The classic light Zundo original ramen is a picture-perfect bowl of noodles with tasty fat-marbled chashu pork and scattered with seaweed sheets and chopped spring onions. This is served with Ramen Zundo’s special pork broth, cooked for 12 hours to create a rich, complex flavour. We also sample the Shio original, with a lighter chicken-stock broth, served with karaage (Japanese fried chicken). We add the chicken katsu curry and rice to our growing meal, where the chicken is crisp and doused in a thick and tangy sauce.

By now, I’m sure you won’t believe we ate more… but we did. We sample the tsukemen original, where thicker-style noodles are served cold, ready to be dipped into the hot, thickened broth full of delicate chashu pork pieces as you eat. The combination of hot and cold is surprisingly refreshing – it’s no wonder this dish is said to be a favourite of chef Neil Perry.


This comfort food and welcoming Japanese hospitality really is touching in a busy shopping centre setting. Cold weather or otherwise, I’ll be visiting Ramen Zundo again soon.

Liz Stern

Ramen Zundo

Winter Wine Feast @ Boilerhouse Q Station – Manly

It’s not every day that you arrive at a restaurant by water taxi. Perched on the edge of Sydney’s harbour and housed within Manly’s Q Station, Boilerhouse almost seems to be in a world of its own. The restaurant is a short walk from where we dock and looking down over the Manly peninsula, it’s hard to believe that for 150 years, the building was used as part of the former quarantine station that contained people suspected of carrying infectious disease. Today, (thankfully) Boilerhouse boasts a charmingly rustic chic interior, with a corrugated roof and exposed brick walls.


Chef Matt Kemp (ex Gazebo Wine Garden) is host to Boilerhouse’s Winter Wine Feast, and he has no trouble showing off his culinary prowess in the open plan kitchen on the ground floor. He jokes and jives whilst deftly preparing and plating each dish on the central table, before we are presented with the dishes ourselves on shared tables on the mezzanine level.


Boilerhouse hasn’t used the term “feast” lightly. We start with servings of delectably braised duck leg croustillant with beetroot, and a comforting Jerusalem artichoke and chestnut pie, to whet our appetite. The baked fillet of Palmers Island mulloway accompanied with a side of creamed veggies and smoked pork belly proves to be, in my opinion, the pièce de résistance. Fish isn’t usually my preferred meat of choice, but the fillet is baked to perfection and with a few squeezes of lemon, quickly scoffed up. The next main is a 48-hour short rib of beef accompanied with creamed onions and charred leeks adding a delicate smoky flavour, tempering the saltiness of the beef. A proper feast would not be complete without dessert; we finish off the night with a refreshing poached quince jelly with lemon posset and a baked Eve’s pudding served with homemade rum and raisin sauce doused over icecream.

Q Station is probably best known for its ghost tours, but Boilerhouse has proven it is a destination in itself that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Boilerhouse’s third instalment in their Culinary Dinner series “Meet Your Maker” is on Thursday, 24th September.

$125 per person for 6 courses with matching wines from 7PM.

Jenny Wang

Boilerhouse Restaurant

Stockroom InterContinental Double Bay – Restaurant Review – Sydney

As I stand in the grey marble lobby of InterContinental Double Bay, I look around, secretly terrified that somebody is about to catch me out. You see, five star hotels make me nervous – I feel as though I don’t belong. I cautiously flit through the complimentary cookbooks in the lounge area, and can’t but notice the amount of staff, all ready to leap to your help with just a nod. My nervous anticipation doesn’t last long though, as we’re shown to the Stockroom, I’m immediately put at ease.

The lime-hued tone of the dining room is the antithesis of what I expected. Velvet cushions beg to be leaned on, natural light streams through the high windows and there is a warm, affable vibe that encourages you to relax. In fact, it’s so down-to-earth that I could almost imagine coming downstairs from my suite, in my white dressing gown and fluffy slippers, to nibble on bundles of organic grapes and slices of crispy bacon, perfectly poached free range eggs and anything else that tickles my fancy from the buffet breakfast – well, almost. Today, however, we are here for lunch.


If I were a chef, I’d like to work in the Stockroom kitchen. Spatchcock is sourced from the Southern Highlands, barramundi from Cone Bay, beef from Cape Grim – while the butter is Pepe Saya, bread is courtesy of Infinity Bakery and they work with butcher Anthony Puharich from Vic’s Meats. Executive Chef Julien Pouteau, who formerly worked at InterContinental Sydney, leads the kitchen and clearly knows how to write a menu. Homemade damper bread is served on a board, complimentary, with two dipping sauces; a smoky, whisky barbeque sauce and a nutty, crunchy peanut and bacon sauce. To start, the shaved fennel salad is clean and fresh, with an avocado sort-of mash, with flecks of cottage cheese and dressed with a subtle lemon vinaigrette. The faro crisp, golden and crunchy, is like the restaurant version of a vita-weat, which creates texture but also adds a nutty-earthy dimension to the dish. A classic chicken Caesar salad is jazzed up with umami-loaded white anchovies, crunchy baby gem lettuce leaves and crisp flecks of bacon.

Roasted Blackmore rump cap with tomato salsa

Roasted Blackmore rump cap with tomato salsa

The grill menu steals the show, with its abundance of locally-sourced ingredients. It reads simply; flame roasted Angus beef rib eye, robata grilled tiger prawns, rosemary Pyrenees lamb rack – however, as our dishes arrive in front of us, simple is the last word on my mind. The duck is elegant, refined and, I don’t want to say ‘fancy’ as that has negative connotations but, each dish is almost too pretty to eat. Again, that almost word – ‘almost’, but not quite. As I take a mouthful of still-pink duck with a thin slice of golden beetroot – it tastes better than it looks (and that’s usually an apt description for dishes like lasagne), not a dish as pretty as this. I sit upright, as this food suddenly reminds me that this is not just a restaurant in a five star hotel. It is a five star restaurant.

Anna Lisle

 Stockroom at InterContinental Double Bay 

The Balmain Hotel – Balmain – Restaurant Review

I love a posh hatted or Michelin-starred restaurant as much as the next foodie, but sometimes it’s a humble steak and fries from down the road that hits the spot. And that’s what the Balmain Hotel delivers –  moreish pub food and a trendy beverage menu to boot.

We begin with a share plate for 2 featuring Balmain Fried Chicken, field mushroom arancini with parmesan and truffle, as well as the popular Peking duck steamed buns. It’s not hard to see why the duck is a crowd favourite, the buns are soft and fluffy, melting in the mouth and the perfect companion to the richness of the duck, drizzled with hoisin and topped with cucumber and shallots.


The rest of the menu is separated into an assortment of salads, burgers, seafood, meat and “favourites”, meaning that no pub food craving can possibly be left ungratified. Settling on the southern style fried schnitzel and the pulled pork burger proves to be a filling affair, both are served with a healthy, I mean, hearty, serving of fries. We finish with our favourite dish of the night, the salted caramel sliders, comprising of salted caramel icecream, doused in hot chocolate sauce and caramel popcorn. Sticky fingers and satisfied stomachs ensue.


Recently refurbished, the interior is vibrant and quirky, following a tiki theme. There is no shortage of pubs in Sydney’s inner west, but perhaps none quite as fun as the Balmain Hotel.

Jenny Wang

The Balmain Hotel

Contrabando – Sydney CBD – Restaurant Review

Executive chef Peter Varvaressos has an uncanny instinct for what Sydneysiders want; from $3 taco Tuesday, slider Monday and a gluten free menu to Contrabando’s approachable wine list, attractive bevvy of wait staff and buzzing vibe. He’s nailed it. You know why I know this? Three words: derrières on pews or rather, bums on seats. From lunch through to dinner, Contrabando is almost a full house and this is by no-means an easy feat given the current hospitality climate but also taking into account the size of the restaurant with space for 130 guests.

$3 Taco Tuesday

$3 Taco Tuesday

The menu is built around a few familiar Mexican signposts like ceviche and taqueria however, “the munchies” and “a little something on the side” garner much of my attention. Wedges of hot suckling pig quesadilla, come with a coriander salsa verde, adding a dash of freshness to an otherwise rich and potentially oily dish. Char grilled corn tastes like it does in Mexico, with gratings of queso (cheese) and a sharp chipotle mayo, however it is slices of richly marbled ocean trout that force me to put my fork down. The perfectly cured ceviche, has a hint of a cinnamon-like sweetness that is perfected contrasted by a slither of a mild jalapeno and a drizzle of the same coriander salsa verde as the quesadilla. While the menu has foundations in Mexican fare, Chef Varvaressos surpasses any deeply rooted traditionalist notions, in a good way. Local ingredients, such as Hawkesbury calamari, are teamed up with a fragrant quinoa salad while paleo-friendly sweet potato fries are served with chipotle aioli.

Anna Lisle


Downstairs Restaurant – Darlinghurst

From the creators of The Hazy Rose, Downstairs Restaurant is situated on the ground floor on Darlinghurst”s trendy Stanley Street. The interior is decked out with quirky British paraphernalia, including bowler hats and British band posters a la The Beatles and The Who. The curtained wooden booths are cosy and intimate, while there are long communal tables available for larger groups.


We start with chicken liver parfait accompanied with apple sauce and pickles. Liver parfait is not for everyone, but this one is delightfully smooth and flavoursome, the rich butter-like puree easily slathered onto the accompanying toast. The twice-cooked veal tongue, served with onion puree, pickled beetroot, watercress and gravy is a simple but winning dish. The veal online casino dgfev is soft and succulent, and perfectly tempered with the sweetness of the beetroot. My carnivorous self is pleased with yet another meat dish; a 250g sirloin, accompanied with crumbed marrow, relish and mustard. We are presented with other quintessential British favourites, including cauliflower cheese, and bubble and squeak. We walked in unsure as to what to expect, however it is safe to say that the menu developed by Ben Allcock (formerly from East Village) does an excellent job delivering tasty British fare with a modern twist.


With the days getting cooler, Downstairs Restaurant offers a comforting British roast every Sunday at a penny pinching price of $20 a head. Be sure to make the most of your visit and visit The Hazy Rose for a cocktail after your meal.

Jenny Wang

Downstairs Restaurant