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How to Score Great Dining Deals for Less

Gone are the days when the definition of a good meal was food that simply kept people’s bellies full. Food culture is on the rise, with the huge success of food shows, foodie websites and food festivals; few people can say that a delicious meal doesn’t make their day! And of course, a good dining experience is made all the more enticing if a great discount or reduced price can be enjoyed. Here’s how to score some of the best dining deals in town.

Browse coupon and daily deals websites for dining specials
Websites such as scoupon.com.au, coupon.com.au, cudo.com.au and livingsocial.com.au are chock full of dining discounts and deals. Now and then you’ll find a real gem at a lauded local restaurant or a hot new bar or pub. For instance, you can have lunch or dinner at a great discount at Watts on Crown in Surry Hills.

The best time to scout around for deals is the lull between major holiday seasons like Christmas and Easter. Put yourself on their mailing lists if you don’t mind receiving regular promotional emails as it’s a great way to be the first to find out about the latest deals.

Take advantage of food festivals
All year round, food festivals all over Australia celebrate specific dishes, cast the spotlight on up and coming restaurants and tantalise hungry visitors with exciting degustation menus.

If you’re keen to try new cuisines and tastes and want the luxurious experience of dining at upmarket restaurants without breaking the bank, take advantage of food festivals such as Taste of Melbourne, as well as Good Food Month, which spans the entire month of October each year and is Australia’s biggest food festival.

During Good Food Month, top local and international chefs, restaurants, producers and food and wine experts descend upon the city in a four week-long culinary fiesta. If you’ve always wanted to sample the set menu at establishments such as The Star’s signature Sydney restaurants, Balla, Black and Sokyo, now it is your chance to score mouth-watering lunch menus for $38 only.

Sokyo at The Star

Sokyo at The Star

Scout out deals and packages if you’re attending a show or tour
Lots of restaurants located near major entertainment venues or in tourist precincts participate in tie-ups or offer specific deals that can save you time and money.

If you’re taking in a performance at the Sydney Opera House, enjoy a range of pre-show and dinner offers before and after the show. Likewise, catch a performance at the Sydney Lyric theatre or a concert at the Star Event Centre and enjoy fantastic pre-show dining offers.

At The Rocks, the Sydney precinct located right next to many famous attractions such as the Harbour Bridge climb, Luna Park and various museums, local hotels offer excellent packages such as the enticing Stay and Dine Package at Boutique Hotel Harbour Rocks, including accommodation, a hearty breakfast and dinner. Melbournians can enjoy a special Italian pre-show dinner package throughout the entire opera season at Tram Bar, which turns into an Italian pizzeria just for the occasion.  Australia’s major cities are home to many irresistible food and beverage establishments, and deals and offers that enable diners to enjoy discounts at all types of eateries from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants abound. So keep your eyes peeled and always be on the alert for fantastic deals and packages.

 

 

 

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!

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

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 

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

Happy Days at The Balmoral Boathouse

If a restaurant could smile, then The Balmoral Boathouse would constantly be sporting an ear-to-ear grin. Even on a dreary winter day, the cafe is beaming. It’s hard to pin-point the exact source of this effervescent energy – perhaps it’s the married couple beside us, sharing a glass of pinot or maybe it’s the mother and teenage daughter sitting opposite, simply enjoying each other’s company as they nibble on hot chips as they gossip away.

Start with a smoothie or milkshake

Start with a smoothie or milkshake

The huge vases of freshly cut tulips and hydrangeas and bowls of fresh fruit certainly don’t dampen spirits and the staff, who busily jog around with plates of food and drinks, seem to all be contagiously happy.

Seafood seems like an obvious choice given the location

Seafood seems like an obvious choice given the location

Don’t come here, expecting to get-in and get-out. It would defeat the purpose of a venue like The Balmoral Boathouse. For virgin visitors, I’d order a fresh juice, while you appreciate the stunning views of Middle Harbour, and wait until a table comes available (which you will inevitably have to do). Don’t be precious about sharing a table too, if you manage to score a seat at one of the wooden picnic tables, count yourself lucky. Seafood seems like an obvious choice given the location. The beer battered fish and chips, served with fresh homemade tartare, is an enjoyable dish however the grilled swordfish with sautéed mushrooms, buckwheat and gremolata is more of a treat, despite also being the more calorie-friendly option. As you waltz out the door, feeling nourished and happy, pick up a bunch of fresh flowers to spread the Boathouse love with those who couldn’t join you.

Anna Lisle

Balmoral Boathouse

Avo-bravo

Forget about your ho-hum prawn cocktail starter, Chef Mark Jensen from Red Lantern on Riley hosted a five-course tasting menu that challenged guests to reconsider the use of the humble avocado.

After touring Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, the avocado masterclass program touched down in Sydney, with over 40 of Sydney’s best chefs eager to expand their repertoire.

Chicken and avocado congee

Chicken and avocado congee

Beginning with a sensory exercise, guests soaked in the ambiance of Red Lantern on Riley while sampling four small pieces of avocado; natural, salted, sugared and a firm avo that had been pan fried with rocket, chilli and garlic. A simple exercise that demonstrated the versatility of Australia’s much loved avocado. Throughout the next four courses, Mark incorporated both firm and ripe avocados, to create not only taste but texture in his dishes. When you read a menu, you generally have a preconceived idea of what you will see and taste when the dish arrives.

Wild boar, shrimp paste, lemongrass and chilli with a pickled avacdo and radish salad

Wild boar, shrimp paste, lemongrass and chilli with a pickled avacdo and radish salad

Avocado and chicken congee? Would it just be an avocado soup with chicken in it? Would it be warm? The questions around the table were endless, and the general vibe was trepidation more than anticipation. With Mark Jensen in the kitchen, our concerns were wasted and our bowls scraped clean by the end of the masterclass. A diced, firm avocado offered the same texture as the rice, with shreds of chicken and gutsy Asian herbs. An avocado banh bao (steamed bun) with lobster and Vietnamese salad and braised wild boar with pickled avocado, continued the high standard. Finished off with an avocado and coconut shake, mung bean cake, avocado ice cream and a condensed milk crumb.

Anna Lisle

Red Lantern on Riley

Cho Cho San is reinventing Japanese

Cho Cho San is the second restaurant to come out of the dynamic pairing of Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie. After opening the successful Greek restaurant Apollo together, it was somewhat of a surprise that their next venture was Japanese. But they did it as a challenge, and it seriously paid off – their lack of formal training in Japanese cuisine has led to one of the most exciting menus of the year.

Simple and elegant interiors at Cho Cho San

Simple and elegant interiors at Cho Cho San

The restaurant takes its inspiration from Japan’s drinking culture and izakayas – bars with food. The minimal, all-cream room is half filled by a long dining bar and the food is designed to share. The wines by the glass aren’t many but do something different and try one of the many sakes.

The incredible duck rolls

The incredible duck rolls

The food is Japanese in tone but borrows Korean, Chinese and even European ingredients. The two buns are an excellent place to start – one is a pillow-soft steamed bun filled with duck marinated in jasmine tea with cucumber. The flavour of the duck is slightly sweet but also has the depth of the earthy tea, and is perfectly tender. The lightly toasted bread roll filled with spanner crab and topped with a sprinkling of matchstick chips is equally good.

From the raw section, the scallops are accompanied by a seaweed puree, corn and house-smoked bonito and are slip-through-your-chopsticks delicate.  Next, try the hibachi grilled prawns, fat and juicy with kombu butter or if you dare, the whole mud crab with Japanese curry.  The meat section is simple and done well – chicken yakitori with pickled lime, or grilled pork fillets with mustard greens.

 

Matcha soft serve

Matcha soft serve

Whatever you do – save room for dessert. The ginger custard is the real show stopper; not overly sweet, intensely creamy and delicate in that Japanese way that few other cuisines can replicate. If you like matcha, the soft serve also hits the spot in a big way.

This is an exciting new restaurant from two of Sydney’s hottest young chefs who are pushing the envelope in the best way possible.

Georgia Booth

Cho Cho San 

My Italian Riviera fantasy

The sun dances on the surface of the water, twinkling and sparkling with every ripple and gentle wave. It’s the perfect day as I stand on the jetty at Rose Bay. I’ve teamed my favourite mint-green silk dress with cat-eye sunglasses and a bolero jacket. I could be on the set of The Talented Mr Ripley, like Marge, standing portside on the Italian Riviera. I board the tiny white sea-plane and fifteen minutes later, I’m elegantly stepping onto the wharf at Whale Beach.

NT barramundi with soft-shell crab, pickled bamboo shoots, chilli, kaffir lime and coriander

NT barramundi with crispy school prawns, padron peppers, black pepper and preserved lemon

Okay, okay – It’s just a fantasy. In reality, I arrive at Jonah’s in my early model Toyota Corolla after a tedious 70 minute drive on the twisting and turning road that leads to the peninsula of the Northern Beaches. Walking in the door of Jonah’s, the only Relais & Châteaux hotel in Sydney, I’m treated as though I did arrive by seaplane. All the frill and grandeur that one associates with traditional fine dining can be experienced here at Jonah’s. A far cry from the roadhouse that originally existed in 1929, the dining room is surprisingly modern, which makes sense, given the postcard perfect view that offers a 180 degree view of the ocean.

Confit Tasmanian Huon salmon with pickled ginger, orange, puffed wild rice, wasabi, and nori powder

Confit Tasmanian Huon salmon with pickled ginger, orange, puffed wild rice, wasabi, and nori powder

The kitchen at Jonah’s is led by Chef Peter Ridland who has a reputation that rivals the hotel itself, with stints at Marc Philpott at Gunners Barracks, Starwood Hotels, various two and three Michelin star restaurants in Europe and also alongside Luke Mangan at Bistro Lulu. Accordingly the menu delivers both in ideology and execution. An entrée of confit Berkshire pork belly with chorizo and black garlic is as indulgent as the dish sounds, served with a potato crisp providing texture. Plump North Atlantic scallops are teamed with a generous quenelle of foie gras mousse and a bourbon foam which cuts through the richness of the dish. The dish that makes a scene however, is the bone marrow crusted Rangers Valley Wagyu rump cap. Coupled with a roasted short rib, a sweet potato dauphine (like a potato puff) and sautéed treviso, the elements work in perfect harmony.

Anna Lisle

Jonahs