Spicy Sydney Stories

27 Mar

Main Entry: Sydney (or sexy)
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: being erotically attractive to another
Synonyms: arousing, come-hither, cuddly, flirtatious, hot, inviting, kissable, libidinous, mature, provocative, provoking, racy, risqué, seductive, sensual, sensuous, slinky, spicy, steamy, suggestive, titillating, voluptuous

I mentioned in another post that visiting Sydney feels a little like you are cheating on your beloved Melbourne. Such a fun place to have a “fling” with, but I would always want to come home to the one I love.

This post is a mix of some highlights of Sydney, they were beautiful, vibrant, or just downright hot. And you wouldn’t find them in Melbourne.

Ms G’s

Sprawled over 5 or 6 levels, cleverly decked out to look like some kind of Asian old-town rickety building, MsG’s is the epitome of all the above. So hot right now, we just loved it here, sitting at shared tables with Sarah & Lachlan Murdoch and all the other beautiful people, hopefully a little rubbed off on us!  Everything about it is clever. The red neon light sign 621 (the ingredient number for MSG), the name, the slushy packaging, fitout, even the fat straws.  It has it’s finger firmly on the pulse of having a good time with food in the neon lit streets of Sydney.

We were ushered up a few flights to the bar where the DJ was playing some cool tunes, I drank limoncello slushies, packed & sealed behind the bar, whilst The Brewer had a few simple Asian lagers.  The stools in the bar were all cases full of beer in various heights of stacking, and during our drinks, twice our bar stool was whipped away to the fridge, very practical storage.  We had planned on pre-dinner drinks and wanted to hang in the bar for an hour or so, so the wait was no problem for us. The uber cool door chicks knew what was happening, it was packed.

Tables were bare, with boxes that held napkins, sauces, cutlery and straws. No setting required. Service was fast, cool & efficient. All our dishes were really enjoyable, best shared with friends and had the fresh, fun appeal of the restaurant itself. Our fave was the Vietnamese steak tartare, it had crispy shallots on it and was served with prawn crackers.

Mini banh mi also were delicious as were the egg noodles with XO sauce,
braised duck and soft poached egg, we also had the grilled prawns with sambal. We came out of there with barely a dint in our wallet, pretty good value for a fun night out. And we asked the waiter would they mind if we took a handful of the fat colourful straws home for our kids, they didn’t, the kids were thrilled.

(02) 9240 3000
155 Victoria Street
Potts Point

And my note on the beers; plenty of clean, crisp, big brewery, asian lagers, boxes of them everywhere, they make great barstools. Maybe 1 or 2 other fuller flavoured ales available also.
Ms G's on Urbanspoon

After Ms G’s we fancied a post dinner treat, so went for a peaceful (Hells no, not in this town on a Sat night) stroll from Potts Point, through the Cross to Surry Hills & into Bentley Bar for a few single malts.

Kings Cross

Hookers, strip joints, bucks nights, girls passed out on footpath, ambulances, backpackers, touts, tattoos, clubs, pubs, Xrated, heaving. Only in Sydney.

A morning walk to clear the cobwebs took in the following sights…

City of Bride’s as Muriel Heslop would say

More stairs. These ones, the Butler stairs, are quite famous, connecting the slums of Woolloomooloo to the posh folk in Potts Point. It was a big walk. Now you wouldn’t see that in Melbourne.

We had walked past the warehouse of Toby’s Estate Coffee, and our Melbourne noses sniffed a decent coffee.  Then discovered their cafe just at the top of these stairs. Great coffee, a real Melbourne hole-in-the-wall packed to the brim with people brunching, getting takeaways, anything goes. Food was really delicious. So how was it different to Melbourne, loud disco music throbbing, think Donna Summer, Pointer Sisters, and people were wearing loud colours. One stylish girl in bright canary yellow, top to toe. Bit glary for me over coffee. But great coffee, food and bustling, efficient service.

(02) 8356 9264
81 Macleay St
Potts Point
Toby's Estate Potts Point on Urbanspoon

Paddington Markets

I fell big time for these tactile, sensuous ceramics by Amorelita Designs. They were beautiful to hold and lovely colourings.  Maybe not the best to pack in a suitcase, but couldn’t resist, I bought 10 cups and a bowl. Love the coffee cups with the splash of blackboard. I use it every day.  I am waiting for the future Brewers to write sweet messages on them when they bring them to me in bed filled with coffee on the weekends. Waiting. Waiting.

A great day at the markets, lots of lovely clothing, original jewellery, textiles and vintage finds. And it’s right in the middle of a fantastic shopping strip.  Where do we have this in Melbourne?

One more post of Sydney to come, a very special lunch.

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Four In Hand – A fleeting fling in Sin City

25 Feb

6 years is all it took to get away from the kids for a weekend.  The Brewer & I flitted up to Sydney, travelling oh so light.  We had a packed agenda and absolutely loved every second of it. So much so we were really quite seduced by Sydney and felt as though we were cheating on our beloved hometown.

First destination was the Four in Hand, it has 2 Chefs Hats.  It is in a beautiful old corner pub in Paddington, my kind of place.  A very steep corner…. from inside, the cars strangley look like they are driving vertically.

The front bar is a real ‘pub’ pub. Rowdy, crowded and beery with patrons noshing on burgers & chips. The dining room on the other hand, is cosy, intimate, quiet, elegant and classy.  We were seated right next to the glass separating the two, and I loved the background vibe of the pub.

It was impossible to choose between the dishes on the menu, so we both had the degustation, I got one amendment to mine so as to try a pork dish on the menu which looked irresistible.  The Chef, Colin Fassnidge, really seems to like his pork.  I had been following him on Twitter for awhile and there was a LOT of twalk about pork. I had high expectations.

We chose the matched wines, as there was an eclectic selection of wines offered by the glass with each course, and there just wouldn’t have been 1, or even 2 wines to go across this whole experience.

First up was the lime cured kingfish with avocado snow and vanilla matched to 2008 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro from Portugal.

Did I say it was dim? Pics do not do food justice, but this dish was beautifully presented, and the flavours very fresh and delicate, it was also very textural with the avocado snow.  If I remember, the cucumber was slightly pickly too.

So, to pig. First up, Braised pigs talk with corn and lobster chowder matched to a 2008 Denis Pommier Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France.

This dish was the main reason we had to have the the degustation, as it wasn’t on the regular menu.  This little piggies tail was deboned and caramelised, a succulent, sticky little sliver in the most intensely flavoured broth.

Next up, lamb; two ways with baby fennel, courgette puree, pickled vegetables with a 2005 Pegasus By Merlot Cabernet, Waipara, NZ

This was in fact lamb 3 ways, in addition to the cutlet and the sticky square of shoulder (I think) there was a slice of tongue. The presentation of this dish was deliciously artistic. OK, I am kinda getting full now. Everything tastes so good, trust me, these plates were pretty well white when they cleared them.

The Brewer had the next course which was the orange braised beef brisket with poached veal and pearl barley with a 2008 Michael Hall Syrah, Eden Vally, SA. I remember it was incredibly tender. This was where I deviated. The roast suckling pig was on the regular menu and I had asked if I could swap the beef brisket for a taste of this dish……

but wait, there’s more, it came in 2 parts…..

This little piggy…. who me? Yes me. Another tail, plus 3 other cuts, all incredible, plus celeriac remoulade and colcannan (I think – food coma descending), I also had a lovely glass of sangiovese with this course. Seriously, just this dish alone could have fed both us little piggies.  It was amazing. Totally indulgent.

Whilst our main courses were happening, the background entertainment was the whole roast suckling pig, carted out to a nearby table, where the waitress adroitly dismembered it and served it to the table of 10 nearby. More pork!

So at this point you think I probably called it quits and rolled out into a cab and passed out. But no. Still to come, the ‘4s’ chocolate snickers, which I believe they are quite well known for.  Matched to a Pedro Ximinez. I ate it all.

There was only one thing left to do. Have a soothing whisky, they had an impressive array of single malt whiskies, four from Islay.  We indulged in the Ardberg Supernova, which we had never seen before and is apparently quite rare, also the Cadenhead.

I thought everything was pretty great value, 5 courses, $85, matched wines, $50 / $135 each. The mains alone were $36.  That represents pretty good value these days.  For this standard of food, service and included wines, it was exceptional. The service was outstanding. They had a lot of guests in rooms upstairs, so were running up and down these stairs all night.  It was busy. We were never forgotten nor were they ever flustered. If the measure of service is how many times they fold your linen napkin when you step away from the table, then they get 10/10 because they did not miss a single opportunity.

Thank god for these stairs, there are long, narrow staircases everywhere in Sydney. This one at the Four In Hand was treacherous for me as the steps were made for people who had smaller feet 150 years ago, my whole foot didn’t fit on them, so every trip to the toilet was pretty precarious, but maybe the trip worked off one morsel of pork.

If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, then I have been a very bad girl, I blame Sydney, the city of seduction which will forever be known to me as Sin City.

A comment on the beer list.  Overall, Sydney was pretty devoid of great beer. It is a long way behind Melbourne. From what we could see, in the bar at the Four In Hand, were taps of pretty generic beers. Coopers or Carlsberg the highlight.  There were more options in bottles, the pick of which was a Lord Nelson 3 sheets (local), then the no-so-crafties from the big boys, Little Creatures, Squires, White Rabbit plus they had most of the fake imported lagers. Which is good for a Sydney pub.  The dining room sets a high benchmark for the gastropub in every other way, it would be great if there were some genuine craft beers on tap and a wider variety in the styles of beers on offer.  As it does with it’s wine list.

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Dish of my Year – Bentley Bar

25 Feb

Smoked eel parfait with white soy, kombu & seaweed at the Bentley Bar.  Like some kind of exotic underwater sea creature with delicate, fluttering, diaphanous wings. How beautiful. Just on visual appeal, this is my dish of the year.

The eating did not disappoint. The eel parfait inside was soft and light.  Around the outside, (kombu I presume) had a slippery savouriness, the white soy presented as mayonnaise on the plate and the seaweeds were the most incredible edibles worthy of a spot in Mrs Pamplemousse’s shop.  A most amazing combination of flavour, texture and visual appeal. I am still dreaming of it.

This Kingfish ceviche was also incredible, not at all what I was expecting.  It was in thin ribbons, like tagliatelli, as was the pickled diakon with the artistic little dollops of yuzu mayonnaise on the side.

It sounded pretty simple, poached egg with chickpea, preserved lemon and harissa, but once again, amazingly textural. We grilled our waiter on the suitability of this dish for sharing, he explained the egg was cooked at 60deg for 110 minutes. Pushing the boundaries of the slow cooked egg! But it mixed in with the chickpeas and made a lovely gooey dip that we piled onto crusty bread and it was outstanding.

Our final dish was this soft shell crab with green chilli salsa. Perfect, and the intensity of the green sauce… you can tell by its colour, which I thought used a lot of parsley, not completely chilli thank god, it was a cracker condiment for  the crunchy crab.

There is a lot more to love about Bentley Bar.  Dee & I had spent the morning at Paddington markets, we were exhausted and in need of major refreshment. The boys were drinking in a German bar somewhere, we hightailed it to the nearest & best bar we could find to wedgie in some sustenance.

The beverages list (not just “wine” list) were amazingly curated. Pretty much everything on their lists I had rarely, if ever seen.

The staff were very polished and knowledgeable, they didn’t hold back from suggestions by the glass for lunch. They are very passionate about their Rieslings, and despite my dislike of the variety, they were able to persuade me into enjoying a few different glasses, also, quite generously, providing me with multiple tastings of various styles and types in their attempts to get me under their sway. Worked.  Dee also experienced some unique sake until she drank it all and they ran out!

But this is what really got my attention. Have you ever seen a whisky list like this one. I guess there is a special person in Sydney (;-)) who assists with their selections and sourcing, but wow.

Us two girls were pretty well done, and as The Brewer is a HUGE single malt lover, after our dinner at MsGs we cabbed it back to Bentley Bar to have our digestif. Again, ably assisted by an expert waiter, we tried the Bunnahabhain and Ardberg, both incredibly different. Discussing our love of the peat, he also gave a little try of a tequila that was so peaty it tasted like whisky.

Unfortunately a drunk mob staggered through the door looking for drinks or a nightclub or sex, who knows. Idiots. Bar. Closed. Ruined our chances of trying the Springbank 1998 Cask Strength which is what I was working up to all day.

My little note on the beerlist, like all their other beverages, exceptionally thoughtful. Probably one of the best I’ve seen in a restaurant. Some interesting craft beers from around Australia including our own Mountain Goat, McLaren Vale Ave and White Rabbit, plus Trumer Pils on tap. Nice.

(02) 9332 2344
320 Crown St
Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Christmas at the Studio

27 Nov

This annual market, in a paddock surrounded by bush, is truly one of those little things that reminds me how lucky I am to be living here.

One grey old day, we went down the long & winding Bulldog Creek Rd, just past Foxeys Hangout (the place not the winery). Gumboots were de rigueur at this outing.

Two local artists, Flick Pope, jeweller, and Leisa Wharington, glass blower, share a studio in a cute mud brick cottage on a property in Merricks North.

Once a year, they invite other like-minded creators and throw open the doors paddock gate to the public to do their Christmas shopping.  I bought my Christmas gifts for myself from The Brewer and the Brewer’s Daughters, had them gift wrapped and feigned surprise & delight upon receiving them.

First stop, Lynley Northcotte, from Northcote! Lynley was making me 100 mediaeval chalices, due in a couple of days, to serve our Christmas Ale in. She did an amazing job of custom designing them and turning them around in a short time.  Here is her range, the reds were striking.

Marnie, who I know from the kids school, makes these gorgeous creations.  I bought 2 and most of my friends did too. Clever girl, and she wonders why anyone would want to take a picture!

The diversity and originality of the artists there is incredible. I was captivated by the rainbow of colours against the grey/green background of the bush.

Fairies anyone?

More rainbows. Rings, you wouldn’t want to do the dishes wearing them, I think I should keep one on forever.

The Chook Leaf shoes are gorgeous for the kids, made by a friend of my sisters, they have graced the feet of one of the Brewer’s Daughters and they are just fantastic shoes

Cheese / cutting boards made from recycled wine barrels.  On the reverse of each one is the timber is stained from the wine. Mum. Tick.

Wreaths and large garden ornaments made from grape vine cuttings.

My special treat was some beautiful earrings from Mary Odorcic. Most of her silver jewellery features a matt finish with in organic shapes.

The inside of the cottage was laden with the most beautiful glass creations.

DSC01716

Rainbow colours and gumboots

Food, coffee & maybe even some wine is available on the day.  Bulldog Creek Road, Merricks.

Usually held on the last weekend in November, I will try and remember to re-post this post (is that possible) around then.

Dinner Club ~ A Middle Eastern Feast

27 Nov

The conveners and inaugural hosts of our dinner club… Joe and Dee, have a deep passion for authentic food and superb wines. We have been delighted many times by the smallgoods & pickles Joe brings home from his Italian family, and gorged on Dee’s abundant Middle Eastern feasts. Their combined Israeli – Italian backgrounds mean that even the smallest catchup revolves around a banquet.

So Dinner Club with Joe & Dee is a guaranteed feast of food and wine. It all started beautifully on a balmy night overlooking the hill & the bay at sunset.

The Menu
Beef Carpaccio & radish remoulade
Ravioli w spiced lamb mince caramelised onions & pinenuts
18hour Goat, flame roasted eggplant, cardamon & honey yoghurt
Pomegranate & snake bean freekah salad
Main Ridge Dairy goats curd tarlet w cardomon & vanilla apricot icecream

Joe is also our inhouse wine guy. Some superb wines were selected to accompany this feast, Pizzini Nebbiolo, Vajra Langhe Rosso and Crianza Rioja.

This Dinner Club was so beautiful and abundant, but I was really disappointed in my ability to get nice photos. It inspired me to think a little more about the way I take photos, in the hope I could do the people and food justice.

A Lazy Long Lunch

17 Nov

Just for fun, a girlfriend and I decided to go out for a spontaneous lunch. No husbands, kids, friends, or time constraints.  I had been wanting to do this at Foxeys Hangout for nearly 2 years!

My Lunch

There was much excitement in cellar door, as less than 12 hours before, brothers Michael & Tony had returned from the Royal Melbourne Wine Show where their 2009 shiraz had just snaffled the Premiers Trophy for best victorian red wine. A shiraz! From the Peninsula! A big coup. To say they were happy would be an understatement. Usually fairly reserved fellows, they were like kids on a sugar high.

The award

We sat down, and ordered….. coffee! Anyone who reads Tony’s columns in Epicure about running a winery, would remember one particularly notorious article about his aversion to serving people a coffee unless they were in for the wine. Don’t tell anyone, but they were good.

Coffee!!!

We then did what they do best, which was sit back, and get fed. No decisions, no interruptions to conversation. The plates just kept arriving, with 2 of everything until we had done them all. Everything is simple, fresh and just perfect for a slow moving lunch.  Here they are….

The asaparagus with blood orange was exceptionally pretty

My personal favourite was the tuna bresaola with radicchio & pear.

We loved the spicy meatballs

then tomatoes, quail & avocado….

Of course we had wine… most of them in fact, Rose, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the award winning shiraz. Everything except the sparkling wines, and I don’t know why we skipped them.  Lastly we went dessert, like a vanilla icecream maxibon, with chocolate sauce that oozed all over it.  Tony plonked a bottle of late harvest pinot gris on the table to try with it. It is a gorgeous wine.  It is quite unique for wineries on the Peninsula to have a sticky style wine, more should.

We caught an hour or two of sunshine which was a pretty rare sighting over the last few months. There is a spacious deck outside, which has no furniture, but is a lovely place to sit and ponder the view.  The little boxes along the edges are perfect for some nibbles & a glass of wine. Idyllic.  Whilst taking it all in, the two happy & tired brothers took a moment to do the same.  This is one of my favourite places on the Peninsula, I think because they are completely hands on and passionate about what they do.  Also, they do not try to please everyone and are not apologetic about this. They have their vision, they stick to it, and it works.  I was lucky to get the chance to completely indulge in their experience, with a good friend and it worked. Thanks.

Foxey's Hangout on Urbanspoon

A tourist in my city – Spice Temple and The Waiting Room

5 Nov

I love being a tourist in Melbourne. We have lived away from the city for over 10 years now, but it still feels like my city. We don’t need to sightsee, just eat and drink.  The diversity of suburbs, the creativity of every place is like fuel for me, it is inspirational and I come home feeling energised and excited. This was one good 24 hours which also included Pope Joan in East Brunswick and North South Eatery in Richmond.  Just for fun.

Regular followers on Twitter would know that The Brewer is something of a master Sichuan cook.  We eat it about 4 times a week. So Spice Temple is something of a holy grail. We were there within a couple of weeks of it opening. We all met up in The Waiting Room,  another brand spanking new venue from the prolific Rockpool empire. Unbelievably sparkly and opulent, bling bling bling, I needed a lot more on me to fit in here!

The drinks list is, of course, spectacular.  Cocktails seemed appropriate here, I ordered a Queen of Diamonds Campari, Gin, Rosemary and Thyme Vermouth.

Then we meandered around the corner to Spice Temple.  We were a group of 5, which is a perfect size as everything on the menu is for sharing, so we were able to share about 10 dishes.  If we were just 2ppl, we may have felt challenged by only being able to order/eat a couple of dishes.

It is dark in there, really dark, like I had to feel my way along the walls to get to the bathrooms.  I suggest wearing a miners lamp!  Hence my pics are very dim. We started with the Tingling Prawns, not so spicy but beautiful fresh flavours.

Tingling Prawns

One of our favourite dishes was the hot & numbing dry wagyu beef.  The Brewer has mastered this dish himself, but this one was exceptional.  the texture of it, more shredded than sliced, really made it into something special.

The Kung Pao chicken was another dish that holds a special place in our heart, a recipe for this by Kylie Kwong in her My China book was one of the first we found and successfully made. 

One of the more interesting dishes was the spicy stir fried quail, peanuts & egg custard.  Amazing textures again.

One of the hottest dishes was this tofu in chilli sauce

The dish of the night was the Hunan style pork belly, crispy, melt in the mouth, spicy on piles of tiny sliced beans.

My dining companions, also ordered most of the sweets, which were very beautiful, especially the rose granita, and this one with iranian fairy floss on top. I am not much of a dessert person, and I am informed they were amazing!

A gorgeous night, we felt very glamourous. It was a very special night out.

A comment on the beer list.  The Waiting Room had 10 beers, a nice mix including some Victorian craft beers and interesting imports.  However 9 of them were lagers.  A little diversity in the styles would be appreciated by enthusiasts, but for the majority, it looks interesting.

At the Spice Temple fewer beers, but a craft brewed hefeweizen and the chinese Tsing Tao are good additions to a short but quality list.

Beer summary: Thoughtful, short, mostly lagers

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon