Sydney Food Diary: Barbetta, Paddington

Hurrah for food reviews. Right? I had only the quickest glance at Broadsheet’s recommendations for cafes in Paddington, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have noticed Barbetta, tucked away in a side street, and near where we parked to drop off clothing donations to the Australian Red Cross (my favourite place to donate because they seem to take care of the clothes and try to sell it for a decent price to raise funds, because they’re non-religious, and because of the good work they do).

I spotted the sign for Barbetta and wondered if it was even open. Then we approach it and it’s bustling and packed. Not too packed for us to get a table, thankfully, but it was an impressive amount of activity.

Which means that the ambience is awfully fun and felt almost celebratory, including because of our host with an awesome Italian accent.

We had a light lunch, splitting a plate of four arancini (perfect, crisp, light) and the polpette (delicious, in a perfect sauce). I should have snuck in a sneaky Sunday lunch glass of wine.

Barbetta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: The Wilmot, CBD

I never noticed the Primus Hotel, but it’s apparently just got a refurb, and with it, a fancy new restaurant. The lobby in this place is insane. It was the old Sydney Water Board Building from around the late ’30s and it is BEAUTIFUL.

The menu is laid out simply: choose from 2 or 3 courses, with 4 choices in each category, some of which cost you extra. As the friend who I ate with, Peter, said, laughingly (he’s a professor of enterpreneurship), it’s the current business model: you want something special, you pay for it; there’s a basic cost, and then, like cars or flights, there are add-ons.

The food is beautifully presented. My octopus starter was almost fussy with its flowers and herbs. The grilled tentacles were tender and smokey; some tightly rolled sprouts in radish I actually found a bit too earthy.

I had a vegetarian lasagne as they were out of steak that night (if you only offer four mains, running out of one of them at the start of the evening is unfortunate), and I think the lasagne sheets were actually vegetables, not pasta. It was quite a nice dish; a rich imitation of a regular lasagne, with a twist.

We split desserts: a cheesecake with toffee and hazelnuts and a lemon cake. I thought desserts were a highlight. Great combos, the taste of them (delicious) took precedence over the presentation, though beautiful. Peter, by the way, gave rave reviews to both of his savoury courses (a beef brisket, and a barramundi).

Our waiter was lovely and gentle. We liked him. And the big surprise of the night was that they were offering a deal to Entertainment Book customers, and food was 50%. So for a very classy three course meal, and a glass of wine each (actually, I had two), and the total was $90 without a tip. That value is unheard of in Sydney, but I’ll happy to come back here at regular prices. I want to show my husband that beautiful lobby (it would be a great place for a cocktail with a bit more buzz, a few more people and some lower lights).

The Wilmot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Soul Burger, Newtown

The other day we were at Soul Dining and not long after I’m at Soul Burger in Newtown. There must be a theme going on. In any case, I am COMPLETELY on board for the new vegetarian burgers made up of stuff like Beyond Meat, that don’t taste like the old vegetarian lentil burgers of the past.

I think that it’s good for the planet as well as our health to cut down on the meat we eat, or to cut it out entirely. So, dining with my vegetarian friend David was a good excuse to try out Soul Burger.

While I was tempted by the Pauline Hanson Halal Snack Pack, I went for the Beyond Burger, with Vegan Bacon.

As with the last time I tried a Beyond Burger (at Grill’d), I admired the smoky, grilled flavour, and found the perfect shape of the patty a little disturbing. But it tasted of meat to me, and the bacon had a surprisingly bacon like texture. All in all I thought it was perfectly fine.

David was happy with his ‘chicken’ burger and the sweet potato fries were delicious and crisp. Washed down with a lemonade and an ale, I was happy to give my business to Soul Burger.

I even got to try out the me&you app and little plastic stone thing for ordering and payment. It’s a pretty slick and easy system (I first saw it as Chat Thai in Chinatown but for some reason, I couldn’t get a connection for it to work).

Soul Burger Newtown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Australian food adventures: Biota Dining, Bowral

Husband treated me to a weekend in the Southern Highlands as a little post-birthday escape. I’ve heard about Biota and always wanted to try it, so we built the weekend around our planned visit. We even stayed here on the Saturday night that we ate.

Both of us thought from the photos of the countryside on the website that both the restaurant and accommodation would be out in the bush, overlooking a field! But it’s just a little ways from the town centre, so not quite as pretty or remote as expected. The room is very stylish though.

Sadly, I can’t give a proper review of the experience though. I had a terrible cold, and my main effort at dinner was to not cough all the way through. I was full of phlegm and it affected my taste buds too, so the local wine, which I’m sure is very good, sort of tasted all the same to me.

The young wait staff were all very earnest and did a good job, though some seemed a little nervous. It definitely reminded me of tourist towns around the world where young people are providing most of the service, before they go back to school or manage to move away.

It’s not a very good photo but I think this was my favourite dish: artichoke and turnip and onion milk and pine oil. It was rich and creamy and interesting.

The other dishes were interesting and beautifully presented.

But as I said, I’m not sure I can fairly judge the experience.

The octopus jaffles didn’t really taste much of octopus though, even husband thought so.

And while I love the idea of wallaby stew, as it seemed really Australian and of the place …

I found the dish wasn’t particularly refined with the big bones and the meat, which was neither here nor there: neither the texture or taste stood out in any way to me.

But as I said: I was sick (though happier to be sick on holidays and away from Sydney then to have been sick at home).

All in all, I was definitely glad we did this, and I think it’s great that Biota is creating a dining experience like this in regional NSW, highlighting local ingredients, and promoting Modern Australian fine dining.

A quick look at reviews on TripAdvisor though and I can see that with good word of mouth,  the prices and the chef’s hats translate into high expectations, which from quite a few reviewers are not being met. I wonder what’s going on.

Biota Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Paramount Recreation Club Kiosk

A Saturday morning and we weren’t sure where to take our friends from Adelaide for breakfast. Paramount downstairs was packed. So, then we see the sign to take us all the way up to the rooftop (perhaps we should have taken the elevator from inside). And suddenly, we’re on a sunny rooftop, and it feels like Los Angeles. There is a pretty succulent and cactus garden. Music playing out of (terrible) speakers. A view of the city that I’ve never seen. And a parade of people going in and out of a yoga class, and some little outdoor tent: massages?

It was perfect. Exactly what we wanted. An interesting, healthy selection of breakfast items. A table in the sun. One of our party even got a coconut. There was even a farmers’ market of one, a table set up with produce and it was nice to see that people were buying it. I went up to get an orange for my negronis and … she gave it to me for free. Without evening knowing it was my birthday. Lovely.

Paramount Recreation Club Kiosk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Soul Dining, Surry Hills

All hits, no misses at this new modern Korean restaurant in Surry Hills

I read about Soul Dining in Urban Village and was surprised I’d missed it. It’s been open 8 months already, though our host, Kim, explained to us that with the construction on the light rail meant business was dead for the first 3 or 4 months. But that’s one of the things I was impressed with, on a Friday night: I may have managed to get a reservation easily but the restaurant was packed, and had a buzzy feel about it.

I knew it would be good as soon as I came in. Why? Food blogger extraordinaire ChocolateSuze was at the table next to us. She always knows where the best food in town is. While her table had all three of the truffle specials, we decided to go for the tasting menu. At $65 a head, it’s good value and I like tasting menus to let chefs show off their stuff!

We had two rather delicious cocktails to start things off: mine had amaro, shochu and prosecco! Very refreshing. To whet the appetite, a little toasted rice cake with butter. I like anything with rice flour, this was like toast and mochi combined; husband thought it tasted a bit like uncooked bread dough.

It was a nice change from the ubiquitous kingfish carpaccio to have some substantial but not indelicate slices of kingfish in kimchi water, which gave it the fermented Korean tang. With white kimchi, avocado and soy paste, and a slice of chili, this was pretty much perfect.

The curly corn with creme fraiche, garlic butter and pistachio was our favourite of the night. It’s unbelievable, super crisp kernels and matched with the garnishings and eating off of a curly quarter of a cob … well: you have to try it.

Japanese eggplant with tomato jam, anchovy paste and delicate shavings of parmesan was lovely. Husband’s was a bit chewy, mine was light and soft. We liked it.

Prawn dumplings with a salady mixture on top, and a spicy dressing, looked like it could be plain: but the dumplings were deep fried and that textural crunch matched with the salad was perfection.

At the top of the page is the next dish: tender octopus with grilled brussel sprouts, a squid ink sauce, thick and luxurious, surrounded by a spicy sweet chili sauce, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Really loved this dish too.

We switched out the beef tartare (husband doesn’t like tartare) for a spicy pork jaffle with a sweet tomato jam. Scrumptious.

Possibly my other favourite dish of the night was a Korean beef rib, presented in the most beautiful way, off the bone and with perfect squares of potato alongside. The jus was amazing: you can see how it’s shining here. The meat was super tender but still had a great texture to hold it together. Yum!

Love the design of the place by the way. Should have taken a photo of the large circular lighting fixture overhead: stylish, slightly futuristic but not in an alienating sort of way. Clubbing music at low volume. Exposed walls, with some cavities showing. A long banquette sofa in plush blue (a bit too low husband said but he thought it was so beautiful). Even the bathroom is beautiful.

We finished with a pannacotta and breakfast cereal. Hmm. I liked it. Slightly overfull in the end, but very, very happy: dinner for two, with two cocktails and two glasses of wine, just over $200, without a tip. What with the amazing Malaysian food at Ho Jiak in Chinatown, and we just had an amazing Japanese meal at Gogyo the other day, it feels like modern Asian food, refined but not stuffy, fine dining, is having a moment. I’m all for it!

Soul Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Australian food adventures: Birch Restaurant, Moss Vale

Mini-break! We headed down to the Southern Highlands, nearly two hours outside of Sydney, for a winter escape and a continued birthday celebration (for me). I did a bit of research and saw that Birch has not been open a long time but is building a nice reputation for itself. They host special meals on Friday nights, featuring local wines and a special menu.

Something to start was a half shell scallop with kilpatrick foam, paired with Joadja Distillery Dry Gin with citrus foam. I found the citrus foam a little too bitter and tangy for me, but otherwise, it was a nice start.

The entrée was a beetroot soused salmon, citrus salsa and yuzu gel, paired with a 2017 Far Ago Hill Pinot Gris. My god, what a pretty dish. And the wine was really interesting: lots going on with it.

The main was black angus beef, smoked porcini, truffle butter and pomme noisette, paired with a 2015 St Maur Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot.

The meat was perfectly cooked, and the dollop of truffle butter was outrageous.

The dessert was a wintery trio of crumbles of pear, apple and rhubarb paired with Cuttaway Hill Wines’ Traditional Methode Champenois (Special Blend. I was expecting a humble fruit crumble, but as you can see, this was a fancier dish than that.

What else to say? It was a great start to a foodie weekend away. The service was friendly and efficient. There was a nice buzz (I think these special dinners tend to be completely sold out). The setting is lovely too, with the restaurant taking over a wonderful old post office building. Oh, and for $99 each, I thought this exceptional value. We really loved our meal here: Thanks Birch!

Birch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Jambo Jambo, Glebe

Ethiopian food is not easily found in Sydney. In other cities I’ve lived in or passed through, there is usually an Ethiopian restaurant or two.

I last ate at one in Paris and was reminded of the magical combination of the injera, a flatbread pancake made of fermented teff flour and the various curries and vegetable dishes.

Jambo Jambo has been open in Glebe for more than a year! It’s taken me that long to get to it. Friends from Adelaide wanted to eat something that they couldn’t find at home and this was the perfect occasion.

Actually, it felt more like a party than a dinner. It has a really festive atmosphere and the restaurant was packed.

Joseph, the formidable owner, stopped by a few times to make sure everything was OK and make sure we knew that kid’s eat and drink for free (which we were happy about).

We had some South African wine, a chenin blanc, to wash down the the combination platter. It’s $95 for two people, and then $30 for additional people, which confused me at first (too much wine already?)…

But it worked out to less than $40 per adult and the wine was inexpensive, so this was very reasonably priced.

We also received a complimentary starter plate which was lovely, a sort of raw beef I think in lettuce leaves, and some samosas (tasty) and fried bread (a bit dense for me).

I find it hard to describe what we ate, except that it was delicious.

The curries and sauces and vegetables and dahl and goat were rich and thick, and then the injera was a perfect vessel, slightly sour and plain to match the richness.

If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, I’d highly recommend it. And I’d highly recommend Jambo Jambo.

Jambo Jambo Africa Ethiopian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Coffee in Sydney: Cafe Felix, Newtown

I really loved the vibe of this place, open and airy and a very high ceiling.

It seemed like the crowd were regulars, and that there was a nice vibe between staff and customers.

And if you’ve read my reviews, you know that I love coffee art.

Three cheers, Cafe Felix.

Cafe Felix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: The Butler, Potts Point

What I remember about Mezzaluna, The Butler’s predecessor, was that it was formal and fancy. It was there for 20 years! The vibe I got from The Butler was very different: light, airy and casual, and a beautiful outlook over Wooloomooloo and the City.

We were there for a Friday lunch, and I thought it was pretty much perfect. Each dish was delicious. There are influences from Latin America and Asia.

The plating was beautiful. Our wine was delicious, and the service was friendly and competent. We did sharing plates and a handful were enough.

The ‘Mezcal cured ora king salmon, pickled daikon, cream cheese whip, pomegranate, wakame salt’ at $24, photo at the top of the post, was my favourite I think.

But I found the sesame crackers in the ‘Ruby tuna, peanut salsa macha, edamame, black sesame, quinoa crisp’, also $24, addictive, and a great match for the slightly sweet tuna.

We couldn’t NOT order the ‘Pork Belly pastor tostada, pineapple crema, pea tendrils, cured onion, achiote, coriander purée’,  a steal at $10 (though harder to divide into two).

It was a lovely, and dare I say, memorable lunch. In fact, while I’m sure dinner is good here too, it’s hard to pass up the charm of sitting outside on that balcony with that view…

The Butler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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