Friday, 29 October 2010
We arrived right on time for our reservation, however chose to wait for a spot to come free on the windowsill looking out to the harbour. We had a couple of drinks while we waited and enjoyed the after-work social atmosphere.
We'd read that Hugos was awarded Best Pizza in Australia 2010, so figured we'd better have pizza for dinner. I had scallops for starters (looked lovely, but essentialy had no flavour), Simon had the prawns, which funnily enough, also seemed to be somewhat lacking in flavour.
Next we had the Kingfish pizza and the Mushroom pizza. Both looked lovely, but had an unexpected sweetness to them that we concluded must have been lemon. All in all, these were also fairly bland to taste.
We did have cocktails - both of which were lovely. We'd heard good things about the dessert pizzas but after we'd dubbed our meal 'bland, bland, bland' we decided to skip dessert. The funniest part of the evening came when the waitress cleared our main course dishes and asked how everything was. I paused, and emphatically stated 'it was OK'. To which she laughed. Very genuinely and heartily she laughed. Hmm. Guess they don't really care whether or not you enjoy the food after all.
Anyway, the setting was truely lovely, the cocktails good. But I'd suggest not bothering with the food.
The first thing that strikes you as you exit the lift and enter the almost alternate reality of Cafe Sydney is the incredible vibe and sophisticated party atmosphere of the place. The bar area is enormous - bigger than the restaurant at a guess, and furnished in a manner I can't help but call 'hip'.
We were lead through the throngs of suited gatherings, had the steps pointed out to us (they must have heard about me and steps!), and wound our way through the restaurant and out to the balcony (we'd requested a table outside - knowing that the views are amazing and that blankets are provided should you be cold).
We started with a shared garlic naan bread (they seemed to do naans as their starting bread offering), then waited quite a while for our entrees to arrive. (And funnily enough, although the wait (which was close to an hour) frustrated me at the time, the whole experience was so good that I had forgotten about it until now). I had the Morton Bay Bug salad. This was fantastic - so full of flavour, with a touch of avocado and fresh citrus. I'm not sure that I've had bugs before, but I would certainly have them again.
For mains - Simon had the S.A. Jewfish and I had the Queensland Grilled Prawns. Both were lovely, my prawns were the biggest I've ever seen.
Simon had the special dessert - a mango & coconut trifle with mango sorbet and sesame crisp - absolutely delicious!
I had the Dark Chocolate Pave, which was exactly what I was hoping it would be (sorry about the over exposed ice cream scoop in the picture).
We had a fabulous evening, thoroughly enjoyed the friendly and polished service, the vibe of the venue, the amazing views and the wonderful food. Yes we would dine here again, and yes we are recommending it to anyone visiting Sydney and wanting a classy meal in a fabulous location.
Sydney WildlifeWorld is located next to the Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour and has lots of wildlife from throughout Australia, including Butterflies, Crocodiles, Penguins, Kangaroos, Koalas, Snakes, Giant Ants and many other critters. It’s worth a visit.
Manly is a 30 minute ferry ride (on the standard ferry) from Circular Quay in Sydney CBD, and is like a laid-back beach location. It is nice place to relax, yet have lots of great cafes and luxuries around. It is however a very busy location, but it has a great buzz and is still a nice place to visit.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
I'd read a fair few reviews before we went (there is another Creole restaurant in Sydney (Crows Nest) however South seemed to have better reviews and a more southern focused menu), so knew to expect a fairly tiny space, and based on some of the reviews I was expecting the prices to be a little on the higher side. Yes it was tiny (but still comfortable) and the prices were absolutely fine - and even better for the fact that we'd turned up on a Monday when all of their hot wings starter items are half price.
We both had the 'Wing-Tips' for entree - this is a tasting plate (ha! it's a very generous taste!) of their hot wings (omg smell the vinegar, taste the spice, to die for!) and BBQ rib tips, served with a blue cheese sauce and fresh, crunchy celery sticks. We would both go back for this dish alone - absolutely deliicious, and even at full price of $AU16 is a cheap eat. Oh and I appreciate the little details - being provided with a bowl for bones and with refresher towels to clean your hands after you've finished licking all that scrummy goodness off them!
Next we both chose items that we've not had before - Simon going with the Crawfish Etouffe and myself the Shrimp Creole, both with rice. While we both enjoyed these, Simon wasn't sure that the sauce with the Etouffe was entirely him (but he did completely clean his plate). There were plenty of other items on the menu that we would have love to have tried, but alas, we've managed to fill all of evening meals for the rest of the trip.
The couple sitting next to us heard we were going to look at the dessert menu and strongly recommended we try the Cherry Cobbler a la mode (with vanilla ice-cream) - and then they managed to order the very last cherry cobbler!! So that was sadly not to be. But Simon had the pecan pie instead - which was fantastic - not too sweet and sticky, but absolutely delicious, and I had the lemon merinque pie which I had read in other reviews was to die for. It surely was pretty darned good.
We both left thorougly replete and knowing we'd talk about the meal for months (if not years) to come. The service was relaxed, friendly and welcoming (the hotel had actually stuffed up our booking so we didn't have a reservation after all, but they were incredibly good about this and even phoned their other restaurant to check that the reservation hadn't been made there - and of course they found space for us - phew!).
Thanks South Restaurant, we will be recommending you to anyone visiting (or moving to) Sydney (yes I&G we're looking at you!!!)
Monday, 25 October 2010
Darling Harbour is a lovely area of Sydney (despite being very touristy) and I love how art is just naturally part of the landscape.
After standing in line for about 15mins to get tickets to the Sydney Aquarium (there is a lesson here in ensuring you buy tickets online prior to arriving) we then made our way into the enormous aquarium where we saw sharks, penguins, turtles, sting rays, coral, jelly fish and lots and lots of other sea life. It is well worth the visit.
Harts Pub is an iconic pub in The Rocks area of Sydney that has an excellent selection of craft beers. I thoroughly enjoyed a Byrnes Red Ale and a Porter last night to accompany some lovely char-grilled Kangaroo Skewers. Jane had the Brewers Burger and found this to be good, although the bacon could have done with being cooked for a little longer.
It was a good pub meal, with decent sized portions, and we would happily return.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Last night we went to Cracked Pepper for dinner. I had the duck confit and whilst it was nice I thought it was missing a wow factor. Jane had the beef and it looked like they had cut it through the middle to see if it was cooked since each fillet was presented separately and only one side of each had been on the grill.
Jane had a blackberry soufflé for dessert that was partially (although not fully) cooked, but she still enjoyed it.
The service was pleasant but not fast.
We started the day with a coffee and loaf at the Bliss Coffee Roasters in the Hunter Valley Gardens. One thing I continually forget is that skinny lattes (as they’re known here as opposed to trim lattes in NZ) are usually a single shot of coffee and not the double shot I have been accustomed to in Auckland.
Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese (yes, that’s its official name) was our next stop. This is located in a magnificent complex with Tempus Two and another winery or two. Here, we enjoyed some more excellent cheeses.
Tempus Two has a very upmarket cellar door presence and some lovely wines to taste. I particularly enjoyed the Pinot Gris which had a nice passionfruit flavour. The Chardonnay (50% Hunter Valley Grapes) is big and oaky and whilst it is quite drinkable now I fear it will become too oaky over time for my palate. Their Shiraz is a very light style that I can imagine being a nice and easy drink on a hot summers day.
We popped into Adina Olives and tasted their small selection on offer. The Green Olive tapenade was my pick before I was also tempted to taste some of their wines. Of Adina Vineyard’s wines, I particularly liked their light and crisp Semillon, and found the Verdelho to be nice and dry with lots of flavour. Jane’s pick was the Dessert Semillon (an ice wine) that she found was more viscous than a table wine but not as sticky as many dessert wines.
Leaves & Fishes is a beautiful restaurant located nestled back into the trees on Lovedale Road overlooking their pond. It is a lovely setting, has nice ambience and great service. I had a beautiful sesame-crusted fish fillet that was done in a Thai style with coriander, fish sauce and a very light chilli, and micro-greens. Jane had crispy pork belly with a magnificent side salad comprising caper-berries, gherkins, olives, sweet garlic, feta, fennel, pea sprouts, coriander and various lettuces. We would happily return although the prices are certainly premium.
The Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory was our next stop, and we tasted a number of lovely chocolates and fudges. Great friendly service.
After a detour via a geocache we had a cheese tasting at Benorrie Dairy. The Herb & Garlic Fromage Frais is lovely. I enjoyed the Valencay (white mould goat cheese), although this was too strong for Jane. The Marinated Fetta Gold Medal was exquisite and very smooth. The Labna had a nice garlic/rosemary flavour and lots of exciting complexity. The Brie was a bit mild for me, but the Washed Rind was more to my liking. The Duetto is a dessert style cheese that they do and I quite enjoyed the sweeter flavour however Jane was not keen on this one (which is not surprising given that it contained gorgonzola). The Apple & Rosemary paste was also really good. We were also appreciative of the friendly service of the woman in the store.
In the same complex as the Benorrie Dairy is Arrowfield Estate. Once I finally got some service I decided to try their Riesling. This is a citrus-dominated Riesling that is enjoyable. I also enjoyed their Cabernet Merlot.
We had a nice meal on Friday night at San Martino Restaurant at the Hunter Resort on Hermitage Road in Pokolbin. I had a lovely fillet of beef that was very tender and cooked rare (as requested). Jane had a spatchcock of chicken that was supposedly marinated, however I suspect it only got its marinade seconds before hitting the pan and it could have been a little more moist. The amount of vegetables with the spatchcock was very stingy, and no vegetables or salads were available to be ordered as sides.
The main meal took approximately 45mins to arrive after ordering, but other than that the service was friendly and good. The ambience in the restaurant was also good, although we did notice that the cd was obviously on repeat.
We finished with a Chocolate Torte and Macadamia Tart, both of which were good although the Macadamia Tart was easily my pick of the two of them.
We would return, but would make sure we had plenty of time.
Friday, 22 October 2010
After a great night out at the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Market with friends (and a zillion other people, with huge lines to boot, but an excellent experience none-the-less) on Thursday night, we headed up to Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley wine region on Friday (via one cache on the way). Approximately two hours drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley comprises myriad vineyards and surprisingly (to me at least) lots of cheese dairies.
The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory was the first dairy we visited and we found a very high calibre of cheese. I particularly liked their washed rind cheese (which had a nice bite to it) and their blue cheese (that was very light in blue flavour but lovely and creamy).
After checking in at our accommodation on Hermitage Road we headed along the road to Emerson’s at Pokolbin for lunch. They have only been open for 3 weeks (according to the chef/owner) and are doing tapas style meals. The duck liver pate was divine and one of the best we have had. We also had garlic prawns and calamari, both of which were okay although lacked a wow factor. We were impressed however that the chef/owner came out and asked us what we thought of the meals and took a genuine interest in our feedback.
We then ventured on to Piggs Peake for our first wine tasting and they were okay but nothing noteworthy. They were very friendly and gave generous tastings. I do wonder though whether since they were the first vineyard for the day and our first for this region whether I was being overly critical.
DenMar was our second vineyard and there was yet again nothing jumping out at me. I also found that their Pinot Noirs weren’t to my palate, but I think that may be more so due to me being more in-tune with NZ Pinot Noirs.
Tintilla Estate was my pick of the vineyards on Friday, also helped by the exuberance of the wine salesman. He was a member of the family and consequently knew lots about their huge selection of wines and was very open to all feedback. I particularly enjoyed their Semillon 2010 and their Sangiovese 2009. I also really enjoyed tasting their selection of fortified wines.
We then quickly grabbed a lovely cheddar cheese from Binnorie Dairy before they closed and had a taste of their washed rind cheese (which I enjoyed). We will return tomorrow for a proper tasting.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
We had another glorious day in Sydney today and started with a train trip out to Single Origin Roasters, which is a very busy little cafe hidden away in a side street in Surry Hills, where we had a lovely breakfast and superb coffee; Jane however wasn’t too fussed with her Chai Latte. We would happily return.
We then walked along to Harmony Park and found a geocache before jumping onto the free bus that goes around the city and getting off at Circular Quay. We spent some time people watching and enjoying the lovely day around by the Opera House before heading around to the Rocks.
The Rocks is one of those areas of Sydney I enjoy walking around the streets and looking at the old buildings. It has a nice feeling, all-be-it quite touristy.
Our stomaches were craving some food so after deciding that most of the restaurants on the waters edge by The Rocks would be a bit too heavy on our wallet for lunch we went to Cruise Bar at the Circular Quay end of the The Rocks promenade and had a lovely lunch, whilst fending away the seagulls and narrowly missing being shat on. We then were engulfed by hundreds of firemen/women who were preceded by a band. We have no idea what they were doing there, but it provided a nice buzz.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
After a nice bite to eat (and a good coffee) across the road from our hotel at Bluestone in O’Connell Street we ventured to George Street where Jane noticed that there was brail next to the button to cross the road. Something so simple, I imagine can be extremely useful.
As were were finding our first geocache for the trip in Lang’s Lawn we even found that they cage children here. We were however pleased to see that we weren’t the only people looking on very curiously.
We then wandered along to a board game store called The Tin Soldier at 40 York Street that is down in the basement of the building and has an excellent range, where we bought a card game (Backpacker) but may yet return to buy something else.
We then wandeWe then ventured along to the glorious Queen Victoria Building before it was time for Jane to spend ages and ages in a costume jewellery store; she eventually emerged with a couple of items.
Walking through an underground corridor we emerged at Myers and then wandered across to David Jones where the array of ladies shoes was mind-boggling. After investing in some shoes for Jane we then watched a very serious chess match over at Hyde Park. After 5 minutes we still hadn’t seen a move taken and the concentration was very intense. I do like the idea of the outdoor chess set.
After a nice salad for lunch in the lovely Strand Arcade at Strand Expresso we then headed back to the hotel for a bit of R&R before I got bored and wandered along to Custom House (by Circular Quay) where there was a pipe art form just begging for photos to be taken.
I then proceeded from here along to the Opera House and got a bit trigger happy with the camera (as I’m sure most people do) and took the obligatory shots.
I don’t know where we’ll head to for dinner tonight. We had an excellent meal at the Bavarian Bier Cafe in O’Connell Street last night, with a schnitzel that was ridiculously large finished off with schnapps (a cow bell was even rung as the schnapps arrived, which is apparently tradition). Perhaps we’ll go to the Japanese restaurant the concierge has recommended.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Note: the photo is of the leftovers that I cooked up today and unfortunately I hadn't dried them sufficiently before storing them, so they're not quite as plump and attractive as last nights, but still a reasonable depiction.
Refer to this post for details of my dough, make for 2 people (note I now make it in the food processor rather than all that upper-arm toning kneading - it's just so much quicker).
300g skin-on, tail end salmon fillet (or about 270g if you buy it skinned)
275g fresh ricotta (I used a handmade ricotta from the grocers at the fish market rather than the much denser supermarket mass-production style)
about 2 tsp fresh dill
1 fresh lemon
salt & pepper
Good quality EVOO (extra virgin Olive oil)
1 clove garlic, crushed & finely chopped
part of the lemon from the filling
- First make your dough as per the instructions referenced. Leave to sit for about 30 minutes while you make the filling.
- Skin the salmon then slice and then re-slice into small pieces - I ended up with mostly 10mm by 10mm by 5mm pieces or perhaps a smidgen smaller. Place in a mixing bowl.
- Add the gently drained ricotta - I just poured off the liquid trying not to lose any of the actual chesse
- finely chop the dill and add to the bowl
- finely grate about 2/3s of the lemon rind and add
- mix gently and then add salt & pepper to taste
- Get a pot of water on the element so that it is boiling by the time your raviolis are filled
- And place the sauce ingredients (including the remaining finely grated rind of the lemon) into a pan ready to gently heat and infuse prior to serving.
- Now roll your pasta through the pasta machine doing the usual process of going through number 1 and folding and back through number 1 and folding several times until the dough is smooth, then eventually rolling it through to number 5. I did this in several batches - such that I filled a tray of ravioli before rolling the next lot dough.
- Place the dough over your ravioli tray (after my 1 exasperating attempt at making ravioli by hand I refuse to do it without my raviolamp tray ever again). I'm using a tray that does 12 good sized ravioli.
- (probably a good time to begin heating the oil over low heat now)
- Place a spoon of the filling in each depression then cover with another layer of pasta and use the rolling pin (and your fingers) to seal the edges then remove the ravioli from the tray. Repeat until all your filling has been used.
- Place about 12 ravioli in the pan of boiling water at a time and cook for 4 minutes with a dollop of oil to prevent them sticking.
- While the ravioli are cooking, agitate the oil a couple of times - you're not aiming to bring to a high temperature here, just to warm it and release some of the flavour from the lemon & garlic.
- Drain the ravioli then serve in pasta bowls, dressed with the infused oil.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Short Crust Pastry
for 2 main course sized pastys
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
2-4 Tbsp cold water
extra flour for rolling
- Chop the butter into small cubes (about 1cm), add flour & butter to bowl of food processor with metal blade.
- Pulse until it resembles fine-breadcrumbs (briefly wonder if that slightly electrical smell is the beginning of the end for my student-days food-processor.... and keep going anyway )
- Add 1Tbsp of water at a time while running the food-processor until the dough comes together
- Remove and knead briefly, then roll into a ball (processor survives to be used another day, phew!)
- Cover in gladwrap and chill for at least 15 minutes
- tick tock tick tock tick tock........tick tock DING
- remove from the fridge, sprinkle your clean bench surface with a little more flour, and a little on your rolling pin
- gently shape the ball into a flatish rectangle with your hands then begin gently rolling out until you can cut 2 dinner plate sized rounds from the pastry
- and do so (cut the dinner plate sized rounds)
- at this point Simon offerred to make a J and an S from the left over pastry, so he did that while I filled the pastry with the pasty filling, rubbed the edge with milk, folded over, formed the crimp and brushed the resulting pastys in milk.
- add the initals (this point is optional in case you were wondering!) and brush them with milk too.
- (oh - for the filling recipe, see my Cornish Pastys post - note I got the spelling wrong on that post - I have since searched on google for pasties and realised what a mistake this was and will never do it again.)
- Bake for 45 minutes at 220°C. (actually, this is a bad idea. it's what I tried to do last night, but I ended up having to turn it down to 160°C at about 30 minutes, and managed to get another 8 minutes out of it before I decided I really had to rescue the pastys. So, I need to experiment with this - my original method was 1 hour at 180°C - next time I'll try 45 minutes at 200°C - I feel pastry ought to be cooked hotter than 180°, however I want to give the skirt steak as long as I can to achieve a slightly more tender result.)
- Serve with my dad's delicious tomato relish and devour while admiring your handiwork with that delicious golden, crusty pastry outer.
We came up with something and I must have hastily scribbled down the recipe, because when I came to make it again tonight, Simon found the piece of paper scrawled with red pen and I spent the next 10 minutes while I prepared dinner, and then again at random intervals for the next couple of hours going " 'SMASH', what on earth did I mean?" as there is a commandment in the middle of the page in solidly printed capital letters - SMASH. Weird. And there are ingredients in the list that don't feature in the instructions, then things in the instructions like 'add garlic' when there is no garlic in the ingredient list!!! [later: I re-read the recipe and found garlic powder] I have no idea what was going on there.
To ensure I have an easier time of it next time, I am going to record how I made tonight's rather delicious ceviche.
For 2 people:
1 fillet of Monk Fish
juice of between 6 and 8 limes (need enough to cover the sliced fish)
2 fresh red chillies
salt (I'm currently using Himalayan rock salt)
1 spring onion sliced thinly (I would have used a red onion, but didn't have any)
leaves from 3 stalks of coriander
small clove of garlic
- Rub the fish in salt, then rinse under cold water (apparently this makes the fish 'thirsty' for the marinade. Who knew?)
- peel and gently crush the garlic clove enough that the inner flesh is exposed, then rub the bowl with the garlic. finely chop a small amount of the clove - I used about 1/4 - and add to the bowl
- Chop the chillies finely, removing the seeds, unless you want a lot of heat, add to the bowl
- add about a teaspoon of salt (yes, a whole teaspoon), then (and this is where that commandment comes in) SMASH. Hehe. So in more helpful terms, use the back of a spoon to smoosh the ingredients together - I have no idea why, maybe it helps release some of the flavour from the chilli. It's fun anyway, so just do it.
- Add the lime juice, stir then taste to check the salt level. You'll be surprised at how much it tastes like lime and not like salt! Add salt if necessary until you can pick both flavours easily, but no so that it tastes powerfully salty (not very helpful here am I?)
- Add the chopped fresh coriander and spring onions (or red onion)
- Slice the fish into thin strips and add to the marinade, check the salt level again then leave for 1-2 minutes.
- Serve! Yep, it's that easy!
Cooking, such an adventure.
Tomorrow night, I'm making salmon & ricotta ravioli because a friend told me she remembers once having ravioli with some sort of divine salmon filling when she was in Aussie once and it was so good she can all but still taste it. Random inspiration. It sounded like a challenge. I can't resist a challenge.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
It is an enjoyable wine to drink that has a long aftertaste and is drinking well now.