Ursula’s Paddington is the new project from pedigree chef Phil Wood. The food retains all the flavour and class of his previous statement at Icebergs Dining yet and is more accessible. Delicate petals have been replaced with lashings of rich sauce.
The menu reads from times past with highlights and punctuation from ingredients only recently accepted into western diets in Australia. Such as the Coral Trout, smothered in delicious cream sauce which is laden with Warragal Greens and Trout Roe. It’s an amazing dish as is the mussel schnitzel, a potato and mussel patty, crisp, crunch and fresh vinaigrette salad, i bet this will be a Rockstar item in Sydney soon
Prawn pasta too, is highlight, opulent and generous, chilli edge and crunchy crumbs. Chunky prawn bits, scallion , ginger and Shaoxing wine sauce is a vibe, I’m a fan of spicy noodles and this hits the spot. Asparagus, bbq, in cacio pepe sauce, traditional and modern, defines the food at Ursula’s.
For dessert we choose the Golden Syrup dumplings, a homage to ingredients of the past and absolutely delicious
The food is Australian. It reminds me of what my grandmother would cook, apart from the modern twist, which elevates this food to a new level. Imagine how our food scene would be now if the early settlers listened and learned from the Indigenous population. The room is not large, it’s a chill space, feels very homely even with the 90’s interior of clashing colour and ribbon shaped light shades. Classy selection of international and Australian wines. It all feels very relaxed, with the great food and wine, happiness is the result. Then Phil was just cruising around the restaurant with his new baby just to really drive the homely feel. I’m a big fan of Ursula’s!
Well. What a year! After years of abuse in Sydney, a Global Pandemic was always going have a severe impact of the hospitality industry. In March, restaurants were empty as fear gripped the globe and everyone desperately tried to work out the virus. Being forced to close led many restaurants to re shape their business model. Then forced closures as the media pumped panic and fear, while politicians rode the wave to popularity, as slogans jammed positivity in commercial breaks. When Restaurants reopened it was at half capacity with more stringent cleaning, more costs and less customers.
Sydney has always been a tough market for hospitality. Real estate is amongst the most expensive in the world. Wages are also amongst the highest. And tax on alcohol is astronomical. Then, if you wanted to open a restaurant , you would have pass a probationary period of limited trading, such as no alcohol sales after 10 pm! All this means it’s very expensive to open a restaurant. Add some overzealous motivated religious politicians, soon, hospitality was blamed for violence on the street. There was a very successful transfer of street violence from Kings Cross to Newtown the whole time hospitality is taking the brunt of blame instead of aggression. With our former state leader about to face disgrace, Mike Baird retired, allowing hospitality in our city the chance to recover, not likely.
I’d read about Covid 19 in December 2019. A travel company sent me a warning about a flu from Northern China. Within weeks this company had banned all Chinese travellers. An extreme reaction I thought but then the resort I was travelling to has the potential to be more infectious than the Ruby Princess. A ski resort, in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, confined spaces in helicopters , reticulated air-conditioning , shared water bottles up the mountain.
Returning in March 2020 airports were on alert. I’d developed a cough as a result of freezing cold weather and the legality of marijuana in California, Colorado and Canada. Coughing in airports and on the airplane was already shunned. As usual, I was obsessed with getting Chinese or Thai food on my return. Kingpin Sydney chef Dan Hong was already appealing for customers to not abandon Chinese food as he saw reservations plummet at Mr Wong. Nobody knew anything and assumed the worst, restaurants were empty and getting desperate. I’d just endured several weeks of high altitude dining and was ready for some of my favourite Sydney food. Spice I am, yes, Mr Wong, yew, Nomad, yay. At Chin Chin, Jacquie Chancellor, Nomad Chef, sent me a message thanking me for still dining out! Coughing at Mr Wong in March cleared the next table!
Soon Restaurants were forced to close. Personally, I’d already left Sydney. I’d spent several hours on the phone organising a flight home from London for my son. The hotel in London where he worked had issued no Covid warnings. That ignorance was a concern. Then I remembered my wife’s 90 YO dad was staying with us and made South Coast plans. Restaurants soon moved to a take away model.
Arriving to house with a defrosted fridge is never fun. When every sausage, slice of bread and bit of mince is defrosted weeks ago, buying supplies when voluntary rationing was also a test in patience. The funniest was a ban on vinegar, I was excited to start testing different vinegars but I could not buy more that one bottle. They rated 300 ml of Balsamic the same as three litres of white vinegar, one bottle. I don’t know who cleans with balsamic ? Unleash the data plans please, ready to cook almost anything online.
Sydney’s official Covid lockdown allowed me to get thoroughly sick of my own cooking. The biggest highlight was foraging pine mushrooms. Even cooking David Chang’s leek oil noodles still had my taste! An abundance of Instagram cooking tutorials only served to highlight my deficiencies in the kitchen, not give me the food I was missing. Restaurants only just surviving fell. Panic set in, I needed my favourite restos to survive. T shirts & cookbooks ordered ,what else could we do? Gourmet delivery and take away sprouted. Drinking a margarita from a cup in the street was a new joy, previously prohibited by our lawmakers. Can we please retain some of these simple pleasures ? The curve flattened and restos were allowed to open, I took every table I could get. I took ten seats at Restaurant Hubert just because I could. Set menus imposed to ensure it was worthwhile for restaurants to open. A couple of tables with a couple seats only ordering tap water and starters would kill any restaurant in these times ! Tip big we were also told.
Reservation systems got restructured as groups missed reservations, leaving tables empty at empty restaurants. Our beaten brothers and sisters in hospo were desperate. Mandatory set menus were imposed , some good and some needing a tweak. After years of watching degustation restaurants open and then change to burger joints, Sydney diners were growing tired of being prescribed what to eat. I decided to avoid set menus and degustation a while ago. I’m a fan of the quality casual dining that Sydney has pioneered. However, during lockdown I did not give a flying fuck if I had to order the set menu if it would allow me to get that joints food again in the post covid aftermath. I was even happy to pay extra for iconic dishes from restos left off their set menu and only available as an add on, such as The Salted Egg at Poly. When I look back to this point , I must say, my self appointed position as one of Sydney’s Dining Ambassador, I feel annoyed. I go to a resto to eat, drink and be merry, not to sit and be seen whilst sipping on tap water. The one size fits all model seems to be a Sydney favourite! Those who didn’t order much had me ordering much more, like i need to order more!
I was so excited to be in restaurants again but my excitement was matched with time restrictions. An hour 15 mins here, hour and half there. My excitement and time restraints caught me out several times. I’d find myself ordering a martini, beer and bottle of wine the first time the wait staff spoke us. I did like being triple parked.
Slowly fear subsided and more people felt confident to dine out without getting infected. Restaurants were still at half capacity. Then something weird happened, complacency slipped in. I’d seen this with architects I’d employed during Covid Lockdown. Poor service and apathy crept in. The building that I was told was ready to go in April was not ready in October. The bastards had taken the allowance and done nothing. Restos too, acting as if at max capacity were serving substandard food and poor service. Surprisingly poor was 10 William Street, one of my favourite restos. I’d been two weeks before and had a great meal so I felt confident to take my friends there for their birthdays. Every plate went back to the kitchen with food on it. The waitress could not get the sommelier to come upstairs to talk to me. I ordered predictable wine and sat with an empty glass for far too long. Our waitress was giving her best service to three tall handsome Dutch gentlemen two tables over and spent some time sitting on their laps. A compulsory tip of $147 was imposed , then the waitress asked for more tip !
On this occasion I was particularly excited. I had dropped an Instagram story hyping this resto and my upcoming dinner. I dropped another story expressing my disappointment. Many people responded to this story, an owner contacted me and blamed covid. Fair call, it’s just not going to get me spending my money there for a while. It felt weird, I’m a massive supporter of restos, I’m a fan of chefs and restaurateurs. Many friends work in hospo and related industries. I’d been dining out as much as possible. I knew they could do better but I could not, and still cannot , work out how I could communicate to them to get better service and pay more attention to what was coming out of the kitchen.
Another particularly poor experience was from some other Sydney restaurant heavyweights. I’d secured a one hour and 15 min reservation. The usual, triple parked. Ordered, the all the food arrived in 15 mins, before some of the drinks. Done and dusted in 45 mins was weird experience. It was such a rush, only one dish would get me back, bone marrow pasta. I will also return to Barstardo, at least for that pasta, but it won’t be with four other people either.
Some Restaurants even opened during Covid. I jumped at the chance to get Federico Zanellato’s pasta without a degustation at LuMi Dining, his new Restaurant Leo. As did Ben Sears (Moon Park, Paper Bird ) opening a middle Eastern Restaurant Ezra. Smalls Deli, Lox in a Box, SOUL Dining are more openings.
And some restos smashed it. Alberto’s Lounge, Café Paci, Cicca Bella, Totti’s, Ragazzi, Bar Uma, Sean’s Panorama, Cho Cho San, Chaco Bar, Chaco Ramen, Mr Wong, Gogyo, Fai Jai, when they had the chance to trade again.
But the restaurant I returned to most, with no set menu, was Lotus 2.0 Potts Point. Set for closure by Merivale, the building was sold. With the onset of Covid the new owners wanted to see solid trading in these times, we were lucky to squeeze a few more months of the opulent decadence Lotus was dishing out. Soon my friends wanted bookings with me there. I’d eat half the menu and return three days later to eat the other half. As thunderstorm’s of truffle rained down upon lobster and crab a lowly pasta dish demanded my attention. The humble fungi noodles from Big Sam Young, BSY. Yes, truffle elevated this plate of noodles but only a few dishes get me inspired to try to replicate at home. I just hope BSY keeps enough shrooms on hand so he can make me something similar at his next venture.
This dish kind of signifies Lotus 2.0 for me. A restaurant that sells burgers next to prawn toast, lobster next to cheese toasties, steak next to sashimi is a restaurant I’d generally avoid. It’s the food everyone wants but my personal mandate for specific direction in dining was obliterated through the food tasting absolutely fucking delicious. Then it became easy , I could eat anything at Lotus, plus the staff were happy and relaxed and I could always find nice wine below $80 a bottle. Mushroom pasta, simple and delicious, add egg, yum, make enoki crunchy, yummier, add truffle decadence, all day . It can be a simple dish, delicious, add truffle, opulent. Boom. Lotus 2.0.
So now, as restriction look like easing ? It is much harder to get a seat, spontaneity is gone especially if you want to go to a bar after dinner. My attitude is positive, I’m positive i’m going out. Positive i’ll try new places and return to old favourites and i’m positive i’ll give those disappointments another chance. Just please can everybody wash their hands.
Breaking down perceived conceptions about dining, Master is a Chinese restaurant. Watch the video on their website, breaking down the walls and they are breaking dining ideals in the restaurant. It is a clean grungy space with magnificent food and wine, hip urban beats jam the airwaves, spice and flavour run rampant. The menu is made from many small share dishes. Many restaurant do this now, just like the original neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. The menu at Master has traditional elements but is serving modern Chinese food.
Puffed Beef Tendon with Haidai Salt is a light crispy number. A fun play on the most old school Chinese restaurant snack, the prawn cracker. Chicken skewers loaded with flavour and covered in nuts is a simple and delicious starter. Scallops silks confused us to what they actually are, perhaps noodles made from scallop somehow, with XO, light and refreshing, a perfect vehicle to get saliva moving.
When you see Noma, Quay and Momofuku Seiobo on a resume of chef John Javier expectations run ripe. I did not know any of this of course, I’d seen photos of the food from Master on social media and managed to score a table before the word gets out in a big way. I anticipate it will be much harder to get a table soon. I love Instagram for finding hot new restaurants, just follow the rightpeople.
Eggplants that is fried crisp, sweet and salty, this is not a brand new sensation, it is just delicious.
Spicy crumbed sweetbreads pack some heat. Deep fry is a great way to cook these little nuggets, they arrive on a plate loaded with chilli. Luckily, we were warned about the license restriction after 10pm and quickly ordered more wine,
I wonder if legislation will extend to amount of chilli served on a plate soon! If Sydney wants to truly be a considered an international city this legislation must stop and restaurants need to be prepared to stay open later. Too many times I’ve been turned away from a restaurant after 10 pm leaving me only with fast food options.
The buttery burnt cabbage is gloriously rich. It is charred black on the outside with fish butter, the soft juicy cabbage takes some slurping when eaten. We then had smoked pork jowl with Peking pancakes. All tradition is abandoned as the pancake is large, texture as if the love child of naan and roti. The jowl with a section of fat that keeps the meat gloriously juicy, delicious smoky strips of pork and it is fun eating with your hands.
And you’ll need those hands if you tackle the crab. It was spanner crab on our visit, I have also seen images of mud crab from Master’s Instagram account. So much moist sweet crab flesh dripping in sauce which we devoured in an instant. What Chinese feast would be complete without a festival of crustacean and this was the Burning Man of a Chinese meal.
The deserts are divine. The potato flour dust on the deep fried ice cream is light and sweet, the shell to the ice cream firm and crisp. Immaculate. This is the best version of this dish I have ever tasted. Deep fried ice cream is the most famous Chinese desert in Australia and done here nothing like my childhood memories. Congee, pear and coriander is the other dessert, the bright green is spectacular. My body tries to deny me carbs this late at night but the fresh flavours here won the fight. I could eat this for breakfast any day.
There is still so much left on the menu for me to try and I will be back, I’d just better be quick, before word gets out and I can’t get in.
Ok, lets get this straight, I love this joint. The food is great, its economical and it is easy for me to get to to. What more do you want? I love the authenticity and originality of the food. Food this good, at their prices, is a bargain. They also serve great seafood and unique specials if you want to try truly delicious food.
I started frequenting Spice I Am years ago when I worked in the city. They have a lunch special for $10.50. After exhausting all the specials I’d try to drag who ever I could with me so we could order more food and try more dishes. Now it’s where I meet my mum for lunch ever few weeks. One of my favourite dishes is not even on the menu, is a Tamarind Fish Fillet. The fish is deep fried in an uber light batter, the sauce and fresh herbs are added and it is served over Asian greens with sweet sticky onions.
Secret Dish, Tamarind Fish Fillet
This joint has a reputation for its Chilly Pork Belly, caramelized cubes of spicy sweet crunchy chewing bites of delight, each chewy morsel in sticky sweet spicy sauce just makes you want another until, they are all gone. There are many old favourites here , like their Green Chicken Curry. This is what got me hooked to the place. The sauce is rich spicy and creamy but the major draw, for me, is the Thai vegetables and the cube of pork blood jelly. Having those veg in my curry took me staright back to the streets of Bangkok, the blood cube I’ve not seen before, or elsewhere, adds another element and brings balance to the curry sauce. This authenticity makes Spice I Am spectacular in a city filled with Thai restaurants. But don’t get stuck on the old favourites here.
Prawn Chu Chee
When something is so good it becomes hard to try other dishes and here you must. Another sensation is the Prawn Chu Chee curry. Again the seafood is fried in that alluring batter with spicy curry sauce added over the top. The batter and prawns absorb the sauce and form a harmonious team with the sweet prawn flesh. There is also several prawn/seafood salad
combinations. The joy of the salads here is the joining of fresh cooked protein and the fresh salad and herbs. They have a little seafood vermicelli number which has great texture added by dried prawns that are chewy and roasted peanuts for crunch and a salt hit . My daughters favourite is their Chicken and Papaya salad with coconut milk. A very generous portion of crisp fruit, tangy fresh herbs and sweet milky coconut chicken.
Chicken Papaya Salad
Some current specials at Spice I Am include Steamed Vegetarian parcels, Duck Massaman Curry, and a Prawn and Banana Leaf Salad. The parcels are fresh light and scrumptious. The Duck is divine and rich, it has a little dried Kaffir Lime leaf garnish that brings texture and
flavor. The salad looks amazing with prawns, banana leaf , nuts and herbs loving each others company as the flavor and texture is sublime. There is also several whole fish options which are great to share.
Although I have not been to Thailand in some time the fresh intensity and flavor of the food reminds me of the food there. Spice I Am’s ingredients are true Thai ingredients and will not be found in 95% of Thai restaurants in Australia. If you are not after the lunch special from 12 -2, take a bottle of wine ( BYO only, bottle shop over the road ) , read the menu thoroughly and have your own mini Thai experience here in the streets of Sydney.
The 40 thieves run supreme as food rules are broken and gangsta rap jams out the stereo. Throw in Princess Jasmine and three wishes and who knows where you could end up.
I knew I liked this place, sipping on a natural vino , tapping my Bastuma cigar, Wu Tang Clan jamming, damn I felt gangsta. I’m so happy another Sydney resto is comfortable playing hip hop. The Bastuma is rolled with cheese, crumbed and fried. Hot beef melty cheese goodness is a great way to start any night out. Cigars all round homies.
It is hard when a reputation is forged, expectations run high. The LCF, aka Lebanese Fried Chicken, is exceptional. The spiced batter mix has decent heat hit and a complete lack of grease. Fried to perfection, the chicken is juicy and soft, the batter is light and airy. It’s tender with interesting spice blend and the chilli reminds you life is worth living. One wish down.
Kebabs of Sharwarma wagyu and Malek Samke Hare were served next. The beef is spiced and rich, the fish spicy and fresh. Rules are broken here as they come out on mini Lebanese breads looking similar to tacos. The bread is a touch oilier giving a more flexible texture than a tortilla. This translates very well and it is easy to pick up and eat. The beef spice is delicious, rich and deep, a great cut I expect is Skirt, sliced thin with a chewy element that benefits the dish, with fresh herbs and a pickled pepper, oh how I love pickled pepper. The Snapper kebab is soft and juicy, spiced with a sharp yoghurt sauce and fresh herbs on top. Sharp, spiced, fresh, chewy, so balanced, these 40 thieves are going Indiana Jones on my prized jewels… my tastebuds. Second wish squandered.
The Falafel are very crispy and have some nice pickle in the kebab, more fresh herbs and a nice lemon juice hit. A hit that would have added to the Fattoush with fried cauliflower. It’s a great salad but a sour acid touch of lemon would balance the sweetish dressing with the fried bread and cauliflower. I love this dish too, this is the only comment I have that is not blowing smoke up under the magic carpet.
Poached pears followed, with sweet labne, passionfruit sauce, toffee crumble and ground nuts. Sweet and slightly sour labne is new to me, paired with pears poached perfectly, passionfruit acidity and contrasting crumble and textural nuts, it’s a lovely combo. You know when you are full but keep eating? This is it. Three wishes gone!
These are more than light fingered pickpockets, they are smooth talkers of the sensors. The room is small but cosy, dim lit but not dark. Nice vino, we had a Si Vitners. Great food, which is what it’s all about. You’ve broken rules you 40 thieves and broken them well, I suppose all you can say is “Gansta Rap Made Me Do It “ and all I can say where is my Princess Jasmine?
Five Points, @fivepointsburgers is a fast food burger joint in North Sydney. It shows that a great concept done well can achieve legend status, stat. Another selection of burgers presented by a top chef, Tomislav Martinic, turned short order expert and i’m loving it, F.U. golden arches, you can’t own words!
Five Points has only four burgers, each named after NYC Burroughs, fries and shakes on the menu. Instead of opening next to a busy nightlife hub this joint opens in a business district and only runs business hours. So tough luck if you have a 9-5 not close to North Sydney. Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island have their own burgers. Poor Queens misses out : (
Manhattan is an old school burger with beef, cheese and buns. Add Bacon, fancy sauces of onion jam and aioli and lettuce for the Bronx. Queens is a chicken burger and Staten Island a vegetarian option. Traditional V modern style burger has been a debate recently with David Chang, Chang’s Burger Manifesto , declaring Australians have no idea about burgers because we throw funky shit ( ie beetroot ) in our burgers. I’m half with you Chang. On my two visits to Five Points i’ve tried the Manhattan and the Bronx. The meat patty is sensational, double American cheese melted and zesty pickles. The bun is perfection, balanced to hold the beef, light but does not disintegrate with juices flowing and sauces. It’s real bacon too, cut a touch thick if there is any gripe at all and the onion jam plus aioli are modern elements in this classic looking burger. It’s probably lucky i’m not close to this joint weekdays as i’m craving another one right now.
I love a classic burger but then lets examine Dan’s famous cheeseburger @hongsta_gram at The Fish Shop. It presents itself as classic, soft bun, meaty, cheesy, pickles and bacon. All classic right? But then he does a miso meltdown with his onion, that’s new! And I believe we Australians were lost for so long, presented burgers with meat patties that contained substance other than meat, maybe cardboard? Adding pickled beetroot brought flavour. You can get both styles at Five Points but there is no beetroot anywhere. Add a huge mushroom, the Staten Island, instead of meat is surely a welcome option for all vego’s out there?
I applaud the simplicity of the menu at Five Points. Another burger going wild for the night is Mister Gees Burger Truck, equally as tricky to get to, only running three nights from a parking lot in Haberfield. Mister Gee also adds modern elements to a classic burger such as the Truffe, with havarti cheese and truffle sauce. Simplicity as they only serve one burger style a night. Easy to assume these gourmet inventions hail from a high end chef like Dan Hong or Tomislav Martinic but alas but this legend griller just decided to make burgers one day. Inspired the the guerrilla food truck scene of LA, Gee got a truck and then had to conform to Sydney’s regulation, only being able to sell in certain areas at certain times and decided to stick to one area. Both these establishment are busy and you don’t qualify as a ‘disciple of the burger’ in Sydney if you’ve not tried them. I love your food Dave Chang but if you don’t rate these burgers you are a fool!
Don’t be discouraged by the cues at Five Points, the grill team are well oiled and those burgers pump out quick. I do prefer beer instead of milk, so if i could get a beer i’d be much happier, except i’d probably stay longer due to my food coma, not releasing my seat for the next eager disciple and thus slowing down the burger eating experience.
DARK MOFO 2015
Dark Mofo is a bold statement and to present this art at the most unusual time is a revelation in free thinking and risk taking. Who wants to go to the coldest city in Australia on the shortest days of the year and see crazy art? The ten day Hobart festival combines food and art with performance art dominating much of the program. Bravo director David Walsh and Creative director Leigh Carmichael, Hobart hums with energy during Dark Mofo and no wonder the local MP and Lord Mayor support you. https://darkmofo.net.au/
MONA has now become my favourite gallery globally and visiting during Dark Mofo is the perfect excuse. The quality of produce in Tasmania is legendary and to have the best local, Australia’s finest and International chefs cooking in an arena together was an opportunity I could not resist. And a great excuse to share my foodie travels on Instagram.
Winter Feast ran from June 17 -21 at Pier Wharf 1 on the southern side of Hobart Harbour. It’s a massive hall, said to be dressed as a giant birds nest housing 40+ stalls for food and drink. It was busy, so scoping what to eat is a testing feat. We first settled on a warm spiced and dark natural ferment organic ciders from Willie Smith. A couple of boutique brews not available elsewhere. Warm and spice helped battle the cold and wet. The dark natural ferment characterised by full body, big mouth feel and dried fruit aromas without being sweet at all, had the heady aroma and flavour of natural ferments I pursue. I was excited to share my experience on Instagram but a photo of a cider was not going to cut it.
Babe going the dog
We we’re intrigued but the salted cod hot dog but it left us disappointed. Mainly due not having enough contrast in texture, a bit of sizzle on the sausage and some crunchy sprinkles would have added much to the monochrome texture of soft sausage, dough bread and wet mayonnaise . Double flop for Instagram, can’t post a dish that’s not delish and it did not look good either. We moved on efficiently finding a sensational seafood stall with champion chowder and magnificent mussels. Chowder chunky with oysters was charming for the chilly night. Seafood chowder is a dish I’ve rarely had and had my mind searching for clues on how they could get such depth of flavour. Now here was my dilemma, I was getting a bit anxious to post on my Instagram and hashtag #darkmofo #seafood and #chowder as I’m a slut for likes on my Insta but soup is certain non scorer, but then, it tasted so damn good.
Sealed in foil the mussels sat in a wood oven beckoning me. It was wet and cold and the fire they bathed in was calling. Soft, plump, tender, juicy mussels cooked in their own juice with a little white wine were delicate and fulfilling as scoops of juice ran down my chin as I sat by the fire. Touch screens are wonderful and my iphone has a great camera but trying to get a decent photo of mussels with wet fingers is a difficult task, my Insta was not going well. Now, the ciders must have kicked in as I forgot the name of this amazing seafood stall and did not get a photo of the stall, except they also did wine and I remember having a lovely Pinot Noir so my best guess it was Barringwood Estate.
Mussels in the wood fired oven
Jake Kellie”s wall of meat and flame
Lamb with Barley risotto and Saltbush
The next dilemma is how much food you can sample at these festivals. Some of the Bao, buns and pies looked so big and hearty I was reluctant to commit that much stomach space. I was tempted by the Mona BBQ but settled on a wall of lamb with the bookcase of coals. It was Jake Kellie’s, of Fat Duck fame, turn to pop up. I am glad the team talked me into taking the barley risotto with my serve, as it was delicious. Again, I am inspired to explore the realms of barley and it’s potential. The lamb was simply kissed by the coal heat, left in its own glory and dressed with crispy slatbush leaves. A triumph of a dish but I only got three little lambs, it was late and there seemed to be plenty there. I did hear other chefs sold out so to guarantee a sample of the super chefs food you’d better go early.
We went early and hit peak hour exasperated by the rain. Inside was an obstacle course of people and prams: Stop; go; stall; reverse, that’s the person in front of me, mind my cider luv it’s hot! I found myself at the Belgrove Distillery stall and picked up a bottle for my collection. Small batch, handcrafted #ryewhisky $145 for 500ml, pricey I know but Rye Whisky is another of my obsessions and I regret not getting the White Rye too. We missed a couple stalls, notably Rough Rice. I was keen to return for their food and natural wine.
We planned to go back to #WinterFeast the next night, this time prepared for seating, eating and drinking but we managed to score a table at Franklin for dinner. My new favourite restaurant. Lunch is pretty simple and tasty but dinner is exceptional. Sitting inside, warm being served magnificent food was perfect for this evening. Tasting a rare ingredient close to source in a resto I respect is at the top of my to do list so the Abalone was a mandatory choice ( $70 ). Sliced and diced, served in its shell with light warm wave foam is a revelation. Tender, juicy, soft and chewy, true unto itself this brilliant dish is, it’s also an Instagram flop.
Wizard in the Kitchen at Franklin
Freshly shucked oysters bathing in sea water
Lunch at Franklin, natural wine, chicken broth and lamb stew
At Franklin we started with the Periwinkles, much better than my dad foraged for me once but with a texture I can not love, a bit testing on my gag reflex. The bone marrow #dumpling was a must try as I’m currently collaborating to get a dumpling onto a menu at a Sydney resto. It is not an Asian style dumpling though, more dough based. It is a tasty dish served in a delicate wild mushroom broth with tiny crisp grains that pop and add a surprising exciting element.
Spiced Jerusalem artichoke mash accompanies the hangar steak. I was expecting great steak flavour to reign supreme but this also melted in my mouth. Add some crisp radish and fresh basil and you have another sublime dish. The wines were also outstanding with great assistance from sommelier who brought us several wines not yet on the list. This joint is so good I wanted go back a complete the trinity by having breakfast the next day but I forced myself to try other places. http://franklinhobart.com.au/
Bone marrow dumplings
Bacon french toast at Pilgrim Coffee
A great breakfast spot in Hobart is Pilgrim Coffee, try the French toast with maple bacon. This dish is a play on the old school U.S. diner breakfast where you can eat pancakes, eggs, bacon all together and the flavours work well together. I remember seeing for the first time and being disgusted but you cant knock until you’ve tried it and its surprisingly good. https://www.facebook.com/PropertyOfPilgrim Plus crazy food concoctions are popular on Insta.
MONA is exceptional and worth a trip to Hobart itself. It may be worth a couple of visits as the material is so stimulating its hard not be overwhelmed. http://www.mona.net.au/ The exhibitions during Dark Mofo match MONA in intensity. The Bass Bath is an installation where you enter a dark room and get hit with 2100 hp Sub Woofer bass system and light show. The Fire Organ jets bursts of hot flame as the organ chords pump air into the system, quite theatrical and camp. The Shadows Calling by Patricia Piccini and Peter Henessey is surprisingly humorous, a play on modern sexuality in a funny macabre fashion. There are films and plenty of performances some epic in proportion. I did not attend Wild At Heart, a two night sleepover in Cradle Mountain, through a lack of commitment, somebody please tell me what is was like? http://darkmofo.net.au/wild-at-heart/
Source at MONA
At MONA our decision to dine at Source was made by the evacuation of the wine bar, it was the only choice left. Source is the high end resto at MONA, its very good and a beautiful place to sit I found the food just a little tricky. Both my dishes were served with foam and I could not find the relevance of why the foam was on the plate. I also would have preferred a little sizzle on my food for taste, colour and texture. I did get some photos of #decanterporn for my Instagram account as the wine list is exceptional.
Los Pollos Hermanos from The Standard
A friend put me on to The Standard but I was not ready. Have a chicken burger he said. https://www.facebook.com/standardburgers We checked out of our room and I was rather hungover. I did not expect a counter in a loading dock with milk crates as seats. I expected a warm diner where i could get a hair of the dog. I could not read the menu fast enough and ordered a Los Pollos Hermanos. A fried chicken #burger with bacon jam, hot sauce and blue cheese dressing, with my head, what was I thinking? Sounds like a brilliant combo but there was too much zing for my zang. This burger was similar MONA, pushing the limits of your comfort zone but not right for my sensitive situation. I can’t call this one, I’ll have to try it again as my friend calls it the best in Australia. I was also keen for an Instagram jackpot, although the food was all great I think everyone was sick of me posting and a big fried chicken burger was surely going to break the siege but alas I could not even manage a post
Dark Mofo is a great #festival and would be better with a group of friends. Next time I’d Air B & B a place to stay, find a great spot to sit at Winter Feast and indulge all night. It was cold but with a jacket, hat, scarf and a spot by the fire with mates would be like glamping. Having more people would allow you to try more food and drinks and enable you to keep a spot to dine at, take an Instagram and hashtag #selfie cause that hashtag always gets likes.
For as long as I can remember Byron Bay held a reputation as a mythical destination, a place of beauty and wonder. Then you get there, or try to get there but there is too much traffic, the streets are filled with dirty hippies and people trying to live an alternative lifestyle, man…. They too flock to the mythical beauty. And then it happens, you chill, swim in the warm water, feel the sand between your toes and you realise Byron is a truly beautiful place.
this guy is amazing, streets of Byron
I first went to Byron as a teenager on a surf safari, I would have resembled one of the hippies with long locks and beaded necklace. We’d smoke weed and get loose. Not much seems to have changed as I ended up in the emergency room, six stitches and a black eye later, I can confirm Byron has the most efficient emergency room I have ever been in. As a guy, you get strange look when you take a bloody and bruised faced girl into the hospital. It was an unfortunate incident of an eyebrow meeting a table introduced by a loose Berkenstock . Babe was not very happy.
Happy to be on tour we were though and this was more a food than surf safari. The Farm At Byron Bay has just opened with the Three Blue Ducks. I’d heard about The Roadhouse and we managed to find some other great food. A couple spots were missed, that happens after a hospital visit, until next time. Doma is at the top of the list when we return, a country café run by Japs doing crazy food, yes please. And The Italian At The Pacific and Folk are also still on the list. If you’ve tried them please let me know what you think.
raw salad and snapper, Three Blue Ducks
500 gm TBONE aka Castanza, Three Blue Ducks
The Three Blue Ducks have taken their mantra seriously, moving personal to Byron, trips back to Bronte on rotation. Ducks staff tending fields farming their ingredients, it’s a fabulous concept. The set up is much bigger than their Bronte sibling. Most of the food comes directly from the farm. I had a half KG T-Bone steak raised a few hundred meters from where I was sitting. It was a glorious piece of meat, my only gripe is I shared it, must be the quality that had me craving more steak as I only eat half that amount of meat. The bone was mine to gnaw on, my precious…
how chill is this? Three Blue Ducks
yeah baby, The Ducks
Grab coffee, treats and go sit in the macadamia orchid
The Ducks kitchen breaks down their own carcasses so the cut of meat and menu will depend on what’s on hand. Luckily my friends allowed me to try their food. The coffee rubbed brisket is tender and tasty, sweeter than I imagined as the coffee rub becomes a sticky glaze keeping the meat tender and juicy. Served with a slaw with nice acidity and bite to balance the sticky brisket. Snapper and lentils was a daily special I also got to try, light pan fried fish and lentils , to my surprise, this combo works well together and the cream sauce is cleverly at the bottom of the plate so you can easily manage how much indulgence you want on one plate, it’s delightful. And as I’m obsessed with cheeseburgers I had to go back just to sample The Ducks burger, it is sensational, house made bun, pickle, relish, cheese and beef. I don’t know of any other resto that can make that claim. However, I could not get a burger takeaway for Babe, probably too much too soon for the kitchen?
Kingfish Capacci0, Harvest
Beet an cheese salad with dehydrated olive, Harvest
Another stand out in the area is Harvest Café in Newybar, about a half hour from Byron. We could not get a table in the restaurant proper, what make a reservation? We could get great bar food including feta and beet salad with dehydrated olive, grains which added a delicious salty textural element. The house cured charcuterie board included bresaola, salumi and house pickles. There was nice heat from one salami and house pickled carrots and cauliflower, it’s a lovely way to eat, meats on bread. Kingfish carpaccio looked sensational served with micro salad and watermelon radish. It is a good dish but needed more contrast, a bit more zing in the dressing or spices would have elevated this number to exceptional. Simply stunning are the sardine and yes, there from a tin. Sitting in the breeze on the deck of an old Queenslander and eating local produce like this pure pleasure.
I’l Buco, kickass pizza
Pain and the aftermath of the blood incident Babe needed some TLC so we stayed in. I spied a little hole in the wall pizza joint, cross checked Yelp and Google Maps and got some authentic crisp pizzas from Il Buco. It is the only pizza I’ve had in Byron so I can say, hands down, it’s the best pizza I’ve had in Byron. It is excellent.
Chooks at The Farm
Sunset from the hills
The Roadhouse has quickly become a Byron institution. We went for breakfast and I’d heard the smashed peas is a dish to try and of course I had to get the local honey smoked bacon. It’s a giants feed. Served on Paleo nut bread with turmeric pickled cabbage. The sweet smashed peas work well with the local free range eggs and the thick cut salty sweet bacon and the sharp pickle adds balance and bite . I found the Paleo bread a little heavy and very filling, it probably tasted and felt too healthy for me, just give me some old school white bread or leave it for a separate order. The Dood had house granola, it was her first food safari and she said she needed something light, what a lightweight. House made granola toasted crisp, the accompanying yoghurt was delicate and light, the berries sweet and tart. The Coffee here is exceptional. Again, no takeaway bacon and egg roll for Babe.
view from The Farm
The best things to do in Byron would be the beach, the hills, visit friends and cook some meat on fire. The water is clean and warm, the sand is so fine it squeaks when you walk. The mountains behind Byron have many waterholes and its worth a visit to find one, you can visit Doma while your looking. We saw friends, ate meat from the fire and watched the sunset from the hills. It is spectacular.
Byron Bay is popular because it is beautiful. Even with a street scape of Subway’s and commercial juice bars Byron forces you to love her. The buskers encouraged by the council, good and bad, the backpacking hordes, the hippies and wannabe’s, millionaires,
The Farm at Byron Bay
surfers and everyone who just wants to be somewhere beautiful to live, make up this gorgeous ocean town.
Where to Stay
Kiah Bliss apartments $500 an night for a modern luxury three bedroom apartment 100 meters from the beach.
Camp in the bush behind the beach
Flights about $220 return from Ballina, Flying to the Coolangatta is also an option, then you get to visit Zepickle in Tweed Heads. You will need to rent a car. Ballina is 30 mins and Coolangatta is 1 hour from Byron.
Drive time to Byron from Sydney is about 10 hours.
And about time too. No longer is the thin cardboard patty from the milk bar overloaded with flavourless lettuce and tomato acceptable, why do you think beetroot was a hit in Australia? Its pickled and sweet, it has flavour, the humble purple beet saved our taste buds for years , making up for dry compound patties and lacklustre sauce. Who does not love the root?
It is a new burger arena now, too many Aussies have traveled, as we love, and sampled the fast and fantastic world of burgers, we now demand more. In any high end resto in LA , NYC or Paris you could always get a damn fine burger. We ate them, we knew there was more and now we had evidence. Smart players in the food game also knew our hunger.
Chur Burger Double Patty
Chur burger from chef legend Warren Turnbull ,who transformed his high end eatery Ansiette , in to the first Chur Burger , launched the quality burger trend into the mainstream. Big beefy juicy patty, brioche bun, cooked to order in a fast food service set up exploded onto the scene. A great burger, by far better than what was around but other less know burgers held my respect more.
Dan’s Cheeseburger, The Fish Shop
Dan’s cheeseburger from Lotus ( now The fish shop ) was my number one. A humble looking specimen, slight doubt at first sight if this burger is capable of merely quashing a mans appetite? The weight and density of the patty, encased in a pillow soft bun, with bacon, American cheese and onions in… got to read his book for that secret, is a master in deception. I think 11 was the record at the burger eating comp in in 2012. That does not sound like much in the Man V food arena but that is a testament to magnitude of this burger.
The Burger Project, American Cheese, double patty
Rockpool Bar and Grill’s Bar Burger is a sensational burger, house made everything. I love the pickled zucchini . The Steven Segal of Sydney food game, Neil Perry, kicks ass with everything he touches and especially his new flame, The Burger Project. The most legit beef patty between buns since Rocco Siffredi.
Image a UFC bout between Steven Segal and Roy Nelson this is where Mary’s enters the ring, with more tattoos . Another game changer , a blatant USA style burger, meaty, cheesy in a hyper soft steamed bun. They also have a pressure deep fryer, ill go into fried chicken later.
Before the burger hype The Stuffed Beaver and Jazz City Diner ( now Jazz city Milk Bar ) were flipping great burgers. The beaver had squirrels and the diner had short order cook owner Dan McGuirt. I love the square patties from the milk bar and the option of chilli smothered on anything you want. Brody Peterson’s The Stuffed Beaver sports bar entranced Bondi, beards and sleeves crew for years feeding locals with great burgers and Poutine . The Anchor and Neighbourhood have entered the beach side hood also offering great burgers with special mention going to the Royal With Cheese at Neighbourhood. New kid on this block Mancellerria also does a great burger and you can also get a takeaway steak to cook at home. If you’re not after takeaway and want more than a soda or milkshake you may want a beer with your burger.
Jazz City Milk Bar, Square patty with chilli
And pubs have the best beer, like The Grand National , high end house burger ingredients here that my simple pallet loved , the Nash does a $10 special on Mondays. The 4 In Hand , Collin Fasange’s , pub grub burger also wins. These Paddo pubs now have some very stiff competition in the newly opened Cheeky burger. An American style burger with soft bun, plenty of pickle and zesty relish at an everyday $10, plus this joint also sells beer! As does The Henson in Marrickville with plenty of craft beers and good array of interesting burgers too.
Mister Gees foodtruck, The Truffe, double patty
Excelsior Jones was my best pic in the burbs. Then along came Mister Gees Burger Truck, smashing out one type of burger three nights a week. These guys are getting so much attention you’ll need to get in quick before they sell out, which normally takes about three hours from opening. Mister Gee’s went viral and now masses flock to eat in the carwash carpark when they pop up, last night the crowd was stopping traffic, drivers winding windows asking what was happening.
Another well known spot is Paul’s Famous Burgers in Sylvania. These are a classic Aussie burger done very well, they are good but I think a better grade of ingredients is required if they want to be serious contenders in the Sydney Burger Game.
Royal With Cheese, Neighbourhood
As the shine of fine dining lost its gloss a new sparkle appeared , approachable food. Foam went flat as wallets became slim, flavour and value suddenly sexy. Our brothers and sisters in the U.S. took an economic beating and their food became more appealing. And the humble hamburger is the epitome of everyday eats, no matter how cashed up you are.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I apologize if you have a burger I need to try, send me a note and I’ll endeavour to have a sample. New burger joints are popping up weekly and more restos are adding burgers to their menu’s. To try all burgers is a huge task.
Also , to all the serious foodies out there like me, let me know your favourites, I’ll be surprised if we all agree on a top five, I know from my Instagram account the best burger in Sydney is a contentious issue.
Top Five 1. Dan’s Cheeseburger, The Fish Shop 2. The Burger Project 3. Neighbourhood 4. Mister Gee’s 5. Mary’s