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.
Restaurant Leo is a modern Italian restaurant where sophisticated cooking meets accessible food. Bean soup with mussels is a hearty low brow dish that’s delicate and delicious, similar to the sand whiting, so fine and precious and hearty at the same time.
Cuttlefish risotto was a standout along with the cauliflower gratin, made boujee with the addition of truffle. It’s delicious and I can see this dish, along with the lobster maccheroncini , becoming a standout dishs in Sydney in 2020. Hazelnut ice cream with truffle and truffle jam has got me going bonkers and dish worth rushing in for before the end of truffle season. Saltimbocca is good, rich in flavour and adding a little fresh or zing in there somewhere would get me ordering this again.
Excellent wines available, have a chat to Fabio to help find exactly what you’re after, we had a Gee Albana, a rich tannic orange wine, with sea spray vibe that rocked with seafood.
Restaurant Leo serves delicious Italian food that’s more accessible than Frederick Zanellsto’s other restaurant, Lumi Dining, with much of the finesse you find at Lumi Dining. And now you don’t have to order a degustation to to get some of his awesome truffle pasta.
With such tasty noodles available in town Pasta Wafu opening adds excitement to the Sydney dining scene. But alas, they played this a little safe and this good bowl of pasta is not as exciting as expected.
Jap Spag Bol from Cho Cho San, with its firm chewy udon, spicy pork mince , spring onion and cream sauce is a go to dish in Sydney. The XO Pipi Hand Rolled Udon of the former Paper Bird was another phenomenal noodle dish. Mr Wong always has at least two noodle options available that are bound to be awesome.
With Marco Polo taking noodles from China to Italy, the combo of pasta with Asian flavours is an exciting idea and not too much of a stretch for a palate to comprehend.
Miso Fettuccini with shiso & nori took my fancy, with added parmesan ( $2 ) and bacon ( $4 ). The flavour is good and the thick cut chewy bacon adds much to this dish. Where i was let down was the soft pasta. So many Sydney restos now serve firm chewy al dente pasta, it is hard to go back to old school Australian style, soft, well done pasta.
Kirby Craig, Ume Burger, has hit so many home runs with his Jap inspired burgers I was pretty excited to go to Pasta Wafu. There are five bowls available with six add ons. A bowl is $14, $20 with the bacon and cheese I got. You could easily get to $24 for noodles in a paper bowl.
Some dancing bonito flakes or fish roe would have enticed me more. I know these options are far from popular but an exciting element would charge the menu for me.
With firmer pasta this joint will easily go from a 6.5/10 to an 8/10 . I’ll return, check some more dishes and hopefully i’ll need to update this review.
Pasta Wafu is a collaboration between Kirby Craig ( Ume Burger ), Hamish Ingham & Rebecca Lines ( Banksii ).
Pasta Wafu, ground floor, The Exchange, Darling Square, Haymarket, NSW, 2000. Open seven days, 11.30am–9pm.Here
Sitting by luxury appartments and super yachts in the water 50 meters away you could think Lumi Dining is just another power lunch Italian restaurant. The food is Italian and it is degustation. What impressed me the most was high level of thought and technical application while the food remains tasty and comfortable, trademarks of Italian food.
Sometimes I feel degustation meals get caught up in themselves. A couple of dishes can come out and be more about showing the technical prowess of the kitchen or dishes to test your capacity as a food lover. Raw diced oysters served on a sphere of crushed ice ( Murgaritz, San Sebastian ) Raw razor clams ( Bodega 1900, Barcelona ) are two dishes from high end degustation menu’s that confronted my nerve and left me thinking why? Why not make something hot and delicious?
Oysters & caviar
The Agolotti at Lumi dining come covered in a foam sauce and remains hot tasty and technically astute. Foam serving to keep lightness in the sauce has a purpose, it’s not foam to show us the smarts in the kitchen. A moorish pasta dish, smart, comforting and delicious.
Chef Federico Zanellato
Oysters are packed with Sydney rock mineralality, can come with caviar, are one of the raw items on the menu. We had to upgrade on a few. Ceviche of scallop comes with a fresh zesty citrus and celery juice, lip smacking sensation leaves your tongue tingling. Italian Gunkan of uni is also raw, salty on sweetish rice is brilliant start. Simple and technical, Italian Japanese fusion that sits easily in the menu lineup, is tasty and kind of obvious but i’ve never seen this anywhere before.
Potato says the menu. Yes, mashed, fried and served with bone marrow and caviar. Hot, tasty and well delicious. Mushroom reduced and reconstituted into mushroom wafers is a fun snack, the crisp texture perfect at that time in the course line up. Pumpkin seed tart is a crunchy nutty snack working with a wet egg and crab and bowl of macadamia & crab also sits perfectly in the gourmet lineup of courses. Brioche and butter lands about now and is devourable.
Tagliolini Black Truffle is an add on menu item. Firm buttery noodles covered in shavings of earthy truffle. A combo available worldwide and a dish made to perfection at Lumi Dining. A contender for best noodles in town. I wish you could just buy pasta without getting the degustation, so I could go and smash it a dozen more times just to Pepsi challenge the best noodles in Sydney rating i’m working on.
Hapuka, wrapped in daikon with a light foam sauce is delicate, subtle and is warm and light, big flakes of white fish fall away, crunch and light acid from the root veg and a foam that keeps it all moist and delicious.
Hot pork belly next, a thin sliver with a dot of Lumi chimi churi. Another option add on is wagyu. Both hot tasty mouth fulls on the home straight of the meal.
Desserts of White Chocolate & Sudachi has the right amount of sweet and sour, served like a cracker, keeps the tail end of all the eating light and fresh. Buffalo, another light number, creamy and nutty, foam and crunch. Italian and unlike any Italian food i’ve ever had, delicious.
Chef Federico Zanellato is making exciting and inspirational food. Italian food has now been redefined for me and i agree with Good Food, 2017 Chef Of The Year is a deserved accolade. We spent about $350 per head including all the drinks we wanted, three bottles of exceptional wine found with the assistance of the young gun Som Fabio Sercecchi.
Lumi Dining is an Italian degustation restaurant producing some of the best food in the world. Being hot, delicious and moorish it’s easy to miss the technical wizardry performed in the kitchen for each plate that lands on the table, over and over again. And serving a pie, an Australian staple, you could eat a pie everyday if desired, here delicious, out of context and fun. Plus sitting by the water is beautifully peace full and makes this spot a great lunch option. Simply, dining at Lumi is one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
I’m going to tell you what I know. That is the tiny amount after two visits in six weeks, maybe it should be, here is then potential of Orange. Orange is a very cute town, about three and a half hours drive from Sydney.
Orange Food Week has just completed it first weekend. Food week is a great time to go but the joys of Orange are not limited to Food Week Activities. In fact, they may even be a diversion. We hung at at Reggae and Wine Party for a few hours, when we realised the vibe had plateaued it was an easy stroll to the Philip Shaw cellar door where we enjoyed the gardens, table service and an excellent local cheese platter with a bottle of No 8 pinot noir.
Philip Shaw Cellar Door
Hotel Conobolas has pub rooms and a motel out the back. Clean, neat rooms with a retro vibe without even trying. It was great for one night. On the weekend we stayed at Magnolia Cottage. It’s very cute, clean and perfect if you need a kitchen or more than one bedroom. It was $750 for three nights. Both these spots are very close to the centre of town.
Great food separates Orange from most other rural centres. Cafes to visit are Bill’s Beans, the BLT is sensational and the Reuben on rye with cheddar and pickles is also a great option. Thin crisp bacon and salads make the blt extra juicy and is my fav breakfast option in town.
Byng St Cafe is another popular Orange breakfast spot. Like Bill’s Beans the coffee is good. My fav breakfast item here is the Pork Katsu burger, yes I was hung over when i smashed mine. Maybe it was the wine, which is easy to do in Orange. Wine is a major activity in Orange, multiple cellar doors are open. I like Philip Shaw as you can sit with a cheese plate and i’m not interested in trying ever single wine on offer. I know what I want, I try a few and then get a bottle of what I want. The gardens and space at Philip Shaw make it a great place to chill.
Hotel Conobolas is a well run pub with plenty of food options. I’ve only had the pizza here and it’s good. Other noteworthy food establishment are Charred Kitchen and Bar for Australian Food, Mr Lim for Korean. Our other dinner was at The Night Markets for Orange Food Week. I tried the Borrodell the house made sausage. This Pork and Venison bad boy had put the restaurant, Sister’s Rock, at Borrodell Estate is now at the top of my Orange hit list.
Sunset at Mount Corodoblas is another activity i’ll being doing on my next visit to Orange. The Millthorpe Markets are also worth visiting. Apples, salami and cheese is what I got but there is also plenty local crafty stalls. Those markets are on twice a month. The local nightclub is great for fun and packs in everyone from miles around for the decades of top 40 play list.
It’s great to a see rural centre on the rise and you have so many great option when in Orange. Worth considering if you want a rural break. You can fly , check out Rex, but three and a half hour drive V’s going to the airport, parking, checking in flying etc, i’ll take my wheels any day. Plus i love to drive The Bells Line of Road.
Sgt Donny Donowitz says “ You know , Lieutenant, you’re getting pretty good at that.” *
The qualities of dining 1. Great food 2. Quality service 3. Great environment
Merely being in Restaurant Hubert could be like stepping into another time. An environment of Paris pre WW2, romantic, rich drapes, piano stage, wood panels and eons of memories on the walls. After descending underground past a vast collection of miniature alcohol bottles you arrive, big room and bar to the left , booths to the right. Suit attired charming gents welcome you at the bottom of the stairs. Several dining options are available, the bar, booths or tables. I’m yet to experience bar dining at Restaurant Hubert and as the gloriously lit and stocked back bar, crowned by the extensive wine cellar with the charming staff, I cant wait to be alone in the city and pull up a stool. Bar dining is an essential asset for the lone diner.
The room is rich. Sitting here feels luxurious, as if having snuck into a private club from days long gone whose members memories linger in the air, in the walls and in the menu. The menu heralds times past as food trends are ignored, its French, its decadent, yes there are carbs and butter, lots of them. The menu reads simply, similar to chef Danny Pepperell’s last restaurant 10 William street. The food, like 10 William St, is far from simple. Potato gallette, sliced thin and fried crisp, wading in a pool of creamy sauce. I picked up mine with my hands and dunked in sauce repeatedly, mopping as much sauce up as I possibly could.
Only several ducks are available each day. It takes days for the brining and prepping. Then stuffed with sausage, cooked and served. This duck is amazing, crisp skin, juicy flesh with sausage stuffing, insert Instagram drool here.
My favourite starter is the Gruyere. A deep fried disk of rich cheese until the crisp outside releases the gooey indulgent centre, tre Frenchy, oui? The Clams Normandy are delightful, slippery seafood morsels in buttery broth that is made for dunking crusty frog bread in to.
Steak tartar is fatty and hedonistic, served with real french fries. Fat, meat, crisp, fried slivers gangbang each other, do you dare go there? The simple quality many French Restaurants I’ve been too miss, is, the meat here is room temperature which allow for soft fat and tasty meat.
Blood pudding is served as a slice from a loaf. Suitably rich and as a loaf more surface area allows fore more good crisp shell and crunch . And that is why you eat black pudding, for the crunchy outside! The Instagram superstar egg dish here is good but food for me needs to bring more hearty flavour. In my view hot and tasty go far. The cool seafood jelly with all sorts of seafood eggs is a great old school homage and represent genius and skill but is not a tasty wall banger for me.
A couple of steak options are available on the concise menu. The Bavette, a tasty cut with fries might be the one dish is this restaurant that has any attachment to todays world. And that is only because hipsters have done some research and now love underprivileged cuts of meat. The T Bone at $130 is supreme, five of us gorged ourselves on this one night, my daughter chewed the bone to the core.
My night did get weird. I have done business with these boys and as much fun they have, the clarity of their vision and direct negotiating style led to some terse moments. After closing deals through tight moments, drinking at Anton and Jason’s Bars Shady Pines, Baxter Inn and Frankie’s Pizza privileged me to witness wild and rowdy times. To have Anton as my waiter, with boyish polite charm was foreign to me. So polite, so caring, I’d forgotten this cat has serious pedigree in hospitality.
I know these boys from booze, their drink knowledge is deep . Jason Scott and Anton Forte are industry stalwarts . The wine list here is extensive and I’ve focused on the French region of Jura , with great advice, exceptional wines can be found in the deep catalogue. I know a little about wine and after chatting with the sommelier we’ve enjoyed a Domaine Pigner ‘A la percenette 2013, Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura Blanc 2010. Both natural, textural, with balanced minerals and dry finish. French mountain wine. An Austrian Trauben, Liebe und Zeit from Strohmeeier, and a Gafin, are in the same vain, big wines with natural qualities and euro refinement. By this time my label photo skill had deteriorated , so Gafin is all you get for the last one. We finished with Georg Breuer Auslese 2013.
There are three choices for dessert, Crème Caramel, Profiteroles and Melon sorbet. Seems sparse but each are brilliant examples of each dish. The Crème Carmel is firm and soft, decedent but not rich with a light sweet syrup. The profiteroles crisp and chewy with rich chocolate coat and light custard filling. Melon filled with sorbet and little balls that pop is a clean refreshing end to an extravagant experience.
And Lt Aldo Raine says “You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece”*
* Quotes from Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Basterds