I really enjoyed the [TOYS] event earlier this year in March that I was determined to go to the next one. So when I found out they were holding another event I couldn’t say no. It was at Porteno – one of my favourite restaurant, and the theme was ‘Old Dogs, New Tricks’, chef partnerships between [TOYS] and their mentors. Huge ‘cast’ of chef, I had high expectations – love majority of the chef and well, it did not disappoint. At $220 per person, for six courses, it was expensive as hell but worth every penny! Loads of food and flowing alcohol, as each course was matched with wine and thank goodness I didn’t drive!
The event started at 6pm, I ‘dragged’ the gym enthusiast, S with me and at 6 on the dot we were there. I knew both M and Y were also attending. We started with a cocktail by Luke Ashton: New Sensation which is Laird’s applejack apple brandy, aperol, bespoke mandarin syrup and pimento dram. It was STRONG – kind of burn sensation and not great if you are thirsty – it’s one of those drinks that you drink slowly – sip by sip (well for me anyway!).
Canapes by Morgan McGlone (ex Flinders Inn, it is his last TOYS event as he is moving to New York! So cut I didn’t get to try his restaurant!) and his inspiration Mark Holmes, ferran prawn dumplings which was tortellini with prawns inside. It was tasty and I could have easily eaten half a dozen on my own.
Unfortunately, I didn’t try the boo-kaki and not even sure what that is! I love the layout of Gardel’s Bar which can be found above Porteno restaurant, we chatted, drank, ate canapes and after about an hour, we moved downstairs where the feast was to start!
Started with trumpeter fish by Hamish Ingram (Bar H, Surry Hills) and Damian Pignolet. Such a simple and refreshing dish, the sashimi was fresh and the celery, radicchio and chervil a wonderful complement. It was the perfect start.
Red Herring, pickled stalks, mackerel, smoked pine curd by Darren Robertson (ex Tetsuyas) and Dave Pegrum (also ex Tetsuyas, then moved to Forbes and Burton and now head Chef at the Bronte Road Bistro). This was another light dish, served at room temperature, the mackerel was deliciously sour, a little slimy for some and the dollops of goats cheese gave it that extra flavour. Y didn’t enjoy this as much as M, S and I. There were mix reviews amongst the diners, but it was a definite winner for me.
Ham, cheese and eggs by Mitch Orr (Duke, Darlinghurst) and Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater) was probably my least favourite. I can see what Mitch was trying to do – shaped like an ‘egg’, the white layer is actually pecorino and it was strong, salty and extremely cheesy! TOO strong for my liking, I loved the ham stock, full of flavour and I have to admit, it did complement the cheese, but it was just a little too much for me. It was a love or hate dish and Y certainly enjoyed it more than the rest of us.
The truth by Thomas Lim (Duke) and Jeremy Strode (Bistrode, ex Bentley), Pig’s trotter stuffed with veal sweetbreads, chicken mousse, shiitake and ginger, garlic chive, pickled onions, beer mustard was divine! Both M and I were a little ‘nervous’ as his last dish at TOYS event wasn’t a favourite of ours but we were both pleasantly surprised.
The trotter was SO tender it just melted in my mouth. The beer mustard excellent and pickled onions a wonderful complement and I really couldn’t get enough of it. Could have definitely eaten another serving!
Tastes like Chicken by Joel Humphries and Nick Wong (Bodega, Surry Hills) and Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz (Porteno, Surry Hills), New Zealand milk-fed lamb, smoked eggplant, flatbread cooked in its own ash was TO DIE FOR!
You all know how much I don’t like lamb, but this was moist and deliciously tender and as M said ‘true to it’s name – tasted like chicken!’. I couldn’t help but have a couple of pieces and could have happily eaten more!
The sides – where do I start? The eggplant puree – magnificent, but it is the flatbread that’s like icing on the cake. It was just SUPERB! Seriously superb and should definitely be on the Porteno menu! M managed to sneak in an extra piece of bread from Joel! Believe it or not, for both M and I, this was a standout dish and this is coming from two girls who does not love lamb, and would avoid it like plague!
The German cake is very similar to that of an Indonesian version of kue lapis and one of my favourite! So thin and soft and oh so frigging delicious. Inside, ice cream and chocolate and oh so good! The chocolate paddle pop like is actually vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and orange peanut brittle – oh dear god, I am certain I had a foodgasm! I didn’t know which one to eat first, the cake? the ice cream? the cake? It was phenomenal and one of the BEST dessert Zumbo has done!
To end, cocktail by Simon McGoram: ‘Till the Bitter End’ – espresso liqueur and my goodness, so strong that I could only have a sip and that was it. Each course was complemented by a wine – to be honest, I can’t remember the flavours of each, by the third glass of red wine, everything tasted wonderful!
Both M and I have similar taste and for both of us, the most outstanding dish of the evening definitely the Porteno’s lamb – I had great expectations from the Porteno boys and they truly did not disappoint! It trumped over the pig’s trotter and I LOVE PORK! Second was definitely the pig’s trotter followed by the mackerel for me, and silver trumpet for M. The dessert is really on a class of its own. If I wasn’t so full, I would have definitely gone in the kitchen and asked Zumbo for another!
Glad to have met the chefs, and chatted. Give me the trotter for entree, lamb for main and German cake for dessert anytime of the week and I will be ONE SERIOUSLY HAPPY GIRL!
Definitely the BEST TOYS event thus far! It will be hard to top the next event, it was ‘fan-bloody-tastic’. Very impressed with the food, service, alcohol, EVERYTHING was just magnifique and waddled to the car exhausted but extremely satisfied!
Again thanks to the chef and Mel for organising everything.
GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills 2010
I went to Bentley many many years ago and it has been on my list of places to return. It was Uncle‘s birthday, and when he asked whether or not I was free to go to Bentley, I said of course! Regardless of what I had on, how can I say no to lunch at Bentley? Besides, it was Uncle’s birthday.
Bentley is known for the contemporary food, influenced form Modern European and offers diners the option of a la carte or tasting. Brent Savage is the head chef, he started his career in the Blue Mountains under Phillip Searle of Vulcan’s before moving to Sydney to work at Marque Restaurant. He then left to open Mrs Jones (Andrew McConnell’s) before again returning to Sydney where he was head chef at Moog Wine and Food. He is known for his own unique cooking style combining modern techniques with the diverse flavours of Australian produce. Nick Hilderbrant is the head sommelier and in 2010, Bentley won the Australian Gourmet Pages ‘restaurant of the year’ award and I can see why.
The four (Uncle, L, V) of us came here for lunch. After much perusing, Uncle, V and I all decided to have the lunch tasting menu ($55) – there were just so many options that we all just couldn’t decide. L wasn’t overly hungry so opted for a main and dessert.
Started with complimentary soft and fluffy bread.
Octopus with almond, and garlic. Octopus confit which was incredibly tender and creamy. The garlic, almond and toasted crumbs was a wonderful complement. It was deliciously light and refreshing.
The pumpkin custard with pumpkin seed and goats curd was one of the prettiest dish I have seen. The brightness of the colour of the pumpkin was so striking and glistened – LOVE!
Dollops of pumpkin custard which was incredibly creamy and light. I love pumpkin so this was a win win dish for me. The pumpkin and sunflower seeds a wonderful complement and I loved the millet crisps – so light and crispy. It was one of the nicest pumpkin dish and possibly the best dish for lunch! I think Uncle really enjoyed this dish too, it was superb!
The ‘mains’, poached mullaway with celeriac, cracked wheat and black sesame with pea puree and topped with black sesame – WOW. The mullaway fillet was incredibly soft that it just melted in my mouth. The cracked wheat cracker I loved! Wished there was more of it, it was crunchy but at the same time gooey and topped with pea puree, delightful.
Lastly, pork belly with wattle crumbs, garlic puree, milk, black fungi and rhubarb was again deliciously light. The pork belly was nice but have definitely have had better, I love the milk skin, similar to tofu and just melted in my mouth. The rhubarb and garlic subtle, and I loved the black fungi.
L ordered the lamb rump with piqullo pepper, saffron, almond and fetter ($36). I didn’t have any of this, but L did say that it was tender and wonderful.
The side of potato and artichoke salad with green garlic ($12) was quite simple but excellent. I love artichoke and the green garlic a wonderful complement.
Dessert – Caramelised pineapple with barley crumbs and beer sorbet. I was a little sceptical about this dessert, but I was pleasantly surprised!
Bite size caramelised pineapple that burst in the mouth, underneath the beer sorbet which was incredibly light and airy. The beer flavour was subtle and the barley cream added richness and the biscuit crumbs gave it that added texture and ‘crunch’. Perfect for summer, perfect for any time really – it was frigging awesome!
L ordered the raspberry and pistachio marshmallow ($6) which was the BEST marshmallow I have ever eaten. Toasted, it was creamy, airy, fluffy and amazingly good.
Food, presentation, flavours were excellent but what’s more brilliant is the company! I believe company makes the experience even better. Service excellent, a huge selection of wine and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back and try their a la carte or tasting menu for dinner. Definitely worth coming back for, temptation will be much greater as it is just up the road.
It was Uncle’s birthday but he wouldn’t let any of us pay, so THANK YOU Uncle, hope you spent your birthday with fantastic people and ate wonderful and delicious food! Here’s to long life filled with happiness! *raises glass*
GA’s rating: 8 / 10
320 Crown Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9332 2344
Bourke Street Bakery (‘BSB’) requires no introduction. It has been around since 2004 and opened by both Paul Allam and David Mcguinness. Original bakery is in Surry Hills, it now has two other branches, one in Alexandria and the other in Marrickville with one more opening in Potts Point.
I can’t believe it has taken me this long to go back to BSB. Prior to living in Surry Hills, I would go here religiously, once every fortnight, and ever since we have moved to Surry Hills, only three times in three years! However, when we first moved in, the first place I went was BSB! Forgive me dear bakery, I haven’t forgotten you as you are by far one of my favourite bakeries!
The line for BSB is usually ridiculously long, but it does move pretty quickly and in my books, definitely worth it. Minimal seating indoors, there are now a few tables and milk crates outside where diners can wait and sit. However, this time round, I just wanted to takeaway and eat it at home.
I remember coming here the first time, from memory, I stood there for a good 15 mins trying to decide, but this time, I knew exactly what I wanted – pies, sausage rolls, a couple of tarts and bread. For those who has never been, I can see how it can be a little overwhelming – so many options!
I really wanted the beef brisket pie, unfortunately, they ran out and had to wait 25 minutes. So opted for the normal beef pie ($5.00) – large chunks of tender, moist beef bursting with flavour. My brother, F, believes this is the best pie he has had, although, he did ask whether or not the size has some what decreased? I love the beef pies here, the beef brisket even better – I probably should have waited!
I’m not usually a huge fan of sausage rolls, however, the pork and fennel sausage roll ($4.50) at BSB is amazingly good. The pastry is thick and flaky, the roll consists of pork mince which is succulent and the fennel a wonderful complement. Definitely one of the best sausage rolls I have eaten!
The strawberry vanilla brulee tart is a must have, unfortunately, I didn’t see any that day (I was there at about 12.45pm, either I wasn’t looking hard enough or they were all gone). Got the ginger tart which was covered with pistachios, and wow, smooth vanilla custard with ginger – LOVE!
I do love the lemon tarts too and the muffins – I love everything in this bakery. I love sourdough, the fig blueberry sourdough is amazingly good, so is the soy and linseed – unfortunately ‘The Mother’ doesn’t love sourdough as much as I do. HOW CAN HE NOT?
I remember coming here with a friend, he ordered the ‘personal’ sourdough and he took ‘personal’ literary – ate the whole thing on his own and did not share! BSB also serves breakfast items like muesli, croissants and toasts. There are also sandwiches and soup for lunch.
The coffee here is excellent, no doubt I will be back this weekend (or during the week) with a book, sit under the sun and have one of their delicious tarts!
GA’s ratings: 8 / 10
Bourke Street Bakery
633 Bourke Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9699 1011
I can’t believe it has taken me THIS long to go to House. In my defence though, it opened when we were overseas last year and I guess Thai food has never my first preference of food! House is opened by Sujet Saenkham of Spice I Am which specialises in the street food of the Isaan region, in north-east Thailand.
I came here with the restaurateur, L and suggested this place. I had thought that House was originally part of the Triple Ace Bar, like a beer garden, however, that was not the case. It is totally separated and if you want a drink, you have to get from the pub and bring it over (which I thought was a little weird!). I quite like the outdoor seating, the sturdy wooden tables outside in the ‘courtyard’ – it was a little cold that day, so we opted to sit inside.
The menu had variety, too many that we weren’t sure what to order. I do like the colourful pictures though, think from memory I picked a couple of dishes base on the picture! whoops!
We started with the moo daed deaw ($8.00) – lightly deep-fried sun-dried marinated pork strips served with jim-jaew dipping sauce. A little disappointing I thought, the pork strips were hard and a little chewy, however, the jim-jaew dipping sauce which was mildly spicy was excellent.
Next the ping lin ($10.00) which is grilled marinated ox tongue served with jim-jaew dipping sauce. This was infinitely better. The tongue was pink and tender, a little smoky and absolutely delicious.
The lab ped ($18.00), traditional Isaan salad of minced duck with eschalot, shallot, Vietnamese coriander, mint, ground roasted rice, ground chili and lime. WOW – the spiciness really hits you at the end! The duck was tender, it was extremely flavoursome and the sauce I really loved! It was one hell of a spicy salad! Not exactly what I expected but at the same time, quite pleasant!
The khi moon gai ($15.00) Thai style Hainanese Chicken Rice was probably my least favourite and possibly the worst Hainanese chicken rice I have had. The rice lacked aroma and flavour, and the chicken breast cut thinly were dry and did not have any taste at all, disappointing!
Dessert – we have heard so much about BTS (better than sex) that we really had to order it! The toasted brioche was rich and magnificently soft and buttery that it just melted in my mouth, and topped with pandan coconut ice cream and ‘drizzled’ in palm sugar was just superb!
Calorific, it was rich – sickly rich and I have to admit, I felt extremely ill after eating half of it! I needed something bitter to wash it down, like black tea or coffee. Not something I would eat every day or on my own, but it was good!
Service is minimal but waiters are quite friendly. I hear on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings a band will come on after 9 pm which sounds pretty cool. I can see the attraction with this place, it is slightly cheaper than that of Spice I am, however, as for taste, I am not 100% convince. Two out of the four dishes we ordered were ordinary, we may have ordered wrong and have to try others. However, in saying that, I still do prefer Spice I am, Longrain or Shortgrain for Thai food I think!
GA’s rating: 6 / 10
202 Elizabeth Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9280 0364
My last visit to Longrain was quite a memorable one. Company and food were both excellent. So when I heard that Shortgrain was opening, I was quite keen to try. Shortgrain is the sister restaurant of Longrain Thai Restaurant started by chef Martin Boetz. It is a more casual dining place, it only has up to 18 seats and has a ‘street style vibe’. Menu changes daily, it’s a lot shorter, slightly cheaper and consists of curries and salads.
I came here with a dear friend of mine S. Lunch is open from 11 to 3pm and for a Friday lunch it was relatively busy. I rocked up just before 1pm and was lucky enough to get seats. The only table available is the communal table (consistent with the Longrain communal theme). There are no menus, all the dishes are written on the blackboard, so you order at the counter and food will be served to your table.
The prices are a lot cheaper, majority of the dishes are less than $20. I really wanted the chicken wings ($2.50 each) – a tad pricey but the group of guys next to us had at least a dozen and they look absolutely superb! Damn it – must go earlier next time to get those chicken wings!
On the table already, condiments of chili, lemon and spices.
I couldn’t go past the crispy pork and smoked mussel salad ($16) – WOW! There is a reason why I love pork! The crispy pork was deliciously tender and I love the slither of crispy skin. The smoked mussel was also tender all served with fresh vegetables and topped with mint. I love the sweet chili sauce that accompanied it, it was light and excellent.
We thought we would get a serving of fish dumping with sweet chili sauce ($12). Four perfectly round fried fish dumplings. A little pricey for what is it $3 each!
However, I love the crumbs, it was thin and crispy with a tad of salt and the fish was moreish and tasty and dipped in sweet chili sauce and drizzled with lemon was oh so wonderful.
S couldn’t go past the Massaman curry of beef ($15). The beef was incredibly tender that it just melted in my mouth. The curry had light coconut-y taste and was served with peanuts on a mountain of rice.
I really do like Shortgrain. Definitely looking forward to trying their other dishes. Takeaway is available if you don’t have time to dine or if the place is busy.
About two – three weeks ago, I met a friend DC for lunch at Longrain. We both couldn’t go past the caramelised pork hock with five spice and chili vinegar ($33.50) – wow! The pork hock was tender, gooey, and oh so very sweet with a hint of spice. Considering how DC and I both love pork, we fought for every single piece!
DC couldn’t go past with ocean trout, green papaya and chili salad with lemongrass and chili jam ($38). A bit price-y but it was one of the nicest ocean trout ever! We noticed other diners around us having the exact dish. The ocean trout was delicate and wonderful and I love the green papaya and chili salad. Everything was so fresh and light. We both demolished the dish. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I have lost the photo! grrrrr so you will just have to trust DC and I that it was an awesome dish!
Part of the cocktail bar has moved downstairs adjacent to Shortgrain. It’s been a while since I had a cocktail at Longrain, thankfully it’s just around the corner, no doubt I will visit soon!
A couple of addition to Shortgrain – I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been here since my last post. Even if it’s just for take away, however, have not yet had the fried chicken wings!!!! The larp of pork and prawn with Vietnamese mint and roasted rice ($15). Larp is made with minced meat (in this case pork) then cooked in dressing, which includes coriander, mint, and dish comes from the northeast of Thailand. Eaten together with a few raw vegetables like cucumber, long beans or iceberg lettuce or witlof (as served). The combination of pork and prawn was perfect, and eaten with witlof was wonderful. I love the freshness of the dish, the coriander, mint, onions and fresh chili, and the combination of delicious sweet, sour and salty elements.
The green curry with fish dumplings ($15) looked too good to past. There was a strong coconut milk flavour, it was thick, creamy with a hint of chili. The fish dumplings I loved, very similar to the fish dumplings with sweet chili sauce I had previously. They were deliciously plump and moreish and a wonderful complement to the green curry. I could have easily eaten half a dozen!
The Barossa chicken, Chinese broccoli and ginger ($18) was not what we expected. It is actually a soup and the broth is full of flavour with coriander and thin shreds of ginger. The chicken was large and tender and a little messy to eat but it was well worth it.
The pumpkin Thai salad with dried shrimps, onions and coriander and ginger was ($12) was excellent. It was served at room temperature, the pumpkin was tender and full of flavour. Definitely one of my favourite pumpkin salads!
I am determined to go and try that fried chicken wings, hopefully will visit again soon. Please note that Shortgrain is only open on weekdays for lunch.
GA’s ratings: Shortgrain: 7.5 / 10
GA’s ratings: Longrain: 7.5 / 10
10 Hunt St
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9280 2888
85 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills, 2010
Ph: +61 2 9280 2888