Winter is coming

Bistro Molines interior
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Game of Thrones has a lot to answer for. The last 6 weeks of my life has been a repeat of eat, sleep, work, GoT, eat, sleep, work, GoT. The downside of having completely caught up with the latest aired episode is that I now have to wait a very long, anxious week before I can watch the next episode rather than just flicking it over. I just might DIE!

But now that I’m completely caught up and am waiting for the next episode, I suddenly have time to do other stuff than just eating, sleeping, working, and GoT-ing. This freeing up of my schedule just happens to coincide with a lovely warm, dry spell here in Sydney. It’s well and truly autumn (as the Starks would say, winter is coming) and temperatures are still in the mid-20s, around mid-70s℉.

Taking advantage of the blue skies and warm weather, this weekend the White Russian and I rode our motorbikes up to the Hunter Valley, around 2 hours north of Sydney. We found a few twisty roads, and also found ourselves on a dirt, unsealed road, which made me feel a bit nervous.

While we were in the area, we dropped into Bistro Molines, which shares a scenic spot with Tallavera Grove wineries. If you’re lucky and book ahead, you can snare a table on the verandah which overlooks the valley, marked with rows upon rows of vines. Or if you aren’t so fortunate, the tables inside still have the beautiful panorama thanks to the open dining area, which is filled with lovely fresh cut flowers and warm, rustic decor.

Bistro Molines view

Bistro Molines verandah

 

Bistro Molines pass

We were served a simple but delicious taster of cherry tomato, olive and buffalo mozzarella, and the bread was served with a rich aioli, an interesting but slightly strange change from the usual butter or olive oil.

Bistro Molines - cherry tomato and mozzarella snack

As a starter, we shared the charcuterie platter of a rich, creamy duck liver pate and a delicious rabbit rillettes served with a garden of pickled treats.

Bistro Molines charcuterie

Bistro Molines charcuterie close

The White Russian had the special of roasted rabbit served with speck and white bean puree. I may have encouraged him to order it since, when do we ever have rabbit at home? He said it tasted like chicken. My baked figs with gorgonzola and prosciutto were a nice combination of sweet and salty, soft and crisp.

Bistro Molines rabbit

Bistro Molines roasted figs

Unfortunately we couldn’t fit in dessert without risking a food coma on the long 2 hour ride back to Sydney, so we gave it a miss. Instead we ordered a caffeine hit and scored some bittersweet chocolate tartlets to finish a splendid lunch date.

Bistro Molines chocolate tarts

Bistro Molines exterior

Bistro Molines on Urbanspoon

A hidden piece of Sydney

Church Point
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Owning a motorcycle means that you are more likely than most people to just go out cruising around without actually needing to go somewhere. The benefit of this is that you end up exploring some wonderful roads and areas that you would normally never think to visit.

One of the places that I discovered was Church Point, up the northern end of Sydney. After a ride through the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the West Head Lookout to check out its lovely views over Pittwater and to Palm Beach, a lunch at the Waterfront Cafe at Church Point is a nice way to enjoy a sunny Sydney weekend.

 

Sitting on the deck at the cafe makes you feel like you a thousand miles from the city, when you’re only 32km away. Boats bobbing about on their moorings, and you can enjoy the views to Scotland Island and the Pittwater activity.

Church Point waterfront cafe

The menu here is pretty extensive, which is usually a bit of a red flag. It spans Italian classics such as veal saltimbocca, pizzas and pastas, to burgers and steak sandwiches, fish and chips, a mezze plate, and seafood platters. At least there will be something for everyone!

The mezze plate comes with 5 generously proportioned servings of dip (beetroot, eggplant, olive, roast capsicum and avocado) and is served with a cheesy, garlic pizza.

Meze plate

The bouillabaisse is a delicious serve of seafood in a tomato-based broth. Be prepared to get your hands dirty working through that crab.

Boullabaise

The burger comes stacked pretty high, which can make it a challenge to get your mouth around. The bread is thick and crusty, which is a change from the soft, brioche buns that are the latest trend.

Beef burger with chips

The fish special is pan fried dory, which was served with wilted baby spinach, roasted potatoes and a fresh tomato sauce.

Pan fried dory

Sadly we were pretty stuffed and didn’t have room for dessert (who would’ve thought this possible?) I can’t even explain the pain of regretfully turning down a sweet finish when the selection which came out on a long paddle to tempt us. However, despite our early misgivings, the food here is decent and it’s well worth the trek up here to enjoy a relaxing lunch with friends, family and the spectacular views.

Waterfront Cafe on Urbanspoon

Porteño’s parrilla and asado

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I had been hanging to try out Porteño for the longest time. The thought of devouring their juicy and succulent fire-roasted meats would make my mouth water just thinking about it. However, I’d heard that you would only be able to snag a table after queuing in the street for a couple of hours, which completely put me off.

So I was very grateful for Good Food Month festivities recently, when the restaurant put on a special Spring lunch and were taking reservations! No standing around, waiting, and making small talk with your dining companions while your stomach eats itself!

Our menus informed us that each of the dishes that we would be trying were made in-house especially for the lunch. This obviously meant that we missed out on their famous crisp brussels sprouts on this visit. I guess that means I will just have to suck it up and join the queue next time!

 

Our meal started off on the right foot with a boozy pork paté, olives, crusty ciabatta slices, and this lovely bresaola, a spiced cured wagyu eye round which has been aged for 6 months.

porteno 01

Despite being a terrible patron and failing to inform the good folk at Porteño that one of my girlfriends was pregnant (it had just completely slipped my mind!), they were completely obliging and kindly offered chipotle stuffed zucchini flowers in place of the bresaola. The ash beetroot was my favourite of the starters, with the creamy and slightly tart curd complementing the earthy beets.

porteno 02

porteno 03

porteno 04Porteño is best known for its asado, a scorching fire pit with whole lambs splayed out on racks. Alongside the barbecue is a shiny stainless steel and dark brick kitchen with hot grills and trays of smoky meat. It’s enough to give a vegetarian heart palpitations.

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porteno 06

porteno lamb

The Mirool Creek spring lamb is sweet, salty and tender, served with crisp skin and a fresh chopped salad and barbecued eggplant and peppers. The marbled meat is cooked for 8 hours and melts in your mouth.

Our meal was rounded off by a not-too-sweet burnt milk fruit tart and the softest, crumbliest shortbread with dulce de leche sandwiched inside. These guys must have the surgeon’s touch to put these babies together without the biscuit falling apart.

porteno 08

porteno 09

It’s all a bit of theatre seeing your meal being roasted in front of you, but the food here was faultless and the service was helpful and polite. The waitstaff were very accommodating after dropping the last-minute pregnancy bomb, and they also recommended some delicious wine choices.

Now to brave the queue next time so that I give their pork and brussels sprouts a crack. However, tables of six or more can make a reservation so…who wants to come with me?

Porteño on Urbanspoon

A taste of Canton at Mr Wong

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October is one of my favourite months of the year. It’s spring, the weather is warming up, and the days are getting longer. Best of all, it’s Good Food Month, which means lots of special food events, and an excuse to taste lots of different foods all around Sydney.

Most of the events are in the city, and it’s a shame that I don’t work in town to take advantage of all the lunch specials. Regardless, I managed to make it to a couple of restaurants that I have been meaning to try, including Mr Wong.

This funky Cantonese-style restaurant has had an amazing year, being crowned Best New Restaurant by both the Good Food Guide and Time Out, and winning two chef’s hats in the Guide. The decor transports you to an old Chinese opium den, with exposed brick and timber, and dim lighting. The service is friendly and eager to ensure a seamless experience. The bar staff are also very handy at dishing up some delicious cocktails too, if that’s what you want with your dim sum!mr wong bar

The menu for this “surprise” lunch was a mix of treats from their existing menu, but some special guest appearances as well. We started with a leafy salad of cucumber, fennel, woodear mushroom with chewy glass noodles, before each of us received our individual mini bamboo steamers with plump dim sum.

mr wong dim sumThe dim sum here are exquisite, and you would expect no less from the master himself, Eric Koh, from the globally successful Hakkasan and Yauatcha. Succulent and juicy, and left us wanting more.

mr wong

Stir fried corn kernels were a surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen corn in a Chinese restaurant, except for those tinned baby corn spears, but this was very good. Then again, anything with lap cheong, the deliciously fatty Chinese sausage, is guaranteed to be a winner.

mr wong mr wong mr wongThe mains were a lot more familiar, with lovely, delicate steamed fish with ginger and shallots, stir fried king prawns with black pepper and garlic, and a fantastic crisp-skinned Shandong chicken, which is twice cooked with a black vinegar sauce.

mr wongThe perfect finish to our meal was a light and refreshing lychee sorbet with raspberries.

We had a wonderful time here, thanks to the stream of surprise dishes (we hadn’t seen a menu), the attentive service, and the fantastic atmosphere. For $55 a head, I thought it was very good value, since we were well and truly stuffed, although I think that the a la carte menu could get way out of hand pretty easily. Having said that, I’m looking forward to coming back here one lunchtime to take the dim sum menu out for a spin.

mr wong

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

A long lunch at Ormeggio

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When I called up to book a table at Ormeggio at The Spit, the host asked me, “is this for a special occasion?”, to which I replied, “oh, just lunch!”

Winter in Sydney is nothing like the winters I experienced in London, and with the latest run of sunny weather, a lunch at Ormeggio overlooking the yachts moored at The Spit was the perfect way to spend a Sunday lunch.  A special occasion indeed!

The White Russian and I decided to treat ourselves to the 8-course emozioni degustation with matching wines ($105, or $189 with matching wines).  We had even made the journey to the restaurant by public transport so that we could indulge without guilt or danger to fellow motorists.  Before we launched into lunch, we were perusing the cocktail list for an aperitivo, and our host recommended a negroni, which is a cocktail comprising of gin, vermouth, and Campari.  The first taste was a hit of bitterness, but it had a nice, dry finish that sufficiently whetted the appetite.

negroni

ormeggio at the spit snacks

ormeggio at the spit sourdough breadLunch was a lovely slow and scenic journey through a range of flavours and cooking styles, with some leaning towards classic Italian and others more a fusion of Modern Australian.  There was octopus cooked sous vide at 85C for 4 hours, a Flinders Island wallaby buttata (or tartare), and tortelli filled with wonderfully smokey burnt eggplant.

ormeggio at the spit octopus

ormeggio at the spit wallaby

ormeggio at the spit tortelli

ormeggio at the spit risotto

ormeggio at the spit mulloway

ormeggio at the spit braised lamb

After admitting that the sourdough bread was our downfall (we just couldn’t stop after that first taste of warm, crusty bread slathered with freshly churned sour butter), we were full to the brim before the dessert courses arrived.  However, it was hard to resist them when they came out, with the carrot sponge with fennel seed ice cream being our preferred choice over the pomegranate jelly served with frozen yoghurt on a dry rye biscuit.ormeggio at the spit carrot sponge

ormeggio at the spit pomegranate yoghurt

ormeggio at the spit carrot spongeFour hours after we arrived, we rolled out of the restaurant toward the bus stop, satisfyingly full, content, and sobered up after the ratio of food to wine finally swung back in favour of the former.  The service was spot on attentive, knowledgeable, and always friendly, and made it a relaxed and enjoyable Sunday lunch.

Ormeggio at the Spit on Urbanspoon

Birthday lunch at Jonah’s, Whale Beach

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I recently turned 33, spending my birthday camping in the northern beaches of Sydney.  Besides an incident with a tent pole flying out of the ground and hitting me in the forehead (massive lump ensued – thank god for beer eskies close at hand full of ice!), it was a memorable event with the White Russian taking me out for a birthday lunch at Jonah’s at Whale Beach.

We had their Sunday 3-course set menu, starting off with cocktails to celebrate the occasion, all overlooking the stunning Pacific Ocean coastline on a blue bird day.

Jonah's Whale Beach appetiser

Jonah's Whale Beach lychee and raspberry cocktail

Jonah's Whale Beach North Atlantic scallops

Jonah's Whale Beach Redgate Farm partridge

Jonah's birthday lunch

Jonah's Whale Beach Blue Eyed trevalla

Jonah's Whale Beach

Jonah's Whale Beach vanilla mille-feuille

Jonah's Whale Beach cheese platter

Jonah's Whale Beach happy birthday petit fours

My Redgate Farm partridge in particular was delicious, with deep and rich earthy flavours, and the light-as-air, flaky vanilla mille-feuille was a satisfying finish to the meal.

Jonah's on Urbanspoon