Archive for the ‘Sydney’ Category

Guillaume Brahimi announces post-Bennelong restaurant

Guillaume Brahimi

Chef Guillaume Brahimi

Pre-empting his well-publicised push exit from Guillaume at Bennelong next month, chef Guillaume Brahimi has already announced his sequel to his French fine-dining restaurant, which this year received a top-rated Three Hats by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (whether the extra hat was deserved, or just a pity vote by his food journo peers, is worthy of another blog discussion).

Brahimi’s follow-up to his iconic Sydney Opera House restaurant will move to Paddington, at the stalwart Darcy’s Restaurant site. It looks like a fantastic move for Brahimi. Darcy’s has long been an iconic Italian restaurant to the Eastern Suburbs’ moneyed set – a seamless fit for Brahimi’s upmarket French cuisine – but for years has floundered in terms of public image and critical reception (I never ate there, nor was ever inclined to, so I can’t comment about the food). Brahimi will be giving a greater seasonal focus to his skilled French cooking to a very cosy corner of Paddington that’s crawling distance that other hatted local, The Four in Hand.

So what do you think of the move? Is it a face-saving lateral shift, a more intimate improvement, a downgrade for a chef who’s presided over the highest-profile restaurant space in Sydney, or something entirely different?

For more on the move, here’s today’s press release:

MEDIA RELEASE-

GUILLAUME BRAHIMI ANNOUNCES HIS NEW RESTAURANT- OPENING 2014

After much anticipation, chef and restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi has announced that he will open a new Sydney restaurant in early 2014.

Brahimi and his team will move into the beautiful and historic Darcy’s Restaurant site in Paddington, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and will reopen as guillaume by Easter 2014. The new restaurant will see his award-winning team continue the high standard they have become known for at the iconic three- hatted Guillaume at Bennelong.

The restaurant will reflect Brahimi’s philosophy of high quality produce-driven food and will serve an ever-changing menu focused on the seasonal produce of the day.

Brahimi said “My team and I are so excited at the prospect of this new restaurant. It is a fresh start for us in a wonderful venue, full of character and history, a real Sydney institution. We have some ambitious plans that I believe will raise the standard of what we do to a whole new level. I believe it will make the perfect home for my team and me to create something very special.”

Guillaume said “Attilio Marinangeli is one of Sydney’s notable restaurateurs and Darcy’s has been an iconic restaurant for more than thirty eight years. I am grateful that Attilio is giving me the opportunity to establish my new restaurant in that beautiful restaurant space.”

“Like many Sydney- siders I have a strong sentimental attachment to Darcy’s. My wife and I dined there to celebrate the birth of our first daughter and we loved the intimate and elegant atmosphere. We have since had many happy occasions there and we now look forward to many more to come.”

The team at guillaume will include Bennelong’s talented head chef of 12 years, Jose Silva, as well as head sommelier and former Sydney Morning Herald Sommelier of the Year, Chris Morrison.

Having served over half a million diners since 2001, Brahimi’s current restaurant Guillaume at Bennelong will mark its last service on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, to be followed by the move to the new premises in Paddington.

Brahimi has operated some of Sydney’s most acclaimed restaurants since the early 1990s when he moved from Paris where he worked for Joel Robuchon. His restaurants have included two–hatted Pond in Potts Point, Quay, which earned three hats, and finally, since 2001, the three hatted Guillaume at Bennelong.

His restaurants have won the title of Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best New Restaurant as well as numerous other accolades, and in 2013 Guillaume was awarded the Vittoria Legend Award for outstanding contribution to the industry.

Brahimi currently operates two other restaurants, Bistro Guillaume in the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, and Bistro Guillaume in Crown Casino in Perth. He was appointed Culinary Director of Crown Resorts in May 2013. He is also ambassador for Tefal and Samsung.

Following Council approval, renovations will begin at the Paddington site in early January and guillaume will open prior to Easter 2014 at 92 Hargrave Street, Paddington, Sydney. 

There’s a roaster in them (Surry) Hills. Reuben Hills, that is

Surry Hills needs another café like it needs another old-school Lebanese eatery on Elizabeth Street, cheap-and-cheerful Indian on Cleveland, vintage clothing store on Crown, or red-light terrace… well, all over.

That is, until Reuben Hills arrived on New Year’s Day. Ever since, it’s been the café and roaster that we Surry Hillbillies never knew we needed.

I recently did a story on Reuben Hills on Agenda, so consider this an update. In the weeks following, I’ve been four more times – not the usual habits for a food journalist who seldom goes back to the same place twice in a year. There’s just too much good eating to do.

But I’m currently having a love affair of Reuben Hills. Unlike Sydney’s penchant for copycat café menus, there’s not a single Bill’s ripoff in sight: no creamy eggs, no ricotta hotcakes, no corn fritters. And there’s no big brekkie, either, or a single bit of toast. Everything on here is something original for Sydney. And it’s all cooked by Megan McCulloch, an almost too-talented chef for a café, who previously worked for Heston Blumenthal at his The Hinds Head, which the Michelin Guide deemed the UK’s 2011 pub of the year. Here she’s created a Latino-dominated menu that’s inspired by the places of origin of Reuben Hills’ coffee beans, which right now means Latin and South America. Will we eventually see Kenyan dishes here, I wonder?

The two types of Honduran baleada (bali-yay-duh) are a great way to have an inspiring brekkie. You’ve got a folded corn tortilla filled with pimenton-spiced pulled pork, chimol (an El Salvadoran salsa made with radish) and crispy-fried onion. The other is a mix of egg, queso fresco (a soft white cheese popular in Mexico) and black beans that will make you forget about those half-hearted breakfast burritos floating around town.

I first share a baleada with my dining companion, as we also tuck into terracotta-baked eggs with shaved Jamon Serrano, spinach and ranchero sauces, as well as a brioche with dulche de leche (its also comes with mascarpone, but I found it to be a second-fiddle accompaniment).

I’ve been back for lunch, for the fantastic reuben, a pairing of wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, manchego cheese and horseradish cream. Technically it’s not really a reuben – my New York deli rulebook says it has to be made with corned beef – but it’s stellar notheless. The brisket is brined for three days and slow-cooked for a good portion of another. When’s the last time you had that many man-hours go into your sandwich?

I’ve later been back for dessert, especially after discovering the salted caramel milkshake, which I have craved ever since. And where else does your café menu start with sweets? Atop the list is the Doggs breakfast, a housemade ice-cream sandwich with a cake-like chocolate exterior and a pour of salted caramel sauce. And while we’re talking sweet things, I also like the small touch of the sugar on your table: it’s panela, a brown sugar made from evaporate sugarcane juice and especially popular in Colombia.

That I’m focused on the food is an extra testament to Reuben Hills, since its main line of business is, in fact, coffee. Owner Russell Beard is the coffee dude who started tiny Mosman roastery, The Source, and he was a shining light in a North Shore coffee scene that has few heroes. But the space proved to be too small, so he upped stakes and took his spare cash to Surry Hills.

At Reuben, Russell is doing some serious bean biz. He’s built a spacious boutique roastery on the floor above the café, which can be seen through cut-out glimpses in the ceiling below (or you’re welcome to merely climb the stairs for a perve). He’s reconditioned a 30kg Probat and 6kg Giesen, German roasting machines that are a step up from the Turkish variety – for coffee snobs, it’s like upgrading from a Toyota to a Mercedes. And like some of my other favourite coffee folks, Russell is travelling to the source of his beans and meeting directly with farmers. In fact, he’s been tagging along with Mark Dundon of Melbourne’s Seven Seeds and Heath Cater from Coffee Supreme, making their way to Honduras, Columbia, Brasil, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Russell doesn’t order through a coffee broker – he chooses his beans by the single lot in a face-to-face transaction.

Even with the caffeine dedication, there’s nothing pretentious about the coffee here. They do Clover and Aeropress filtered coffees, but never flaunt it, nor the artfully designed, dual Speedster and Mirage espresso machines from the Netherlands’ Kees Van Der Westen. Russell also holds free weekly coffee cuppings on Fridays at 10am, trying out beans that he roasts within small micro-roasting machines that allow for experimentation.

My favourite thing about Reuben Hills, though, is how the coffee and café community have treated this hot new start-up as a new addition to the family, rather than unwanted competition. Josh Nicholls from Café Ish, whose business is merely blocks away, excitedly told me about Reuben Hills when it launched on New Year’s Day. On a recent visit there, I founded the owners of Marrickville’s Coffee Alchemy, Randwick’s Kurtosh coffee and pastry house, Erskineville’s Shenkin café and a top barista from Mecca Espresso all happily dining and caffeinating here.

If you’re wondering about the name, it’s taken from a San Francisco-based pioneer in roasting equipment circa the early 1900s. Come here and you’ll also notice the menu’s striking black-and-white photo of roads, hills and a bridge – it’s simply a photo of Brazil, somewhere outside Sao Paolo, that Russell picked up in a market in Argentina.

I’d blabber or about the garage-like opening to the rear laneway, flouro lights, brick and cement industrial fit-out, but just go and soak it up yourself. And while I’ve nearly had the whole menu now, Russell says chef Megan is starting some specials this week. So the next time you’re here, look for a guy banging away on a laptop, putting a healthy teaspoon of panela into his latte, and ordering off the menu… and make sure to say hi.

Reuben Hills
61 Albion St, Surry Hills, NSW
(02) 9211 5556
7 days, 7am-4pm
reubenhills.com.au

A Quay restaurant spinoff? Chef Peter Gilmore says – yes! (video)

It was in the middle of Saturday night’s gala dinner at the Great Barrier Feast that the drawcard celebrity chef, Quay’s Peter Gilmore, dropped a bomb – his plans to open a more casual, funkier spin-off of Australia’s top-rated restaurant in Sydney. Sometimes it pays to be a social media geek: thanks to some frenetic iPhone typing from the five-star Qualia resort in Hamilton Island, Gosstronomy was the first to break the news on Twitter.

The next day, I had the extra-special privilege of having some face-to-face time with Gilmore (along with a couple of other select media folks), whose Sydney fine diner now ranks as No 26 on the S. Pellegrino World’s Top 50 list. The conversation kicked off with his firm stance against genetically engineered (GE or GM) food, and then, with video camera in hand, I grabbed the opportunity to ask him about his plans for Quay’s sister restaurant.

It turns out, there’s no site selected yet, but it’s obvious from what Gilmore had to say that he’s given it quite a lot of thought and the wheels are in motion. Check out the above video of our talk to hear about his plans for next year.

Peter Gilmore interview timeline:

    1:34 – Diversity of produce, and what he’d like to see in supermarkets
    2:20 – *Quay’s new sister restaurant*: a casual, funky, young environment
    4:40 – The crucial need to hang onto our Sydney growers, especially in the Hawkesbury
    5:37 – On the Slow Food movement in Sydney
    6:31 – How we have Quay to thank for the fact that we now get purple (and other non-orange) carrots in Australia
    7:19 – What produce we should be expecting or demanding to see in our aisles

There’s more to come about Gilmore’s cooking on the Great Barrier Feast, so make sure to check in later in the week.

The Fern – another notch in Refern’s rebirth of cool


OK, so anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Redfern is the new Surry Hills. Really. Don’t believe me? Just go to the Eat House diner on the end of Chalmers Street, drink with the hipsters in The Norfolk’s groovy courtyard, shop at those amazing vintage furniture stores like Great Dane on Elizabeth Street.

And now it gets further cemented with The Fern, as in shorthand for Redfern, a stunning terrace on a leafy stretch of lower Pitt Street, just off of booming Cleveland Street and the nearly refurbished Prince Alfred Park. First impressions come via a groovy street-facing stone courtyard, set under mature palm trees, with white-painted iron chairs, cushions converting a rendered cement stretch into a long bench seat, and mix-and-match tables. It’s all breezy and tranquil, with the bordering gardens peppered with objects like an old push mover and what looks like a metal chook.

This is sophisticated café, for now, although there are plans to soon get a liquor license and extend trading to dinner. Well, make that food to go with aperitivo, those Italian pre-dinner drinks – chef Massimo Bianchi, who was one the heir apparent at Buon Ricordo and started up Uccello at The Ivy, is on board as consultant chef, and as such, so little wonder the menu has a slight Italian accent. For now that shows up in a breakfast bruschetta with scrambled eggs and smoke provolone, and in lunch fare like nduja (a kind of spicy pork pate) with sourdough and ricotta, and specials like a lamb ragu with housemade fettuccini.

The space is what truly sets The Fern apart, and it’s very much a bespoke effort by operators Julian Serna and Mark Wiley, two barmen who met at Merivale working high-profile venues like The Ivy Pool Bar, Establishment and Uccello – which explains the one degree of separation to chef Bianchi. The two still serve as drinks consultants, and recently worked with Porteno to set up its popular Argentinean-style bar.

The emphasis is on recycling, so menus are set upon vinyl records or their album sleeves, water is served in old glass jugs that used to hold McWilliams port or sherry, the sides of liquor boxes are used to decorate a stairwell, the back section is covered with Julian’s collection of old Mad magazines and “Spy Vs Spy” illustrations, and there are vintage chairs, tables and storage chests about. There’s also a nice collection of antique cocktail shakers on top of the fridge.
The most impressive feature is a colourful wallpaper of street art and graffiti from Melbourne laneways, and it looks so funky, it’s hard to believe the images were happy-snapped on Julian’s Blackberry camera. Mark also has his own wall, featuring his intrepid photographs taken from India, Southeast Asia and beyond.

There’s also an equal focus on comfort foods, such as the tasty and nicely plated huevos rancheros of eggs (they ask how you want them, but it’s all wrong unless you get them fried), refried beans, lemon/limey avocado chunks, and slices of cooked chorizo. It’s quite a satisfying plate, so I decide to forgive them for omitting the tortilla and chilli-tinged salsa that makes huevos rancheros what they are. I’m also intrigues by a ‘Morning Sunrise’ menu offering: a blend of fresh-squeezed OJ, banana yoghurt and honey. “Just a drop of goodness in the morning,” Julian says with a wink.

I later try the lamb ragu, which is appreciable hearty, even if the mince-like texture seems more ‘lamb bol’ than the fall-apart meats I associate with a slow-cooked ragu. If someone told me it was a tweak on a Bolognese I would’ve been very content, what with such nicely al dente fettuccine.

I already love The Fern, and my prediction is that this is Sydney’s next ‘it’ café. And once this place gets its nighttime trade going, it’s really going to be humming, although expect it to be a civil place for a bevvie – it’s surrounded by residential buildings after all. The tip is that the evening food is going to be affordable, maybe even free at times, a great pair to expected drinks like an Aperol cocktail or glass of Peroni. It’s all intended to be in the vein of Italy’s aperitivo, but without the half-price drinks, which would violate NSW licensing laws No matter, it’s close enough, and I’m already looking forward to spending long sessions hiding out here with a coffee from NZ’s Gravity, and maybe sticking around for nice digestivo as the sun goes down.

The Fern, 4 Pitt Street, Redfern
Tel: 0410 705 093
www.thefern.com.au

Silly Season is Go – Freelancer’s Lunch at The Burlington, Crows Nest

Melissa Leong and Jane Corbett Jones

Long lunching with Huka Retreats' Jane Corbett Jones, left, and Fooderati's Melissa Leong

There are times as a food writer that you feel that you spend all of your time scoping out the latest and greatest eateries, and sometimes you forget to check out other fantastic eateries that you miss along the way. That’s definitely the case with Lela Radojkovic’s The Burlington Bar & Dining. I never got there during the “news” window when she and then-hubby (now ex), Balzac chef Matt Kemp, first set up this fine Crows Nest bistro and then, admittedly, it got buried amid the new-and-notable circuit. I love consistency as much as anyone, but writing food news for MasterChef and other food mags often means I need to be timely. But yesterday I was in luck – a freelancer’s lunch of food writers and editors gave me a perfect reason to finally get there.

The gig was organised by Carli Ratcliff, who has not only recently scored the gong as the best new food writer at the 2010 Australian Food Media Awards, she’s also one of the most likeable people in the biz. And if you’ve been reading the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Living’ section of late, you’ll notice her byline plastered across countless pages. She’ll probably hate me saying that, but it’s true. She is a machine.

Lela greeted me at the door with a glass of bubbly and then I joined our happy troupe of food pros to enjoy a lovely, long three-course lunch. OK, so I possibly enjoyed myself too much to get very stuck into details, but suffice to say, the food was beautifully rustic, comforting and well-priced, yet with enough flair to keep things interesting. Highlights included a lovely, rich and earthy housemade ‘morcilla’ (much sexier sounding than blood sausage, that is) with scallops, watercress and peperonata, that stew-like mix typically comprised of capsicum, tomato, onion, garlic and olive oil. I say typical, because, like I said, I was too busy gasbagging and gave my critical food radar a leave pass for the afternoon. I also devoured my two-ways lamb, with its fall-apart neck and shoulder cuts, although I did have menu envy after I ditched my slightly under-set crème caramel – I shifted to someone else’s chocolate panna cotta, with its fabulous pairing of sweet milk chocolate ‘foam’ on top with hidden pieces of hazelnut ice-cream and a moodier foundation of dark chocolate panna cotta. If you fancy a peek at the food fest, here are some highlights:

Burlington paella

The Burlington's deconstructed 'paella'

Burlington morcilla

Earthy, crumbly morcilla with scallops and peperonata

Burlington salmon

Pan-friend New Zealand king salmon. Check out the midnight-black squick in gnocchi!

Burlington pavlova

A super-smooth pav with a spritzy 'strawberry soda' foam. What's not to love?

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The Robots Are Coming! – Robo Cog cafe

It’s been a disastrous month for breakfast in Sydney, with two of my favourite new cafes closing their brekkie business. First there was Redfern’s Moose General Store, which got rolled by Sydney City Council over its sidewalk seating, then Chalmers Street’s Eat House decided serving breakfast and lunch was too much and started focusing on dinners only.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce a week-old newcomer in Surry Hills called Robo Cog – as in robots and bicycle cogs. A natural combination, no? Well, the robots appear to be a bit of a fascination by the Bangkok boys (with unfairly cool names like “House” and “Jet”) who run this new café, with toy robots invading the shelving and various robot motifs on display, from the walls to the bathrooms.

Then there’s the cycling element, which is equally inspired. The operators are bike geeks who have been running a neighbourhood bike repair and maintenance service just down the road. In a beautiful, blatant lack of commercial viability, they work on bikes or help people service their own two-wheelers and charge – wait for it – a$3 donation for the honour. In a materialistic city like Sydney, such a transaction may cause people to feel like they’ve woken up in Bizarro World. In the café, there are bicycles hung along the brick walls, a weekly feature that rotates bikes by customers who want to store and show off their pedallers.

Many locals might not have even noticed Robo Cog’s arrival, as it subtly took over a cottage on Riley Street that has long operated as one the city’s worst cafés in one of the city’s best café spaces. No longer. Not only do the Thai barrisas pour a sweet cappuccino, but they’re also roasting their own coffee on premise, using North Ryde’s Green Bean beans. The house blend is a mix of Ethiopian and… erm, something else that I can’t remember, with a fruity, nutty taste that’s solid, although I get the sense that they’re still working out the best roasting process. With such passion about, it feels like it’s just a matter of time. The crew also showed me a bag of coffee beans grown in Chang Rai, in Thailand’s north, which they’re experiment with for a unique espresso option.

The other clincher with Robo Cog is the price. Food starts here a gold-coin prices and then tops out at $9. At most Surry Hills cafes, that will buy you toast, but here it gets you a full-fledged breakfast. I started with a bacon-egg roll that cost little more than my coffee – decent, if a bit pedestrian – and at these prices, I should be able to get through the rest of the menu in about a week. See you there tomorrow, and don’t forget to bring some change.

Robo Cog, 249 Riley St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9281 2880

Robocog Cafe on Urbanspoon

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