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:
Salad of caramelised endive, Woodside goats’ curd, spring onions and hazelnuts
Pork terrine, Pedro Ximénez & fennel puree, crispy pork belly salad
Homemade ‘morcilla’ with scallops and peperonata
Seafood ‘paella’, Crystal Bay prawns, squid, mussel and sofrito
Handmade pappardelle, char-gilled vegetables, buffalo mozzarella and basil pesto
Pan-fried NZ king salmon with squid ink gnocchi, cuttlefish & peas, aioli
Slow-roasted Castricum lamb neck & braised shoulder, heirloom baby carrots, turnips
Black Angus sirloin with a pie, parsley potato purée, onion jam & red win jus
Chocolate panna cotta with hazelnut ice cream, milk chocolate foam
Pavlova with strawberries and cream
Crème caramel with Pedro Ximénez, raisins, sabayon and praline
Crows Nest has been lucky to have inherited such a class act like The Burlington. It’s good to see the area steadlily elevating itself thanks to the rise of neighbours like MuMu Gril and perennial dim sum star, Sea Treaure – even if it did take me a bit longer than usual to notice.
At the intimate gathering was a great roundup of some of my favourite food people, including Mel Leong (Fooderati, TOYS organiser and FBI Radio food chick), Merelyn Frank (SMH Good Shopping Guide), Jane Adams (who taught me the reviewing ropes when she ran the Restaurant & Catering NSW awards), longtime friend and freelancer Deb Elkind, SBS Food’s Shelley Hepworth and SBS new media gal Aisha Hillary, 2SCR food presenter Lucy Barbour, Good Living contributor Olivia Riordan, and Huka Retreats’ Jane Corbett Jones.
Burlington Bar & Dining, 6 Burlington St, Crows Nest, NSW, www.burlingtonbardining.com.au