Darley’s Restaurant @ Lilianfel’s, Katoomba ($$$$)

Address: Lilianfels Avenue, Katoomba NSW

Tel: (020 4780 1200

Email: reservations@lilianfels.com.au

Website: http://www.darleysrestaurant.com.au/about.html

Opening Hours:  6.00pm – 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday

* * *

One Saturday in summer, MC and I decided to go for a drive up to the Blue Mountains to check out Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels.

We spent the day in the Mountains and checked out some of the usual tourist spots, including the Three Sisters (below).

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Atmosphere

After a long afternoon exploring, we headed over to Lilianfels.

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Lilianfels is a luxury Blue Mountains resort, located around the corner from some of the main attractions in Katoomba.

It features beautiful manicured gardens, tennis courts, flowers, fountains, pools and five star accommodation.

Have a look at some of our pictures of the grounds:

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Darley’s is a multi-award winning hatted restaurant located in a world heritage listed area.

The restaurant was named after Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of New South Wales.  It is situated in the original Lilianfel’s house, which Darley built for his daughter Lilian, on 11 acres of land that he bought in August 1888.

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Upon entering the restaurant, you are immediately transported to another era.

A beautiful and elegant hallway featuring a bright chandelier and extravagant wallpaper leads you from the door to the private dining room, the drinks room and the dining rooms.

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Hallway

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Private dining area

MC and I were soon seated by the window overlooking the beautiful flower garden, on what had once been Darley’s verandah, but had now become a covered and air-conditioned dining area.

Service

Service was exceptional.

Our lovely waitress was very easy going yet extremely professional. She explained the menu and our choices for the three course dinner with knowledge and confidence.

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First we ordered our drinks, followed by entrees and mains, and then, dessert.

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Our water glasses were always filled up and we didn’t feel pestered to buy more drinks or order more, unlike other places I have been to.

Overall it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

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Food

We were served some delicious soft and warm, locally-baked bread with herbed butter that was slightly salty, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth-good.

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The bread was fantastic and we already knew we were off to a good start!

Next up we were served the amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche means literally, “mouth amuser” in French. It is served as a means to prepare a guest for a meal and get their appetite going, whilst giving them a look into the Chef’s inspiration and direction for the meal.

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This amuse-bouche was a cucumber jelly with fresh salmon. It was light, cold and superbly refreshing. The perfect way to cleanse and prepare the palate for the flavours to come.

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For the entree I chose the Poached Queensland Spanner Crab, Dashi Custard, Fennel Puree, Asparagus Shitake Mushrooms.

The crab was perfectly cooked and the woody mushrooms and silky, delicate custard were in contrast with the crunchy asparagus.

A delightful dish which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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MC chose the Slow Cooked Pork Jowl, Maltose Crackling, Seared Scallop, Cauliflower Custard, Roasted Cauliflower and Shellfish Sauce.

Of course, we tried some of each other’s dishes and I loved how the crackling was crunchy and sweet, light a sheet of toffee, and the scallop was crunchy and golden.

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My choice for the main was the Kanimbla Valley Lamb Loin, Smoked Eggplant, Chickpea Puree, Harissa, Cracked Wheat, Cumin and Coriander seed Infused Lamb Jus.

Presentation was exquisite and the shapes on the plate created a fancy piece of artwork that was vibrant and interesting.

The diagonal grain on the lamb was so neat and the meat was perfectly cut.

The eggplant had a deep flavour and the fresh bursts of cumin and coriander broke up the creaminess of the chickpea puree.

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MC chose the Roast Fillet of Cape Grim Beef, Sarladaise Potato, Heirloom Carrots, Cauliflower Cream, Confit Shallots, Horseradish Butter, Red Wine Jus.

He upgraded to the local wagyu beef, with a marble score of 9+ for an additional $10.  And boy was it worth it. This was the best meat I have ever eaten. It was well cut, perfectly cooked (medium well, the way we like it), and so tender and juicy. It just melted in your mouth.

The vegetables were neatly cut and tidily presented, and looked cute on the plate despite being standard cauliflower, carrots and potato.

The horseradish butter and red wine jus were just the right strength to compliment the meat without overpowering it.

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For dessert I couldn’t go past the dish that combined three of my favourite fruits: mango, lychee and passionfruit.

I chose the Toasted Coconut Parfait, Mango Sorbet, Italian Meringue, Fresh mango, Passionfruit and Lychee Salad.

Apart from being, well, beautiful, the mango was very fresh, just perfectly ripe yet still firm, and still sweet.

The lychee was fresh but a little sparse, and the fresh passionfruit added some tang, complimenting the creamy meringue and the cool sorbet.

Definitely one of the most beautiful tropical dishes I have seen.

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Popcorn lover MC went for the ‘Mena Creek’, Zokoko Chocolate Mousse, Salted Caramel Fudge, popcorn Ice Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb.

The dish was lovely, so well presented and such a wonderfully inspired combination of flavours.

The popcorn ice cream was salty and tasted a little buttery, with real popcorn to add some crunch.  The mousse was light and fluffy, delicious with the sweet cookie crumb, and the dark chocolate piece was beautiful and crunchy.

Sooooo goood!

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Cost:

The three course meal on Saturday was $125 per person. Wagyu beef was an extra $10 upgrade.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  9.5
  • Food-  9.5
  • Ambience- 9
  • Value – 8

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Alpha, Sydney CBD ($$)

Address: 238 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9098 1111

Website:

* * *

Upon my return from Sri Lanka and Singapore, MDS and I organised a dinner to catch up on all the goss and happenings of the past three weeks.

We decided to give Alpha a go as we had been wanting to try it out for a while.

I emailed the restaurant to try to make a booking for 5.30pm, but received a response saying that they only open at 6.00pm and were booked out that night (a Thursday). They mentioned that they leave the bar seats open for walk-ins and suggested we give that a go.

MDS and I had a drink at Strattons nearby and then headed over to Alpha to grab a seat at the bar.

Atmosphere

The exterior is fresh and elegant with the blue and white facade reflecting the beautiful buildings of the same colours in Greece. As the restaurant is new, everything has that lovely clean and modern look and the furniture also reflects this with resort-style modern cane chairs, big cushions and plenty of marble and stone accents.

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MDS and I both thought the restaurant was tastefully decorated and the bar area with bottles of alcohol and jars of olives and pickled lemon added some colour and excitement to the space.

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Service

Service was fantastic.

From the minute we sat down our waiter was helpful, friendly and polite.

We started off with our fave, LLBs.

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He explained to us that the amount of food we had ordered might be a little too much as the Spanakopita was quite a large dish, and he suggested we order one less item.  I have never had a waiter say that to me before as it is usually in the interests of the restaurant for guests to order more. Needless to say we appreciated his honesty and his advice proved to be true as we still had some Spanakopita left over after ordering one less item!

Food came out quickly and we had a uneventful meal.

Food

We ordered a number of dishes to share.

To start off, we had the Pita Bread ($2.00 per person) with Taramosalata ($10.00).

The Pita was soft, slightly garlicky, and drizzled lightly with olive oil. It was delicious, and much better than the pita we had at Xanthi in Westfields.

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Next was the Ouzu Ocean Trout ($11.00).  We didn’t really read the menu properly and when the dish came out as raw fish, MDS was a bit reluctant to try it as she isn’t a raw fish person.

Fortunately the fennel, sumac onions, grapefruit and pomegranate freshened up the dish a bit and MDS was able to try the trout and salad together. She said she didn’t mind it too much.

I really enjoyed the fresh and smooth trout and the crunchy fennel salad.

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Next up were the Soutsoukakia Greek Meatballs ($11.00) with red wine, tomato and cumin.

They came presented in a small bowl with three long meatballs covered in a thick sauce and topped with fresh herbs. MDS commented that there wasn’t enough sauce for the meatballs, and I agreed.  We both enjoyed them nonetheless as the meatballs were tender and flavoursome with a strong cumin taste.

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We ordered a Spanakopita ($16.00), a traditional Greek spinach and feta pie.

The Spanakopita takes about 25 minutes to come out as it is baked upon order. We knew this when we ordered and were OK with it as we could enjoy the other dishes first.

The dish was well presented in a cute little flat (and very hot) pan.  It had a beautiful crispy and golden crust and the filling was the perfect proportion of spinach and feta with a good amount of salt.

MDS and I both had two pieces each and would have had more if we could have fit it in 🙂

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Overall, Alpha is a great new venue, perfect for business or pleasure with its modern and elegant interior and excellent service.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 8.5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 8
  • Value – 7.5

Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Mr Wong, Sydney CBD ($$)

Address: 3 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9240 3000

Website: 

* * *

Mr Wong is one of Sydney’s popular Asian restaurants, located conveniently in the Sydney CBD.  It is just a little bit posh, but not overly expensive so as to deter the normal Sydney-sider looking for a decent feed at a reasonable price.

MDS, Wallace and I decided to check it out one evening after work.  After walking around for about 5 minutes trying to find the place, we eventually came to the entrance.

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Atmosphere

Mr Wong is a bit of a dark and brooding sort of place, with dim lighting and oriental accents such as china plates hanging on the walls.

It is an interesting mix of a bar/pub and a modern Chinese restaurant.

The downstairs area (where we sat) was more like a bar as the bar covered almost a whole wall along one side of the room.  The upstairs was more like a restaurant, although you could see the BBQ ducks hanging in the kitchen from the seating area, adding a more authentic market feel.

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As it is pretty popular, the large crowd added to the atmosphere but without the chitter chatter, it would be quite dull. 

Service

Service was quite good. All the staff members took time to ask us if we wanted drinks or food, to explain the menu and to take our orders. That is, when they were with us.

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When they left and we wanted to get their attention it was a little more difficult, especially with the large group seated behind us, who were taking up most of their attention.

Food didn’t take too long to arrive generally, with the exception of the steamed rice.  We were very disappointed that the steamed rice we ordered came out right at the end of our meal, after we had eaten almost all of the other dishes.

Food

We ordered a couple of dishes to share between us, and white rice to eat them with.

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First up we ordered Five Spice Pork Belly ($26.00).

The pork belly was so soft and moist and the crackling was so crunchy and crisp. It was a perfect combination with the sweet and sour spiced sauce. We all really enjoyed this pork and I have to say it was right up there with some of the best pork belly I have had, in part due to the delicious dark sauce.

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We also ordered the Asparagus, Broccoli and Sugar Snap Peas with garlic and rice wine ($19.00).  The veggies were green and cooked just enough to be crunchy but still cooked through. They were coated in a slightly oily rice wine which made them a little slippery.

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The Salt & Pepper Lamb Cutlets with fennel and cumin ($32.00 for four) were definitely the star of the show. On recommendation from Wallace who had been to Mr Wong previously, we decided to give it a go, and we were not disappointed.

The crust was crunchy and perfectly seasoned and the lamb was tender and slightly pink on the inside. The presentation was beautiful and as we ordered an extra two cutlets, there was plenty of food for the three of us!

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The white rice came out right at the very end and we were almost finished eating by that point. That said, the rice was tasty (I have a thing for steamed rice), and was well presented in a cute bamboo styled container.

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Overall, the food was very good. We only ordered a few dishes between us to share but we were all pleased with each dish.

The only issue we had during the night was with service being a bit slow.

I would recommend giving Mr Wong a go if you are looking for a different take on the usual Chinese fare.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 6.5
  • Value – 7

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

The Cook’s Garden, Turramurra ($)

Address: 272 Bobbin Head Rd  North Turramurra NSW

Tel: (02) 9144 5086

Website: http://www.thecooksgarden.com.au/

* * *

I had heard good things about this place and had been wanting to visit for some time.

Prowsey and I finally got the chance one Saturday afternoon as we headed up to North Turramurra to check it out.

Atmosphere

As it was the afternoon the atmosphere was pretty quiet and calm, really serene.

The interior is decorated with lots of wood panelling and neutral colours like whites and greens and you can see the little garden at the back which is a nice touch, but the front view of the street is quite boring.

The tables were nicely set up and as we were dining the waitress was preparing them up for dinner service.

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The Cook’s Garden proved to be a good spot to have a chat as apart from Prowsey and I, there were only two other ladies at the restaurant.

Service

We stepped into the little chocolate and cake shop at the front of the restaurant and waited about 5 minutes before someone came to the front of the shop to greet us.

We decided to have a tea and cake each and ordered and paid at the front counter before taking our own seats by the window.

There really wasn’t much to the service. We didn’t have any amazing waiters or friendly smiles. We just ordered, our tea and cakes were brought out and that’s it.  As we were leaving however, a friendly gentleman at the front of the shop did thank us for coming and was quite nice but other than that it was a really average experience.

Food

Prowsey and I both ordered English Breakfast teas and Persian Polenta cakes.

The Persian Polenta cakes were delicious. They were moist and very orangey, had a lovely mini-sized presentation and were slightly sticky. Delicious.

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Persian Orange Polenta Cake

While the tea was also tasty and quite nice, the cups they were served in were a little stained and chipped. Not very good presentation for a place which supposedly has a couple of Good Food Chef Hats!

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English Breakfast Tea

Cost

The tea cost $4.00.

There are a variety of cakes available at the front of the restaurant.

Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5.5
  • Food-  7
  • Ambience- 6.5

The Cook's Garden on Urbanspoon

Felix, Sydney CBD ($$$)

Address: 2 Ash Street, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9240 3000

Website: http://merivale.com.au/felix

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday 12:00pm – 3:00pm; and 5:30pm – 10:30pm

Saturday 5:30pm – 10:30pm

Sunday 12:00pm – 3:00pm; and 5:30pm – 10:00pm (kitchen closes at 9pm)

* * * 

Felix is a French-styled restaurant located near Sydney’s popular Ivy and Ash Street Cellar   Wine Bar (both Merivale establishments). It’s located close to Wynyard Station and Martin Place, making it well-placed to attract business people from the surrounding offices and those looking for a high quality dining experience.  My friend Fitness Fanatic and I were members of the latter.

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Atmosphere

Friday night is undoubtedly one of the busiest days for any restaurant. Given the fact that most people don’t work on Saturday and are looking for a nice place to relax post-working week, it’s not surprising that it’s such a popular night.

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The french style decor and eclectic mix of furniture, lamps and murals added to the opulent Parisian feel. The modern french style music also contributed to the restaurant’s atmosphere, as did the busy bar nearby. The oyster bar and wine cellar on display, as well as the ability to see into the kitchen made the space more interesting and less stuffy and formal.

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Service

Fitness Fanatic managed to make a booking for us on a Thursday at 6.00pm. We initially wanted to dine at 5.30pm straight after work but unfortunately this could not be accommodatedWe arrived at 5.45pm, a little early for our 6.00pm booking. Despite FF having been told that we couldn’t get a booking for 5.30pm, there were only two other tables in the restaurant, other than ourselves.

During the night we had one waitress who took our orders and handled requests. All food was brought out by the waitstaff and drinks by the bar staff.

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Our waitress was quite friendly and said all the right things but we couldn’t help but think that she wasn’t genuinely friendly.

All in all service was quite good. Food was brought out very quickly, we never had to wait long for anything and we were paid attention when we wanted it.

Food

We decided to go with the prix fixe menu. This had two options: 2 courses for $45.00 or 3 courses for $55.00. We chose the second option.

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Drinks

I chose a lemon lime bitters (my favourite) which cost $5.00.

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Breads

To start with we were served complimentary bread with a little butter. The bread was sourdough and while it was quite tasty, the sourdough baguette was a little tough and hard to eat. We also didn’t have a side plate to eat it on which was a bit awkward :p

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Entree

For entree I chose the Twice baked Gruyere Soufflé, Rocket and Walnuts. The souffle was well presented and at first I really enjoyed it. The smell was inviting, the texture not too chunky or too soft, and the taste revealed the perfect amount of cheesiness. I love walnuts and thought the rocket was refreshing and broke up the cheesiness a bit, but would have loved something juicy on the salad such as tomatoes, orange slices or figs.

Overall, not a bad dish but it did get a little overpowering and heavy after a few mouthfuls.

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FF chose the Smoked Chicken, Frisée, Onion Compote and Crispy Fried Poached Egg. I also tried some of her dish and thought the smokiness of the chicken was quite prominent and contrasted brilliantly with the sweet compote. We were interested to see what the poached egg looked like and thought it was quite interesting to see a poached egg, which is usually something so delicate, coated in batter and fried.

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Main

For mains I found it difficult to choose between the Mulloway and the Beef cheek. Both looked inviting but I decided to go with the Pan Roasted Mulloway Provençal with Fennel, Crushed Potatoes Steamed Fennel and Soupe de Poisson as I liked the idea of the pan-fried piece of fish.

The fish was quite well presented and the Soupe de Poisson (basically a thick, colourful fish soup), was (although not very fishy) tasty and fragrant. I was provided with a spoon for the soup but didn’t need it as the fish and potatoes soaked up all the juices. The fish skin was delightfully crisp and golden and the fish was soft and flaky. The fennel which tastes basically like celery was OK but the potatoes were a little undercooked. Overall I did enjoy this dish and had the potatoes been a little more cooked, it would have been brilliant.

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FF chose the Rotisserie Spatchcock, Savoy Cabbage and Boulangere Potatoes. I tried a little of the spatchcock, despite not being a huge fan of spatchcock generally as it’s a baby chicken and I don’t like the thought of eating a chick. However I did enjoy it and although I wouldn’t order it myself I thought the dish was quite well done. The spatchcock was well-cooked and the gravy was poured on top of the chicken at the table. The boulangere potatoes, which are basically finely sliced potatoes layered and cooked in an oven for a long period of time, were one of the standouts of the dish. FF mentioned that she thought there was too much chicken and not enough cabbage. We did agree that more chicken was better than not enough and that the servings at Felix are very generous.

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Dessert

For dessert I had trouble deciding between the profiteroles, the cold fondant and the parfait.

FF chose the profiteroles: Profiteroles, Vanilla Ice-cream, Pistachio Custard and Hot Chocolate Sauce. The chocolate sauce was poured on top of the profiteroles at the table. FF really enjoyed them and I thought the pistachio custard with hot chocolate was an interesting combination and went really well together. I did, however, think that the profiteroles were a little dense.

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I ended up deciding to go with the Vanilla Parfait, Glazed Fig, Baked Meringue and Almonds. I was extremely happy with this choice as the parfait was delicious and tasted of cardamom and nutmeg. It had the texture of pashmak, and the was very interesting to try! I love figs and really enjoyed the fresh figs. I couldn’t taste any glaze on them but I thought they were delicious nonetheless. The baked meringue added a lot to the presentation of the dish and the dry, sweet texture went great with the parfait. The almonds added some extra crunch. This dish was my favourite and by far one of the best desserts I have had in a while!

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Overall we had an enjoyable evening with excellent food, generous portions, great value and good service.

Cost:

The meal came to $115.00 all up.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7
  • Food- 8.25
  • Ambience- 7.5
  • Value – 7.5

Felix Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Fat Buddha, QVB Sydney ($$)

Address: Level 2, Queen Victoria Building/455 George St Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9264 9558

Website: http://www.fatbuddha.com.au

* * *

They say it is lucky to rub a laughing buddha statue’s stomach. MDS and I decided to give the statute at the front of Fat Buddha a rub before entering for dinner with out friends. Turns out we weren’t very lucky in our choice of restaurant, but hopefully the luck shines through elsewhere!

Atmosphere

Fat Buddha is one of the more well-known restaurants in Sydney’s beautiful Queen Victoria Building. I had seen the signs advertising this restaurant around the Town Hall train station and wanted to try it out. A dinner with some of my uni friends gave us the chance to check it out.

The location of the restaurant, being in the beautiful QVB in Sydney’s CBD , is convenient and central. The interior is modern, clean and quite spacious.

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I definitely rate Fat Buddha’s aesthetics. A very elegant and formal looking restaurant.

Service

Service wasn’t great. We weren’t exactly welcomed at the door but rather, had to ask the young-looking lady at the front desk if we could do yum cha. She said yes and an older gentleman who appeared to be the owner (?) led us to a round tabel by a window.

Throughout the night service was quite poor. Yum cha orders are taken by marking on a piece of paper, which dishes you want. There isn’t much information about each dish apart from the name in English and some other details in Chinese.

At one point the staff ran out of something we ordered and brought some other dish out to us without asking if we wanted that instead. Pretty poor.

Food

The food was quite nice and although our friend, AsianChuckBass, didn’t think it was that great (he’s the expert, you know), it was quite tasty, if a little overpriced.

We ordered:

  •  Black pepper beef ribs- $9.50

These ribs weren’t very nice. It wasn’t a great cut of meat, with chewy bits of fat on it and a drippy sauce. The portion size was small, and being ribs, most of it was bones. Not a fan.

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  • BBQ Pork Buns- $6.50 (my favourite!)

These were delicious, soft and sweet yet a little spicy. Excellent, almost as good as Din Tai Fung’s! We ordered 3 of these all up.

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  • Prawn dumplings -$9.50

Prawn dumplings were delicious. Soft prawn meat, slightly salty dumpling. I loved these dumplings and thought they were just so delicious. We ended up ordering another round of these lil’ babies.

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  • Steamed Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf- $9.50 

This dish was something quite unique. It was basically some (mushroom) flavoured steamed rice with chicken, wrapped inside a lotus leaf. The leaf looks quite dry and old and not very appetising at all, but the rice itself is fragrant and smoky. Something interesting to try next time you’re at yum cha!

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  • Vegetarian dumplings- $7.50

These dumplings were soft and tasty, great with soy sauce. Small portions for the price and they don’t look very pretty, but they’re not bad.

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  • Vegetarian Spring Rolls- $7.50

The spring rolls were crunchy and great with the dipping sauces we were given. I am not a huge fan of mushroom but the mushroom was not too overpowering so it was still enjoyable.

  • Deep Fried Rice Paper Prawn- $9.50

Although delicious and crunchy with a soft interior, this dish is quite overpriced for only four wontons. Nonetheless it was one of my favourite dishes.

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Inside of the prawn wontons:3

  • Spicy Salt & Pepper Calamari -$15.90

Despite the name, this dish wasn’t spicy at all. There was quite a generous serving of it, however (possibly a good indication of portion sizes for the a la carte menu). The calamari was crispy and crunchy and had a lovely salty taste. Great dish.

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Cost

This meal cost us about $27.00 each.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

    • Service- 4.5
    • Food- 6.5
    • Ambience- 5
    • Value – 5.5

Fat Buddha Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant, Cremorne ($$)

Address: Shop 3 /362 Military Rd Cremorne NSW 

Tel: (02) 9904 5687

Website: http://woodenspoonbar.com.au/

Opening Hours: 

Tuesday -Friday: 5.00 pm till late
Saturday: 12.00 pm till late
Monday & Sunday open for Functions only

* * *

I was delighted to receive an invite from Taylor of  Foggo Gourmetto a bloggers-only event introducing Wooden Spoon’s new degustation menu. Located in Sydney’s Lower North Shore, Wooden Spoon was previously a restaurant, but has now been transformed into a modern and exciting tapas bar. The bar is the joint venture of the lovely Livia Wang, and chef, Noel Phear. 

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Exterior of the restaurant

It is conveniently located near the Hayden Orpheum, making it the perfect spot for a pre-show nibble or post-show drink. I decided to take my mum (Super Mum) along with me for a second opinion, as she is one of the best cooks I know. Super Mum’s powers include being able to whip up a 5 dish Sri Lankan meal in about an hour, and making extra-hot prawn curries, the effects of which, can only be withstood by those with equally awesome super powers!

Super Mum and I caught the bus from North Sydney Station after work. As we live near a train line we don’t often catch the bus, so we were a little anxious about how to get there. However, it was quite easy as bus stand D is situated just outside North Sydney Station, and the first bus that came along took us right in front of the bar. Getting home was another matter though, as we had to get a bus back to Wynyard Station and then a train back down the North Shore Line!

Atmosphere

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Upon arriving we were greeted by the lovely Taylor and the equally lovely Livia. Looking around the restaurant I was impressed by the cute and quirky decor. I loved the dark colours on the walls, and interesting ornaments in the bookshelves.

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The mood lighting and candles added a warm and intimate feel to what is quite a large area. 

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From the seating area you can see the bar and also see part of the kitchen where the chef was at work. It is quite a nice layout, with the bar and kitchen area located in the centre of the space instead of in the corner, where they are often found in other restaurants.

At the back of the restaurant is a more private area, probably used for functions. The space would accommodate about 40 people comfortably, and contains dining tables and chairs as well as some comfortable-looking couches. The hanging ornaments above, bring some depth to the space and make it more interesting to look at, while the cute green plants on the tables add some colour.

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Service

Taylor led us to a bar table with a couple of stools around it, where we were served some water. We were soon joined by Brenda & Belinda, sister bloggers from The Lamstock. After chatting with Taylor and the girls for a while, one of my uni friends, DK, and his co-blogger Yvonne, from Excuse Me Waiter joined us at the table.

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During the night service was great. Staff were friendly and helpful and service of the food was quick and faultless. Our used plates and cutlery were cleared away quickly and fresh ones brought out after each course. Our water was refilled and we were frequently offered drinks.

Drinks

We were served a variety of “mini cocktail tasters” including one called “Stay Classy San Diego” ($16.00), which contained sparkling wine, vodka, mint, and elderflower. As soon as I tasted this drink I knew it contained vodka, sparkling wine and mint. It was quite refreshing and very cool, as the menu suggests.

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Stay Classy San Diego

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We were then led into the back area where we were seated with all the other bloggers at a long table. This put me next to Kevin from Shiitake & Stuff, and near Viv from When the World Stops Spinning.

We were soon served up the Earl of Cremorne cocktail, featuring earl grey tea, lemon juice, rum and gin. Although Super Mum wasn’t a fan, I really enjoyed this drink and thought the rimming sugar made all the difference, sweetening what would otherwise be quite a bitter drink.

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Earl of Cremorne

Later on in the night I tried a strawberry mocktail. It was quite sweet and tasted like “fake” strawberry (perhaps frozen?). Not sure what was in it, but it did have an odd taste. I also tasted some coconut juice or water in there. Overall it was not a bad drink, but fresh strawberries would have been better.

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Strawberry Mocktail

Super Mum tried a passionfruit mocktail which was basically slightly bitter orange juice with half a passionfruit. The presentation was lovely and, once I poured the passionfruit pulp into the glass, the drink tasted quite refreshing.

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Passionfruit Mocktail

Food

The degustation menu at Wooden Spoon consists of 5 tasters for $59.00 per person, or $99.00 with matching wines. We were served a smaller version of the degustation normally served to customers, but at the end of it we were all full, so I am sure this would be more than enough for any paying customer!

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The menu

To start, we enjoyed the pan seared scallops, with ox tail sausage, pea and lemon puree, apple and pork jus. The dish was beautifully presented and the scallop was perfectly cooked, with a golden glaze on top. I have never had ox-tail sausage before but decided I would try it. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to try as I could not find where the ox tail was in the dish. I assumed it was broken up into pieces somewhere in the pea and lemon puree. I would have liked to see a nice slice of browned sausage under the scallop instead. I also couldn’t really taste much of the apple in the jus. Overall however, the scallops were beautiful and the pea and lemon puree had a lovely texture. The dish was well-presented and tasty, despite the absence of ox tail sausage.

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Next we were served my favourite dish of the evening, zucchini flowers-salt cod and potato brandade, tomato and vanilla fondue, whitebait and lime crisps. This dish was just art on a plate. It was so pretty! I couldn’t wait to eat it and. when I did. I was impressed! The white bait was well seasoned and tasted soft on the inside with a crunchy outside. The zucchini was perfectly cooked and the flower itself was coated in the most delicious crunchy batter with a soft potato mash on the inside. The acidity of the tomato was counterbalanced by the mild vanilla taste, making the perfect sauce. Absolutely delicious dish and one that you must all try!

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The pecking (did they mean peking?) duck dumplings with bamboo with ponzu sauce were next. Again, very well presented. We were served two dumplings each. This dish normally comes with prawn dumplings as well, but we did not receive them on this occasion. The dumplings were soft and moist, but I could not really taste the duck in them. This is probably a good thing as, while I have eaten duck (accidentally), I don’t like to because I used to have a pet duck. I did however taste a strong licorice-flavoured spice (anise or star anise?) which did ruin that particular mouthful. I am not generally a fan of licorice and an unexpected bite of it in a dumpling was not pleasing. Overall though it is quite a nice dish. I would have liked to try the prawn one as well!

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Finally, after a short wait, we were served the final two dishes on a wooden board: confit pork belly, butternut squash and toasted cumin puree, pickled leek and apple salad and the mini beef mignon, green lentil and speck ragout, shiraz and mustard emulsion sauce.

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Everything was exquisitely presented and looked delicious. I started with the pork. I found my pork to be soft and easy to eat, with a delicious crunchy crackling underneath. The leek and apple salad with carrot was refreshing and cut through some of that fat in the pork. I did find it quite chewy and fatty, but it is pork so that is somewhat expected. Super Mum said her pork had a piece of hard meat at the bottom and she didn’t enjoy the flavour much. As for the butternut squash and cumin puree, it was nice with the pork, but tasted a little mustardy. I would have the squash flavour to be stronger.

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The beef fillets we both got were cooked perfectly and were soft and tender, slightly pink in the middle. The bacon wrapped around it was delicious and crunchy and added some salt to the beef.  The lentil and speck ragout was tasty, as was the shiraz sauce, but the mustard emulsion tasted like mustard mixed with cream and I did not enjoy it.

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Overall the two final dishes were both tasty but minor aspects of the dishes, such as the mustard emulsion and the way the pork was cooked, affected the overall quality and flavour of the dish.

To finish off the night, mum had a latte which was very pretty and which, she said, was the perfect end to the meal.

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In summary, Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant is a great place for drinks and tapas. The food is tasty and well-presented and I can see this becoming one of the area’s most popular venues. I would definitely recommend giving this place a go!

Rating:

Overall I would rate my dining experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7.5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 7.5
  • Value – 7

If you liked this review, see here for a Q&A with co-owner Livia Wang.

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