Criniti’s Darling Harbour, ($$)

Criniti’s, Darling Harbour

Address: Shop 461, 2-10 Darling Drive, Harbourside Shopping Centre,  Darling Harbour NSW 2000

Phone: 1300274 648

Website: http://www.crinitis.com.au/

* * *

A half day at work meant the colleagues and I headed over to Darling Harbour (via monorail) for a day of food, drinks and bonding!

The monorail ride over was something different and as I hadn’t been on a monorail in a while. I thought that it was a great way to get another view of Sydney and although windows and building facades blocked the view some of the way, there was a fantastic view of QVB and Darling Harbour from the monorail.

If only the windows were cleaner and didn’t have pictures on them, we could actually see out of them better to take photos!

I can see why they are planning to take the monorail down this year- there weren’t many people on, the tickets are a little pricey considering you could walk the distance in the same time (it is quite slow), and it is hard to take photos out the window when there are stickers and pictures on them blocking the view.

That said, I wish they would have added it on to a hop on hop off bus price and use it as a bigger tourist attraction as it is definitely a unique part of Sydney.

Atmosphere

After our monorail trip, we walked over the Pyrmont Bridge to Harbourside shopping Centre.

As always, Criniti’s restaurants are very well presented. The decor is fabulous, taking you to Italy with the large woodfired pizza ovens, exposed brickwork and football jerseys.

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The gorgeous view of Darling Harbour

On this occasion we visited during the day and sat outside. I had only ever been to Criniti’s at night so it was interesting to see what the place looked like by day.

There was plenty of bright light coming in from the balcony and while the restaurant wasn’t anywhere near as busy as it is at night, there were still quite a few tables of people around us.

Service

Service wasn’t as good as during the night. We had 2 waiters look after our table during our meal and, as we all ordered drinks and food at different times, some taking longer to peruse the menu than others (guilty!), there was some confusion over who had ordered and who had not.

Overall however, they were pleasant and professional.

Food

We all ordered a variety of things.

I went for the Chicken Skewers with Lemon & Herb seasoning. They were served with three delicious sauces which tasted like aioli, chilli and prego. They also came with a fresh half a lemon (I love lemon and the fact that they weren’t stingy with it!), and a large basket of chips which was more than enough for me.

The chicken was juicy and well-seasoned; the meat had really absorbed all the flavour of the marinade. The charred capsicum and onions added some smokiness and the crispy chips definitely hit the spot!

Despite the fact that this dish cost $36.90, which is a fair bit for a casual lunch, there was plenty of chicken in the dish, it was well-cooked, the chips were perfectly crunchy and well salted, and the sauces and dish were presented nicely on the plate. Definitely work the money!

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Others in the group ordered a variety of things including:

Beetroot, pumpkin, goats cheese and walnut salad with grilled chicken $19.90 + $9.90 for the chicken

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Pizzas from $26.50

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The Prego Burger, $21.90

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Chicken Schnitzel with chips and salad $33.90

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Grilled chicken with side salad, $29.90

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The consensus was that Criniti’s had fantastic portions, delicious food, and great presentation. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we left there very full!

Cost

All of our meals + soft drinks came to about $310.

Rating

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

  • Service- 6.5
  • Food- 8.5
  • Ambience- 6
  • Value – 7.5

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Euro Taste Cafe, Top Ryde ($)

Address: Corner Devlin Street and Blaxland Road, Ryde NSW

Tel: (02) 9808 1268

Website: http://www.toprydecity.com.au/dining-a-entertainment/restaurants/item/eurotaste-cafe

Opening Hours: 

8am – 11pm – 7 days a week

* * *

MC and I had originally been hoping to go to Hurricanes in Top Ryde. However, once we got there we found that it was packed out and we would have to wait one hour to get a table.

We decided it definitely was not worth the wait and walked around the restaurants and cafes looking for somewhere to eat. I had already been to Kazbah before, had eaten at Red Spoon Thai in Castle Hill the night before, and had tried The Poets and Sushi Roll previously. We wanted something different and eventually we settled on Euro Taste.

Despite the name, Euro Taste appears to be run by Asians. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but just don’t expect very authentic European food.

The fare is the typical Italian style foods with classics including pizzas, pastas, schnitzel, steaks and grilled salmon.

Atmosphere

There were quite a few people around and the restaurant was busy but as it was a cold night and the only source of heating were the patio heaters, I think most people were just trying to get warm. Euro Taste doesn’t really have much indoor space, it’s mainly outdoors but covered with a pergola. It’s not too bad but some better insulation and cool music would help (listening to Get Lucky by Daft Punk now and thinking that some of this wouldn’t be amiss there :p).

Service

Service was OK. Our waitress didn’t say much and was a bit inattentive. I did notice a male waiter who was very helpful to both his own customers and to us when we needed something.

Food

There was a special deal where you could get a free garlic bread or garlic pizza and we decided to take advantage of it by ordering one of each.

While the garlic bread was pretty average, the garlic pizza was surprisingly good. Not surprisingly because it was garlic pizza (everyone knows that garlic pizza is amazing), but surprising because I didn’t expect this small and (to be honest) pretty cheap cafe to have such great garlic pizza. It was hot, cheesy (could always do with more though- especially around the edges), very garlicky and had a delicious soft base.

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MC ordered the steak with Pepper Sauce – which was quite peppery. The steak was tasty and quite well cooked, although perhaps a little too well done to be medium-well.

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My grilled salmon with chips and salad was delicious. The salmon was well cooked, hot and slightly buttery, if a little small. The salad was refreshing AND colourful on the plate and the chips were generous, well salted and crunchy.

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Overall, a pretty good meal for under $50.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5
  • Food- 7
  • Ambience- 6
  • Value –7.5

Sicilian, Parramatta ($$)

Address: 292 Church St Parramatta NSW

Tel: (02) 9633 2299

Website: http://www.sicilianparramatta.com.au/our-venues/

* * *

I received an email not long ago from Ms Gomesz of Sicilian in Parramatta, inviting me to visit the restaurant to try out some of the dishes from the new menu.

I had heard of the Sicilian before but had never actually visited it so I was intrigued and agreed to come in with MC to check it out.

Atmosphere

We had a booking for around 7.15pm on a Friday night.

As expected, Parramatta was just beginning to get busy and we were lucky to nab a spot in the carpark in Erby Place, just behind the restaurant.

We entered the restaurant from the back and I was impressed with the clean and elegant exterior of the restaurant, even from the back entrance.

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The lovely Ms Gomesz gave us a choice of seating and we chose a booth towards the front of the restaurant, which gave us a good view of one of the TV screens around the restaurant, whilst still having a bit of privacy.

We were also near the pizza kitchen, which was a small separate area that was sectioned off from the rest of the kitchen.  The pizza kitchen had a large wood-fire oven for the pizzas and there were two Chefs preparing piping hot pizzas in an unusual shape (see below!).

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The atmosphere at Sicilian was fantastic. It was a Friday night and the restaurant was as any great restaurant should be on a Friday night: busy. There were TV screens showing everything from football to the Discovery Channel, music playing in the background, the sizzling noises of hot food being prepared in the kitchen and the happy chatter of satisfied customers relaxing after a long week.

MC and I felt comfortable in the busy environment and enjoyed looking around at the beautiful paintings on the roof and walls and the Southern Italian styled decor.

Service

Well what can I say about service?

MC commented that it was “the best service he has ever had”, and I have to agree.

Right from the beginning staff were friendly and helpful.  We always felt well looked after without feeling annoyed about being bothered or “checked on” every 5 minutes.

Our waiter (I think his name was Enrique?!) was extremely professional, friendly and seemed quite experienced.

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Food

We soon ordered drinks, with MC going for his usual cider (the only choice was Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider– $8.00).

I chose a refreshing cocktail, the “Woo Woo”.

This was a beautifully presented and absolutely delicious tropical cocktail containing vodka, peach schnapps, lime and cranberry.

It was served in a tall glass with a slice of pineapple on the side, which was a nice touch.

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Woo Woo, $10.00 (all day)

We began the meal with an entree of Arancini Balls with Aioli.

The arancini were mouth-wateringly good. The exterior was crunchy and perfectly golden but it was the inside which was the best part. The rice was cooked al dente and was full of flavour and the small vegetables and gooey cheese contributed to an interesting texture.

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Arancini, $11.90

For the main event we decided to get a side of Sauteed Seasonal Vegetables to get those vitamins in!

I loved that the veggies were bright and colourful, containing carrot, gorgeous baby potatoes, roasted capsicum, broccolini and beans.

Although MC isn’t a big veggie person and HATES capsicum, I managed to get him to try a piece of the sweet roasted capsicum and (dare I say it?) he actually didn’t mind it!

I thought the veggies were well cooked, until just done, and were bright and well presented.  They were a great side dish to complement the other dishes we ordered.

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Sauteed Vegetables, $6.90

MC’s choice for mains was a wood fire Agnello pizza.

This delicious specimen was made of succulent spit roasted lamb, barbecue onions, slightly salty feta, delicious creamy pumpkin slices and a handful of rocket tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

Not a fan of rocket, MC picked it all off. Despite his comment that “it would be better without the leaves”, he really enjoyed the pizza and commented that the lamb was really tasty.

The star of this dish for me however, was the delicious base. The base was soft and tasted slightly of sourdough.

The crust was amazing and while I would normally eat most of a pizza and keep the crust aside, I absolutely loved this one!

I am not big on lamb but I did really enjoy the tender meat in this pizza and it was perfectly balanced by the sweet onion and creamy cheeses.

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Agnello pizza, $27.90

My choice was the Moreton Baia Bugs.

As I am sure you know, I love seafood. I take any opportunity available to choose dishes which feature crab, prawns or other shellfish.

This particular dish was well presented and contained two grilled marinated Moreton Bay bugs on a basil infused mash with roasted vegetables and Sicilian’s citrus hollandaise sauce.

The bugs were delicious and juicy, not overcooked at all.

MC had never had bugs before but enjoyed prawns and crab on previous occasions.  He and I both enjoyed the subtle flavours of the bugs, which were fresh and warm, together with the tangy Sicilian sauce and lemon juice.

The one thing I did not like about this dish however, was the mash and vegetables.

I felt the mash was very dense and heavy and the dish would have been better with a fresh salad on the side and perhaps some roasted potatoes instead.

Apart from that, we both enjoyed the dish and I was glad I chose it.

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Moreon Baia Bugs, $34.90

After clearing our plates, our friendly waiter brought out the dessert menu on a rustic looking clipboard.

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By this stage MC and I were feeling pretty full so we decided to skip out on a full dessert, which included sticky date puddings, tiramisu and cannoli.

Instead, MC went for an Affogato, an espresso shot served with a shot of ice cream.

While the ice cream was a little icy (perhaps the freezer needs to be turned down a bit?), the espresso was delicious and together they made for a wonderfully invigorating combination.

MC who is not normally a coffee drinker, really enjoyed the affogato and perhaps has acquired a taste for sweet, Italian coffee?

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Affogato, $6.00

I went for one of my favourite post- meal teas, Peppermint. Peppermint tea is soothing and great to freshen up your breath after a garlic-laden meal. It is also known to aid digestion and is quite healthy when enjoyed without sugar.

The tea was served in a cute cut with an individual tea pot and was a nice way to round off the meal.

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Peppermint tea, $4.00

Summary

Overall, MC and I had a wonderful meal at the Sicilian.

The service was the best we have had in a while and we were made to feel comfortable and welcomed, in true Italian style.

Food was tasty, if a little expensive.  The pizza was delicious and next time I would like to try some of the other types available, and perhaps a pasta dish as well.

I will be returning and I would recommend this place to locals looking for a great venue for a date night or family gathering (there is also a large function space at the back of the restaurant!).

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 9
  • Food-  7.5
  • Ambience-  7.5
  • Value – 7.5

TCFB and MC dined as guests of The Sicilian, thanks to Ms Gomesz.

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Fratelli Fresh, Bridge Street Sydney ($$)

Address: 11 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 8298 2700

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

Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri 10.00 am -7.00 pm

* * *

A reunion with some of my friends from law school brought me to FINALLY try Fratelli Fresh in Sydney’s CBD.  I’d heard a lot about this place and was keen to see what it was all about.

Atmosphere

Fratelli is located just off Bridge Street and you need to walk down a small, dark set of stairs to get to the actual restaurant. As it is underground, it has a sort of “cellar-ish” vibe to it with mood lighting, lots of wood and some interesting chalk board menus placed around the restaurant.

The space also serves as a providore which sells some of Fratelli’s sauces, fresh fruit and vegetables and pasta, among other things.

At the front of the restaurant is the kitchen with a wood-fire oven, where the pizza is made. The front seating area has some tables and chairs,while the back bar area has some (very uncomfortable  high tables and chairs which I found difficult to sit on. Bar stools and bench tops line the kitchen and bar areas all around the restaurant. 

Overall the space is quite nice, with a warm and inviting feel to it. The space is large and the cellar atmosphere makes it a cosy space in which you can enjoy some after work drinks and home-style food.

Service

I arrived at the restaurant at 5.40pm, 20 minutes before the scheduled meeting time with my friends. I was hoping to find a little corner to sit in and read my book (Anna Karenina btw) while I waited.

I stood in line beside the “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign and despite there being two wait staff members chatting nearby, I did not receive any attention. I waited there for about 2-3 minutes (seemed like 5-10) while the waiters walked around organising themselves. Eventually one girl came over to me and said she would get the manager. I would have been happy with a “Good evening, we’re a little busy setting up but someone will be with you shortly.” But no. Eventually the manager came over, wrote my name down on her list and a waitress led me to a table.

Despite the shaky start, our waitress during dinner was lovely. She was friendly and helpful and despite the fact that we weren’t always able to get her attention when we wanted it (I’ll excuse that as the restaurant was very busy), she accommodated any requests we made.

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Food

Food was rustic and home-style. The menu was a bit tricky to read for non-Italian speakers but would be alright for those who, like me, know some food-related Italian words (such as formaggi!).

We ordered two sides to share between us: the Chips and the Raddichio with dressing. The chips were delicious thick-cut chips which were golden, piping hot and perfectly salted-delicious. The radicchio was beautiful and colourful, with fresh and crunchy leaves. The bitterness of the leaves was great against the tangy dressing. My only complaint would be that the leaves were so large which made it difficult to eat, but this is a minor complaint.

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I ordered the Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni. This dish came under the “Primi” options (first course/entree) on the menu so it was a smallish serving. Plenty for me but not enough for a big eater such as my brother. The lamb was soft and tender, the pasta al dente and the sauce tomato-ey. The dish was well presented and topped with parmesan cheese. Not an amazing dish but quite satisfying.

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My friend SB ordered from the main menu, chicken schnitzel with coleslaw. It was quite a small serving and the chicken was quite dry as it was very thin. The coleslaw had beautiful colours and was well presented and tasty.

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heetz ordered the Orecchiette with mushrooms, smashed peas and mint. Orecchiette is a sort of thumb print shaped pasta which means “little ears”. While the subtle mint flavour and creamy peas made for an interesting dish, Sheetz unfortunately received shell pasta and linguine instead of orecchiette, which was disappointing. We weren’t told that there was no orecchiette and that she would get a different pasta, we were just served a different kind with no apologies. Even more disappointing, there were only about two mushrooms in the dish!

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Vegetarian PS ordered the risotto with mushrooms, taleggio and marsala. I tried a little and was delighted with the dish. It was well -cooked, creamy, and the most flavoursome dish of them all. A very good option for vegetarians who like Italian food.

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For dessert we ordered two dishes to share between us.

The first was the Torta Banoffee- banoffee pie. If you don’t know what a Banoffee Pie is check out this link (you can thank me later). I expected an individual sized tart piled high with banana and oozing caramel. What we got was quite different. We received a slice of the tart instead of an individual sized serving which, I think, doesn’t look that great on the plate. The biscuit base was quite hard to cut through and there was only one thin layer of banana. While the caramel tasted nice, it wasn’t gooey and oozing out as I had hoped. The cream tasted a bit like banana however, which added to the flavour of the dish overall.

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Our second dessert option was the Mango and white chocolate semifreddo with fresh mango and meringue. This dish was quite nicely presented with cute mini meringue buttons on top and a gorgeous glossy sauce on the plate. The semifreddo had a creamy mango flavour and there were generous serves of fresh mango on top of it which livened up the dish a lot. The sauce was sweet and tangy and the meringues added some texture and bite. A delicious dessert which I really enjoyed.

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Summary

Overall, not a bad restaurant. Service at the door could be improved a little by friendlier staff and more attention to customers. There is a lot of variety in the dining options and the food is cooked well and presented nicely. Great dessert menu and cool interior. Would definitely recommend this place!

Cost

The bill came to $140.00 – $35.00 pp (excluding drinks).

Rating:

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

    • Service- 6.5
    • Food- 7.5
    • Ambience- 7.5
    • Value – 7.5

Café Sopra at Fratelli Fresh on Urbanspoon

Gelato Messina, The Star Sydney CBD ($)

Address; Shop 1/241 Victoria St  Darlinghurst NSW

Tel: (02) 8354 1223

Website: http://www.gelatomessina.com/

* * *

After dinner at Criniti’s with my colleagues, we headed over to Gelato Messina in Pyrmont for dessert.

We were all really full from lunch but wanted to check out the flavours and see what was on offer.

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The quantities and amazing flavours on show made all of us drool and it wasn’t long before the three girls were umming and ahhing over them, eventually choosing two scoops each.  The one boy in the group went for a limoncello sorbet in a cone.

I chose dulce de leche which was delicious and caramelly, creamy and slightly bitter, and The Guido which was a rich chocolate flavour with amaretto.

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Both were fabulous but after eating about 1.5 scoops, I couldn’t have any more! They were very rich and a bit too much for one person to have after a huge lunch.

That said, they were really nice and although I normally go for fruity ice creams and sorbets, I did not regret the rich chocolatey flavours that I chose this time around!

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Criniti’s, Darling Harbour ($$)

Address: Level 2, Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour

Tel: 1300 274 648

Website: http://www.crinitis.com.au/gift-voucher-darling-harbour.html

* * *

My friend, MDS was telling me how she had never been to Criniti’s before. I couldn’t believe it as it seemed like exactly the type of place she would love.

We decided to head over there for dinner and were lucky enough to get a table despite the fact that it was busy (it being a Friday night).

Atmosphere

Criniti’s always has a fabulous atmosphere. I’ve dined here previously and it’s always been a great experience. There is something about the loud music, flaming pizza ovens and good looking Italian waiters that adds to the party vibe at Criniti’s.

On top of that, the restaurant is nearly always busy and has a great cosy feel to it. The locations- near busy hot spots like Darling Harbour and Parramatta make it easy for people to get to, and the food- crowd-pleasing-Italian, appeals to a wide range of tastes.

Service

Service is always excellent. MDS and I had one waiter who took our orders throughout the night and other waitstaff cleared the plates for us. Our waiter was polite but not very friendly and talkative. He was however, very professional and the food came out quickly and with no hiccups.

Food

MDS and I decided to order a few dishes to share.

First up was pasta. We ordered the Parpadelle Palizzi- homemade parpadelle pasta, king prawn cutlets, pancetta, basil, garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes. The pasta was delicious. Fresh and soft pasta, well-cooked prawns and fresh tomatoes. The sauce was rich and thick, the prawns plentiful and the smoky bacon perfect with the fresh basil!

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The wedges were out little guilty side order- an alternative to salad :p. We really enjoyed them as they were crunchy, hot and served in a cute little basket which we both loved. A great snack to munch on while waiting for food or as an entree or side dish.

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The Fat Joe’s Schiacciata was delicious. The bread was doughy and soft yet cooked through, the buffalo mozzarella cheese inside was melting and gooey, the salami and olives were salty and tangy, and the herbs and sea salt added the finishing touches. My favourite part of this dish was the soft bread and melting cheese. My least favourite part was that it was a little too salty. Nonetheless a fantastic dish, full of flavour.

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Here’s a photo of the inside of the schiacciata:

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Cost:

The meal came to about $35pp.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-6.5
  • Food-7.5
  • Ambience-8.5
  • Value –7.5

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GPK, Castle Hill ($$)

Address: Shop 10 Castle Towers, Old Northern Road, Castle Hill NSW

Tel: (02) 9894 5900

Website: http://www.gotogpk.com.au/

* * *

A reunion with some of my closest high school friends meant a trip to Gourmet Pizza Kitchen in Castle Hill. We all enjoyed the delicious food and had a great time reminiscing about the past and celebrating Niki’s engagement.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere at Castle Towers’ Piazza is always very good. The Piazza is filled with plenty of great restaurants, cafes and dessert spots. On a Friday night it was suitably busy and the atmosphere in GPK was one of pre-weekend relaxation and enjoyment!

Service

Service was really good, we had a friendly waiter and out meals were brought out quickly.

Food

We ordered a variety of dishes, to share, as well as beers and soft drinks.

Pizzas:

First up we ordered the Geneva which contained pepperoni slices, crispy bacon, semi-dried tomato, mushrooms, capsicum, red onions & cheese served on GPK’s tomato sauce. The pizza base was perfect and there was a good amount of topping on the pizza. A very flavoursome pizza, great for salami lovers!

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Geneva, $23.50

The Marrakesh pizza had chicken breast fillets marinated with Moroccan spices & char-grilled eggplant served on GPK’s tomato sauce, topped with herbed yoghurt, fresh parsley & a wedge of lemon. The tangy lemon and herbed yoghurt, paired with the chicken and eggplant was a great combination.

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Marrakesh, $22.90

The Kathmandu pizza was an Indian-styled pizza with chicken breast fillets marinated with tandoori spices & fresh broccoli served on a curry coconut sauce, topped with a mango chutney, herbed yoghurt & fresh parsley. The mango chutney was so sweet and I really loved that part of the pizza. I wasn’t a big fan of the broccoli on this pizza however, as I thought it was a bit unusual in an Indian pizza.

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Kathmandu, $23.50

The Saigon pizza was tasty and sweet, with a delicious soy-based dressing. This was Niki’s favourite pizza, and I thought it was probably one of the better pizzas I tried as well. It contained tiger prawns with a light honey teriyaki sauce served on Asian pesto, and topped with fresh coriander.

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Saigon, $23.50

Pastas:

The Chilli Prawn Pasta was one of my favourite dishes. It was quite spicy which made it a standout in terms of flavour and impact. There was a good amount of prawns in the dish, and a large serving of pasta. I would have liked to see some more green, perhaps some fresh herbs, and maybe a wedge of lemon on top, but overall this was my favourite dish.

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Chilli Prawn Pasta, $18.90

The Basil Pesto Pasta was absolutely delicious. It had plenty of pinenuts, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and crumbly feta. A few rocket leaves added some colour to the dish. This would even be great as a main dish for one.

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Basil Pesto Pasta, $17.90

Salad:

The salad we ordered was just a side to balance out all the pizza. It was quite tasty and included rocket & semi dried tomatoes, tossed in a balsamic & olive oil dressing, topped with roasted pinenuts & shaved parmesan. MC is not a big fan of rocket and so he didn’t touch the salad but I enjoyed the semi-dried tomatoes and roasted pinenuts in this dish.

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Rocket and Parmesan Salad, $12.90

Cost:

The meal came to $30.00 each, which was $180.00 all up. Not bad for such a feast!

Rating:

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

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

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