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

Criniti’s Darling Harbour on Urbanspoon

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/

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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

Criniti’s Darling Harbour on Urbanspoon

Spiedo, Westfield Sydney ($$)

Address: Shop 6004-6005 Level 6, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 8072 9999

Website: http://www.spiedo.com.au

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MDS and I decided to visit Spiedo, located on level 6 of Westfield Sydney, for some post-work dinner and some homely Italian food.

Atmosphere

The actual layout is quite modern and funky with bright green decor and leather bound menus. There is a bar at the front of the restaurant and the actual seating area is on the other side of the kitchen, towards the back. The kitchen has an open design so that diners can see the chefs at work preparing their meals. Overall quite a nice design.

We liked the cute candles sitting in jars of elbow pasta!

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Service

Service was great and our friendly waiter was helpful and attentive. Most of the staff had heavy Italian accents as though they had come straight out of Italy to be our waiters. This added an authentic feel to the place and made our experience more interesting. Once when I looked around for our waiter to get some more water, the manager saw me looking around and quickly brought over a jug of cool water to refill our glasses- great service!

Food

We decided to share a few dishes so we could taste both pizza and pasta.

As an entree we shared the Calamari Fritti ($14.00). It was delicious and crunchy, coated in a lovely semolina crumb. However, some of the calamari was actually octopus, which I don’t eat (I don’t enjoy tentacles!!!). MDS kindly ate the octopus and I had the calamari pieces.

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For mains we decided to share the Prosciutto e Rucola pizza ($22.00) and the Spaghetti ai Gamberi ($24.00) pasta.

The Spaghetti ai Gamberi is basically spicy prawns with spaghetti. It was served with a good amount of seasoned breadcrumbs on top.

There was a large portion size and the pasta was cooked al dente. Seasoning was great and there was a good amount of prawns in the dish. My only comment would be that I would have preferred whole prawns piled on top of the pasta rather than have the prawns cut into little pieces. I ate about 1/2 of this dish on my own and MDS only had one serving, so you can tell that I really enjoyed it!

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The Prosciutto e Rucola was cooked in a wood-fire oven and the base was slightly charred and deliciously soft. There was plenty of prosciutto, shaved parmesan and rocket on the pizza. MDS really enjoyed this dish and had 2 slices. I had 1 but only because I was getting really full from the pasta. Overall a fantastic dish and I would love to try the other pizzas on offer.

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Overall

We ended up with 5 pizza slices left over, and a bit of pasta which the waiter offered to pack up for us. This shows how good the portion sizes are! We were both really full from all the food and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

The atmosphere was nice and quiet so we could have a conversation without disturbance, service was prompt and efficient and food was tasty and faultless.

Would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for some Italian in the heart of the CBD!

Cost:

The meal came to $60.00 all up, which is great value for such good service, food and portion sizes.

Rating:

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

    • Service- 6
    • Food- 8
    • Ambience- 5.5
    • Value – 7.5

Spiedo Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

 

 

Beef & Veg Lasagne (serves 6-8)

One of my favourite dishes is my dad’s famous lasagne. Many have tried and failed to get it right. 

This recipe is my own take on beef lasagne. It is nowhere near as good as my dad’s and I would never divulge his secret recipe even if I knew it -you’ll have to buy his cook book when it comes out!

I have added some vegetables for extra nourishment and flavour, you can add whatever vegetables you like or even use a different type of mince.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients: 

MEAT SAUCE:

  • 750g mince beef
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced/diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced/diced
  • 1 carrot, grated,
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 capsicum, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tin of diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to season

WHITE SAUCE:

  • 75g butter
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 2/3 cup of grated tasty cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1L milk (you can use skim milk)
  • Salt and pepper to season

PASTA:

  • Packet lasagne pasta sheets
  • Water
  • Salt

Method:

MEAT SAUCE:

1. Heat oil in a large pan and fry off garlic and onion. Add beef and cook on high until browned. Drain out some of the oil.

2. Add tin of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and vegetables and cook on medium for about 5 minutes.

Tip: vegetables such as leek and zucchini also work well. For a more Mexican twist, add a tin of mixed beans.

3. Season with some salt and pepper. Set aside.

WHITE SAUCE:

4. In a new pan, melt butter over medium heat.

5. Add onions and stir. Then add flour and stir until smooth.

6. Reduce stove to medium heat and pour in milk, stirring quickly until the mixture is smooth.

7. Add grated cheese and stir until melted.

8. Season with some salt and pepper.

PASTA:

9. Boil lasagne sheets in salted water until they are half-cooked. Spread out on a plate to cool.

Tip: make sure the lasagne sheets don’t touch when spread out on the plate to avoid them getting stuck together.

ASSEMBLY:

10. Line the bottom of an oven-proof dish with the pasta sheets. Pour a layer of the meat sauce on top, then cover with a layer of white sauce. Add another layer of pasta then repeat until the sauces are finished.

11. Finish with a layer of white sauce and top with the mozzarella cheese.

12. Bake in an oven at 180C for about 15 -20 minutes or until cheese is golden.

Serve with salad and enjoy!

Aperitivo, Leichardt ($$$)

Address: 163 Norton Street Leichardt

Tel: (02) 9564 0003

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

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I hadn’t been to Leichardt for a few years but a friend recommended this restaurant and I thought it would be good to try it out.

Atmosphere

The decor is cute and cosy and the dim lighting makes for an interesting space. The restaurant doubles as a wine bar with small high tables and stools at the front and dining tables on the sides and towards the back.

I really loved the Italian flag made out of coloured bottles near the bar as it was something I’d never seen before.

We arrived at about 7.30pm on a Friday night (without a reservation). We had to wait about 45 minutes for a table but we had a few drinks in the meantime which made the wait less painful.

The restaurant gets pretty busy and I always think this is a plus as it means the atmosphere is more lively, and the food is probably going to be good as so many people want to try it out, are returning for more, or like me, have come on a recommendation.

Service

Service was pretty good and we had some nice waiters.

Food

Aperitivo is Italian for “appetiser” and the food certainly was appetising.

The menu has a variety of dishes (especially pizzas), and we decided to get 4 entrees to share between the four of us.

We ordered:

  • Prawns kataifi with spicy tomato coulis ($16.00)

This dish was delicious. I love prawns, they are one of my favourite foods and the kataifi was delicious and crunchy. However, I wish the portion size was bigger as 4 prawns for $16.00 just doesn’t cut it.

  • Pan seared scallops, crispy pork belly and asparagus sauce ($16.00)

Well-cooked scallops with a creamy sauce and delicious soft pork which was moist on the bottom and had a delicious crunchy crackling. Great dish. Nice presentation too.

  • Slow cooked baby octopus in a fresh tomato sauce with crostini ($15.00)

Not a big fan of octopus and I normally don’t order it or eat it but I tried a tiny non-tentacle/sucker piece and thought it was ok. It is similar to calamari but a little more flavoursome. I just can’t get over those suckers though.

  • Kingfish tartare with pistachio and beetroot puree ($18.00)

A lovely dish with cured kingfish and crunchy bread. A deliciously sweet puree was great with the sour fish.

We then moved on to mains.

I ordered the crumbed lamb backstrap with cauliflower and pistachio puree served on baby spinach ($28.00).

At first I thought the portion was quite small, but after I started eating I began to get full, although it was probably from the entrees. This is a small dish so I wouldn’t recommend you order it if you are not getting entrees.

The lamb was soft and tender. It was more on the well done side although I asked for it to be medium-well. The crumb on top was slightly salty and went well with the puree. I love baby spinach so that went down well. I really enjoyed this dish and liked the presentation as well.

Two friends ordered the 250g beef fillet with baby spinach vincotto salad and crispy prosciutto ($29.00). While the salad and prosciutto were fine, they both commented that the meat was dry and needed a sauce or some sort of gravy.

One ordered hers medium rare and the other ordered his medium well. The medium well one was, like mine, more on the well side. The medium rare however, was medium well and she barely ate half of the beef.

Our other dining companion ordered the homemade spaghetti alla chitarra served with veal osso bucco ragu and aged pecorino cheese ($23.00). Pretty much a fancy way of saying pasta with veal.

There was an OK serving of pasta on the plate, and all of it was eaten. I’m not a fan of veal but my fellow diner commented that he enjoyed it.

For dessert MC and I shared a three way brulee stack ($15.00) which included tiramisu, saffron with persian fairy floss, and pistachio with nougat crumbs.

I really loved this dish and we demolished it. The persian fairy floss is lovely and so light and went so well with the saffron flavoured brulee.

The texture of the brulee itself was like a sort of creamy, cheesy and floury slice, but it was somehow nice and moreish. Presentation was fantastic and it looked like something which came from of a top restaurant.

Our friend ordered an amadei chocolate ganache served with orange ice cream, praline crumbs and kahlua sauce ($15.00). He said it was too rich however, and was unable to finish it.

Our other dining companion ordered the nutella tart with caramelised banana and white chocolate flakes served with vanilla ice cream ($15.00). The presentation on this dish was lovely and of course everyone knows that nutella and banana is a match made in heaven.

A few of us ordered tea and coffee.

Cost:

The bill came to $285 for 4 people. Quite an expensive meal at about $70 each, but we did have entrees, mains, dessert and quite a few drinks!

Rating:

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

    • Service- 6
    • Food- 6
    • Ambience- 7
    • Value – 5.75

I gave points for presentation but took some away due to the over cooked meat.

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