Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining, Sydney CBD ($$)

Address: Basement level, 82 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 8084 2505

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

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday -12.00 pm to late

Saturday- 4.00 pm to late

* * *

Pendulum Communications invited MC and I to Rabbit Hole Bar and Dining’s (RHBD) first birthday party, located underground on Elizabeth Street.

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The entry

Celeb guests included Justine Schofield (of MasterChef and Everyday Gourmet fame), Nacho Pop, Sam McMillan and Brittany Cairns, while fellow food bloggers; Simon from Simon Food Favourites, Bob from Jugernauts, and Tina from Food, Booze and Shoes were also in attendance.

Atmosphere

RHBD has a very quaint almost 20’s feel to it with lots of neutral colours and old fashioned cartoons on the walls.

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There are two bars: one in the main area, and one in another more intimate space around the corner.  

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Main bar

We headed over after work, about 6.30pm and managed to find a table in the room to the left of the main bar area. 

This space had a bar in the middle and featured cushioned seats on one side of the wall and mismatched wooden chairs, large round barrels and stools around the rest of the space, some covered in white rabbit-like fur.

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Smaller bar area

It was quite dark and the only light we had came from down lights, mirrors, sky lights and candles which added depth and brightened up the dark spaces.

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The place has a quirky and private feel and features mysterious Alice in Wonderland-like accents such as rabbit-related cartoons, flowery cushions in contrast to the dark bar and seats, and “DRINK ME” worthy cocktail concoctions!

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The music was quite relaxed and laid back and contributed to the “classy hipster” vibe.

Service

The staff were pretty attentive, walking around to collect empty glasses and to ask if we wanted another drink, and the bar staff were great at pouring the drinks, serving them up with flair and informing us of the ingredients.

Food

Owner Doug Laming has appointed a new chef, Jeremy Metivier who has worked in Michelin star restaurants and who is the driving force behind RHBD’s new French fine dining menu.

The menu included dishes such as:

  • Goats Cheese and Beetroot Apples
  • Scallops on Beetroot Shortbread with Mango and Beetroot Emulsions
  • Mini Wagyu Sliders with Brie Cheese and house made Relish
  • Slow Roasted Lamb with Artichoke Puree, Coriander and Wine Jelly
  • Salmon Gravlax with Cucumber and Aloe Vera “Snow”
  • Chocolate Skulls, with Firm Spicy Pirate Cream and Coconut Cake

Unfortunately, as MC and I were seated on one side, most of the food never made it past the crowd at the front of the room, so we only got to try 3 dishes.

One of the dishes we tried were the Goats Cheese and Beetroot Apples.  This dish was very elegantly presented on a bed of golden crumbs with glossy grapes and peppered balls of goats cheese covered in an almost waxy edible red coating.

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The other savoury dish we tried was the Salmon Gravlax appetiser, mini versions of the salmon gravalax, cucumber lake, orange cream and aloe vera snow dish available from the dinner menu.

These were little morsels of heaven; perfectly sliced salmon with a green cucumber jelly, delicate edible decorations of orange, red and white and beautiful purple flowers to garnish.

An exquisite tasting dish which had a flavour that matched its appearance.

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Finally, for dessert we enjoyed the Chocolate Skulls– spoons of a spicy custard-like cream with coconut cake rounds, chopped summer fruit and dark chocolate skills with a gold dusting.

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These skulls were lit on fire, leaving the custard warm, the chocolate slightly melted and the on watchers in awe!

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Overall, while we didn’t get much food to try, the menu looked quite appetising and the dishes that were on offer seemed to be different and well put together.  I can see how this place would appeal to the office works and corporates in the Martin Place and CBD area with its fine dining dishes and creative cocktails.

Drinks  

As RHBD is owned and run by Doug Laming, a “molecular mixologist” (read: awesome cocktail maker who uses physical and chemical modification of ingredients to create interesting drinks), it makes sense that he would put his skills on display and serve up an array of cocktails. 

Some of the cocktails we tried included:

  • The Smoked Apple
  • Breakfast Bouquet
  • The White Cloud Above Mount Gay
  • The Wood and Smoke
  • You’ve Gone Nuts
  • Stolen painkiller

Although we didn’t have much food, we did have a LOT of drinks!  We wanted to try one of each of the ones we saw so we ended up sharing quite a few between us.

First up was the Smoked Apple. It contained  torrontes and pomme verte layered agar apples, Ceylon tea infused cinnamon syrup, rhubarb butters and cloudy apple juice finished with fresh cider, smoked salt and some apple slices.

It was a pleasant looking dish, served in a short glass and while the smokey flavour wasn’t really to my liking, MC enjoyed the fresh flavours and boldness of the drink.

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We then shared one of the sweetest drinks, the Breakfast Bouquet.

This drink has larios, gin, double creme de cassis, rose and strawberry jam, wild willow water, fresh lemon and a dash of rhubarb bitters.  It is a complex yet sweet looking cocktail which looked lovely, topped with a rose petal and blueberry.

As you drink the cocktail the scent of the rose petal wafts up and leaves you feeling as though you are walking through a field of roses!  Lame but true.

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We also enjoyed a rum and marshmallow foam cocktail which was called the White Cloud Above Mount Gay.

Mount Gay extra old rum is shaken with black pepper, pineapple caramel, fresh lime and more pineapple, and is then poured over marshmallow foam which leaves a white cloud on top.

The drink is another sweet one which, after the previous sweet drinks, we found a little hard to swallow.  While it was interesting to watch it being made, I wasn’t a fan of it as it was a little too sweet.

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The Wood and Smoke was an interesting cocktail which the menu says is made from ingredients including Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Laphroaig single malt whiskey, quassia (bark chips), barberry bark syrup, acid phosphate and bitters.

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After shaking up a storm, the bartender pours the slightly cloudy drink over ice, where it settles and turns from creamy to clear.  A cinnamon stick is placed in the drink and is then set alight, giving a woody and smoky scent.

While I preferred the sweeter drinks, MC, a Jim Beam and Jack Daniels fan, enjoyed this smoky, cinnamon flavoured cocktail over the rest.

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The You’ve Gone Nuts drink contains Sierra Millenario infused with tonka beans, and shaken with Disaronno amaretto, house-made peanut and cashew syrup and finished with walnut bitters.

The cocktail looks like it is full of lemon juice with a sugar rim but in actual fact, like the other cocktails, it was quite sweet rather than sour.

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Finally, the Stolen Painkiller, a first for me, this powdered cocktail tasted like fizzy sherbert pops.  It contained powdered rum, pineapple, coconut and passionfruit powder and was served in half a passionfruit shell.

The interesting presentation and tangy sour taste was a great way to finish off our cocktail tasting and we enjoyed it, although one of the guys seated next to us wasn’t a fan!

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Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-  6
  • Food-   5 (what food?)
  • Atmosphere- 7
  • Value – 7

TCFB dined as a guest of Pendulum Communications and Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining.

Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

 

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Barrafina, Wynyard ($$)

Address: Ground Floor, 2 Bligh Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9231 2551

Website: http://www.barrafina.com.au/barrafina-tapas-bar-location/

* * *

Barrafina tapas invited me and three guests to review the restaurant and try out their new menu.

I had been to Barrafina previously and while the food was tasty, service was quite disjointed and the portion sizes were not fantastic given the price.

This time around I was pleasantly surprised as our experience was much much better and we were impressed by how much things had changed.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere on this particular Wednesday was pretty good.

When we arrived around 6pm it was pretty quiet inside (outside was roaring with the sound of happy post-work diners). By the end of the evening however, the inside was packed out too and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. ??????????????????????????????? The decor is quite cute, and hadn’t changed much since I last visited.

There is a lot of yellow, grey and white furniture, which gives the place a very modern and funky atmosphere. The cute illustrations on the wall add some character and remind you that you are in a Spanish restaurant as it features wines, seafood and guitars. ??????????????????????????????? My Mum and I really liked the quaint little plants on the windowsill, which added a little colour and life to the place. ??????????????????????????????? Overall it is a very nice restaurant with lovely modern decor and a busy atmosphere.

Service

Service was great despite the fact that they were pretty busy, it being a Thursday night.

Our lovely waitresses Camilla and Paloma gave us each a menu and brought out some drinks.

Paloma suggested about 8 plates for 4 people, but we ended up ordering a bit more than that as there were so many new dishes to try. ??????????????????????????????? For drinks I had just a diet coke, as they did not have lemon lime bitters.

Mum and Nos, who dined with MC and I, wanted fresh juices but they only had bottled ones, so they settled for bottled apple and orange juices. ??????????????????????????????? MC ordered Estrella Dam, a Spanish lager which was recommended by Camilla. ??????????????????????????????? Estrella Dam, $8.50

Food

Food at Barrafina had improved a lot since I last visited with MDS.

Last time, MDS and I thought the food was tasty but not very well presented.

This time around, presentation was excellent. Every dish was plated up with flair and attention to detail.

The food was cooked well and was colourful and appealing to the eye.

We were served portions of four items per dish as there were four of us dining that evening.  However, Paloma informed me that most dishes usually have about three items each- something to remember if you decide to dine there- 3 or 6 people would be ideal.

We started off with a light and refreshing dish, the Yellow Fin Tuna.  This was a seared piece of tuna, which was glossy and beautiful in the middle and just cooked on the outside.  The outside had a coating of spices which made it crunchy and salty. There was also a delicious white peach dressing and chilli vinaigrette, and an olive tapenade on top. We all loved this dish and it was a lovely light way to start off the meal.

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Yellow Fin Tuna, $16.00
Next we enjoyed the Crisp Zucchini Flowers with Salted Cod Mayo.
Definitely the BEST zucchini flowers I have ever tasted, they were large, golden, crunchy and beautifully presented. The mayo was slightly fishy, but tasted a bit like aioli.
The zucchini stem was small and firm, yet cooked through, and the flowers were delicate and tasty.

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We asked for the Yamba King Prawns with lemon, confit garlic, chilli and micro herbs ($22.00), which sounded delicious. Unfortunately, they were out of prawns so we had to order something else.

Paloma brought out the Octopus, but after seeing the large tentacles, none of us were keen to try it.  It was nothing to do with the dish, but I just couldn’t fathom putting those little suckers anywhere near my face! ??????????????????????????????? Octopus

We decided to swap it for the Queensland Scallops with Chorizo and Sweetcorn Puree. This was a much better option, which we all enjoyed.

The scallops were slightly tough, just slightly, but the crispy chorizo and sweet, chunky corn puree were great with it.

Nos, who doesn’t eat pork, simply ate the scallops with the corn puree, and commented that she loved the texture and taste of the puree.  ??????????????????????????????? Queensland Scallops, $24.00

Next up were the Crispy Moroccan Cigars with, sheep’s feta, and charred eggplant puree.

The cigars were very crunchy and had a creamy taste from the sheep feta and a smoky taste from the eggplant puree, which tasted like baba ghanouj.

This is a delicious and tasty dish that I think everyone would enjoy. IMG_5651 Crispy Moroccan Cigars, $9.00

We then enjoyed the soft shell crab sliders. MDS and I had tried this previously but I liked them much much more this time.

The bread was sourdough and was soft and fresh. The crab wasn’t as crunchy as it could have been but was still delicious and salty, and I liked the addition of avocado. The harissa mayonnaise was tangy and sweet and the presentation was very cute. ??????????????????????????????? IMG_5655 Soft Shell Crab Slider, $9.00 

We enjoyed the Jamon Serrano and Manchego Cheese Croquetas with Tomato Salsa. Jamon Serrano is a Spanish cured and salted ham, similar to prosciutto, but made from a different breed of pig.

The croquettes were crispy and golden, almost perfectly round, and very nicely presented.

We enjoyed the creamy taste of the manchego and the little pork bits inside the croquettes. ??????????????????????????????? Croquettas, $10

On the recommendation of Paloma we tried the Beetroot Salad, a salad of gold beetroots, Spanish goats cheese, hazelnuts, sherry vinaigrette and baby beetroot puree.

The salad was vibrant and rich in flavour. The golden beetroot was a sweet and pumpkin-like vegetable which was lovely with the light and fluffy puree and tangy vinaigrette. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sheep’s cheese but there wasn’t too much of it in the dish. IMG_5664 IMG_5662 Beetroot Salad, $13.00

We moved on to the Wagyu Hanger Steak, a 5+ marble score piece of juicy meat, served with seasoned salt and herbs.

The steak was cooked medium-well (my preference) and came out perfectly cooked, juicy and succulent. The meat was already salted and didn’t need any of the salt on the plate. ??????????????????????????????? Wagyu steak, $22.00

After this feast, we shared two desserts between the four of us.

First up was the White Chocolate Parfait with Pistachio and Berries.

The ice cream element of the parfait was delicious and creamy but didn’t taste strongly of white chocolate. The crunchy tuile on top was lovely and added a beautiful texture.

We enjoyed the (very fresh and in season) blueberries and the lovely berry sauce. ??????????????????????????????? White Chocolate Parfait, $9.00

Next up was the Lime and Mango Crema Catalana with Summer Fruit.

The dish was well presented and my Mum loved the little glass jars.

The lime and mango curd at the bottom was delicious and tangy, almost like passionfruit. The crema catalana, is basically creme brulee. It was creamy and rich, super decadent and perfect with fresh fruits. A lovely way to end the meal. IMG_5677 Crema Catalan, $9.00

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7
  • Food- 8.75
  • Ambience- 8
  • Value –6.5

TCFB and guests dined as guests of Barrafina tapas, complimentary. Barrafina Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

La Guapa Tapas, CBD ($$)

Address: 557 George Street (corner Liverpool Street), Sydney

Tel: (02) 8005 7077

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

Opening hours:

Open lunch and dinner 7 days a week

* * *

MDS, Nicole and I decided to head over and check out one of the restaurants between Town Hall and Central. We had  planned to visit The Dip but Nicole had already been there before and we had seen a few tapas places on the way over. We decided to instead try out La Guapa.

Atmosphere

La Guapa is a tapas restaurant located in Sir John Young Hotel. Although it doesn’t look amazing on the outside (or inside), it was quite busy and we hoped that this meant the food was good!

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Service

Service was alright but nothing special. The staff were very friendly but were not always attentive. We experienced a hiccup when we tried to order sangria at the restaurant but were told that we had to order drinks at the bar and food at the restaurant, which was a bit frustrating. Other than that, service was reasonable and staff were pleasant.

Drinks

We decided to order a jug of Sangria. It wasn’t very nice to be honest. The only fruit in the sangria was a slice of orange and some cubed apples and the wine was quite dry. Smaller fruit cubes, some orange or peach slices and a little more juice would really improve the Sangria’s presentation and taste!

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Sangria, $22.00

Food

We ordered a number of tapas dishes and chose a paella for 1 to share between the three of us.

First out was the Garlic Bread. We were disappointed to find that it used a soft multigrain bread rather than a bread roll or sourdough. The result was a soft (not crunchy) garlic bread which failed to impress. The garlic flavours were there but the crunch factor that you expect from a garlic bread, was not.

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Garlic Bread, $5.00

Nicole’s choice (which we all agreed with as it is a favourite tapas dish) was the Patatas Bravas- deep fried potato with tomato salsa and aioli. I really love this dish and I was pleased to find that it was tasty. The aioli was light and tangy in contrast to the well-seasoned crunchy potatoes and tomato salsa. Delicious!

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Patatas Bravas, $9.50

We also ordered some Albondigas en Salsa, which was basically meatballs with tomato sauce. The meatballs were large and looked nice in the oblong serving dishes, topped with the delicious tomato-y sauce. MDS, Nicole and I all enjoyed the tomato sauce as it was flavoursome, rich and plentiful.

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Albondigas en Salsa, $13.50

The Traditional Grilled Chorizo with spring onions was next. We were served long slices of chorizo, perfectly grilled on both sides to that they were crisp and slightly oily. Despite the fact that this dish involves almost no actual cooking ability to prepare, I really like chorizo so definitely enjoyed this side.

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Traditional Grilled Chorizo, $12.00

We also ordered the Gambas a al Sevillana which was a dish of spicy prawns in olive oil, garlic and tomato salsa. The salsa was much the same as that used for the beef meatballs, while the prawns were well-cooked (and especially, not overcooked) and large. The only issue with this dish is that there weren’t really enough prawns. All in all however, I really enjoyed the spicy prawns!

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Gambas a al Sevillana, $15.50

Finally, we received the Paella Mixtas – a paella containing seafood and chicken. The small paella pans were cute (I want one at home!), and added a more Spanish feel to the restaurant which is otherwise quite pubbish. The paella was quite well presented, with some lemon wedges and mussels sticking out, but looked nothing like the image portrayed on the menu which shows a paella piled high with seafood. Perhaps this is because we didn’t get a seafood paella but either way this one was nowhere near as impressive as what the menu shows. There was a lot of baby octopus in the paella, which I gave to MDS as I am not a fan of the little suckers! The seafood was all cooked quite well and was tasty but the paella itself was slightly dry, and slightly gluggy. It was OK but not amazing. It was cooked-well and filling but not exciting or indulgent.

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Paella for One, $30.00

Overall, the restaurant provided good variety and choice, decent service and a convenient location. The patatas brava, chorizo and meatballs were tasty but the garlic bread and paella fell short.

Cost:

Overall the meal came to about $30 each + $22 for a jug of Sangria which we split between the three of us.

Rating:

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

  • Service- 5
  • Food- 6
  • Ambience- 5.5
  • Value – 6.5

La Tapa Guapa at the Sir John Young Hotel on Urbanspoon

Barrafina, Wynyard ($$)

Address: Ground Floor, 2 Bligh Street Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9231 2551

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Ever since I saw Excuse Me Waiter’s review of Barrafina tapas, I’ve been wanting to check the place out. I’d been quite busy reviewing a number of other restaurants since I saw the post but finally got the chance to check it out with MDS last week.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere on this Friday night was quite lively and fun. The restaurant wasn’t  even close to full (there were plenty of empty seats- see the photo, below), but there were more than enough people to provide a good atmosphere.

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The bar area

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Inside seating area

Service

We went to the counter and were shown to a small table in the corner. The waitress was friendly and helpful and soon brought out the set menu and a wine list for us to look at. We both decided to have a lemon lime bitters to go with our tapas.

6Lemon lime & bitters, $4.00

After quite a bit of umming and ahhing, and going over which dishes we liked on each menu, we decided on Set Menu 2.

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Set menus

For the rest of the night, service was a little disjointed. First we were served the wrong first two courses – dishes from Set Menu 1 instead of Set Menu 2. They told us we could keep the dishes but I was a little annoyed because they weren’t the dishes we had originally ordered. Then a different waitress brought out food which we had already tried. It seems that the system of food service at Barrafina is not quite organised and orders seem to get stuffed up quite easily. That said, the staff are quite friendly and pleasant.

Food

First out we were served a Tomato Bruschetta and Ham & Manchego Cheese Croquettes, although we were supposed to get Marinated Olives and Cured Ham, as per menu 2. Nonetheless the bruschetta was served on crunchy wheat baguette slices and was full of basil, fresh tomato and garlic flavours. Although the tomato was a little dull in colour, the overall taste of this item was quite nice. It was a fresh way to start of the meal.

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Pan con tomate, baguette rubbed with vine tomato, garlic and olive oil

The croquettes had a crunchy exterior, although not crunchy enough for my liking. They were served with a tiny smidge of tomato sauce and I could have done with more sauce on the plate to tone down the very creamy cheesey filling.

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Jamon serrano and manchego croquetas, salsa tomate

Next up we were served Soft Shell Crab Sliders. The sliders were very well presented and looked really cute on the plate with the crab legs sticking out of them. The parts of the crab that were outside the bun were quite crunchy and nice,  while the crab inside the bun- with the mayo and avocado, was soft and flaky. I love harissa mayo and there was plenty on this bun. The avocado mousse was also quite nice and added a creaminess to the slider. I demolished mine but MDS, who was starting to get a little full, ate about half of hers.

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Soft shell crab sliders with avocado mousse and harissa mayo

Next we had Fried Calamari with Aioli and Lemon. There was a lot of calamari in this dish and we were a bit surprised, as we were both starting to get full. It was really crunchy and delicious though and the dusting of paprika on top looked really nice. I love lemon and aioli and so I enjoyed this dish with generous amounts of each, on top of my calamari rings. Very good portion sizes in this item and a great tasty dish overall.

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Lightly floured calamares, aioli, lemon

Next we were served a Chorizo and Salsa dish. The presentation was a little messy with all the elements mixing into one another on the plate. I expected nice evenly-shaped pieces of round chorizo but we were served lumpy elongated bits which didn’t look very appetising. “Chorizo a la plancha” literally means “grilled sausage” and the flavours of this dish were quite delicious as the chorizo had a lovely smoky flavour. The “salsa romesco”, a sauce made with capsicum, ground almonds and olive oil, was was quite spicy and added a nice texture to the dish. The “pedro ximenez caramelised onions” are onions cooked in a sort of sherry wine. There weren’t very many onions in the dish, but the sauce which surrounded the salsa romesco and chorizo was quite sweet and tasty.

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Chorizo a la plancha, salsa romesco, pedro ximenez caramelised onions

Next up were the Pork Ribs. At this point we were really full and didn’t know how much more we could eat. After one bite of these delicious ribs however, I was hooked and couldn’t stop! As ribs do not have a lot of meat on them, I ate about three. They were sticky, sweet, and had a delicious jammy flavour. I was surprised when I later found out that “membrillo” means “quince”, as I often eat quince paste with cheese and crackers, and hadn’t recognised the quince flavour on the ribs. Overall this was a really tasty item which would be great for large groups (but is definitely too messy for first dates!). 

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Pork ribs slow roasted in membrillo, sherry vinegar and rosemary

The Veal & Ricotta Meatballs were up next. They were served with some of the crusty wheat bread which we had with the bruschetta. We did not touch the bread though, as we were too full, and instead went straight for the meatballs and potatoes. The meatballs were well cooked and were not too dry. The sauce tasted a bit like a Sri Lankan curry sauce as it had a bit of a kick to it and contained a lot of tomato-ey sauce. Presentation was not great though, and I would have liked to see some fresh green herbs on top of the dish to liven it up a little.

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Veal and ricotta meatballs, patatas and tomato frito

The last item was a Roast Pumpkin Salad. It was a light way to end an otherwise heavy meal. The pumpkin was soft and quite cold, and the sweetness of the pumpkin went well with the slightly tangy labneh. I didn’t really taste much of the coriander, and there weren’t many walnuts in the dish either. The beetroot leaves were alright but there was a lot of it on the plate for the amount of pumpkin and labneh.

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Roasted pumpkin salad, house labneh, walnuts, coriander and beetroot leaves

Overall, we had a very enjoyable time there and the food was quite interesting and tasty. Some of the dishes were a little cold when served to us, and the service was not very prompt. However, the staff were friendly and generally the food was quite nice. This is a convenient spot in the heart of Sydney’s CBD which is great for dinner or drinks after work. Improvements to service and presentation would take it to the next level.

Rating:

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

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

Barrafina Tapas Bar 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.

Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Q & A with Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant’s co-owner Livia Wang

I had the pleasure of visiting Wooden Spoon last Wednesday and thought I would ask the lovely owner some questions about the restaurant to give you more of an insight into the hip new venue.

1. How did you get into the food/hospitality industry?

Our family background is food/restaurant business. When my husband and I met each other 5 years ago, we decided to open a restaurant/bar. He is a bartender and I’m the floor manager. Wooden Spoon is our third business and we love this industry!

2. When was Wooden Spoon Bar opened?

It was opened in March 2012.

3. Why makes Wooden Spoon Bar different to other similar restaurants/bars?

Cremorne is a very “residential” area. We do not treat our “customers” as customers, we like to have long term relationship and treat them as our family. We focus on the “network” a lot; we have wine tasting twice a month; cocktail tasting evenings once a month; mother groups; corporate tasting evenings etc. We think Wooden Spoon is the place for everyone to get together.

4. What is the one dish that you would recommend on the menu?

I do like our “Mini beef mignon, green lentil and speck ragout, shiraz and mustard emulsion sauce” dish.

5. What is your favourite drink on the cocktail menu?

I will say…Strawberry and Cream; Sailor Jerry Rum shaken with strawberries and lemon juice with a strawberry cream float.

6. If you could invite any celebrity to dine at Wooden Spoon Bar, who would it be and why?

This is a good question! Maybe I will say North Sydney council’ Mayor Jilly Gibson and Councillors. Because here is somewhere people get together.

The Blackout Cafe, Lindfield ($$)

Address: 304 Pacific Highway Lindfield NSW

Tel: (02) 9416 9172

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

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A post-work catch up with some school friends led me to visit The Blackout Cafe in Lindfield. Located close to Lindfield station, Blackout is popular with locals and is part of a new generation of wine and tapas bars that are popping up on the North Shore.

Atmosphere

As the name suggests, Blackout has quite a dark interior with dim lighting and broken plaster revealing the brickwork underneath. That said, the place does not look derelict or run down, but rather has a sort of artsy vibe to it. A few tables and chairs and a large bar take up most of the space, providing spots for people to mingle and chat, have a drink, or enjoy dinner.

Service

Service was great. The staff are friendly and very down to earth. There is no rushing about or superficiality. We were even given a bottle of Rose which was already open, free of charge. Food came out quickly and plates were soon cleared away after we finished with them.

Food

The menu consists of a number of tapas-style items, pizzas, and desserts. There is also a good wine list and a selection of other alcoholic drinks including spirits and beer.

We started off by ordering some delicious caramelised garlic bread fingers with olive oil and balsamic dipping sauces. The bread was sourdough-y and had beautiful garlic and herbs rubbed over it. It was slightly charred and went perfectly with the sweet tanginess of the balsamic.

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Caramelised garlic bread fingers with olive oil and balsamic dipping sauces, $7.00

Next we ordered a regular (small) sized spiced lamb, smoky eggplant, roma tomato and mint yoghurt pizza. The lamb was soft and tender, and was an unusual flavour on a pizza- I’ve never had lamb pizza before! The mint yoghurt was like a raita and was tangy and fresh, while the eggplant added a rich, creamy flavour to the pizza.

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Spiced lamb, smoky eggplant, roma tomato and mint yoghurt pizza, $10.00

The Media Guru of the team ordered potato and chorizo fritters with red pepper chutney. I expected actual FRITTERS, but what we received was croquettes. Nonetheless, they had a crunchy exterior and were filled with a delicious and soft potato filling. The chorizo (one of my favourite foods) was crunchy as well, and a perfect complement to the potato (like bacon and potato!). I didn’t find the chutney very spicy at all, but would have preferred some more of it. I also thought the green sauce they put on almost every dish was a bit strange, and couldn’t work out what it was.

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Potato and chorizo fritters with red pepper chutney, $11.00

My choice was the grilled haloumi with tomato and mint salad. The haloumi was grilled to perfection, just crunchy on the outside without being too tough or burnt. The tangy lemon with the tomato and mint was refreshing and diffused the salty flavour of the haloumi cheese.

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Grilled haloumi with tomato and mint, $13.00

When dessert came, we were all feeling quite satisfied but the delicious menu tempted us to get something more.

Our resident travel agent Hannah tried the orange chocolate cake.

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Orange chocolate cake, $10.00

I ordered the orange and cardamom brulee with pistachio ice cream and pistachios. It was divine. I love creme brulee and the crunchy top of the brulee cracked noisily under pressure from my spoon. The brulee was creamy and not too thick or sweet, toned down by the cardamom and orange flavours (the cardamom being the strongest flavour). The pistachio ice cream was cool and refreshing and the crushed nuts served both an aesthetic and a textural purpose. Overall a delicious, delicious dish!

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Orange and cardamom brulee with pistachio ice cream, $11.00

Media Guru and ClareBear shared a hazelnut praline cake, which they seemed to really enjoy, but commented that they were glad they shared it as it was quite rich.

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Hazelnut praline cake, $10.00

Cost:

All up the meal came to about $84.00 including dessert.

Rating:

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

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

The Blackout Cafe on Urbanspoon