Squid ink spaghettini w chilli & orange

Squid ink spaghettini w chilli & orangeOwner Stuart Knox sensibly has never allowed Fix St James to be something it is not, which allows Chef Mark Archer to produce such simple, but immensely satisfying dishes like this divine squid ink pasta. The texture and silky mouth-feel, delivered with along with a stunning clarity of flavour, with just the faintest hint of a heat note from the chilli, balanced off nicely by the orange zest, completes a very more-ish dish that represents the DNA of this very popular restaurant.

The bonus of having a such a diverse and intriguing wine list, presented by such well-informed and passionate front of house, seals the deal as you relax and just watch the frenetic pace of the world pass you by…

111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

Monday to Wednesday 12pm to 9pm, Thursday 12pm to 9.30pm, Friday 12 pm to 10pm, Saturday 5.30pm to 9pm

(02) 9232 2767

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

Twitter: @fixstjames

See previous winners…

Our job is to serve the customer, and do it the best way possible.

Chef David Chang,  Momofuku Restaurant Group

What’s on my plate

That’s hot:

The launch of the 2016 Gault&Millau Guide

Australian Pork. Forget all the dribble about it being bad for your health!

Country Valley Dairy products from Picton. The point of difference has never been more stark!

that’s not:

The loss of individuality and narrative in dishes

All levels of Government not supporting World Class Award Winning Wagyu Producer David Blackmore

Poor service standards

White miso-glazed ruby tuna w robata-charred asparagus, Japanese turnips, lemon and quinoa

White miso-glazed ruby tuna w robata-charred asparagus, Japanese turnips, lemon and quinoa

Some dishes read particularly well on a menu, then seduce the eye and senses, and this was one of them. Chef Darren Templeman and  Owner Michael Moore have made eating well a guiltless pleasure, as they continue to redefine the limitless possibilities and boundaries of healthy eating. This  was a fresh produce driven dish, that was a masterclass of balance, textures and flavour, from a kitchen that is fully delivering on its promise.

Level 47, Australia Square

264 George Street, Sydney

Monday to Sunday from 5.30pm to late, Friday from 12 noon

Bar & Tapas 7 nights from 5pm to late

(02) 9247 9777

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

Twitter: @0bardining

See previous winners…

Braised pork jowl w lemon balm, caramelised parsnip & fennel salad

Braised pork jowl w lemon balm, caramelised parsnip & fennel saladThere are certain Chefs who can deliver the core flavour profile of  produce better than others, and Chef Leigh McDivitt is undoubtedly one of them. However, that clarity of flavour and layering of textures is underpinned by very sound technical skills that enable him to assemble a multitude of components on a plate with both cohesion and purpose. This simpler, but nonetheless extremely well executed dish, is an unapologetic homage to everything that is entirely joyous about food. The sublime richness of the fatty jowl and reduction, is intelligently cut across by the freshness of the lemon balm and fennel, leaving the diner in a state of sheer unadulterated bliss.

233 Darling Street, Balmain

Wednesday to Friday 6pm to midnight, Saturday to Sunday midday to midnight

(02) 9555 8750

Website: http://one6eight.info/

Twitter: @OneSixEightSy

Email: info@one6eight.com.au

See previous winners…

ONE6EIGHT (14.5/20)

Confit Leatherjacket cheeks w vongole popcorn & herb sauceQuality local restaurants that risk pushing culinary boundaries are a rarity. Chef Leigh McDivitt (ex Three Weeds and The Morrison) originally dabbled in the CBD with One6eight, but decided to return to The Peninsula in the hope of reinvigorating the flagging dining scene on Darling Street. Legitimately, an independent restaurant without large backing to compromise its vision, it has both a soul and identity that is unmistakable. The striking plush red interior is as exuberant as partner Amanda McDivitt, who recently was deservedly recognised as a front-of- house professional of the year finalist by Gault&Millau.

Read Full Review…

Cuttlefish “Ravioli”

Cuttlefish RavioliWhat better way to showcase premium hand harvested sea urchin, than to slice impossibly thin sheets of fresh cuttlefish, to form a pristine sashimi take on ravioli. Garnished with luscious salmon pearls, black salt, yuzu zest and sesame, it is the very essence of divine culinary perfection, that dissolves like a stolen kiss. With only just eight seats, immensely talented Chef Raita Noda (ex Ocean Room) has the privilege of creating such masterpieces, literally in the moment…

Suite 1, 222 Riley Street, Surry Hills

Monday to Saturday 7pm to late

Reservations: (02) 8093 9807

See previous winners…

ZevenOccasionally a new product completely surprises. When WordstormPR offered me to try some samples, as a fairly traditional beer drinker, the concept of a strawberry flavoured beer challenged the perceptions of that comfort zone. However, I always judge a plate of food, or glass of wine on its merits, and beer should be evaluated on exactly the same basis. Zeven Lemon’s Strawberry Blonde has a refreshing, zesty, and well-balanced flavour profile, and that is the key behind its success. The brainchild of young self-taught brewer Leimin Duong, who left her job in the corporate job to explore her passion for beer, she began experimenting with blending natural fruit into beer.

Read more…

Bonne MamanOne of the fringe benefits of writing a food blog is not so much the invitations and opportunities that arise from it, but occasionally finding one  that similarly resonates with your identity. Bonne Maman, unapologetically French in its pitch and style, yet quirky enough to create a conserve using the unique qualities of a native Australian bush fruit, instantly appealed to me. Sourcing the Lilly Pilly in sufficient quantity and quality was one challenge, but finding the right balance to showcase it was another. Enter Jude Mayall, renowned Outback Chef, who was engaged to embrace the possibilities of this brave foray into incorporating local bush tucker into traditional French jam.

Read more…

'Ode to Whitmarsh' Crispy pigs ear, black garlic, wasabi, Siam basil & Da Vinci caviar - CopyMichael Moore is not only a very talented Chef, successful cookbook author, and impressive worldwide advocate for the dietary management of diabetes, but also is a very savvy restaurateur as well. The appointment of Darren Templeman (ex Restaurant Atelier) as Head Chef at O Bar and Dining, who previously worked in all the major London kitchens, under the legendary Chefs who forged modern cuisine as we know it, has reiterated his intention to relentlessly strive for excellence. In doing so, the standard perception sashimi of pink snapper w scorched avocado, finger limes & crip tapiocasurrounding revolving restaurants has been cast aside by some of the best executed and innovative cuisine in Sydney. The fact that it comes with a jaw dropping view is an added bonus, as the primary focus is absolutely where it should be; on the plate.

Read Full Review…

Mr and Mrs TakaokaIn late 2009 when I launched this blog, I had no realisation of the generous opportunities that being involved with the hospitality industry would provide. My brief was simple, judge each dish on its merits, and critique accordingly. To have the honour of dining with The Consul-General of Japan, Mr Masato Takaoka and his lovely wife Mrs Yoko Takaoka at their charming residence in Bellevue Hill, was far beyond any of the expectations I had all those years ago.

Read more…

Anthony Sorbello - Leanne Lattouf - Ross SchinellaThe Schibello Caffé brand is bonded and forged through the meaning and values encapsulated in those three significant words. The Schinella and Sorbello families, richly steeped in the traditional joys of Italian heritage, combined their love and vast knowledge of coffee to form one single brand and destiny. To celebrate its first fifteen years, Schibello Caffé has launched its new Research and Development Roasting Laboratory in Rhodes. It comprehensively covers all aspects of coffee production, from the humble bean, right through to the cup. The depth of this commitment is only fully realised by a tour of this impressive facility.

Read more…

Dragoncello (14.5/20)


Chef and Owner Roy McVeigh at Dragoncello (ex Berowra Waters Inn, Bar H, Bathers Pavilion, Guillaume at Bennelong, Attica and Royal Mail) has spent  significant time at quality restaurants in senior positions to ensure his first solo venture is followed with keen interest. Located in a corner two storey terrace, the next stage of the plan is to move the dining room upstairs, replete with PDR. This would allow downstairs, with an edgy Melbourne Wine Bar feel, to be utilised as a bar.

Read Full Review…

Roast Pork ShoulderWhateley Lane in Newtown, a small yet  vibrant Italian style canteen from the passionate La Rosa brothers behind  the popular Gelatomassi, only just a heartbeat away, doesn’t get too tricky. The menu focusses on traditional flavour based dishes at incredible price points. The porchetta, heavily influenced by the Lazio region of Italy, raises that bar to more lofty heights. Cooked in a special convection rotisserie oven for a touch over four hours, the result is absolutely stunning. Rich sublime crackling, encasing a luscious rolled pork shoulder, seasoned to perfection, with herbaceous and smoky overtones, is an absolute joy to savour.

Read more…

The Burger Games

Huxtaburger CBDMost of my readers would identify my blog with fine dining experiences, but in truth, I enjoy a damn good burger just like anyone else! Sydney and Melbourne over the last couple of years have pretty much hosted a version of “the burger games”, where competitors have tried to one up each other. Whilst, the outcome it is not going to change my world, the standard of the offerings given the price points has been fairly decent, and we all need to indulge in a guilty pleasure now and then.

Read More …

Yayoi (14/20)

Zensai Santen MoriYayoi, a modern take on a traditional Japanese Teishoku restaurant, and the initial Sydney venture from a very large empire throughout Asia, delivers far more than any clichéd franchise experience that others may offer. Refreshingly, the well presented food not only has sound technical foundation, but more importantly shows some soul, as does the classy but understated fit-out. The exceptional hand crafted ceramics by Morimitsu Hosokawa on display, no doubt also inspired some of the stunning plates being used, which showcase the cuisine beautifully.

Read Full Review…

Rockpool (19/20)

Chicken wings w egg batter & konbu butterRockpool (est. 1989), redefined the perception of Australian cuisine forever. It provided the confidence to leave behind our clichéd culinary baggage, push through the staid conventional boundaries, and to stand proudly behind Modern Australian cuisine in a global context. Chef Neil Perry forged the road to Prawn katsu w coriander, chilli & rice rollsustainability by embracing small artisan producers, with whom he shared the same commitment. The food had both style and substance, and the renowned service surrounding it was beyond just an ideal, it truly meant something to share it with diners. The success led to the dream of expansion becoming a reality, although never at the expense of core group philosophy.

Read Full Review…

The following restaurants have agreed to provide up to six meals for Starlight Foundation affected families this Christmas:

Booth Street Bistro T: (02) 96606652 W: http://www.boothstbistro.com/

Charing Cross Hotel T: (02) 93893093 W: http://www.charingcrosshotel.com.au/

China Doll T: (02) 93806744 W: http://www.chinadoll.com.au/

Popolo T: (02) 93619941 W: http://www.popolo.com.au/


W: http://www.starlight.org.au/

Shojin RamenIppudo may have only brought their Ramen revolution to Sydney diners recently, but it was first established in Japan back in 1985, expanding to over eighty stores at last count. Since opening in New York in 2008, it has spread globally with stores now in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, China and London. With the unbelievable response to the Westfield store in Sydney, a second outlet has now opened in Central Park.

Read more…

Eschalot (15/20)

eschalotEschalot, located in the charming Berrima Village (est 1831), which is home to some of the finest Colonial sandstone architecture in Australia, is the quintessential country restaurant that every Owner and Chef dream of being involved with. Originally known as Breen’s Commercial Hotel (circa 1869), the picturesque building has a long history of hospitality, retaining the majority of its original character, including separate dining rooms and fireplaces with elegant ambience. E2, an offshoot of the restaurant across the road catering for weddings, functions and conferences, is on the site formerly occupied by The Journeyman. Without impacting on the quality of Eschalot, E2 adds another aspect and sustainability to the business.

Read Full Review…

2015 Gault Millau GuideFood reviewing is a very subjective medium at best, as every diner has a very unique palate, food style preference, service needs, and above all the right to decide on how best to spend their hard-earned dollars. So a food guide is exactly that, albeit based on a very well measured and researched compilation of assessments. What is incredibly important though, is that the diner always has a respected  and robust second opinion. That point of difference ensures that the standards which make  our restaurant experiences worthwhile are celebrated and vigilantly maintained, through the objectivity of a fresh perspective of the industry.

Read more…

Paddington Tea

Organic Earl GrayPaddington Tea, fine tea merchants source their exceptional leaves from Sri Lanka, China, India and even locally in Australia. Their black tea range, which includes a superbly well-balanced and structured organic Earl Gray, also includes Organic English Breakfast, Lady Earl Gray and Darjeeling. The new Green Tea range includes Organic Jasmine Tea and Kashmiri Kahwa, along with extensive Herbal and Chai (Masala & Rooibos) options should that be more to your liking.

Read more…

BAH BQThe Brazilian Grill BAH BQ in Crows Nest won me over even before the first skewers appeared. Impeccably set tables, spotless glasses and cutlery reinforced that those fundamental standards are a fairly reliable barometer of the experience about to be delivered. Whilst not aspiring to be formal, looking after the small details ensures the bigger picture will take care of itself. Tucked away in a more parking friendly side street, the massive space is held together by some very smart interior designing, keeping the overall feel intimate. The vibe is upbeat, striking just the right balance, without descending into slap happy casual.

Read Full Review…

SugarcaneReinventing and realigning the direction of a restaurant and style of food is never easy and rarely meets expectations. Owner/Chef Milan Strbac at Sugarcane has achieved not only that, but also an exciting exploration and interpretation of South East Asian cuisine during that transition. The astutely lit and roughly exposed walls, playful murals, silk handbag ceiling, and shared benches highlight the overall mood of the revamp. This draws diners gently into the world of thoughtful Pan Asian fusion. The bustling open kitchen, and passing montage of Surry Hills, adds that street influence to some of dishes on the menu, delivering just the right touch of symbolism.

Read Full Review…

Truffle pizzaFirstly, Rosso Pomodoro is unquestionably in the elite category of pizza makers in Sydney, and for that matter in Australia. So in 2011 when they added a truffle pizza to their menu, the food public and media instantly took notice. They currently move close to 150 per week, so the $40 price tag is not spooking either their regulars or newcomers, as clearly the quality delivers to that price point. The aroma of freshly harvested and spectacular local Tasmanian truffles, is totally enhanced by the sublime texture and earthy flavour of the truffle imparted through the eggs, which have been stored with those truffles to complete the overall sensory experience on the palate. Add the rich mouth feel of decadent speck with buffalo mozzarella, and you simply have the perfect pizza in my opinion. Trust me, try it once, and you will be back every year for more…

90-91, 24 Buchanan Street, Balmain (White Bay)

Tue-Sun 6-10pm

Reservations: (02) 95555924

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

Twitter: @rossopomodoroau

Chefs GalleryThe Chinese banquet, a much-loved tradition in Australia, has been reinvigorated at Chefs Gallery. The point of difference offered here is both quality and service, delivered at an outrageous price (11 courses for $50 per head, including 2 drinks) for a minimum of only eight people. On special occasions like tonight’s event organised by Whiteworks PR, the Chef will conduct a tableside hands-on noodle master class ($69 per person/min 8), which can provide some interesting results. My piping of noodles was fairly miserable, though I got off lightly compared to some of the far more brave souls who took on the resident noodle master in all manner of kneading contortions. For the most part, whilst providing great entertainment, it inevitably ended in a spectacular and joyous defeat for the ‘away team’. Should one however prefer to watch, the long glass fronted dim sum kitchen provides a compulsive and ongoing noodle master class throughout service.

Read Full Review…

Massaman CurryAn exceptional Massaman curry is like a welcome warm embrace on a cold night. Having tried this twice, the raw authenticity of the Chef’s background resonates throughout the dish. The stunning base flavour of the curry paste, balanced with  the perfect ratio of coconut milk, provides a lovely rich consistency,  with a haunting, but not overpowering heat note. Both the lamb ($14.50) and beef ($11.50) versions are executed equally well, and whilst in my opinion the strength of the menu is found within the Thai curries, do not let that deter you; as cooking a great curry is an art, and a thing of beauty always worth travelling for.

490 King Georges Road, Beverly Hills

Mon-Sun 11.30-3pm, 5pm-10.30pm

Reservations: (02) 95861586


The DevonshireDevonshire Street is one of the more eclectic food strips in Surry Hills, so opening The Devonshire had a certain element of risk associated with it, although a vibrant room on a fairly non-descript Tuesday night is evidence that Chef Jeremy Bentley has gone a long way to winning the locals over. Waving corkage on the Tuesday is a great initiative, and offering a three course Prix Fix Lunch menu on a Friday for $35pp is the type of goodwill that is repaid with return covers. Set in an intimate terrace, the use of a multitude of gilded mirrors by designer Victoria Waters to fill one length would normally be a stretch, but it undeniably works well here. The understated smart feel of the room fits like a glove with the overall intention of both the food and service.

Read Full Review…

Alfa chocPart of any worthwhile food journey is being introduced to new concepts and tastes from different cultures, so when Daniela Penno of Latin PR offered me the chance to try this favourite Argentinian snack, both my curiosity and a sweet tooth prevailed. The first thing that strikes me is the unique texture, which is almost cake like. Two large baked biscuits, lavishly dipped in the finest Belgian chocolate form a decadent sandwich, with a filling of ‘dulce de leche’ (literally translated it means ‘sweet milk’, sometimes also called caramel. I could picture them in an afternoon or high tea context, but in South America they are even known to devour them at breakfast or as a dessert. Founder Mariano Rodriguez tinkered for two years with his mother’s recipe before launching AlfaChoc which is now available in notable coffee shops and delicatessens around Sydney, including Café Hernandez, The Deli Potts, Rushcutters Bay Kiosk, Café con Leche, and Caffe Corto.

Read more…

Fig (15/20)

FigOccasionally, you discover an absolute regional gem on the back of a very solid recommendation from clued up locals. Surprisingly, the reviewing team in that area overlooked “Fig” in Sawtell, which is one such case. Chef Phil Woolaston (ex Fins) is an unassuming ambassador dedicated to showcasing the best produce of the Mid North Coast region and its surrounds. Underpinned by the technical expertise to implement this sustainable philosophy, Fig has the perfect direction a memorable regional restaurant should aspire to. Nicely positioned on the corner of the spectacularly tree-lined main street with a modest yet warm and inviting room, Fig welcomes the ebb and flow of the small village during service, with the doors and windows fully open to embrace the refreshing sea breeze..

Read Full Review…

VapianoVapiano, was established in Europe in 2002, and at last count had 135 restaurants in 26 countries over four continents. The style is casual Italian, with the emphasis on using freshly sourced produce (and predominately Australian wines) to underpin and drive the concept; giving it some essential local roots. On arrival everyone is given a chip card, which is your virtual bill. The large L shaped pass, which is the focus of the multi-level space, is divided into salad and antipasti, pizza, and pasta stations from where you progressively order. The Bar also doubles as the dessert station, and surprisingly on only the second official service, the whole operation runs like clockwork. Everything on the savoury menu is made to order, which is a refreshing point of difference for a chain style restaurant, which no doubt is one of the major factors behind its global longevity.

Read Full Review…

Main display cabinetSome have attributed the origin of the éclair to legendary French Chef Marie Antonin Carême (1784-1833), but regardless of that speculation, we do know it was originally known as “pain à la duchesse” or “petite duchesse”. I am fairly sure even given their penchant for culinary largesse, the Parisians back then would not have envisaged a savoury éclair, but I am certainly glad someone did later in its historical timeline, as I have just devoured one with foie gras at the opening of La Maison de L’eclair in Bondi. Frederick and Laurence Caillon, the talented pastry team behind the multi award-winning Croquembouche Patisserie that opened in 2000, are ready to spoil us all over again with this dedicated éclair concept store.

Read Full Review…

Thee WilliamsOn my recent trips to Melbourne, visits to Pope Joan, Code Black Coffee and Duchess of Spotswood had me lamenting about the lack of something plausibly similar in Sydney, apart from The Grounds of Alexandria. Essentially, all started out as Cafes at the core, but simply refused to be restricted by that strict definition. Sensibly they chose to challenge their culinary brief, whilst always keeping the food real on the plate. Fortunately Three Williams on Elizabeth Street in Redfern has thrown its hat in the ring also, in an absolutely huge open space, which is truly everything to all people. It is 1.30pm on a nondescript Tuesday in its third week, and the joint is cranking with hipsters, mothers, foodies and working types who don’t appear to be in any particular hurry to go anywhere. The other thing that strikes me is the generous spacing of the tables, and the number of floor staff, which indicates that providing a comfortable space and relaxed experience is of premium importance to the owners.

Read Full Review…

There is something special about dining adjacent to a bay or seaside that both liberates one from the usual demands of time, whilst also instantaneously establishing a connection and sense of place. Throw in the romance of fishing boats, locals lazily meandering along the UlladullaUlladulla beach and the experience has the potential to be memorable. Occupying the absolute dress circle position, featuring unobstructed split level views, Ceto Restaurant and Bar located in Ulladulla is not only blessed with spectacular natural ambience, but most importantly also has the kitchen brigade to seal the deal. Alex Dawkins, former executive Chef at Bannisters, sensibly keeps the menu accessible yet never condescending for the locals, as establishing trust and respect is rightly the foundation block of all successful regional restaurants.

Read Full Review…

Attica (18/20)

Walnut in its shellAttica is more the extrapolation of a personal vision, rather than a world acclaimed destination restaurant. It clearly represents an ideal; an entirely unique reinterpretation of nature, which holds true with every dish plated. Refreshingly this is achieved, with only conventional perception getting ‘lost in the translation’. Standing behind all this is New Zealander Ben Shewry, both a gifted Chef and natural story-teller, whose cultural and family heritage underpins every concept. This is not a transparent journey of three hat dining by the numbers, rather an opportunity to ponder the ecological issues raised; with a look below the surface rewarding those who dare, with an immensely profound experience.

Read Full Review…

What do Katnook Estate, Aria Restaurant and Opera Australia have in common as they converge on the iconic Utzon room in The Sydney Opera House on October the 24th? How about a sense of style and place to start with, but most importantly all underpinned by a great deal of substance, which is truly evidenced by the clearly undeniable longevity of their Katnook Estaterespective achievements. The 2011 vintage and 30th release of Winemaker Wayne Stehbens Estate Cabernet Sauvignon marks the occasion, with ABC Classic FM’s Damien Beaumont hosting an exquisite night of matching wine, operetta and food.

Read Full Review…

Sushia Bond St Exterior

Sydney based entrepreneur Danny Kim, and owner of Sushia Izakaya & Bar, launched his modern twist on traditional Japanese in food areas of regional NSW, in order to establish and refine the overall brand, giving country diners a totally new Scallop Carparccioand more diverse experience. With Sushia Roll and Fresh Bars in Taree, Orange, Bathurst and Port Macquarie successfully implemented, award-winning JNP Architects were commissioned to complete a stunning yet versatile fit-out for the more elaborate Bond Street location in Sydney’s financial hub. The innovative timber fins dominate the aesthetic of the main room, with the nuance of the more subdued lighting suspended above the sushi train providing a nice counterpoint.

Read Full Review…