Blanca in Bondi

A fresh twist has arrived to Bondi. Normally a strip of beach cafe’s and over priced restaurants with those who strive to be seen. Nestled back in the Adina apartments building in a cosy restaurant with monochrome interiors you know you are in for something quite special.

The back story is that an ex Longrain chef , Tomi Bjork, found great success in Helsinki and Stockholm – five huge restaurant and a tv gig to be more specific. Now he’s back home and has left us a treat to enjoy.

Start with squid ink steamed bao with soft shell crab, XO mayo, cabbage and vinegar to get into the Asian Fusion mood, with subtle spanish influences. There is a whole section of the menu devoted to vegetables and we very much appreciate, as they are so healthy and delicious.

The wine list is great serving one of my go to favourites – reisingfreak. Also the gin and tonic menu is also worthwhile and fits the food well.

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LEEKS & FENNEL burnt vanilla butter, black garlic, grilled leeks, hazelnuts

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AGED BLACK ANGUS BEEF & XO (180g) grilled green leaves, XO mayo & sauce, pepper-miso butter

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Address Shop UG 4, The Hub, 75-79 Hall Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026 (look for the adina apartments and just being Tyvola) blanca.com.au

Open Tuesday – Thursday / 5:30pm til late, Friday – Sunday / noon til late

Best Angus beef

Osteria di Russo & Russo

On the surface Enmore looks like a old rundown street filled with take out stops. One fun fact is that behind some of these facades are a few restaurant gems, Osteria di Russo & Russo for one. The strange curtains and excessive plants hide the fine dining restaurant.

Food isn’t cheap but the service and atmosphere make up for it in spades. It is no wonder that it is a favourite amount foodies. A much covered secret and a place where people go to regularly because it is delicious and easy to frequent.

It does seem a bit of a stretch for an Italian restaurant, where the pizza or pasta section are noticeably missing. Not that you mind that much when the food is exquisite. The food is designed to share and you can pick your self or let the chef decide for you.

The native ingredients like crystal ice plants, riberries and native myrtle are unique. The balance of textures with crunchy toppings go perfectly with the puree. The creative team don’t lack any inspiration for updating the menu at a whim. The Italian wine was perfect and the sommelier and waitress advised us and got it right – nothing worse than a bad bootle of red.

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Local Burrata, Pumpkin, Candied Black Olive, Native Thyme, Crystal Ice Plant

 

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Char Grilled Market Fish, Cannellini Bean Puree, Roman Beans, Riberries, Coastal Greens, Native Lemon Myrtle

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Fresh Pasta, Prawn & Chervil Mousse, Fresh Peas, Prawn Reduction, Mustard Fruits, Prawn Head Pangritata

 

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Char Grilled Rangers Valley Rump Cap, Anchovy and Bread Sauce, Braised Tomato, Agrodolce Eshallots & Capers

 

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Zokoko 68% Chocolate Granita, Malt, Passion Berry, Honeycomb & Cocoa Nib

 

 

Address OSTERIA DI RUSSO & RUSSO 158 ENMORE ROAD, ENMORE they never answer the phone russoandrusso.net.au (book online in advance)

Open Tuesday – Sunday Dinner

Best Local Burrata

Back to nature with Rata Dining

Queenstown is undeniably a beautiful setting. Wall to wall mountains, ice blue lakes, gorgeous fishing town and lets not forget the snow in winter.

One of New Zealand’s top chefs Josh Emett has created a destination to sample some of the best produce on this side of the Tasman. Flour Caulton also has involvement and has the best restaurant at the Aimsfield winery, although a little out of the way..

With a forrest lining the walls and moss and other stones strategically placed, you can’t help thinking that you are in the middle of New Zealand and in some way you are – although just off the busy Queenstown streets.

Simplicity and delicacy of the dishes really stand out with well balanced flavours featuring asian influences with soy sauce and wasabi. Its a feast for the senses with Josh’t experience to plate us such beautiful creations time after time.

The impeccable wine list and knowledgeable staff complement the food well and also have some of the best wines in the region, Otago and the country.

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Line caught tuna crudo, avocado, ugli fruit, soy & mirin, coriander

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Cloudy Bay clams, vanilla braised fennel, radish, wild asparagus

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Dulce namelaka, apricot jelly, rose sorbet

Address Rātā Te Nuku, 43 Ballarat St Queenstown, New Zealand +64 3-442 9393 Ratadining.co.nz
Open Monday – Sunday: 12pm to 11pm Lunch/Dinner

Best Rose sorbet

Lets get social, Kensington St Social

Down a brand spanking new street in Chippendale is a line up of restaurants that are hard to beat – Automata and Kensington Street Social.

So its a Jason Atherton, bit of a London heavy weight from his Gordon Ramsay affiliation but he has left his mark with easy dishes that are well worth the visit.

The fit out is industrial chic and you don’t need to dress up, your sandals will do. It’s relaxed and easy going. There is a good mix of dining options. Bar food for the super casual, tables around the kitchen to gawk at the 5 chefs whipping up their magic and tables – low and high.

The food speaks for itself and everything is good. Although skip the entrees and head straight for the main. That is where the dishes really pack the punch. The snapper with seaweed mash and muscles have a warm creamy twist and the wagyu with artichoke and beef dashi is simple but just works. The desserts are also out of this world wish basil sorbet pavlova that is awesome to tuck into.

The wine list is great, making it the complete experience. Easy to breeze in and out with top notch food and wine, no wonder it is so popular.

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Kingfish

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Wagyu

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Snapper

 

Address 3 Kensington Street, Chippendale (02) 8277 8533 kensingtonstreetsocial.com

Open Lunch 12pm-2pm, Friday — Sunday, Dinner 5:30pm-10pm

Best Wagyu or any main

Bennelong Dining in the Opera House

 

The iconic opera house is home to art, music, theatre, entertainment and fine dining. What better place to unwind than under the shelled dome looking out on the water and all the buzz below. Also very contently located to turn a theatre trip into something special with a dinner before or just a causal drink at the bar. Bennelong delivers local roasted snapper, lemon puree, samphire, aigrette and umami butter or suckling pig with confit carrots and black and white garlic. The pavlova is created to look just like the opera house, just incase you missed it.It’s Peter Gilmore’s celebration of Australian producers with the best local produce carefully into dishes that you will remember. It is hugely popular and the food flows out of the kitchen as quickly as diners enjoy eating.

There are many partnerships with farmers, fisherman, breeders and providers to keep up with demand. The menu is seasonal which keeps up guessing and always is a reason to return.

Peter Gilmore's fresh take on the good old lamington.
                                                                  Lamington

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John Dory

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Pavlova

Address Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point Sydney, NSW 2000 (61 2) 9240 8000 bennelong.com.au 

Open Lunch 12pm-2pm, Friday — Sunday, Dinner 5:30pm-10pm

Best Pavlova

Fred’s: Homely french château

Its the kitchen and cooking that I wish I came home to every evening. Fred’s has a aperitif bar right when you walk in and then the main restaurant behind a small corridor. The kitchen is the centre of the restaurant with all the organic cotton tables surrounding that. It is a little warn on the edges and that adds a rustic charm to the elegant restaurant. It is something quite special.

The surprising creators are the flamboyant Merivale group who have taken a more farm to table approach. Head chef Danielle Alvarez started her career at the French Laundry and worked in San Fransisco in a similar restaurant Chez Panisse and brings sultry flavours to the table.

Most of the produce is sourced from local farms in Australia and New Zealand and that makes the menu vey seasonal. Not everything is available at any one time which also is a reason to come back, to try something fresh each time.

The quality of the seafood is exceptional and more so that a huge effort to use organic produce where possible. We also enjoyed the wine and the Longview Gruner Veltliner was a real treat with new world wines.

 

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Grilled prawns verjus beurre blanc, roasted grapes

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Wood oven flounder, leeks & spring onions, brown butter, anchobies

 

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Address 380 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW +61 2 9240 3000 merivale.com.au/freds/

Open Lunch 12pm-3pm, Friday — Sunday, Dinner 5:30pm-10pm, Tuesday — Saturday

 

Best Oven roasted flounder

Tantalus Estate Vineyard for lunch?

Everything about Tantalus screams VIP, even without having to be one. They did call in the big guns, Cheshire architects. Its surreal wooden and stone building overlooking rows of vines bursting with flavour from the earth and sun.  Head Chef Joe Vasiloff has created something special to enjoy while feasting on wine; the pork shoulder with spiced prunes and celeriac remoulade really hit the spot.

The cellar door is there when you walk into the restaurant and nice introduction before you make your selections. With a huge nod from the wine authority, Bob Campell on their Époque 2014 red wine, there are some top choices to enjoy. There are also craft beers on the menu – if you dare to miss out on the wine.

After lunch a stroll though the vineyards are in order, not because they are just there – more so for the appreciation of where your drop has come from. A sort of farm to table validation, its all somewhat satisfying and not something you can do everyday.

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Oysters

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Outdoor seating in the restaurant

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Coffee-Rubbed Pork Shoulder, savoy cabbage and apple fondue, spiced prunes, celeriac remoulade

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Tantalus rose

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Chardonnay grapes

Address 70 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island, Auckland 09 372 2625 tantalus.co.nz

Open 11am-4pm, Thursday — Sunday

Best Coffee-Rubbed Pork Shoulder

 

GETTING THERE

Fullers has ferries departing a few times a day from Auckland city and Devenport. They also have a bus service so you can purchase that with your return ticket for an additional $10 on top of you $36 ticket. There are shuttles and taxies available to take you around the island as the busses are crowded on public holidays. Many Waiheke island goers also bring their bikes along to cycle around the island if you are inclined.

Sophisticated Sepia

Right in front of your nose in the middle of the city is one find of a restaurant. Dazzling pictures of chocolate forrest floors with frozen berries or other exquisite creations are easy to find of Sepia. It is one of the best restaurants in the world and 84th by the last count. There are rumours of closing up shop and going into a different direction altogether. Chef Martin Benn is incredible keep up with the pressure as it is.

Before Sepia is gone and remains a memory. There are many 20 part dishes to be sipped, sampled and tasted. It is a culinary journey, a feast of the senses. It is something special.

Sepias unique style cuisine is difficult to define but has strong Japanese kaiseki influences.  The amount of rapid fire experiments to consistently plate dishes that are so imaginative is huge no doubt. It is great to sit back, relax and let the show roll on as each dish is more delicious than the previous.

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Butter poached pork loin lincoln squid with barley miso-cured egg yolk and wasabi flowers

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Sea scallops, macadamia nut cream quail egg umeboshi scallop cracking linara

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Charcoal grilled black abalone lip lemon cream asparagus tested quinoa

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Wagu beef with mushroom antlers

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Roasted aylesbury duck breast lemon aspen sheep yoghurt and apple nasturtium flower vinegar

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The pearl fingerlime gingerade

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Milk chocolate, coconut yoghurt, rice milk pudding, goat milk dulce de leech, sheep milk sorbet, milk cake, milk crisp yuba

Address 201 Sussex Street Sydney sepiarestaurant.com.au

Open Dinner Tuesday to Saturday and Lunch Friday and Saturday

Best  Impossible to pick, its all magic

Note Don’t eat all day otherwise you will be in a food coma. Advisable to book well in advance and give your dietary requirements that cannot be vegan

LuMi lights up

Unexpected ingredients that bring together new fresh flavours that you will want to experience again. LuMi is where Federico Zanellato makes his claim to fame with Italian and Japanese infusion fine dining. The location is a little off the beaten path in one of the glittery wharfs in Pyrmont. With super yachts relaxing on the water right outside the simple but well executed restaurant is easy going but packs a punch with each course.

Delicate, fresh and with unexpected twists and tuns keep you guessing and entertain you with likes pure pleasure – food. All the dishes connect to each other, be it the fennel poles or freeze dried orange. What is refreshing is that the dishes are not too sweet for invariant subscribers to Sara Wilson.

LuMi it truly delightful and easy to breeze in and out of for memorable weekend events.

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Snapper, Scallop Emulsion, Radish

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Artichoke & Sunflower Dashi

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Scialatielli, Eel, Cime di Rapa, Bottarga

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Short Rib, Eggplant, Radicchio

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Douglas Fir, Blood Orange, Olive Oil

Address 56 Piraña Rd, Pyrmont  +61 2 9571 1999 lumidining.com

Open Dinner Wednesday to Sunday and Lunch Friday to Sunday

Best  Scialatielli, Eel, Cime di Rapa, Bottarga

Travel Blog

The Press Club Awaits

Swinging along the streets of Melbourne and behind the golden gates unlocks the Press Club. It is George Calombaris’s fine dining establishment and had undergone a major transformation over its 10 years of existence. The ceiling is lined with gold organic shaped light fittings with light wood and leather booth seats. It was much smaller but cosier than what I had expected. Its got glamour with the runway decorated with shiney plates of glorious food. Luke Croston’s creations – that is. There isn’t really a reason to move, the waitresses tend to your every need and wonder if they would pick up my dry cleaning too.

The cocktail trolly is something from the 50’s and brought back from the past. They come in pre mixed bottles either the Ice Tea or Mastiha. One has bourbon, pico and peach liquor while the other comes with sour cherry ice along with cherry liqueur. The whole experience is innovative, where dishes integrate so well with each other. Subtle Greek influences with hummus drops but keeping the flavour pumping at each dish. The quality of food is something rear to find outside of top restaurants and even simple Salmon with fennel hits the spot. The masters grow the herbs upstairs on their roof and experiment with flavours in the kitchen below only popping up to greet the guests to receive a shy ‘thank you’. There is a book where you can leave a message for the chefs to read later and I genuinely feel that they want to get to know their diners on a personal level rather than just on a transaction – in typical Greek custom.

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Pork neck with carrot

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Atlantic Salmon with fennel

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Basil sorbet with roasted pineapple

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Haloumi with peach

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Address 72 Flindlers St, Melbourne 03 9677 9677 thepressclub.com.au

Open Dinner Monday to Saturday and Lunch Monday to Saturday

Best Roasted pork neck with carrots