Aimsfield Bistro Queenstown

The charming schist stone cottage lined with copper and recycled timber is closer to town than expected, which is handy. The mountains separating the Cromwell wineries and Queenstown are tricky to navigate. The view is spectacular with Coronet peak and Lake Hayes right out front. The place is still buzzing after Kate and William stopped by on their last visit.

The food is the star of the show and the man behind it all is Chef Vaughan Mabee. The produce is grown nearby or foraged right outside the mountains. Unique native ingredients are what makes Aimsfield so special and such a memorable experience. Perhaps taking cue from his time at Noma. Native NZ fish or butterfish are combined with rose, vinegar cream and horseradish snow are some of the prized dishes.

There is nothing to do but sit back, relax and enjoy the cracking fire place, mountains and the odd game of Pétanque after lunch.

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Trumpet fish with coconut sorbet

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Root vegetables in broth

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Smokey whipped butter

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Butter fish in an mussel sauce

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Lamb with spinach and caramelised yoghurt

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Soufflé with beer sorbet

 

Address 10 Lake Hayes Road, Queenstown, New Zealand +64 3 442 0556 , amisfield.co.nz

Open Lunch 12-3pm; dinner 5-8pm 7 days.

Best Butter Fish

Worst Its all amazing but the food is better than the wine

 

Bloodwood Newtown

Something a little different, outside the circle and thats Bloodwood. Fits in perfectly on Newtown’s King Street. While the menu items are a little hit and miss – it is still possible to order right. Although that requires thinking and being more on the inside than outside. Bloodwood experience perhaps. The hits we found were the roasted prawns, miso butter, hiramasa kingfish, coriander, chill and roasted swordfish, mulligatawny.  The wine list is nice on the glass side of things.

We couldn’t pass up the Bloodwood trifle – and on that day it was an early grey port jelly, quince and the required sponge. It was tasty and there were other desserts that would possibly be real stunners too.

Word on the street is that the chefs behind bloodwood came from the fine dining world. Threw in the towel for something fun, relaxed and personality. But that was ten years ago and they are still going strong. Although you can’t book a table, which is sort of a Melbourne thing. You can just rock up in your jeans wait around for a while in the front bar drinking cocktails and wine, while you wait. If the strategy is to ply you with alcohol before dinner, its working. It is a local favourite and has lifted the Newtown food scene.

 

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Sticky fried brisket and heirloom carrots

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Bloodwood Trifle

 

Address 416 king st. newtown, 9557 7699, bloodwoodnewtown.com

Open Lunch Sat-Sun 12pm; dinner 7 days 5pm.

Best Roasted prawns, miso butter

Worst Chickpea pancake, zucchini, dukkah, kale, persian feta

 

 

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