30 January 2011

Etch: Fast Festival Feast, CBD Sydney (12 Jan 2011)

62 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Nice decor for a quick meal

Throughout the Festival, between 12 noon and 1 pm and/or 6 pm and 7 pm, visit any of the Fast Festival Feasts restaurants listed and receive a main course with a glass of Stoneleigh wine, a Kronenbourg 1664 beer or a bottle of Tasmanian Rain water for just $30 (inc GST).

Thanks to Madam Wu for my birthday gift at the 1 hatted Etch restaurant— one of my favourite presents is being taken out to dine. Arriving at 6 pm we theoretically had 1 hour on the clock to take advantage of the Fast Festival Feast but there didn't seem to be any rush to leave after 7 pm, perhaps because they weren't overly busy. Starting with a nicely presented entree special of the day of Kingfish prepared three ways ($20) it was a little challenging to share the small portions but we did our best interpretation of MasterChef judge George in dividing it up. The Kingfish sashimi had the most flavour but I was more a fan of the deep fried croquette along with the silky smooth avocado mousse — a dozen of these would have gone down well.

The Festival promoted main of Ballottine of chicken, sauteed baby gem and asparagus, lemon thyme veloute ($30 with glass of wine) was fairly substantial in size with nice flavours although for some reason I was expecting a more elegant smooth sausage like form rather than the large rustic chicken pieces. It seemed nicely matched with the quaffable Stoneleigh Pinot Grigio. A reasonably priced side of Provencal potatoes, aged prosciutto, smoked garlic mayonnaise ($9) was full of flavour and helped make the whole meal quite filling. Peppermint tea ($5) is made from real leaves and the nicely made roasty flavoured Cappuccino ($5) had thankfully little bitterness. Service was friendly, efficient and surprisingly quite down-to-earth. The comfortable dining area had a nice ambient feel with its mood lighting and chic decorative elements.

Other food blog reviews:
Music Munchies Review

PROS: Friendly and professional service, Nice decor, Well presented dishes, Interesting menu
CONS: $30 main and drink deal only available during January
MUST TRY: Provencal potatoes with aged prosciutto and smoked garlic mayonnaise

Kingfish prepared three ways ($20 special of the day)

Kingfish tartare with creme fraiche sorbet

Kingfish sashimi served with avocado and wasabi cream

Kingfish croquette

Avocado mousse

Ballottine of chicken, sauteed baby gem and asparagus, lemon thyme veloute ($30 with glass of wine)

Stoneleigh Pinot Grigio

Provencal potatoes, aged prosciutto, smoked garlic mayonnaise ($9)

Cappuccino ($5)

Peppermint tea ($5)

Lounge area

Private dining room

Pretty cool lamp shades

Nice feature clock

Rooster salt holder and table candle

Welcoming rooster

Outside street entrance

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Etch on Urbanspoon

29 January 2011

The Restaurant: Modern Australian Cuisine, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney (9 Jan 2011)

Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000

Pretty as a picture dishes

Continuing my week of birthday celebrations starting with Berowra Waters Inn and Cafe Sydney I was taken out to The Restaurant at the Art Gallery of NSW by friends who sadly couldn't make it to my birthday the day before. I'm an avid fan of the Art Gallery so it was a great opportunity to try the restaurant with its light and airy views of the surrounding area. My favourite dish of the day was the Ocean trout tartare ($23) which had simple yet refreshing flavours and the tomato consommé had good depth of flavour which I enjoyed to the end by soaking up with the complimentary table bread. For a health conscious snack you might like the Sweet potato chips and salsa verde ($9.50). I really liked the way zucchini in the White polenta lasagne ($27.50) was used to help cut through the heaviness of the lasagna although some extra green vegetables within the lasagna would have been appreciated to provide more balance. My Snapper, crisp quinoa, heirloom tomato salad ($36) had a lovely combination of flavours including some refreshing mint although I wasn't a huge fan of the unsettling and somewhat annoying crunchy bits of quinoa and would have enjoyed it even more if they were left out. I had a bit of dish envy for the Veal tenderloin, pearl barley risotto, white asparagus ($35) which was very good and the Barramundi, gnocchi, shellfish foam ($34) was well liked.

They make a decent Hot chocolate full of flavour and the tiny Espresso wasn't too bitter but could have been a bit larger. We had a nice Selection of cheese ($21) but would have preferred it to be served with bread rather than the slightly sweet wafer crackers and somewhat unpalatable oatmeal biscuits which I've never enjoyed. A nicely presented Raspberry iced pavolva, mango, crème fraiche ($17) was an interesting take on the dessert which made for a refreshing finish. The complimentary chocolate Petit four were devilishly smooth and yummy. Service seemed friendly enough and efficient and if you have the time I'd definitely recommend checking out the art exhibitions as part of your day.

Other visits to The Restaurant:
14 Nov 2011 - Picasso Media Lunch, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Pan Fried Spanish Mackerel, Patatas Bravas, Warm Almond Cake
9 Jan 2011 - Ocean Trout Tartare, White Polenta Lasagne, Barramundi, Veal Tenderloin, Snapper, Sweet Potato Crisps Raspberry Iced Pavlova

PROS: Nice outlook including water views, Light and open space, Nicely presented dishes, Efficient service, Quality ingredients, Free art exhibitions
CONS: Pricey dishes, Limited street parking outside
MUST TRY: Ocean trout tartare

Complimentary bread and olive oil

Smoked duck breast, fresh fig and walnut, witlof ($23)

Sweet potato chips and salsa verde ($9.50)

Ocean trout tartare, cucumber, tomato consommé ($23)

White polenta lasagne, taleggio, sorrel cream ($27.50)

Snapper, crisp quinoa, heirloom tomato salad ($36)

Veal tenderloin, pearl barley risotto, white asparagus ($35)

Barramundi (market fish), gnocchi, shellfish foam ($34)

Hot chocolate


Selection of cheese, port and pear paste ($21)

Raspberry iced pavolva, mango, crème fraiche ($17)

Petit four


Window view of woolloomooloo wharf and harbour

Window view of Kings Cross

Restaurant seating

Kitchen and service counter

Tempting aperitifs on display

Entrance to the Art Gallery of New South Wales

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The Restaurant - Art Gallery of New South Wales on Urbanspoon

Cafe Sydney: Fine dining with a great view, Circular Quay (4 Jan 2011)

31 Alfred Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Great view and good service

To celebrate on my actual birthday my brother took the family out to Cafe Sydney for dinner. Arriving just before our 7 pm booking we were informed our table wasn't ready so we sat near the bar to order drinks. I sometimes think this is a ploy to have customers order pre-dinner drinks as I noticed other guests being let through to be seated but perhaps our special terrace spot was indeed not ready for a further 25 minutes waiting. In the meantime I enjoyed a Cafe Sydney Lounge cocktail ($19) albeit the excessive ice while others enjoyed the Bellini cocktail ($17), Hurricane cocktail ($19), Non-alcoholic Kiwi Crush cocktail ($11) and a Hahn Super Dry beer ($8.50).

Once we were finally seated on the terrace we realised the wait was worth it. With an outdoor terrace spot booked and thankfully clouds holding tight above the weather was very pleasant to enjoy the great views over Circular Quay including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House — I felt like a tourist in my own city. Being open to the elements I think having a comfortable experience on the terrace is very dependent on the weather and if it was very hot and humid it might have been a repeat of Berowra Waters Inn. Our wait staff seemed professional, friendly and accommodating which I wasn’t expecting. Even to the point where I complained about my table support not being correctly aligned for comfort and they managed to swap my table quickly to my liking — bonus ticks for service, but I felt a little guilty for the other couple still to arrive that got my misaligned table, sorry.

A pricey bottle of 2006 Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer, Marlborough NZ ($81) was good and the very affordable freshly cooked Garlic naan ($2), Spiced caramelised onion naan ($3) and Goats cheese and spinach naan ($3.50) were great tasty starters — very unusual to see on a fine dining menu. A side of Sauteed rosemary kiplfers ($9.50) were a bit oily but nevertheless full of flavour. I really enjoyed the nicely presented Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons ($27) which was light yet flavoursome. Equally enjoyable were the Pure Coffin Bay oysters ($22.50 for 6) which had been freshly shucked although I might have preferred the eschallots to be caramelized a bit to sweeten the oniony taste and not sure what the 'pure' meant. Chips ($8) were thin and crispy as hoped and reminded me of McDonalds French Fries but fresher — when they’re cut the same size how can one not joke if they’d actually been bought from downstairs, but I know they weren’t.

The Twice cooked pork ($38) was enjoyed along with the flavoursome Tarragon gnocchi ($32). I had a bit of food envy for the nicely cooked Herb crusted lamb rack ($39) and my Crumbed crab cake with grilled prawn ($27) was light yet tasty but relatively pricey I guess for the small serving. I really enjoyed the Mixed young salad leaves ($8.5) as a side which was very fresh and had a lovely dressing reminding me of the one I had at est. Some crispy skin was thankfully to be had on the W.A. barramundi with goat cheese ravioli ($39). The Buttermilk panna cotta with poached strawberry and rhubarb ($18) was chocolate signed with my surprise birthday wish — the strawberries could have been sweeter but the panna cotta was nice. The Warm hazelnut pudding ($18) and Baked cheesecake with glazed pineapple ($17) were rather simply plated but still enjoyable. You can’t go too wrong washing the desserts down with some 2009 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora ($9) and 2008 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon ($12.50). To my surprise the Cappucino ($4.50) and Flat white ($4.50) were pretty decent without being too bitter on the palate. The overall experience was very good and special and I think a great spot to wine and dine any tourist friends visiting Sydney or for those who are looking for what seems like a well-run enjoyable restaurant with excellent views and nicely prepared dishes.

PROS: Friendly and professional service, Nice dishes, Great view from terrace, Romantic atmosphere at night, Privacy screens in mens toilet, Entertainment Book discount available
CONS: Some table supports are awkwardly positioned (and should be corrected), Expensive but the view makes it special, Had to wait 25 minutes for our 7 pm table booking, Very limited free street parking, Terrace table is weather dependent
MUST TRY: Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons, Oysters, Mixed young salad leaves, Naan

Cafe Sydney Lounge cocktail: Fresh lime muddled with torn kaffir lime leaf, Bombay Sapphire gin, Bacardi Superior rum, citrus-ginger and melon liqueurs; complemented with cranberry juice ($19) — ice factor is quite a fair amount.

Bellini cocktail: White peach puree and Creme de Peche topped with Prosecco di Congeliano ($17)

Hurricane cocktail: A refreshing balance of passionfruit, orange and lime juices shaken with Bacardi Superior and Bacardi 8 rums ($19)

Kiwi Crush non-alcoholic cocktail: Crisp and fresh with kiwi fruit, lime and passionfruit syrup; finished with Appletiser ($11)

Hahn Super Dry beer ($8.50)

2006 Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer, Marlborough NZ ($81 bottle)

Garlic naan ($2), Spiced caramelised onion naan ($3), Goats cheese and spinach naan ($3.50)

Sauteed rosemary kiplfers ($9.50)

Pure Coffin Bay oysters on ice with eschallot and caramelised cabernet vinegar ($22.50 for 6)

Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons, radish, lemon and horseradish creme fraiche ($27)

Chips ($8)

Twice cooked pork belly with pork fillet, prosciutto, caramelised apple, pistachio and jus ($38)

Tarragon gnocchi with asparagus, yellow squash, roasted eggplant, truss tomato and persian feta ($32)

Herb crusted lamb rack with braised lamb shoulder cigar, heirloom baby carrots and jus ($39)

Mixed young salad leaves ($8.5)

Crumbed crab cake with grilled prawn, cornichon, fennel and sauce gribiche ($27)

W.A. barramundi with goat cheese ravioli, butternut pumpkin, pine nut, raisin and sage brown butter ($39)

2009 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora ($9), 2008 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon ($12.50)

Buttermilk panna cotta with poached strawberry and rhubarb ($18)

Warm hazelnut pudding with chestnut creme and praline ice cream ($18)

Baked cheesecake with glazed pineapple, coconut crisp and pineapple sorbet ($17)

Cappucino ($4.50), Flat white ($4.50)

Bill $499.50 for 5 people, minus $50 with Entertainment Card discount = $449.50

The terrace view during the day and night

Terrace seating — best spot for a view when good weather

In good weather the terrace shade is retracted to open up the view to the sky

Inside restaurant dining

Bar area — I'm so glad I didn't wear my pink shirt otherwise I would have looked like a staff member

Lounge area — I find the seating too low and very uncomfortable

Table support not ergonomically positioned — a pet hate of mine

Table support corrected by efficient service — I'm much more comfortable now

Dinosaur Designs battery operated table lights — I want one

Aesops liquid soap in the toilets — nice. Also the mens toilet has privacy screens between the urinals, now that's a big tick in my 'finer details' book which you don't often find.

Interior of Customs House foyer

Customs House — Cafe Sydney located at the top

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Cafe Sydney on Urbanspoon

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