Restaurant Round-Up 2011

by Jan

This about a few Sydney restaurants myself and others have eaten at in late 2011:

Bay 88 

88 Bayswater Rd, Rushcutters Bay, NSW 2011

Prices: Entrees in the teens; mains mid twenties

Approaching this restaurant the thing you first notice is the traffic noise, which put me off a bit. This is a very local restaurant for me and my neighbour, and we don’t go to it often enough. Well, that turned out to be a mistake. If the traffic noise drives you nuts, you can retreat inside. It’s on the corner which is the approach to the lovely Rushcutters Bay Park, our front yard. The outdoor furniture looks attractive and comfortable, separated by bamboo dividers.

Bay 88 is under new ownership, (Daniel Bloom and Mark Glatter) and they sensibly have not wasted a million dollars on a reno. Instead the bar has been refashioned with recycled and unpainted wood, reflecting a contemporary aesthetic.

This venue is very popular for weekend brunches, so arriving early is kind of mandatory.

But the services tend to merge into each other which makes all-day eating viable.

It was an early mid-week dinner for us. My neighbour who generally chooses conservative dishes, chose grain-fed yearling sirloin with sauce Bordelaise and chips. She loves the fact that generally restaurants cook steak better than non-professional cooks. She was not disappointed. Whereas I would choose something that I would not cook at home. It was apple glazed roast belly pork with kipfler potatoes and waldorf salad. I loved belly pork, crackling and their interpretation of it. They have a specials board which is a very good way to test-drive dishes for the next menu.

For locals this place is really worth going to if you can’t be bothered cooking, or any other excuse.



21 Broughton St, Kirribilli, Sydney

This restaurant dominates the footpath covering it with tables and tent-like protection against inclement weather. When you sit down at this restaurant you notice that the napkin is neatly wrapped in brown paper. On further exploration, that brown paper turns out to be the a la carte menu.

But, there’s another menu which is structured like the menu of a noodle bar. You choose your fish, its cooking method, its accompaniment, and it’s hinged together Lego-like. For example, I had terakihi, pan fried with mash, spinach and beurre blanc. My two companions had the same but with mahi mahi. (priced about mid twenties)  Deeply satisfying with the beurre blanc, and cut with a bottle of SA Coobara pinot gris Adelaide Hills ($39).

This was a pre-theatre meal, expedited efficiently, and was the perfect solution. On leaving we observed that the restaurant had filled with locals and other pre-theatre patrons. This confirmed our assumption that this is a popular local.



5 Baptist St (near Cleveland St), Surry Hills, Sydney

This restaurant is gem hidden off the beaten track of Crown Street. Unprepossessing on approach and nor is the décor striking, except for dark wood and 70s-style cut-out panels. But the décor of Italian restaurants in Italy is not usually striking either. You’re mainly there for the food, which makes a refreshing change. Oh, and there is some space between the tables. Now, there’s an idea.

Having been in Italy recently (September 2011), Alio’s food appears not to be the same as conventional as that in Italy, but that’s not always a bad thing. One gets a bit tired of “tipico” Italian dishes. The party I was with shared a couple of anti-pasto platters which included beautiful bresaola, coppa, prosciutto and grana padano. ($30). It seems that chef Ashley Hughes concentrates on quality ingredients well prepared. This he would have learnt when he did time for Marco Pierre White, and Ruth Rogers at River Café, London.

I’m a fiend for belly pork on any menu in any restaurant. On this menu, a chunk of it was roasted, then chargrilled, with roasted spring vegetables, and salsa verde ($35). This salsa is one of those gutsy olive oil-based condiments, like pesto, and gremolata. It consists of basil, parsley, garlic, capers, cornichons, anchovies, processed with olive oil. Salsa verde gives the pork and vegetables a rounded savoury flavour, with some piquancy from the capers and cornichons. Much more rustic and satisfying.

Top billing on the list of main courses (at the time of our visit) was grilled salmon with a salad of asparagus, beans, olives and a sauce called bagna cauda (about $35). This is garlic and anchovies fried in olive oil, with a little butter. It’s a traditional sauce from Provence which can also be served with vegetables.

Being a mixed group we were democratic in our choice of wine: a bottle of 2009 Casa Bianco (Arneis, Riesling & Savagnin) Cheshunt, VIC ($28) and 2009 Little Demon Cabernet Merlot, McLaren Vale, SA ($39). Both complemented the food very well.

This restaurant is not old school Italian restaurant, either very expensive and traditional, or a cheap little pizza and pasta joint. It’s a judicious compromise focussing on quality products and less of the tradition of creamy sauces. And Hughes can pull this off without a million dollar fit-out or a harbour view. The service was not noticeable, therefore very good. Definitely worth the trip, and would happily repeat it.

Spice Temple

Bligh St, Sydney NSW 2000

I have been anticipating a visit to this restaurant for some time because I love Asian cuisines. And I like good quality Chinese cuisines and cooking even more.


This venue is part of the Rockpool stable, and is a conduit for Neil Perry’s interest in Asian cuisines; he used to run XO at Potts Point.

The entrance is on Bligh St through an interesting video door, downstairs to a large and dark dungeon, lit with little table lights. It’s organised like a courtyard panelled off from the corridor around it. The building is Art Deco and to a small extent this has continued within, but with the impression of red lacquer work and black tables.

Euphemistically, the lighting is moody, leaving you a bit in the dark reading the menu. I think one is meant to imagine sharing the room with other opium smokers. The menu is a bit agonising because you will probably want to order all of it.

The northern style lamb and fennel dumplings (8 for $18) came with a mild chilli dipping sauce. We could have ordered another helping straight away, they were so good. Northern cuisine is less rice based and a more wheat based cold climate food. Most cuisines seem to have their version of Cornish pastie, only vastly superior here.

A plate of steamed blue eye arrived. One half was covered in salted red chilli, and the other in pickled chilli ($34). What a knockout. The fish was beautifully moist, and especially good when washed down with Neil Perry’s house brand, Riesling Rockpool by Grosset Clare Valley ($58). This wine also cuts the richness of the Guangxi style roast pork belly with coriander, peanuts, red onion and sesame seeds. My personal opinion is that the pork could have been cooked a bit longer so that it falls apart more readily. A minor quibble, because it was beautiful.

Would drop tools to return to this restaurant anytime.