Archive for the ‘Guest Blogger’ Category

The Tilbury, Woolloomooloo

Another great post from my Uncle, he recently went to The Tilbury and enjoyed it. His photos are amazing as always!

I think I’m a late bloomer. I really didn’t discover food beyond my usual until the last two years. I’m one of those that sticks to the tried and tested… and also someone who values the limited space in my stomach. This is also why it annoys me when I come away from a meal feeling rather disappointed. Good news, folks! This post is all good. Oh wait, did I give that away too soon? hehe. I’ve been asking GA for tips on where to go for breakfast – perks of being friends with her. And so when I had the chance to spend the afternoon with Lala, Boo Radley and TT, I wanted to make sure that lunch was good! I missed out on their outing to Orto‘s last week (which Lala liked, a lot)…all I had was pictures of how pretty the scotch eggs was and how full they were. Argggghhh.

Anyways, fast forward to a week after their Orto’s outing (again, inspired by GA’s visit), I made a lunch booking for us at The Tilbury. TT had the day off and I took half a day of annual leave to run around to get some errands done.

The menu is simple and uncomplicated. It wasn’t hard for me to decide what I wanted. We had some sourdough and olive oil. Lala loves her bread… she did say that she prefers butter to oil with the bread. I agree. Iggy’s bread has made us ‘bread snobs’ too. Thankfully, the bread was crusty and full of flavour.

Lala went for the figs and prosciutto. Lala really enjoyed the fresh figs!

TT had the Alaskan crab with wet polenta. TT was initially sceptical of the ‘wet polenta’ but she finished it too!

And I ordered the confit of pork belly! Oh yes. A post on GA won’t be complete without some piggy. For the record, I usually order the worse of the lot. Not this time! All our entrees were delightful. My confit was perfect. The fat on the belly was nicely render. Melt in the mouth! The entrees did take some time to land, but it was worth the wait.

For mains, we had (1) barrumundi with scallops: fish was really well cooked and the scallops were nicely seared with red and yellow beets.

(2) saffron gnocchi (I just had to google the correct spelling for this): vibrant colours from the saffron and pillow-y soft gnocchi. Cooked to perfection and the way gnocchi should be (for me at least).

(3) Spaghetti with Alaskan King Crab: pedestrian perhaps to some…but it came with a generous amount of crab. The pasta was a tad undercooked. Flavours were faultless though.

And of course, no meal is complete without spuds. Fancy ones: rosemary and garlic kipfler (had to google this as well). Lala said “no” to fries and the potatoes. Good thing she did… cos it was a very sizeable amount even when shared amongst 3 of us.

Took quite a long time to get the mains. We were in a hurry and it was probably my fault for not telling the kitchen we needed to go at a certain time. But we also didn’t know service would be slightly slower than what we were used to. A table of four that arrived 10 minutes after us got their entrees at the same time as we did and got their mains 10 minutes before we did as well – this is inspite of my request for an expedited service of our mains.

All in all, a very good dining experience. Friendly, fresh and tasty (had to google this, having a shocker with spelling today) food, unrushed service (slightly slow to land our orders onto our table – but that’s forgiveable) and uncomplicated flavours!

Didn’t get a chance to sample the desserts, but hey, that’s reason to go back again. The only thing I’d change: is to make sure I have a clear schedule after lunch… for a nice afternoon nap.

Tilbury Hotel

18 Nicholson St

Woolloomooloo 2011

Ph: + 61 2 9368 1955

Tilbury Hotel on Urbanspoon

Biota dining, Bowral

It has been a while since I had a guest blogger. I have wanted my dear ‘Uncle’ to guest blog for a while now. He has a way with words and as you can see below from his photos, he is an amazing photographer! An office worker by day, a photographer on weekends and not to mention his culinary skills – a chef by night! Check out his fantastic work here, and if you need a photographer, let me know – I will ‘hook you up!’ Anyway, this is what he had to say about Biota dining in Bowral – I will have to go there myself one day! Thanks Uncle…

The last of the long weekends for a couple of months. This is the part of the year that most (NSW) working folk dread, because it’s not till October another public holiday comes along. So for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, Lala and I decided to take a drive down south and check out Biotadining. I first came across Biota dining from a fellow foodie tweep, and for someone that prides himself on having a decent memory for details, for the life of me, I can’t recall who exactly (sign of old age), but she did say it was worth it, in spite of the trek out of town.

So when I mentioned to Gastronomous Anonymous that I was going to Biota dining, she asked if I was willing to do a guest blog! So here it is. I did say that if I ever wrote a food blog, it will only have ONE of the following TWO words: YUM / YUCK. Let’s see how this experience pans out, shall we?

Sydney siders will know that we’ve been playing hide and seek with the sun, rain and wind all throughout this week. Today was no different. It took us just a touch over an hour to get to Bowral from where we live. Traffic was brisk and easy down the M5. Being the long weekend also meant double demerits, but as Lala says, I drive too much like an old man to need to worry. Finding Biota dining was easy. Parking was also easy and plentiful – note to Sydney siders: one plus to dining out of town.

First impressions of the exterior of the restaurant were as expected. It had that organic, earthy feel. Nothing fancy, nothing over embellished, it felt true to its philosophy “animals and plants of a particular region”. We saw kids running around the pond, ducklings waddling around and the restaurant garden. Upon entry, we were immediately greeted by a very pleasant scent of fig. For those who know me, I am obsessed by scented candles and so the aroma of sweet, woody fig filling the dining area was working quite nicely.

As usual, I am distracted by the details of the restaurant, and I send Lala and Boo Radley off to find our seats. The lovely staff at Biota show us to our seats….bonus! We have a great view of the kitchen. Chef and owner, James Viles and his head chef Shaun Quade are busy as bees calling out orders and plating up dishes at the pass. I scan our surroundings and am very impressed with the decor. White leather cushioned seats, good use of wood and funky ‘bare bulb’ lights; it sure didn’t feel like we were in sleep Bowral!

I leave LaLa to look at the menu and grab a few shots around the restaurant, which is split into 2 dining rooms. The bistro is bathed in natural light and looks over the pond, with communal tables, oversized paintings – there is a quiet-buzz about the bistro dining area. No visit to a restaurant is complete without a visit to the bathroom. This time around, I made sure I didn’t use the Ladies by mistake. I take a quick peek, and was pleasantly surprised that the bathroom had a light chocolate scent.

Ok, back to the menu. It’s pretty simple, a page each for entree, mains and dessert. I had the wagyu for entree. For mains, we chose the lamb rump and the grouper. You can find the menu here (look under Gastronomy menu).

Amuse bouche: Hen with salted egg and reduced french onion. That was a nice surprise, but maybe not so for a restaurant that charges an average of almost $40 for mains.

Bread: I am very picky with my breads…as is LaLa with her butter. We get served house baked bread (Rye) with home-churned butter. It was good! Nicely warmed and with the right about of crunch on the crust. The butter was smooth and with some salt flakes that it came with, was a nice touch of flavour.

My entree, blackmore wagyu, raw and cooked radish, sanguinaccio ($23) was nicely presented. Strips of wagyu with nicely reduced sauce and crunchy bits. I love a bit of crunch in my food. The melt in your mouth beef coupled with the crunchy bits worked really well! The last time I had wagyu this good was at Dan Hong’s Lotus Restaurant in Potts Point.

Main no.1 – my grouper, grains, seeds and sand, snow peas, oyster and nashi ($38). Generous portion of white flaky fish. One word: SO GOOD. Okay, two words. Lala will tell you I can’t count. It was very nicely cooked. Sous vide, I suspect. Juices retained, fish cooked to       P E R F E C T I O N. The maitre’d explain that the concept is based on a beach scene after a wild storm – seaweed, drift wood washed up on shore. I like the imagination. Food should be presented with vision; we eat with our eyes after all.

Mains no. 2 – LaLa’s lamb, lamb rump in olive caramel, baked carrots, oat milk, eggplant and garlic ash ($41). Cooked over 30 hours using sous vide. It was nice and pink throughout and the flavour if you asked Lala, was Y U M M Y. We were told that the chef wanted to create a scene of a lamb in its habitat. Some bush, some rocks. Portions here were generous. Yes, it’s all about size…. nothing worse than tiny morsels of food on a ginormous plate. I tasted some of the lamb, it was really, really good. Oh, did I mention it also had lamb bacon? Crispy! So good!

For the record, there is no one I know that eats faster than me. Hands down. I like food delivered briskly, course after course. I HATE having to wait too long between courses. It also means that my brain gets a chance to process that I am already ‘full’. So midway through our mains, I put in our order for dessert. Lala had the silk honey and pumpkin cream, pumpkin seeds and shortbread, curds and whey and ginger juice sorbet ($15). Phew, that was a mouthful…. and I had a caramel pear, raw cacao ice cream, warm buckwheat and malt ($16).

How did the desserts fair? For LaLa’s, there was a good play of textures. Hidden underneath the pumpkin cream, there was a plethora of that. Crunchy, not so crunchy… it was a pure textural play. It was a winner.

Mine was similarly outstanding. Ice cream had a wonderful smoothness to it. Oh yeah, I am an ice cream freak. So I know when I have good ice cream!

So we’ve talked about the food, the ambience, the decor… what about the service? The floor staffs are very friendly… which is good. What could have been better: We didn’t get a rundown of what the restaurant stood for. I would have expected that. I think in that respect, the maitre’d didn’t convey Chef Jame’s vision and is a little disappointing, as there’s so much they could have highlighted – vegetables from their backyard, local produce. We also found that our plates weren’t being cleared efficiently enough. Often, it was not until the next course arrived did our plates from the previous course get taken away. Twice also, the maitre’d himself knocked my water glass and my cutlery as he was clearing our plates. Again, it’s a small issue, but it’s also these little things that dull the experience. My biggest issue: a chef that loves to clap. WHAT? You read it right… whenever a dish is ready, the chef would clap (one clap) for the floor staff to come to the pass. Sitting right next to the open kitchen, it wasn’t the most pleasant sound. I’d much rather hear swearing than claps. I’ve worked in a fine dining restaurant with a kitchen well out of sight and ear shot of wait staff: no claps were used. A better system could be used…. please, stop with the clap.

In spite of the let downs, I’ve decided that it’s already my favourite restaurant. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Yes, there are a few operational kinks, but it will get better with time. The food is outstanding and you forget for a moment that you’re just an hour outside of Sydney!

It gets a YUM from me. Finger-licking-yum! Hope everyone else had a productive long weekend!

Or in Gastronomous’ style of rating: 8.5/10

Biota Dining

Kangaloon Rd

Bowral 2576

Ph: +61 2 4862 2005

Biota Dining on Urbanspoon

To the foodie tweep that gave me the heads up about Biotadining, if you happen to read this, please shout out!

Spice Temple, Sydney

I have asked a dear foodie friend, MG to be a guest blogger. He loves and appreciate food as much as I do, maybe even more. He has a way with describing food and words. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a foodblog, however, when I suggested he become a guest blogger, he was thrilled and happy to write once in a while. We have had some wonderful meals together, especially in Hong Kong and without a doubt, I can always count on MG to come and dine with me.

I have been to Spice Temple a couple of times, pre-blog days and personally, I wasn’t blown away. So when MG told me he was going to Spice Temple,I asked if he could do a review and this is what he has to say…

Spice Temple is Neil Perry’s latest iteration of a Modern Chinese restaurant, following the respective closures of Wockpool, XO (Potts Point) and XO (Surry Hills).

Although some clear similarities could be drawn between these three previous restaurants, it is obvious that Neil Perry has completely overhauled his approach to this genre of his food empire. Anyone who had visited any of the aforementioned restaurants can appreciate Neil Perry’s recent efforts in incorporating a wider variety of Chinese cuisine into his menu, following his self-directed educational tour through provinces such as Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi and fur-flung Xinjiang.

In this dimly-lit and moody basement setting, Neil Perry proclaimed to create the “sexiest Chinese restaurant in town”. Accordingly, pictures of sultry young Asian women giving coquettish glances adorn the walls, menus, website and the back of his business cards.

The food:

Cucumbers with smashed garlic and ginger: Simple and refreshing enough, although at eight dollars a plate this probably carries a sizeable profit margin.

Tea smoked duck breast with pickled cabbage and Chinese mustard: One of the highlights of the meal.  This was a completely new dish that was unlike any Chinese dish previously encountered. Everyone present suspected that the duck had been steamed and smoked at some length. Served cold, it had a very concentrated flavour and was well accompanied by the mustard. Where do you even get Chinese mustard, anyway? After this experience, it would be ideal to have a supply kept at home.

Fish drowned in heaven facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns: Leatherjacket Sichuan style: This dish wasn’t nearly as threatening as some versions that may be found in other Sichuan restaurants. Despite the waiter providing us with plenty of warnings about the amount of chilli in the dish, none of the guests at the table seemed too challenged by it. The fish was perfectly cooked, but there were some murmurings about superior and more authentic versions of this classic being found elsewhere…

Three shot chicken: Beer, chilli and soy: As in other restaurants within the Rockpool empire, the Spice Temple waiters provided a small amount of theatre for the guests throughout the meal. A small stove was produced at the table in order to allow the waitress to heat up this chicken dish while stirring through a shot of soy sauce, beer and chilli oil. Presented in a modest-looking ceramic bowl, it was hearty and tasty, despite not having the chic minimalist presentation of some of the other dishes.

Stir fried Wagyu brisket with baby eggplant and chilli: A perfectly tasty stir-fry. However, at over forty dollars a serve, some diners may baulk at the portion size of this dish. Although it was generally well-received, most were in agreement that stir-fries with a much higher eggplant-to-beef ratio could easily be found elsewhere.

Sichuan influenced eight treasure boned whole duck: Pork, tofu, lap cheong, peanut, red date, chestnut, pickled mustard, greens, shallots: Ordered 24 hours in advance, there was some anticipation surrounding the arrival of this house specialty. That anticipation quickly changed to mild disappointment as we picked through the multitude of ingredients stuffed into the bird. We weren’t sure if our Western palates just weren’t cut out to appreciate red dates mixed with tofu and mustard. Whatever the reason, a sizeable chunk of this dish remained uneaten.

Tingling Prawns: A tasty and beautifully-presented dish that wasn’t as hot as the menu seemed to suggest.

All in all, Spice Temple is a fun dining experience that gives people a welcome (if expensive) opportunity to be exposed to a range of Chinese cuisine hither to unseen in most Sydney restaurants. We were keen to congratulate the owner himself, but sadly he was absorbed in a loud conversation with a celebrity musician.

MG’s rating: 7.5 / 10

I hope you enjoyed our guest blogger, MG, I most certainly did! I am hoping this won’t be his last time, so stay tuned for MG’s next review. Thanks again MG!

Spice Temple

10 Bligh Street

Sydney 2000

Ph: +61 2 8078 1888

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon