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Xanthi, Sydney

Xanthi interior (left); Makedonikos Tsipouro (right)

It’s Greek hospitality at its best. Xanthi is one of the latest additions to Level 6 on Westfield Sydney, serving Greek food from 8am til late in an elegant setting with beautiful tiled, mosaic-ed walls, billowing curtains and drapes, and colourful lamps hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant boasts a rotating spit, freshly made filo and an ouzo trolley with quite possibly the largest selection of ouzo available in Sydney.

Pickled octopus

Tonight we’re here to feast on a sumptuous Greek banquet to celebrate the birthday of three special ladies. We’ve barely sat down for five minutes before David Tsirekas, head chef and owner of Xanthi (and previously of the Petersham favourite, Perama), offers us bottles of Tsipouro, a Greek pomace brandy. “It’s to get your appetites going”, we’re told, and we’re instructed to eat it along with the pickled octopus. At around 45% alcohol, we quickly dilute it with the ice and water that’s provided which makes the liquid turn cloudy (my inner nerd compelled me to Google it and it’s called the Ouzo Effect!). The tsipouro is heady with aniseed flavour and, not being an aniseed fan, I think Demos was right on the money when he described it as being like “lighter fluid”. The pickled octopus on the other hand serves well to awaken the tastebuds with the lemony, vinegary flavour. But I have to remember to pace myself because we’ve ordered the $55 banquet menu (and let David decide what to send out) and there is still plenty of food to come.

Greek salad
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Hurricanes Grill, Top Ryde

It’s all about the meat.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but this is the first time I’ve ever been to Hurricanes. I’d heard some great things about their ribs so I thought it was high time for me to finally check it out for myself and see what all the hype is about. With an army of meat-loving friends (no vegetarians here!), we set out to sample some of the meaty offerings of Hurricanes and to see whether the Top Ryde restaurant matched up to the quality of the Bondi and Darling Harbour locations. Lucky for us, JC had booked ahead for a table on a Saturday night and when we arrive at 7.30pm, the bar is packed with waiting customers and a queue is streaming out of the restaurant into the courtyard.

Garlic roll - $4.50

The service is a bit hit and miss and it takes us quite a long time to get our order taken down. On the recommendation of some of the more seasoned Hurricanes diners, we start with some garlic bread which is served in its entirety on a wooden serving board. Incisions are made into the bread and garlic and herb butter is slathered on the surfaces. And oh my is there a lot of butter – which is what makes it so delicious! The bread crust is super crunchy, sending shards of bread all over the surface of the table when the bread is ripped apart and the bread innards? Well they just taste like melty garlic butter =D

Rib eye steak 350g - $33
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Himalayan Char Grill, Crows Nest

Pappadums - $3.00

I’ve never tried Himalayan food before. In fact, I didn’t even know which countries the Himalayas lay across until I checked it out on everyone’s favourite encyclopaedia – Wikipedia – and found out that the Himalayas actually goes through Bhutan, China, Nepal, India, Burma, Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Himalayan Char Grill serves Nepalese cuisine, I notice some influences from all over these Asian regions, particularly in these pappadums which I normally associate with Indian cuisine. These masala pappadums, received with compliments of the chef, are slightly spicy but not oily at all, and are served with a spiced yoghurt.

Interior

It takes us a little while to find the restaurant which is tucked away in a building that houses quite a few little restaurants. Even though Sir D and I venture out to Crows Nest quite frequently and have walked past the building several times, we’ve never actually been inside. Himalayan Char Grill is a small restaurant with vivid green walls decorated with Nepalese artefacts and pictures of the Himalayas. It’s a quite Wednesday night but the place is quite popular, especially with the locals who are frequently popping in for some takeaway or chatting to the staff like old friends.

Momo - $11.90
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Vue de Monde, Melbourne

“Is that cheese?” asked Liz, as she pointed at the circle of butter while the rest of our table laughed. It was our last day in Melbourne and we’d decided to splurge on a three course lunch at the three-hatted Vue de Monde. It was definitely on the pricey side for lunch at $55 for two courses or $70 for three courses, especially since a few of the group weren’t that into fine-dining (or butter that looks like cheese). But by the end of the fabulous meal, everyone agreed that it was definitely worth every cent.

Table setting

We dined at Shannon Bennett’s restaurant when it was still located at the Normanby Chambers on Little Collins St. Things have changed a little since then, with Vue de Monde moving to a new location in the Rialto on Collins St, but there is still the option of having lunch for $60 or going all out for their $250 degustation menu.

Glass of wine included with our meal (left) and quirky light fixtures (right)

We’re in awe at the level of service as soon as we step through the doors. It was a rainy day and we were immediately offered to place our wet umbrellas and jackets in cloakroom before being taken to a spacious dining table. The girls in the group were even offered to place their handbags on a shelf rather than the floor – and it’s these little things that make a dining experience so memorable. We took in the sights of the simple but sophisticated dining room, and I was lucky enough to have a clear view of the pass where a mirror was set up to reflect the chefs placing the finishing touches on the dishes before they were sent out.

Olives
Crisps with a sour cream and caviar dip

While we each decided on what we wanted from the menu, some appetisers were placed on our table for us to nibble on. The olives came in a bowl made out the bottom of a wine bottle, while the crisps and sour cream dip which was topped indulgently with caviar were a cute little set where the dish was able to fit perfectly on top of the wavy edge of the bowl of crisps.

Complimentary bread

After we placed our order (and after I convinced everyone to get something different so we could cover the whole menu!), a waiter came over carrying a basket of bread. We were each offered a warm bread roll which I slathered thickly with the French butter. Yes I wanted more, and yes I was eyeing off the bread basket going off to other tables. But luckily we only had the one bread roll because there was more delicious food to come.

Cured ocean trout, dill, avocado
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The Norfolk

The Norfolk, Surry Hills

Endless English Summer - $30

Happy Friday everyone! Fridays are the perfect excuse for some post-work boozing, and even though we’re actually here at the Norfolk on a Tuesday, for some people every day is a Friday!

Clockwise from top: pork, beef and chicken tacos - $3 each (normally $5.50 each)

The real reason we’re here on a Tuesday night though is for their $3 Taco Tuesdays. Normally $5.50 per taco or $20 for 4, we decide to order one of each of the beef, pork, chicken and fish tacos, minus the vegetable one. They’re messy to eat and quite difficult to share, so we end up ordering another round of everyone’s favourites. Everyone prefers a different taco, but my favourite is the chicken taco with the spiced chipotle mayo and creamy guacamole.

Chip Roll - $7.50

It’s not all about tacos though. The menu also has mains including ribs, burgers and steaks, but we’re more interested in the bar snacks. The chip roll offers some carb-on-carb action, with fries, cheese, chipotle mayo and bacon nubbins sandwiches between mini hamburger buns. I do love my carbs but this was a little disappointing, with the chips having gone soggy and the burger a little flavourless overall.

Spiced Norfolk Fries - $7.50

The chips on their own were fantastic though, crinkle cut with a crisp exterior and a nice spiced seasoning sprinkled over the top.

BBQ'd sweet corn - $5.50
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