Tag Archives: Modern Australian

Ester, Chippendale

Back when I was studying at Sydney Uni, I remembered Chippendale as the suburb with the dated, slightly run-down pubs (Purple Sneakers at the Abercrombie anyone?) and the huge old Carlton brewery site. How times have changed – there’s now a new fancy hotel, a shopping precinct complete with high rise apartments and heaps of restaurants to eat at.

Ester is one of those restaurants and it definitely fits in with Chippendale’s new hipster vibe with the polished concrete, the mismatched chairs and the industrial decor. We’re seated underneath an arched window that looks directly into the kitchen, so we have a great view of the pass and all the awesome food that gets sent out to hungry diners.

Deep fried chickpeas

Already on the table is a small dish of deep fried chickpeas, which make for a surprisingly addictive snack as you browse through the menu. The menu is designed for sharing, with the dishes getting progressively larger and heavier as you go down the menu. There’s not much description on the menu beyond the key ingredients in the dish so it’s a bit of a lucky dip as to what the dish will actually be!

Crispy squid dumplings – $4 each

Queen Chu recommends ordering the squid dumplings from her previous visit to Ester, so we follow her orders and do exactly that. They come out as black football shaped pieces, coloured from the use of squid ink. It’s quite an unexpected and almost intimidating presentation, but we dig in regardless. The dumplings remind me of the chewy football shaped “ham sui gok” from yum cha, with the same chewy texture and a filling of pork and squid.

Pyengana cheddar pie – $15
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Automata, Chippendale

Automata, plural of automaton:
Machines that ​operate on their own without the need for ​human ​control, or people who ​act like a ​machine, without ​thinking or ​feeling.

When a restaurant calls itself Automata, I think of a restaurant that runs with machine-like precision and accuracy, where the staff are cool, calm and collected, and the kitchen executes every dish perfectly, every time.

Automata, a new-ish restaurant at the Old Clare Hotel, comes pretty close. As soon as we entered the restaurant, we got the vibe of a smooth running machine, with the industrial polished concrete and raw wood decor. We were promptly seated on a large shared table on the lower level, which had a clear view of the open kitchen. With Clayton Wells at the helm (ex-Momofuku Seiobo), all the chefs were working quickly and quietly – like a well-oiled machine – to push out food to hungry diners.

The five course set menu ($88) changes frequently – in fact, 3 out of 5 dishes have already changed since we dined there in late February. We also opted for the beverage pairing ($55), with each beverage being explained to us by the knowledgeable sommelier upon pouring. The pairing included an “orange” wine (skin contact white wine) and a cocktail of sake and yuzushu.

We started with some snacks – a baby gem lettuce with a striking violet mustard and chives, and wagyu beef with brown rice miso and enoki mushrooms. The gem lettuce was crunchy and tangy, readying the palate for more. The wagyu beef was super juicy, with slightly crunchy enoki mushrooms and a burst of umami flavour from the miso. The moment when I popped the wagyu into my mouth, I knew this was going to be an amazing meal.

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Bennelong, Sydney

When I found out that Guillaume by Bennelong was closing, I was sad that I never managed to eat there before it closed, even though it was definitely on my wishlist. There was a lot of back and forth about who exactly was going to take over the iconic Opera House space, so when The Fink Group re-opened Bennelong under the helm of Peter Gilmore, I was so ready to book a table.

This proved more difficult than it sounded, because even though it’s been six months since it first opened, Bennelong shows no signs of slowing down. We had to book a couple of months in advance just to find a Saturday night booking that was at a reasonable time (i.e. not a 9.30pm booking), and so it wasn’t until late last year that we managed to finally sit down and enjoy our meal there.

There’s a choice of dining in the Cured and Cultured area or in the Restaurant. We chose to go down the Restaurant route, which meant that we were seated on the lower level of the dining area underneath the soaring glass windows that give you unparalleled views of the Bridge and Sydney harbour. The three course a la carte menu will set you back $130pp with about 6 different dishes to choose from per course.

Grilled Lady Elliot Island bug, organic turnips, radishes, XO sauce

The first thing that strikes me with each dish is that it is impeccably plated. Every dish is styled to perfection, so that your eyes can feast on the food before your stomach does. The grilled Lady Elliot Island bug is no exception, with a golden piece of the bug meat draped over turnips, pink baby radishes and micro herbs. The XO sauce really accentuates the seafood flavours of the dish, and complements the sweet, juicy bug meat nicely.

Smoked Blackmore Wagyu tartare, fermented chilli paste, cultured cream & grains, mushrooms, seaweed, egg
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nel. restaurant, Sydney

I’m far from what people would call a decisive person, and these days we are so spoiled for choice that even deciding what to eat for lunch can turn into a lengthy process of elimination to figure out exactly what I want.

It was a pleasant surprise then, to walk into nel. to find that there was no choice to make. Nel serves an 8 course tasting menu for $88, and we were more than happy to leave our meal in the capable hands of chef Nelly Robinson.

Menu

We were ushered to our table in the small, underground space where the restaurant was situated. The 8 course menu for the night was already placed on the table when we sat down, and aside from asking whether there were any food allergies or intolerances, there were no more questions and we were ready to get started on the food!

Vinegar, parmesan

Our first course was a series of snacks which came out in quick succession. The first snack was a cloud-like vinegar marshmallow rolled in airy pieces of grated parmesan. It dissolved in the mouth so quickly it just left an impression of sour vinegar and cheesy parmesan on the tongue.

Goma hollandaise, ham

The next snack was a black, gnarly-looking cigar, which actually turned out to be a beef cheek and ox tongue croquette with charcoal. Each cigar was dipped in the goma (sesame) hollandaise topped with bits of ham, which had a nice salty and nutty flavour.

Truffle, rabbit

The last snack consisted of two parts – a truffle and rabbit pastry and a rabbit consomme. These were surprisingly light in flavour, but a good warm up for the dishes to come.

Bread and butter

I usually don’t bother taking photos of the bread and butter, but here at nel it was pretty exceptional. First of all, the bread was a dark black colour, and the waitstaff explained that this was black pudding and onion bread. To be honest I couldn’t taste a definitive black pudding flavour, but it was delicious nonetheless and I could have eaten a whole basket of it!

Crab, “taste of pimms”, cucumber, strawberry, mint
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Monopole, Potts Point

When our group of girlfriends started treating the birthday girl to dinner in lieu of birthday presents, I realised what a good opportunity this was to finally check off some restaurants which have been on my go-to list for a long time…

Monopole was FeFiFoFum’s choice for her birthday dinner, and I was secretly pleased because it was a place that I had been wanting to visit for a while. The outside of the restaurant was so dark and inconspicuous that we nearly walked right past it, but when we finally opened the door, we saw that the dark exterior was matched by the “mood lighting” on the inside.

Luckily we had phones to light up the menu, which was split into cured meats, shared dishes, cheese and desserts. Instead of choosing a la carte dishes though, we went with the Monopole menu, which gave us 7 courses for $65pp.

Cured duck breast, cured pork neck, cured Rangers Valley tri tip

We started with three cured meats arranged on a wooden platter with some pickled vegetables. We had the cured duck breast (foreground), cured pork neck (background left) and cured Rangers Valley tri tip. The duck breast was probably the chewiest out of the three, with a slightly more gamey flavour. While others preferred the tri tip bresaola, I relished the silky fatty texture of the cured pork neck.

Cured trevally, pickled cucumber, smoked yoghurt and sea greens

We continued on with a cold course of cured trevally, which was served with discs of pickled cucumber, blobs of smoked yoghurt and sea greens. It was a light and cooling dish, with the slight acidity of the pickles tempered by the smokey yoghurt.

Rangers Valley beef tartare, egg yolk, mushroom and crisp potato skin
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