Sunday, 24 April 2011


358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8399 1440

Category: Just got paid ($50 - $100)

Amidst all the hype, expectation and marvel that surrounds this new restaurant, I must say I had some fairly large expectations. However I left a little… well, I am not sure… It was not bad, but it just was not great.

Initially, getting a table is a challenge. Not quite as difficult as say Tetsuya’s however for groups 8 or more one must go with a set menu which is $70 per head, and if one of your guests do NOT arrive its $50 as compensation to the restaurant, and on top of this they only have 2 sittings. After this phone call I felt like I had booked an airflight. Here’s what time you need to be here, and if you don’t arrive we charge you anyway. I understand restaurants need to protect themselves but for me this was over the top.

When we actually arrive the décor is actually quite nice. However it gave the feel that we should have been smoking cigars and playing poker rather than having a friendly meal. This may be contributed to the 1920s style dresses and the black and whites from the waiters/waitresses combined with the furniture to create a mafia-esque feel about the place. 

Moving onto the food, let’s begin with the so called stars. The suckling pig was… well, I did not like it. Considering what I have been lucky enough to savour in the past, including the Chinese roast version and even the German version it was just not as spectacular. Especially at $42 for a plate (not even that big a plate too). The main reason we were here for however was the lamb. Whilst everyone raves about the lamb, and some critics have described it as ‘f*cking amazing,’ I again thought I was well… ok. Yes, the skin was crispy, well cooked and salted too however, it was just not that amazing, and again at $42 a hit it would be in fact the other dishes that would make me return more than the lamb or suckling pig that critics praise most.

The ‘non-franchise’ items saved this place for me. The blood sausages were full of flavour and bold, something you could really sink your teeth into. TheB bread with pate was quite superb and the quesadilla were soft and fluffy too. The salad’s and vegetarian options are ok, not amazing (they felt a little like what you would get served if you were going to a friend’s for a casual dinner, not restaurant quality), and the Empanadas look more like curry puffs however they lacked real flavour, filling and punch.

I personally loved the deserts (whilst having a minimal selection). The caramel and chocolate fondant was a clear winner being rich, elegant and powerful. It was done perfectly with the decadent chocolate sauce oozing out upon breaking the fondant. A strong wine list helps and they have some good local and international numbers.

The service is good, however probably not tentative enough for my liking and there seems to be a couple of issues with real understanding of the menu. In addition, I could not help but feel an air of slight arrogance about the place…

All in all, not a bad experience, but just not the heights I was expecting. The upstairs bar is definitely worth a visit as is the open fire place where the lamb is slow roasted for hours and hours. The initial booking did put me off, and the stars failed to live up to expectation... Will I return however? Maybe with my friends… teetering no… off my own accord? Sorry... no... 

Bottom line:
You should find yourself with little change from your $100 and including drinks (depending how many) may need to fork out more.

Food                            6.5/10
Service                        1.5/3
Décor etc                     2/3      
Cleanliness                  2/2
BONUS                       1/2

Total                            13/20

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Chef's Gallery

12/501 George Street
NSW 2000
(02) 9267 8877

Category: Cheapo ($0 - $50)

Hmmm… Where do I start with this place?

Well, seemingly it ticks all the boxes. The service is good (not amazing), someone greets you at the door and you are seated accordingly, the kitchen is as clean as it gets considering it is totally visible (I mean totally), as is the rest of the restaurant. The décor is modern, ceiling is relatively high and the use of yellows and darker coloured woods throughout gives it that earthy feel. There is even the ‘wow factor’ of the guy effortlessly making the hand made noodles inside the see through kitchen and ‘bar style’ seats for easy viewing for those interested. The menu is relatively simple (this is good) and the imported beers are dirt cheap (albeit a minimal selection). So on paper, one would think they are in for a good overall experience. Now for the food…

Maybe I am being overly critical however when I think handmade noodles I am thinking thick, chewy, bouncy strands (think Sea-Bay Noodle house). Chef’s gallery however offers the thin version (which I am not that much of a fan of); Disappointment number one. Next, we try a few of the so called ‘signature dishes’ including a chilli chicken stir fried noodle and the snowflake chicken with pumpkin noodle soup. The chilli chicken is ok, however as my colleague noted, felt more like 2 minute noodles with some vinegar mixed in (not a good way to describe a signature dish). As for the snowflake, the chicken was well marinated, and juicy, however I could taste the MSG, and it was not really as crisp as would have liked or expected. As for the noodles in the pumpkin soup, it is interesting… just interesting though.

Overall, the cost was quite good, despite a fried rice costing $12.90 (white rice with some bits of pork, herbs and tossed in a wok for $12.90!!!) Again, fine without being anything to really write home about.

Despite this, by the time we left a queue had emerged outside the entrance, and I found myself wondering again, am I being too critical? Is it really that good?

I think I have solved my own problem however.

Very much like the old-school Chinese methods and customs, the restaurant is mechanical. It is like watching a clock tick over, or a computer or a car, just going through the motions. All the pieces are in place, and everything rums smoothly, however it lacked something. To me, it lacked heart, passion, and love. The soldiers here toil about there business in stoic fashion, they rarely show emotion and they are here to fulfil there roles in the chain of processes that ultimately leads to food on your table. This was truly a business (a very good business at that), but not a restaurant. This was food, not a dining experience. 

At the end of the day, as I stated early on, it ticks all the boxes. From cleanliness to service, presentation, décor and even that wow factor. The food is good, just good, not amazingly cheap however in comparison to many other establishments is not bad. Given its strong location, piece all the above and you have a great formula for success. Not a bad experience, but I doubt I would return on my own will.

Bottom Line:
You can probably get away with anything from $25 - $40 for two depending on how hungry you are.  

Food                            6/10
Service                        1.5/3
Décor etc                     2/3
Cleanliness                  2/2
BONUS                       1/2

Total                           12.5/20

Friday, 15 April 2011

Welcome & Intro

Hello & welcome to my humble page that is all about food. Here you will mainly find reviews on Sydney restaurants as well as the occasional recipe by yours truly and anything  food related. Before you continue, I would just like to say a few words so you get a feel of where I am coming from when writing my reviews.  
I am lucky to say that I come from a family that has been involved with food and restaurants since birth. My parents, and grandparents from both sides of the family use to run restaurants and I have worked in them too all my life. I did not follow in my family's footsteps, and I am confident to say I do not have an amazing knowledge of food, nor have I travelled the world in search of it. I have never watched an episode of MasterChef or MKR (sorry to those of you who are devote viewers), and do not earn the money to be able to weekly dine in Sydney’s finest restaurants. I could not tell you all the varieties of fish nor all the different fruits and spices that should be found in a red wine.
However, I did not lose my love for food, and feel that at current, Sydney does not offer what I would call a ‘people’s view’ of grading restaurants. Sure, you got the professional critics, but let’s face it, most people I know (men especially) won’t care if their rabbit comes from the Maclaey Valley, or if their beef is sourced from a small farm in Tasmania no one has ever heard of, or if there fish is sustainable with good cold chain management. They just want a good meal, at a reasonable price and leave satisfied. At least, this is how I feel, so hopefully this blog tells it like it is! Minus all the fluff.
In addition, please find the scoring system I have set up to hopefully put things on an even playing field. I have categorized restaurants into 4 levels (based on 2 people excluding drinks). This will mean that even cheap restaurants can get great reviews and scores as it is difficult to put them all into one encompassing group.  
1.       Cheapo                                                 $0 - $50
2.      Just got paid                                      $50 - $100
3.       Special nights only                           $100 - $200 
4.       Rock Star                                            $200 +
Restaurants are reviewed out of 20 points.
10           = Food
3              = Service
3              = Décor/Ambience/Setting
2              = Overall cleanliness
2              = BONUS points/wow factor etc
I have left out value for money, as once you get above level 2, it becomes less about the $$$ and more about the overall dining experience. I will make special mentions however should I feel certain places are not worthy of the prices they charge etc.
I hope you enjoy reading my reviews, and please do feel free to share