Archive for April, 2011

Peacock Trattoria, Kyle Bay

April 21, 2011

25 Kyle Parade, Kyle Bay

Another Friday night venture and this time a trek south of Sydney to the suburb of Kyle Bay. Maybe not the wisest of decisions to head out of town 6pm at this time of the week, but we’d had a recommendation that Peacock Trattoria was worth the effort. Clearly if you make this effort you want it to be worth it.

There’s nothing fancy about this restaurant. It’s a neighbourhood Italian that’s on the tiniest of retail strips. It has a warm inviting glow:

The interior is simple with chic plastic chairs that verge on the uncomfortable, but somehow your bottom adjusts and it’s easy to settle in. There’s a good sense of bonhomie which is created by two relaxed and enthusiastic waitresses. 

There’s a menu to get excited about with traditional Italian food jazzed up with interesting combinations. What’s also more interesting is a ‘trust the chef’ option for a bargain price of $55. With the menu showing a fair bit of ambition it’s an easy choice to make.

The open kitchen is tiny with two chefs and a mini pizza oven to one and we soon get the fruits of its labour with a pizza with red onion & white anchoves

It’s a decent if quite doughy pizza. I generally prefer mine a little thinner, but the flavours are good, if a little full-on. It makes a nice change to have this as an entree.

The meal really gets started with a roast duck salad to share with hazelnuts, witlof and nectarine

This is a triumphant dish. Big bold flavours and contrasting textures. There’s nothing twee about it and it goes down a treat. The duck is crispy, but the meat rare and it combines really well with the fruit and crunchy hazelnuts with the witlof providing a hint of bitterness. I could have eaten this all night.

Next up, another dish to share: Smoked trout rillette with cream cheese, fennel and salmon caviar

Quite an intriguing dish, that flavour wise, initially feels a bit weird with the fish and cheese not the most obvious of bedfellows, but I warm to it. The toast with as much holes as bread, works well and it’s the kind of dish where you spend most of the time trying to balance the ‘salad’ on the bread for the flavour hit. Somehow the oiliness of the trout wins through and it’s a pleasant plate.

Following up the trout we next have scallops with chicken wing, apple, radish and cauliflower puree

First of all, there’s three of them between the two of us. It irks, but nothing to dwell on, considering the atmosphere and the jolliness of the place. The scallops, apple and cauliflower are classic combinations, but the chicken (even though it is delightfully crispy) is maybe one addition too many. Not that I’m complaining, because the chicken wing in its own right is pretty fine. It’s a bit of meal to get everything on one fork, but it’s worth the effort. It’s also not hard to order another class of wine. It is Friday night after all.

Our indivial main course is rump of lamb with caponata, salsa verde and mash

Of its parts it’s lovely. The lamb is excellent, cooked beautifully with a nice jus and a very buttery mash. My problems start with the caponata which is spicey to the point where it overshadows everything else on the plate. So it was something to keep out of the equation of the rest of the plate. So putting that to one side it was a good competent, uncomplicated Friday night main.

Just the one dessert to finish – Cassata with homemade coffee and vanilla ice cream with a grand marnier syrup

This is a nicely old school dessert; something I would never normally order. Not really a fan of coffee ice cream, it’s pretty decent and the whole thing comes together in a pleasing, sweet sticky puddle. It’s a decent way to finish the meal.

This was a restaurant that was worth the effort. There’s some good imagination going on in the kitchen and the dishes. I particularly enjoy the idea of sharing food as part of a tasting menu. It makes the occasion seem more generous and fun. However, I’m not entirely sure if all the combinations worked, with one or two additions too many. But this is a neighbourhood restaurant, not a fine dining haven and I see it as a product of clear enthusiasm as opposed to a smart-arse chef. I hope more people will make the effort to venture down to Kyle Bay.

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Felix, Sydney

April 13, 2011

http://www.merivale.com/felix

Ash Street, Sydney

I love a good brasserie. It’s where Sunday’s should be spent (& most other days). However in Australia they are few and far between. They are as much about atmosphere as they are the food, a place to while away the hours with a loved one or friends. We’d been to Ad Lib Bistro a few times and our last meal disappointed a bit through a sense of calculation and slight price gouging. That’s the thing about brasseries, they can be a little roguish. But charm can cover a lot of flaws.

Which brings us to Felix, a brasserie modelled on a New York brasserie, itself modelled on the Parisian original. Created by the Merivale Group it has been generating a fair bit of buzz, which is not necessarily a good thing. I generally give Merivale venues a wide berth on Friday nights, but here we found ourselves.

First impressions though are great. Expansive & buzzy with dark red walls and chequered tiled floor. The bar is welcoming, but packed. We are able to find a place to perch and the Friday night ritual begins – A Martini.

Opting for a Vesper this time, it’s a mellower martini, which makes a change. Very good though and the sequence of decent martinis continues.

We subsequently move through to the dining room and settle in, feeling buoyed by the Friday night atmosphere. This place is doing what it’s designed to do. A glance to the sizeable seafood bar, means it doesn’t take much to decide it’s fish for me tonight.

Our waiter is slick and French we soon get our bread.

It’s suitably moreish. The butter is excellent and more is ordered as our dinner progresses.

We get stuck into the meal when first courses arrive – terrine of ocean trout

It’s glorious and fresh. The trout is lightly poached, well set in the wobbly jelly with a hint of lemon & thyme. It’s a dish to savour.A few cornichons always go down well.

Vanessa plays it safe and goes for the chicken & barley broth.

Although it has slick of oil, it gives way to a very clean and vibrant soup helped by the lemon so that it’s not weighed down by normal associated heaviness.

Main courses. Skate with burnt butter, capers and caramelised witlof

Served ‘off the bone’, it’s a very traditional dish with only the witlof a nod to Australia. It’s a fine meaty fish, well cooked. The butter can be a little overwhelming, swamping everything, but the capers & witlof rescue the dish creating a pleasing balance.

Vanessa ultimately ends up with the lamb pie, sauteed mushrooms & tarragon jus. She had ordered the pork belly with grapes, beetroot and fennel. We love a bit of pork belly, but this piece was gelatinous in the extreme and not particularly appetising. When our concerns were voiced, our waiter quickly replaced the dish with the lamb pie, even supplying some complimentary garlic mash. It was a problem well solved. Mistakes happen in restaurants. It’s how they’re solved that matters and this was a good example of how to turn a negative into a positive (& a reason to return).

The pie itself is a good French rendition – good melting chunks of lamb in a rich gavy. In truth it’s not a dish to get really excited about, but it does exactly what it says on the tin and fits the bill. It’s nicely satisfying.

We close the meal with a shared dessert – lemon pudding:

It rich and sharp. The pudding is deliciously light and spongey with the fresh cream providing the cool counterpoint. It does not last long and is pronounced a winner.

And so the Felix proves a bit of a hit –  good atmosphere, good service. The food is comforting and well executed. It’s where the basics are done well. Though the basics do go up to a fruits-de-mer, so there’s always a reason to return. The overall vibe is exactly what you want from the a place like this. Though the bill has a knack of mounting up, you don’t begrudge it. Nor will I a return visit.

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst

April 4, 2011

http://www.dukebistro.com.au

65 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst

We’ve been doing a few Friday night outs of late. A chance to wind down after the working week. It warrants a fun, relaxing night out and not something on the serious, food worshipping side. Duke Bistro fits the bill, being young, quirky and a little bit hipster (the two go hand and hand in this part of town).

We’re the first people in the restaurant at 7pm, which is mildly disconcerting. Though with a decent martini soon in hand it doesn’t matter.

We’re on a good run of martinis of late – suitably cold and potent. The restaurant soon begins to fill up and we make our choice from the absorbing menu.

The plates are for sharing and a little off-kilter. We start with err… raisin toast..

They’re not too sweet, but doused with a hint of sherry. A good little taste to share.

We follow with radish, dashi butter and bread roll:

If I recall this was one of the more expensive dishes on the menu – not far off $20, which seemed a little steep for the ingredients. But it was a moreish delight. Nice al dente radishes with a gently raw heat served with the heart-attack inducing dashi, which was the kind of dipping sauce you don’t want to give up. It was lovely and worth every penny.

The retro chicken wings are next with coleslaw ‘milk’

Good ,crispy and succulent. All that one would hope for in a chicken wing. the slaw milk is cutesy and the hot sauce unecessary.

One of the most enjoyable dishes was grilled watemelon with zucchini and fresh herbs:

The freshness of the watemelon was a grilled treat, making it quite meaty and savoury with the other ingredients complimentary with lightness and summery flavour.

Moving on to the ‘mains’ it was hard to not order the ‘veal shortrib pancake party’

Think of western take on a duck pancake and you’re there. The veal rib was seriously fatty and gelatinous, but still had plenty of fibrous morsels to create four decent sized pancakes. Old school american mustard replaced the hoisin sauce. Maybe ‘party’ was pushing it, but it was certainly fun.

Our savoury dishes finished with another curiousity – peach risotto.

It was too left field not to order and draw comments from other diners that were equally curious. It was suprisingly good. The sweet peach was balanced by the white wine and fresh herbs. It actually worked.

Clearly we’d had a few savoury dishes between us and could only manage one little sweet – a baby rum baba:

Not an overly bludgeoning indulgence like other rum babas, it was quite cute with a light rum and dollop of fresh cream. It went down well and brought to close an engaging meal.

We’d certainly return. It’s a fun place to dine with the food showing a real sense of humour without venturing into culinary masturbation or whimsy. The restaurant soon warmed up and it was rocking by the time we finished with a large dildo be handed around a table across the room from us. So not exactly a place for a quiet, romantic evening, but perfect for a Friday night.