Archive for June, 2011

Manly Pavilion, Manly

June 26, 2011

west esplanade, manly cove

We’re continuing a bit of an Italian theme of late. Not sure what has brought this on. I think Italian is always an easy choice when you’ve had your fill of French bistros….. But it’s been good rediscovering decent pasta.

We had found ourselves in Manly on a Friday night. We’re living in Cremorne and have come the conclusion, that if you’re in Sydney, you might as well live by the water. Sydney is about a lifestyle and if you’re not trying to live it then what’s the point? So here we are by the water on an autumn night and it’s easy to see the appeal of Sydney once again. And if you’re in Manly you might as well go to Manily Pavilion. As nice a place Manly is, it’s not exactly a restaurant mecca, beside the Pavilion.

I’d been here before, for a daytime party and the appeal of the restaurant is as much about the view as it is the food, so take away one of the selling points and what’s it like as a restaurant?

Pretty good. The atmosphere is not buzzy, but seductive and nicely romantic. It’s easy to get settled in.

We start with some decent sourdough, that’s chewy and requires a bit of effort with a decent olive oil.

We aim for a pretty light meal, so it’s easy on the ordering.

I start with bucatini, pancetta, tomato, chilli and parsley

It’s a classic pasta combination, normally suited to Sunday nights in front of the TV, but if it works, then it works. It is pretty fine; velvety smooth, spikey and rich. No overpowering tomato, just great textural pasta. It’s a shame it has to end.

On to mains and Vanessa orders the curious sounding – Pepper risotto: Acquerello Carnaroli rice, sage and Taleggio cheese

It’s a new preparation on me. I was reluctant to order it, thinking that a dish with pepper as a primary ingredient is asking for trouble. But the balance is well judged. The pepper provides the heat and edge to the dish, with the cheese comforting. At it’s heart though is a thoroughly decent and soupy risotto, which the ingredients add to.

Ignoring the lure of steak I opt for deboned river trout, green beans and hazelnut vinaigrette

It’s a sizeable serving, perfectly cooked with the trout medium rare. The trout is delightful, sweet and nutty. It dovetails perfectly with the hazelnuts and beans. Not a dish with any subtlety, but it tastes great. Impossible to finish thought.

We decided to sneak in a few desserts, opting for the old-school going with ice cream. We inadvertently order two similar plates – Salted caramel ice cream & chocolate sauce

Vanilla & walnut ice cream

Good, fine flavours. Love a bit of salted caramel. The accompanying chocolate sauce gets drenched over both dishes. It’s hard to resist.

We finish with some always hard to resist petit-fours. A good selection.

Manly Pavilion was well worth the return trip. Good, big flavoured Italian cooking, with the basics done well. A nicely ‘coupley’ evening with decent views (in front and out the window….). It’s the kind of restaurant you expect a substantial bill, but it’s possible to eat here without breaking the bank. It will be an easy decision to go back once more.


Pendolino, Sydney

June 18, 2011

Level 2, Strand Arcade, 412 George Street, Sydney

In Sydney on a Saturday night to see Ben Folds. We’d planned on having a dumpling fest at Din Tai Fung, but ended up at Pendolino instead, as you do. DTF was too mobbed and we needed somewhere close to the theatre to eat. Pendolino presented itself from the GFG App.

I’ve never been too sure about restaurants in shopping centres. You can say what you want about Becasse etc, but it takes away the sense of occasion of dining out. However Pendolino gets round this by being tucked away upstairs and carving out an atmosphere that is indulgent, dark and buzzy. You are won over as soon as you step inside.

It wasn’t easy to walk in without reservations on a Saturday night, but I did have the ‘pregnant wife card’ and no-one can turn that down. We only had an hour or so to eat, but it suited us fine. So, this wasn’t an exhaustive meal, but what we ate was enough to make us want to come back for more.

Pendolino makes it’s own olive oil and so it was good to sample, but was actually the most lack-lustre part of the meal.

The oils didn’t do a lot to appeal. the ‘default’ was a bit grassy and flavoured oils in my mind never work, so the orange and lemon were (not literally) brushed aside.

But the dishes were excellent:

My wife had handmade ravioli with spinach, parmigiano reggiano, gruyere,
buffalo mozzarella, burnt butter and sage

On the surface a simple pasta dish costing more than $30, but it was so worth it. The pasta light and the cheese made it incredibly indulgent, but it was all handled in a way that didn’t make it cloying or too rich. It was smooth, elegant and divine. I was only allowed to try the odd mouthful.

My main was seared herb and garlic crusted ‘local’ yellow fin tuna
with broad bean puree, chicory and mussels:

A generous lip-smacking dish with big bold flavours. The tuna was sublime – rare, yielding, but with a hint of fatty gelatinousness (sp.). It worked well against the garlic rich flavours in the puree and chicory. It was a dish to savour over.

All was good, so we opted for a shared dessert with only 20 mins left.

Vanilla bean and goats curd Bavarese with strawberry salad and strawberry consomme.

Again, a good dish – the goats cheese, giving a bit of body to the sweet flavours and acting as a good conduit for some of the freeze-dried strawberries. The strawberries were excellent as were the ‘consomme’ that was fought over. In essence a simple panacotta dish, but elevated to a fine level.

So a really good impromptu meal and something of a suprise. I’ve promised Vanessa that we will go back. Watch this space.

Martini Watch: Sepia, Sydney

June 11, 2011

201 Sussex Street, Sydney

The growth of small bars around Sydney can only be a good thing, taking drinking away from the tacky and beer soaked ‘hotels’, but there’s still a long way to go. At the moment these small bars in the CBD only number half a dozen and their popularity does not create for a relaxing time. You need to get there early to bag a space for your group and protect it as the place begins to heave. But it’s tolerable for a brief time with a decent drink in hand.

However, get to one of these places after 7pm and you question the effort to get in. And so I found myself outside Grandmas on a Wednesday night, packed to the rafters when all I wanted was a decent martini and a good conversation with a friend. There was no way I was going in.

Alternative arrangements had to be made. I’ve always had a thing for high-end hotel bars with their mix of decadence and at their best the observations of illicit rendezvous. Glass at Hilton doesn’t quite fit the bill and then Sepia came to mind as an ideal compromise¬† – sophisticated, chilled and without mobs of people. It’s not just for dinner, you know.

Nice leather lounges and a suprisingly warm welcome, you’re made to feel at home . The wine list is as expected, varied and of course the classics are well done.

The Martini is a thing of beauty:

Cold, brutal and big. It settles the nerves (!) and all is instantly good with the world, with no noisy crowds to speak of.

And what made Sepia stand out even more, were the absence of corners cut, or short-changing. Many a time I’ve been served a martini where the measures are rough and small, with the bar-tender hoping nothing will be said. Here I observed my martini being made and then judged not large enough, so additional was made, before it was served. Impressive.

A martini, should never be drunk on an empty stomach and so we ordered a plate of charcuterie:

It was not expensive and again suprisingly generous. The salamis and hams were bold and gratifying. I can’t resist a good cornichon and the plentiful supply of grissini (or breadsticks) rounded off a good nibbling plate.

So all in all a very pleasant impromptu drink. I’ve yet to eat at the restaurant itself, but a place that serves such a decent drink has already won me over.