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Sydney’s best fish and chips, CNN // 7 July 2011

Read my piece over at CNN, or stay here and read on…

Here’s a catch. Sydney and fish go together like piping hot chips and a piece of freshly fried fish. It’s worth leaving the beaten track of the Sydney Fish Markets to the tourists and trying some local favorites.

From the get-go, the essential thing is proper fish and chips — and licking your vinegary fingers while ignoring any illusions of being on a diet.

Yes, its roots might lie in industrial Britain but Sydney’s taken the paper-wrapped stalwart and run with it.

Doyle’s on the Beach

Doyles

Finish the Ulladulla flathead fillets and chips and receive another fried fish for free at Doyles

It’s not an imaginative inclusion on the list but the setting is just too good to miss. Boats bobbing against a backdrop of Sydney’ skyline, the sweeping arc of sand in front.

Doyle’s is steeped in tradition and, as in the good ol’ days, they don’t like you leaving hungry. Finish your enormous portion and you can claim a free extra piece of fried fish — a throwback to when Doyle’s started serving back in 1885.

But first you’d have to prey on something like the battered Ulladulla flathead fillets and chips ($38.90), which comes with Alice Doyle’s chili plum sauce. The batter’s light and perky and it’s a fail-safe crowd-pleaser -– if it’s combined with the view and a perfect sunny Sydney day.

Doyle’s on the Beach, 11 Marine Parade, Watson’s Bay, Monday – Friday noon-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday – Sunday noon-4 p.m., 5.30 p.m.-9 p.m., +61 (0)2 9337 2007

Fish Face

Fish Face

Fancy a beer? This flathead is battered in Victoria Bitter.

The love child of a traditional, eat-out-of-newspaper street food and Sydney’s sophisticated dining scene, this Darlinghurst spot has garnered many an accolade. You’ll find only brilliantly fresh fish and seafood here, whilst the tiny eatery’s philosophy of serving only home-filleted, dry-filleted fish and handmade chips draws in discerning diners day after day.

The beer-battered flathead and chips with lemon and tartar ($35) is an upmarket take on a traditional meal. The batter is made with Victoria Bitter, which creates a crispy crunch. The chips are worth writing home about — the golden Sebago potato skins are left on for an earthy flavour. The whole shebang is served in a specially designed, show-stopping cone contraption.

A lower calorie but equally popular choice is the blue-eye Trevalla on potato scales — it’s fish and chips, just not as you’d imagine.

Fish Face, 132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, Tuesday – Saturday 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m., +61 (0)2 9332 4803

Mohr Fish

Mohr Fish

In the heart of Surry Hills, you can people watch as you wash down fried Rockling.

An oldie, but a goodie. This Surry Hills bolthole is nothing flashy, but what it lacks in hip interior design, it more than makes up for in great takes on classics and a no-nonsense, wholesome approach.

Perch on a bar stool, watch the punters heading to the Shakespeare pub opposite and try a panfried Rockling, asparagus, chips and hollandaise ($22) for a twist on your average fish and chips. It’s sparkling fresh, the homemade tartar is toothsomely chunky and the rich hollandaise counts out any health benefits you may have hoped came from not having the battered option.

It’s great value and the portion is nothing to be sniffed at.

There are also squid, scallops, whitebait and fish cakes to choose from and a constant stream of both take away and eat-in clientele goes to show this 20-odd years-old corner chippy is anything but a flash in the frying pan.

Mohr Fish, 202 Devonshire St., Surry Hills, Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., +61 (0)2 9318 1326

Codfather

Codfather

The tempura-like batter makes this a stand-out in Stanmore’s fish and chip strip.

There are three fish and chip shops on Percival Road in Stanmore, but Codfather sticks out like a sore fish finger with its hip, young approach. Yes, you can find fish and chips here, but there are a host of rather more interesting offerings, too –- such as a palate cleanser of iced pineapple snow with carrot tapioca.

It will leave you ready for a market fish (flathead) in yeast batter with chunky chips, lemon, aioli and smoked soy ($26), which is a play on the classic. Made with fresh yeast, the batter is almost tempura-like and flecked with chili. The aioli is made with smoked paper bark tree oil, giving it an earthy, truffle-esque flavour, whilst the chips are a bit of a show-off, large cheeks of potato dotted with holes to add crunch.

It’s more than we bargained for from the humble dish and this family-friendly joint is worth a try.

Codfather, 83 Percival Road, Stanmore, Tuesday – Saturday 5.30 p.m.-9 p.m., Sunday noon-3 p.m., +61 (0)2 9568 3355

Love.Fish

Love.Fish

Love.Fish is eco-supplied, so you can be sure that your fish has relatives in the ocean.

Love.Fish does exactly what it sets out to do -– it puts sustainable, fresh fish on a pedestal. It’s no secret that the industry is beset with over-fishing and endangered species warnings, so head to Rozelle to eat with a crystal clear conscience — and in a chic, sleek setting.

The menu is dependent on what the top eco supplier can source, so it’s not all the usual suspects — Trumpeter and Latchet feature, for example. Such fresh, carefully sourced fish needs no place to hide and the beer-battered eastern school Whiting ($17) with twice-cooked hand-cut Sebago chips ($7) is cooked in healthy rice bran oil and served simply, letting the sweet, mild flesh speak for itself inside the puffy batter.

The exhaustive list of imaginative sides is coeliac-friendly and makes a welcome change, whilst the option to order fish only is ideal for the waistline-watchers.

Love.Fish, 580 Darling St., Rozelle, Monday – Friday 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday – Sunday noon-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., +61 (0)2 9818 7777

 

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Sydney’s top five Little Italy eateries, CNN // 27 June 2011

Read my piece over at CNNGo.com or read on here…

In Sydney’s Little Italy, all things Italian permeate life like garlic in a ragu, and a journey reveals the real taste of Italian cooking. From pizzas to espressos, the delissimo grip on Sydney’s gastronomic landscape is as entrenched and authentic as ever.

Long synonymous with Italian life in Australia, Leichhardt has been attracting hot-blooded Mediterraneans to its terraced streets since the 1940s and 1950s. Branching out from the epicentre of Italian-ness on Norton Street, the march soon spread around the inner west to Haberfield and Five Dock.

Italian businesses thrive in the area and none more so than cafés and restaurants. As well as the crowd-pleasers on Norton Street, there’s a colony of gelato-dripping, pizza-dough flinging, espresso-soaked eateries that put Italian food across the rest of the city to shame.

Rome may have fallen, but things seem alive and well in Sydney’s inner west. Here’s the best.

1. Pizza at Napoli in Bocca

Napoli in Bocca

One of 250 dough-flipped pizzas from the weekend menu at Napoli in Bocca

There are few better simple pleasures than a proper pizza. The pinnacle of pizza perfection, though, is often hard to find — distracted as we are by topping-laden pies and extra cheese. At Napoli in Bocca, the humble pizza is elevated to a work of beauty.

The enormous wood-fired oven is a wonderful thing in itself, but the real art of juggling 250 pizzas every weekend evening is something that can’t be taught. Each base is hand-flung then shuffled around varying heats of the cavernous oven before emerging golden, puffy and steaming.

The trick, apparently, is utter simplicity — using fresh tomato sauce, bocconcini, basil leaves, a glug of olive oil and nothing else — on a Caprese ($19). It lets the freshness of the garlicky tomato and sweet yeastiness of the dough sing a lyrical duet.

In true Neapolitan style, the crust is pliable rather than crunchy, so that the pizza can be folded and eaten from paper, as sailors’ habits in the city port dictated. Mamma mia, those seadogs were onto a good thing.

Napoli in Bocca ,73 Dalhousie St., Haberfield, +61 (0)2 9798 4096

2. Whitebait fritters at Little Sicily

Little Sicily

The best seller at Little Sicily are wholesome with a hint of lemon.

Where chef Ciccio goes, those in the know follow. Now at his eighth kitchen, the inimitable Sicilian started one of the area’s original restaurants and still draws a crowd. It’s not hard to see why — unpretentious as the dining area is, the real magic goes on behind the scenes.

Consistent best sellers are the whitebait fritters ($17.80): golden, eggy and full of the saltiness of the tiny fish. They’re simple and packed with wholesomeness, with a zesty hit of lemon juice.

Five nights a week at Little Sicily, a whole suckling pig is roasted, the tender flesh falling off the bone and its salty crackling inducing sighs of happiness. An antipasto caldo is a different take on the cold classic starter: seafood, mushrooms, tomatoes and asparagus are flash-fried and served over rocket and mozzarella, the juices turning the lot into a warm, vinegary salad.

The Don of Haberfield will show you how real Italian food is done.

Little Sicily, 194 Marion St., Leichhardt, +61 (0)2 9560 2255

3. Penne Grauchi at Filicudi

Filicudi

The Penne Grauchi at Filicudi comes in a deep, creamy tomato sauce.

An outpost in quiet Five Dock — one of Little Italy’s furthermost tendrils — Filicudi has been faithfully serving honest-to-goodness meals for the last 35 years. Cozy and small, with Chianti bottles strung from the ceiling, it’s a warm and welcoming kind of a place, serving unfussy fare. That’s not to say its kitchen isn’t central to proceedings in the area.

Penne Grauchi ($18.50), a rich crab pasta, is a clear favorite with trusted locals and good value, too. Al dente penne has a deep tomato and cream sauce with blue swimmer crab: it’s heaped high and steaming and is enough for two to share. Get stuck in with the shell-breaking tools and you’ll end up messy and finger-licking, which adds to the rustic appeal.

Octopus in tomato sauce is also worth the trip, proving that old-style cooking endures for all the right reasons. Molto bene!

Filicudi, 11 Ramsay Road, Five Dock, +61 (0)2 9713 8733

4. Gelato at Bar Italia

Bar Italia

The gelato at Bar Italia is made in the café’s own Norton Street factory.

The strip lighting, wipe-down tables and dodgy art isn’t the draw at this 1959-established godfather of the area. You come here for the gelato.

During summer, queues can stretch out of the door for the rightly-famed and fresh ice-cream, which is made just a few doors away on Norton Street in Bar Italia’s own little factory.

The ranges of flavours are all pretty fantastic, from the cocoa-dusted Tiramisu to the zabaglioni option ($9.50 for four scoops), which goes well cappuccino, even on a cold day.

The zabaglioni flavor – sweet wine-sodden pockets of sponge in creamy, Marsala-heavy gelato – makes for a grown-up treat, but no-one at this Little Italy institution will judge you if mint choc chip is your personal favourite.

Bar Italia, 167-171 Norton St., Leichhardt, +61 (0)2 9560 9981

5. Canoli at Pasticceria Papa

canoli

The local Mafioso’s dessert is the canoli.

It’s not just because these tubes of more-ish-ness happen to be the Mafioso’s dessert of choice that make them worth a try. It helps that Pasticceria Papa’s canoli ($2) are utterly sublime.

Buttery pastry shells are deep-fried until bubbled and crisp, then filled with sweetened ricotta and dipped into chopped hazelnuts. A dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon finishes them off, adding an extra layer of messiness to the process of eating the crunchy, oozing wickedness.

They won’t win awards for healthiness but that’s a mere distraction from the cause — canoli, after dinner, with a coffee, is a rite of passage for any discerning Italianophile. In fact, canoli with a coffee at any time of the day seems to go at this busy Haberfield stalwart. If you still have room, try a slice of the ever-popular baked ricotta cheesecake, too. Then roll home.

Pasticceria Papa, 145 Ramsay St., Haberfield, +61 (0)2 9798 6894

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Sydney’s 5 most inventive coffees, CNN // 13 June 2011

Read my piece over at CNNGo.com here

It’s coffee, just not as you know it, by Daisy Dumas

There’s something unexpected brewing in Sydney’s café core – and it’ll change the way you look at coffee forever.

Far away from the espresso-based Flat White debate, a group of dedicated baristas are doing their best to prove there’s more to coffee than meets the caffeine-dependent eye.

The humble bean is undergoing a renaissance. Sydney is waking up to aromatic varietals, roasting techniques, alternative brewing methods and — shock, horror — a cup o’ Joe without milk.

From coffees that fizz to fiendishly complex roasting profiles, every cup of coffee tells a tale — and it’s worth putting down your latte to listen to the story.

Here’s the five best alternative cups of coffee in Sydney. Try them and get wired in the process.

1. Sparkler at Coffee Alchemy

Coffee

Cold coffee on tap from the coffee alchemists.

Not for nothing have the espresso-based coffees at this purists’ haunt garnered a fan-base of semi-religious fervour. The game here is coffee and coffee alone, with no food served. And, living up to their name, the alchemists here have been busy experimenting.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get wilder on the caffeine-o-meter, Hazel and the guys at Coffee Alchemy go and invent sparkling chilled coffee on tap.

The south side café is the only place in the world where you can try the sensory-bamboozling drink, the Sparkler ($6). It’s like a beer, but instead of wobbliness, delivers a fizzy hit of caffeine straight to the bloodstream.

Made using a specially selected Ethiopian Nekisse, which is roasted heavily to give it stout-like clout, its chocolaty notes and strong citrus nose add to this bizarre, brilliant and altogether worth-a-try experience.

It’s also poured over ice, making it a predicted hit in warmer months.

Coffee Alchemy, 24 Addison Road, Marrickville, Monday to Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m., +61 (0)2 9516 1997, www.coffeealchemy.com.au

2. Filtered La Esmeralda at Mecca

Coffee

A pilgrimage to Mecca unveils the art of alternative coffee.

If there is one thing Paul Geshos — owner of this caffeine-pilgrim’s shrine in Ultimo — doesn’t know about coffee, it is unknown.

As well as cupping and brewing demonstrations, Mecca offers some serious coffee lovers’ nectar, such as the rare La Esmeralda ($6), an Ethiopian Geisha varietal that is grown in Panama.

It’s filtered with bells-and-whistles wizardry, producing a clean cup of black coffee — allowing the bean and the bean alone to do the talking.

To heighten expertise, compare it to another variety of filter coffee from the seasonally changing menu. The Colombian Cup of Excellence, for example, is one of the most sought-after coffees. You could start to sound like a pro, picking out top notes of citrus, jasmine and bergamot and ending with a sweet, refreshing finish.

It’s hot, it’s in a cup, it’s called coffee: but that’s where the association with a latte ends.

Mecca, 646 Harris St., Ultimo, Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m.-4 p.m., +61 (0)2 9280 4204

3. Pour-over at Don Campos

Coffee

The magical coffee that changes coffee as it cools.

This new outpost of the Campos empire — Don Campos — is a bright, airy space partly dedicated to the art of alternative brewing. Siphons and pour-overs put subtler shades of coffee into the limelight. They focus on the lightly roasted and constantly changing seasonal varietals.

It’s technical stuff: weighing scales, thermometers, glass funnels and a metal filters. In a nutshell, don’t try this at home — although all the wares are here to buy.

As Don Campos’ coffee cools, it changes character — the El Manzano (apple tree) from El Salvador ($4.50) has an appropriately apple-like sharpness and intensifying, sprightly zing.

It’s a flavor journey that would, frankly, take a wrong turn with the addition of milk or sugar.

Don Campos, 21 Fountain St., Alexandria, Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m., +61 (0)2 9690 0090

4. Cupping at Campos

Coffee

The wooden stairs take caffeine connoisseurs to the art of cupping.

While the slavishly addicted fill the cosy room downstairs, others head up the wooden stairs for an assignation with a difference.

Knock on the wooden door and a hatch slides back. The door opens onto a dark room where spotlights shine onto six cups, six glasses and six small trays of green beans.

Being part of a cupping session ($11) is a rare journey into the selection, judging and global trading that industry insiders know.

Cupping’s an uncompromising system involving smelling, timing, crusts, peeling and slurping at speed from a soup spoon. Like a tribal peculiarity, the louder the slurp, the better — you’ll only stick out if you don’t practically inhale your coffee. Thankfully, spittoons mean you don’t end up bouncing off the walls.

Work your way through the varieties, from floral Ethiopian Lekempti to Indian Monsooned Malabar and Kenyan Gethumbwini – and see if you can spot the supermarket brand.

Campos, 193 Missenden Road, Newtown, Monday-Friday 7 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., +61 (0)2 9516 3361, www.camposcoffee.com

5. Single Origin’s Sideshow

Coffee

Sideshow is part laboratory, part theater.

The offshoot of wildly popular Single Origin, the aptly-named Sideshow next door is all about educating the discerning coffee drinker — and gives them more than they bargained for.

Apparatus that wouldn’t look out of place in a science lab is lined along the counter: pour-overs, suitably showy cold-drip apparatus and the stars of the show, vacuum siphons.

Pick a single origin from the menu — such as the Rwandan Rutsiro ($5) — and watch the theatricalities unfold as barista Charles unleashes the Japanese siphon technology.

The results are impressive: smokiness and lime shine through and sweet carrot notes strengthen the coffee. Brewed at a high 94 C, it cools in the specially hand-blown glasses.

On a hot day, try a cold-drip coffee over ice ($3) — it’s sweet and clean tasting with a nuttiness that has those in the know addicted.

It’s coffee, just not as you know it.

Single Origin’s Sideshow, 52-58 Reservoir St., Surry Hills, Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., +61 (0)2 9211 0665

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Sydney’s best kangaroo, CNN // 1 June 2011

Such is the Australian cultural peculiarity that the kangaroo not only adorns the national emblem and TV shows, but also dinner plates across Sydney.

Lean, healthy and apparently beneficial as the meat may be, it’s probably not surprising that it is tainted with “Skippy Syndrome” — a public sympathy for not wanting to devour Joey’s mum.

But it’s versatile, good value and has the added kudos of being entirely free-range, unfarmed, methane-free and sustainably managed. It tastes pretty good, too.

On whichever side of the fence you hop, here are five takes on a plate of ‘roo in Sydney.

Char-grilled ‘roo at Blackbird Café

Kangaroo

Char-grilled kangaroo and steamed veggies at Blackbird is a healthy choice.

OK, it’s not going to win awards for originality, but where else can you depend on finding a char-grilled tender kangaroo loin glazed in chef’s special orange marmalade sauce ($29.90) at any time of the week?

It helps that the ‘roo in question is perfectly cooked and paired with steamed veggies, making it tip-top in the healthy stakes.

On account of its low fat content, kangaroo’s not the easiest of meats to master, becoming easily overcooked or tough, so Blackbird’s spot-on loin is a rare find: the pink meat and bloody juices adding umami-laden depth to the sweet citrus sauce.

It’s a generous portion, so bag a window seat and let your meal go down whilst watching the world — and tourist boats — go by.

Blackbird Café, Balcony level, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour, +61 (0)2 9283 7385, 8 a.m.–11 p.m. daily.

‘Roo pizza at the Australian Hotel

Kangaroo

The fair dinkum kangaroo pizza at the Australian Hotel.

No quibbling over this one –- get to The Rocks and tuck into a kangaroo pizza at the heritage-listed Australian Hotel, equipped with marble wash-rooms and an old-world feel.

A bastion of all things fair dinkum, there are more than 100 Aussie beers to choose from (no imports) so it may come as no shock that the kangaroo pizza ($25.90) is the most popular (and certainly least Italian) pizza on the menu.

Strips of meat are marinated in native mountain pepper and served with roasted capsicum, cranberries and lots of gooey cheese. Not the healthiest take on Skippy, but there aren’t many better ways to fill up whilst sampling the beers and wines amongst colonial charm.

The Australian Hotel, 100 Cumberland St., The Rocks, +61 (0)2 9247 2229, Sunday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m.

Raw or cooked ‘roo at Kingsley’s Steakhouse

Kangaroo

Carpaccio kangaroo for lovers of raw meat.

On a cold winter night, Kingsley’s cosy warmth hits the spot — old stone walls, low ceilings, exposed beams, wooden floorboards and immaculate service.

There’s an excellent take on the ‘roo fillet here — a worthy alternative to steak — served with onion and juniper jam and a mayo-free Italian coleslaw ($31.50).

Kingsley’s also serves the more unusual carpaccio with celeriac and horseradish remoulade ($17.50), which elevates raw Australian fare to a thing of elegance and sophistication. The wafer-thin, uncooked, translucent meat sits delicately alongside the rich, mayo-heavy remoulade.

Up the cosiness ante with a good red wine and again, ‘roo proves its value as a meat for dedicated carnivores –- best raw or cooked as little as possible.

Kingsley’s Steakhouse, 29A King St., City, +61 (0)2 9295 5080, Monday-Friday noon-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 6 p.m.-10 p.m.

French ‘roo at Restaurant Paradox

Kangaroo

The steak tartare at Paradox is the French take on kangaroo.

Anachronistic, honest and good value, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Paradox in Crow’s Nest — especially if you’re after a taste of Cordon Bleu cookery. It’s not modern, glamorous or trendy, but what owner and chef Michel Delcour lacks in snootiness, he makes up for in flawless French food — and a firmly European take on ‘roo.

A kangaroo steak tartare is faultless – deliciously peppery, bright meat and plenty of punch from capers and shallot turn the boomer into an entrée of which Escoffier himself would be proud.

Kangaroo fillet with green peppercorn sauce is a pleasure, too. The sauce — usually paired with steak –- is rich and fiery and does well to cut through the subtle gaminess of cooked ‘roo. Bon appetit, mate.

Restaurant Paradox, 98 Falcon St., Crow’s Nest, +61 (0)2 9956 8898, Monday–Saturday 7 p.m.–late.

BYO, three courses $49.

Fillet of ‘roo with a view at the Clovelly Hotel

Kangaroo

A view of the fillet at the Clovelly Hotel — that comes with a view.

The pub with a decent view is a wonderful thing — and The Clovelly Hotel’s (or “Cloe”) view opens onto the ocean and rocky headlands of the eastern suburbs shoreline.

Thankfully, its food can stand up to the setting and their ‘roo dish ($26) is no exception. Great value posh pub grub it is — proven by the sliver of truffle topping my 200-gram kangaroo fillet.

Things are kept simple so that flavours aren’t hidden — choose a sauce from the list (the chef recommends parmesan aioli and gravy on the side and who are we to disagree?), and pair your posh kangaroo with a big bowl of hot chips and a cold beer. We’ll drink to that.

The Clovelly Hotel, 381 Clovelly Road, Clovelly, +61 (0)2 9665 1214, Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-midnight, Saturday 10 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Or, read online at CNNGo.com

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