Author Archives: surryhills2010

Reuben Hills – so hip it hurts


vibe:  4 stars

design:  industro-chic, earthy exposed brick walls, concrete floors and the oh-so-hip right now, neon lighting.

food:  3 stars, coffee 2 stars

damage:  Eats are reasonably priced from $6-$18, coffee is super exxy at $5

Right off the bat I’d like to say that I really wanted to like this place.  I was giving it my 5 star attention, thanks to their awesomely welcoming and urban rustic fitout, its 5 min walk from my house location and well, its vibe.

Reuben Hills coffee with ironic water bottle and neon

But it failed.  In my 3 visits, my experience got progressively worse.  Why?  Let me break it down for you so it’s really fair.

1:  The coffee is bad bad bad.  This is a joint that roasts its own, has aspirations of supplying other cafes and has frankly, promoted its merits based on their coffee philosophy.  Or what I like to call, their coffeelosophy .  These guys select their own beans from growers in South America, roast it themselves and offer to teach others how they do it.  At 5 bucks a pop, it should be hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck awesome.  It is not.  Sad face.

Reuben Hills cafe latte with more ironic water bottles

2: The menu is limited.  I dig what they are trying to do, it’s just that it makes the dining experience challenging.  What the hell am I on about?  Well the guys at Reuben Hills are not South American yet their menu is.  By way of explanation of their food style & philosophy, they have included the following at the top of their printed menu;

“Baleada (Bal-YA-da) originates from El Progreso Honduras and its one of their most original and popular foods.  It’s a wheat flour tortilla, often quite thick, folded in half and filled with an array of fillings.  The ones we were eating always had cheese and egg and some sort of meat.”  Right….

On 2 occasions, I had the Baked Eggs.  Once with Jamon, steamed spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata and once with Goats Curd, steamed spinach, Ranchero Sauce and Schiacciata.  I love baked eggs.  Baffi & Mo in Redfern do the most rocking Baked Eggs on the planet (Disclaimer: I have not eaten baked eggs all over the planet so this is clearly a ploy to convince you of their supreme awesomeness).  The Baked Eggs at Reuben Hills are a bit too runny to qualify as baked.  The Ranchero Sauce is so overpowering you cant really taste the schiacciata and the spinach is a bit light on.  Having said that, I still enjoyed them well enough on both occasions. The baked ciabatta that comes on the side is a nice touch and perfect for soaking up the whole gooey mess once you pierce your first egg.

Baked Eggs with Goats Curd, Steamed Spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata

Baked Eggs with shaved Jamon, Steamed Spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata

The rest of the menu looks interesting but if you’re not in the mood for South American bar food, you’re left with the ‘Doggs Breakfast’, an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel; a breakfast trifle of rolled oats, vanilla & anise stonefruits with cassia & ginger yoghurt; a Jamon, rocket, goats curd and fig sandwich and a Brioche with dulce de leche or choc cherry ganache.  All in all, a somewhat confused menu that relies on the diner’s particular penchant for one type of food or utter eclecticism.

What’s good about Reuben Hills is their on trend use of grandma’s old plates, Depression-era recycled glass bottles and their interior design.  They really got the mix of communal dining, pit-stop style coffee break and sit down lunch date, just right.  This is a café that ‘feels’ good.  It really does.  The staff are warm and friendly, the clientele is a mixture of hipster art students, ad men and urban professionals and the space flows nicely.  The upshot is I really wanted to like this place!  To be honest if the coffee was better, this review would probably have gone a different way.

Reuben Hills interior with accent neon lighting

Even the ceiling gets the uber cool neon treatment!

So there it is Reuben Hills.  If you’re gonna put yourself out there as coffee aficionados, you better deliver.  Improve your coffee (and I’m sure they will) and the quirky menu could be forgiven.  If you love South American bar food, eclectic ice cream snacks and cool industrial interiors then give Reuben Hills a try.  Just don’t go for the coffee…

Reuben Hills

61 Albion St

Surry Hills  NSW  2010

http://www.reubenhills.com.au

Hours:

7 days

7am – 4 pm

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Mille Vini – a thousand times “Yes!”


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Earthy Tuscan rustica meets slick Sydney bar.  Sandstone bare walls cosy up to dark wooden tables, low lighting and an exposed wine cellar.  Warm, elegant and cosy.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Entree: $12-$24 Mains: $23-$34 Dessert: $12 Wines by the glass from $7, by the bottle from $35

Mille Vini's exterior

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been to Mille Vini more than once.  Forgive me father for I have sinned, many times.  A thousand times?  Well not quite, but I have frequented this chic hole-in-the-wall more often than is healthy.  A couple of hail marys and I can be back on my sinful way, you say?  Well sign me up and call me a Catholic so that I may once again worship at the alter of a thousand wines!

Mille Vini is one of those rare little delights that Sydney manages to cultivate seemingly out of nothing from time to time.  With a solid pedigree that hails from those talented folk who built Pizza e Birra, Mille Vini is what happens when excellent taste meets authenticity meets demand meets surryhills2010.  Seriously, if I were to design the perfect wine bar cum restaurant, this pretty much would be it.  Great design that evokes warmth and sophistication without pretense, looking up from your Pinot Grigio you wouldnt be surprised to see Sophia Loren scooting past on a Vespa at 2 in the afternoon its so Euro.

Mille Vini interior

Thats right, its authentic.  From a miniature galley kitchen, the corridor that manages to fit no less than 6 tables, right down to its open air bar seats at the front, Mille Vini would not be out of place shoe-horned down any tiny laneway in Siena, save for the Aesop products inside ‘il bagno’. Sadly, unlike in Siena, it is more than likely that you will be forced to wait up to 45mins for a table if you arrive after 7.30pm on any given night of the week.  Of course there are no bookings so your best bet is to put your name down with the staff and take a stroll down Crown St to Yulli’s to wait it out (check out my Yulli’s review in this blog).

As is the great tradition in Italian enoteca’s, wine is always consumed with food.  Mille Vini does a cracking trade in delicious spuntini (bar snacks), antipasto & heartier dishes designed to be easily shared.  From the stuffed calamari, Nonna’s home made gnocchi, the superb cheese platter and everything else in between, Mille Vini‘s deft and authentic Italian touch ensures each dish delivers a delicate yet flavourful punch with every bite.

Stuffed calamari with tomato salsa

Figs wrapped in proscuitto with blue cheese

Cheese board with honey and quince jelly

But let’s face it, Mille Vini is all about the wine.  It ain’t called ‘thousand wines’ for nothing.  As you sit, literally surrounded by the colossal wine store and ponder its even more daunting leather bound ‘vino libro’, fear not dear reader, your humble waiter is not only a dashingly handsome italian with piercing blue eyes, but also a bonified wine expert.  Yet another layer to the authenticity of this great enoteca is the fact that all of the staff are schooled in the breadth of the old and new worldly wine list and thereby well qualified to offer up educated recommendations.

Some of the wines on offer...

It is my humble opinion that when faced with the option to go Old World, one should always take it.  Thanks to this M.O, and Mille Vini, I have been introduced to some of the most delightful Barolos, Albariños & Moscatos with delicious results.  Not that my liver really needs any further introduction to such temptations…

Mille Vini is the original small bar, but so much more.  The perfect spot to watch the hipsters and fashionistas slink by, sup on some saporous food & wine and share in the good life.  It maybe Italian for a thousand wines, but Mille Vini is more accurately ‘la dolce vita’, the sweet life.  I’ll be going back for sure!

Loco Tip:  Mondays you’ll be lucky enough to score my fave, the $16 pasta & vino deal.

Mille Vini

397 Crown St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9357 3366

Hours:

Mon 5pm-10pm;

Tue-Wed 5-11pm;

Thu 8am-11pm;

Fri-Sat 8am-12 midnight;

Sun 8am-10pm


The Devonshire – tea for two anyone?


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: A bit try-hard; Victoriana Tea Room meets Thai diner.  You need to look past bad decor to find the warmth, but it’s worth the effort.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Entrees $20-25; Mains $26-35; Desserts $14-15; Wine $35-136

I’m sure you’ve all noticed the Franco-Anglais fu-vasion going on in Surry Hills lately.  How could you miss it?  Any self respecting restauranteur or chef seeking to make a name for his or herself in the competitive Sydney restaurant scene, is sous videing, foaming, triple reductioning and foraging their way around the urban gardens of the inner east muttering mad supplications to deities in the pursuit of gastronomic riches and accolades.  What started overseas with El Bulli, Mugaritz & Fat Duck has finally distilled it’s way down through the social dining classes from haute cuisine, to a more accessible and infinitely more Australian experience.  It’s what I dig about Surry Hills right now.  All the intense skill and dedication to an art worthy of the best palates without the pretense, and the expense.  This is an evolution of dining I wholeheartedly support.

So, to The Devonshire.  Firstly, it’s important to get the whole Jeremey Bentley was the sous chef to double hatted Restaurant Balzac top gun, Matt Kemp out of the way.  Yeah, yeah, the kids got some big name experience in rattling those pans but lets give some kudos where kudos is due.  Bentley is rocking it all by himself at The Devonshire.  Sure, Kemp’s an investor in the biz but it’s Bentley that’s responsible for the menu and delivering on some pretty high expectations.  And he does it in spades.

Inside The Devonshire

Before I get into the food, I do need to take a moment to rail against the wholly flat and overlit ambeince out on the floor.  This lack of vibe was enough to hold me back from visting the place earlier.  However, after our planned evening at Eathouse Diner  was foiled, a savvy member of the Gastro Gang of Four lodged an urgent request to The Devonshire to rustle us up a table at short notice.  Lo and behold, the gastronomic gods were smiling, because one quick glass of pinot grigio at the Woolpack Hotel on Chalmers St and we were hot footing it up the street before this Sydney dining aparition could evaporate like last night’s truffle foam.

Whisked warmly to our table by a charming waitress, the Gang of Four had wine ordered and were happily chatting away in what seemed like mere moments after our disappointing Eathouse Diner experience (more on that in a later post).  The wine list is perfect for a neighbourhood restaurant in that it is interesting, with a real commitment to terroir, without being over the top and pretentious.  There are plenty of great international and domestic wines under $60 and you can certainly trust that if it’s on the menu, its bound to be good.  We had a truly memorable 2009 Kientzler Pinot Gris from Alsace that, upon first sip, prompted one of the gang to enquire as to the size of the store in the cellar, lest we should drink them dry.

So, to the food.  On this fine Autumnal eve, the Gang of Four were up for a sharezys type of vibe, and The Devonshire were more than happy to facilitate.  Before we’d even ordered, our lovely waitress delivered  a supremely tasty appetiser of warm, fluffy potato and salted snapper brandade, with some very moreish grissini.  After whetting our appetite on that, we quickly moved onto the Quail Bird Nest Salad.  A fantasmagorical dream of golden crumbed quail eggs, frisee and bois boudran.  A textural masterpiece, it will leaving you dueling with your dinner partners for the last crunchy noodle.

Quail Birds Nest Salad

Bouyed by the quality of our first dish, we moved swiftly onto the sweetbreads.  Now I’m not normally one for the sweetbreads but, bolstered by the Gastro Gang of Four and that superb Pinot Gris, I felt tonight was as good a night as any to dance with the bovine devil.  An artfully arranged dish of Veal sweetbread, tongue, a delightfully crunchy brussel sprout coleslaw with almonds and madeira, my first foray into sweetbreads was intensely piquant and not altogether a bad experience.  I’m not sure it’s something I’ll order frequently.  But, if you like sweetbreads, I’m pretty sure this dish will do you proud.

Veal sweetbread, tongue, brussel sprout coleslaw, almonds and madeira

Next on our share mission, was the simply devine Bangalow pork loin.  Oh my goodness.  It’s a fairly recent obsession of mine that if I see pork belly on the menu, I have to order it. The Devonshire’s take on this lip smackingly good dish is to die for.  Bentley serves it up in a perfectly zen circle with the loin, belly and shoulder, circling the plate amongst flawless cubes of pumpkin, prunes and apple sauce.  I wish I had a photo to upload for you but, the Gang of Four were so enthusiastic about this dish, I had no time to snap it before the hoardes descended.  Go order it yourself to see why.

Wrapping up this delicious evening was a trip down nostalgia lane with two desserts that tipify The Devonshire’s inventive take on French-Anglais fine dining.  First, the signature dessert; Devonshire Tea crème brulee.

Devonshire Tea Creme Brulee

A witty take on your Grandma’s Devonshire Tea (actually a personal favourite of mine on a cold and wintry Sunday afternoon), Bentley’s culinary skill and cheeky approach really sings in this dish.  Nanna’s tea cup filled with Earl Grey flavoured creme brulee, cozies up to a scoop of scone flavoured ice-cream, cherry jam and whipped cream.  Perfection on a plate if ever I saw it.

An order of Pineapple caramelised pudding, served with ice-cream and soup finished off our meal thanks to a pineapple obsession held by one of the Gang of Four.  After a bit of cutlery kung fu, the last morsel disappeared swiftly into our stomachs and we were left satiated and fuzzy.

Caramelised Pineapple with Ice Cream & Soup

OK, so The Devonshire is not part of the latest hip Americana-Tiki-Frat House bar/bodega/restaurant trend.  But, it is completely on trend with the whole Brit-Franco, fresh-faced fusion thing that’s taken hold of Sydney’s fine dining scene over the last few years. The beauty of The Devo?   It’s more laid back and has a bit of a giggle with what’s on the plate.  And that’s perfectly on trend for my Surry Hills.  Go check out The Devonshire.…coz you know your Nanna loves it!

The Devonshire

204 Devonshire Street

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9698 9427

http://thedevonshire.com.au

Hours:

Friday 12pm-2.30pm

Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10.00pm


13b – Hemingway meets the Great Gatsby


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Ernest Hemingway would approve of the dark petroleum coloured walls, marble top tables and Louis XV inspired wall sconces and bar.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: what you’d expect from a hip Sydney bar; $4-22 mains; $15-20 cocktails

13b interior

UPDATE JULY 2012: THIS BAR HAS CLOSED

13b is a safe haven of heaven against the bridge and tunnel invasion on a Friday night in Surry Hills.  Formally known as The Safe House, it’s a small bar in the truest sense of the word.  It’s tiny.  Right now thats OK coz its still blissfully under the radar.  Something that surprised my pal and I when we strolled in at 8.30pm this Friday night with no booking.  You can imagine our surprise to find this charming little nook blissfully devoid of Homo Sapiens Boganis especially having just followed a mass pack of them down Riley St on our way to the bar.  And that’s one of the supremely great things about Surry Hills.  Around every corner, down a little laneway, up a flight of concealed stairs and through a non-descript door is potentially a golden little nugget of a bar or restaurant just waiting to be discovered.

Located at the hippest address in town right now, the triumvirate of Dr Pong, Commons Local Eating House and Pocket Bar, Burton St north of Oxford (Bur-No-Ox) 13b Burton St, Darlo is a wine-bar-cum-bistro intriguingly named 13b, of course, after its address.

Intimate coffee den by day, wine bar by night, 13b is pleasingly minute with a limited charter, but one that it seeks to do well.  That limited charter restricts itself to a small menu of mod-oz classics and a few whacky tapas style plates for good reason.  The kitchen is small and the experience behind the bar is really the key selling feature of this joint.  Cocktails both old school and new are really what sets this place apart.  With a sassy nod to the Prohibition era, the cocktail list reads like an F. Scott Fitzgerald  novel and takes in old classics like the Negroni, but spices things up by conga-lining it down to the Caribbean (Rum replaces Gin) with their original take on the martini.  On our visit, we worked our way through the list by starting with the Maple Rose (Maker’s Mark, maple syrup, lemon juice, with a rosemary garnish), tripped onto the signature  13b martini, a refreshing concoction of watermelon, kaffir lime, herradura blanco tequila, pomme verte with a hint of apple, until finally weaving our way merrily towards the Don Corelone.  It’s a testament to the power of this drink that I can’t actually remember what’s in it – rest assured, it was good!

a Maple Rose & 13b Martini

Personally,  I wouldn’t go to 13b for the food.  I’d go back for the welcoming and embracing Paris-after-dark vibe, the stupendously good cocktails and a smile from one of those hip bartenders.  Apparently the coffee is top notch and the weekend breakfast worth the trip, but I’ll have to leave that review up to you guys….surryhills2010 is onto the next hip joint on your behalf.

13B

13b Burton St
Darlinghurst 2010

P: 02 9356 8718

http://www.13b.com.au

Hours

Tuesday – Saturday: 7am – Midnight

Sunday: 8am – 4pm


Yulli’s – a li’l patch of green


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: Art student, found object d’ refuse meets croquet lawn garden party.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: $10 wines by the glass, tapas plates from $12.50, mains from $15.50

OK so here’s the dealio.  You know I’m from Melbourne, so there is nothing more annoying to me than this recent obsession of bestowing the moniker “its just like Melbourne” upon every new so-called small bar that pops its cheeky head out from under Clover Moore’s ample skirts.  Get over it Sydney.  Melbourne is Melborne and Sydney is Sydney.  And quite frankly that’s a good thing.  How BORING if they were both the same.  I love Melbourne for being Melbourne and I love Sydney for being Sydney.  Celebrate the diversity people!

Inside Yulli's

Now that I’ve got that rant out-of-the-way, let me say this about Yulli’s.  It’s nothing like Melbourne, but it does remind me of that perculiar Melbourne penchant for decorating ones bar with found objects and refuse turned into natty bits of furniture.  Got a couple of milk crates out in the lane?  Great, whack a bit of perspex on top and et vóila, instant table.  Mum’s throwing out those daggy old 70’s curtains?  Fab, with a quick flick of the Janome you’ve got yourself a groovy new upholstered banquette.  Floor a bit crap?  Roll out the astroturf and just watch the hipsters slink in.  And on and on it goes across the bars of Melbourne’s CBD, Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Well, Yulli’s has certainly been inspired by this aesthetic and a lack of cash.  Thanks to an authenticity that can only be delivered when funds are genuinely tight, the owners have managed to pull off the oh-so-challenging-for-sydney balancing act of keeping the decor retro and relaxed, without it feeling like the owners went down to Vampt and bought the whole lot in an Amex fuelled spending spree.

So they got the decor right.  And thanks to some genuinely friendly wait staff, a lovely big picture window at the front and a cute little astro-lined sliver of a courtyard out the back, they’ve got the vibe right.  No pretension here.  This place screams “hang out all day on one latte if you like.  We’re happy to have you”, and we all know that’s a rarity in Sydney.

Yulli's courtyard

Sadly, the food lets them down.  The menu is ‘international’ which clearly means they can put whatever they like on it without fear of recrimination. Unfortunately it clashes and clangs its way through the world, one tapas plate at a time, without cohesion, through every cuisine of the moment.  From too fat Fried Haloumi with the strangest salsa I’ve ever tasted (kiwi fruit & tomato) to Hazelnut & Ricotta stuffed Zucchini Flowers (neon yellow batter covered & too salty, these oddly textured stuffed zucchinis just don’t work ), Steamed Leek and Mushroom Dumplings, a Falafel plate, Hand Cut Chips & more dishes that don’t really match.  I guess the interesting thing is that it’s totally vego, without being twee or hippy about it.  What a shame they didn’t get the cooking right though.

Fried haloumi with kiwi and tomato salsa

Stuffed fried zucchini flowers

Like any self-respecting Surry Hills wino, to go with my lively pinot grigio, I want flavours that compliment and enhance my wine.  This menu made that difficult, which is a shame because I do think their wine list is full of some great, Aussie, boutique wines by the glass.  With the right food, this place could really sing.  They also do a cracking good trade in micro-brewery beers, so you’ve gotta commend them for that, and with all of them NSW grown, the slow food movement will be down here in their hemp clad droves.

The thing about Yulli’s is that it really has got the relaxed wine bar thing down pat.  Open all day and late into the night, it’s a great place to drop into on your way home from dinner.  The lack of pretension and super wine/beer list is what will ensure this charming little watering hole survives the small bar invasion, long after the wannabes have slunk off to Alexandria in search of the next big thing.  Would I go back?  Definitely, but not to eat.

Yulli’s

417 Crown St

Surry Hills 2010

P: 02 9319 6609

http://www.yullis.com.au

Hours

Mon to Wed    5pm to late

Thurs to Sun   11.30 to late


Pizza Mario – its super!


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: Chic, earthy natural elements balance out cool industrial surfaces.  Hints of authentic Italian trattoria motifs.  Natural light abounds in this glass walled display case of a space.  Wanna be seen by all and sundry?  This is the place for it.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: minimal, $35pp sees you full and happy.

Welcome to Pizza Mario

Welcome indeed.  If a hearty ‘Buono Sera!’ upon entry to your fave local pizza joint is the welcome you lust after, then the warm hearted chaps of Pizza Mario will be only to keen to give it to you.  Once upon a time the cashmere clad of Burton Street’s inappropriately named ‘Republic’ building in Darlo got to call this fab little pizzeria their local, when it was conveniently located at the bottom of their Burton Katon Haliday designed apartment building.  Thankfully, for us south of Oxford St (So-Ox), pizzaiolo David Cowdrill and son Marcos, saw fit to pick up sitcks and move a kilometre across the road to The Ivy at St Margaret’s, for the promise of a shiny new restaurant full of marble, more table room and access to a slightly less ‘sparkly’ clientele.

It’s well documented that Pizza Mario is the only pizzeria in the Antipodean to be accredited with the coveted ‘Vera Pizza’ label.  Their number, 153, suggests that this accreditation, bestowed by the l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana upon those pizza makers devoted to the authentic application of the Neopolitan method, is a rarity and one to be admired.  Having tasted pizzas the world over and experiencing everything from a nori, bacon and Japanese mayo pizza pie (surprisingly moreish), to the thinnest and crispiest of pizzas in Florence and everything in between, I can attest that those crazy Neopolitans know a thing or two about making the best pizza in the world.  And the guys at Pizza Mario give it a pretty good crack too.

Apparently, the Neopolitan way dictates you must only use your hands in shaping the dough, pizza must be cooked on the bare floor of a proper wood burning pizza oven, toppings must not conflict with the rules of gastronomy (now those are some rules Id like to see…and then apply to some of the more bizarre molecular gastronomic experiments I’ve had the misfortune to have eaten in recent times), and finally, the most important of all, the pizza must be soft, well cooked and with a high soft crust.  Well sign me up and call me Vera, for I can confirm that Pizza Mario is steadfastly applying their mettle to all of those rules.

Pizzas are wonderfully soft, well cooked and with delightful crust.  Super thin bases are sparingly adorned with the minimum of ingredients to ensure a powerfully balanced set of flavours is delivered to your mouth with every bite.  This is about simplicity of ingredients.  No fancy attempts at tricking up what is essentially Mother Nature’s most pure of cuisines.  Margherita is simply tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And delicious!  OK, they do give you the option of adding either mushroom, olives or ham but rest assured, the combination of flavours has been researched and confirmed by Head Pizziaola as ‘vera pizza’ worthy.  So option away!

Margherita with mushroom

Cut into just four large quarters, this is a pizza you fold in half and wrap your chompers around heartily, as gooey mozzarella cheese drips tantalisingly from your chin.  Scrummy and super sexy if youre on a date (this is the moment in a rom-com where the 2 protaganists realise they are meant for each other while a suitably jaunty music score swells as a happy montage of handholding, strolling & arcade game playing unfolds).  Anyway, I digress.

It’s not just pizza on the menu.  Seasonal specials are scratched daily onto the blackboard and should always be considered in your overall menu selection.  On our visit, as figs are in season, the normally delish proscuitto and melon starter was updated with the addition of fresh figs.  The prosciutto is just as it is in Italy – perfectly aged and sliced to perfection.  Melt in your mouth.  Scrumdiddilyumptious.  Lightly fried calamari is moist, springy, salty and tasty.  Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and pinenuts are light and moreish.  Salads continue the simplistic use of good produce in the pursuit of supreme flavour.  Check out their website if you want to see the full extent of their menu – rest assured, consistency is key to this restaurants success.

Prosciutto & fig

Did someone say beer?  Look, Im a fan of a lively sangiovese any day of the week, and there are certainly a few nice ones on offer here, but if you’re going to have a proper pizza-night-out, its gotta be beer…and its gotta be Italian.  They have Peroni on tap.  Nothing crisper and more refreshing on a hot summer’s eve, so do yourself a favour and do the whole pizza-night-out properly.  Drink Beer. (no I havent been paid by Peroni to say that)

The atmos here is great.  It feels just like the family run trattorias you come across all over Italy.  There is love in the room and the joint is more often than not well patroned by real Italians.  That’s a good sign in my book.  If the real McCoy deign the place worthy of their palates, then there must be something good going on here.  Plus, Im a sucker for some lyrical Italian conversation going on in the background while I eat.  Every time I’ve eaten here (or taken away) I’ve received the friendly, warm kind of service you hope for in a local restaurant.  This place genuinely manages to make you feel like they know you, whether they recognise you or not.  Hey, just coz I’m a city girl doesnt mean I don’t crave a little country style familiarity.

Whilst the decor is simple and industrial, Pizza Mario manages to be warm and inviting at the same time.  Green and white checkered paper cloths deliver an authentic, easy-going vibe and the friendly wait staff look after you with warmth and efficiency.  Pizza Mario is an oasis in the wind swept void that is the strangely barren St Margaret’s piazza.  Go there for your next fully, proper pizza-night-out.  And drink the Beer.  Seriously.  Drink it.

Pizza Mario

The Ivy @ St Margaret’s

417 -421 Bourke St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9332 3633

http://www.pizzamario.com.au

Hours

7 nights from 6pm

take away available

Licensed


The all new Norfolk Hotel – get in quick!


OK Im so excited about the re-furb of The Norfolk that I just wanted to post quickly so you guys can get a ‘hot off the press’ vibe on it before its overrun by…well…the people that overrun and ruin all new restaurants/bars in Sydney.

The Outdoor Lounge - photo courtesy of Likkle Girl

The Norfolk's Outdoor Lounge

Fact #1: refurb and new vibe is the brainchild of recent superstars of the-dirty-old-pub-turned-super-cool tribe, James of The Flinders and James of Ruby L’otel.

Fact #2: Awesome outdoor lounge (Im not calling it a beer garden because it deserves to be so much more)

Fact #3: the menu runs the gamut from BBQ Sweet Corn mex style to ridiculously delicious soft shell tacos to Deep Fried Pickles and Hot Dog Sliders

The whole vibe of the place is Americana which is of course the motif du jour for the smart young hipster.  Food is tasty, honest and crazy cheap.  Drinks are amusing and smartly matched to the general atmos of the joint.  Try the signature Folks Sippin Pimms Jug or anything involving tequila if youre up for one of those kinda nights.

Thats it for the quick post – Ill add more later!

BBQ Sweet Corn

Soft Shell Taco with Beef

The Norfolk Hotel

305 Cleveland St, Surry Hills

P: 9699 3177

Hours:

Mon-Sun 12pm-12am, Fri-Sat open ’til 3am.


If you knew Zushi like I know Zushi…


surryhills2010 rating

Vibe: 4 stars

Decor: Industria-warehouse homage meets Harajuku laneway bar.  Small, buzzy and just the place for small groups.  Outdoor dining carries the laneway vibe through and makes smart use of its small pocket of concrete.  Quirky and fun.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Minimal – $60 for 2 will see you sated and happy.

Ah Zushi…underneath those bad graphics lies a super stylish, sophisticate with curves in all the right places.

When the bright orange “Zushi Coming Soon” window decals first went up in early 2010, Mr Surryhills2010 and I were filled with anticipation.  Unaware of the older sibling hiding over in Darlo (so many restaurants so little time!), we postulated for weeks about what Zushi could be.  The graphics suggested a ‘funky’ (and those who know me will assure you I only use that word ironically) hairdressing salon or a bad gift card store perhaps?  Soooo 90s and not in a good way.

You can imagine our delight when the decals came off and revealed was a slick little sushi restaurant reminiscent of many of the Harajuku laneway joints I had known and loved back in Nippon.  Like many urbanites around the world since 1990, I have eaten my fair share of sushi.  Its definitely a cuisine you either love or hate, and if you love it, you will understand that when the craving hits, there aint no other food that will scratch that itch.  Conveniently for moi, Zushi is literally around the corner from my house.  And Mr Surryhills2010 couldnt be happier…his love of sushi borders on obsession.

So the design of the restaurant is actually quite something to behold.  Imagine a medieval dragon munching up a forest as if it were matchsticks, threw up said matchsticks in a theatrical slo-motion hurl into the night sky and that would accurately portray the roof of Zushi.  Post modern pop art at its best….Im sure there is some art wank description that links the mish mash of sticks to an ancient tribal warrior motif by way of “insert relevant famous pop artist here” (and I encourage you to post your own in the Comments section at the end of this post), but this is not an architectural blog, it’s a restaurant blog, so enough about that.

Zushi roof image courtesy of Cherry Picked

Zushi roof image courtesy of Cherry Picked

Designed in a laneway style from the front to the back and all the way outside, the architects have managed to create an intimate space that can hold 52 patrons at any one time.  Without it feeling cramped or ear piercingly noisy.

inside the restaurant

Zushi interior image courtesy of Minty Meets Munt

On my weekday visit, the place was pumping.  In fact on first passby, Mr S and I kept walking coz there was a queue out the front.  A chat with some local pals down at Madame Char Char was all it took for the queue to pass through and in seconds we were seated at one of the ground floor tables.

Things we love about Zushi;

  1. They have carafes of wine on the menu – half carafe, full carafe and bottles.  So when Im pretending not to drink for a week, Mr S can always sway my resolve with the promise of only a cheeky half carafe.  So Euro; so “its practically good for me!”.
  2. They serve draft Japanese beer on tap.  Nothing quite like a frosted glass of Sapporo Draft.  Kanpai!
  3. The kitchen staff are mostly Japanese.  This means what you’re eating is the real deal.

3 dishes you cant go past at Zushi;

The Tuna Tataki.  Lightly seared, paper thin wafers of tuna drizzled in ponzu sauce served with a delicious mound of Japanese Coleslaw is seriously orgasmic.  And that’s not a word I throw around lightly.  Zushi is famous for this dish and one bite and you can see why.  You must order it.

A bowl of Edamame.  The perfect beer snack.  I don’t think I have ever eaten Japanese without first chomping down a bowl of these salty green beauties.  And the good news is; theyre good for you!  Zushi’s bowl of edamame is huge and I think too big considering its overall place in a Japanese meal but hey, if youre on a budget, you’ll love it.

The massive bowl of Edamame at Zushi

Finally, the Zushi Signature Spider Roll.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Soft shell crab, rolled inside out in nori & rice, with a blanket of avocado so thin Issey Miyake could pop a few pleats into it, send it down the runway at Fashion Week and expect calls from Lady Gaga demanding it as the perfect accompaniment to her next award show arrival.  This dish deserves its own restaurant its so good.  So fresh the crab is still warm, the perfect amount of wasabi cream drizzled over the top, its hard just to stop at one.  Do, as it will give you the perfect excuse to come back….tomorrow.

There’s a great menu of Japanese classics done in a fresh and modern way with just enough of the authentic deft touch you can expect from a proper Japanese chef.   Ive also tried the Crispy Scallops (great), the miso (bad), a special of Salmon inside out roll (great) and the Wakame Salad (great).  Im lead to believe the Tempura is top notch and from their website photos, Im inclined to believe it.

Nori wrapped scallops with crispy leek, chilli & wasabi mayo

Wakame Salad

Salmon inside out roll with avocado & wasabi mayo

The menu updates regularly with new dishes to keep you coming back, which Im sure is a tactic to get the locals stopping by frequently.

Zushi has kept the prices down and the quality of produce high with an M.O. that’s all about great food with great value in a friendly loco vibe.  The Surry Hills restaurant has achieved that in spades.  Awarded the Restaurant of the Year by Lifstyle Food in 2009, the Darlo version of this great sushi joint is clearly where it all began.

If you’re after a fresh, friendly, cruisy meal that’s easy on the hip pocket but heavy on style, Zushi is a great place to start.  Would I go back?  Hell yeah!  Try it out next time in your in the hood.  You wont regret it.

Zushi

285A Crown St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

02 9380 8830

www.zushi.com.au

Lunch 7 days

Dinner 7 nights 6-10pm Fri/Sat 6-12am


xage – From one old sage to another…


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Mod warehouse chic with a street style energy.

Comfort factor low, but authentic in its Vietnam inspired buzzy atmos.

Food: 3.5 stars

Damage: minimal, $30pp sees you full and happy.

Ancient sage Lao Tze famously once wrote that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Wise old words Tze, so why not co-opt this novel concept and apply it my blog?  And hence, I found myself single steppin’ it out to superb loco viet fusion establishment xage (pronounced ‘sage’), a mere 100 metres from my own doorstep.

xage opened at the end of 2009 to a fair amount of hoopla.  Terry Durack gave it rave reviews.  Time Out couldnt get enough of its friendly street vibe, the blogerati sang its praises.  Needless to say, Ive been keeping a lazy eye on its rise and rise to see whether it would withstand the tsunami of love, or if it would flop like Mum’s xmas pavlova. After last weeks visit, Im happy to say that it has not only survived, it has flourished!

On our visit to this mod-viet easy-dining hole in the wall, the place was pleasingly half full with a nice summertime holiday vibe.  Without a booking we got a table out front on the footpath, surely the best rubber-neckin’ seat in the house.  Inside is pretty buzzy but when its full, can sound like the Rabittohs are running training drills on your table.  Nothing worse than a noisy restaurant as far as Im concerned and if you can’t hear my witty repartee how could you possibly be enjoying yourself?  If its busy, wait for a table out the front or find an ear trumpet.

A couple of cool things that set this restaurant apart from other like minded Surry Hills diners;

1. BYO – seriously, how few restaurants do BYO these days?  If youre out for a bit of buzzy vibe but wanna keep it laid-back, sometimes keeping it easy on the hip pocket is what its all about.  And if youre a wine snob then you can control the quality of your quaffer.  Everybody wins.

2. The most expensive item on the menu is $19.90.  Our meal cost $30 per head inc corkage and tip.  Nuts.

3. Mama’s own authentic Vietnamese food, served up street style with a modern twist and an atmosphere worthy of the most bustling Ho Chi Minh laneway cafe.

Restauranteur and chef Minh Nguyen’s fairly comprehensive menu reads like a vietnamese hit parade.  From the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls with nuóc chám dipping sauce to the Spicy-Sweet-Sour soup with tiger prawns; Duck Papaya Salad, Càri Gà chicken yellow curry, Wok Fried Beef with Butter soy, all the old favourites are here but with a refreshing honesty of flavours worthy of the best Mekong Riverbank restaurants.

Famous Duck fillet bánh xèo summer rolls, hoisin peanut sauce

To go down a treat with your ‘ba-ba-ba’ (333 beer to those of you of the non-viet speaking variety) I recommend the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls. Super crunchy, long thin cigars of chickeny goodness that’ll have you wanting to order more.  Don’t, coz you’ll need room for the oh-so-melt-in-your mouth Marinated Grain-fed Beef Rump slices with betel leaf in butter soy.  Oh my lordy.  Lip-smackingly good.  So good in fact that my dining pals gave the whole meal 5 stars based on this one dish alone.  (sorry about the crap photos…iphone camera only has so much capability!)

Crispy chicken spring rolls with nuóc chám

Marinated Grain-fed beef slices with betel leaf in butter soy

Rounding out an all round great weeknight meal was the tasty Coleslaw of Grilled Prawns in chilli lime vinaigrette.  A tart, juicy little number that’ll have your taste buds zinging.

Coleslaw of prawns in a chilli lime vinaigrette

The only stumble across the whole meal was the somewhat unattractive fried Silken Tofu with Sichuan pepper salt and chilli.  Not really spicy enough and looked fairly ugly on the plate.  Presentation counts.  After all, we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths!

But don’t let this minor hiccup dissuade you.  Cheap, cheerful and a cracking good atmos makes xage a surryhills2010 winner in my book.  Would I go back?  You betcha!  Next time you’re in the mood for some buzzing, viet-style street action, check out xage. You wont be disappointed.

xage

333 Crown St, Surry Hills

T: 02 9332 3344

E: info@xage.com.au

http://www.xage.com.au

Open 7 days a week for dinner

Dinner: 6pm-10pm



What is surryhills2010?


Glad you asked!  Living in this most excellent village for the past 4 years I have seen ‘the harp of the south’ change dramatically.  From a slightly grungy teenager with pimples and a grumpy attitude to an edgier, more confident hipster with dark glasses and attitude to burn.  And thanks to the progressive vision of our illustrious Mayor, the ‘city of villages’ found its ground zero in my beloved Surry Hills, postcode 2010.

The relaxing of Sydney liquor licensing laws in 2009 saw the mad flurry of ‘small bar’ applications and thanks to close proximity to the CBD and the cheaper rents, Surry Hills became the place to be and the home of the small bar.  And with small bars came the restaurants.  And come they did, in their hundreds.  At last count there were in excess of 200 restaurants in the 2010 postcode.  Many of them opening since 2009.  Which brings me to the purpose of this blog.

I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I do love food.  Even more than that I love eating good food in a great restaurant and if its shiny and new, then all the better!  After 7 years of eating my way through some of Sydney’s finest, coolest, tastiest, edgiest or just plain weirdest restaurants and realising that I really wasn’t making much headway through the myriad of tasty options,  I came upon the idea of setting myself the ultimate food challenge: eat at a new restaurant in the 2010 postcode every time I eat out and see how long it takes me to get to the end.  Will it take a year?  A month?  6 months?  Who knows, but I do know that there will be some fun times ahead…and possibly a few kj’s consumed (my personal trainer is gonna love this crazy idea!).  And when I’ve finished with 2010, who knows maybe I’ll take on the world!

So that’s the plan friends.  Every week Ill eat out at a new* Surry Hills restaurant and write about it here.  l’ll let you know what’s good about it, what’s not and whether I’d recommend it for a repeat visit.  That is surryhills2010.

And because I believe in the power of a good image, here’s one to get this blog started…if you like this, you’ll love my blog!

a typically elegant example of food in France

Dont forget to subscribe if you want to get regular updates on restaurants in Surry Hills…and tell me what you think via the Comments after each post.

Hope to see you back here soon!

Emma x

 

*Explanation: ‘new’ can mean brand new to the area or new to me.  The important thing is, that I wont be able to go back to the same restaurant twice…a sad reality for me but good news for those of you who want to find out about as many restaurants as possible, in as short a time as possible!


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