Category Archives: Mod Oz

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


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


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 Burton St
Darlinghurst 2010

P: 02 9356 8718


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.


417 Crown St

Surry Hills 2010

P: 02 9319 6609


Mon to Wed    5pm to late

Thurs to Sun   11.30 to late

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