Mercado, Sydney – my new Sydney favourite – delighted by such generosity!

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Ever since Mercado was named one of the best new restaurants of 2016 by the Good Food Guide, it’s been on my wishlist.

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So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to dinner.

I was not disappointed! No, much more than that, I was surprised and delighted at the generosity of Mercado’s service, approach and prices – something that can be hard to find now in popular, trending restaurants.

Let me tell you how:

Mercado takes bookings at the time you want – not set sitting times.

Mercado lets you order a la carte or from set menus – it’s up to you – no compulsory degustation or tasting menu. (Unless you are a group of 8 or more when you must have the $80 set menu).

Mercado has great service from thoughtful, knowledgeable wait staff who care about their guests and their product. They establish warm, but respectful rapport and anticipate your needs. They provide continuity from start to finish.

Mercado has good value prices – coffees are $4.50 not $8.

Mercado has great food – every dish was a winner.

Mercado offers you a $65 set menu on the house for your birthday (if you subscribe) when you book as a group of 4. (Available lunch or dinner Monday – Thursday).

As we were heading to Vivid, we arrived by 6pm and went for the Pre-Theatre set menu for $55 per person. This turned out to be a great choice.

The food reminded me of both Stanbuli and Continental Deli, having a style that falls somewhere in between.

The Pre-Theatre menu offers:

The Chickpea puree with brown butter was wonderful with great crispy chickpeas and deliciously warm flatbreads.

Marinated olives

A selection of cold cuts cured in house – all excellent and perfect with the Mixed pickled vegetables

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Turkish ravioli of pumpkin with yoghurt & burnt butter – we loved this.

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Chorizo with salsa mojo verde – very good.

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Chef’s selection from the rotisserie – we had the wonderfully succulent and flavoursome rotisserie chicken with lemon & aioli and a great house made sauce.

Salad of mixed leaves & herbs.

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Dulce de leche ice cream served dramatically with butterscotch & candied bacon – delicious!

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$55 per person the Pre-Theatre set menu is available in the evening before 6pm

I estimate it provides the equivalent of $171 of dishes for $110 for two people, so it’s excellent value.

However, the table to us was ordering a la carte and their dishes looked wonderful too. They loved them especially the Foie gras parfait, Braised Octopus and Beef carpaccio – all dishes I would order next time to try. Instagrammers agree.

Foie gras parfait, pickles & toast 26

Escabeche of kingfish, fennel & lemon 29

Soft shell crab bun, harissa & aioli 24

Braised octopus, sobrasada, potato & olive 32

Roasted prawns, chilli oil & romesco 39

Beef carpaccio, ortiz anchovy dressing & caviar 28

Wine by the glass includes a very good 2016 Jauma y Mercado ‘Garnatxa’ Grenache McLaren Vale, SA $14 for a generous (150ml pour).

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Located in the cellar of a building off Angel Place, the setting is cozy and inviting.

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I’m not taking it off my wish list, but I’ve added it to my Sydney favourites – at the top.

Mercado Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jugiong – Canberra’s new destination dining spot? 

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The Southern Highlands is popular for getaways from Canberra. But head west down the Hume instead and you’ll come to Jugiong, a small country town reinventing itself as a boutique foodie day trip destination.

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Kim has arrived from Western Australia to open up The Sir George – country charm with style and fun.

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Bringing his artisan baking secrets with him, he serves up the most wonderful Bakers Lane sourdough bread that you can team with delicious share plates and tapas.

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WARM LOCAL & ITALIAN OLIVES $8

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HOUSE TERRINE $16 & DUCK LIVER PARFAIT $15

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KIM’S CHEESE SELECTION $18

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ANCHOVY BOARD TO SHARE $40 (spanish whites, rizzoli in extra virgin & salsa picante) – as Kim promised, bread dipped in the tin was divine.

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Team this with an excellent bottle of $30 Italian prosseco or some hill tops wine by the glass very reasonably priced from $7.

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Or perhaps choose a main dish like the great looking fish and chips $19.

Enjoy the tables outside ….

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….or one of the gorgeous heritage nooks inside.

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Open 10am until late, Sir George is closed Mondays.

Then there’s also the famous Long Track Pantry next door open 8-4 every day except Tuesday and serving an interesting and varied menu.

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Browse the giftwares while you’re there.

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Or around the corner are a couple of lovely home decorating shops including Tillia’s brand new The Yard full of gorgeous art and flowers.

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If you’d like to make a weekend of it there’s some good Airbnb options.

Also, Sir George has exciting plans for boutique accommodation which I can’t wait to see.

I have a feeling Jugiong will just go from strength to strength. It’s a great discovery for those looking for something new which is close enough to Canberra for a spontaneous country lunch or weekend getaway.

Sir George Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Continental Delicatessen, Newtown – old Sydney done well!

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I love the restaurants of Ben Milgate, Joe Valore and Elvis Abrahanowic -, they are my favourites in Sydney – Porteno, Bodega and my favourite in Sydney so far….Stanbuli

What you dependably get is a good time!

Theatre, pizazz and waitstaff full of personality.

But each restaurant has its on distant theme.

Portenos is Argentinian and spit roasted meats. Stanbuli is middle eastern meyheme bar!

Continental Deli is European old Sydney.

It captures the strong influence of European immigration on Australian colonial-style cuisine.

It’s like a family owned Old Sydney corner store full of continental meats, cheeses and tinned fish.

 

It fondly takes me back to Uni days in Newtown and I love the feel of happy memories.

But it Continental takes it’s theme to a new level, adding great style and chic.

A cross between a deli and a bar there’s an…

Upstairs bistro but like Stanbuli…

…the downstairs bar is so much more fun.

Having regretted not choosing the chef’s menu at Stanbuli, it’s on my Wishlist for 2017 at Continental Deli.

For $65 per person it’s good value, offers dishes I wouldn’t have chosen for myself that I loved and surprisingly is not too much food.

Continental sourdough & olive oil – per person $3.50 is an extra, but boy is it worth it.

The platter of meats was surprisingly excellent with the Hot sopressa, Jamón serrano and thinly sliced Mortadella (really good!!)

I was not as much a fan of the fish plates…

Don bocarte anchovies with pickles

Raw kingfish, finger lime, curry leaf oil and bottarga

Really good were the…

Steak tartare, parmesan, gaufrette potatoes

Heirloom tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, stracciatella, grilled sourdough

Octopus, sobrasada, corn and jalapeno

Roasted chicken with pot-au-feu vegetables

Fantastic was the Strawberries, fennel seed caramel & creme anglaise – a wonderful way to finish!

It was a memorably great meal!

Looking forward to a return visit!

 

Continental Deli Bar and Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taste of Sydney – Feast with Friends

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The four day Taste of Sydney just finished yesterday.

And wow, what a great foodie festival it was…and yes you do need friends with you, who like to share!!

Not just a wonderful chance to enjoy some pretty special dishes from some of Sydney’s best restaurants but lots of excellent free or low cost interactive sessions, wine tasting and way too many selfie opportunities (apologies in advance).

Having done our research we booked our sessions and headed off to start on our dish hit list.

First to Porteno where Adam and the team were serving up some delicious dishes…

Grilled cheese with Almond Romesco $6 (one of our favourites)

Steamed corn and cheese tamale with Tomaillo sauce $10 (another fav)

BBQ pork sausage with creamed corn and spicy sofritto $12

Icon dish – BBQ beef belly with crispy fried Brussels sprouts $18

Then dessert….the highlight of the day Hazelnut Mousse Cake with Pedro Ximenez and gold leaf from Mercado Restaurant, with a hollow chocolate core filled with divine liquid $10. We weren’t the only ones who loved this dish, it was ranked No. 2 in the Best in Taste awards.

Time for one of the World’s best margaritas…..

Some very delicious Rum Chata…..

And some Tamada Georgian wines (apparently the world’s oldest wine growing region)…

Then back for more dishes, a lovely Lavender and Rose soft serve with red vermouth caramel and pistachio praline $6 from Banksii…

…who also had their Ora King salmon rillette with red pepper relish and rosemary flat bread $10…

….and their Banksii duck sausage with vermouth plum jam and fennel salad $12

…..then another of our favourites, the Liquid pumpkin and Parmesan gnocchi with forest mushroom tea $12  also a Best in Taste winner at No.3…

…and a Black sticky rice coconut slice $6 from Long Chim along with their Icon dish of Charred rice noodles with chicken, yellow beans and Chinese broccoli $14

Time to get cooking with Meat & Livestock Australia’s Cook’s Corner as Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne from Andy & Ben Eat Australia……

….taught us to cook Brisket and Charred Herb Salsa…

…and then off to the Lurpak Cookery School……

….to do some hands on..

…Butter Poached Fish served with Butter Charred Corn and Passionfruit Curd Tart (delish!).

We just caught the end of the Ethihad Airways Taste the World winning chef preparing Bouche on the Bridge’s No.1 winning Wallaby skewers with spiced cashew sauce (wild Tasmanian wallaby tenderloins marinated & cooked over charcoal)..wow!

So sad to not be able to get to everything like IncredibleIndia’s Delhi ‘O Delhi or Organic Darjeeling Tea tasting…

…or the many Table talks and wine appreciation chats.

 

And then there were also all those chef talks that would have been fascinating, like Nathan Sasi from Merado and Mike Nicolian from Continental Deli and of course, the dishes still on the hit list we didn’t get to:

Nel’s Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream $10

Captured by @pipedream.celebrations

Summer Efforescence -Strawberry Sorbet, lychee, champagne mousse, crystallised rose petals $12

Captured by @jamielee.lane

Wagon Wheel – raspberry, yuzu and milk chocolate wagon wheel $6

Captured by @tasteofsydney

Truffle Hunt with chicken, truffle, porcini mushroom croquette & edible truffle soil $10

Captured by @davidxiao8891

Mercado’s

Foie Gras Parfait $12

Captured by @patsplustots

Long Chim’s Grilled Squid with Sriracha sauce $10

Captured by @katty_sydney_

or Saint Peter’s Pambula Sea Urchin Crumpet $24

Captured by @glendonww

Next time!!!!!

Parking was surprisingly easy and free near the Centennial Parklands venue and while it was clearly very popular and you needed to book sessions ahead, lines were short and waiting small. 

General tickets were $25 on-line, most activities were no cost except for most wine tasting (around $4 a 60ml pour) and the Chef’s Secrets $12.

Truly a great experience and I’m looking forward to next year!!!

The Grounds, Alexandria – really, quite an unexpectedly full experience

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I’ve long heard about the fame of the immensely popular The Grounds, in Alexandria, but nothing has prepare me for the enormity of what is actually not just an eatery but a whole experience.

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From the helpful parking attendant on arrival….

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…. to the petting farm…..

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…. the Saturday market…

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… the Saturday food carts…

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…to magnificent Christmas baking…

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…to Santa!!

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Definitely more than I’d bargained for!

There’s clearly a sophisticated system in place that keeps hundreds of people happy, supplied by a bakery….

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…..take-away and picnic options….

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…..Garden cafe…..

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…..and coffee roasting.

Even special events are well catered for.

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We settled on tea $4….

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….and the Dried Fruit dish $14 with Chai infused winter fruit compote

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…but others were enjoying other more substantial dishes like the smashed avocado on toast, brekkie burger, home-made granola or superfood muesli.

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On a Saturday you may need to wait for a table, but even that can be highly entertaining!

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Easy to see why it’s a popular destination for families and those seeking a whole ‘outing’.

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The Grounds of Alexandria Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Black Market Coffee Roasters – a very handy spot to know on Enmore Road!

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Black Market Coffee Roasters are new to Enmore Road and just a few minutes walk away from The Urban Hotel.

Perfect for a quick coffee or light brekkie I had flagged it for my next visit.

The crumpets with honey, marscapone, mint, summer fruits and nut butter $12 were top on my list.

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As I waited I enjoyed one of their very popular coffees and watched the locals drop by to pick up theirs.

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The crumpets arrived and were beautiful, but sadly not house-made as the prep area is tiny.

Next visit I’ve got my eye on the fig and cranberry fruit toast, a bargain at just $4.50 sourced from the Bourke Street Bakery’s Bread and Butter project – an artisan bakery and also Australia’s first social enterprise bakery with 100% of profits being reinvested into baker training and employment pathways for refugees and asylum seekers.

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I’ll be back!

Black Market Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills – SMH’s Good Food Guide’s 2017 Cafe of the Year

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Never missing an opportunity to try a Good Food Guide hot tip, we braced the rain to try the Paramount Coffee Project, an easy walk from Central Station, on Commonwealth Street, for breakfast.

Wanting to try some of the innovative dishes we shared the very delicious Creole Jambalaya with chorizo, smoked barramundi, charred squash smothered cabbage and caramelised lemon $19.50

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….. and the Key lime pie waffle with coconut lime and pepper slice, macerated berries, salted Nutella ganache and green apple $19.50, very moorish, but definitely best shared.

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The open spaces are very welcome and while very popular, it’s not too hard to grab a table.

The Paramount Coffee Project Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato