Friday, December 30, 2011

Bentley Restaurant & Bar

UPDATE: Bentley moved from its original Surry Hills location (which my review is based on) to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sydney's CBD in 2013.

I simply adore fine dinning, there is something about the way the food is presented, how the flavours of what may seem a strange combination of ingredients come together and send your taste buds to heaven, it's addictive. The Two Hats Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Surry Hills is a great place to work your way through some interesting and delicious dishes.

Walking into the Bentley, the first thing I noticed was the brushed metal bar to the right, followed by the wall of wine, it was an impressive sight. The decor is chic and sophisticated. The dinning area consists of oak tables and leather benches, gold lampshades, black drapes and fresh flowers. This is one place I could see myself returning time after time, be it drinking and chatting away at the bar or sitting down for a meal in the restaurant.

For a first visit, the tasting menu is probably the easiest choice, and if you want the full fine dinning experience, the matching wine is a must. I'm not a big wine drinker, but I was very glad at the end of the meal that we got the matching wine, it really made a difference to the meal.

The matching wine is served just ahead of each dish, it gave us a chance to sample them once our waiter had expertly explained the wine to us - the winery that produced it, the grapes that were used and what flavours we should be expecting. We were quite impressed by our waiter's wine knowledge, who informed us that while Nick Hildebrandt is the sommelier, all the waiters have a good knowledge of the wines served in the restaurant.

The tasting menu has 8 courses plus an optional cheese course. Some of the dishes were a bit of a miss, for example, with the Balmain bug with Lamb Sweetbread, Black Bean & Coconut Curd, given the strong tastes of the sweetbread and black bean, neither of us could taste the Balmain bug, which was a shame.

Pork Belly
When it came to the Pork belly with Wattle, Garlic Milk & Rhubarb, opinions were divided. While my dinner companion is not a fan of rhubarb and found the dish pretty average, I really loved it. This is the first time I've seen rhubarb outside the dessert menu, a rather bold dish by Chef Brent Savage.

The Filet of black Angus beef with Carrot, Azuki Bean & White Sweet Potato Cake was very impressive. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the liquorice on the plate. I have never been a fan of liquorice but with a little encouragement, I gave it a try. It wasn't what I had expected, the flavour wasn't overpowering at all. Instead, it complimented the beef extremely well, and the matching wine gave the dish an extra dimension. My taste buds probably thanked me for being brave enough to give the liquorice a go rather than pushing it aside as I originally planned to do. 

My favourite dish on the night was the dessert, Blood Peach with Sesame Meringue, Nougat & Apricot Sorbet. According to my dinner companion, who sat across the table from me, I enjoyed it so much it looked like I was about to do the Katz's Deli scene from When Sally Met Harry. Well, what can I say, that dessert plus the matching wine was ORGASMIC! I'd go back there just for the dessert (with the matching wine of course)!

The Bentley Restaurant & Bar: Ground Floor, Radisson Blu Hotel, 27 O'Connell Street, Sydney NSW 2000  Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BLACK by ezard

A new venture from Teage Ezard, known for his Melbourne Asian fusion diner Gingerboy and the Two Hats restaurant Ezard, Black by ezard is a welcoming addition to the fine dinning scene in Sydney. Located in the newly renovated casino, it is one of the Signature Dinning restaurants in The Star. Dishes at this contemporary Australian grill are updated weekly.

Once seated, our waiter quickly explained to us how the menu worked as it was our first time dinning here. Besides the à la carte menu, there is also a pre-theatre set menu on offer, wine list came on an iPad. While we pondered about what to order, the complimentary house made brioche arrived at our table. Even though the loaf was soft, rich and creamy, we just could not resist the soft and smooth butter that came with it. Flakes of volcanic black salt is also on the table if you should fancy it.

Just as we wondered if they have forgotten our bottle of Pol Roger, our waiter appeared at our table and explained to us that they were looking for it in the cellar and it seems the last bottle has just been sold minutes before; the in house sommelier suggested Bollinger which is a bit more fruity and has a richer body as an alternative. Now with our drinks sorted, we dived into our second loaf of brioche.

Beef Tartare
As a seafood lover, my friend could not go pass the Oysters, served with yuzu and wakeme jelly. I was tempted to order their signature dish Organic Farm Egg with potato cream, black truffles, iberico ham and herb salad, but it sounded more like a brunch dish than a starter to dinner so I went for the Beef Tartare with heirloom beets, mustard ice cream and puffed wild rice. If our waiter didn't announce it I'd have thought they brought me the wrong dish. The tartare was hidden under a sheet of beetroot jelly and only revealed itself when I took my knife to it.

For main, my friend ordered the 1 kilo live lobster with a side of Asparagus (grilled and served with crispy prosciutto and quail egg). I had the Lamb Rack which came with spring bean cassoulet and black garlic. Our waiter warned me during ordering that the lamb here is cooked medium rare, for me, lamb is one of the dishes that should not be over cooked so medium rare suited me just fine. If you like your meat well done, this might be the dish you want to give a miss. That being said, even though it was served medium rare, when I cut into the meat it did not bleed but revealed a nice tender pink. Perfectly done in my book.

When it came to dessert time we saw the table next to us being served Chocolate where warm couverture ganache is poured over a whole chocolate ball, as the ball melted from the top, banana ice cream and hazelnut mousse were shown to be hiding inside the chocolate shell.

Upside-down Cake
If it was a few years back when I had an extremely sweet tooth I'd jumped at the chance of ordering it, but I have been a little obsessed with pineapples lately so I opted for the Upside-down Cake served with pineapple curd, white chocolate powder and pineapple sorbet. It did not disappoint. On the other side of the table my friend was not very impressed with the Honeycrunch which was served with clover honey parfait, ginger biscuit, honeycomb and cinnamon. It was not what she had expected and felt it should have had a bit more honey taste and sweetness to it. As an after thought, I think the Chocolate would have suited her taste more.

The deco at BLACK resonates its name, the combination of dark wood, copper and black leather gave a sophisticated yet relaxed feel to it. It is fine dinning in an elegant and sleek setting.

BLACK by ezard: Level G, Harbourside, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, NSW 2009 Black By Ezard on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gardel's Bar

Gardel's Bar upstairs at Porteño is the perfect place to grab a drink while you wait for your table for the Argentinean feast down below. 

We were greeted at the top of the stairs and taken to a little table next to the window in the back room, a very cosy spot for two. The whole room smelt of fresh plants and flowers and with the chandeliers, dark leather and wood furnishing and mood lighting it simply felt luxurious, yet there is also that unmistakable Rock 'n' Roll feel to it. No wonder it won Best Design at the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards 2012

The extensive cocktail menu made picking out a drink that much harder, but I just need to start somewhere, right? 

Consider the bar food here did win the Best Bar Food at the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards 2012, it would be a shame if we didn't at least try one dish. Since I was already having trouble picking a cocktail from the menu, I left the food ordering to my dinner companion, and I must say the pulled pork sliders were an excellent choice. The mini burgers were full of flavours. 

Now back to the cocktail menu, after much debate with myself, I went for the Lavender Pisco Sour: Mistral Anejo Pisco, Yellow Chartreuse, lavender bitters, lavender honey, lemon juice and egg white which came served in a wine glass and it was delicious! 

The hostesses were polite and friendly, checked on us several times during the hour and half waiting time we clocked up. And when the time came to head downstairs, my unfinished cocktail was picked up, carried down the stairs and placed on our dinner table without me having to say a word. 

I can already see myself returning to the bar, in the not too distant future, for cocktails and more of that award winning bar food. 

Gardel's Bar: Upstairs @ Porteño, 385 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Gardel's Bar at Porteño on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Often mentioned in the same sentence as some of the top and probably most expensive restaurants in Sydney, such as Bilson's, Bécasse and Tetsuya's, Porteño certainly holds its own on the food and service front and the good new is, it wont break your bank to dine here. Opened a little over a year ago, this Argentinean grill house was recently award best new restaurant and given a two-hat status at the SMH Good Food Guide 2012 Awards.

The whole place was already buzzing when we arrived at 7pm on Monday night, when the lovely Maitre d' informed us that they were full, that's right, packed at 7pm on a Monday night, we decided to head upstairs to Gardel's Bar for a drink while we waited for our table. The one and half hour wait for the table was a bit long, but I didn't mind it at all as I was with good company, plus having eaten at Porteño early in the year, I knew the food would be well worth the wait. Once we placed our order the dishes were served up quickly.

To start, we had the Pan de Casa House baked bread with olive oil & pork pate, if you like pate, this one is not to be missed, it was soft, rich and spread easily onto the perfectly baked bread; Tiradito peruano con Aji Amarillo Citrus marinated seafood with cucumber, grapefruit and yellow chilli paste was our next dish and it was fresh, the the hint of chilli was not overpowering but just right. My favourite dish of the night.

Chanchito a la Cruz 8 hour woodfried pig
Our two mains were the Chorizo Porteño Housemade pork sausage and Chanchito a la Cruz 8 hour woodfried pig, one of the must try dishes. The meat was soft and succulent, the crackling golden brown and crunchy. Our waiter suggested that we add a salad to our meal as the food is quite rich, so we went with his suggestion of Ensalada de Hinojo Shaved fennel salad with apricot, black olives and amontillado dressing. It was sweet, salty and zesty, all the flavours of the dish balanced out the rather heavy and rich meaty dishes perfectly.

All the dishes are designed to be shared and come in pretty big servings. We probably should have ordered 1 or 2 dishes less and saved some room for dessert because I simply adored the Postre Chaja South American Style Pavlova on my last visit and would have loved to try the Leche Quemada Burnt milk custard with orange jam & chocolate ice cream. I suppose it'll have to wait till next time.

If you want to avoid waiting for a table, make sure you get there early (they open for dinner at 6pm) or have 5 or more in your party so you can make a reservation. But with a great bar upstairs to pass the time by, your table will be ready before you know it. Oh and what I absolutely LOVE about this place, besides the food, is the well dressed gentleman who opens the door for all the guests. How's that for a treat!

Porteño: 358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010  Porteño on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bistrode (CLOSED)

A favourite with the locals, Bistrode is an intimate restaurant run by a husband & wife team. Located in the leafy Bourke Street, away from the busy and noisy Crown Street, in Surry Hills, this local gem has been awarded One Chef's Hat by the SMH Good Food Guide since 2007. 

It wasn't hard to spot my dinner companion when I arrived as we were given the table right next to the window. The light foot traffic outside made the table a great place to people watch between courses but not enough to distract us from our conversation during the meal. 

My entrée, the Szechuan Pork Belly, Pear & Pickled Mushroom, was absolutely delicious. The meat was soft and moist, the skin crunchy, that is until I bit into one of the Szechuan peppercorns and it left my mouth numb for the next few minutes. For the main course I had the Lamb Rump, Harissa, Broadbeans & Mint, while my friend ordered the Grass Fed Scotch Fillet Steak, Bone Marrow & Chimichurri Sauce. I loved the fact that the bone marrow was actually served in the bone itself. 

One word of warning, the servings here are very generous. In fact, I was so full after the first two courses I could not even bring myself to look at the dessert menu. To finish the meal, I asked for a peppermint tea, which to my delight, was not served from a teabag but loose leaf tea in a teapot.

With its soft lighting and what seemed like endless wine choices, Bistrode makes a perfect place for a relaxed evening out.

Bistrode: 478 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010  Bistrode on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 28, 2011


As someone who loves to check out new bars, Assembly was a must visit on my list. Opened its doors last Friday, this new bar, somewhat hidden in Regent Place in Town Hall, is one cool place to visit.

While it has a very industrial look and feel to it, exposed pipes, minimalistic furniture, concrete floor and walls; it also feels very homely like a New York styled loft. I can see myself relaxing on one of the couches with a drink or two for hours on end, actually, that's what I did tonight.

There is also an outdoor artificial garden where you can sit and enjoy your food and drink. The picket fence, huge white umbrella, green grass and a wall covered with plants will make you feel like you are in someone's backyard.

Whether you are sitting outside in the garden or found a comfy couch inside, clipboard menus are within reach everywhere. The cocktail list is impressive. Be it vodka, bourbon, rum, whiskey, gin or something else, name your pleasure and there will be a cocktail to suit. Wine and beer are also on offer, but my love for cocktails tend to steer me away from the wine/beer list.

There are many classic cocktails such as Dark "n" Stormy (Gosling Black Seal Rum + lime squeeze + Angostura bitters + ginger beer + lime & mint spring garnish + built in a hi-ball) on the menu, but then there are the Assembly cocktails. I favoured After Darkness (Hendricks Gin + lemon juice + rose water + egg white + shaken & strained + rocks glass), while my friend loved Last Kiss from Russia (Vodka + passion fruit puree + kaffir lime syrup + shaken & straied + hi-ball + topped with ginger beer).

Last Kiss from Russia (L), Betty & Camp (R)
We also managed to try a few others, which were all very different but delicious:

Betty & Camp: Campari + grapefruit juice + raspberry + lime juice + shaken & strained + hi-ball + topped with soda. "An Italian style tall cocktail which compliments any outfit and makes you look smarter".

Lavender Hill Cappucino: La Muany Rum + lime juice + apple juice + shaken & strained + martini glass + apple & lavender foam + Pop Rocks. "An exciting martini that will rock your taste buds world".

Rasp'n'Co: Vodka + raspberry puree + lemon juice + Cartron chocolate + shaken & strained + hi-ball + topped with soda. "A grownups 'Vodka raspberry' that tastes amazing and is way better for you. Despite the dash of chocolate liqueur".

The food menu concept here is all about sharing. Of course if you are feeling hungry or greedy, then you could have the entire dish to yourself. But what I love about sharing plates is that you'll get to try more dishes than if they were served as for individuals.

Its owner, Ben Toussa, who brought us Pocket Bar, informed me that Assembly is also a restaurant, there are a few items not yet available on the food menu as the chef is still refining the recipe and Ben wasn't comfortable putting them on the menu till they are perfected. Now that tells me I'm in good hands!

The dishes we ordered for the night are:

Citrus and Mozzarella Salad (L), Crab with a Kick (R)
Assembly's Fries: fries + cheese + truffle sauce
Citrus and Mozzarella Salad: mozzarella + fennel + citrus
Crab with a Kick: crab meat + avocado + dash of wasabi + sourdough

The salad was very refreshing as suggested by Laura, our friendly waitress who had a very welcoming smile, but the fries are the best I've had in a long time! Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, they are to die for!

There is only one dessert on the menu, warm chocolate fondant + coconut gooey, unfortunately thanks to the big opening weekend there was none available tonight, so I'll have visit again soon to try it out as Laura guaranteed it'll please our taste buds.

Given its central location, excellent service and a great menu of food and drinks, Assembly is perfect for lunch between meetings or after work drinks.

Assembly: Regent Place, Sydney NSW 2000. Entry via 488 Kent St, or down the escalator from George Street entrance  Assembly on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hinky Dinks

Hinky Dinks goes by the motto Cocktails first. Questions later... just the way I like it! Opened only a few months ago, this is one funky small bar worth checking out.

Zombie (L), Madagascar Manhattan (R)
After being greeted with a free serving of popcorn, I was feeling adventurous, so rather than looking at the ingredients, I picked my cocktail the way I usually pick my horses at the races, by name. Maybe because I'm not a bourbon drinker but gosh did Madagascar Manhattan (Vanilla & citrus peel-infused Bourbon, sweet vermouth, agave, chocolate bitters; served with a cherry straight up) has a kick to it or what!

The most potent drink on the menu is Zombie (Silver, aged and OP rums, Luxardo, cinnamon syrup, fresh lime, passionfruit, grapefruit juice, absinthe flame; served tiki style), it's so potent you are only allowed 2 per night.

Oh and there is table service too, such a welcoming added bonus!

With its exposed brick walls, black and white checkerboard floor, red and white bar stools, a vintage fridge at one end of the room, it felt like I was being transported back to the 1950s. I could just see myself sitting at the bar, sipping cocktails and listening to Frank Sinatra, whilst dressed in a tight-fitting blouse tucked into a pair of slim-line Capri pants, short ankle socks and a scarf tied around my neck. Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

A return visit is definitely on the cards, and I'm not going back just for the cocktails but also the food, I have to get my hands on the pan-fried olive & Parmesan sandwich!

Hinky Dinks: 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010 Hinky Dinks on Urbanspoon

Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar

Tastevin is a gorgeous little French bistro and wine bar tucked away in the busy end of Darlinghurst. It was my venue of choice to take the birthday boy out for a meal. 

Upon arrival I was greeted by a French waitress, who turned out to be our waitress for the night. With a friendly smile she told me that my dinner companion was already there waiting for me. Yes, the birthday boy was a whole 20mins early, but he didn't seem to mind as he sat comfortably in the bar at the back working away on his laptop. 

A glass of water was promptly served while I settled into my seat and looked through the wine list the bar shares with the bistro. Furnished with dark leather lounges and armchairs, the dim lighting in the bar gave a rather cosy and intimate feel to it. Come to think of it, it is the ideal place to have pre-dinner drinks if you happen to arrive before the rest of your dinner party. There is also a small bar food menu if you should get peckish while waiting. 

The feel of the bistro itself is simple yet classy. 1920s art deco posters adorn the walls, white table linens are set against contrasting dark wooden chairs and comfy banquettes; the dinning space is softly lit by lamp shade chandeliers and tealight candles on the tables.

You'd think a small dinner menu would make the selection easier, but with all the dishes sounding so delicious, it ended up being a pretty tough decision. I think another visit in the near future is needed just so I can try the other dishes! 

To kick start the birthday dinner I asked for two glasses of Champagne, in my book bubbles are a must at any celebration event. Since neither of us are big wine drinkers, Gosset by the glass was the perfect solution.

The highlight of my meal was the main, Confit duck leg with parsnip purée, carrots "Vichy", duck sausages and jus gras. The dish was cooked to perfection, the meat was tender and fell off the bone, its saltiness worked extremely well with the sweetness from the carrots.

The birthday boy favoured the dessert, Flambéed Grand Marinier crêpes Suzette with crème fraîche ice cream. I'm not sure if the birthday greeting and candle that came with it (special request I made during reservation) had anything to do with the favouritism, but I certainly adored the wonderful tangy, zesty and sweetness of the dish. 

What we were both impressed by, without any doubt, was the consistent friendly and attentive service we received throughout the night. 

It doesn't matter if you are there for a romantic dinner or a group gathering, Tastevin's traditional French cuisine with a modern Australian twist will delight your taste buds; and the excellent service simply completes a wonderful dinning experience.

Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar: Level 1, 292-294 Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010  Tastevin Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chefs Gallery

My most recent dinning experience at Chefs Gallery was more than just disappointing, it was appalling. Compared to my previous visits, the service and food have gone downhill so much it has hit rock bottom. 

When it first opened just over a year ago, Chefs Gallery was one of the most talked about new restaurants in town, I was among the many that raved about it and recommended it to all my family and friends. The waitstaff were friendly and attentive, the food was fresh and delicious. I was very surprised how much a difference a year has made to this place. 

It's nice to be left alone for a few minutes after being seated and handed the menu, but on a quiet Sunday night there should be no need for us having to wait for more than ten minutes and only got to place our order after flagging down one of the waitresses. Strike one. 

Wanting to try a few of the new dishes on the menu, we ordered the Fluffy Chinese roti with egg, shallot and onion and seafood pancake served with a creamy lime sauce. While the roti was light and fluffy, I'd preferred it with a bit more flavour; the seafood pancake was bland and uninteresting, it was probably the worst dish out of the ones we had on the night, yet it was listed as one of their signature dishes. Strike two. 

The final strike, and probably the most annoying thing happened on the night was we got asked to pay our bill half way through our meal. I can understand being asked to pay if we have stayed past closing time, but asking us to pay because they were closing their register while they were still taking orders from people who just came in to eat was unacceptable. Strike three.

It is unfortunately for what once was a great place to enjoy a nice meal, watch the chefs turning a lump of dough into delicate thin noodles in effortless fluid motions in the open kitchen, to have turned into a place that I will not likely be visiting again nor recommend it to anyone, instead I'd be more inclined to warn my friends about the bland food and poor service from here onwards.

Chefs Gallery: Shop 12 (facing Bathurst Street) Ground Level Regent Place Shopping Centre, 501 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Chefs Gallery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


An eating house upstairs and a bar downstairs, Grasshopper is a laneway bar that's right in the middle of Sydney's CBD, its location reminds me a lot of Melbourne's laneway bars - well and truly hidden.

Finding it the first time may be a bit tricky, you'll need to look out for a laneway off George Street across the road from Strand Arcade. Even if it looks a bit scary at night, take a deep breath and walk to the end of the laneway. Your reward for bravery shall be a cosy and eclectic small bar, where cocktails are served in jam jars and beakers among the usual wine and cocktail glasses.

A small selection of bar food is served downstairs, but if you fancy a more substantial feed then head upstairs to the restaurant. While wine and beer are served at the bar, mind you there is only ever one kind of beer and cider on offer, you cannot and must not go pass the cocktails. The best thing about ordering a cocktail here is you don't ever need to remember names. In this bar, cocktails are ordered by numbers. The menu also changes slowly over time, when it first opened back in 2010, we picked our cocktails between #1 to #10, tonight we got to choose from #31 to #40. 

While one of my friends tried #32 (rested tequila, coconut syrup, fresh lemon and blood orange served in a jam jar; a.k.a small bar glass), I went for #35 (honey & ginger rice wine, fresh lemon, mint and lemonade served in a large beaker). The mix might sound a bit strange but both were delicious and refreshing.

In case you are planning to stay for a while, hand over your credit card and ID and open a tab, why? Because you will get a cassette tape as your bar tab card, cool huh?

With its relaxed atmosphere, 70s furniture including some rather comfy armchairs, plus the dim lighting, Grasshopper even works nicely as an intimate place to take your date for a drink. However, if you are going there with your date I suggest avoiding Friday nights, that's when the bar is full to the brim with the after work crowd, but it is probably the easiest night to find the place as people spill out into the laneway, sitting on milk crates chatting the night away over a drink or two.    

Grasshopper: 1 Temperance Lane, Sydney, NSW 2000  Grasshopper on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gin Palace

Renowned for its excellent martinis, Gin Palace is where the locals go to relax after a long day at the office, or as the last stop on a night out given its late hours (open till 3am every day of the week). I was there for the latter of course.

With nothing more than a modest sign that reads GP above its double metal door, Gin Palace is a hidden gem among the typical Melbourne laneway bars that can be easily missed if you weren't looking. Walking pass the friendly doorman, you are suddenly transported into a New York styled bar that oozes class. 

After settling down in one of the comfy vintage armchairs, I ordered a Pineapple Julep (Geneve, Maraschino liqueur, house made raspberry syrup and bubbles; a Jerry Thomas' classics from 1862) while my friend went for the Blinker (Markers Mark Bourbon, grapefruit juice, house made raspberry syrup) from a menu that boasts some of the best martinis and cocktails in town. It is definitely worth to mention that you will be getting value for your money here and will feel the kick before even finishing your first drink.

With its vintage furnishing, soft lighting,  fresh flower arrangements, friendly table service and a very well stocked bar, Gin Palace is a venue of choice for catching up with friends, a romantic night out with your other half or throwing a party that your guests will be talking about long after the event. 

If I ever move to Melbourne, this will definitely be one of my regular haunts.

Gin Palace: 10 Russell Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000  Gin Palace on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 28, 2011


One of my all time favourite bars has to be Grandma's. Ever since my first visit, I've been telling anyone who'd listen that it is one of the best small bars in town. And guess what? They have just won Time Out Sydney's Best Small Bar Award. See, I told you so! The best small bar not just by my vote but many others too. So in honour of their win I'm going to give you my 2 cents here.

People say you never forget your first love, I think that applies to small bars too. Grandma's is the first small bar I've ever set my foot in and it was love at first sight. I'd rave about it to others to the point where one of my friends asked me if I was getting paid to promote them. Self described as retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour, Grandma's needs no introduction to those who favour a drink in a cosy, unassuming place.

Finding the bar may be a bit tricky if you don't know what you are looking for. I almost missed the door on my first visit and some of my friends wandered up and down the street a few times before they could locate it. But fret not, the entrance nowadays is often given away by the crowd lining up on the footpath waiting to get in.

Once inside you'll be greeted by a massive deer head mounted on the wall, followed by vintage pictures hanging above mismatching retro furniture dotted around the place. There is even a rocking chair, just like the one you'd expect to find inside your grandma's house. To secure one of the much coveted seats, make sure you get in early, otherwise you'll need to be very quick on your feet, no seat is ever vacant for long on a busy night.

Grandma's is a cocktail bar, but there is also a selection of wine and beer on offer. If you are feeling adventurous or simply can't decide what you want from the seemingly endless cocktails listed, consider kicking your night off with the secret daily punch, as the name suggests, it changes daily.

For something a bit different, try the Pink Pepper Martini, it is one of my favourite cocktails there, who would've thought pepper and strawberries would taste so delicious together?

Want to see your drink being lit on fire? Then you must order an Ultimate Mai Tai, watching it being made is almost as fun as drinking it!

Or if you are after a strong drink, as the menu puts it, a drink for a serious drinker, get yourself a Nuclear Daiquiri and get nuked!

When you spot grandma's knitting basket, challenge yourself and knit a few lines, that way you'll always be a part of Grandma's. Do I look like I knew what I was doing or what?!

Whether you stumbled upon Grandma's by chance or made it your mission to find it, this is one place you'll want to keep on coming back to. You won't find a more friendly bunch than James and Warren and all the grandkids behind the bar, and you'll get spoiled rotten each and every time you visit. With their newly extended hours, you can now chill with your friends till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. Trust me, you'll be thankful for that extra hour, it means you can sneak in yet another delicious cocktail.

There is really no place like home, except grandma's.

Grandma's: Basement 275 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Grandma's Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 24, 2011

Raw Bar

If I didn't know better, I would have never guessed it's a Monday night when I walked into Raw Bar tonight.  This cosy yet sleek looking sushi bar was completely full, we were lucky to get a table quickly as a couple just finished their meal when we got there. 

Situated just off Campbell Parade towards North Bondi Beach and away from the noise of the main road, Raw Bar is the ideal place to relax and satisfy your sushi cravings after spending the afternoon at the beach, or in my case, watching one of my friends jumping in the ocean for a surf after work.   

We started with a generous serving of Edamame, served warm and topped with maldon sea salt; followed with Salmon inside-out roll (avocado, mayonnaise, fish roe) and assorted sashimi, both dish came with fresh wasabi and pickled ginger. From the hot food menu, we chose the Beef Negi Maki (shallots wrapped in finely sliced beef w/ teriyaki sauce & sesame seed), it may not be the best I've had, but still enjoyable. There is also a special menu on offer tonight, we opted for the Pork Belly which was done to perfection. Head chef Shintaro Honda and his team definitely know how to make some delicious dishes. While my friend went for Asahi, my drink of choice for the night is the Bloody Sake (tomato juice, worcestershire, lemon and a hint of Japanese chilli spice), a smooth sake take on the traditional Bloody Mary.

Awarded the Best Sushi Bar three years running by Restaurant and Caterer's Association, Raw Bar is no doubt a popular choice with the locals and visitors alike. 

Raw Bar: Corner Warners Ave & Wairoa Ave, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026  Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Dispensary

Ever fancied sipping cocktails while lounging comfortably on a daybed surrounded by spectacular views of the city, Opera House and the Harbour Bridge? Well, hope you visited the Dispensary before it disappeared.

The winner of a competition run by Drambuie The Premise, this pop-up bar gave drinking cocktails on Sydney Harbour a completely new meaning. We were literally having drinks on the harbour as the bar is built on a pontoon floating on the water near Mrs Macquarie's Chair. The only way in is by a water taxi departing from Man O War Steps. 

A modern take on the traditional apothecary, the bar dispenses Drambuie elixirs such as Black Donald: Drambuie, Reposado Tequila, Chambord, fresh lime juice, ginger beer; Honey Julep: Drambuie, pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mint leaves, Angostura Orange Bitters; and The Dispensary Signature Drink: Drambuie, lemongrass and ginger ice tea

For a quick bite, the Mini Burger Plate was impressive, I did however favour the chicken and turmeric burger over the wagyu beef and truffle burger. For an after dinner snack the English Cheese Platter with a selection of cured meats, figs, walnuts and lavash bread was a perfect fit.

As all good things must come to an end, after dispensing only a total of 9 nights over three weeks on the harbour, we must say goodbye to the bar that offered us such an unique experience.

The Dispensary: Off The Shore Of Mrs Macquaries Chair  Premise - 'the Dispensary' Pop Up Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pocket Bar

Need a cool place to grab a bite to eat, down a few drinks and perhaps read a book or magazine? Then check out Pocket Bar

Decked out with pop art graffiti on the walls, mismatching 70s furniture, a bar that doubles as a book case, and odd and ends on shelves, it's a hip joint without a hint of pretentiousness. 

I have not had the pleasure to check it out during the day (it's on my to-do list), but I've heard it's a rather nice place to stop for a coffee or catch up over brunch. At night, this place gets packed, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. If you want to put your claim to one of the comfy couches, then make sure you get there early. The friendly bar staff will do their best to find a seat for you, but you'll have to be patient as there tend to be more warm bodies than seats available on a busy night.

However, you will be disappointed if you come looking for traditional bar food, because what comes out of the kitchen is restaurant quality food, perfect for sharing too. We tried and were impressed with the skewers, they come in beef (grain-fed beef, piquillo peppers & smoked paprika with sour cream & mustard sauce) and chicken (breast fillet marinated in chilli, lime and soy with water chestnuts. Served with chilli aioli); and if you only have room for one dish then you must try the crispy pork belly (slow roasted pork belly with creamed parsnip, peas and fine herbs), it had us licking our lips!

I've spent a long time looking for a good late night dessert place and I'm happy to report that I've found it in Pocket Bar. The sweet crepes on offer are the best I've had in a long time. With a variety of savoury and sweet fillings, you'll bound to find one that tickles your fancy. My absolute favourite crepe is number 9 on the menu - Nutella, poached strawberries & cream with crunchy meringue. It is simply divine! 

Of course, what's a night out without trying a few new cocktails? Just to name a few:

Pocket Martini - 42 Below Vodka + Orange, Pineapple and Passionfruit juice+ Mint + Pomegranate 

Fiji Escape - 42Below Feijoa Vokda + Lime Juice + Gomme + Spiced Pineapple Foam

Delicious Sour (circa 1892) - Laird's Applejack + Peach Brandy + Lemon Juice + Gomme + Peach Bitters + Egg White

As different as they are in taste, they are equally delicious.

If you are there on a night Lydia is working, you'll be expertly looked after, not only does she know her drinks, she has this impossible to resist fun personality that will get you laughing all night long.

On a side note, if you arrive half an hour before closing time, don't expect to be let in, even if you already have friends inside the bar. Two of my friends found out the hard way.

Pocket Bar: 13 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010  Pocket on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bizarre Bazaar

A friend of mine was in town this week and we arranged to meet up on Thursday night to catch up. I couldn't quite decide where to take her, there are so many interesting places I wanted to show her, but in the end I decided that we would head to Small Bar for a drink first. 

Who would have known this decision led to the discover of Bizarre Bazaar, a twilight fashion market, and my new favourite piece of jewellery, the Goddess ring from Lotus Mendes by Victoria Cheatham. 

I love discovering new places and those that I stumble upon are usually the best. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found this gem. 

Run by A Serious of Fortunate Events, Bizarre Bazaar brings fashion to Sydney laneways and showcases up-and-coming clothing and jewellery designers the city has to offer.

After our drink we wondered down the laneway, browsing from stall to stall, with music drifting from Small Bar's balcony, where a DJ was busy spinning groovy tunes for the evening, it was a late night shopping experience I'd love to repeat again and again. The atmosphere was relaxed, no bright lights like inside shopping centres, nor was there any pushy sales staff wanting you to try a new product; it was just us, stalls of beautiful clothing, gorgeous jewellery and their talented designers. 

Can't wait till the next event!

Bizarre Bazaar: Sussex Lane Erskine Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

xChange @ The Den

Until now I have never been to ivy while there is still daylight, turns out it has a completely different feel to it, I barely recognised the place and I like it! 

The whole place was elegant, relaxed and friendly like the way I remembered it from its earlier days. Scantily clad girls and loud mouthed boys are nowhere to been seen at the ivy bar, instead I found a much more sophisticated crowd chilling around the courtyard and the bar.

The Den plays host to the fortnightly Tuesday night forum called xChange at ivy, where women get together to discuss various topics; keynote presentations, panel discussions and interactive workshops are all part of the fun. To kick off the summer forums, tonight's topic was Great Sexpectations, with sexpert and author of 'What Men Want in bed' Bettina Arndt as the guest speaker.

As Bettina went on talking about things such as sex in a relationship, why sex matters so much to men and pornography, women in the room, myself included, often nodded in agreement. A few highlights from the night were Bettina's comments around men and sex:

Men will spend 20 minutes looking for a golf ball on the golf course but not the G spot...

To be able to last longer in bed, the point of no return is the moment men need to learn to control...

Erotica is like a feather and pornography is like a whole chicken, and men need whole chickens.... 

So what did I think of a night spent with a room full of women talking about sex, drinking Chandon and cocktails while snacking on delicious canapés courtesy of Sailor’s Thai? 

Why didn't I join the forum earlier?! 

It's such a great place to go and relax after work, get talking and have a friendly debate. The forum is an excellent conversation starter and with the topics changing each week, you'll always have the chance to discover something new and interesting to talk about. It is a girls night out not to be missed! 

That being said, I did spy a few men in the crowd tonight, so by all means boys, if you feel up to it, come and join the conversation, we won't bite!

The Den: Level 2, ivy, 330 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Since I Left You

After stumbling across it a few weeks ago, accompanied by friends who wanted to relax with some wine after dinner, I paid Since I Left You a visit last night.

Tacked away in an old converted warehouse building on Kent Street, Since I Left You is another welcoming addition to the fast growing small bar scene in Sydney. 

Stepping into the bar via a cobble stoned carriageway, I felt like I was transported into a movie scene set in New York in the 1920s. The deco is sleek, minimalist with a back-lit wall behind the bar, long leather banquette with cushions down one side of the room, glass coffee tables and paintings on the wall.

The Good The Bad & The Berry
We arrived some time after 9pm and found the place buzzing with conversations, and of course standing room only inside. A glance of the menu revealed a reasonable list of wine, cocktails and beer; antipasto plates and small dishes are also on offer if you should feel peckish. Considering we had dinner and a large amount of beer at the Bavarian Bier Cafe a few streets away earlier in the evening, we skipped the food and opted for cocktails and a bottle of red.

At the end of the carriageway is a courtyard, used as a loading dock during the day, transformed into a hang out with tables and chairs at night with full view of Since I Left You written in white bold letters on a black wall. Adjacent to that wall is a building with fire-escape styled balconies that reminded me of New York once again.

We spent the night in the courtyard chatting away and before we knew it, midnight was closing in on us and last call for drinks was announced. As you may have already guessed it, the only complaint I have is the midnight closing hour, the norm for small bars.  

Since I Left You: 338 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Since I Left You on Urbanspoon