Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hurricane's Grill, Bondi Beach

Full rack of pork ribs
Every now and then I'd get cravings for a rack of tender, juicy ribs and my go to place is Hurricane's Grill Bondi Beach. With several branches across Sydney and one in Surfers Paradise, this chain of steakhouses dish out some of the best ribs I've ever come across.

Last weekend we arrived at the restaurant an hour later than our reservation, thanks to the traffic on the way back from our 11km coast walk in the Royal National Park. Luckily it wasn't an overly busy night, the hostess was lovely and seated us at the first available table despite our very late arrival.   

I've always found the service here to be friendly, when the venue is full it can be a bit hard to get the waiter's attention, but once you have placed your order the entrees come out pretty fast. The Garlic Mushrooms (tossed with fresh garlic, olive oil and butter with a hint of port wine) is a must try. It's a superb dish with well balanced butteriness and garlicky taste. I do miss the complimentary bread they used to offer but now if you want bread you'll need to order it from the menu.

It's always a good idea to grab a few friends when visiting Hurricane's, that way you can share and not be limited to one main dish given the array of food on offer. Aside from their signature dishes, beef steaks and pork, lamb and beef ribs, you can get seafood, barbecue and spicy Portuguese chicken, burgers and meat skewers, as well as vegetarian dishes. One thing to note is that they bring out all the mains at the same time, so you'll need to be patient if you are eating with a big group.

What makes their signature dishes so special are the secret recipe basting sauces they use. Everything the sauces touch becomes finger licking good. Cooked on an open flame grill the ribs are deliciously tender and juicy. The pork ribs are the biggest out of the three; the lamb ribs are delicious, but you'll need to eat it while it's still hot otherwise you'll get that fatty taste. As for the beef ribs, I can't say I found them special aside from the fact that they are marinated in the same sauces as the others, it just didn't have the same kind of draw the pork ribs had on me. 

Lamb skewer
One of the new menu items, the lamb skewer deserves a mention here. The lamb was sublime, the spicy aioli it came with was excellent, we ended up using it as a dipping sauce for our chips. If only I could order it as a sauce separately.

Given its popularity, reservation is highly recommended otherwise it could be a long wait on a busy night. But if you decided to check the place out on a whim, you can chill at the bar while you wait for a table. 

The drinks menu lists soda, shakes, juice, cider, Australian and International beer and cocktails. Their signature cocktail Ruby Red (PAMA Liqueur and Absolute Vodka, muddled lime & Muscat grapes and a hibiscus flower) is one of my favorites. Sweet and sour, a perfectly refreshing drink after a day at the beach. For something adventurous and exotic, give Ohayo a try. A Japanese styled cocktail with Soho Lychee Liqueur, Marie Brizard Watermelon, lime, lychee and a hibiscus flower. You'll also find classic ones such caipiroska, margarita and mojito on the list.

There is also a bar food menu that offers crispy whitebait with aioli, mini flame-grilled beef skewers among other small dishes to tide you over while you wait for a table. But a word of caution, make sure you don't fill up on these dishes and miss out on the ribs, because they are worth every minute of the wait!

Hurricane's Grill Bondi Beach: 130 Roscoe Street Bondi Beach, NSW 2026   Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Royal National Park Coast Walk

As a city girl who took the occasional short trips to the countryside, it was not surprising I was rather hesitant the first time I was invited to join some of my friends on a bushwalk.

Fast forward a few years, I now love going on these walks, perhaps not quite as much as I love exploring bars and restaurants, but I really enjoy being surround by nature, breathing in the fresh air while taking in some gobsmacking views. And just the other day my friend alerted me to the fact that over several separate walks I've actually done the entire Coast Track in the Royal National Park. The 26km track runs from Bundeena to Otford, unless you are super fit it would require an overnight stop at a campground to complete it in one trip.

Otford Lookout
What brought on this realisation was our recent group walk from Otford to Garie Beach, with a detour to the Figure of Eight Pools. It was a beautiful sunny winter day, there was a slight breeze but the sea was calm so we were able to check out the Figure of Eight Pools. Our walk was about 11km long and took around 5hrs at a very leisure pace plus a long lunch stop at the pools.  

It's recommended to walk this track between May and August if you want to do some whale watching, of course it's not guaranteed you'd spot the migrating humpback whales, we didn't. But we did see a dolphin porpoising very close to the shoreline when we stopped for lunch.

Bush bashing through heathland plants
The Coast Track has an overall medium difficulty rating. For the Otford to Garie Beach section, most of it was relatively flat, with some hill climbs. We had to do some bush bashing in areas where the bushes have gotten quite dense and the track has disappeared under all the heathland plants. There are several sign posts along the way to point you in the right direction, but not necessarily at all the forks, so it's always handy to have someone in the group who knows the way.

There was rock scrambling involved but only if you want to get to the Figure of Eight Pools. We went pretty slow over the rocks, taking extra care when placing our foot down, the last thing you'd want is to slip or fall. However, the reward at the end was definitely worth it, just look at the view!

One of the Figure of Eight Pools

Just an hour drive from the Sydney CBD, this heritage-listed and the world's second oldest national park offers a number of walking tracks with different levels of difficulty to suit everyone. I do however recommend having at least two cars when walking one way tracks, especially if it's a reasonably distanced one. You'd want to park one car at the start and the other at the end point, that way you can eliminate a return trip on the same track.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Morena (CLOSED)

Morena dinning area
Whenever someone mentions Latin America, the word "exotic" pops into my head, and Morena, a modern Latin American fine dining restaurant in Surry Hills definitely matches that. In the evening the space is dark and moody; while timber screens and hanging glass decors gave it a modern feel, banquettes upholstered in hand woven fabric and yarns stretched across the walls and timber screens added splashes of colour. With a strong Peruvian influence, the dishes arrived at our table were drool-worthy. 

Ceviche Peruano, small dices of fresh pink snapper gently cooked in lime juice and Ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli) served with cancha (roasted Andean corn) & caramelised sweet potato, is a traditional ceviche and an excellent entree at that. As soon as the snapper hit your tongue, a wave of citrus and a hint of chilli took your taste buds into overdrive. The tartness of the dish was like a massive sign that says "Hello appetite!". The roasted corns gave the dish a crunchy texture against the soft, melt-in-your-mouth snapper, brilliant! 

It's not often that one gets to taste a delicacy like Alpaca meat, so I jumped at the chance of ordering Anticucho de Alpaca, grass fed Millpaca Alpaca skewers marinated in a traditional anticucho sauce (mix of Andean roasted peppers, vinegar and garlic) served with chimichurri (fresh aromatic herbs macserated in oils and apple vinegar). I find it hard to describe the taste, perhaps a cross between lamb and beef. The meat itself was very succulent with a slight sweetness to it. 

Chirraron de cerdo lechal
We were going to ordered 3 dishes to share thinking that we need to leave some room for dessert, but our waitress suggested that we should have one more small dish and recommended the Chirrarón de cerdo lechal, twice cooked crispy suckling pork belly served with caramelised sweet potato & orange puree, pickled dikon and malagueta chillies (spicy andean chilli). And what a great recommendation! The pork was cooked beautifully, once again there was the contrasting crunchiness of the crackling and soft, tenderness of the meat. Oh and the chillies had a pretty big kick to them, loved it!

Pollo a la braza
I tend to avoid ordering chicken in restaurants nowadays after eating many so-so chicken dishes, but the words "Peruvian style" got me intrigued. So for our main we ordered Pollo a la braza, Peruvian style roasted free range 1/2 chicken, served with chips, apple & red cabbage salad with traditional South American sauces. And I was not disappointed. The chicken was full of flavour, even the breast was moist and tender, not a hint of dryness. 

When it was time to order dessert, there was no need to look at the menu again as we made the decision the moment we sat down, it had to be Borracho de pisco, Latin American sponge cake soaked in Pisco & spice syrup, served with currants & dulce de leche ice-cream (Argentinean caramel). The cake was dense, rich and simply delicious. It was a far cry from the usual light and fluffy sponge cake I've came across. 

Feeling adventurous? Curious about what Alpaca taste like? Or just want to see sponge cake in a whole new light? Then Morena is the place for you. I know I'll never be able to look at sponge cakes the same again.

Morena: 15/425 Bourke Street Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Morena on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parma Cucina

Named after the provincial city in northern Italy famous for its art, music, architecture, surrounding countryside and of course, gastronomy, Parma Cucina brings us that wonderful Italian dinning experience.

Peroni on tap
The venue is causal yet cosy with friendly service. The drinks menu offers cocktails, wine, beer and cider. You can get Peroni and Grolsch on tap, while the wine list favours the red, there is a good selection of white and sparkling to keep you interested. You'll find classic cocktails on the list plus some rather interesting sounding ones, such as Strawberry Balsamic Martini (fresh strawberries muddled with sugar and lemon, strawberry liquor, vodka and Balsamic vinegar), definitely one for the adventurous.

We kicked off our evening with the Parma House Antipasto (Chef's selection of salumi, cheese, marinated vegetables, olives, smoked salmon, panelle and grissini). The serving is very generous and could easily satisfy 3-4 people as a shared entree. For something light to go with the mains we ordered the Caponatina (seared tuna, Spanish onion, deep fried eggplant, baby fennel, orange, cos salad, pistachio and mint). It is full of flavour and the seared tuna simply melt in your mouth.

Lasagna D'anatra
Their signature dish, Lasagna D'anatra (slow roasted duck and porcini lasagna from their pizza oven) is a must try. It is deliciously cheesy, rich and very filling. The Orange Tagliatella (with spicy saute of swordfish, green olives and wild fennel leaves) had a real kick to it, you can really taste the swordfish and chilli, of course the pasta was cooked al dente, the Italian way. 

They source their coffee from Mecca and organic tea from The Rabbit Hole, I like the fact that they have included a few caffeine free teas on the list, I know for those like me, who tend to stay away from caffeine in the evenings, a small detail like this comes much appreciated. What I also noticed from the menu was the numerous gluten free dishes on offer, definitely a plus for those who has gluten sensitivity.

The Rocher (Ferrero Rocher cheese cake with vanilla gelato and chocolate bread) looked very tempting but given the amount of food we ate, thanks to the generous servings, none of us could fit dessert in, or anything else for that matter.

Don't have time for a trip to Italy in the near future for that glass of sparkling Prosecco? Not to worry, just head to Parma for happy hour and stay for dinner. Buon Appetito!

Parma Cucina: 285a Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Parma Cucina on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 12, 2013

MYER S/S14 Fashion Show

As a Myer one member I got invited to the Myer Spring Summer 2014 fashion show last Friday night. Stage 7 at Fox Studios was transformed into the outback, with a 48 metre long runway that pays tribute to the sandstone flats of the Kimberley. While the event was not as extravagant or star powered as the launch the night before, it still buzzed with excitement as we mere mortals got ready to see the latest looks for the upcoming season. Guests were welcomed with Connoisseur ice-cream while they gathered in the lounge area prior to the show. The native floral arrangements on tables suspended from the celling were simply stunning.    

Myer Ambassadors Jennifer Hawkins and Kris Smith lead 62 models down the runway with glittering abstract sand dunes and ravines, they showcased 200 looks from 31 designers, including Seafolly, now exclusive to Myer.

Cameras went off as a glowing Jen opened the "This is Australia" themed show in a white Manning Cartell gown. 

While many of the designers seem to have favoured white and neutral colours, there were plenty bright pops of colour and florals in the mix. Monochrome lead the trend with bold stripes, graphic prints and statement shapes, but bright, colourful patterns and digital prints are definitely in. Peplums makes a return for the season alongside pencil skirts, capri pants and A-line skirts and dresses.

Hair were textured waves swept back from the face giving the models a very polished look.

Denim, short-sleeved shirts and tailored shorts dominated menswear, and if you haven't heard, it's all shades of blue for the boys this Spring/Summer.

Oh, and I absolutely loved the live performances from cellists, their beautiful orchestral arrangements that complemented the show's soundtrack made the event that much more elegant.