Daffy, Donald and Plucka are the names of famous ducks. But another one set to join their ranks is a little restaurant in Sydney called Holy Duck! It’s a casual eatery that’s been dubbed the younger, funkier brother of Chefs Gallery. It’s also another addition to the Sydney food trend for casual spin-offs of famous restaurants (see: Fratelli Famous, The Bavarian and Margherita & Co., to name a few.) Holy Duck! promises a relaxed, friendly atmosphere as well as great-quality food and drinks.



Holy Duck! is the latest eatery to be conceived by Kaisern Ching, the man who brought us Chefs Gallery and Din Tai Fung. The duck menu items have always been popular ones at Chefs Gallery and Ching wanted a place where the delectable treat known as duck could be celebrated with a tasty fusion menu. Ching also wanted to turn the notion of eating duck on its head so that purists could enjoy it in the traditional way (in a roast, Peking-style and in pancakes) as well as with newer creative spins like in burgers and with different sauces and flavours.


Holy Duck! is located in the recently revamped Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale. This is a bright restaurant with friendly staff. It has a cool, modern look with an industrial-feel and minimalist furniture. It’s a place where a diner could order take-away or sit and tuck into some tasty, street-style food. This is a place where you can sit and chat as a group or eat some quick things on the run with your hands because it caters to these different possibilities.


The menu includes house specialities like roast duck. The crispy duck comes served with a delectable orange hoisin sauce as well cucumber and spring onions in quarter, half or whole sizes. This same flavour combination is found on the scrumptious What the Duck! burger. This comes with a brioche bun that is easily one of the tastiest burgers in Sydney (and it faces some stiff competition with the number of burger joints that have opened here of late). The best accompaniment to the burger is the moreish shoestring fries with duck salt that are incredibly tasty, as are the lotus root chips.

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For those diners that don’t want duck there are other burger varieties including crispy chicken, a caramelised sweet and sticky barbeque pork and a five-spice chickpea vegetable patty burger. The restaurant also sell roast and barbeque rice bowls that will impress discerning pork belly lovers (there are three different varieties) or alternatively there are roast duck and crispy fried shantung chicken options.


Don’t be fooled by the name, Holy Duck! has a little something for everyone on its tasty menu. This new addition to the Sydney food scene looks poised to follow Ching’s other ventures in that it challenges your notion of Chinese food by fusing together modern techniques and concepts to make succulent roast and barbequed recipes and flavours. Holy Duck! offers simply the best of different camps as it combines an East-meets-West, street food via casual eats vibe, and offers something fresh and contemporary where a holy and humble little duckling can star and dance the funky chicken. Just kidding!


Images supplied and used with permission.


Originally published in January 2017 at the following website:

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Peter Kuruvita’s Coastal Kitchen shares a few things in common with recent cooking shows like Poh & Co. and River Cottage Australia in that he uses the local neighbourhood for food inspiration. Kuruvita is no stranger to TV screens with the restaurateur previously presenting series about his homeland, Sri Lanka, as well as Mexico. For Coastal Kitchen Kuruvita uses his sea-change from Sydney to Noosa as inspiration for many of the culinary treats on display here.

This six-part series is all about celebrating local produce and flavours from Queensland and the areas surrounding the Sunshine Coast, with the featured destinations, including: Noosa, Gympie, Maleny, Kenilworth, Mooloolaba, the Glasshouse Mountains and Kin Kin. Each episode has a different theme or focus with instalments about indigenous foods or bush tucker, seafood, locally-grown farm produce and food for health, to name a few. Kuruvita is a laid-back and calm presenter, an enthusiastic interviewer and a passionate foodie. These things are all apparent in his bubbly, on-screen presence and technique.

Each episode features recipes that Kuruvita has devised and some of these are Sri Lankan in origin (i.e. curries and dahl soup.) There are also other dishes where he has adapted the traditional recipe to add a twist of Sri Lankan flavours to the mix. Examples of these include the Sri Lankan egg curry pho and the pippies with Sri Lankan XO sauce. Over the course of the series Kuruvita learns how to make cheese, goes fishing, discovers artisan bee-keeping, and learns about tempeh, a bi-protein soya bean.

Kuruvita often offers handy tips and tricks in his cooking demonstrations. One useful piece of advice is when he tells viewers to soak shellfish overnight so that you can remove any excess sand if this has not already been done. The extras are good and include lessons in how to fillet and scale raw fish and how to serve a cooked fish. The only complaint is that there should have been more of these because not everyone is a MasterChef or a cook for that matter.

Coastal Kitchen demonstrates how beautiful and peaceful Queensland is and how it is poised to become an important foodie destination. Kuruvita’s relaxed delivery and passion for the local food and produce makes for a refreshing and entertaining watch. Coastal Kitchen is such a pleasant and enjoyable show it might convince others to embark on their own sea change because it encapsulates all of the benefits of coastal living. Divine.

Originally published on 22 January 2017 at the following website:

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Hakawati is a Sydney Festival show that allows you to be swept away to an Arabian night in Western Sydney. The show is a celebration of food and stories and is inspired by an Arabic tradition where storytelling is combined with breaking bread. This event will have its world premiere at the El- Phoenician restaurant in Parramatta. We at the AU Review talked to the show’s director and organiser, Wayne Harrison AM to learn more about Hakawati, the National Theatre of Parramatta and an event where a meal can offer much food for thought.


Can you briefly describe what your role is and how long you’ve been working in the theatre?

I had my first job in the theatre when I was seven, performing in a J C Williamson’s musical. I led a double life as a student and a thespian until I ran away from Melbourne University to join a circus. I thereafter became a journalist, a dramaturg, and a theatre director – I’m combining all three to create Hakawati, although the circus may be in there somewhere.

Can you briefly describe the premise behind the show Hakawati?

It’s ‘food and food for thought’.

Why do you think people should come and see the show Hakawati?

I hope it will be entertaining, maybe enlightening – and the El-Phoenician (Restaurant) food is exceptional. The format is: first course / followed by story / second course / story / third course / story / fourth course / story.

Hakawati is inspired by the tradition of story-telling and breaking bread as well as celebrating food, music and the telling of tales. What sorts of stories can people come to expect at this show? Will participants be encouraged to share some stories of their very own?

The stories will be contemporary with a ‘1001 nights twist’ – a bit of magic realism and generational conflict, with a cameo from the odd celebrity (appearing in words only). I’m sure the concept will generate a lot of audience stories, but at this stage the format only allows for the four official story-tellers to tell their tales.

Hakawati is all about food and stories. If you could invite any three guests to dinner (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Rogan Poulier, who was my best friend at school – he was of Sri Lankan descent, taught me a lot about telling stories in a different way, and never had a problem with my double life; Jacki Weaver, who’s always good value at a dinner party; and my mother, who never really forgave me for swapping uni for the circus – this might make up for it, a bit.

Is the Hakawati Sydney Festival live event related to the novel of the same name by Rabih Alameddine? Or do the two just use similar approaches to their art?
No, the Sydney Festival event is not related to the excellent novel. It has a crossover, in that it also concerns itself with parents and children – but we are grounded firmly in Granville south with a quick visit to Kellyville (where there’s a magic lamp).

You directed the Hakawati show at Sydney Festival. What is involved in directing a show like this one? Does this show actually have a script or is it improvised?

There are four scripts – one for each Hakawati, though the fourth story is a bit of a group effort. The direction for this sort of show is all in the casting, i.e. finding four actors who can sustain complex story-telling, create all the characters, set the various moods, find the humour and the other emotional moments, take us all on the journey, invite the audience to help tell the story. I can help in this, too, but it’s mainly the actors.

Can you briefly tell us about the National Theatre of Parramatta (NTofP)? Is there anything else relating to this theatre company that you’d like to plug?

NTofP is “putting the nation on stage”, helping tell a few stories that might not necessarily get a guernsey (or look-in) elsewhere. It’s also like a door, one that new talent, or individuals new to the theatre, can knock on and enter.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of The AU Review about Hakawati or any other upcoming events?

Well, the stage version of Felicity Castagna’s award-winning The Incredible Here and Now is coming – life and death on the streets of Parramatta and beyond – and David Williams’ Smurf in Wanderland – a take on what happens when a Sydney FC supporter frequents Western Sydney Wanderers’ footy matches. Both are NTofP productions.

Photo credit: Luke Stambouliah

Hakawati has its world premiere at the El-Phoenician Restaurant in Parramatta from January 11 – 21 as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival. For more information and tickets please visit:

Originally published on 21 December 2016 at the following website:

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel. Executive Pastry Chef, Anna Polyviou and her team of elves have outdone themselves this year with a life-sized gingerbread house full of lolly decorations on display, as well as a Christmas-themed carousel. The introduction of these annual decorations have transformed the atmosphere in the hotel’s famously lavish lobby, so it’s only right that they offer a few yuletide specials to celebrate.

For those not already aware, you might remember Polyviou from her appearances on MasterChef Australia and her decadent, Anna’s Mess dessert. Polyviou is like a rock-star chef but she’s also one who is fond of the traditional gingerbread house. The Shangri-La Hotel’s lobby has been home to a large gingerbread house for the past few Christmases but this year Polyviou and her team have taken things to a whole new level. The delectable Christmas offering also boasts a gorgeous carousel of horses to rival that magical scene in Mary Poppins and it’s also one that will make you wish you could hop on board and ride along yourself.


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These life-size pieces of gingerbread finery took no less than 32 people working together around the clock in order to fashion and execute. The individuals included Polyviou’s team of pastry chefs as well as 20 members of the Australian Cake Decorating Network. Gingerbread houses are not always easy for people to put together so it’s a structural wonder to see this staggering house and carousel made of 2000kg of gingerbread bricks, 800kg of lollies, 100kg of fondant, 200 lollipops and oodles of icing. The whole thing makes you want to scream, “Oh my!”

Polyviou remembers her childhood fondly. She recalls the thrill and enjoyment she had when buying and eating lollies from the local milk bars and tuck shops as a kid. This Christmas display is a celebration of all those fun days from your childhood. Polyviou says, “I love that people think we’re crazy with creations like this, and I love that adults often get more excited than the kids once they see it.”




For those individuals wanting to take home a little piece of this merriment, the hotel have a number of wonderful festive treats for sale. These include: gingerbread lollybag houses ($55), a family of ginger ninjas (aka a 4 pack of gingerbread men for $9.50), white Christmas nougat ($5.50), fruit mince star tarts ($12 for 6 pies), Christmas pudding (individual $6 and large ones serving four people for $18), mix ‘n’ match rocky road $6.50), the pastry chef’s Christmas stocking ($35) and strawberry candy cane and caramel gingerbread macarons (9 pack for $12).

The Shangri-La are renowned for their delicious high teas; at other points in the year they offer both a traditional one and a sumptuous chocolate one. For Christmas, customers can enjoy a festive high tea ($55 per adult and $27.50 per child) where Polyviou specifically tackles holiday fun with her desserts. On the menu is a sweet cherry pie, a white Ozzy berry Christmas Pavlova, Santa hat domes filled with lip-smacking berry mousse and your traditional afternoon tea scones with jam.




The high-tea includes a number of savoury options and these flavours align with the fact the owners of the hotel are originally from Asia. These include a caramelised onion and goat cheese tart, a new take on the prawn cocktail and a turkey sandwich. These are all accompanied by a vast range of teas or alternatively sparkling wine and champagne can be added for an additional charge.




Polyviou has also added an extra piece of Christmas joy to the high tea experience. This feature is a special miniature Christmas tree adornment decorated with tiny baubles and gingerbread men dressed like little ninjas and it also comes with some “presents” underneath it. These are tasty pieces of white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio nougat, jelly lollies and two kinds of chocolate including one praline variety and the other a soft-centred caramel.


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Polyviou has also added an extra piece of Christmas joy to the high tea experience. This feature is a special miniature Christmas tree adornment decorated with tiny baubles and gingerbread men dressed like little ninjas and it also comes with some “presents” underneath it. These are tasty pieces of white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio nougat, jelly lollies and two kinds of chocolate including one praline variety and the other a soft-centred caramel.

The Shangri-La Hotel has a number of options available for Christmas and team lunches. It also has a spectacular outlook of Sydney Harbour so it is the perfect venue for New Year’s Eve celebrations, especially for those patrons wanting to view the fireworks. There is a lot to be merry about at the Shangri-La this December. Anna Polyviou and her team of hard-working elves have put together a spectacular Christmas celebration that is fit for a king. It’s an absolute treat to see the life-sized gingerbread house and the magical carousel as this winter wonderland will leave you singing ding dong merrily on a high!

Images supplied.

Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
Address: 176 Cumberland St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9250 6000

Originally published on 12 December 2016 at the following website:

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Chefs Gallery has become a favourite for Sydneysiders who enjoy contemporary Chinese cuisine. The restaurant has a great menu but they also enjoy constantly evolving and introducing new items for hungry punters. The recent menu additions at this eatery include nine different snack-style skewers that are roasted over charcoals, as well as some fresh mains and desserts that are in keeping with the other dishes on offer.

Kai Sern Ching first introduced Sydney to high-quality Chinese food when he brought the Din Tai Fung chain to our city in 2008. In 2010 Chefs Gallery followed with a glamourous, flagship store in Regent Place, next door to Sydney’s iconic, Town Hall. Since then, Chefs Gallery has expanded into the suburbs with restaurants in Bankstown, Parramatta and Macquarie Centre, to name a few.




The food at Chefs Gallery draws on and adds fresh twists on the four main traditions in Chinese cookery. This subsequently means that the eatery has a very diverse menu. There are noodles and breads inspired by the Northern school of thought; fish and rice dishes from the Eastern; spicy foods from the West; and items from Hong Kong that take their notes from the Southern tradition.

Chapas or Chinese-style tapas are the order of the day here. This is food that is designed to be shared and enjoyed amongst good company. A fine start to a meal is the new roast duck and citrus salad. This includes a selection of fresh green leaves, enoki mushrooms, almonds, cherry tomatoes and the restaurant’s signature duck sauce dressing. This is a fresh dish that boasts a balance of flavours and textures with the nutty crunch of the almonds mixing well with the sweet tomatoes and the moreish pieces of duck.




A dish boasting a few surprises was the sweet and sour pork. This was not your glowing, red variety typically found in plastic Tupperware boxes at take-away stores, or at the bottom of the fridge. The Chefs Gallery variety was a dish fit for an emperor with crispy, golden pieces of pork in a glossy brown sauce and served with a beautiful, magenta flower made from cabbage. This pretty dish tasted as good as it looked.




Another big surprise was the restaurant’s salt and pepper tofu. This one boasted the chef’s own handmade egg and spinach tofu, lightly fried in a golden batter. This gave a lovely, crunchy outer skin that counteracted nicely with the creamy soft centre of tofu. It was also topped with different spices including chilli and pepper. This has to be one of the best vegetarian dishes ever.




Chefs Gallery’s restaurants are renowned for their handmade noodles. Patrons can watch the noodles being folded, stretched and made in the large open kitchen. A good way to sample these noodles is in the flavour-packed wok-fried noodles with sliced salted pork belly, fried egg, garlic chives, wood ear mushrooms, carrots and crispy pork belly crackling. The soy sauce had a divine smoky flavour and the noodles had a delightful sheen that almost served like a spotlight, making you realise how yummy this stir-fry is.

Sydneysiders love their pork belly. This could possibly be the reason why there are often queues outside of Chefs Gallery and other fine establishments. Their decadent Dongpo pork belly takes no less than six hours to prepare and is cooked with a medley of secret spices. The finished product has a beautiful, caramel texture and a serving that is very generous – it could almost feed a small army!




This eatery is also known for their cute little piggy buns (filled with a sweet black sesame paste) for dessert. But there are also two new desserts that are likely to give these little piggies a run for their money. The mango granita served with coconut cream, slices of fruit and crunchy granola, looks poised to be the feel-good hit of the summer. In short, it’s quite light and refreshing.




The sesame panna cotta with kaffir lime dusted meringue, Adzuki beans and sesame seed tuile, is great fun to eat. The tuile provides a crunchy sense of theatricality where you can “break” into as you do when smashing the top of a crème brûlée! The pana cotta’s smooth creaminess is also nicely contrasted by the small chunks of sweet meringue and tart fruits.




Chefs Gallery is building a strong reputation for high-quality, contemporary Chinese cuisine. The addition of several new menu items manages to expand on the ideas that originated in the dishes that people have come to know and love, while also drawing some exciting surprises into the mix. At the end of the day Chefs Gallery is proving to be one great melting pot of fabulous ideas; their fresh and varied menu means you can pick and choose your very own sumptuous, Chinese banquet. Yum!

Originally published on 28 November 2016 at the following website:

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On September 10 and 11 The Rocks became Sydney’s answer to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The Smooth Festival of Chocolate was celebrating its third year and it was bigger and brighter than ever. For one weekend, tens of thousands of people got to embrace their inner chocoholic and consume lots of chocolate, fudge, gelato, cronuts, doughnuts, brownies, freakshakes, muffins, macarons, cheesecakes, pastries and more. Put simply, it was joy on earth!




In 2016 over 90 different stalls were on offer. This year saw an increase in the number of food trucks and lunchtime snacks so that people had a chance to get a tasty break from their sugar highs. One particular highlight was the Hoy Pinoy stall who turned their space into a mouth-watering outdoor barbeque, with skewers that were very succulent and quite divine!




The festival featured a number of different parts, including a garden bar sponsored by the Bilpin Cider Co for adults, and a Darrell Lea chill-out area for families. The chocolate artisans could be found in the Overseas Passenger Terminal, selling their yummy packaged treats including Chocolab’s unique chocolate bars, and French chocolate brand Jeff de Bruges who have recently opened a store at Westfield Bondi.


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The Overseas Passenger Terminal was also home to two magnificent chocolate artworks by artist James Patrick. One was predominantly made of Lindt ball wrappers while the other saw Sydney Harbour immortalised in chocolate. Another huge drawcard was the Baked by Joanne stall. Joanne Smith’s amazing cake creations were a big hit with people after an amazing photograph or ten, and it was little wonder when her cakes were topped by upside down choc tops, lolly pops and Nutella jars spilling out their gooey goodness.





The Callebaut Test Kitchen played host to demonstrations by a number of important pastry chefs like Christopher Thé (Black Star Pastry), Jean-Michel Raynaud (La Renaissance Patisserie) and Gigi Falanga (Zumbo’s Just Desserts) and Adriano Zumbo’s large stall was serving up sweet treats. We were fortunate enough to watch Anna Polyviou’s (Shangri-La Hotel) demonstration and she was an absolute treat. Polyviou is quite possibly the Ellen DeGeneres of pastry chefs. She was encouraging people to dance while tempering chocolate, she cracked lots of jokes and had her DJ friend play some tunes. But the funniest thing of all was seeing her throw one of her Anna’s Mess desserts (one that went viral thanks to MasterChef) at an audience member named Eddie who was a good sport about it.





Further highlights included the sensational strawberry watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry and some interesting cronut sticks. On Sunday morning, Gelato Messina had sold out of two of their creations, the hazelnut Mucho Bueno Bar and the hilarious milk chocolate, Robert Brownie Jr. Bar. Chocolate fans could also get their own personalised block of Lindt Chocolate at the Lindt lounge. This spot was also selling three different éclair flavours: the standard chocolate as well as hazelnut and salted caramel.





The Smooth Festival in Sydney was quite simply heaven for chocoholics. There was a little something for everyone at this fun festival. We were all like kids in candy shops here, except that this was in the picturesque surrounds of Sydney’s The Rocks area. It was a weekend where we could all forget or diets, embrace our inner child and eat chocolate like it was going out of fashion. See you next year!





Originally published on 28 November 2016 at the following website:

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Grandmothers – or Nonnas in Italian – are often the glue in a family. They feed us, treat us and look after us. Sandhurst Fine Foods know all about this and are celebrating our beloved family matriarchs with a Festival of Nonna at 107 Projects in Redfern. It’s a series of Italian lunches, dinners and cooking workshops where you can learn techniques that have been perfected over multiple generations and enjoy great food and the company of some leading Italian-Australian chefs and their “nonnas.” It’s a fun and heart-warming occasion that is just like being embraced in a big, kind hug by your grandma.




The chefs heading up this festival are Andrew Cibej (Vini, Berta & 121BC) fame as well as his mother Valerie (who is also the mother of Bluejuice bass player, Jamie Cibej.) The other chefs include: Luca Ciano of the two-Michelin stared restaurant Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan, Massimo Mele (who has recently partnered with the First Datesrestaurant, Verandah in Sydney) and former MasterChef contestant, Sara Oteri. The workshops enable you to learn how to make Italian dishes like meatballs as well as making pastas and gnocchi from scratch.




Ciano has some wonderful tips for making the perfect gnocchi. Good high-starch potatoes that are similar sizes are the most important ingredient. The recipe itself is quite basic and includes flour, potato, eggs, parmesan cheese and seasoning like: salt, pepper and nutmeg. The potatoes are cooked with their skins on and then are subsequently removed. If they are overcooked they tend to absorb more water so this means that the quantities of the ingredients may need to change.




The potatoes are cooked until they are still a little firm. They are then pressed or mashed (but don’t use a stick blender to do this.) The other ingredients are then combined to form a dough. You roll out the dough and then cut the pasta into small squares. You then press each of these squares with a fork taking care not to apply too much pressure because you are still trying to make gnocchi that will retain its fluffiness after boiling. When you make these shapes in the pasta this ensures that the gnocchi lap up more of the sauce when you are eating it. It’s also a good idea to test-drive one of the gnocchi before you start cooking all of them because you may need to go back and add more flour to the dough if the gnocchi falls apart in the boiling water.




Andrew Cibej’s five course dinner was a showcase of beautiful Italian foods (including the Sandhurst product range) that were simple and well-seasoned. The ingredients also had excellent techniques applied to them and these helped create the perfect Italian spread that was fit for an emperor. Cibej’s family are originally from North-Eastern Italy, not far from the Veneto region and the menu reflected this. The antipasti included grissini (bread sticks) and some moreish San Daniele prosciutto. The smoked, wild river trout was delicious and the grilled asparagus and pecorino cheese was a great display of seasonal produce and the asparagus had a delightful char. The artichokes also had a nice chargrilled flavour and were topped with a divine salsa verde.




There were also some mixed-marinated olives with chilli. The darker olives are the ones that were the most ripe at the time of harvest.




The pieces of bread were also fluffy and salty and included some rosemary on top.




The primi or first courses (which in Italian food is traditionally a pasta dish) were a gnocchi with a pork ragù. This saw some sweet pork neck braised for over two hours and formed part of a rich and unctuous sauce that included peas and various herbs.




A main/secondo or carne (meat) is an understated, melt-in-your-mouth roast veal that has been twice-cooked in chicken stock and white wine. This was served with contorni or sides of roasted kipfler potatoes, green beans and olive salsa and a salad of radicchio and egg and kipflers. The salad was pretty to look at and had a nice, savoury tartness.




For dessert or dolce there was a stracciatella (vanilla and chocolate) semifreddo with frutti del bosco (fruits of the forest.) This was like a luxurious Vienetta ice-cream topped with tart summer berries: strawberry, blueberry, cherry and raspberry.




Sandhurst Foods’ Festival of Nonna is a celebration of all things family. Their food business was founded in 1988 by Vince and Geraldine Lubrano and their hard work continues with the couple’s sons, Mimmo and Ray. This pop-up at the rooftop garden at 107 Projects in Redfern is a relaxed and superb way to celebrate and count your blessings in life, whether it be good food, great cooking or a family that plays and stays together while embracing all of the best things from the old country.


The Festival of Nonna, which is on until 27th November, has sold-out all of its current sessions. For more information and stay up to date click HERE.

Originally published on 21 November 2016 at the following website:

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Saké Jr proves that eating healthy does not need to leave you feeling hungry or unhappy. This fast and casual Japanese eatery located in the recently revamped Grosvenor Place complex in Sydney is the sister store to the fine-dining favourite, Saké Restaurant & Bar. It has a variety of fresh foods and drinks for sale but their biggest drawcard is that you can build your own Korean-inspired bowl ($15) or enjoy your own bowl and beer combination ($10) during their daily happy hour from 4pm until 7pm.

The menu at Saké Jr boasts ingredients that are gluten, preservative and GMO-free while also drawing on the flavours and techniques that people love from the Saké brand. The bowls are put together by navigating six separate steps with the first one (the base) featuring options like: bao buns, udon rice noodle sticks, mixed greens or one of two kinds of rice (brown or seasoned sushi.) The second process is to pick your protein from meats like grilled chicken or sesame soy pork (which has a tasty, crispy crackling), a vegetarian alternative (crispy tofu and shitake mushroom) or one of the many fish varieties (miso glazed cod, spicy salmon, pop-corn shrimp and classic tuna and avocado).




Patrons can choose from an unlimited supply of vegetables including: Brussel sprouts, charred corn, ginger-glazed bok choy, steamed edamame, beans in black garlic sauce and seaweed. Avocado is also available for a little extra ($2.) The bowls can be topped with a sweet, apple soy ginger sauce or hotter dressings like Japanese salad dressing or wasabi ginger salsa (because as Seinfeld one said, “People like saying, “Salsa!””)

The bowls are finished with unlimited garnishes like: chilli threads, wasabi peas, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic, wasabi furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning), togarashi (a blend of seven Japanese spices that would make Colonel Sanders blush), tempura crunch (the light batter used to garnish sushi or crunchy rolls) and toasted nori strips. The bowl can also have unlimited amounts of chilli oil, Japanese pickled cucumber, pickled ginger, scallions and daikon and carrot slaw.




They are open from 7:30AM and have brekkie bowls ($9) available with proteins that match the early morning start. They include: scrambled eggs, bacon, Japanese hash browns and crispy pork belly. There is also muesli ($5), fruit salad ($6), banana bread ($5) and a hot soy milk porridge ($8) available. Another great alternative to a bacon and egg muffin is the bacon and egg roll bao buns available at $5 for two pieces or $7.50 with a regular coffee.

Saké Jr also have a great variety of grab-and-go options including various soups ($4-8), sushi rolls ($10-16) and dumplings ($16.) The desserts feature a number of refreshing and fruity sorbets and ice-creams ($5-6) and there are hot and cold beverages for sale. The cold drinks include two of the restaurant’s namesake, sake, as well as two craft beers brewed by the group’s very own, Urban Brew Co. There is the light hattori hit girl ($8.50), which is made with Australian hops and the mildly bitter, blushing geisha ($8.50).




As the dining scenes across the world continue to move towards a more health and fitness conscious life, it’s becoming increasingly important for us to think a bit healthier when it comes to quick and casual, even if it’s not always easy to do so. There can be no excuses when you consider that a place like Saké Jr exists, it’s the ideal spot for those who want to eat, feel and look good while enjoying food that is healthy, tasty and full of flavour.

Saké Jr

Address: Grosvenor Place, 225 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm. Breakfast until 11am.

Images supplied and credited to Kitti Gould.

Originally published on 11 November 2016 at the following website:

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Let all Australians rejoice for we have some of the world’s prettiest landmarks in our own backyard. A case in point is Sydney’s historic The Rocks area. The traditional lands of the Gadigal (Cadigal) people of the Eora nation, 2016 embraces this precinct as home to history, art, culture and food, with over 50 cafes, restaurants and bars. We invite you on a journey of discovery to sample a little of what The Rocks has to offer.




This part of Sydney is home to lots of historic buildings and Sydney’s very first road. It was originally named Main Street and later renamed George Street after King George III in 1810. This area has been subject to various regeneration efforts to the shops and buildings, with the work set to continue into the future. It’s a place that has seen its fair share of progress: in the 1970s it was earmarked for redevelopment but was saved thanks to activists and conservationists like Jack Mundey. Today it boasts a vibrant culture and beautiful architecture, in addition to being a food lover’s dream.


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Fine Food is the perfect place to have a casual breakfast or brunch. Inspired by Brooklyn-style cafes, it has proudly been serving local craft beer, wine and coffee since 2004. The coffees are a particular drawcard, with drip coffee, cold brews and single origin espressos on offer. This cosy place is situated next to The Rocks Discovery Museum and offers fragrant brews that any discerning coffee drinker can appreciate.




Another amazing find at The Rocks is a restaurant called Pony, situated in a former bond warehouse. Head chef, Neil Nolan has been a mainstay at this eatery for ten years, and is instrumental in producing an eclectic menu that is cooked in a large open kitchen and over an Argentinean wood fire oven. Their roasted heirloom beets include yellow and traditional beetroot presented in a variety of different ways, including as a crisp as well as pureed and roasted. The perfect complement to the creamy burrata cheese and the sweet, candied hazelnuts.





Pony also has a large communal table on the outdoor deck. Such an environment was the appropriate time to sample some seared kangaroo. What a surprise to discover the gaminess of the lean kangaroo meat was toned down thanks to the addition of crunchy, native pepper berries and tart berries such as raspberry.




This restaurant also offered an exquisite JR signature sirloin with an Argentinian chimichurri sauce. This meat was cooked to perfection and has a nice little char from the wood fire oven. The sauce meanwhile, is based on parsley, onion, garlic and chilli and just made everything pop!




Scarlett Restaurant wins the prize for being the most chameleon-like space in the area. The restaurant is located in the Harbour Rocks Hotel and the building served as Sydney’s first hospital. They have a beautiful garden terrace offering serenity and calm with a view overlooking the historic nurses walk. It’s a great place to sip a Scarlett’s Dirty Mojito, a sparkling concoction of muddled lime and sugar with Stolen spiced rum and topped with soda.






The Rocks is host to a number of different public art pieces including one dedicated to Mundey, and a view of Brown Bear Lane (later Little Essex Street in 1901.) There is also a cute little dog sculpture dedicated to Biggles, a deceased schnauzer dog and former friend of The Rocks. It is these those iconic treasures along with a sandstone rich environment still boasting a supply of old post and telephone boxes, which gives this place its unique, old-world charm.




On Fridays The Rocks also plays host to a Foodie market from 9am – 3pm. The stalls include chocolates and other artisan products as well as street food-style offerings. Danieli BBQ Skewers sell a number of delicious skewers including Moroccan lamb, haloumi, prawns and peri-peri chicken, to name a few.




Pei Modern is a contemporary restaurant located in the five-star Four Seasons Hotel and is headed up by leading Australian chef Mark Best. The team have also welcomed a recent addition to their troupes in award-winning pastry chef, Lauren Eldridge. She has revamped their dessert menu while also keeping true to Pei Modern’s overall vision of exploring unconventional food pairings. Eldridge is not a sweet tooth herself, opting to craft desserts that she and others like her can enjoy, including desserts that are not too rich or sugary.


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Eldridge creates her own wildflower honeycomb, served with a sweet, cultured cream… like the world’s most exquisite crunchy bar! The salted liquorice cake and molasses ice-cream, in an ice-cream hinting of coffee notes. The Rocks is no stranger to chocoholics with their yearly Smooth Chocolate Festival. Pei Modern caters beautifully here with their bitter chocolate tart and cumquat jam.




The Rocks is a place blessed in terms of its rich history and plentiful supply of places to eat, drink and relax. It is certainly fun to don the tourist cap and step back in time, while sampling some of Sydney’s finest and freshest contemporary Australian cuisine. The Rocks is ultimately a place where you can enjoy and celebrate the past, present and future, as you walk away with a full belly and a warm heart.




Originally published in October at the following website:

Visit The Australia Times’ homepage at:




Wine Island is an annual boutique wine festival which is set on Clark Island, in the picturesque Sydney Harbour. The four-day event allows patrons to learn about and experience different wines and foods, in a luxurious island setting. It sounds like a wonderful holiday idea except you may not even need to leave “home” and you can participate and learn a lot thanks to some wonderful tastings and masterclasses. The Australia Times Gourmet sat down for a chat with Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island to learn more about this exciting event.


  1. Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your involvement in Wine Island?


Aloha!  I’m Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island.


  1. How long have you been involved with Wine Island? How did you come to be involved?


I came up with the idea a few years ago when I noticed that we had some beautiful and relatively untouched islands on our back doorstep.  At the time I didn’t think of how difficult producing an event on an island would be!


  1. Italy has around 500 different grape varieties and it looks like Wine Island may have a focus on Italian varieties. What is your favourite variety and why?


My go-to wine is Riesling. It reminds me of my grandfather, however it tastes a lot more refined these days!

Lately though, I’ve been delving into a lot of prosecco, “researching” our King Valley winemakers who will be showcasing this variety on the island at King Valley Prosecco Road.


  1. What are you most looking forward to at Wine Island? Why?


I always like to know a bit more about the story behind the wine, so I’m really looking forward to chatting to the island winemakers and also taking part in some of the masterclasses.  We’re introducing a silent disco to educate people on music and wine matching along with a Dessert Island class where stickies will take centre stage, something I’m sure they’re not used to.


  1. Wine Island takes place at Clark Island. Why was this location chosen?


It’s such a beautiful little island and no one really knows it exists.  In fact, Sydney has a lot of islands that most of us are unaware of.  I just wanted to create a little holiday in our backyard and show off Sydney to both locals and tourists.


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  1. Wine Island looks set to feature a number of masterclasses. Can you tell us more about this? Do you have one in particular that you’re looking forward to?


We’ve expanded our masterclasses this year as they were a big hit in 2015.  Part ofWine Island’s philosophy is unique wines in a unique location so we will be featuring all the tongue-twisting grape varieties that are up and coming.  There’ll be a Bubbles Off! which will feature sparkling and prosecco.  We also like to match-make so there’ll be a cheese and wine masterclass along with our silent disco drops, which is all about music and wine matching, which I’m interested in exploring a lot further as they’re two of my favourite things.


  1. Why do you think people should attend Wine Island?


Wine Island is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves wine, relaxing, great company and something ‘oh so Sydney’ in equal measure. It’s about combining our love affair with this beautiful city with quirky yet laid-back experiences with wine, food and culture. This is the place where you can feel like you’re leaving the city while entering the very heart of it.


  1. In your opinion, what makes a good wine? What things make good pairings with wine?


Wine is very subjective. So for me, I really enjoy an old smoky style of cab sav.  Then for a perfect pairing it’d have to be a good tawny port with blue cheese.


  1. Can you tell us about what kinds of food will be available at Wine Island? Why were these particular foods chosen?


We have a high-end BBQ featuring kingfish, maple-glazed pork and pepperberry corn paired up with vermouth by Banksii Vermouth Bar & Bistro (opening in Oct at Barangaroo). This will also feature 4 -5 of Australia’s up-and-coming vermouth brands which is one of those old-school wines we like to re-introduce and educate visitors on.


Pairing up with the King Valley Prosecco Road winemakers, who will also be showcasing Italian varieties, will be Italian food hut Puntino / A.P.E. featuring bowls of mussels, pasta wheels, etc.


Then Chur Burger will be teaming up with GAGE Roads Brewing Co. from Fremantle to introduce a beer infused burger, and to finish off the complementary food offerings, we have Hunter Valley Cheese Factory platters and roaming oyster shuckers so you needn’t lift a finger.


  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of The Australia Times Gourmet magazine about Wine Island Sydney or wine in general?


Not only are we unique by location, but we also like to show off unique wines for a further point of difference.  Winemakers are experimental at heart and wine drinkers like to try different grape varieties and learn more about the process, but in a fun and relaxing environment which is exactly what Wine Island offers.  There is nothing else like it in Sydney, or the world for that matter!

The other thing that makes Wine Island special, is it’s a small island so only limited capacity which give each guest a first class experience.  No crowds here, just you and a few hundred of your closest friends.




Wine Island takes place at Clark Island, Sydney Harbour from: Thursday 10 November to Sunday 13 November 2016 inclusive. For more information and tickets please visit:


Originally published in October at the following website:

Visit The Australia Times’ homepage at:

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