Pilu at Freshwater is an Italian fine dining restaurant on the Northern Beaches, with a focus on Sardinian cuisine. The day we visited was unfortunately a rainy one, but it was still a very picturesque setting overlooking Freshwater beach. I could only imagine how amazing it would look on a summery day.
Perusing the menu, we opted to go for the 7-course degustation ($125pp) but decided to start with half a dozen of Sydney rock oysters. These gems are from Pambula and are served with apple cider and cucumber. Sweet and plump, they were gone in a flash.
Soon after we were presented with the complimentary flat bread with house made ricotta and truffle oil. The flatbread was deliciously crunchy with a good sprinkling of salt and rosemary, perfectly paired with the creamy ricotta.
Onto the first course and it's a Smoked mullet and celeriac panada with Dill oil, apple and cucumber gel and horseradish cream on the side. An interesting blend of ingredients, the dill oil together with the horseradish cream tied the dish together.
The Ravioli of ricotta with a sea urchin emulsion and tarragon oil was unfortunately a little underwhelming. The ravioli is a traditional Sardinian version, quite different to the shape of the usual ones you see in an Italian restaurant. The skin was a bit too thick for my liking and the sea urchin flavour wasn't as strong as I had hoped.
The Fregula risotata is a toasted Semolina pasta and together with the pecorino cheese, charred onions and wild garlic puree made for a very tasty vegetarian dish.
The Barramundi in smoked ham consomme was delicious and I enjoyed the unusual textures of the sea herbs. The smoked ham consomme was crystal clear and packed full of flavour.
The Roast suckling pig is one of the signature dishes at Pilu and it's not hard to see why. The suckling pig has the great mix of crispy crackling and tender meat. The accompaniments of black olive tapenade, poached paradise pear helped in countering the richness of the dish, and I loved the flavour of the pistachio mortadella.
The palate cleanser of Pimm's and strawberry consomme, cucumber granita and mint delivered - it was light, fruity and refreshing.
The final dish of our degustation was a Sardinian pastry filled with ricotta and sultanas, drizzled with honey from nearby Forestville. The pastry was delightfully crispy and the flavours of honey, the dehydrated orange and ricotta blended superbly together.
It's the perfect place for a lazy long lunch at a beautiful location. I enjoyed some dishes more than others, so would probably opt for the a la carte option next time.
A Tavola in Bondi is the second restaurant of its name, after the much-loved original in Darlinghurst. The restaurant looks bright and inviting, with giant copper lights and a long marble communal table which is also where the pasta gets made daily.
Before getting to their famous pasta, we opted for a couple of entrees to whet our appetite. We started off with the Burratina, which was paired with dehydrated beetroot, fennel, orange segments and pea shoots. It was a light, summery dish and I couldn't get enough of the creaminess of the burratina.
The Lamb involtini was a delicate dish, with tender pieces of lamb backstrap stuffed with Tuscan kale. The salsa verde also managed to pack a punch of flavour.
The Squid ink ravioli looked striking as it hit the table. It definitely tasted of the sea and the mussels were incredibly plump and tender.
The Pappardelle with wagyu ragu was definitely the highlight of the meal.
The pasta was silky smooth and the ragu was wonderfully rich, and a very generous serving too. It was one of the best pasta dishes I've had in Sydney.
The Red Cabbage Salad with raisins and walnuts was incredibly tasty and a great play on textures. It has just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the pasta dishes.
A Tavola is a great spot if you are looking for some amazing fresh pasta in Sydney.
Having heard rave reviews about their Fried Chicken, I couldn't help paying Paper Bird in Potts Point a visit. Having been to their previous restaurant, Moon Park in Redfern, I had very high expectations. My friends and I decided to go with the banquet menu, which at $60 offered very good value given the amount of food on offer.
We start off with the Ddeokbokki, Korean glutinous rice cakes. They are crispy on the outside with a kick of heat thanks to the red chilli paste Gochuchang.
Next was the Menbosha, a modern take on prawn toast. The toast was deep fried goodness and the filling of prawns and cabbage was creamy and delicious.
The dish of Pork and squid ink sausage, grilled calamari and almonds looked simple but was bursting with flavour - a truly great stir fry dish.
The Eggplant with black pepper sauce and cashew was expertly cooked, almost taking on a meaty texture.
The signature dish - the Shrimp brined fried chicken - lived up to all expectations - a crunchy coating on the outside, succulent on the inside. The syrup drizzled on top added just the right balance of sweetness to the dish.
The Jeonbokjangbap which consisted of abalone slices, rice, nori, egg yolk and cucumber kimchi was another delight in terms of flavour and texture. The thinly slices of abalone could easily have been overcooked but were just perfectly tender.
Turning our attention to desserts, we started with the Coconut rice, lychee, strawberry & hazelnut. The combination of the lychee with the stawberries was spot on.
The final dish of Milk bingsu, green apple, melon sorbet & white chocolate was a refreshing way to finish off the meal. Bingsu is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert and Paper Bird's version was light and fluffy.
The food of Paper Bird is fresh and exciting, offering a great modern Asian menu with heavy Korean influences. I'm looking forward to coming back and trying their brunch menu.
Cod's Gift is a restaurant focused on sustainable sourced seafood in Dural in Sydney's north west. The interior is beautiful and lush, with velvet, brass and marble featuring heavily among the blue and green tones.
The menu is definitely not your standard fish and chips fare. We started off with half dozen of the Sydney Rock oysters from Merimbula in NSW. They were dressed with a Caramelised cabarnet vinegar with escallot and native pepper; and house ponzu with finger lime. The oysters were plump and creamy and I would have been perfectly happy to eat them with just a squeeze of lemon, but the dressings added an extra dimension to them.
The Kingfish sashimi looked like a beautiful summery dish when it hit our table. It was dazzling with flavour from the watermelon, blood orange, pistachio and jalapeno combination.
Straying from the seafood theme temporarily, the Portobello mushroom was a bit milder in flavour compared to some of the other dishes. The buckwheat and crisp lotus were some interesting textural additions.
The Lobster donuts caught my eye when looking through the menu. The mini donuts were filled with rock lobster, tom yum mayonnaise, sweet corn and lemongrass salt. It was the perfect sweet and salty combo.
The Snapper with sage crumb was beautifully cooked with a crispy coating and still flakey on the inside. The shaved fennel added a touch of freshness and it was a very satisfying dish to eat.
For dessert, we couldn't go past the Figs with mango, sticky rice ice cream and black sesame tuille. It was quite a sweet dessert and I wished there was more of the delicious, locally sourced figs.
Cod's Gift is well worth the drive to Sydney's north west, with the seafood dishes definitely playing the starring role,
Finding a place with a gorgeous view and delicious food to match isn't always easy. The Butler in Potts Point is definitely one to add to the list. My friends and I got a great table in the terrace area surrounded by hanging plants and with an unobstructed view of the beautiful Sydney skyline. The food has strong influences from South America and is made for sharing. For stressless ordering, we went with the Banquet menu for $60.
First dish to the table was the Cured salmon, green apple, habanero, onion, citrus. The chunky slices of salmon was cured perfectly and combined with the apple and habanero had my tastebuds jumping.
Continuing the seafood theme was the Hiramasa kingfish ceviche. Again, it was a vibrant and fresh dish, with the kingfish beautifully cured in a citrus based marinade.
Next was the Sopa Seca, which I learnt was a Peruvian pasta casserole dish. It is served with Swiss chard, tomato and smoked cashew cream. The pasta has quite a bouncy texture and I enjoyed the flavour of the cashew cream.
The Pork & Chipotle empanada was packed full of flavour, seasoned well and the pastry was light and flaky.
I couldn't wait to dig into the Buttermilk fried chicken sliders when they landed on our table. The bread to chicken ratio was perfect, the chicken was crispy and moist and the peanut salsa was an inspired choice.
The final couple of dishes of Lamb Barbacoa and the Quinoa with orange, pickled red cabbage and mint was a great way to end the meal. The lamb shoulder has been slow cooked in a banana leaf with adobo, green olives & coriander - the meat was so juicy and tender, it falls apart with the lightest touch.
The Banquet menu was a great way to sample the menu at The Butler. Amazing views with the cocktails and food to match - definitely no complaints!
Encasa in Lane Cove is an outpost from the much loved original on Pitt Street in Sydney CBD. We started with the Marinated white anchovies with toasted sourdough. The anchovies were XL in size and very flavorsome, with strong hints of lemon.
One of my favourite tapas dish is croquettes and Encasa's version with jamon Iberico had the perfect crispy outside and creamy inside.
There's a whole section of the menu devoted to pickled tinned goods which I found intriguing. We ordered the Tinned razor clams, as it's not something that is easily available. The dish arrived with its packaging intact - in case you like it, you can pick it up at the small deli at the front of the restaurant. I think I prefer my razor clams freshly cooked, but the quality of the tinned version was surprisingly good.
Another interesting dish was the Octopus carpaccio with mustard ice cream, which was one of the specials of the day. The flavours of octopus and mustard surprisingly went well together, though the carpaccio was a little icy and not as tender as I would have liked.
We finished off the meal with Pork cheeks and potato puree. The puree was delightfully smooth and creamy and the pork cheeks simply dissolved in my mouth. A wonderfully moreish dish.
Encasa is always reliable for a good Spanish feed and it's great to have one north of the bridge.
You know a meal has been phenomenal when you still reminisce about it months later and that is exactly how I feel about Momofuku Seiobo at The Star. The 14 course Carribean-inspired tasting menu, the brainchild of Paul Carmichael, was creative and the flavours extraordinary. For something different, we opted for the non-alcoholic beverage pairing which was delicious in its own right.
We started off with the very tasty morsels of Bakes, abalone and lardo: Thin slices of tender abalone from Bateman's Bay, drizzled with pork larder and accompanied by a very light and fluffy Jamaican bread.
Sitting atop a collection of sea shells are three plantain tarts filled with finely shaved snail meat. It delivered both in presentation and in taste.
The Short rib with pickled onion was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Rangers Valley beef rib had been cooked for 36 hours so not surprisingly, it just melted in my mouth. The olives and pickled onion was great to cut through the fattiness of the short rib.
The next dish of Pickled pumpkin, caramelised pumpkin seed, zucchini and raisins were tied together by a special hot sauce. Hot and sour, it was a great pla on textures and flavours.
The Curred rice with crab smelled divine as it hit our table. There were plenty of crab meat and the curry emulsion was strong without being overpowering. The crispy bits of rice added a nice crunch to the dish.
I didn't document all the drinks from the non alcoholic beverage pairing but have to make a special mention of this Blood orange shrub. I discovered a shrub is not just a small tree. It's also a type of preserve, sweet and vinegary - made in-house, this blood orange version is one of the best drinks I've tasted.
The Marron cooked in koji butter on the charcoal grill was another exceptional dish. The marron flesh was so succulent and there was just the right hint of smokiness from the charcoal. The coconut flesh added a nice tropical element to the dish and I could have easily eaten another one!
To accompany the marron was the most buttery and flakey roti - I would rate it even more highly than the famed ones from Mamak. The other accompaniment was an onion dip with mini apples, adding a hit of sweetness. It was not what I expecting from this fine dining restaurant, but was very pleasantly surprised.
To round off the mains was the Pork loin with crackling, served with a side of Spiced pumpkin and split peas, and a Cabbage salad. The blushing pink pork loin had been aged over four weeks and carried incredible flavours, and the crackling had the perfect crunch.
Onto desserts and we start with the palate cleanser of Yoghurt sorbet with banana leaf oil and powder. Served in a coconut bowl, the yoghurt sorbet was delightfully refreshing and I loved the addition of the pink sea salt.
The Roast coconut ice cream with cocoa nib and a cashew crumb was divine. The ice cream had a great intensity of flavour, with more nuttiness than usual, and the crumb and wafer all worked well together.
I would have been happy to end the night at this point as I found the next desserts of Rum cake, marzipan and raisin too sweet for my liking.
The last sweet was a molasses toffee with coconut, lime and ginger. The waitress told us that half the diners love this and half don't. We fell in the latter category - I found it strange that they would end with such a divisive dish but aside from this hiccup, the entire meal has been amazing.
The staff was friendly and professional and I loved being able to look into the open kitchen to see the team of chefs at work. The flavours are bold and creative, and it was one of the most memorable and exciting meals I've had, different to any degustation I've had before.
The empire of Fratelli Fresh seems to be ever expanding, including an outpost in Crows Nest on the bustling Willoughby Road. There are a few set menus available but we decided to go for the a la carte option.
We started with the Fratelli House Salad with butter lettuce, avocado, nashi pear, radish, gorgonzola and sliced walnuts. It was a refreshing salad, perfect for a hot summer's day.
The Beef Carpaccio was nicely seasoned but I felt the wild mushrooms didn't really complement the dish, so would probably have been better without them.
From the pasta section, we went with the Linguine with Prawns, Lemon, Pangrattata, Chilli and Garlic. Beautifully cooked pasta, sweet juicy prawns and a classic flavour combination - needless to say, it was delicious.
The Tuscan Kale and Oyster Mushroom pizza come with a creamy white base and is another exhibition of simple yet delicious flavours executed well.
For dessert, we opted for the Vanilla bean panna cotta with cherry sauce and crumbed brownie. The panna cotta had a very smooth texture and I enjoyed the crunch from the crumbed brownie.
Fratelli Fresh doesn't deliver the fanciest, most adventurous food, but it is consistently good. The fit out is great and bonus points for all the booth seats they have!
Eastside Kitchen & Bar is another restaurant in the ever expanding Kensington St dining precinct in Chippendale. It serves modern cuisine with New York and Asian influences. We started with one of the small plates, Roasted baby carrot with green pea hommus, almonds and fennel pollen. Some of the carrots felt a little underdone but the pea hommus with the almonds was delicious.
The Roasted duck breast was well cooked and is beautifully paired with the pickled cherries. The shaved brussel sprouts added a touch of freshness to the dish.
The Pan seared mulloway pointed to some classic Asian flavours, with a ginger and scallion salsa creating a wonderful aroma. The crispy skinned fillet was paired with a sweet potato puree and crispy leek.
The Ranger's Valley Angus Hanger Steak had been chargrilled over Eastside Kitchen's Bichotan coal, bringing a lovely smokiness to the meat. Duck fat potatoes are...well, you can't go wrong with these!
For dessert, we got the 'Fire and Ice' dessert platter - the perfect choice when you want to try a bit of everything! There was great theatre with the smoke from the dry ice and flames over the mini creme brulee. The platter was a plethora of desserts: Matcha cheesecakes, brownie, gummies, honeycomb, shortbread, lemon tart, and so much more!
The decor is dark and mysterious, with exposed bricks and leather paneled bar that wouldn't look out of place in New York's meatpacking district. All the plates are designed for sharing, and of course, you can't go past the dessert platter.
Expectations were high when I was heading to Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco - a six month pop-up from the creators of the famed Pinbone and Merivale. The eatery is located in an old drive through liquor shop in Mascot, not where you normally expect to have a top-notch dining experience.
Upon entering, I was struck by the disco balls, the music videos being projected onto the wall, the hand drawn cartoon drawings and the neon lights. There's a walk in fridge for you to pick your own alcohol or you can also order at the table. The menu is concise but everything on it sounds delicious.
I opted for the Beef tongue, porcini and tomato as a starter. The thin slices of beef tongue was simply divine, perfectly seasoned and just melted in my mouth. The porcini topping was packed full of flavour and I couldn't help but have a smile on my face as I demolished the dish.
For mains, I chose the Spatchcock with lemon and tarragon butter. Little did I know I would get an entire spatchcock - a very generous serving. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked with crispy skin, soaking up the lemony and buttery sauce. Next time, I would probably get a side to go with it as I felt it needed some vegies to complete the meal.
Sadly I was too full for dessert but all the more reason to come back before this pop up closes. Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco has a fun vibe and offers a great dining experience.
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