Monthly Archives: October 2012

Almond Bar’s Middle Eastern secrets


Almond Bar’s cosy interior. Photo: Carol Salloum

I have traditional Middle Eastern mezze in my fridge, courtesy of Almond Bar, pre-prepared and ready to be popped in the oven and on to a hot grill plate and consumed possibly with a home-made mint lemonade later this afternoon.

These small dishes — koush mehshi (stuffed grey zucchini), lamb kafta, and irresistibly sweet and florally fragrant baklawa — are the product of a cooking class i participated in at Almond Bar as part of the Crave International Food Festival.

For the uninitiated, Almond Bar is a treasure of the Sydney restaurant scene. It’s a Syrian family run affair located in Darlinghurst. This cosy narrow restaurant, with a beautiful engraved wood wall, delights customers with family recipes and wholehearted hospitality.

Having eaten at Almond Bar several times, i jumped at the chance to squirrel away some of the culinary secrets of the Salloum family. And while the cooking class only ran during this month’s Crave festival, the lamb kafta and baklawa are on the daily menu, while koush mehshi is likely to return when grey zucchini season is back in full swing.

In fact, the whole menu is abundantly enticing and i’m already factoring in a return for the traditional Middle Eastern breakfast menu they offer on the first Sunday of every month. Continue reading


Filed under Cooking classes, workshops, masterclasses, Cuisines

The Bridge Room ticks all the right boxes


The Bridge Room. Photo: Michele Aboud

If you’re like me and you have a restaurant “to eat at” list that just keeps getting longer, then Crave Sydney’s Let’s Do Lunch deal is just the kick up the butt you need to start whittling away at this ever-increasing gastronomic turf.

With a week to go before the October-long Crave International Food Festival ends there is still time to tick a few restaurants off your hit list, and they may just become your new best edible friends.

The Bridge Room in Sydney’s CBD has been on my list since it opened about a year ago. Just writing those last three words – a year ago – makes me feel shameful that i’ve left it so long. But i’ll be returning a lot more quickly. Continue reading


Filed under Chefs, Restaurant Reviews

Brand Blumenthal


Few world-famous celebrity chefs would be stood up on the phone by a journalist one day, then ring eight times before eventually getting hold of them the next day, only to be asked to call back on another number, and still be in splendid good humour when the interview finally takes place.

Heston Blumenthal is basically a really decent bloke. There is no hint of a dummy spit in his voice, no hoity-toity tenor, no “I’ll be courteous but I’m really ticked off at you” undertone.

If the self-taught, three-Michelin-starred chef is seething under his designer spectacles, there is no sign of it in his voice.

There’s a bald-headed, boy-next-door charm to Blumenthal that makes you want to down a couple of beers with him, or a chilled glass of chardonnay – a Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, to be precise. Read the full article.


Filed under Chefs

Nino Zoccali’s sweet pea ravioli with gorgonzola cream and burnt butter

Nino_Zoccali_Sweet_pea_ravioli_ gorgonzola_cream_burnt_butter_Pasta_Artigiana

Nino Zoccali’s sweet pea ravioli with gorgonzola cream & burnt butter

A platter of large, square ravioli on a table of seven as part a shared meal is dangerous business, particularly if it’s Nino Zoccali’s ravioli. Zoccali’s sweet pea ravioli with gorgonzola cream and burnt butter was part of a shared Italian feast at the Crave Sydney International Food Festival gala dinner. We each got one piece of ravioli: a silken pocket that ebbed on the tongue, secreting the subtlest hint of fresh pea that was coddled in a just rich enough gorgonzola cream sauce. Smack your lips, and it was gone. The platter with two remaining squares sat on the table between myself and my neighbour. With no pretence of table etiquette — we couldn’t offer them around, what if they were accepted? —  we each went in for one of the two remaining parcels.  Blink your eye, and they were gone. Continue reading


Filed under Book Reviews, Cuisines

What’s the secret of a good pie?


Curried lamb and potato pie at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Photo: Jessamyn McLachlan

What’s the secret of a good pie? I’ve asked myself that question when my pastry bases have turned out soggy, lids have been lacklustre, and the filling has lacked oomph. With a number of Sydney pubs participating in the Crave Sydney’s International Food Festival’s Good Pub Grub menu  — which consists of pie and a schooner of Coopers Pale Ale for $20 — i decided to take my question to the experts. Continue reading


Filed under Cuisines, Restaurant Reviews