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A Sydney food and restaurant blog

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    Posted by Hendy

    As part of Good Food Month this October, we the masses are being asked to give 'a fork. Sustainable Table - a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne - uses food to explore sustainability issues, like seafood last year. This year, they're asking people to 'Give a Fork!' about waste, particularly food waste.

    The 'Give a Fork!' campaign encourages us all to think about the environmental impacts of our groceries choices - how we shop with our eyes and not our tastebuds, or brains really - and how we can each wholly use the produce we use in our cooking (think off-cuts, carrot tops, onion peel etc).

    Shopping with your tastebuds and picking visually imperfect produce provided by Harris Farm Markets featured at Sustainable Table dinner for Give a Fork launch, 14 October 2014, Studio Neon, Waterloo
    And why we should give a fork? Australians, on average, discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, amounting to around one out of every five bags of groceries we buy ending up as landfill.

    This is costing the average Australian around $1,000 annually, which translates to around $8 billion worth of edible food that is thrown out each year throughout the country.

    When we throw away food, the food rots with other waste in landfill and produces methane - the potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than the typical carbon pollution we all experience on our roads.

    Dining space at studio NEON, Raglan Street, Waterloo
    To start the discussion on the major environmental issues of food and packaging waste, Sustainable Table hosted a simple, minimal waste dinner at the eccentric, eclectic warehouse dining venue, Studio Neon in Waterloo.

    The goal of the night for chef Aaron Turner was to create a multi-course meal using produce supplied only earlier in the night and to create a meal with minimal to zero waste.

    Cassie Duncan of Sustainable Table
    To kick off the night co-founder and general manager of Sustainable Table, Cassie Duncan, was joined by the equally passionate Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

    Cassie and her Sustainable Table team partner with restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney to help raise awareness of the food and packaging waste issue through the Give a Fork campaign.

    Carrot with organic yoghurt and black olive crumb
    The dinner showcased a number of dishes that make the best use of the produce available on the night. The pre dinner canapés were simple and made full use of a handful of ingredients, namely roasted heirloom carrots and a bread crumb of olives.

    Baba ganoush, dukkah, crispy skin on crackers
    The second set of canapés that followed made full use of eggplants. The soft. mushy flesh of the eggplants was used with onion and garlic to make the traditional eastern Mediterranean baba ganoush dip, served on a small cracker topped with nutty dukkah and a crumble of eggplant skin, crisply dried.

    Smoked onion risotto with organic 62 degree hen egg
    The main course for the night was risotto made with a stunning smoked onion base stock, which made use of whole onions including the onion skin. The risotto was complemented with a soft and delicate organic 62 degree egg.

    The dish was then garnished with a host of different herbs donated by OzHarvest from their kitchen garden in Alexandria, as well as leftover onion skin not used in the stock which was dehydrated, powdered and graciously strewn over the risotto.

    Launch of 'Give a Fork' Campaign Dinner
    The former journalist, now blogger, media personality, wellness coach and Give a Fork ambassador Sarah Wilson spoke about the different ways each of us can help to reduce food waste.

    She shared some tips on making full use of the produce we buy, including freezing onion skins with other vegetable off-cuts in a zip-lock bag and using the bits later on to enhance any base stocks with a simple, nutritional and flavoursome boost.

    Tim Silverwood of Take 3, Campaign Ambassador
    We also heard from Tim Silverwood, another Give a Fork! campaign ambassador and co-founder of the Take 3 not-for-profit organisation. He spoke about how we all can play a part in reducing beach waste by picking up three waste items each time we visit the beach and being mindful of our use of disposable plastics.

    Tim also reflected that waste is often tied with what we consume and how we consume; reiterating a number of the earlier messages around how we can improve the way we consume the produce we buy.

    Imperfect orange dessert
    Capping off the night was the dessert which was aptly named, imperfect orange. Making use of what is termed as second grade oranges - oranges that might not look their best on the outside yet taste equally as amazing as those that do look perfect on the outside.

    The dessert plate comprised orange zest sponge, orange rind purée and Janni goat's curd. The notion of making use of the whole fruit extended to the use of the orange pits which were water soaked, dried, powdered and made into a slightly bitter garnish, cleverly balancing the sweetness of the sponge and tanginess of the curd.

    The meagre residual waste from the dinner service
    The night ended with Cassie presenting to the dinner the residual waste from the dinner service. What was left was a few egg cartons and the used vegetables from the stock - both of which can be re-used again.

    Reflecting on the night, the 'Give a Fork!' campaign made me ask what we can each really do to help tackle the food and packaging waste issue. Sustainable Table have shared a few ideas:
    1. Plan ahead and plan better, being mindful of what we are using and what we are throwing out;
    2. Start a compost bin to generate some fertiliser that can be re-used to grow your own produce;
    3. Get involved with the 'Give a Fork' campaign and get your friends, families or colleagues together to organise and host a 'Give a Fork!' themed, waste-free dinner (or lunch or brunch), and raise awareness and funds for Sustainable Table; or
    4. Give a fork at participating local Sydney restaurants through their #wastefree 'Give a Fork!' specials offered at those restaurants.
    Given the seriousness of the issue at hand, we can all play a part and make the decision to 'Give a Fork!' See the Give a Fork website for more information and our Facebook page for more photos of the dinner.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the 'Give a Fork' campaign as a guest, with thanks to New Future PR.

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    Having been asked quite a few times about my favourite dining experiences in Sydney recently, I was surprisingly short on answers. For anyone who asks now, it's without a doubt a recent early dinner at Cipro – pizza al taglio in Alexandria.

    Cipro is the casual Italian brainchild of former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef Khan Danis and partner (and creator of Rockpool's famous date tart) Catherine Adams. It seemingly followed into south Sydney in the footsteps of fellow Rockpool alumni Mike McEnearney's Kitchen by Mike in nearby Rosebery.

    Cipro's pizza concept strays from the Sydney norm of thin-based, round Neopolitan style pizzas to a Roman style on a thick base, still baked by wood fire but formed into large rectangular slabs to be served by the slice.

    Pork sausage, spicy peppers and olive pizza from Cipro – pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
    At $12 a rectangular slice, it's some pretty extravagant pizza to be had in a converted warehouse space. Pre-prepared and displayed mouthwateringly behind a glass cabinet, there are a number of colourful topping options that seem both modern and very Italian.

    Dining in the airy restaurant space looking into the large open kitchen, we opted to share the fennel scented Italian pork sausage pizza slice with colourful, softly roasted capsicum and pitted Sicilian olives. The pizza slice gets reheated and dressed up with fresh parsley and olive oil, going some way to justify the price tag.

    I hadn't had a thick-based pizza for years and the last one I did have was probably a franchise-delivered one. Cipro knocks thick-based pizzas out of this world. With a well-crisped bottom, the thick base is unexpectedly airy, softly chewy and not at all unbalanced in ratio to its toppings.

    There's a seriously good, herby tomato sauce beneath the toppings and the thick slice is capable of holding more toppings than your Naples-style thin base – they certainly load them up at Cipro although a lot of it falls off when you pick up the slice. I resorted to cutlery to slice through the crisp-bottomed base, remembering that thick bases weren't so bad after all – in fact, the pizza was sublime.

    Caprese salad
    Not wanting to fill up on pizza only, we explored the rest of the quite substantial and relatively standardly-priced menu, with a full page of desserts that I regret not leaving room for. But at least I was able to discover what has to be Sydney's best take on the classic Italian insalata Caprese or Caprese salad.

    Featuring a ball of fior di latte mozzarella, torn and scattered over beautifully ripe, tri-coloured heirloom tomatoes, topped with young basil leaves; I think it was the quality of tomatoes, the addition of pitted Sicilian olives and pickled onion rings, and the finally the balsamic vinegar dressing that made the salad simply spectacular.

    Wood fire grilled lamb loin chops with caponata and crispy polenta
    A lot of the main meals feature a stint on the wood-fired grill or oven, which I hadn't entirely expected but certainly wasn't complaining about. Lamb loin chops are rarely seen on dinner menus outside of the home so it was a delight to receive three of them off the wood fire grill, burnished with a charred aroma that had us salivating.

    Much like very well-seasoned lamb chops off a barbeque, there was a pure homeliness about battling the tendons and fatty rind for the tender meat on the bone. The lamb loin chops were served dry with three perfectly golden, crisp cubes of deep fried polenta and a smattering of mushy diced vegetables in a sweet caponata.

    Prawn linguine with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and parsley
    The generous prawn linguine was hands-down the best seafood pasta dish I've had – ever. Without the support of a tomato base, a lot of prawn and shellfish pasta dishes are insipid at best with bits of garlic, parsley and white wine for flavour.

    Cipro's prawn linguine was a superb dish in its own right and not just the pasta category. Brimming with chunky pieces of fresh prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas, it was properly seasoned with loads of parsley, garlic and a whole red chilli.

    Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – firm, sea-fresh prawns or juicy tomato quarters – with the well-olive-oiled linguine. There was nothing that could be improved, save for an addition Cipro's sensational house-made chilli paste for those wanting a bit more of a spice kick.

    Their opening hours – recently updated to midday till 9pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am till 9pm on Saturdays, and 10:30am till 6pm on Sundays – indicate that the owners have some more family-friendly hours than the industry generally, which rather suits the casual air of Cipro being more the neighbourhood restaurant. With its serious restaurant quality, Cipro has certainly captured my slice of the local dining pie, or should I say, pizza.

    Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Hendy

    At the ground floor of the still gleaming new renovation and refit of 1 O'Connell Street in the Sydney CBD, Bowery Lane is the newest entrant to the evening dining scene on the suits-abundant street.

    Just off the building's lobby entrance, the modern, Manhattan-inspired interior provides a sense of alignment, if not aspiration, in the heart of corporate Sydney.

    A glass of Bannockburn Douglas 2010 at Bo wery Lane, O'Connell Street, Sydney
    Named after the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island, New York, Bowery Lane has extended its existing breakfast and lunch services to offer a different menu for the evening alongside a short, eclectic wine list, a selection of craft beers and chic cocktails.

    A number of craft brews come from the Big Apple, including the Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. The wine list features a number of increasingly popular blends, like the multi-varietal Bannockburn Douglas which was pleasantly aromatic with its blend of cabernet, shiraz, merlot, malbec and pinot noir.

    Manchego croquettes with smoked chilli aioli
    Bowery Lane's dinner menu of snacks, entrées, shared dished, sides and mains are more wholesome options than its lunch options, taking inspiration from Manhattan in that rustic-mod way that Sydney's so good at.

    We started with golden crumbed croquettes filled with Spanish manchego cheese from the snacks menu. Served with a smoked chilli aioli, the croquettes were delightfully light and soft within while the creamy aioli brought a lingering heat.

    House smoked hickory salmon with puffed wild rice, bottarga salad, burnet
    We opted for three entrées to share, including the house hickory wood-smoked salmon. Plated in coils with puffed rice and shaved bottarga cured mullet roe, the smoked salmon was light and creamy with a subtle smokiness. The dish was paired with salty bottarga-topped crisps in delicious contrast to the soft, velvety texture of the salmon.

    Jamon serrano with buffalo mozzarella, witlof rocket and shaved pear
    The jamon serrano cured ham was another light entrée served as a salad with radicchio, pear slices and rocket leaves. Having been sliced so thinly, the jamon serrano could have been mistaken visually for radicchio leaves while I thought the dish could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil.

    Master kobe skirt wagyu (marble score: 9+) with chermula and lemon
    To follow two lighter entrées, we had the kobe skirt wagyu which is one of the many meat based dishes that feature on Bowery Lane's dinner menu.

    Lightly seared and topped with a chermula marinade, rocket and radish slices, the beautiful slices of high quality wagyu beef took on a lot of the chermula's tanginess which added a necessary overtone to the fat-marbled skirt steak.

    1kg braised wagyu short rib with horseradish cream and roasted garlic
    Continuing on the wagyu theme, for mains a 1-kilogram braised wagyu short rib was the first shared main dish to arrive.

    Slightly charred on the surface, the braised wagyu short rib was beautifully cooked and looked, and felt, as if it literally had fallen off the bone.

    Two whole roasted garlic bulbs were popped alongside the large serve of short rib, waiting to be peeled and smooshed for their caramelised sweetness alongside the zingy horseradish cream.

    Whole BBQ organic chicken with lentils and grains and smoked yoghurt
    The next shared main was a whole BBQ organic chicken, served in pieces with lentils and various grains mixed through smoked yoghurt.

    A great, homely sharing dish, the lentils and yoghurt gave the comfort food, family favourite a new lease on life that was still utterly comforting.

    Tempura soft shell crab burger with Asian slaw and miso mayonnaise
    Two burgers feature on the dinner menu, including the towering soft shell crab burger. The undersized burger bun attempted to hold in a whole, tempura-battered soft shell crab, an Asian style cabbage slaw and what looked like half a bunch of coriander - a win for coriander lovers.

    Complemented with a Japanese-style mayonnaise with miso, the salty, crunchy soft shell crab pieces were large enough to be eaten in a 'deconstructed' manner which is always easier for burger towers.

    Barramundi fillet with king brown mushroom, smoked leek jus gras, parsnip
    The barramundi fillet provided a lighter option for mains. With crisp, golden skin, the nicely cooked barramundi flaked easily and worked well with the parsnip puree and leek jus, and surprisingly, the king brown mushrooms.

    Old Fashioned
    On my visit the standalone bar at Bowery Lane wasn't yet in action, but it will surely be a popular one to prop up against for the building's suited tenants when the bar stools and seats are in.

    With a good range of bourbon whiskies, to finish the night I opted for a good ol' Old Fashioned cocktail with Bulleit Rye whisky from Kentucky, which features on the cocktail menu in the Wall Street and New York Sour cocktails.

    Bowery Lane
    So realistically, Sydney mightn't be in the same ball park as New York but with Bowery Lane doing breakfast, lunch and dinner with some NYC inspiration and enthusiasm, we might just have a touch of Manhattan in our midst.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Bowery Lane as a guest, with thanks to Wasamedia.

    Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

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    It's here - critically-acclaimed and multi-hatted chef and restaurateur Neil Perry's first dedicated burger eatery opened to the public on Friday at World Square in the CBD south. Brace your burger-loving self for some serious queues at Burger Project.

    Rockpool Brewing Pilsner and burgers at Burger Project, World Square, Sydney
    First things first: it ain't Rockpool Bar & Grill. Indeed, it's a casual venue with an almost fast food feel when you look behind the service counter where you order and get a buzzer.

    And with most burgers under $10, we shouldn't be expecting RB&G quality and service (although I wonder if there is merit in a standalone venue for Perry's $24 wagyu burger and fab RB&G sides).

    Burger Project, upstairs at World Square next to Din Tai Fung
    Burger Project is located in a relatively vast 100-seater upstairs at World Square that makes me wonder what on earth used to be there, next door to the flagship Din Tai Fung  restaurant and its nightly queues.

    And with Burger Project now freshly open, expect it to be queue central up those World Square stairs.

    Ordering counter
    On a preview night last week there was an army of a blue T-shirt clad crew who (in a sure sign of my ageing) mostly reminded me of The Simpsons' squeaky-voiced teen. Him, or basically any stereotype of a fast food chain employee: young, energetic and a touch green.

    Warmer oven for chicken wings
    Their lives are not made any easier with the various seasoning choices available with the chips or chicken wings, for example. I suppose they're all at least 18-years-old as Burger Project is licensed and currently offers three beers and four wines.

    White wine on tap
    The white wine offerings came from a chilled tap and were served in disposable plastic cups, as is the single red wine.

    Meanwhile, the three beers available by the bottle are Coopers Premium Lager, the highly drinkable Lord Nelson Three Sheets Pale Ale and the group-branded Rockpool Brewing New Age Pilsner, brewed in-house in Victoria. The latter was quite clean, none too light and ideal with the spicy menu items.

    Crispy hot wings with classic hot sauce (front) and Sichuan pepper and salt (back)
    Burger Project's menu features five beef burgers, two chicken, one pork and one vegetarian mushroom burger which is inexplicably the most expensive of the lot.

    Then there's two hot dog options and crispy hot wings, served whole in one golden battered piece. The classic hot sauced buffalo-style wing retained a nice crunch to the batter which was a little thick for my liking, but I was a fan of the tangy spice kick of the hot sauce.

    The Sichuan pepper and salt seasoned wing in the same batter could have done with some more pepper, but the juicy innards couldn't be faulted.

    House made chips with sea salt (left) and chipotle chilli (right); vanilla milkshake (back)
    The house made skin-on chips are thrice cooked and a little oily for it, but pleasingly crisp. The plain sea salt ones were fine with tomato sauce available but the chipotle chilli ones were excellently spiced with just a hint of smoky chilli heat.

    I ended up with a plain vanilla milkshake as my request for malt went unheard. With plenty of ice cream and quite the sweet vanilla hit, there'll always be something pleasingly nostalgic about a milkshake, although it became a little heavy going together with burgers, chips and wings.

    Cheese and bacon burger (front, left) and The Korean (back, right)
    And so we come to the burgers. Burger Project uses a blend of whole 36-month Cape Grim grass-fed chuck and brisket steak, ground thickly in-house to make the chunky meat patties. And thank goodness, there's no brioche in sight.

    My cheese and bacon burger featured a quite rare beef pattie, though granted it was basically Burger Project's first operating day. The toasted white buns encased some serious quality bacon, American cheese, raw onion rings that were surprisingly not bitingly pungent, cucumber pickles, tomato, lettuce and a secret sauce. Sounds familiar.

    The burger was quite large in size, making for a very substantial meal especially with sides. It had all the flavour you'd want and expect although the meat gets a little lost amongst all the sauce and additionals. The pattie itself was decent but not quite the star quality of the RB&G burgers - it is, after all, what chef Perry calls "the people's burger".

    The less-filled Korean burger featured the grass fed beef pattie with kim chi, which was actually a great combination. Finished with raw onion, lettuce and a spicy Korean dressing, The Korean burger was an unexpected winner over the cheese and bacon burger.

    Chef and owner Neil Perry (back)
    Dessert comprises a menu of house churned ice cream and gourmet toppings like Valrhona crunchy pearls or chocolate sauce, meringue, rhubarb compote and salted dulce de leche sauce. Having struggled to get through most of the burger, dessert was not happening for me this time.

    With a fairly broad menu and pretty good value to be had, I foresee more burgers and queues in my near future. They sold-out at lunch on the opening Friday, which is a sure sign that the masses are keen for a taste of Rockpool at Burger Project.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Burger Project as a guest, with thanks to The PR Partnership.

    Burger Project on Urbanspoon

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    It feels like the early summer is trying its best to get here, although it's occasionally obstructed by bouts of spring and indeed, some wintry weather. But when pop-up bars like the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar start to make an appearance, we can be sure summer's on its way.

    Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar, Bligh Street, Sydney
    Open on weekdays and Saturdays for three months till 23 January 2015, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar pop-up is located in a pretty awesome spot for CBD bar: in a building lobby level space that used to be a pretty average sushi joint, across the road from Spice Temple on Bligh Street.

    Asahi Super Dry and ice feature
    Having already done stints in Asahi's homeland Japan and Korea, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar pours the standard Super Dry as well as the newer Super Dry Black at subzero temperatures; specifically, minus 2.2 degrees Celcius.

    Asahi Super Dry served at -2.2 degrees Celcius
    As alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, the subzero serving temperature is about as chilled a beer you can probably get; though I'm a little curious to know at what subzero point the beer pulled would be like a slushie.

    Pulling an Asahi Super Dry
    The intriguing, space-age style beer taps at the pop-up bar pull both ways - first, for the body of the beer and then, to top the glass with a creamy head for both the Asahi Super Dry and Super Dry Black.

    Pulling an Asahi Dry Black

    Asahi Super Dry Black
    As it the first time I'd had the opportunity to try the Asahi Super Dry Black, I had to give it a whirl even on a particularly warm launch evening.

    Surprisingly nothing like Guinness and not similar to any other dark beer I've tried, the Asahi Super Dry Black was unexpectedly light and dry for a dark beer, and very, very easy to drink.

    Mac and cheese balls
    The Super Dry Black even matched well to the wide range of substantial beer snacks doing the rounds, catered by the team behind Bondi's The Corner House.

    The mac and cheese balls were a highlight of fried, cheesy pasta goodness, though I would have liked more seasoning.

    Pulled pork burgers
    There was plenty enough seasoning, and spice, in the mini pulled pork burgers which were sloppily messy and probably even tastier for it running down my arm.

    Other morsels on offer include on-theme edamame soy beans and gyoza steamed dumplings to highly beer appropriate popcorn shrimp, sauce-smothered hot wings, parmesan fries and even cheese burgers and fish tacos.

    Asahi beer taps
    With indoor seating and an outdoor terrace space overlooking the Hunter and Bligh Street intersection, the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar is set to be a summer favourite for the CBD's beer lovers - particularly if you like your Asahi super dry and extra cold.

    Asahi 2-litre can

    Asahi coasters
    The Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar opens from 4pm-10pm Monday – Wednesday and 12pm- 10pm Thursday – Saturday until 23 January 2015.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the Asahi Extra Cold Bar as a guest, with thanks to Haystac Communications.

    Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Jan

    Glebe Point Road is one of Sydney's eat streets where you can pretty much find whatever you happen to fancy. As a local, I love how it's a blend of long-time favourites and new, up-and-coming trends. A relatively new addition is Brixton Lounge and Dining with its a modern Australian and British approach to neighbourhood dining.

    Brixton Iced Tea from Brixton Lounge & Dining, Glebe Point Road, Glebe
    Having walked past a few times when they opened, I was pretty curious to try out the new kid on the block, which does breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. I recently attended a special spring menu degustation by invitation, in association with Burge and Rathbone Fine Wines.

    After a hard day I was pretty happy to be ushered to a comfy armchair and served a Brixton Iced Tea - possibly the most delicious cocktail on Glebe Point Road. I loved the mix of organic basil & rose tea, peach schnapps, vodka & strawberry.

    Salt and pepper eggplant
    We had a couple of nibbles while waiting for our dining companions to arrive. I like fried things so was naturally biased towards liking the salt and pepper eggplant. 

    I think these could be the new french fries. I liked the crunchy outside that was just salty enough before giving in to the lovely, sweet softness of eggplant. 

    Gruyere balls with homemade tomato relish
    The gruyere balls were a revelation for me: crunchy on the outside and oozy with melted cheese on the inside. 

    The homemade tomato relish was delicious and my dining companions liked it with the cheese balls, but for me, nothing could distract me from oozy, cheesy yumminess. I even tried to surreptitiously eat more than my share. 

    House-cured salmon, crème fraîche with pickled fennel
    The first entree taster of the 6-course degustation was a fresh-tasting and tender sliver of house-cured salmon. The dab of crème fraîche and pickled fennel added just a touch of tartness to contrast the sweetness of the fish. 

    The bread was a tasty rye (I think from Sonoma just down the street) but I refrained from eating too much as I knew there was more to come. I enjoyed the accompanying glass of crisp Yarrabank Sparkling Cuvee Brut from the Yarra Valley. 

    Warm bacon, asparagus & haloumi salad
    The next dish was a warm salad of bacon, asparagus and perfectly grilled chunks of haloumi, served with a honey mustard dressing.

    This fabulous salad could just be a whole main course and would be great for a summer's day when you want something lighter but substantial. 

    Signature salmon spring roll
    Brixton's signature salmon spring roll was pleasingly crisp on the outside with the salmon cooked just right within. The homemade chilli jam was gently spicy and added pizazz to the spring roll and presentation. 

    A light and refreshing Happs chenin blanc from the Margaret River was paired with the salad and salmon.

    Tomato & ricotta tortellini with black olive butter

    The next two rounds showcased the perennial Italian favourites of pasta and risotto and how these dishes should be cooked just so.

    I could smell the butter sauce the moment the tomato and ricotta tortellini landed on the table. The light pasta filling was perfectly complemented by the salty black olive and rich melted butter. 

    Pea & goat cheese risotto

    The pea and goat cheese risotto was cooked exactly how I like it: pleasingly al dente with a tiny hint of crunch. There was also mint stirred through the rice that added freshness to the dish, which I could have eaten a main size of without problem. 

    A delicious marsanne/viognier/roussanne blend from Yering Station was matched with the pasta and risotto.

    Pan roasted NSW lamb, pistachio crust with cauliflower puree

    As a seasonal menu, the perennial spring favourite of lamb was bound to appear. The pistachio-crusted lamb was quickly seared for a crunchy exterior before being pan-roasted to a perfect medium-rare. The lamb was tender and juicy; gently complemented by the cauliflower puree and crunchy carrots. 

    Another Yering Station wine was well chosen to pair with the lamb. I like the full-bodied fruity flavours of the 'Village' shiraz viognier. 

    Mixed berry ravioli with Galliano & passionfruit anglaise

    I am not much of cake-type desserts person so was pretty pleased to see a yellow and maroon plate of mixed berry ravioli with a passionfruit anglais sauce. 

    It is an interesting approach to incorporating seasonal berries; however, I felt that the passionfruit flavours overwhelmed the Galliano liqueur in the sauce. 

    My favourite seat in the house for people watching
    In a street of many food choices, Brixton Lounge and Dining fills a niche created by the ever increasing cost of real estate and cramped eateries on Glebe Point Road.

    It is a rare luxury these days to have such a large, un-crowded space for a slow unwind after a long day or just a casual weekend catch-up with friends - and you could have a taste of it too.

    Giveaway - two-course dinner for two at Brixton Lounge and Dining

    Food, Booze & Shoes is giving away a two-course dinner for two at Brixton Lounge and Dining (not inclusive of drinks).

    All you need to do is like and follow our Facebook page AND like the Brixton Lounge and Dining giveaway post.

    A winner will be selected at random on Thursday, 13 November at 12.00pm noon and contacted via Facebook.

    The winner must book in advance with Brixton Lounge and Dining to take up their prize. Winners' details (name and email) will be provided to Brixton Lounge & Dining for contact purposes. Food, Booze & Shoes takes no responsibility for the redemption of the prize. 

    Brixton Lounge & Dining on Urbanspoon

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    In a growing sign that restaurant empires are the only way to go chef/restaurateur Mark Best, of globally-acclaimed Marque and the more casual Pei Modern in Melbourne, has brought the latter restaurant brand to Sydney, replacing the still relatively new The Woods just beyond the Four Seasons Hotel's front lobby.

    Woodfired sourdough bread and butter from Pei Modern at Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney
    I'm not one for politics of any sort, so I'll say that the restaurant's current look and feel is a bit slicker than previously, and leave it at that. The huge wood-fired oven remains in the kitchen and so wood-roasted dishes also continue to dominate the menu, starting with wood-fired sourdough bread.

    Pei Modern dining room
    While Pei Modern Sydney will be headed up by Pei Modern Melbourne chef Matt Germanchis, it was nice to see chef Best at the kitchen's pass during the restaurant's first week, in which I'm told it was very well received by Sydney locals.

    Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol
    In typical fine dining and/or top-end hotel style, it's always a great option and educational process to leave the wine to the experts.

    For a sizeable group sharing a large proportion of the entire menu, the sommelier did well in pouring the Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol white wine, which matched exceptionally to a broad range of starters.

    Clyde River rock oysters
    Pei Modern's menu is split into a number of cutesy titled sections (one includes the term "go Cray-Cray" - seriously), but basically snacks and appetisers, salads and vegetable sides, larger dishes, meaty mains, and desserts and cheeses.

    There's no better place to start than with "Some raw"; namely the simply stunning specimens of Sydney rock oysters from the Clyde River on the NSW south coast. These Sydney rocks were just outstanding; so fresh, creamy and packed with flavour.

    I couldn't comment on the vinaigrette as a few drops of lemon were all I needed for oyster heaven before I started to worry that there was no way the rest of the meal could reach the heights of the oysters.

    Culatello 'King of prosciutto'
    Seeing my favourite salumi land on the table was reassuring though, with the culatello cured pork leg (literally translating from Italian as "little bum") served with pickled pear slices.

    The culatello was thoroughly satisfying in both texture and flavour. Cut thin, but not too thin, with a slight edge of fat and some marbling, it had a real creamy, melt-in-the mouth characteristic and none of the stringiness you sometimes get with normal prosciutto. Personally, I didn't need the pickled pear although it made for a unique partner to the dish.

    Anchovy, parmesan shortbread
    We continued on raw snacks with a fairly intense combination of a salty Ortiz anchovy fillet on a crumbly parmesan shortbread with a dab of parmesan custard.

    There was something quite striking about the simple presentation of the anchovies as a snack, and then palate-wise too with the major hit of salt from the anchovy which I found a little overwhelming with its cheesy accompaniments.

    Beef tartare, local sea urchin, horseradish on toast
    The last snack was the beef tartare with baby capers on toast, finished with crème fraîche, a casual draping of local sea urchin and grated horseradish.

    I adored the velvety texture of the well seasoned raw beef which was piled generously onto the toast thin, though I'm still yet to appreciate sea urchin and its rather alkaline-y flavour.

    Young dandelion, blood orange, bronze fennel
    We moved on to the 'clean & green' section of the menu with an interesting salad of dandelion greens, which was definitely a first for me.

    Crisp and slightly bitter, the dandelion leaves were paired with sweet blood orange slices and segments and topped with bronze fennel fronds in a very modern, very Australian and very sustainable dish.

    La Luna goat cheese custard with asparagus
    There was much more interest in the roasted asparagus dish which featured a blob of the most sensation custard made from La Luna goat's cheese. With the gorgeously charred asparagus spears dipped into or drizzled with the cheese custard, this may well be the one of the most impressive vegetarian dishes of the year.

    Burrata, Romanesco, egg yolk jam
    That full honour would probably go to the dish of burrata, sourced locally from Italian cheese masters Paesanella.

    The stretchy, cream-filled cheese was an utter delight and anything but subtle, made only prettier and more desirable with its playmates of green Romanesco broccoli and a vibrant egg yolk with jam-like consistency.

    Salt cod croquettes
    The TV snack-worthy crumbed, potato gem-like croquettes were more traditional than I had expected and not at all oily, with hot, fluffy salt cod and potato innards and a golden outer, served with aioli.

    Tiger prawns and slow cooked pineapple
    Still on the snacky, appetiser menu, the large butterflied and roasted tiger prawns came dressed with a vadouvan spice blend which was enhanced by the small dice of sweetly and slow-cooked pineapple in an unexpected pairing.

    Ricotta dumplings, kale, hazelnuts
    The 'bigger bites' menu is designed to be a more substantial main or shared amongst the table, and the ricotta dumplings were pure comfort.

    The large, soft pillows of gnocchi were paired prettily with kale leaves and a browned butter sauce, and contrasted nicely with the delicious crumble of roasted hazelnuts.

    Whole Holmbrae chicken with yams
    The whole Holmbrae chicken is a feat of kitchen technique. Not satisfied with a simple roast, the chickens are brined, steamed and smoked before being roasted in the wood-fired oven for beautifully crisp, golden skin and ridiculously tender flesh; pink bones to boot.

    Salmon tail cooked on the bone, samphire and rouille
    The most gorgeous main/shared dish had to be the salmon tail which is roasted on the bone in it's full skin and tail-on glory. The fatty flesh was cooked to flaking perfection and was simply divine with the sea-salty samphire, roasted tomatoes and traditional rouille sauce.

    Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked in chamomile
    Sydney's favourite cut of lamb also makes an appearance on the menu, with the slow cooked Milly Hill lamb shoulder cooked and dressed in chamomile. The lamb shoulder wasn't quite falling off the bone, but the tender slices of self-sliced meat with the pan juices was as homely a dinner as could be.

    Throw in some hand-cut sebago potato triple-cooked chips and it's a party for at least four diners to share.

    Tamarillo, vanilla ice cream
    We somehow made room for dessert, at least shared among the table. I loved the look of the roasted tamarillo dessert which featured the uncommon fruit with house-made vanilla ice cream. The softly roasted, tart fruit made for a lovely contrast with the creamy ice cream.

    Spiced doughnuts, blood orange, whey butterscotch
    I'm not one for doughnuts but I couldn't resist the cute, squat spiced ones filled with blood orange curd - just about as sophisticated a doughnut can get, served with a whey butterscotch sauce.

    Meringue, white chocolate ganache, blueberries
    The eye-opener was the brown sugar meringue served with a spectacular, thick, gooey ganache of caramelised white chocolate. All the sweetness was cut by fresh blueberries and lime zest, and even as a non-sweettooth, I was enamoured.

    Duck egg sauternes custard and crostoli
    We headed into classic Mark Best territory with the sauternes custard, served in a cropped egg shell with crostoli designed for dipping into the egg, soldiers style.

    The duck egg custard was pure faultless luxury with the toffee-sweet sauternes, and satisfying enough on its own without the fried pasta strips.

    Chocolate tart, eucalyptus cream
    And it just kept going with Pei Modern's take on a chocolate tart, not so much deconstructed but reimagined. The biscuit base topped with chocolate ganache and tempered chocolate shards was a beautiful composition alongside a pool of rich salted caramel and eucalyptus-scented thick cream.

    Cheese selection with quince paste and crackers
    There was strong interest in the cheese selection of Holy Goat Brigid’s Well goat's cheese, the Pyengana 20-month clothbound cheddar and my absolute favourite of the lot, the Benison Blue from Gippsland, Victoria.

    With quince paste, jam and some fabulous crackers, this was a classic cheese board promoting the very best of Australian cheeses.

    Feeling like we'd eaten half the restaurant's menu, the clear highlights were the starting Sydney rock oysters, the burrata, the roasted salmon tail and the cheese selection. But with coverage over both standard hotel fare (read: steak and chips) and line-pushing modern Australian cuisine, Pei Modern is a key pillar of Best's restaurant empire that looks to dominate both casual and hotel dining in Sydney.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Pei Modern as a guest.

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    Posted by Kath

    Head down any one of Balmain's winding backstreets and you're sure to stumble across one of the many local pubs that the area is famous for.

    One of these historic pubs is the Welcome Hotel which was founded in 1878 and still retains a local charm, with the benefits of a recent make-over and the brilliant introduction of head chef Daniel Mulligan (previously head chef at Pilu at Freshwater).

    Entrance to the Welcome Hotel, Evans Street, Balmain
    The pub recently welcomed Ajó restaurant into a cosy and sophisticated dining space, with sheltered outdoor seating to be enjoyed in the upcoming summer months.

    Chef Mulligan brings a Sardinian inspired menu to the backstreets of Balmain. At a glance the new menu of regional Italian fare looked to be an exciting journey into one of my favourite cuisines. Accompanying the new menu is an impressive list of Italian and NSW wines with an equally impressive array of local craft beers for the beer lovers.

    Freshly shucked Pambula oysters with shallot jelly
    Being a newly converted oyster lover, after years of being put off by some lacklustre offerings, the freshly shucked Pambula Lake rock oysters were a fantastic indicator of what was in store for the night.

    Adorned with delicate cubes of slightly zingy white balsamic vinegar and shallot jelly, they were fresh and creamy, making them a delight to eat with or without the jelly.

    Marinated W.A sardines with charred foccacia
    The majority of the dishes served up from the Ajó menu this night were largely seafood based, which I definitely had no complaints about.

    To keep on theme our next dish was a row of thinly sliced and marinated sardines hiding under an eye catching bed of refreshing herbs and flowers. The oily goodness of the sardines and the refreshing salad of fennel, parsley, capers and flora were accompanied by some charred focaccia slices which provided the perfect vessel for consumption.

    Queensland spanner crab, fregola, almond and marjoram
    Highlighting the Sardinian influence on the menu was a moreish dish of fregola - a type of Sardinian pasta like large couscous grains.

    This dish basically had the whole table silently enjoying the slightly chewy consistency of the pasta which was infused with the creamy flavour of sweet spanner crab and marjoram, with an added nuttiness from a smattering of almond flakes. I could have had two of these if only it wouldn't have called for a double dose of antihistamine.

    Huon salmon, slow cooked peppers and vongole
    Next up was a perfectly cooked piece of salmon on a bed of deliciously sweet peppers and onions, speckled with a few little clams. The skin on the salmon had a lovely crispness to it while the flesh flaked away and melted in the mouth.

    The salmon combined with the sweet peppers made this one of my favourite dishes of the night, with the clams being a potentially unnecessary addition to the already wonderful flavours.

    Mutton, baby artichokes, broad bean and olive caramel
    The last main of the night was a surprising dish of mutton. I found the salty and sweet flavour of the olive caramel to be a welcome combination to the juicy pieces of medium rare mutton, pureed broad bean and slight tang of the artichokes.

    Eton mess, strawberries and pistachio
    To cap off the night we were presented with a not-so-Italian but spectacular rendition of an Eton mess. It was a cloud of delicious whipped cream studded with tiny pops of sugary meringue which had just the right amount of crunch and chew. Sliced strawberries added a refreshing tartness to cut through the delicious mouthfuls of sugar and cream, while the pistachios added another level of crunch and flavour that went beautifully when all combined.

    Throughout the night we were plied with many a fine wine from various regions of NSW and Italy that were matched exceptionally well to each course by passionate owner Liam O'Keefe. This passion obviously extends across the whole offering at the Welcome Hotel, particularly within the casual elegance of the Ajó dining room - making it an enviable place to call your local.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ajó as a guest, with thanks to The Cru Media.

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    Finding restaurants for large group dining in Sydney is hard enough but add the limitations of budget and Pyrmont – and it's a whole next level.

    Luckily for me, taking a punt on the literally hidden gem of Signorelli Gastronomia in the Accenture/Google building on Pyrmont Wharf paid off way more than the nearby casino could ever, despite the latter's ability to draw in the masses, including the fine dining and post lock-out crowds.

    Shelves at Signorelli Gastronomia, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
    Owned and run by the group behind functions venue Doltone House, the entrance of Signorelli Gastronomia is like a hidden, back door, mouse hole into the corporate building, with a dark hallway revealing a cornucopia of Italian gastronomic delights: a warmly-lit open kitchen, shelves filled with pasta and Italian groceries, and dining tables in and around the wine cellar, cool room and other food-centric spaces.

    Crispy skin snapper, caponata, sultanas and parsley puree
    For large groups there are two set menus available, each with 2- or 3-course options – we went for the Long Table menu with its shared main and dessert platters, which make group dining a breeze, particularly when there are no or limited dietary requirements.

    We started on great, big platters of snapper fillets, elevated from the table to a mouthwatering eye-level. Paired with a soft, sweet caponata medley of vegetables and a sprightly sauce of parsley puree, the crisp skin and perfectly cooked flesh of the snapper were utterly delightful and as satisfying as fish dishes come.

    Braised beef cheek, polenta ‘Mugna’ button mushrooms and lardons
    Alongside the snapper were hearty serves of tenderly braised beef cheek atop polenta with a rich mushroom sauce. As lovely and comforting as it was, it didn't feel like a spring-appropriate dish especially on a humidly warm night out.

    Roasted potatoes
    Sides included gorgeously crisp roasted chat potatoes with plenty of salt and rosemary, and a rocket and pear salad with walnut, parmesan cheese shavings and balsamic vinegar reduction as a dressing.

    Rocket, pear, walnut and balsamic reduction

    Butternut squash risott, leeks foam and confit lemons
    Last to come out, pretty much after the other two mains were done which was unfortunate for the vegetarian, was the creamy pumpkin risotto that was beautifully rich in hue, texture and flavour. Sweet, creamy and with a bit of bite, it was about one of the most perfect risottos I've had around town.

    Amaretto and Montenegro semifreddo
    The Long Table menu's dessert offerings cater for both sweet and savoury preferences with a house Italian cheese selection and a platter of semifreddo wedges. The latter was like a particularly rich ice cream, with a subtle nuttiness that accentuated the velvety but saccharine dessert.

    The cheese plate was initially served without crackers, which was interesting, though I couldn't quite reach the full selection of cheeses across the long table; probably for the better since I went pretty hard on mains earlier anyway.

    Signorelli Gastronomia is a real deal, genuine Italian restaurant in an area that sometimes lacks authenticity and warmth. Fantastic for groups (and apologies to the couple near us who would have had to endure endless girly photos) and family dining, it strives for simplicity done well, and genuinely achieves its goal.

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    Bringing a new perspective to the barbequed meats trend that's so in right now, Kong BBQ in Melbourne introduces us to Asian barbeque and smoking techniques under a cutesy Japanese-styled panda logo.

    Inside Kong BBQ, Church Street, Cremorne, Melbourne
    By the same group behind the always popular Chin Chin in the Melbourne CBD, Kong BBQ in the inner Melbourne city suburb of Cremorne was impressively busy for our late lunch drop in, with plenty of couples seated around the open kitchen counter seats and groups contentedly hoeing into meat platters.

    Kong house kin chi
    We started on the house pickles and kim chi fermented cabbage; the latter full of crunch, squish and chilli heat. I adored the pickled carrot strips alongside interestingly soft walnuts, while daikon white radish rounded out the pickled offerings.

    Wood grilled edamame with chilli and salt
    Giving the usual edamame soy beans a new wood grilled look and taste, as well as keeping on the barbeque theme, the heavily salted edamame continued to ramp up the meal's spice levels.

    Hot wings with gochujang and chipotle
    Chicken wings were irresistible given a whole menu section dedicated to the boney cut and we opted for the saucy gochujang Korean chilli paste and chipotle variety.

    Deep red and garnished with extra fresh chilli slices, the wings weren't overly spicy and featured some very juicy midwings.

    Nasu miso - miso eggplant
    I couldn't pass on one of my favourite vegetables, served with a twist on the traditional Japanese nasu dengaku style, in a lettuce leaf in Chinese san choi bao style.

    The hunk of soft eggplant, beautifully caramelised and packed with miso flavour, was adorned with sesame seeds, fried strips of something and coriander in a clever fusion offering.

    BBQ baby back pork ribs with Kong 'crazy horse' chilli
    Our barbequed pork ribs selection seemed to feature the same red chilli sauce as the chicken wings, with the same chilli, spice and all things apparently "crazy horse".

    The tender ribs on the bone made for an ideal lip-smacking, finger-licking main dish to share - carbs on the side would be ideal.

    Bossam BBQ tray
    Continuing on the sharing trend, the bo ssam BBQ tray was definitely the way to go for most groups and even some couples.

    Served in the same style as American-style barbeque platters with a selection of meats on a metal tray, the platter arrived with kim chi, pickles, pork crackling and butter lettuce and perilla leaves for wrapping and eating in traditional Korean ssam style.

    Bossam BBQ tray
    There was smoky chicken breast, pulled pork, pork belly and my favourite, beef brisket - each with a slightly different cooking method, sauce and personality as part of the platter.

    Between four of us and all the other dishes, we completely cleaned up the tray of meats.

    Spicy cabbage salad with pickled veg and Kewpie mayo
    We supplemented our meat-fest with a very well-executed cabbage slaw, with spice, pickle and Kewpie mayonnaise making it one of the more impressive slaw salads of recent times.

    Bar and open kitchen
    While it's so on-trend that it almost hurts, Kong BBQ is doing its Asian barbeque well with a sense of fun and a modern, casual approach. Meat and the charcoal grill are king at Kong BBQ, and it's so hot right now.

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    Le Dîner en Blanc Sydney, 29 November 2014, McKay Field, Centennial Park
    When it's behaving, summer in Sydney is hard to beat - blue skies, sun shining and people out and about, enjoying life and cheeky drinks in the sun.

    We managed to celebrate both the end of spring and start of summer at Dîner en Blanc over the weekend - the third annual Sydney event of the Parisian guerilla picnic phenomenon that's popped up all over the world.

    A sea of white in McKay Field
    I'd been lucky enough to attend the inaugural Sydney event two years ago, which remains high on my list of all-time most fabulous event experiences. For the third year in a row, the event's been blessed with an evening of clear skies, despite our increasingly volatile Sydney weather.

    Dîner en Blanc has grown substantially since landing in Australia, with the wait list for an invite ballooning after the first year. This year's Sydney outing, at the secret location of McKay Field in Centennial Park, hosted 4,000 picnickers all dressed in elegant white as is the DeB tradition.

    Guests arriving to the secret location
    Boarding a bus near Town Hall with other excited guests of this year's wine sponsor Seppelt Wines, guesses of the secret location came thick and fast as we headed east, out of the city.

    We entered the Randwick gates of Centennial Park and saw glimpses of our eventual destination, which was reached on foot through a picturesque tunnel of paper bark trees.

    I didn't know McKay Field, our picnic location, even existed till this weekend. Somewhat closed off on three sides by rows of trees, it forms a rather secluded, sheltered meadow of Centennial Park not far from the Duck Pond. For DeB, the space was encircled by five huge, white illuminated rabbit sculptures which also made an appearance at this year's Vivid Sydney festival.

    Seppelt Wines table, dressed in white and ready to go
    It was here, in our own little piece of Centennial Park, that we and thousands of others would set up for a pop-up picnic of epically sophisticated proportions.

    The Seppelt Wines table was set with a white tablecloth, mismatched chairs and fresh white flowers in jars - and of course, plenty of chilled Jaluka Chardonnay and Great Western Riesling (and Piper Heidsieck bubbles to start).

    Other diners setting up their tables
    It was great fun to watch all the other tables go about setting up their own tables for the night. With foldable chairs and tables in tow, matching their all-white outifts, diners unfolded and decorated tables with great flair and enthusiasm.

    I spotted lanterns and baby's breath flowers galore, as well as helium balloons and even live white goldfish - and of course the DeB-essential white cloth napkins at every spot.

    Seppelt Wines table
    As we sat down to our tables, it was white on white on white - just bliss with the sun shining and champagne in hand. Suffice to say, plenty of photos were taken: of people, outfits, table settings and the gorgeous surroundings.

    White on white on white
    Catered picnic options are available for those who don't want to carry food along with their furniture, with boxed hampers by Kitchen Catering available for pre-order and collection on site. We scored the Premium Hamper which was a huge box of delicious goodies for a very hungry two (or even three).

    (clockwise) Rosemary and chilli focaccia, pickled vegetable and dips&
    We started with triangles of Sonoma's rosemary and chilli focaccia, served with Pepe Saya butter and an array of dips: pureed beetroot with yogurt; a super-smokey eggplant dip with tahini and a deliciously spicy hommous with pine nuts and parsley.

    Tartly pickled cucumber, carrot and crunchy cauliflower completed the picnic-friendly grazing quartet of plastic tubs.

    Potted shrimp and antipasti
    I was a bit excited to open up the cardboard tubs to find, essentially, a prawn cocktail salad. With loads of small, creamily dressed prawns set on top of shredded iceberg lettuce, it was a classic if not retro combination that will always taste amazingly of summer for the fresh crustaceans.

    The first of the cardboard boxes held more picnic favourites of antipasti and grissini bread sticks. Salami and a spice-edged pastrami joined marinated artichoke and zucchini, juicy flavour-bombs of semi dried tomato pieces and olives.

    Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay
    Seppelt's white wine to start and match was the highly drinkable Jaluka Chardonnay which matched the scene and the sun-setting vibe to a tee.

    Pasta salad with prosciutto and char grilled lamb on burghul salad
    While I could have happily stopped at dips, antipasti and wine, two filled-to-the-brim boxes of cold salad mains awaited.

    The first was a farfalle pasta salad with parsley and green beans, topped with three folded ribbons of prosciutto that were divine to devour on their own.

    The other was a vibrant burghul salad with kale, pumpkin and red capsicum that was particularly moreish, topped with cold slices of tender, char grilled lamb backstrap.

    Seppelt St Peters Grampians Shiraz
    Following tastings of the refreshingly dry, clean Great Western Riesling, we had a taste of Seppelt's flagship St Peters shiraz, which was as smooth as it gets with both boldness and fruit very, very restrained - quite the opposite of a big, fruity shiraz.

    Cheeses and candied walnuts
    Having eaten too much of the generously sized picnic - not even counting the desserts of fig pannacotta or the chocolate mousse that was initially mistaken for pate - I actually struggled to polish off the cheese.

    A very good brie and corner of Red Leicester were served with lavosh crackers and a pile of fabulous candied walnuts.

    Jake Meadows performing on the harp
    There was music throughout the evening but when the live-looped harp performance from singer and musician Jake Meadows came on, the wide-ranging audience was captivated. He made way for more partying and dance tunes as the night went on.

    Dîner en Blanc Sydney

    Waving napkins, signalling the beginning of DeB festivities
    As is DeB tradition, during the night the official 'waving of the napkins' is meant to signify the beginning of the night's festivities.

    Given the satellite-style layout of the tables outwards from the centre stage and DJ in McKay Field, we could see the Mexican wave-like, ripple effect of the napkin-waving as they got picked up around the spread out tables and flung around in the air.

    Sparklers come out, signalling the time to mingle and dance
    Photo by Shayben Moussa, courtesy of Burson-Marsteller
    Later in the night post dinner, sparklers are handed out to guests to light in unison and wave about, signalling the time to get social and boogie on the dancefloor - and try to make as many new friends as possible in the process.

    Even later, when the last dance has been danced, DeB guests pack up their tables, chairs and rubbish and leave the space without a trace of the evening's proceedings.

    An organisational and logistical feat, the white night in Centennial Park that was Dîner en Blanc capped off another successful year and event for the lucky 4,000 guests - and it's promised to be bigger and better yet again in 2015. See more photos on my Facebook page.

    Food, Booze & Shoes attended Dîner en Blanc Sydney as a guest of Seppelt Wines.

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    Posted by Kath

    Nestled in the back streets of Darlinghurst, quirky, old world charm is the backdrop for what is probably one of the most laid-back and unique high tea experiences around town: the vodka high tea at Food Society.

    Table setting at Food Society, Riley Street, Darlinghurst
    Food Society is known for its unique eastern European offerings as well as being the original masters behind the Cuban themed food offerings at The Lobo Plantation. Head chef Fernando Sanchez ventures into the land of the high tea set on Saturdays, with an almost complete twist on tradition and plenty of flair.

    An exciting arrangement of savoury and sweet canapés are matched with premium single origin teas, bubbles and/or vodka-based iced tea cocktails.

    Watermelon Caipiroska (front) and  Spiced Apple Pie (back)
    To kick off the high tea with a cheeky, boozy twist, we ordered a round of Food Society's signature vodka and tea infused cocktails. A perfect match for a summer's day was the Watermelon Caipiroska with a watermelon black tea, fresh lime and house infused melon vodka, finished with novel and refreshing watermelon ice cubes.

    The Spiced Apple Pie cocktail was fuelled by house infused spiced apple juice, cinnamon, star anise, lemon zest and dangerously delicious Zubrowka bison grass vodka, served with crushed ice and a green apple garnish.

    Goat's cheese tartlet
    The allure of tiny pastries on pretty vintage tiered stands never fails to elicit an inner squeal of excitement from me, and the offerings at Food Society were definitely squeal-worthy.

    The top layer of savoury canapés featured a delicate miniature tart of goat's cheese, pine nuts and mint; baked within a buttery shortcrust pastry shell and topped with a fine dice of caramelised fennel and parsnip, which added sweet notes to the creamy quiche.

    Duck vol au vent
    Next on the menu was an oh-so-retro vol au vent which, on first bite, overwhelmed the senses with a hit of white truffle. Divine with the flaky pastry and chanterelle mushrooms, the truffle flavour matched well with the soft confit duck, finished with a light chestnut cream - so much deliciousness in one little puff pastry case.

    Salmon pastrami on truffle salt toast (left) and mini beef pie (right)
    The second tier kept the flavours coming with my favourite offering of the day: smoky green tea smoked salmon pastrami atop a small crisp bread vessel of truffle salt toast, paired with pure chamomile flower jelly, celeriac cream and shiso leaves - unique and delicious at any angle.

    To finish was a relatively substantial mini beef pie with a house made relish that was just as moreish as the other tiny offerings of the day.

    Classic cucumber sandwich (top) and "The best chicken sandwich" 
    On another tiered stand high tea tradition ruled with a selection of crustless finger sandwiches, beginning with a traditional cucumber sandwich of shaved cucumber ribbons, chervil cream cheese and pink peppercorns, topped with an added, luxurious surprise of salmon caviar.

    Providing a more filling end to the savoury course was "The best chicken sandwich". Sandwiched between buttery, charred brioche slices were flakes of smoky Lilydale chicken with its classic herb partner - tarragon - as well as nasturtium flowers, all held together with a creamy duck egg hollandaise. Best chicken sandwich? Pretty close.

    Tea set
    At this point a spot of tea was more than welcome to provide some respite between courses. An impressive array of teas is available for selection, including a wide range of single origin tea leaves.

    Berry macaron, sweet tea trifle, alfajores and dark chocolate truffle
    The selection of sweets was brought forth on a beautifully arranged share platter, without a scone in sight. I started with a berry macaron that was lovely and light, bursting with berry flavour, while the dark chocolate truffle was all you'd want it to be with oozy chocolate inside and hints of lavender and earl grey tea.

    The sweet tea trifle presented in a small glass jar was a nice transition from the darker, richer treats - and an exotic one at that. With a light custard of pomegranate and acai berry, a vodka-cured rhubarb jelly, vanilla sponge and sweet pickled Australian hibiscus flowers, the very modern trifle was finished with a salad of pomegranate and acai pearls.

    Last of the small bites was the dulce de leche filled shortbread alfajores which had me wishing I could buy these by the box. Light buttery shortbread gave way to creamy dulce de leche that wasn't too sweet but bordering on the perfect, dreamy side of burnt caramel.

    Czech style honey cake
    What looked like the piece de resistance, lovingly surrounded by pretty white flowers, was the Czech style spiced honey cake. Unexpectedly soft, this delightful cake was crumbly and moist, laced with salted caramel cream and topped with some of the best honeycomb I've had, house made too, and finished with slices of sweet caramelised pears.

    For a thoroughly delicious high tea experience that's not the same-old, Food Society provides a beautiful location and experience with a proper twist and all the quirk and flair you'd expect from an eastern European establishment - and with vodka, of course.

    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Food Society as a guest, with thanks to The Buzz Group.

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    While I've crossed the Harbour Bridge more times than I can count this year (usually I can count the annual trips on my fingers and toes), the Spit Bridge is still one I only see on rare occasions. And not even on my recent visit to Manly's Papi Chulo, which can be accessed idyllically via ferry from Circular Quay (though mind the Sunday summer queues if you’ve got a reservation).

    One of the more recent additions to the Merivale portfolio, I finally got the chance and fellow willing ferry travellers together to visit the waterside venue (where way back, I’d once attended a Chinese banquet wedding reception!).

    Oysters at Papi Chulo, Manly Wharf, Manly
    The American-style barbeque offerings are well known at Papi Chulo, and the menu surprised with various Asian and South American influences rolled in too.

    Looking picture perfect on ice in a metal dish, we started with well-sized Pacifics which were lovely and briney on their own with lemon, but improved significantly with the tart but well-balanced mignonette dressing featuring a fine dice of green apple.

    Cravado cocktail (left) and Bloody Maria (right)
    Drinks arrived during the oyster appreciation session, with the ice blended Cravado cocktail ideal for the humid day. Featuring loads of fresh mint, blitzed with ice, vodka, coconut water, lychees and lime, it reminded me of another venue's non-alcoholic slushie but ended up more watery than a proper, boozy cocktail.

    The Bloody Maria was a winner though with its almost comical garnish of a large, fresh peeled prawn. The house tomato and spice mix was standout and definitely on the upper end of the spice heat scale; stirred well with tequila and mezcal and served in a huge glass with lots of ice.

    Snowcrab, green mango, watermelon, herbs, peanuts, chilli lime dressing
    As we were going for the signature Papi Chulo BBQ platter to share among three, we went easy on the starters and opted for the light snow crab salad, which turned out to be a delightful Thai or Vietnamese style shredded green mango salad.

    With lashings of fresh mint and coriander, roasted peanuts and a bang-on chilli lime dressing, the snow crab flesh shone amid the subtly sweet green mango and chunks of bright red watermelon in the summer-perfect salad.

    Papi Chulo BBQ platter
    Our small round table could barely handle the main game (which is designed for 2-4 diners) amid the share plates and drinks. A large, metal dish held the varied BBQ meat platter of all the good stuff, starting with my favourite of Ranger’s Valley wagyu beef brisket, smoky and tenderly marbled with fat.

    The also fatty Suffolk lamb ribs were super smoky, and we could have polished off well over the 150 gram serving. There were serious rows of fat in the free-range pork belly slices although the maple black pepper was a bit lost on me.

    Last was the Kurobuta pulled pork shoulder and as much as I’m a bit over pulled pork, this particularly smoky rendition made for a superb sandwich in the soft bread roll with coleslaw.

    The Vietnamese coleslaw comes as part of the BBQ platter – a crunchy red cabbage slaw that was a pleasingly mayo-free zone – and we added a side of curly fries: proper loops and tubes of curled, crunchy potato fries, best dipped into the BBQ sauce that accompanied the platter.

    Berry sundae
    We requested a birthday dessert to share, not really expecting the rough-and-tumble looking bowl of a berry sundae. With a vanilla-y ice cream showered with a mix of fresh raspberries and blackberries; freeze-dried raspberries and blueberries; minute crisp meringue drops and crumbled shortbread biscuits, it was actually quite a sophisticated take on an ice cream sundae.

    Over the remnants of our Pachamama Riesling, we noticed the range of seating options and the more linger-friendly bar counter or booths. The middle aisle tables are fine for waiting out the next ferry though, which is how the rest of our lunch played out.

    Thoroughly stuffed with BBQ and all the wonderful additions, it was a short roll to the ferry wharf and its Sunday queues. With soft waves and salty air in our hair, it was a day trip ferry well spent over in Manly.

    Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon

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    Posted by Kath

    Perrier-Jouet bottles at Champagne Room, upstairs at The Winery, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    It's that time of the year when champagne flows and one too many is just too hard to resist. For bubbles at brunch too, the new Champagne Room upstairs at The Winery in Surry Hills offers its new brunch menu with champagne on arrival.

    Champagne Room bar
    The Winery is surely a staple on the Crown Street strip by now, but that hasn't stopped them from re-inventing their upstairs real estate into the perfectly decadent retreat that is the Champagne Room.

    Perrier-Jouet Champagne flutes on arrival
    A-la-carte options are available but let the work be done for you with the new weekend brunch offerings and $75 set menu which includes that all important flute of Perrier-Jouet Champagne on arrival.

    Champagne Room service button
    The well-stocked bar upstairs is beautifully decorated with an impressive number of chandeliers, while blue velvet booths and a service bell for when the bubbles are running low offer a luxe escape from reality.

    Freshly shucked oysters and raw Hervey Bay Scallops
    Champagne Room's new weekend brunch menu is more lunch than brunch, and couldn't have started any better than with a serving of the most creamy Sydney rock oysters in a light champagne vinaigrette with a lemon cheek on the side.

    Accompanying these were another favourite of mine, Hervey Bay scallops, covered in a lemon salt, truffled peaches and crispy pancetta which added great contrast to the sweet raw scallops.

    Jamon, bresola & sopressa with chicken liver parfait, cornichons, green apple chutney and mustard fruits
    Continuing with things I love, out came a very generous serving of chicken liver parfait which was incredibly light and fluffy, and would have been more than enough to keep me happy for the entire meal.

    It was served alongside charcuterie from Byron Bay: paper thin jamon and bresaola, and sopressa salami; all accompanied by a gorgeous selection of cornichons, green apple chutney and mustard fruits.

    Seasonal beets salad with sorrel, red kale, Jannei goa'ts curd, sunflower seeds, sherry vinaigrette
    A nice side to the share plate was a fresh sweet red and golden beet salad. With on-trend ingredients of sorrel and kale, as well as the always excellent Jannei goat's curd, a zingy sherry vinaigrette helped cut through the richness of the cured meats and chicken liver parfait.

    Mini mushroom pie and mini wagyu burgers
    Our last savoury items were the mini mushroom pie and mini wagyu burger. The mushroom pie was full of flavour with champagne, thyme, garlic and truffle salsa mixed through with wild mushrooms and encased in freshly made puff pastry.

    The sliders sandwiched very well seasoned wagyu beef patties with sliced heirloom tomato, mixed leaves, gruyere cheese and a truffle mayonnaise which I would have loved more of.

    Chocolate brownie
    To complete this journey of Champagne Room indulgence, there were two desserts on offer; first up a chocolate brownie.

    While brownies can be hit or miss, this one was definitely a hit: rich and moist, it practically melted in the mouth, and served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    Summer fruits with champagne sabayon, vanilla and sugared pistachio
    A perfect match for a balmy summer's day was the summer fruits dessert, including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries drenched in a champagne sabayon and topped with a berry sorbet.

    With brunch available on weekends from 11am, Champagne Room certainly doesn't peddle the usual brunch offerings. The gorgeous selection of fresh seafood and heartier meals, and of course, Perrier-Jouet champagne makes it pure brunch decadence on Crown Street.

    Champagne Room signage
    Food, Booze & Shoes dined at the Champagne Room as a guest, with thanks to The Mint Partners.

    The Winery on Urbanspoon

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  • 12/28/14--12:13: 2014: A tale of two years
  • The 12 months of 2014 have been some of the craziest yet in my life, and not in that drunken, dazed manner of my early 20s. With new responsibility, the year has had so many distinct twists and turns that it feels like at least two years in one.

    Here's some of the high points of the year in food, booze and events, including highlights from contributors Hendy, Janice and Kath & Mark.

    House charcuterie at Nomad, Foster Street, Surry Hills
    I fell head over heels for Nomad this year, which seems to be a collection of all the things I love in a space I wish I had and done in just a slightly more hipster manner than I can identify with, But with the calling card of the platter of completely house-made charcuterie, Nomad well and truly has my number.

    Mac and cheese at Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen, Missenden Road, Newtown
    My appetite for pasta, and carbs generally, hasn't waned one bit and the American-style mac'n'cheese at Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen above Newtown's Malbourough Hotel hits all the right spots. Ridiculously cheesy and rich, garnished with chives and a house chilli sauce on the side, it's pure cheese and carb bliss in a side dish.

    Insalata Caprese at Cipro - pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
    It's taken me a while to discover the joys of thick-based pizzas at Cipro - pizza al taglio in Alexandria. And it makes me sad that I didn't know about their sensational Caprese salad earlier. Heirloom tomatoes, pickled Spanish onion rings and smashed green olives take the classic insalata Caprese up several levels.

    Mussels.... at Three Blue Ducks, Macpherson Street, Bronte
    I've really come to like mussels over the last couple of years post realising that they're only rubbery when they're overcooked. The best version I've had yet has to be Bronte's Three Blue Ducks' steamed mussels with coconut sambal, fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes - dish licking good.

    Club Limbo at Pinbone, Jersey Road, Woollahra
    Kath: Pinbone wins for making the best club sandwich ever. Turkey, confit duck leg, bacon jam, crispy prosciutto, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and chips on the side. More than enough said.

    Anchovies and fish pate at Bodega, Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
    A relatively quiet achiever in the quieter but burgeoning western end of Surry Hills, Bodega is the older but seemingly more experimental sibling to the wildly popular Porteño in the same suburb.

    Argentinian tapas produces the likes of a creamy fish pate served alongside pickled anchovies, loud music and unmissable rockabilly style.

    Fried chicken with chilli powder at Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, Liverpool Street, Sydney
    The mere mention of 'Hot Star' gets me salivating. From Taiwan, Sydney's first Hot Star Large Fried Chicken outlet in the city south is what 3am dreams are made of. A half chicken breast, deep fried fresh to order with a sprinkling of house recipe chilli powder, served piping hot in a paper bag - sweet dreams are made of fried chicken.

    from the 'A Taste of The Dairy' at Intercontinental Sydney, Phillip Street, Sydney
    The 'A Taste Of...' series of dinners at Intercontinental Sydney earlier in the year were excellent opportunities to learn about local producers and enjoy them in a fine dining environment. As part of the 'A Taste of The Dairy' dinner, the baked Reblochon cheese with confit fig was a knee-weakening rendition of a cheese course.

    Carbonara from Roscioli Deli and Restaurant, Rome, Italy
    Janice: My favourite dish this year had to be the carbonara in Rome. It was so spectacular because it's my quintessential dish of carbs, cheese (pecorino romano) and cured meat (guanciale or pig cheek, in this case). I've taken to never eating it when I'm out any more because nothing beats the ones I had in Rome.

    Grilled octopus and white beans at Alpha, Castlereagh Street, Sydney
    I'm glad I got to tick Alpha in the CBD south off the list this year, as was Kath. The grilled octopus tentacles were an unexpected standout for me, cooked tenderly and smokily for one of the best occy dishes I've had in ages.

    Kath: Alpha was a highlight for bringing a modern twist to traditional Greek food. The highlight of the menu for me was the melt-in-the-mouth pickled octopus with cucumber and sun-dried olives.

    Bacon aioli and bread at Bishop Sessa, Crown Street, Surry Hills
    Bacon. Aioli. It's all I needed to hear at Bishop Sessa at the quieter end of Surry Hills' Crown Street. Their 'I Dream of Pork' degustation was absolutely dream-worthy with all sorts of porcine goodness ranging from chicarrones to blood sausage.

    They had me from the bread course which was served with a smokey bacon fat aioli that was probably a nutritionists' nightmare but dreamy on all other counts.

    Pork cutlet bun at Chefs Gallery Wynyard, Metcentre, Margaret Street, Sydney
    Undoubtedly one of the naughtiest things I've eaten this year are the Macanese pork buns at Chefs Gallery Wynyard. Featuring a deep fried pork cutlet and spicy mayonnaise on a deep fried man tou style bun, the fried-on-fried burger oozed with fatty deliciousness.


    Long lunch for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival at Red Spice Road, Melbourne
    I made it to Melbourne for their annual food and wine festival this year, joining in on the long lunch action at Red Spice Road. With numerous courses of shared dishes, heaps of seafood and wine flowing, it was a most pleasant lunch experience in one of Melbourne's iconic laneways.

    Strawberry caipirinha from Flavours of Brazil dinner at Bridge Street Garage, Bridge Street, Sydney
    Hendy: The emotional roller coaster that was the World Cup was hosted in Brazil this time round. We all shared moments of tears, laughter and joy at the Flavours of Brazil dinner at Bridge Street Garage, including this lovely and colourful Caipirinha. Unlike at the soccer, this was a winner from Brazil.

    Atura Blacktown, Cricketer's Arms Road, Blacktown
    A famil to Blacktown this year was quite an event for this inner city/inner west dwelling girl. Atura Blacktown is a relatively new boutique style hotel in the area next door to one of Sydney's only drive in cinemas. The hotel is modern, quirky and very well equipped for the Wet'n'Wild guest, business travellers and western suburbs tourists alike.

    Chauffeur pick-up for Tanqueray Bar Hop for Good Food Month 2014, Sydney
    Definitely the most fun event of the year was the Tanqueray Bar Hop as part of Good Food Month. One night, two girls, one chauffeur and four bars serving Tanqueray gin cocktail specials. I still keep a hopeful eye out for a chauffeur outside my work to pick me up and take me to a bar for cocktails.

    Table of 10 dinner at OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
    One of the more heart-warming events of the year was OzHarvest's 10 year celebration dinner at their new warehouse headquarters in Alexandria. With a combination of rescued and donated food, OzHarvest's chefs whipped up an amazingly homely, comforting and thoroughly scrumptious dinner, shared with great wines and even better company.

    Carrots with organic yoghurt, black olive crumb from Sustainable Table dinner, Studio Neon, Raglan Street, Waterloo
    Hendy: Also for Good Food Month Sustainable Table, an  innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne, launched a clever campaign to raise awareness of food wastage. The food that was presented at the campaign dinner not only demonstrated the elegance of simplicity but also reminded us that good food and good produce can also look a tad imperfect.

    Dîner en Blanc Sydney 2014, McKay Field, Centennial Park
    The sea of sophisticated white that is Dîner en Blanc returned to Sydney bigger than ever. About 4,000 guests participated in the great white picnic in the secret location of Centennial Park this year and thanks to Seppelt Wines, we were wined and dined in total style - in full whites, of course.

    Goodbye 2014!

    As the year comes to an end, I'd like to send a huge thanks to my team of contributors - Hendy, Janice, Kath & Mark - for their inspired food-eating and photographing efforts this year. It's been loads of fun, sharing the passion for food and booze (perhaps less so the shoes?), and .

    Thanks also to all the readers and followers over the past year, and the five years before it. It's been a year of change, some stress and new responsibilities - and always plenty of food, booze and shoes - thanks for joining me and the team along the way. See you around in 2015!

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    First, apologies for the prolonged quietness. It has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a very busy year for me and as such, this is the last blog post you'll see on Food, Booze & Shoes for a while. The reason?

    Small bar Tokyo Bird opened in a quiet Surry Hills laneway in late December 2014 with my partner Jason at the helm and a small crew that includes, on some nights, me. That's right, Food, Booze & Shoes is transitioning to something more like Booze, Booze and some Food.

    Tokyo Bird, Belmore Lane, Surry Hills
    Tokyo Bird is the realisation of a long-held aspiration for us, especially Jason who's been shaking Boston tins for at least the last 12 years.

    While we've been hit with all manner of delays over the past 12 months or so, we're proud to finally be open on the unbeaten, footpath-less Belmore Lane in Surry Hills, right behind Brooklyn Hide and around the corner from Bodega and the Keg & Brew pub.

    The bar at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    Our concept brings together Tokyo's refined cocktail bars with the Japanese 'salaryman' favourite of a yakitori-ya, in a very Sydney incarnation of a laneway small bar.

    With an intimate space licensed to hold 60 patrons, it really is a place that we would want to hang out in for chilled drinks – whether it's beer, our award-winning bartender Yoshi Onishi's house cocktails, sake or an introduction to Japanese whisky.

    Snacks and yakitori at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    On the food side, particularly having determined that I'm most definitely an eater after a few drinks, we've got a selection of nibbles and yakitori grilled skewers for some pretty decent drinking food.

    Check out what the lovely Lee Tran from The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry; Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella and Corinne from Gourmantic had to say about us, as well as articles in SMH's Good Food, Broadsheet, The Urban List, Concrete Playground and TimeOut Sydney.

    Cocktails at Tokyo Bird
    Photo by George Hong
    It's been six great years of Food, Booze & Shoes with more than 700 posts published on Sydney restaurants, bars, events and festivals. But it it feels like the time is right to put the blog to rest for now as the food blogging community continues to evolve and change, and my own spare time and resources have all but disappeared.

    Personally, it's been six wonderful years of eating, drinking, getting around town and connecting with very like-minded individuals. It's also been six long years of photo selection and editing, late nights writing and trying to remember what something I ate weeks ago tasted like - these parts I won't miss so much.

    Heartfelt thanks go to my contributors - Hendy, Janice, Kath & Mark - for their efforts over the past year or so - it's been so great to share the blog with you and in return, experience your perspectives and passion for all things food and booze. Many hugs to the other bloggers (and no-longer bloggers) out there who I can happily call friends - I won't be seeing you at events and picnics any longer, but Tokyo Bird hopes to see you soon!

    So while you won't find me here much any more, you will certainly be able to find me at Belmore Lane in Surry Hills, or on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter– and even on our own blog from time to time.

    Signing off with love, food, booze & shoes,

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