Thursday, December 18, 2014

Champagne Room: Brunch decadence on Crown Street

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
Updated hours: Monday and Tuesday from 5pm - midnight; Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm - midnight 

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

The Winery on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Papi Chulo: Ferry to American BBQ, Manly style

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vodka High Tea at Food Society

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.

Food Society on Urbanspoon

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