Thursday, April 7, 2011

'ello 'ello LL Wine and Dine

Adult book shop. Swingers club. Illegal gambling den. Brothel. This is where I’m having dinner.

Well, sort of. The current site of LL Wine and Dine in Potts Point’s Llankelly Place has been all of these things in its colourful past. But following the transformation of the pedestrian laneway in 2010, the whole alley has become a lot more welcoming and friendly, shall we say.

The wall of... 'ecstasy' at LL Wine and Dine, Llankelly Place, Potts Point
Styled on bars of the trendy, dripping-with-money Hong Kong drinking scene, the venue has so much character that a tour is required before dining on the new menu.

The back rooms
Our waiter Patrick tells us that the entire place has steel reinforced walls and previously, hydraulic doors; a security feature from the days of old when serious security was needed at the venue.

The hidden away, multi-level back section sheltered the illegal gamblers in the 1960s and other ‘interesting’ activities during the days of the adult book store.

Down to the lower den
There’s also a concealed upstairs front section, currently used as an office, which was discovered behind more steel panels and not even on the original building plans.

It was here that 35 garbage bags filled with vintage pornography magazines were found – this heritage now plastered all over a doorway between the front and the back sections of the restaurant.

Graffiti and that wall
None of this seedy history had put off my appetite though, and I was looking forward to seeing what the miniscule kitchen could pump out.

There is seating out on the pedestrian-only laneway in addition to the front restaurant and bar sections, and then of course the tiered back sections which would be oh-so-perfect for private functions.

Yamazaki Sour
Starting on the cocktail list, heavy with vodka and peppered of Asian ingredients, we elect the Yamazaki Sour, featuring a 12-year-old Japanese whisky shaken traditionally with lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white, topped with a maraschino cherry.

Botanical Fling
My drink is ever so much more girly and light in comparison; a refreshing mix of Hendricks Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon and kaffir lime, garnished with a kaffir lime leaf. It was gorgeously easy to drink and heady with kaffir lime aromatics.

Sashimi nachos of kingfish and ocean trout with a spicy lime dressing, capsicum
and corn salsa, avocado, sour cream, jalepenos and black caviar
We started smack-bang in fusion town with a sultry Japanese-meets-Mexican dish that was scoffed down in moments. Fabulous bread crisps with garlic oil played the part of corn chips for the melange of ‘nachos’ ingredients.

The small cubes of both fish were pert and fresh, though a little lacking on the dressing, while the corn kernels added texture and sweetness, the caviar some saltiness and the diced jalepenos mild spice.

While I didn’t necessarily take to the combination of so many ingredients, I certainly liked the concept of the entrée and loved those bread crisps.

This and the other entrees were matched with a Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling from South Australia's Clare Valley and my preferred Austrian Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner - both rather light whites that paired satisfactorily with some of the big flavours of the entrees.

Steamed lobster bisque soup dumplings filled with prawn and scallop, served with
soy and red vinegar sauce, fresh ginger and spring onions
I was excited to see the bamboo steamer head towards us, and even more excited at the prospect of dumplings. These prawn and scallop dumplings had discernable inner fillings and distinct scallop bits within, although there was not so much soup inside but rather essence of a lobster bisque.

Eaten with the dipping sauce of soy and red vinegar sauces, I think the threads of ginger, however pretty, might have been a bit overpowering for the delicate shellfish flavours of the steamed dumpling.

Confit crispy skin duck breast with five spices served with homemade pancakes,
cucumber, spring onions, taro chips and plum & orange sauce
I was close to cheering when the duck arrived, as I don’t have duck in Peking style all that often. These slices of duck breast were fragrant with Chinese five spice with a mouth-watering skin and fat layer over the confit flesh, served over slightly out of place taro chips.

Homemade pancakes
With the softly, tender meat slices wrapped in soft crepe pancake halves plus cucumber sticks and shredded spring onions, it was a happy place we were in.

I admit that I missed the traditional thick hoisin dipping sauce, even though the plum and orange sauce was a valiant alternative.

Roasted lamb cutlet crusted with Massaman curry and lime leaf
served with cucumber and mint jelly
My unexpected favourite of the night were the lamb cutlets, which were roasted with a massaman curry crust. Not curry sauce as one might expect, but rather a crunchy crumb which incorporated the spices typical of a massaman curry.

Not only was the cooked-to-perfection lamb cutlet the most tender I think I’ve ever had, it matched divinely with the square of quivering mint jelly – not all of the jelly mind you, as it packed quite the flavour punch. It was a little bit messy to eat but so good I’m sure I could have gone another three.

Lemon sorbet palate cleanser
At this point we were offered a palate cleanser before the main meals, which honestly I found a little unnecessary, especially with the generous pours of matching wines about. The lemon sorbet was as expected, sweet, sour and a bit like a jarring dessert in the middle of my meal.

Wines to go with our mains were a red and a white: a robust Curlewis 'Bel Sel' Pinot Noir from near Geelong in Victoria and an oaky Nuedorf Chardonnay from New Zealand which confirmed that I still don't like oaked chardonnays.

Singaporean jumbo king prawn curry with capsicum, broccoli and sugar snap
served with fritter dipping sticks
Those are some big prawns. I must have said that at least five times, but these were definitely the biggest prawns I’ve ever had. The entire dish smelt strongly of a seafood bisque-yness, if that makes sense, even through the thick, creamy curry sauce – perhaps something to do with the jumbo size of the meaty prawns.

The curry had a good level of spice heat, while I much preferred the vegies – red capsicum sticks, broccoli and sugar snap peas – over the cooled, chewy yau char gwai/yu tiao stick.

Braised beef cheek served with smoked bacon and sweet potato mash,
sugar snap, carrot and garlic-soy jus
We were about to burst when the (probably) richest main dish of the menu arrived last. Being a big fan of beef cheek, I could only ignore the feeling of satiety and dive into the deep brown hunk of meat. With chopsticks.

That’s how soft this 5-hour braised meat was, that I could pick at it with chopsticks. And it was glorious – softly glutinous with subtle five spice in the seasoning, while I thought the garlic in the jus was overpowering – even with the carrot sticks and sugar snap peas.

Or perhaps it was just my state of fullness that didn’t allow me to enjoy the garlicky jus, nor the smoky bacon-littered sweet potato mash – which together combines for a seriously rich dish; heavy and winter ready.

Dessert platter for two
The mind was mighty impressed with the stunning array on the shared dessert platter, and the stomach reluctantly followed. Each miniaturised dessert was paired with an ice cream or sorbet, as their full sized versions would also be.

I started on the doughnut balls, coated with an apparently ginger sugar and its doughy insides holding a warmed, gooey coconut custard. As I was way too full to enjoy a ball of carbohydrates, however sweet and fluffy, I found myself more dipping into the tiny Asian sauce dish for the fabulously tangy pineapple sorbet.

Next up was the adorable little Belgian dark chocolate pudding; warm, moist and pure, decadent comfort. Another winter winner, this little guy was dark chocolate heaven, pairing particularly well with my all-time favourite hazelnut ice cream and sweet strawberry segments.

Cinnamon and honey pannacotta served with caramel ice cream
and cinnamon sugar swirls
My least favoured dessert of the platter was the pannacotta, which certainly looked the part in a tall shot glass, little spoons to fit and topped with cute curls of cinnamon-sugared pastry. However, I found the flavours of the cream a little too strongly floral (perhaps the type of honey used?), while the caramel ice cream was like pure, unadulterated sugar.

It is eerie thinking about the history of the place and the fact that you're eating and drinking where some rather unsavoury things may have happened in the past - but that's all part of the fun.

And with a new menu that entices on every line (seriously - I would eat everything on that menu), perhaps it's time for a trip to the dark, now not-so-illicit side to say 'ello 'ello to a real Kings Cross/Potts Point character.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of LL Wine and Dine.

LL Wine & Dine on Urbanspoon


joey@FoodiePop said...

Everything looks fabulous and it's good to see a Chinese destination outside Chinatown incorporating yum cha dishes.

And I'm sure the alleyway was welcoming back then too when it was the den of iniquity .... :-)

MissPiggy said...

This place looks like fun - I'd love to go and have an explore...and the food looks divine (so much food for such a little tummy)!

sugarpuffi said...

wow the sashimi nachos looks awesome!!

missklicious said...

The dishes look quite good, something different from the usual Chinese dishes. The dessert platter looks great!! Will have to try this soon!

Jenn Brigole said...

Gorgeous shots you got there. Each dish looks wonderful to my mouth. :) Not quite the usual you would see on the menus that for sure. Thanks for sharing.

chocolatesuze said...

wow the braised beef cheek sounds freaking amazing!

OohLookBel said...

Oh, disappointed that we didn't try the lamb cutlet! The sashimi nachos is brilliant, though, and the setting is nice and cosmopolitan =)

Anonymous said...

Nice place. Love the Asian inspired deco and food.

Tina said...

Hi joey - Yeah, they do proper yum cha on the weekends...!

Hi Miss Piggy - Explore the place and the menu :)

Hi sugarpuffi - It definitely was a great unique starter

Hi missklicious - Yeah, a pan Asian range, executed really well.

Hi Jenn - Thanks :)

Hi suze - It was, except I was so full by then!

Hi Bel - Loved the setting, and sashimi nachos

Hi Ellie - Yeah, a nice surprise in the Cross

Julie said...

cinnamon sugar swirls!! Why hello :D! I want to try that xd

Tina said...

Hi Julie - Cute, yummy, pretty - all good

Trisha said...

That is one heck of a feast! The beef cheeks looks so good!!!

Tina said...

Hi Trisha - I know! We were rolling out at the end...!

Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi said...

Lots and lots of food that looks incredible. I actually really like the look of the restaurant itself, it seems a bit underground, which I love.

Tina said...

Hi Keely - Yes, totally an underground feel, especially the back section


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