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Life

My City - Sydney with Neil Perry

Neil Perry, The Rockpool Group’s Culinary Director and a chef who has helped shape the food scene in Sydney, reveals where he likes to eat & drink in his hometown.

Sydney is a very beautiful city with its harbour and gorgeous white beaches, but it’s so much more than just a pretty face. The restaurants and bars are second to none and they give Sydney a beautiful personality. The city has changed so much over the last 10 years and if you add in Chinatown, some amazing places are all within walking distance.

I regularly dine at Rockpool Dining Group restaurants so they feature genuinely in my top picks. My favourite bar in Sydney, hands down, is the bar at Rockpool Bar & Grill. My wife, Sam, and I like to go and enjoy a great bottle of wine, or a fantastic cocktail, or both, while we chat with the bar guys and soak up the amazing buzzy atmosphere. We’ll have some beautiful freshly shucked Sydney Rock oysters, all iodine and tasting fresh of the sea, our favourite minute steak with café de Paris butter, the Cape Grim beef full of flavour and perfectly tender, and we always share a number of sides like roast pumpkin, grilled corn, shoe string fries and a salad. It doesn’t get any better.

Breakfast and beyond

Room 10 is the best place in Sydney for coffee and breakfast. Andrew Hardjasudarma and his team not only make some of Sydney’s best coffee, but the food out of such a tiny space is nothing short of miraculous. My go-to is the classic soft boiled egg and avocado on toast, or any of the brilliant breakfast sandwiches - the slow cooked brisket with slaw and pickles is probably their signature. I also love the Brekkie Rice, which is perfect for a healthy start: creamed red rice, quinoa, walnuts and pepitas topped with dukkha.

Chaco Bar is without doubt the best yakitori place in town, but it also has next level ramen – served Monday nights and Wednesday to Saturday, lunches only. Go for the chilli coriander – it’s spicy and full flavoured with such a fresh delicious cleanness to it. Add an organic egg: they are awesome! The yakitori skin is crunchy, smoky and creamy all at once and the wing and chicken meatball with slow cooked egg are a must. They also serve the best gyozas. Are you getting that I love this place? Wash it down with a beer and sake and say hi to Chef Keita, we’re lucky to have him in Sydney.

Azuma is another terrific Japanese restaurant in the city owned by Kimitaka Azuma. Here we go for sushi and sashimi, which is so well made, and the best dish of all is the wagyu sukiyaki for two. We love sitting sipping sake as I cook our beef slice by slice in the boiling soy broth. We add tofu, bok choy, mushroom and spring onions, all the time cooking another strip of beef and dipping it, eating with rice and then at the end adding udon noodles to the broth. Such a great one pot dish. 

Masterful Dim Sum

Another favourite from our own portfolio is Jade Temple. I love having the dumplings for lunch, made fresh daily by our Dim Sum Master, Dicky. They’re always so perfectly balanced in taste and texture and I can’t get enough of the roast duck either.

Golden Century is famous for being a chef haunt and I was one of the first eating there along with Tetsuya way back in 1990. We all loved the place as it was open late and the food was always fabulous. All these years later, nothing much has changed, only I don’t eat late anymore, I’m in bed well before 3am these days! Sam and I love the green lip abalone steam boat. This is another great one pot dish for two people to share. We get noodles and tofu with it to make the perfect meal. The abalone arrives thinly sliced on lettuce and we have soy dipping and a little XO sauce. The slices are dipped for seconds and added to the soy in your bowl, then start with tofu, then noodles and finish with lettuce, just keep adding broth and seasoning to the bowl as you eat, drinking the soup from time to time. This is one of the world’s great meals, you may even see owners Eric and Linda wandering around.

Fire in the Heart

Mike McEnearney’s No. 1 Bent Street is a treat. It’s everything I love: no fuss, awesome produce, seasonal cooking and loads of love and care. Everything on the menu is great, but you have to try the bread, it’s possibly the best in Sydney, and anything off the grill or out of the wood fired oven, which form the heart of the kitchen. I love Mike’s touch with vegetables, so order a bunch of salad and veg dishes and eat one of the best plant-based meals in town.

Danielle Alverez at Fred’s in Paddington is another chef cooking beautiful, sustainable, seasonal produce with fire at the heart of the kitchen. Try to score a seat at the kitchen bench: a great spot to share a bottle of wine, watch the kitchen in full swing and eat some of the best food in Sydney. With her pedigree of Chez Panisse and The French Laundry, it’s no surprise everything is delicious. Add a wonderful wine list and beautiful, simple decor and you can settle in for long lunches and dinners.

Cheap eats and BBQ

Burger Project is a weekly stop for me as well. The Cape Grim 36-month beef is ground in store, hand-formed into patties, and cooked medium – they’re unsurpassed in the city.

Naruone is great for a cheap Korean bite. My favourite is the spicy pork with rice. It comes on a sizzling platter with pork slices, cabbage, carrots, onions and sesame seeds after being wok fried in gochujang. It’s spicy and delicious and perfect with a beer. The KFC, Korean Fried Chicken, is really very good too.

Dan Jee is my favourite Korean BBQ place. They cook it in the kitchen over a big charcoal grill, rather than at table-side grills, so it gets more of a smoky flavour. Short rib, pork belly and bulgogi are my go-to dishes. I can’t eat there without having Yukhoe, the Korean raw beef salad. It’s amazing with julienne frozen beef, Asian pear egg yolk and sweet sesame dressing that’s perfectly balanced.

Further reading: The Best BYO Restaurants in Sydney

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The art of Italian
Words by Mark Hughes on 2 Jul 2015
When Lucio Galletto opened up a restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Paddington he didn’t truly envisage that it would become a cultural icon, as much an art gallery as an Italian trattoria. But due to the warm generosity of the restaurateur and clientele, this is exactly what has happened. Adorning the restaurant’s walls are works by some of the biggest names in Australian art such as Sidney Nolan, John Olsen and Garry Shead, to name but a few. The story of how this all came about and how it has helped develop his food is detailed in Lucio’s latest book, The Art of Traditional Italian. Childhood memories Lucio has always been surrounded by food, and by art. He grew up in a village on the Ligurian coast of Italy where his parents had a restaurant. He recalls the fun and convivial nature of his parents serving both friends and strangers. Almost as vividly, he recalls being mesmerised by the ornate and detailed sculptures, paintings and architecture of his poor, but culturally rich, local church. The combination has had a long and lasting affect on Lucio. So when it came to be that he opened the doors of Lucio’s in 1981 he was determined to extend the same welcoming nature that his parents had shown at their restaurant. By chance, Paddington was home to an artists’ studio, which many of Sydney’s up and coming painters and sculptures used as their creative centre, and for many of these, Lucio’s became their second home. The art evolves “Artists started to come in and some started giving me their work because they found out that I had a love of art, and so it happened,” recalls Lucio. “We didn’t plan this, we didn’t say ‘let’s make an art restaurant’, it just happened over years. “It all started with Sidney Nolan. He was involved with the movie Burke and Wills as an advisor. When they finished filming each day he would come in to eat. One time he drew a little artwork on a napkin and left it behind. I was really taken with it. You know, beautiful gold leaf – I put it up on the wall. “Well, that was the first piece of art on the wall. And when Sidney came back he looked up and saw his art and he was really taken with the fact I had given it so much love. After that he gave me some more drawings and the other art pieces. I think from that, the artists understood that I love art and artists, I look after their work. I am really honoured that they put their work up on the walls of my restaurant. It’s a great honour for me… and it all turned up by chance. “I have some great artists that come to the restaurant and they draw on napkins, plates, or in the oyster shells. They feel really at home and comfortable, and it makes me feel good that I have created this feeling, to be able to collaborate, because of the hospitality, the conviviality of my restaurant.” The Art of Traditional Italian by Lucio Galletto with photography by Ben Dearnley (Penguin) RRP $59.99
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The Top 5 BYO Restaurants in Sydney
Words by Ben Hallinan & Patrick Haddock on 27 Mar 2017
Here are the best BYO restaurants in Sydney and the wines you should bring along with you. GOLDEN CENTURY Not only does this Chinatown landmark have a stellar list, but they also allow you to bring top Pinot to pair with duck. Open till 2 am. Recommended Wine: Aromatic dry whites like  Gewürztraminer  or  Riesling  are a great match for Chinese cuisine. However, why not try a savoury low tannin red like a Yarra Valley  Pinot Noir  or Hunter Valley  Shiraz , which match perfectly with duck and sweet pork dishes. Corkage: $8 per person 393-399 Sussex St, Sydney Visit the Golden Century website SEAN’S PANAROMA
A Bondi institution where two hatted food can be easily paired with your perennial favourites. Recommended Wine:  Vermentino ,  Pinot Grigio or  Sauvignon Blanc  match perfectly with the Mediterranean inspired menu and seaside setting. But, if your main targets on the menu are their fresh seafood dishes, then  Semillon  is the classic seafood match. For red wine purists, an excellent  GSM or  Merlot is a good option. Corkage: $25 per bottle 270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach Visit Sean’s Panaroma website TETSUYA’S
Still the original temple of gastronomy that allows you to bring favoured and special bottles. Recommended Wine: Crisp, dry whites such as an off-dry  Riesling ,  Gewürztraminer  or Semillon match perfectly with the French inspired, Japanese cuisine on offer. Tetsuya’s is one of Sydney’s top foodie destinations, so don’t be afraid to bring out the big guns with that aged bottle of  Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon  you’ve been saving. Corkage: BYO by prior arrangement at the time of booking. $30 for the first bottle, $45 for subsequent bottles. 529 Kent St, Sydney Visit the Tetsuya’s website BAR REGGIO
Possibly the cheapest yet well loved BYO in Sydney where industry folk pair Grand Cru Burgundy with pizza. Recommended Wine: When thinking of Italian food and wine, always consider ‘what grows together, goes together’. That means  Sangiovese ,  Nebbiolo , Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola for reds and  Vermentino , Fiano or  Pinot Grigio  for whites. Corkage: $2.50 per person 135 Crown St, Darlinghurst Visit Bar Reggio website ONE PENNY RED
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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