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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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Food
Jamie Oliver - cooking up a revolution
Words by Mark Hughes on 26 Jan 2017
Jamie Oliver admits he questions reality when he is centre stage at places like the World Health Assembly giving a speech on global nutrition or in the inner sanctum of British Parliament planning the obesity strategy with the Prime Minister. “It’s absolutely nuts,” he tells me down the phoneline from the UK. “To make it even worse, everyone listens, but  I  still feel like the naked chef." It is admirable, but why him? Why has Jamie felt the need to change the way we eat? Why has he became the flag bearer for the food revolution? Responsibility and right place, right time is only part of it. Happily married, he and wife Jools have recently welcomed their fifth child, River, into their lives. “It is brilliant and amazing and we are very thankful,” he says of his newborn son. “Sunday, I looked around the table and everyone was around it and I just went, ‘Bloody hell, how did this happen?’ I know how it happened...but you know…” And there’s the answer. Every parent knows, as does any responsible adult. For Jamie, it's about giving children the nutrition they need to be the best they can be. All this starts with education. Kids, adults, governments; everyone. Life Changes to Eating Australia and Britain are up there with the USA in adult obesity rates. How has this happened in just three short decades? “People always find a way to shortcut,” reasons Jamie. “And the minute they find a way to make time on a job, they fill it up with other stuff. Technology has really added to that. Everyone is juggling more things, more money and more responsibilities – life has just changed. “The reality of it is 56% of Aussies are overweight or obese and health problems are shooting through the roof because of it. And this is at the same time we have more knowledge and beautiful produce. But it comes down to two things: knowing how to cook and access to good food.” Jamie’s plethora of cookbooks and cooking shows is helping solve the first issue. But he’s gone above that, setting up initiatives such as The Ministry of Food, a hands-on community cooking school, The Kitchen Garden Project to introduce growing food and cooking into schools, as well as being part of The Obesity Strategy, Sugar Smart UK, and the list goes on.
Look at What you Serve The second part of the solution – access to good food – is getting people to look at the produce they eat. In short, it’s about more fruit, veg, nuts, seeds and beans. “I just spent two years going around the world to where people live the longest,” says Jamie. “These places are not rich, they are not scientists or nutritionists – they just happen to be good at cooking food that is delicious and really good for you. And it is pretty much vegetarian. They eat meat and fish, but really only twice a week. “Take Korea, for instance. I sat down at a table where there were 10 plates of noodles, heaps of veg – steamed, stir-fried, pickled, fermented – colour everywhere, and then a plate of meat. By default, that is super balanced, super healthy.” The thing is, Jamie knows his stuff. Alongside over two decades of cooking, he has been studying nutrition for the past four years. A full diploma. As a consequence, each recipe in his most recent cookbooks has nutritional information such as calories, fats, protein and carbs, plus special sections offering healthy tips and ways to balance your meals. “Nutrition can be very technical, very scientific,” says Jamie. “So I have tried hard to build bridges between science and understanding it in the real world.” Still the Same Guy All of this seems far removed from the knockabout chef that burst onto our TV screens all those years ago.“I often think the Naked Chef did well in Aussie because, back in the day, my attitude was all about having a laugh and using food to make cool memories and I think that’s very Australian. To a certain degree, nothing has changed. I am inspired by the same things. The food that made me tick, still makes me tick. “But I have always been driven by what people want and these days people ask, what is balance? What does ‘good food’ look like? So the point of books like  Super Food Family Classics  is to create something where every choice is a good choice. “It isn’t about getting it right all the time. Personally, I try to eat to the principles of the book, Monday to Friday lunch. That’s how I do it. And then, guess what? Friday night, I don’t even think about it – the whisky is out, I am planning the weekend, I am getting amongst it. Everyone will find their own pattern, but that generally puts me in a good place.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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