Food News, December 22, 2011

December 2011

Butchers on the block

The wise and witty American farmer and regenerative agriculture proponent Joel Salatin writes about “the pigness of pigs”: that is, allowing pigs to be pigs, to wallow and snuffle in the dirt rather than be locked up in pens. All the new butcher shops opening around town have had me thinking about “the butcherness of butchers”.

The first of these new boutique butchers was ex-chef Colin Holt’s Hudson Meats in Surry Hills (1/410 Crown Street, Ph 9332 4454), entered via a grand staircase. Then came the stunning Victor Churchill (132 Queen Street, Woollahra, Ph 9328 0402) where cuts of meat are displayed like rare jewels and carcasses are aged behind glass.

Somewhere along the way, Dominic O’Neil and his wife Ali opened G.R.U.B. (Grass Roots Urban Butchery) in Vaucluse (101 New South Head Road, Ph 9337 3063). Dominic broke the trend and came to the game via earthmoving and a belief in good farming practices. Now he’s opened a second G.R.U.B. in Potts Point (50-58 Macleay Street, Ph 9331 3533)

More recently another chef, Robert Marchetti (Icebergs, North Bondi Italian and Neild Avenue), opened La Macelleria in Bondi (Shop 14/178 Campbell Parade, Ph 9300 6388), dedicated to the Italian art of salami.

And Colin Holt, having opened a branch of Hudson Meats in Cammeray (24 Burns Bay Road, Ph 9427 9000) has a brand-new branch at Mosman (900 Military Road, Ph 9660 6666).

Obviously there’s dough in meat. But what I find interesting in all this is that idea of the butcherness of the butcher. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my butcher shop to look like a butcher shop. And for all their fancy fittings, Holt’s outlets do, as do the two G.R.U.B.s. But when I walk into Victor Churchill or La Macelleria, I don’t feel like I’m in a butcher shop: La Macelleria is a lovely space, with charming chaps and chapettes in white coats serving, but it’s more like a deli. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody else but I need a counter and butchers behind it wielding big knives on chopping blocks and cracking bad jokes. I don’t even mind being offered an espresso, as I am at AC in Leichhardt (174 Marion Street, Ph 9569 8687), or sitting down to a panino, as you can at Pino’s Dolce Vita (45 President Avenue, Kogarah, Ph 9587 4818), because there are striped aprons on the premises. And they are definitely butcher shops.

Still, it’s remarkable and commendable that the stand-alone butcher shop is developing and thriving, when a few years ago we thought they’d be chewed up and spat out by the supermarket duopoly. I may even adapt to the new-age glammed-up butcher.


A wine bar in the deli

Back in Mosman, the hardworking and canny delipreneur Pino Iacobbe is opening a wine bar in this branch of Quattro Formaggi (803 Military Road, Mosman 9960 3555). There’ll be about 40 seats inside and out, a selection of Italian, Australian and French wines, and all the goodies from the deli counter — including chef Giovanni Pilu’s smallgoods range — will be available as what the Italians call stuzzichini, snacks (we daren’t call them Italian tapas). There’ll also be cheese, salami and wine tastings. “Bars are like coffee was 15 years ago,” says Pino. And butcher shops. You’ll be able to drop in after Christmas.


Not in Surry Hills

A new restaurant, I mean — almost unheard of these days. In fact, I was beginning to think you weren’t allowed to open a restaurant anywhere else. But included in the Parkroyal Parramatta’s $8 million renovation was a restaurant, Table:30 (30 Phillip Street, Ph 9689 3333), designed by the highly regarded and accoladed IDC company with chef Sunil Pajnoo running the kitchen. Sunil’s menu — breakfast, lunch and dinner — runs rings around Sydney favourites, from garlic prawns to chicken tikka marsala. And in a family-friendly gesture, children under 12 eat free: they’re generous out Parramatta way.


Highland hillbillies

If you live in the Inner West, you’ll probably know Nick B Possum, who is indeed a possum and a private detective whose column Whispers From the Mean Streets has been running since 1997 in The City Hub. If you don’t, click here and check it out. It’s funny, it’s cynical, it’s political and I often wonder where Nick gets some of his inside info: and how a possum can write so well.

Now all this is by way of telling you about what sounds like a great day at the Joadja winery in the Southern Highlands. Why? Because Nick’s best friend in the Brushtail Café is Joadja. Coincidence? We’ll leave that to the possum.

But down at Joadja the winery there’ll be a picnic on January 28 with woodfired pizzas, locally made food products for sale and music by Shameless Seamus and The Tullamore Dews, who’ll be belting out rock and Irish music as the fancy takes them. This is no pick-up band of enthusiastic amateurs; you’ll recognise musos from the Cockroaches, Midnight Oil and the Mentals. For the fans they are Jim Moginie (Shameless Seamus), Evelyn Finnerty, Alan Healy, Samuel Mogadisco, Bird, Peter Mackie and Lefty Wright.

The shameless commercial reason for all this food and fun is the release of Joadja’s 2011 Pinot Gris, but rest assured there’ll be plenty of other varieties in the offing and perhaps the onning, too. To find out how to get there, go to And we’re giving you all this info a bit early because you might want to make plans — and we’ll be closed for January.


Wine, wine, wine spo-dee-o-dee

Moving into February, keep these dates if you like a sip of red or white. First, Saturday February 18 from 11am to 4pm you have the chance to pit your palate against the wine judges of the 2012 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show. There will be some 2200 wines for tasting, including all the recently judged medal winners. There’ll be a wine tutorial (cost included in the price of admission) to bring you up to speed on the techniques of sniffing and spitting and an insight into new varietals and trends. In between sips, munch on a selection of prize-winning food products from the Royal Fine Food Cheese and Dairy Produce Shows. Tickets $65, available online from January 10.

And if you’re not sipped out, there’s the NSW Wine Festival running from February 25 to March 31, kicking off in Hyde Park South with The Sydney Morning Herald Sydney Cellar Door event — 100 winemakers from all over the state offering their wares. Entry to this event is free with tasting packages starting at $25. And right throughout the festival there’ll be food and wine events at bars and restaurants all around the city. Program available at


New and briefly noted

A wander around Potts Point always turns up something interesting,  this time, La Croix (Entrance 2 behind Fitzroy Gardens off Macleay Street, Ph 83541020), with one of the most beautiful fit-outs we’ve seen. What is it? It’s a coffee house, a café and a shop full of collectables, all with a distinct French accent and the unmistakeable hand of co-owner Annie Wilkes (ex-Parterre Gardens) and business partner Glenda Hamilton-Kalyk. Walk in off Macleay Street as I did and you’ll see the beautiful broken sandstone wall lined with empty picture frames. Then through the shop to the café off Fitzroy Gardens, serving all things French.

Is this another first for Sydney? A bike (pedals, not brm brm) shop café. It’s Atelier Velo (156 Clarence Street, Ph 9045 1204) where you can go for city bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes — a range of two-wheeled objects of desire — and have a coffee while you’re choosing your wheels. [Not really a first, as Deus ex Machina in Camperdown also sells classy pushies as well as motorcycles and coffee/food — sub-editor]. Chris Herron is the brains behind this combo and he’ll be serving Mecca coffee and the Sydney Biscuit Range this year, and moving into sambos next year when he takes off his training wheels. This is becoming a pretty interesting part of the city. Baxter Inn, a spin-off bar with 300 whiskies on the shelves, started by the people who have Shady Pines, is down an alley at the same address and Redoak Boutique Beer Café (201 Clarence Street, Ph 9262 3303) is just down the road.

The other night we met the new manager of the Observatory Hotel, Ralf Bruegger, who has taken over from the ever-charming Patrick Griffin, who had been there for a record 18 years. Ralf tells us they’re making subtle changes to the hotel over the next few years but not, I am assured, touching the Globe Bar, my favourite place in town for a quiet moment with a glass of Lagavulin. We wish him well.

And back to Potts Point, where the long established — 25 years! —  Macleay St Bistro (73a Macleay Street, Ph 9358 4891) has announced the return of chef Clancy Atkinson who was there from 2000 to 2004 before leaving to work with, among others, John Wilson. He’s looking forward to coming back to his “home away from home”.

Good news, sort of: dinners at Danks Street Depot are back on Friday and Saturday nights until February 25. But they need 40 people to open up. That shouldn’t be hard given the kind of food being put on the table by chefs Jared Ingersoll and Timothy Allan: Alfonsino  fillet with Kerala curry, tempuring and rice, for example (Alfonsino is a cute and delicious little red fish that needs to be better known). Menus will be posted online every week at or email  Cost is $40 a head for two courses or three for an extra $15.


Don't wash the Christmas dishes

A few out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for those of you opting out of trad turkey and pud and loads of dirty dishes:

How about Turkish instead of turkey? From Midday on December 25 at Efendy (79 Elliot Street, Balmain, Ph 9810 5466) chef Somer Sivrioglu will be serving a selection of cold, hot and seafood mezes and large plates to share and a Chef’s Christmas Dessert Platter. Slow-roasted saltbush lamb, bulgur, warm yoghurt, pistachio and pine nuts is just one dish on offer. Better book.

Or how about Christmas in Cabramatta? Bau Truong (42 John Street, Ph 9727 4492), being Buddhist-owned, is open all day. How does crisp pork and taro spring rolls and a goat curry sound?

Most of the restaurants in Chinatown stay open on Christmas day: check out the Chinatown section in Cheap Eats 2011–12 and take your pick.

Or perhaps you’d rather stay in Europe. Go to La Boheme (332 Darling Street, Balmain, Ph 9810 0829) and pretend it’s snowing outside while you tuck into roast duck with apple, fennel and walnut salad with sour cherry sauce.

Or stay in the heart of the city — Westfield — and have a Thai lunch at Chat Thai (Level 6 Westfield Centrepoint, 188 Pitt Street, Ph 9221 0600). Kick off with a tod mun goong gaeng keow —fried green curried prawn mousseline drizzled with pickled plum sauce — and take it from there. Sorry, no plum pud.


Famous fruit arrives

Achacha, the luscious new fruit now grown in Australia (it’s from the Amazon basin in Bolivia), hits greengrocer shelves in December and can be gorged on until March. It’s been a good year for Achacha in more ways than one: Palm Creek Plantation manager Ross Oliveri reports they’ve had excellent growing conditions and also that it has been nominated by the jury as a finalist in Berlin’s Fruit Logistica innovation award for 2012. Good work 

Seasons greetings

This is it -- the last column for 2011. Have a great Christmas/Hanukkah and happy new year/happy new Hijri year. Eat and drink well and wisely and see you back online in 2012.

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