Food News, October 13, 2011

October 2011

How to win at The Star; news on Jamie’s arrival in town; cocktail celebration of various crims; eyes on toast and giant wedding cakes; kebabs with balls; good news for Australian pig farmers; and the mystery of the disappearing honey bees...


Bet on the food at The Star: you can’t lose

A couple of columns ago (September 11) I told you about a hard-hat tour I’d done of Balla (Level G, Harbourside, The Star,
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Ph 1800 700 700) and how I’d poked my nose in at Black by Ezard (same details) at The Star — what used to be Star City Casino. Since then I’ve eaten in both and, boy, are they different from one another. But, boy oh boy, are they both good.

The Manfredi team have worked hard to provide you with a relaxed experience of Northern Italian food in a site that references old Milan — industrial early 20th century Milan. It’s a deceptively simple menu with an excellent selection of Italian smallgoods handmade for Stefano Manfredi by craftsman butcher Pino Tomini Foresti, pasta made in-house and meat and fish dishes simply cooked on the wood grill. All this is accompanied by an extraordinary selection of Italian wines gathered by Stefano from the length and breadth of Italy, including (and this ends a long-standing feud between us because I’ve challenged him for years to show me a good one) a Lambrusco that’ll knock your socks off. Vecchio Moro (Rinaldini) by the bottle or, as I had it, by the glass sitting at the bar with a little plate of San Daniele prosciutto is pretty close to heaven. It’s deep purple in colour with all the lightness and brightness of summer but with a depth of flavour and a mild frizzante that’ll bring a rose to your cheeks. Wow. Forget the five-buck chuck Lambruscos — this is la cosa vera, the real thing, from Emilia-Romagna.

Black by EzardJust across the way, all sombre and shiny and, well, black, Black also relies heavily on the woodfired grill, here used mainly for steaks. I haven’t eaten Melbourne-based chef Teage Ezard’s food for years and my impression is he’s relaxed a lot. This place is a delight — you could be in New York until you look out and see the coat hanger across the bay (though there is an identical bridge in New York). Both places are grown-up eating houses and both offer superb service, the floor run by Julie Manfredi-Hughes at Balla and Craig Hemmings (whom you might remember from Guillaume at Bennelong) at Black.

Just as I was blown away by the Lambrusco at Balla, I discovered the joy of American wines at Black, thanks to wunderkind sommelier James Audas. Of special note was a 2005 Santa Cruz Cabernet Merlot of extraordinary richness and meaty flavour.

And, before we left Black, Craig told me that Leo DiCaprio strolled through the restaurant on his way to the very swish Onyx private dining room and nobody noticed.

Neither of these places would make it into Cheap Eats; however, a tip: both offer food and drink at the bar, which can be had reasonably. A good way to check them out for later dining when you’ve got some cash to splash.

Still to come: Momofuku and Sokyo. Stay tuned ...


Jamie Oliver - Jamie's ItalianJamie Oliver’s coming to town

Speaking of stars, you’re sure to hear a lot more about it but Jamie's Italian (107 Pitt Street, Ph 8240 9000, is opening on October 24 — and the website says they’re taking a limited number of bookings for groups of 6 to 12 from 0ctober 20 — smaller parties, first in best dressed, luvverly jubberly.


Hinky DinksNew bars, old crooks

First up, Hinky Dinks (185 Darlinghurst Road, Ph 8084 6379), which is  named after Michael “Hinky Dinks” Kenna, a Chicago politician/bar-owner who used to offer free drinks for votes. Geez, don’t tell the NSW mob that they’ll be onto it like burrs on a blanket. Food is by Leif Etournard (ex-Onde), design by the very chic Luchetti Krelle and damn fine cocktails, many of the molecular persuasion. It’s interesting how the cocktail craze — and the proliferation of “mixologists” — is running along behind the burgeoning bar scene. Better be careful of mixamatosis, I guess.

Another bar with a criminal theme a little closer to home is 21 (12 Kellett Street, Potts Point), which is on the site of the infamous Kellett Club, which operated as an illegal gambling club in the 60s until the fatal shooting in June 1967 of Richard Gabriel Reilly, one of the partners. It closed. One of the owners is John Ibrahim, the designer is Paul Kelly (who also designed Black at The Star) and every Thursday they’ll be doing hot dogs — what cocktail do you have with a hot dog? A Mexican Mule? A Hair Raiser? Or an Old Pal?


Eyes on toast, anyone?

It’s in a back lane in Chippendale and it offers food for the mind and the belly. And very good offerings for both. Upstairs at NG Gallery (3 Little Queen Street, Ph 9318 2992), director Nicky Ginsberg curates shows of deep delight, intellectual rigour and often — as with this one – lashings of savage humour. A Cabinet of Curiosities (until October 15) is a group show whose title refers to that eccentric Victorian habit of storing peculiar things under glass domes. And there are some very odd things on display here, in addition to the abovementioned eyes on toast.

Odd and delightful: a monstrous wedding cake, a mandala of the bones of small animals, and a selection of ceramic donuts, to name just a few. After being intellectually satiated upstairs, walk downstairs to Mission (same address, Ph 9318 0815) where you can have a Let’s Do Lunch $38 deal during October.


Aussie pigs bring home the bacon

I don’t know whether you’re aware of this but 70 per cent of the pork products eaten in Australia come from imported pork. I find that scandalous and so was delighted to read that 32 of the 40 medals given out in the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards were won by Australian producers using Australian pork. Good on you, Aussie pig farmers and smallgoods makers.


Somer’s kebabs have balls

Chef Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy (79 Elliott Street, Balmain, Ph 9810 5466) recently returned from a working trip to Turkey. Well, work for him would be a lot of pleasure for us: basically he ate his way around the country, visiting old friends — mostly chefs — and picking up ideas to bring back to us. Like the lakerda, a marinated raw bonito dish he brought back from fish restaurant Koco in Istanbul: and a whole raft of mezzes he ferreted out while travelling with local chef Musa Dagdeviren. In Gaziantep he visited Ali Haydar, a breakfast restaurant where they serve lamb liver and testicle kebabs — for breakfast. He learnt a lot about kebabs; I’m not sure whether or not we’ll be getting lamb testicles but you can try patlican kebabi, roasted leg of lamb and eggplant kebab.

And there are a lot of chances to try out Somer’s reinvigorated Turkish cuisine this month at The Eggplant Dinner on October 25 and 26, A Turkish Feast with cookbook author Leanne Kitchen October 27, and Turkish Bakery Delights with Denis Gokturk on October 28 and 29 — a Turkish food festival in Balmain! All $65 a head plus drinks.


Bees buzz off

It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder and what it means is that workers suddenly disappear. And what does that mean? No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no fruit, no veg, no flowers. No lucerne or clover for beef and dairy cattle. No nothing. What causes it? What can we do about it? The Australian Association of Food Professionals is holding a Q&A session at the Australian Museum (6 College Street). You can book (before October 18) by email to or by phone 0448 488 080. $20 a head members, $25 non-members. There’s also a meal (separate cost) being prepared by the Australian Museum Café to reflect the issues. 

Article Tags: Stefano ManfrediBlack by EzardThe StarBallaJamie OliverJamie's ItalianHinky DinksEfendy

Stefano Manfredi, Black by Ezard, The Star, Balla, Jamie Oliver
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