Hey everyone, I’m continuing my food blogging over at Ask Tony Food – part of my emerging “Ask Tony” strategy for all things geek, mainly tech and food.  The Food Zeitgeist has been a lot of fun, but I look forward to many more posts over at my new place: asktonyfood.wordpress.com

See you on the other side!

Tony Hollingsworth AskTonyFood

I am proud to present the first guest post to my food blog, Leighton Jenkins, from tJP Leighton is an experienced professional who desribes himself (via his Twitter page) as  “..helping companies to work out what prospects and customers want.  Then aligning their product, people and marketing to respond.”  Leighton and I first met at Northside Coffee Mornings and have kept in regular contact since then.
Thanks again, Leighton.  Over to you.
Postales Restaurant and Tapas Bar

At the bottom of the GPO eating and drinking complex, after a couple of ‘cleansing ales’ I found myself and some friends feeling a little peckish. The Pizza we ruled out but found that a new Spanish restaurant had opened where Post used to be. We cheekily asked if they could fit the five of us in, as not a soul was in residence on the 20 plus tables on a Thursday night.

Luckily there was room at the inn. The attentive waitress helped us choose a range of Tapas and nice red Spanish wines. She even helped out with our obligatory ‘fussy eater’ who cannot eat onions, garlic etc to choose a dish that did not make her feel like crap in the morning. The waitress used to work in a North Sydney café and she had a pretty relaxed manner.
The restaurant is unattractively located in a quiet corner in the basement of the GPO, just across the way from the bar, but because of its location, so far doesn’t have much atmosphere. The space is nicely decorated with comfortable booths and tables set with quality linen, from our seats there’s nothing really to see beyond the large-screen TVs illuminating the bar next door.
The menu is long, with 22 tapas offerings and five or so mains. We decide to share, our waitress suggesting six tapas plates will be enough for four.
Down to the food – Spicy wild-hare meatballs in fresh tomato and wine sauce aren’t as adventurous as they sound. They’re good and rich, but the tomato and chilli over-rule the flavour of this long eared rabbit. Scallops were great and so was the wagyu tartare.

The Russian Roulette? That was the dish of sweet chillies we ate – apparently 1 in 10 had a heat rocket in it – we seemed to make it through unharmed though – and they were beautifully sweet.
The service is a bit quick and the meal, isn’t cheap. The lack of atmosphere is also a problem; not formal enough for a great culinary event but not relaxed enough for a bucket of sangria L

Chef Ben Pichon.

By Leighton Jenkins
the Jenkins Partnership pty ltd
Strategic Marketing
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Postales Restaurant and Tapas Bar
Lower Ground, GPO, 1 Martin Place, Sydney
Phone: +61 2 9229 7744

Food: Spanish

G’day folks,

My friend and prolific aussie blogger Neerav Bhatt asked me a question on Twitter tonight, which needs more than 140 characters to answer.

Neerav asks “who are the best Sydney foodie bloggers/tweeters with the biggest audience numbers?” I don’t have access to the audience numbers for these bloggers (I’m sure they would be happy to provide them Neerav) so I am listing the bloggers that I admire, plus I would recommend visiting the link lists on each blog to see which blogs these foodies admire too.

I admire these Sydney-based bloggers because they are active, posting regular updates.  The quality of the writing is excellent, they demonstrate great passion and they take fantastic photos.

Update: 28th Febrary 2010 (latest Twitter numbers)

I’ve renamed the post to Australian/NZ with the latest inclusion.

Thoughts from Becca (@frombecca – 26,322 followers)

The Internet Chef – Bridget Davis (@Bridget_CooKs – 6,521 followers)

Not Quite Nigella (@notquitenigella – 2,896 followers)

Fig & Cherry (@figandcherry – 1,697  followers)

Grab Your Fork (@grabyourfork – 1,480 followers)

Fooderati (@fooderati – 1,449 f0llowers)

Lemon Pi (@lemonpi – 1,135 followers)

I Am Obsessed with Food (@reemski – 1,171 followers)

Chocolatesuze (@chocolatesuze – 919 followers)

Gosstronomy (@gosstronomy – 978 followers)

A Table for Two (@atablefortwo – 629 followers)

Kissing Frogs and Eating Snails (@yllawright – 496 followers)

Eat Show & Tell (@howardt – 436 followers)

The Sydney Tarts (@aptronym – 373 followers)

Raspberry Cupcakes (@stephcookie – 231 followers)

The Wheeling Gourmet (@WGChef – 146 followers)

Happy New Year everyone and I’m glad to have been inspired to write this post by two of my Twitter friends, Frances Jones (@franciejones) and Rebecca Varidel (@frombecca).  Frances was retweeting a couple of interesting updates from Rebecca this week and copying me in on them.  My interest was piqued, so I clicked through and discovered an amazing dining experience about to occur in Sydney.

Great Australian Chef Tony Bilson has launched a festival of contemporary cuisine called Cuisine Now – watch the video below to learn more about it from Tony himself.

I also direct you to read Rebecca Varidel’s passionate post on Cuisine Now.

What’s piqued my interest this month is the Gala Dinner to be held on Sunday 17 January 2010 featuring amazing chefs preparing a 7-course degustation dinner, accompanied by live music performances.  The venue is at Doltone House on the upper deck of the historic Finger Wharf at the newly restored Jones Bay Wharf, Pyrmont Point, in Sydney.

I wish the Cuisine Now team all the best for their Gala Dinner and ongoing celebration of contemporary cuisine.

An acquaintance of mine has for some time been telling me about a French restaurant in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, which offers membership to diners (at no charge) then offers members a $70 8-course desgustation menu.  Plus its BYO with no corkage charge.  Well, I was intrigued.  That seemed too good to be true.

Sydney’s fine-dining establishments such as Guillaume at Bennelong (7 courses $180), Quay (4 courses $145), Marque (8 courses $145), and Aria (7 courses $160) , to name but a few, offer degustation menus at double this price and beyond.   Of course, these fine-diners have been acclaimed  by the SMH Good Food Guide in the last year, earning 2 or 3 hats so it is perhaps an unfair comparison to make with Mrs Top.  It is worth noting that there are other French restaurants in Sydney offering the multi-course tasting menu option such as the highly regarded Bistro Ortolan ($110 + $10 corkage per bottle)  Nevertheless I took a party of 4 diners there last week, and I was impressed.

Firstly the service was excellent – a very attentive and charming young French waiter ensured that we were looked after, whisking our wine away to keep chilled, then returning quickly with wine bucket and serving our wine.  I left some wine behind at the restaurant and the manager called me to inform as such – how many restaurants would do that?  Impressive.  Special mention must go to Marko, the manager there – he was charming and always available to us, even given the restaurant was completely full.

Of course, the food was fresh and delicious – it was a seafood night and we were served up prawns, mussels, crab and lobster soup, fish fillet in garlic white wine sauce, an sorbet at “intermission” the a delicious berry creme brulee for dessert.  In fact, from their website here is the menu from our evening:

Roulade de saumon St. Tropez

Roulade of salmon filled with spinach, goat’s cheese & herbs

Soupe de Poissons Provencal

Rich lobster, blue swimmer crab and seafood soup. Pastis perfumed

Coctail Fruit de mer

Classic French Prawn cocktail

Coquilles St. Jacques provencales

Scallops seared in saffron, tomatoe sauce, mushroom jullienne


Passionfruit, Apple & Rose Sorbet

Poisson d’Antibes au beurre blanc

Fillet of Barramundi served in white wine sauce, chive & pepper

Crème d’airelle brulée

The French caramelized classic, enhanced with blueberries & peach snapps

It was a fantastic night out – and once again special mention must be made to the value on offer here.  I urge you to enquire about membership of this restaurant (no charge to join) and enjoy fine-dining at very reasonable prices.


Mrs Top French Regional Cuisine

242 Military Road
Neutral Bay, Sydney, NSW, 2089, Australia
P: +61 2 9909 1969

Link to Google Map

Last night I had one of those serendipitous dining moments where you are not sure what to expect, you go into a new suburb, walk into the venue, and are pleasantly surprised by what you find.  In this case it was an old pub called The Welcome Hotel in the inner-west suburb of Rozelle, near Balmain, in Sydney.

Established in 1877, The Welcome Hotel is in a quiet part of the neighbourhood, on the corner at the bottom of a hill.  As you arrive, it’s quite dark, but there is a warm glow coming from within, and the slight buzz of people eating and drinking – the sound of a community enjoying themselves.  As you walk in,  it felt like that scene in The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandald first walks into Bilbo’s Hobbit house – warm, cozy and inviting.  

The atmosphere in the immediate bar area reminded me of Sydney’s Zeitgeist cafe (Tropicana) because of the eclectic mix of people, both young and old – a real sense of community.  Something you’d be unlikely to see in one of the trendy Paddington pubs on a Saturday night (except perhaps The Bellevue Hotel in Hargrave St – do they still do the $10 Bangers and Mash there?  Probably, but likely to be $20+ now 🙂 

Through to the back of the pub is the dining room – a more formal indoor area (complete with white tablecloths – impressive) and the informal courtyard dining area (where I was) – perfect for larger groups as they have space for a very long communal table which could accomodate 30 people easily.   Now, about the food.  It was of a very high standard – my friends, who are regulars here, really rated it, and they were right.  The food is described on their website as “contemporary European with a distrinct Irish influence” and I would go on to describe it as “typical Mod-Oz” cuisine – I note the website has a detailed menu online so go and check it out.  The presentation was excellent too, with attentive service from the friendly staff.  Actually I arrived late in the evening and enjoyed dessert (a mixture of sorbet and gelato with fresh strawberries – delicious) followed by an espresso – fresh and hot.  Good quality here.  The cheese plate, I observed to be well presented with fruit, lavosh-style biscuit bread and a generous serving of brie.  I note also from their website that the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2009 says “This is pub dining as it should be” – I have to agree. 

I look forward to dining here and trying more dishes – I would definitely recommend the Welcome Hotel for a great night out.

The Welcome Hotel
91 Evans Street
Rozelle, Sydney, NSW, 2039, Australia
P: +61 2 9810 1323

Link to Google Map

Earlier this week I posted on the unique and exciting Iggy’s Bread, producing quality sourdough bread and bagels in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.  Further south, just a few minutes from the airport in Banksmeadow, is the award winning artisan bread-bakers Brasserie Bread.  For lovers of fine food and coffee, be sure to put this on your list of must-sees  For some time now, Brasserie Bread have been offering free children’s baking classes  (booked out months in advance)   Now, this award-winning bakery is opening its doors to the public, offering adult training classes in the ancient art of bread-making.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one recently.  It was a fantstic class.

Brasserie Bread run an exceptional operation – everything they do, they do with passion, using quality ingredients and service with a smile.  I believe this is due to the vision, experience and passion that permeates through the organisation from the founders of the company,  Michael Klausen and Tony Pappas.  I have met Michael on several occasions, and anyone who has enjoyed fine dining in Sydney for many years will remember Bayswater Brasserie and Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay (still trading today, vist their site here)  – their successful partnership began at these fine establishments.

Now, about that baking class.  Having employed a charming and knowledgeable food educator and trainer named Don, you’re in good hands from the moment the 3 hour class begins.  Firstly, coffee orders are taken (using the excellent Allpress coffee) and Mark or one of the other teriffic cafe staffers heads out to prepare the coffee.  A brief history of artisan bread-making is discussed, followed by an overview of the ingredients you will use.  it’s fascinating learning about the sourdough starter, it’s origins and importance in the whole process (the starter is nurtured and “grown” daily and improves with age)  The class is very interactive, with approximately 10 people per course everyone gets a chance to ask questions.  It’s extremely hands on, and you will awken muscles in your arms through some enthusiastic kneading of the dough into various shapes including dinner rolls, baguettes and brioche-shaped.  Everything is prepared by you then baked, then you get to take it home at the end to enjoy – and its delicious.

As if this wasn’t enough, you are then taken on a tour through the entire commercial bakery – and boy is it impressive.   Don explains all aspects of the process of getting that fresh loaf into your hands, and you get to see all the bakers in action.  It’s incredible.  There’s some imperssive technology too, with large, new ovens and sophisticated handling machinery helping out with handling the large volumes – but essentially this is hand-made bread – true artisan bread-making, with the bakers handling every aspect of the preparation process.

Finally, what everyone has been waiting for after a few hours of vigorous bread-makng and learning – the tasting.  Once again, Brasserie Bread excels here – Don explains all the varieties of bread they make, and a generous tasting platter including cheeses and antipasto is brought out for us all to enjoy.   There’s some new bread recently put on the menu too – I particularly enjoyed the Quimoa (pronounced “kin-wah” – a Soy and Linseed-style organic sourdough

Brasserie Bread is running the courses throughout the remainder of 2008 – and I would expect next year and beyond.  For anyone who enjoys cooking, good food and coffee, this is not to be missed.  There is a calendar up on the site here  Anyone who has attended the course or has any questions please leave a comment and I will get back to you shortly.

Brasserie Bread
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeasow, Sydney, NSW, Australia
For training specifically: training@brasseriebread.com.au
P: +61 2 9666 6845
Link to Google Map