Exploring Sydney’s Food Scene with Sagra, Q Dining, CHISWICK, The Potting Shed and Three Blue Ducks22 September, 2014
Sydney is home to some of Australia’s best restaurants – here you can enjoy many award-winning gourmet dining experiences and dynamic chefs well-known for their innovative cuisine. Some of the chefs in these restaurants with the prestigious Chefs Hat Award had even struck out on their own to setup restaurants in their own style!
What makes the dining experience in Sydney even better is knowing that some Sydney chefs tap on high quality local fresh produce (and some even grow their own!) to produce amazing dishes – for a foodie from Singapore, it was definitely an experience I was looking forward to.
During my recent trip to Sydney, I had the opportunity to check out a few amazing restaurants in the heart of the Sydney city and even as far afield as in the Sydney suburbs e.g. Bronte – most of them using local fresh produce and some of them being helmed by chefs who had worked in Hatted restaurants.
Sagra Restaurant at Darlinghurst
Sagra is a good combination of the two factors that I am looking for in my Sydney food trail – experienced chefs from Hatted restaurants and the use of fresh local produce in creating Sagra’s menus.
Sagra is helmed by Nigel Ward from the one hatted Sean’s Panaroma and have spent some time at Lucio’s and the popular London trattoria, Trullo. Sagra is also well-known for as they say it “organic, biodynamic, farm to plate” food. Sagra’s menu changes daily and they make their own bread, their own pasta and even make their own wine!
The menu is simple – just four antipasti, four primi (pasta dishes) and two secondi (main courses), usually one meat-based and one fish. The food is simple and yet very good – referring to the picture below (starting from the top left and going clockwise), we tried the lamb fritti, fennel & anchovy (AU$18) and brussel sprouts, slow cocked egg & vincotto (AU$17) for antipasti before moving on to the bone marrow ravioli with nettle butter (AU$19) for primi and finally spatchcock, romanesco & salsa rossa (AU$28) for secondi.
You will most likely not get the same menu next time you visit Sagra but what you must try in Sagra are the pasta dishes – obviously because this is a Italian restaurant but really they are very good – I loved the bone marrow ravioli! The lamb fritti was very tender and tasted very good. I find the spatchcock a bit salty but the meat is tender and fresh (you won’t find those imported frozen meat here!).
Sagra is quite a small restaurant – about 10+ tables. You get the homely, cozy feel when you dine here at Sagra especially with the friendly service – very unassuming atmosphere. Frankly, I was unfamiliar with a lot of the words in the Sagra menu e.g. papardelle, fregola, spatchcock but the Sagra staff was quite patient and explained in detail each item and made good recommendations on what to eat here at Sagra!
Another plus point of Sagra is its location in Darlinghurst, Sydney. We were staying at Pullman Sydney Hyde Park (just a 5-minute walk from the busy Chinatown district) and we were able to walk to Sagra in about 5-6 minutes. There are also a number of cool hipster restaurants around this area too and Hyde Park is just a few minutes walk away – perfect for a leisurely stroll after a full meal at Sagra.
Sagra’s Address: 62 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst 2010
Telephone: (02) 8307 0430
Opening Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 12 noon-3pm; Dinner Mon-Sat 6pm-10.30pm
Q Dining at Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour Hotel
Q Dining (formerly known as the Quadrant Restaurant) is located within the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour Hotel. Here at Q Dining, besides good food and an excellent dining ambiance, you also enjoy great views of the harbour through its floor to ceiling glass windows. Located on the eastern side of Circular Quay, Q Dining is also a popular spot for pre-theatre dining before an evening at the Sydney Opera House.
I loved the seafood dishes at Q Dining e.g. the seared bay scallops served with black pudding and cauliflower (AU$26) and the barramundi served with macadamia crusted clams and fennel textures (AU$42) – see the topmost pictures in the picture below. The barramundi’s crispy skin can be quite salty if tasted by itself – the trick to enjoy this dish is to slice a portion of the meat and eat it with a bit of the skin for a good mix of crispiness and softness of the barramundi! We concluded our meal at Q Dining with an interesting and refreshing dessert – Earl Grey ice-cream served with zokoko chocolate and salted caramel (AU$13) – you get the taste of sweet chocolate infused with caramel and to top it all off with earl grey – quite an interesting concoction.
For breakfast at Q Dining, we treated ourselves to a 4 hour pork cheek served with rustic egg whites, roasted tomato and vincotto (AU$21) and scrambled eggs (AU$9) served with sides of hash browns (AU$5). Q Dining prides itself on using fresh local produce e.g. Fryars Kangaroo Island free range eggs, South Australia bacon and ham and sausages from Blackforest Smokehouse.
Q Dining Address: Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour Hotel, 61 Macquarie Street, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 9256 4044
Opening Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri noon-3pm; Dinner Mon-Sat 5.30pm-10pm
CHISWICK at Woollahra
Located in the beautiful Sydney suburb of Woollahra, CHISWICK Restaurant is a casual dining venue co-owned by celebrity chef Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan. Mention “Matt Moran” to Sydney locals and they will talk about the successful fine-dining restaurant ARIA and rave about its great food. Thus, it is not a surprise that CHISWICK is just as popular among locals.
CHISWICK even has its own 150 square metres working herb and vegetable garden. When CHISWICK talks about ‘farm to table’ for its dishes, it is with not only produce from the garden but also superb grass-fed beef and lamb from the Moran family farm near Bathurst.
If you are dining with a group of 4-5 friends at CHISWICK and no one can’t seem to make up their mind of what to eat here, you can check out the CHISWICK Collective Menu (AU$75 per person) which puts together all of CHISWICK’s popular dishes e.g. oregano, garlic, wood fired bread; Kingfish sashimi served with sesame, yuzu and coriander; ‘Cioppino’ fish served with prawns, mussels, tomatoes and fregola; Wood roasted Moran family lamb served with white bean and smoked tomato; CHISWICK hazelnut rocher and many more dishes.
Otherwise, there is a huge selection of nibbles, small plates, mains and to share plates to choose from the CHISWICK menu. For appetisers, we started with Prawn popcorn served with chipotle mayonnaise and lemon (AU$14), Kingfish sashimi served with sesame, yuzu and coriander (AU$19), Snow crab slider served with lettuce, kewpie and gherkins (AU$9) and Seared scallops served with celeriac and fresh Western Australian truffle (AU$22). My personal favorites are the snow crab slider and seared scallops. I had the opportunity to try the Crispy fried quail served with lime, shallot and ginger (AU$22) – not pictured below – I absolutely loved it – must try!
For mains, we ordered the Roast pork belly served with toasted barley and shallot dressing (AU$33), Char grilled grain-fed beef, roast parsnip, seeded mustard butter (AU$35) and Pan roasted whole flounder served with fine nuts, kale and pipis (AU$34).
The servings for the mains at CHISWICK were quite generous! The Roast Pork Belly tasted just like how a typical roasted pork belly 五花肉 is prepared Chinese-style – crispy skin with a good quantity of fat (but not too much). I find the flounder fish dish too bony to my liking – too much hassle eating it. The Char grilled grain-fed beef was excellently done – it was ordered medium rare and it was prepared just right – not too hard and tasted really good with the sides!
One of the side dish worth a mention (not pictured here) is definitely the Hand cut chips served with black garlic aioli (AU$9) – these are quite thick slices of chips and they are fried to the right level of crispiness – very addictive dish and I can’t stop nibbling at it even with my generous mains!
For desserts at CHISWICK, we tried the Mandarin passionfruit pavlova served with blood orange sorbet; Lime parfait served with coconut and raspberry; Apple tart tatin served with cinnamon ice cream and the CHISWICK hazelnut rocher (all AU$16 each).
My personal favorite hands-down is the CHISWICK hazelnut rocher – not a surprise since its quite overtly branded with the CHISWICK name – excellent dessert for the sweet tooth – it is a mix of chocolate hazelnut served with vanilla ice-cream. 🙂
CHISWICK Address: 65 Ocean St, Woollahra 2025
Telephone: (02) 8388 8688
The Potting Shed at the Grounds of Alexandria
The Grounds of Alexandria is already quite popular among locals for its petting zoo and coffee roaster. The Potting Shed is a great option for dinner especially after a day out at the Grounds enjoying the coffee and checking out “Kevin Bacon” – the resident pig at the Grounds.
The Potting Shed is well-known for its use of fresh produce and casual dining environment. You will find yourself surrounded by interesting wooden fittings, pot plants almost everywhere and you should also check out the resident proud-looking blue and yellow macaw called Fluffy – you won’t feel cramped here as the dining tables are spaced quite far apart from each other – while the Potting Shed gets really busy in the evening, we don’t quite feel it. 🙂
For starters at the Potting Shed, we had Buttermilk Popcorn Chicken served with honey mustard (AU$12) and Kurobuta Pork Belly Sliders served with kimchi and red-eye mayo on a charcoal brioche (AU$16). The Potting Shed prides itself on their Kurobuta Pork which according to them is top-notch Japanese style from Byron Bay and the Pork Belly sliders sure didn’t disappoint.
For mains, we had the 250 grams pasture-fed angus eye fillet served with chips (AU$28). I find that this angus eye fillet a bit stiff – perhaps that’s why they had provided a mini chopper on the block! 🙂 I recommend the Char grilled marinated lamb culets infused with oregano, mint and grilled lemon (AU$34) – eating this dish can get quite messy as there are quite a number of lamb culets (6) and do so quickly especially during cold evenings during early spring as they can get cold quite soon!
For desserts at The Potting Shed, we checked out the Cherry & Hazelnut Bomboloni served with spiked mascarpone and cinnamon sugar (AU$12) and the Self Saucing Chocolate Pudding served with vanilla bean ice cream (AU$14). The bomboloni tasted like hum chim peng (a kind of Chinese fried doughnut 鹹煎餅) but filled with cherry and hazelnut, making this dessert taste both sweet and savoury at the same time – I thought the serving was quite generous with 3 big bombolonis!
I loved the self saucing chocolate pudding! It is just like lava cake at the top layer and it oozes thick warm chocolate lava – perfect for mixing with the cold vanilla ice-cream and as you dig deeper, you will reach a thick layer of brownie in the “pot”.
The Potting Shed Address: 4143 Bourke Rd, Alexandria 2015
Telephone: (02) 9699 2225
Opening Hours: Daily 11am-late
Three Blue Ducks at Bronte
Three Blue Ducks is an interesting cafe with character – during the day, it is a chill-out cafe with great coffee and interesting graffiti on its walls and even a kitchen garden you can check out at the back on the way to the toilet (the garden is nothing very impressive but it is where the fresh local produce that goes into your mains come from). By night, Three Blue Ducks is fully booked weeks ahead as a restaurant.
Here at Three Blue Ducks, you have Darren Robertson (former head chef at Tetsuya’s) working alongside Mark LaBrooy and Shannon Debreceny to bring you the great food!
We were here at Three Blue Ducks for breakfast – i strongly recommend the scrambled eggs served with black sausage, dill cucumber yoghurt salad and red currant jam (AU$22) for a full breakfast to kick-start your day. The flaked house smoked salmon served with dukkah, lemon, poached eggs, labneh chili and kale (AU$22) is also worth a try. However, if you want a light breakfast, you can check out the pecan and raisin fruit toast served with rocotta, mixed berry jam and marmalade (AU$9). Breakfast is served til 11.30am – do note that even in the morning, Three Blue Ducks can get quite crowded around 8.30am to 9am – this is interesting since we are deep in the suburbs of Bronte – at least a 15 minutes drive from downtown Sydney!
Three Blue Ducks Address: 143 Macpherson Street, Bronte 2024
Telephone: (02) 9389 0010
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun Breakfast 7am-11.30am; Lunch noon-2.30pm; Wed-Sat Dinner 6pm-11pm