Peacock Trattoria

‘Old Money’: That’s the phrase used to describe Kyle Bay, a small waterfront pocket on the Georges River known for its mansions and well kept gardens, not its culinary offerings.

However, nestled in the middle of a four shop commercial strip is Peacock Trattoria, a casual eatery with an ambitious kitchen.

When I made the booking several weeks ago, I was told by a British accent (maybe chef James Watson?) how “don’t worry, there are many customers like you.” This remark was in response to my apology at changing the booking from 5 people to 8 and from February 18 to February 25 over two separate phone calls.

Brash maybe? But refreshingly cheeky and down to earth, which is the feeling you get upon entering the dimly lit room with its jumbled sense of style: Exposed wooden beams, brick walls, multi-coloured chairs and a giant peacock mural.

Chefs James Watson and Drew Corbel, a duo formerly of Balmain’s award-winning  gastro-pub the Riverview Hotel, have created a menu that reflects the restaurant’s motto: “It’s all about the food.”

We opt for the $60 “trust the chef” menu, which includes six courses of the chef’s choice starting tonight with the anchovy, potato and rosemary pizetta.

A sneaky second course was a bite-sized mackerel popsicle, which was followed by the famed crispy duck, nectarine, watercress and hazelnut & witlof salad (regularly $19).

This salad was well-balanced with the acidity of the vincotto dressing, the buttery hazelnuts, sweet/ tangy nectarines and rich duck. Certainly a recipe I will try to replicate at home (with some luck).

So far, so good and to boot, the service was friendly and attentive without the snootiness of some inner city trend spots. This made the long walk outside, down the hill, to the bathroom a quirky feature of the restaurant, rather than a burden.

Possibly a blessing in disguise given the decadence of the food yet to hit the table. First up was the creamy gorgonzola stuffed baked fig wrapped in serrano ham (reg. $19). Once again, the flavours played out perfectly in this dish proving the thought and pride peacock trattoria’s chef’s put into their food.

Coming towards our fifth course, and having already experienced the generous portion sizes, I knew I would need a strong digestive to make room in my stomach.

Sure enough, our final main course was veal tenderloin with a corn and potato fritter, salsa verde and bone marrow jus and I made sure to squeeze in every last bite.

Finishing off with a small parfait dish filled with coconut panna cotta and peaches was the proverbial cherry on top. My partner in crime had troubles with this dish, for with every attempt to scoop up a taste, the small parfait dish would overflow. Not to worry, the waitress quickly replaced his slightly melted dessert with one more user-friendly.

Colourful would be a good word to describe the Peacock Trattoria. From its charming interior to its quietly ambitious menu, this restaurant is a vibrant addition to sleepy Kyle Bay.

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Spicy Tuna Tartare

Now I realise my blog has made a slight turn to recipes rather than restaurant reviews but when one is operating on a tight budget, I have proof that there is no excuse for eating bad food.

Cooking at home can be both therapeutic, entertaining and easy on the wallet. It’s also an opportunity to get creative; so here’s a recipe that can be tweaked according to your flavour preference.

NB: Try and source ethically harvested fish, such as line caught, or fish whose listing on the IUCN list is not ‘threatened’. This can be difficult with tuna, as most species occupy the ‘threatened’ category.

– We used two Sushi grade tuna steaks- however this recipe could also work with a meaty white fish such as king fish.
– chopped chives 2 tblsp
– chopped shallots (green ones) 1/2 cup
– cooked and cooled edamame 1 1/2 cups
dressing
 – soy sauce 2 tblsp
– lemon juice 1/2 cup
– olive oil 1/2 cup
– Sriracha (chilli sauce) 1 tblsp
– brown sugar 1 tsp (or to taste)
– Grated ginger to taste

1. Dice the tuna in small chunks and add the chopped shallots and chives
2. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and pour enough of the dressing over the tuna just to coat it (it shouldn’t be swimming in dressing).
3. Coat the edamame with the dressing and serve on the side (or mix into the tartare- up to you).

Cook up some rice to serve with the dish. You can eat it donburi style, or layer the rice, edamame and tartare topped with japanese mayo and some more chives.

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Peach and almond upside-down cake

I was met with a dilemma the other day. I needed to go grocery shopping and it was late at night so the only place open was *insert name of mega grocery chain here*. Out of convenience, I bought my fruit and veges from the monolith only to have them go bad on me within a day. There are some lessons to be learnt here:

1. Sometimes it’s better to go without rather than sacrificing quality for convenience
2. If you have fruit that may be textually offensive but not so to the taste, there is always something you can use it for.
3. Cakes made with almond meal are bloody awesome.

I decided to use my squishy peaches for a cake. This is my own recipe so I hope I can remember the exact measurements. Note, cake batter made with almond meal is a little bit more forgiving than its flour counterpart, cookie dough, tarts or delicate desserts like crème anglaise or parfait. You can generally tell by the consistency of the cake batter whether it is ready to hit the oven or not. That being said, it’s best to keep the proportions as exact as possible.

peaches!

Anyway, this is what I used

– About a 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 80 g unsalted butter
– 1 cup caster sugar
– 2 1/2 cup almond meal
– 5 eggs
– 2 teaspons baking powder
– dash vanilla extract
– 2 ripe peaches

1. To begin with I used a springform cake tin about 24cm in diameter. I then greased and lined the base with baking paper before sprinkling it with the brown sugar. Melt 15g butter and evenly coat the sugared cake tin base (if you need more melted butter do so- it should be properly soaked).
2. Cut the peaches into even wedges about 1 cm thick and line the base, overlapping each slice.
3. Beat the caster sugar and remaining 65g butter until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Add the almond meal and baking powder and beat until combined.
4. Pour the batter over the peachy bottom and bake in a 160C conventional oven for about 50 minutes or until the cake is golden and the skewer is clean when tested.

Flip it over to serve!

Finished product!

Pretty easy hey! It was suggested to me that the cake would work really well with cherries, pears or apple. I bet plums would be equally tasty!

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What a delightful slice

Yes, excuse the pun but my Turkish delight slice is a delectably decadent delight.

Turkish delight, next to liquorice, is one of my favourite stand alone flavours. It is delicious on its own, in rocky road and I thought- why not as a slice? So I did some research and evidently I cannot claim the idea as my own.

This recipe is a combination of a few I found and uses a basic short bread mixture for the slice’s base.

A few notes before starting:

  • Be sure to use a candy thermometer when cooking the sugar. It can burn very quickly and won’t set properly if it is not cooked enough.
  • You can experiment with flavours for the base. I like the short bread as it isn’t too sweet for the intensely sweet turkish delight.
  • Use real rosewater not imitation. I made this mistake and ended up having to use half the bottle for the right amount of flavour.

You will need:

190g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
4 teaspoons gelatin
40 ml water + 90 ml extra
1 ½ cups white sugar
1/3 cup corn flour
3 tblsp rosewater
Rose pink food colouring

1. Pre-heat a conventional oven to 180c and grease and line a 20cm x 30cm rectangular pan.
2.Beat butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract until combined.

Gooey vanilla extract

……………..Stir in the sifted flours until the mixture becomes doughy.

this is about the consistency you want

……….Press this into the prepared tin and rough the surface with a fork. Bake until golden brown (about 20 minutes) and leave to cool.

golden goodness giving to gluttony

3. Stir gelatine and 40 ml water in a heatproof jug standing in simmering water until the gelatine has dissolved.
4. Combine the extra water with the sugar in a saucepan, heating until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, until the temperature reaches 116c/ 240F on a candy thermometer. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, maintaining the temperature at 116c. Take off the heat.
5. Blend the cornflour, rosewater, gelatine mixture and food colouring until smooth. Add this to the sugar mixture and return to heat, stirring the mixture at a simmering level for about 4 minutes.

PINK

6. Strain mixture over the cooled based and leave it to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours. Dust with icing sugar to serve!

NOTE to self and others: Next time I make this, I will change the ratio. More turkish delight, less base. The base mixture could be reduced by 25 per cent.

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Harry’s Pies

Along with kangaroos and vegemite, the crispy, golden meat pie is a world-renowned Australian icon.

More locally, Harry’s Café de Wheels is an iconic Sydney establishment that lures in both locals and tourists who are eager to taste what it is that makes these pies so famous.

Established in 1945, the pies have always been delicious; however part of the charm of Harry’s pies is in the quirky caravan. When ordering through the caravan’s side window, one can’t help but reminisce of days when roller skates were ground-breaking.

Favourite menu options include the signature ‘Tiger’, with chunky bits of beef topped with a tower of mushy peas, mash and gravy.

The TIGER

The vegetarian and seafood pies also deserve some praise.

Harry's Pies

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LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

Tucked away in the labyrinth of Potts Point, is Ll Wine and Dine; a quirky restaurant that celebrates new Sydney food diversity with old Sydney history.

In 2010, inspired by the Hong Kong bar scene, brothers Matt, Tim and Chris Barge reinvented what was a seedy adult bookshop into a trendy locale, keeping the space’s historical eccentricities.

The remnants of old Kings Cross can be seen in the 60s era porn wallpaper and the split leveled back dining room, once a den for illegal gambling. Amidst this rich history you can expect the best of contemporary Asian cuisine and funky cocktails, like the ‘Botanical Fling’ made with Hendricks gin, elderflower and kaffir lime.

Top picks on the menu include the deconstructed pork buns ($20) (a far cry from the stodgy Yum Cha favourite), the juicy duck pancakes ($29) and the crispy pork belly ($29).

deconstructed pork buns

Modernising two classic dishes, Ll Wine and Dine substituted pork for chicken in their Ll san choy bau of chicken and crab for prawn in their Singaporean jumbo king prawn curry. The chicken made for a more refreshing, zesty san choy bau that reminded me of the Thai salad, larb gai.

san choy bau

 

However, I couldn’t help but being disappointed that I was eating prawns, rather than crab in their rendition of a Singaporean classic. The coconut milk added to the curry, as well as the vegetables, removed any likening the dish had to the celebrated original and in this instance, the dish would have succeeded had it been recognised for what it really was; a very tasty curry.

Singaporean jumbo king prawn curry

With the risk of stomach explosion, I had to try Ll Wine and Dine’s ginger sugar coated doughnut balls filled with coconut cream ($14). The crispy outside and gooey coconut inside made my stomach aches well worth it!

Ll Wine and Dine is a great night out and a great addition to the countless small restaurants and bars popping up all over Sydney. Keep them coming!

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Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler

There was a rumour spreading quickly in Whistler that the Bearfoot Bistro, located in the Listel Hotel, Whistler, had plans to convert the hotel’s swimming pool into a shark tank.

For a restaurant that has its own Belvedere Ice Room, where people spend money to drink vodka in sub-zero temperatures (whilst it snows outside), the shark tank rumour (although since dispelled) didn’t seem too farfetched.

Nonetheless, minus the sharks, the snow jackets, the oyster shucking competitions and the room reserved for drinking and sabering champagne of exorbitant prices, the extravagant Bearfoot Bistro does serve up tasty food.

On this particular night however, it was not award-winning executive chef Melissa Craig preparing our 7 course extravaganza, instead it was sous chef John Ferris.

Coming from Araxi, the Bearfoot Bistro’s main competition in Whistler, Ferris’ prestigious background was made known as soon as our amuse of duck rillete with poached apple hit the table.

Duck terrine with apple compote

Following this tasty morsel came our first course; poached lobster, two ways. Served cold, the plate was divided between the claw, sitting on a piquillo pepper sauce, topped with tempura zucchini blossoms and the body of the lobster served on sweet corn puree with charcoaled piquilo peppers. Piquillo peppers had just the right amount of spice to bring out the subtle flavours of poached lobster.

Poached Lobster

Next came the Albacore tuna nicoise. I just loved this dish. The Albacore tuna, was seared rare and in tribute to its buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness, the tuna was cut into thick pieces. The plate was a eye-catching display of colour with the pink tuna, bright red confit tomatoes, green shiso leaves and black olives.

Albacore Tune Nicoise

On most nights, the Bearfoot Bistro employs the help of talented pianist Cameron Choo to create the restaurant’s classy atmosphere. Whilst the bright lights shone out from the open kitchen, the sounds of Choo emanated through the dimly lit dining room, creating a type of time vacuum. Three hours of wining and dining is not uncommon in a restaurant such as this.

There’s no way we would have rushed our third course of Foie Gras torchon served with rhubarb and brioche. Torchon or “in a towel” is prepared over several days and combines poaching and curing techniques to create a texture similar to parfait without the added ingredients such as butter.

Foie Gras torchon

I personally prefer mine sieved, yet foie gras, chunky or smooth, speaks for itself which is why the generous garnishing of strawberries and rhubarb was excessive.

Up next was the braised beef short-rib with foie gras jus, onion puree and sautéed mushrooms. Hearty and rich, I washed this down with a glass of Napa Cab selected by the Bearfoot’s Kerren Bottany.

Braised beef short-rib

Now, without the aid of the well studied sommeliers, most diners would find the Bearfoot’s wine list intimidating. As thick as an encyclopedia, this wine list is almost as equally dense as it lists the Bearfoot’s 20,000+ wines. However, whilst it can be difficult to select that perfect bottle, the huge mark ups are hard to miss.

Yet, the Bearfoot Bistro, in its own slight arrogance, romances its patrons to the point that money becomes expendable. Under this spell, shorting out is missing out on the entire Bearfoot experience.

With every dish and every glass of wine, my own wallet and its contents became as disposable as a banana peal and looking back, I threw it away gladly.

Foie gras must be a favourite of Ferris as his seared elk was decorated with foie gras “sand”. This dish was served with roasted beets, onions and a very dry and boring potato fondant. That aside however, the elk was tender, especially when smothered with the roasted onion, more akin to butter.

Elk with foie gras sand

By this stage I was full and so very pleased to see that the dessert was not overly large nor rich. The chocolate ice cream cone with mango sorbet and raspberries had just the right amount of decadence to finish.

Chocolate cone with mango sorbet

The Bearfoot Bistro is the perfect place to wow any diner and if you are really out to impress, be sure to pick up the bill at the end.

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