Monthly Archives: October 2011

Uh-oh, I start madly punching away at the shutter button but to no avail, dead battery means no more photos for the day (this would not a big deal for normal people unless you were a photo whore like me).

We were at Black Star Pastry, and due to very limited seating we partook in 5 minutes of musical chairs before trading up to a cushioned spot in the window bay. As we settled down the large crowd started to thin out: a mark of the end of lunch period (these rules clearly don’t apply to us). The tiny bakery slash cafe opened three years ago by Christopher Thé (of Quay, Claude’s and Sonoma fame) has an assortment of cakes and breads on display in charming wood framed cabinets and glass cake stands. With pies, baguettes, tarts and macarons on offer, Queenie and I were forced into deep discussion for a few minutes before finally settling on our order.

Bowls of croissants on the busy counter top

At this point my camera had decided this was the perfect time for a nap, I spent a while madly rubbing the battery between my palms and thankfully managed to coax another few frames from the lethargic device.

Chicken & Avocado Sandwich

Since neither of us was extremely hungry we decided to share a chicken sandwich (pies, we figured were too difficult to share *sad face*). The sandwich turned out to be huge with the simple combination of poached chicken, rocket and avocado lying snug within two slices of soft white. Somehow the fresh bread and luscious chicken combo was strangely addictive: it disappeared rather quickly.

Strawberry and watermelon cake with rose cream

We were vain admirers of aesthetics and chose the prettiest cakes to go with our coffee and chai. First in line was Black Star’s signature Strawberry Watermelon cake with Rose cream. Deliciously light and feminine with the sweetness of the rose-water and fresh watermelon seeping through the cream and almond dacquoise. If you’re interested in recreating this for a fancy party (or a very special party of one) then Gourmet Traveller and Chef The has published the recipe online as part of ‘fare exchange’.

A few frames from my sardine can lomo, the DIY toast station

The next victim was another signature offer from Thé: Orange Cake with Persian Fig and Quince with a few dried flower petals and slivers of pistachio crowning the mini cake. I found this to be the hollywood blonde sister; very beautiful but lacking complexity within, the cake was denser than I imagined with a strong citrus taste but the quince and fig flavours didn’t seem to carry through.

Blueberry doughnut and the Orange cake with Persian fig and quince

Our last choice was a blueberry doughnut. Admittedly I didn’t get much time to savour my half before inhaling the sugar-coated pillow, a burst of blueberry filling sliding down my throat as we suddenly stared at the naked plates.


The verdict
A cute-as-pie pastry shop situated in a relatively quiet nook of Newtown. All items are well priced and include a lot of unique signature items from chef Thé. Worth coming back to try a few more of their delectable pyramid-shaped lemon meringues, lamb shank pies and ginger ninjas. Can be hard to find a seat during peak hour but lucky for all us late risers they’re open until 5pm.

Black Star Pastry
a. 277 Australia St Newtown
t. 9557 8656

Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon


Monday Night Supper, a meal unlikely to be realised in Sydney unless it involves chicken salt (oh yeah) and palm oil but thankfully after an intimate half hour with Google and a phone call later we dodged the potential heart attack and had managed to lock in a rendezvous at A Tavola.

Sonia and I arrived well after 9, stepping inside we peeled off our outer layers and admired the intimate setting. A Tavola is Italian for ‘to the table’ and the iconic 10 metre long communal table stretched the length of the front room with intricate veins of the Indian marble forming a meandering amber landscape towards the drying curtain of pasta draping the kitchen window. Two large blackboards dominate the northern wall with the daily specials (utilising chef Eugenio Maiale’s fresh pasta) scrawled in Italian. A curt paper menu hidden within our napkins listed the perennials which averaged $10 cheaper by using dried pasta instead.

Taking our spots opposite a young couple we ordered our wines and continued to reflect upon Tran Anh Hung’s cinematic translation of Norwegian wood, musing over the themes of escape, nostalgia and loss (and who was the hottest) as well as expressing reverence for cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin’s (of ‘In the Mood for Love’ fame) masterful compositions.

Complimentary bread with chilli infused olive oil

The complimentary bread arrived: two fingers of home-made focaccia sprinkled with fennel and rosemary was accompanied by a small dish of chilli infused olive oil.

Polipo con patate e olive (Octopus with potatoes and olives) $20

Knowing the servings can err on the large side we opted to share everything and all the dishes came out at once. First was the octopus, the beautifully cooked tentacle nested within a garden of green beans, watercress, kipfler potato and olives.

Triangoli con ripieno di anatra (Triangle ravioli stuffed with duck) $34

All of a sudden the room was awash with an unassailable nutty aroma and then we spotted our waiter floating towards us with a warm plate of the ravioli. Six large poppy freckled triangles stuffed with tender shreds of duck wallowed in a pool of burnt butter, sage and slivers of mustard fruit. The elements combined to form a nuanced mouthful of pasta, gamey meat and at times a surprising murmur of sweetness.

Swiss brown mushrooms, green peas, mint, ricotta salata $16

Last was our side of juicy mushrooms and peas, a simple combination enhanced by the shavings of salty ricotta and whispers of mint.

Before we knew it our plates were spotless. Having read that the desserts here weren’t as rave worthy as the pasta, I decided to have ice cream at Gelato Messina across the road instead. As we prepared to leave the woman across from us loudly declared her dessert the best she’s had in her entire life. Suddenly hit by a pang of regret I started wondering if we made the right choice, but A Tavola has endured the ebbs and flows of the Sydney dining scene for half a decade and with such refined Abruzzese fare we’re sure to have ample opportunities to return to the table.


The Verdict
A warm interior and a table laden with basins of beans and pots of parmesan serve as a homely-chic backdrop to pastas inspired by Maiale’s childhood. We were intrigued by the sound of the gnocchi and seared hare with risotto and will be back to try more of the elegant fresh pasta. Although the special dishes do verge a touch on the exxy side, the servings are fair and it’s well worth at least an initial visit to see for yourself what the fuss is all about. 

A Tavola
a. 348 Victoria Street Darlinghurst
t. 9331 7871
e. reservations(at)

A Tavola on Urbanspoon

My third Italian in 6 days and if the first two were to set some sort of benchmark then 121BC, the newest effort from the folks that brought you Vini and Berta, had a lot to live up to.

Thankfully this time I did my research and discovered that the actual entrance was located on a side alley, with the bar itself unmarked except for the vinyl lettering of cantina (cellar) and enotica (wine respositry) on the glass shop front. We loitered outside whilst the bar started slowly emptying itself of the first round of diners: leaving to make room for the 7pm sitting as the waiters methodically cleaned and reset the table.

Irata Offida Pecorino, Clara Marcelli

The four of us were here for the drink + dine offer created to celebrate the Crave food festival. We were directed to our place at the end of the 25 seater bench with an intimate view of the chef working his craft in that shoebox kitchen. Giorgio the manager/sommelier approached us to check if we were ready to start, and with an eager nod it all started to happen. First was the glass of Pecorino, made from the early ripening Pecorino grape which predates the well-known cheese, our waiter noted with a cheeky grin that it had hints of cider in the nose “if you close your eyes and use your imagination”.

Polenta fritta, pancetta, onion

To match our tipple, the polenta arrived on a wooden board, crispy bars of goodness paired with the soft aromatic onion and sprinkled with rosemary and chives. Cathy murmured that this was even better than the polenta fries we had at Bloodwood and I had to agree.

Lasagnetta cuttlefish and beetroot & Rosso 2009, Le Coste

Our glasses cleared away we were all next given a very dry red from Le Coste. Whilst a few of us decided this didn’t possess enough drinkability factor, none could disagree it was a perfect bedfollow for the Lasagnetta. Sandwiched between two thin sheets, it was studded with cuttlefish and beetroot cubes (who knew this was such a winning combination) with flecks of orange zest adding an extra zing to the overall dish.

The lone chef hard at work plating well over 225 servings that night.

Moscato di Pantelleria 2009, Pellegrino

Lastly a small pour of Moscato, wonderfully floral and densely sweet.

Rosemary custard, pears

I honestly thought the first two courses were hard to beat and didn’t think much of dessert until we were served these little glasses of rosemary custard. A sliver of poached pear, a sprinkling of salted walnuts sat atop the wonderfully creamy custard, infused with the familiar resinous aroma of the garden herb. One of us unashamedly licked her glass clean.

We hung around for a bit longer chatting before Giorgio approached us again to apologise and inform us that they had to make way for the third sitting. We thanked all the staff on our way out, surprisingly full and knowing nothing could better what we just had experienced: the four of us called it a night.


The Verdict
I know the holy trinity is meant to be impossible but the folks here have achieved it: with food and wine that’s good, fast and cheap there’s nothing not to love about this place except the queues. The waiters were chatty, knowledgeable and thoughtful even standing aside patiently whilst Cathy was composing a shot. Come early or very late but do come. Worth repeat visits to try the changing menu and perfect for late night eaters (opens until midnight Fridays & Saturdays).

121BC don’t normally serve desserts and the custard was such a winner I can only enthusiastically urge you to book a spot during the last week of drink + dine.

The Drink + Dine offer is available for the month of October but you must book.
3 courses + 3 wines for $40
Tuesday – Thursday for sittings at 6/7:30/9PM

121BC cantina & enotica
a. 4/50 Holt St (entrance located on Gladstone St) Surry Hills
t. 9699 1582
e. info(at)

121 BC on Urbanspoon

There’s something special about bars in lane ways and alleys, it seems that the difficulty in locating the bar is inversely proportional to the quality of the food & drinks served within. Lucky for me then, I got lost. Despite my best efforts I found myself standing in a crowd of yellow wheelie bins before I heard it…the familiar murmur, the clink of cutlery and bursts of laughter coming from a side alley. I made it!

As I rush inside to meet the early birds, the waitress plonks down a small saucer of olives. The menu itself is limited and changes day by day according to what seasonal produce the chef Tim Webber (ex Sean’s Panorama) can source, most of the dishes are light and refreshing, designed to pair well with their extensive wine list. Inside, the space itself is very small and split into two sections with a collection of metal stools arranged near the front window and a clutter of oranges, bread sticks and lilies lined along the bar. The interior & service are both warm and endearing, akin to gathering for nibbles at a friend’s place.

Burrawong duck’s liver pate with onions agro dolce $14 and extra Bread $2

First to arrive was the pate (who can say no to pate)? It’s taken many a pate for me to have developed a refined understanding of the perfect pate to bread ratio. None of this scraping-it-across-the-sourdough-like-a-smear-of-Vegemite business, the aim of the game is to heap it on as generously as possible. Having said that we were lucky to have already ordered more bread, so nothing was wasted.

Spanner crab bruschetta, fennel, chilli, parsley, lemon $14

The crab bruschetta was addictive, the crab meat was beautifully soft in contrast to the crunch of fresh fennel and fragrance of torn parsley.

Kingfish carpaccio, fresh horseradish, mint, new season olive oil $15

Kingfish & ocean trout are my favourites when it comes to raw fish, the mellow flavour and delicate sweetness of these fish seem more lady-like compared to the big flavours of salmon and tuna. So it’s no surprise that the standout was easily the carpaccio, accentuated by the greeness of the new season olive oil and the freshness of mint.

Pears baked with cinnamon, blood orange, Riesling and creme fraiche $7

Since we were sitting in front of the menu board, dessert had been beckoning us all night long so we side stepped common sense and placed our order. The lone baked pear arrived, our spoons slid easily into the soft cheeks, scraping away bits of creme fraiche and blood orange syrup along the way.

It’s unfortunate we missed out trying the buffalo mozzarella, served with a heap of new green beans, mint and olives as well as the white anchovies with fennel, but fortunately for us it’s the perfect excuse
to come back for another drink with Tilly.

Vibrant and warm this place definitely ticks the “must try” box. Worth coming
back to explore the evolving wine list and daily menu, just come early.

Love Tilly Devine // Sly wine bar
a. 91 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst
t. (02) 9326 9297
e. tilly(at)

Love, Tilly Devine on Urbanspoon

01-01So I’m dancing a happy jig in my chair and being lamely excited about finally getting to share my food porn stash with you all. It’s my hope some of the places I visit will inspire you(r stomachs) to go forth and  order the weird dishes and try the hole in the wall eats, or if nothing else I hope the photos will give you a good 5 minutes worth of drool time during your lunch break.

It’s better with food in hand.