As December settles in, everyone starts going a little crazy. And it’s not something I’ve only just noticed. It happens in the northern hemisphere too. I remember it well when I was growing up in the UK.
But perhaps because this month not only represents Christmas to many of us, and on a personal note quite a few birthdays for us (including and especially Christina’s), December always seems more hectic than it used to be.
It’s one of the reasons we were so excited to be invited to one of Sydney’s newest city hotels – a beautiful place right in the heart of the CBD.
Aside from that, this week we’re flying around everywhere with a local restaurant celebrating its 2nd birthday, Christina celebrating her birthday too, meeting up with friends, Japanese restaurants, steak restaurants, Italian restaurants… get ready for a big one!
We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
ReccoLab – an instant institution in Rozelle in Sydney’s Inner West – is a pretty special restaurant. Run and owned by Antonio Zambarelli, also a Sydney institution in his own right, this is an Italian eatery with a difference.
And today, Signor Zambarelli is proud to announce ReccoLab’s birthday with an Aperol spritz party and impressively authentic aperitivo.
Chef and owner of ReccoLab, Antonio Zambarelli, once had his name above the doors of venues like Home and Tank – anyone partying in Sydney in the ’90s and early ’00s will remember with affection.
These days though, Antonio’s brought things back to the old country. In fact ReccoLab gets its name from his hometown in Liguria. The town of Recco, just down the road from Genoa on the Italian Riviera, is also the birthplace of a particular type of focaccia dish – focaccia con formaggio, which is baked right here on the ReccoLab premises in the very pizza oven behind my drink!
It’s also the only place in Australia that makes this particular dish.
Because ReccoLab is not only a restaurant (actually a perfect example of a modern Italian osteria) but also a bakery, the food that comes out of the kitchens here is superb. To show off their skills and to celebrate the restaurant’s birthday, Antonio and his crew are throwing an aperitivo party.
Aperitivo is a wonderful thing to come from Italy.
At its simplest, aperitivo can be a bowl of complimentary nuts that comes with your drink in bars. At its best, you find bars and osterias offering a delicious range of goodies from pizzas to olives all within the price of your drink. It’s a bit like happy hour but instead of half-price drinks, you get food.
If that’s not the Italian way I don’t know what is!
ReccoLab’s aperitivo has everything from pizza and charcoal bun bocconcini sliders to proscuito, mortadella and the house-baked focaccia. Delicious!
Make sure you get down to ReccoLab at 120 Terry Street, Rozelle if you’re after one of the most authentic Italian food and cultural experiences in Sydney.
After the last couple of weeks, we thought Sydney had finished with its storms and silliness, but tonight it looks like it’s back.
Let’s hope the weather keeps it together while we’re out though*. Christina and I are off to check out a new hotel – Skye Suites – in the heart of the city.
*The weather did not keep it together. Hail storm with ice chunks the size of tennis balls!
We manage to enjoy our big balcony at Skye Suites before the storm comes, but the views from our flour-to-ceiling windows out over Kent Street of the hail and lightning are perfect.
Skye Suites at 300 Kent Street offer 73 rooms – all of which are suites with lots of space and comfort. Ours – a 1-bedroom deluxe suite – is 57m² and has a kitchenette with microwave, dishwasher, cooker hobs and a dining table. And Kevin Murphy bathroom amenities, of course.
Best of all, if you book directly through the Skye Suites website, you get free access to the daily minibar in the room, which includes the pod-style espresso machine.
It’s perfect for longer stays in Sydney if you’re here for business or pleasure. I can imagine my mum and dad being very happy here when they come to visit.
The bedroom, which is separated from the living room and dining area by a Japanese-style sliding wall, is big enough for a queen bed, wardrobes and a second access point to the balcony. The bed’s a bit smaller than we were expecting, but it’s still very comfortable.
The suite is full of tech though, like the concierge tablet next to the bed. You can set multiple alarms from here, plus book your next visit, view your account, and check the news and weather.
The air conditioning and lighting is sensor-operated, your mobile can act as the door key instead of a hotel card and the free wi-fi is quick.
And check out the power points: double USB points. At last!
Separating the two wings of this newly-built hotel is an ope-air atrium that looks down on reception below. The opening is covered with a sail, but it’s great that fresh air can come into the hotel like this.
We both just love the design of this part of the hotel. Visually impressive and a clever way to bring the outside in without compromising on privacy.
On street level, we find the dedicated entrance to Skittle Lane – a newly refurbished part of Sydney that is now full of great eating places and convenience stores.
This is a part of the city we’ve never seen before.
We explore Skittle Lane looking for dinner, and then extend our search into the city. We’re spoilt for choice being so close to Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, Pitt Street and even Chinatown if we feel like a walk.
But possibly the best and certainly the most striking feature of this Skye Suites hotel is the pool.
Designed by award-winning architect Koichi Takada, the pool and spa make excellent use of the space. The white fins in the wall and ceiling add shape, depth and a sense of luxury to the pool room. The gym behind the pool is well-equipped too.
We’re kind of in love with this pool though. And the spa bubbles forever.
This hotel is the perfect romantic getaway for Sydneysiders looking for a staycation in the city or visitors who are after more comfort than your average hotel provides. And the rates for what you get are very reasonable.
Today Christina’s pretty excited: it’s her BIRTHDAY!!
To get the ball rolling, Christina and I head to Pyrmont for an ice cream at her favourite place in Sydney: Messina. It’s a pretty good start.
This evening, Christina’s mum, sister and nephews have come over for dinner at a little local pizzeria: Capello’s. It’s a beautiful old sandstone building in Balmain and the food is always good.
This caprese salad is delicious, as is calamari fritti we have for entree.
But the main events – the pizzas – are awesome. The base is perfect, the toppings generous and the style is just how we like it. It’s somewhere between a Roma crispy base and a Napolitano one – soft and doughy.
This is somewhere between a birthday dinner for Christina and Christmas dinner for all of us, but either way it’s a good one. We’re at Gogyo Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills and I’m pretty excited. This place does one of the best ramen bowls in the city.
This is Gogyo’s signature ramen bowl. It’s a rich dark miso base but with a special charred quality that gives the dish an extra level of umami. Full of pork, egg and noodles, this is a great dish.
Stevie and Paul go for the habanero ramen bowl, which is basically a ball of pork mince full of extremely hot chilli. It’s a challenge and a delicious one at that, but I think I’ve chosen wisely with this one.
Tonight, Christina’s at home while I hit the town with the lads. We’ve come to Elements Bar and Grill in Darlinghurst for a meat fest.
Set on the hallowed grounds of where much-loved Universal used to be, this restaurant has big shoes to fill. Its halloumi fries are a good sign that things will stand up here. The reduced balsamic drizzle is a lovely touch.
The charcuterie tower is pretty good too – top level of cured meats, roasted marinated capsicum and goat curd and a lower level of dips, tapenade and olives. The bread is also good.
We also order the beef short rib, but it’s surprisingly chewy in spite of the waiter removing the bones just with his (gloved) hands. To be honest, we wonder why he’s taken out the rib bones – or ‘nature’s handles’ as we like to call them.
Our mains come and I’m pretty excited. Two of us have ordered the dry-aged wagyu charcoal smoked burgers, and they come under their own glass cloches full of smoke. I love the theatre behind this food.
The other two have ordered the Elements ‘signature steak on stone’ fillet. The steaks arrive sizzling on a hot stone embedded in the wooden board they’re served on. They come with a choice of seasoning too, with the idea that you can finish your steak how you want it.
Off comes the cover of my burger – both my mate and I have gone for a Classic American BLT, but with an extra burger patty and extra cheese. We’ve chosen very wisely. The burgers are hearty, smoky and delicious. The meat is juicy, and there’s enough sauce and cheese to make sure the burger’s not too meaty.
My steak-cut chips that come with the burgers could have done with a bit more cooking, but otherwise I’m very happy.
The other two lads however aren’t as impressed with their steaks. The hot plates – though an effective gimmick – have over-cooked their meat. It also means the steaks haven’t had chance to rest, so the flavour’s not there. And they don’t like the idea of seasoning the steak themselves, which I get.
Service tonight has been a little slow too, and it looks like the kitchen has had trouble keeping up. The sides of fries the guys order for their steaks don’t come out until everyone’s finished. To his credit though, the owner, who’s waiting our table, is apologetic and talks us through our experience.
I’d definitely come back here for a burger, and the meat they have here looks impressive too. But I won’t be ordering the hot plate signature dish.
To finish things up for the week, we’ve got a delivery of new, festive Nespresso coffee styles to try. It’s the perfect way to lead us into the Christmas break.
They also go perfectly with my special macadamia shortbread biscuits that you have to try. Amazing!
Nespresso have created three new coffee capsules for Christmas: the Paris Black, the Paris Praline and the Paris Macaron. I really like the Paris Black, which is rich, dark and strong, and is perfect as an espresso or with a little milk. It’s absolutely like the coffee you get in Paris.
Paris Praline – full of hazelnut notes – and Paris Macaron – reminiscent of the classic French almond-flavoured petit fours – are surprisingly sweet, but work well with milk as lattes. I wonder if they would be good used in dessert dishes too.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition and that you have an awesome Christmas.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx