Top-25 cocktails, fine-dining Sokyo 2.0 and a spiky fruit high tea

Just when we all thought things were looking brighter – at least here in Sydney – rumours that this summer will be blighted by La Niña are confirmed.

Well, it might be a wet and windy summer, but that won’t stop us having fun. And this Edition is proof positive of that. 

Trigger warning: if you’re feeling hungry, this story won’t help. This week’s been pretty focused on superb food and drinks, so scroll at your peril!

We hope you enjoy this Edition. 

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Door Knock Bar, Sydney

This evening we’re in Door Knock, a very cool basement bar right at Sydney’s heart. You really have to know where this place is to find it – and that’s stating the obvious. 

But we’re here because we’ve heard that Door Knock – and more specifically its owner Natalie Ng – has been selected by Drinks World Magazine as one of the Top 25 Bartenders in the country. 

There’s even a book to celebrate with over 300 cocktails for the home bartender.

Door Knock Bar Sydney - Tall Tales cocktail winner T25 2021

But this is the business end of things: Natalie’s cocktail The Tall Tale. It’s a whiskey-forward, fruit-driven highball with additions of apricot brandy, white wine, smoked bitters and lemon juice – the perfect remedy to a warm evening. 

But if you want something with real smoke to it, your next drink at Door Knock should be the Rhubarb Me Gently. This mezcal-loaded mojito-style drink blends smoke with rhubarb and pink grapefruit, and ties it all up with agave nectar and lemon juice. Delicious!

What's the difference between a Cornish cream tea and a Devonshire cream tea?

Talking of door knocks, there’s one at our door this afternoon. It’s our amazing neighbour Denese proffering a plate of still-warm freshly baked scones! She even has a ramekin of clotted cream for us. What an angel. 

Christina and I lose no time in splitting these beauties and loading them up – jam first of course – for a Cornish cream tea. If you go cream first by the way, that’s a Devonshire cream tea and makes no sense to me at all.

But whatever colour a cowboy wants…

Dafe d'Yvoire Balmain

It’s somehow lunchtime again and today we’re making our way to Cafe d’Yvoire in Balmain to dine with the family, which is smashing. The food at this cafe is always so good, so we’re happy with the excuse of seeing everyone!

Cafe d'Yvoire Balmain

This is the second time I’ve had the roast beef sandwich at Cafe d’Yvoire, and once again is hasn’t disappointed. However, I think I’ll be going for the pulled pork burger next time. Our nephew has ordered it and it looks incredible. 

The croque madame – in the background here – is also amazing by the way.

Bladnoch X Urban Alley boilermaker kit

You’ve probably seen a boilermaker (also known as a depth charger) in movies where piss-up protagonists drop shots of whisky into their beers and chug the whole thing back.

Well this is a boilermaker with a difference. This is a fascinating collaboration between Aussie-owned scotch distillery Bladnoch (you can read more about them in our story here) and Melbourne craft brewers Urban Alley

Urban Alley have created a beer that actually pairs with Bladnoch’s Vinaya whisky, so we thought we’d do a Cocktail Hour on Instagram showing how a boilermaker should be done.

You can watch our IGTV Cocktail Hour episode about boilermakers here.

Buy your kit of Bladnoch (700ml) and Urban Alley (4x cans) here direct from the distillery.

Fred's restaurant Paddington - mains and Christina

This evening, we’re out for a very special dinner. We’re at Fred’s in Paddington. It’s a much-overlooked venue I think, because we reckon it’s easily one of the best eateries in the city, possibly the country. If not the best. And no one’s paying me to say that.

The food and service here are out of this world.

Fred's restaurant Paddington - entree carpaccio striped trumpeter

We start things off with a carpaccio of striped trumpeter with real, fresh wasabi and coriander. The fish is bound together with poached cabbage and is superb.

In the background is a dish we’ve never heard of before: malloreddus, which is a kind of gnocchi made from polenta and is Sardinian. This one comes with a beautifully rich broken-up pork sausage and broad beans.

Fred's restaurant Paddington - mains lamb shoulder and Jim

For mains, we share a ridiculously tender roast lamb shoulder, which comes with a spicy, creamy chickpea dish. We also have sides of asparagus and a hash brown that’s so crunchy it almost shatters when you cut it. This is also served with a slaw.

This is such a great restaurant. Highly recommended.

TravMedia Christmas cruise rosé

This evening, we’re braving the high seas – well, Sydney Harbour – for an early Christmas party with our mates from TravMedia and the travel writing industry. 

It’s so good to be around friends again and even better to be out on the water. Let’s hope the weather holds.

TravMedia cruise

For the most part, we’re lucky this evening and it only rains a bit. The bonus for all this unpredictable weather is the sky’s very dramatic!

Sokyo restaurant The Darling Hotel

We’re really excited about lunch today: we’re heading to The Darling in Pyrmont to eat at Sokyo. It’s been ages since we’ve been here and we’ve heard things have changed a little bit.

What’s more, from December 5th Sokyo is introducing a Sunday brunch menu! 

Expect many of the favourites from lunch (some of them are in this story actually!) as well as lots of other goodies. There’ll also be a yuzu mimosa, a new Sokyo bloody mary (it actually comes with a rasher of crispy bacon!) and a delicious sounding bloody margarita with a wasabi salt rim!

You’ll find the Sunday brunch menu and booking screen here.

There’s still the exquisite attention to detail – from the flowers at the front desk to the perfect plating of the food. But there’s a freshness about Sokyo – a brightness that wasn’t here before.

We’re really impressed with how busy it is here today for lunch. And we hear it’s usually like this – or has been for the last month since lockdown ended.

Looking forward to seeing things just as busy when the Sunday brunch menu kicks off.

Sokyo restaurant - cocktail

We kick things off with a beer and one of Sokyo’s signature cocktails Chasing Kojima 2.0, which features Yuzu sake, pink grapefruit, lemongrass, elderflower & Peychaud’s, lemongrass foam. Very impressed.

Sokyo restaurant - entrees - edamame, sashimi platter, nigiri and eggplant and mushroom tempura

Entrees come out and they’re quite something. Tender edamame beans, an incredibly theatrical sashimi platter, sumptuous nigiri of king fish and grilled eel, and eggplant and mushroom tempura with an amazing array of textures and flavours.

Again, we’re reminded that although the quality of the food and service are still very much front and centre of Sokyo’s dining experience, there’s a fresh new adventurousness to the dishes.

Sokyo restaurant miso toothfish and wagyu flank steak

We’re pretty sure things can’t get much better than the entrees… and then the mains come out. 

On the left is the dengakuman – miso glazed toothfish, Japanese salsa, pickled cucumber. The fish is so tender, the fine glaze of miso on top is pretty much the only thing holding it together.

On the right is the wagyu steak. 200g of wagyu cooked to absolute perfection. The shio koji marinade, wasabi and garlic ponzu create the perfect storm of flavours and textures. It doesn’t taste or feel like beef; it’s ethereal, melt-in-the-mouth stuff. Incredible.

Ho Jiak - Thorny Fruit Co, Textbook Patisserie, Rockman AU durian and jackfruit culinary showcase and market

This afternoon, we’re in the city for a most unusual high tea.

At Ho Jiak Malaysian Restaurant, the Thorny Fruit Co and Rockman Australia have created a marketplace and culinary showcase all about one of the world’s most contentious fruit: durian.

Said to reek of garbage, this much-maligned tropical oddity is actually delicious and smells more like sweet over-ripe fruit to be honest. But it hasn’t stopped many a South Asian country banning it from banks, shopping malls and airports. 

It’s also incredibly versatile as we’ll show you in a moment.

Ho Jiak - Thorny Fruit Co, Textbook Patisserie, Rockman AU durian and jackfruit culinary showcase and market

Down in the basement level of Ho Jiak today, The Thorny Fruit Company, which is an Australian company growing durian and jackfruit in tropical Far North Queensland, has a market selling Aussie-grown and Malaysian air-flown durian and jackfruit to anyone who wants it. 

The rich smell of these fascinating fruits waft onto the street. It makes us feel like we’re back in Borneo, exploring the streets of Kota Kinabalu in beautiful Sabah.

Ho Jiak sign


But we’re heading for the upstairs part of the restaurant and for a culinary showcase like no other. 

This is the perfect venue for a Malaysian restaurant by the way. It feels like an upmarket eatery you’d find in Kuala Lumpur, and the sense of humour in the signs around the place match the fun vibe.

Thorny Fruit Co and Rockman Australia - jackfruit blind tasting

But there’s a serious side to this experience. First is the blind tasting where we get to sample four different types of jackfruit and mark them for their flavour, freshness, colour, texture and aroma. There are some pretty big prizes at the end – whole jackfruit size prizes.

Everyone’s into it – even the impressive list of dignitaries, including the High Commissioner for Malaysia to Australia himself!

Malaysian fruit culinary showcase - jackfruit and durian high tea

But soon enough, all the competition is forgotten as we eye up our own tower of delicacies.

This traditional three-level high tea is far from traditional in its ingredients though. Every morsel has been redesigned with durian and jackfruit and I tell you what: they’re all delicious.

More artists than bakers, the craftspeople at Textbook Patisserie have put together an absolute masterpiece in these tiny but flavourful dainties.

Malaysian fruit culinary showcase - jackfruit and durian high tea

On the bottom level, Textbook have created truly delicious gulai tempoyak chicken pie, which is chicken a spiced with turmeric and fermented durian gravy. If I had to choose one thing to for the rest of my life, this would be very high on the list. 

Next to the pies are little sandwiches of tempoyak fermented durian mixed with spicy sambal and sardines. It’s a rich tasty sandwich that is so packed with umami from all sides, it’s quite something.

Malaysian fruit culinary showcase - jackfruit and durian high tea

On the middle plate, Texbook have somehow intertwined durian jelly and durian-infused creme patissiere into the most delicate croissants.

The honey jackfruit Danish is also exquisite, with the slivers of fruit adding a sharp citrus relief from the rich buttery pastry. 

But it’s the durian meringue tart that really has me. Inside the short pastry case is more of the durian creme patissiere and on top a delightful meringue – as I said to the High Commissioner, this is a gateway drug to durian addiction. If anyone was to doubt how delicious durian is, this would change their mind forever.

Malaysian fruit culinary showcase - jackfruit and durian high tea - macarons

The top level of the high tea is where Textbook really show their artistry though. The jackfruit macarons (with the gold pattern) and the durian macarons (in green) are incredible – the durian one is a little overpowering for me, but Christina loves it.

At the back, the jackfruit choux au craquelin – a kind of profiterole with a tender red crumb on top – is full of jackfruit infused creme patissiere and is so opulent, it defeats Christina.

I power on but then capitulate to the richness of the final dish: a ‘pulut hitam’ honey jackfruit cheesecake – jackfruit cream cheese on top of black glutenous rice and decorated with crumbled salted duck egg.

Delicious but a step too far for me. I only get halfway through!

It’s been an indulgent week, but a fun one, and we really hope you’ve enjoyed our Edition as much as we have. I’ve got a feeling it doesn’t stop here either!

Bye for now

Jim & Christina xx

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