A breakfast for champions, a dinner for winners and wine for all occasions

Of course, time does fly when you’re having fun; but it seems to go even faster when you’re busy. This is a real worry for me. 

The start of the year seems to have already disappeared in a blink and it hasn’t really been that busy. Now it’s March and things are setting up to make this the busiest month in a long time.

Christina is travelling every weekend this month for work, we’ve got a host of hotel and restaurant reviews lined up and we’ve still got to finalise this year’s travel plans. It’s insane.

Before it all gets going though, this Weekly Edition has some great food venues for you to think about, plus some industry wine tips to pair – not only with food – but with upcoming occasions in your calendar.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Beers at the Exchange Hotel

We kick things off with a catch-up with our friends Ang and Ben for Ben’s birthday. We’re back in our new local favourite – The Exchange Hotel. But it’s not just because we like it here that we suggested The Exchange as a venue.

Ang and Ben have a lively little girl, and The Exchange has installed a play pen in their recently opened kitchen-diner out the back of the pub. It’s perfect for keeping the littluns busy while the bigguns enjoy a pint. Very smart.

Snacks and rosé at the Exchange Hotel, Balmain

Soon enough, the birthday party finishes – Ang and Ben have dinner plans and babysitter. So we move back into the front bar where some other friends are catching up for a bit of a girly night.

I read the signs and head home while Christina and the ladies get stuck into the rosé and a bit of food. Sometimes it’s safer that way!

Brunch with Christine Knight at Piccolo's, Rozelle

This morning, we’re meeting back up with our mate Christine Knight for a debrief of last week’s IMM travel networking conference. Christine’s brought us to one of her favourite spots – Piccolo’s in Rozelle. It’s a cute little cafe on Darling Street that has a great range of different treats to eat.

Christina’s gone for the house ‘Bubble and Squeak’. It’s a sweet potato and zucchini fritter, a runny organic egg and roasted tomato on organic rye with a minted pea puree. But the real clincher for her is it comes with grilled haloumi. It’s Christina’s Achilles heal.

Brunch with Christine Knight at Piccolo's, Rozelle

Meanwhile, I’m trying not to be smug with my order – I think this might be the best brunch I’ve ever had!

It’s the Piccolo Breakkie – an enormous corn fritter with two poached eggs, grilled bacon and rocket leaves topped with a perfect homemade hollandaise sauce. It’s so good. I can see Christina eying my plate up, even though she’s happy with her choice.

Christine, however, is very happy with her lot and sits quietly enjoying her brunch. I wonder if she knows something.

“I come here as often as I can,” she explains. “I look at the menu every time, but I always end up ordering the same thing.”

Her bruschetta does look good. Smashed avocado, crumbled feta, roasted cherry tomatoes topped with two poached eggs on toasted sourdough and with a drizzle of pesto infused oil to finish it off. Yeah, I think she’s onto something. For a bit extra, you can also add bacon, haloumi (easy, Christina!) or smoked salmon.

Food for thought and thoughts of food.

Wine and flowers at Pinnacle Drinks

This evening, we’re excited to be allowed into a building we’ve wondered about since we moved back to Sydney (a long time ago). We’re in the old Reader’s Digest Building in Surry Hills.

It’s no longer home to Reader’s Digest, however the interior is as it was and it’s amazing. All the old wood panelling and art deco styling is still here. It’s great to see the current tenants have kept the strange tiling patterns and mid-century decor – even down to the details of the lift consoles, which still have ashtrays next to the buttons.

But who are the current tenants and why are we here?

This is now home to Pinnacle Drinks – the prime supplier for Dan Murphy’s and BWS – and they’re holding a wine showcase to present some of their favourite wines.

Here are some top vino tips from one of the brightest wine minds in the country – Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

Easter wines at Pinnacle Drinks

Today’s selections are split into three major upcoming events in everyone’s calendar in Australia: the Easter holiday, Mother’s Day and winter.

For the Easter long weekend Andrew Caillard is suggesting things like the delicious Champagne from Duperrey to make your Good Friday even better. It’s a beautiful Champagne and at a great price point too at $39.99 RRP.

If you prefer Prosecco, Andrew recommends the Porta Dante from Veneto, Italy. It’s especially good with an Easter seafood lunch, and at $20.00 RRP, it’s a bargain too.

But if you’re after more body to go with a richer meatier dinner, the Hog in the Woods Tempranillo is a bit heftier than bubbles without being overbearing. $18.00 RRP.

Easter wines at Pinnacle Drinks

Also with the Easter eggs is a really lovely Chardonnay from Once and Well Winery. It’s owned by Freya Hohen, the daughter of Margaret River wine pioneer David Hohen, and she’s produced a Chardy that’s smooth, balanced and cleverly oaked to add nuttiness and a long finish. $21.99 RRP.

There’s also a Shiraz from BWS’s own Craftsman Reserve line that I want to have a go at this Easter. Spicy, juicy and fresh, this is one that Andrew says will go best with those truffle choccies. $25.00 RRP.

Mother's Day bubbles at Pinnacle Drinks

As far as Mr Baillard is concerned, it’s all bubbles and rosé this Mother’s Day. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget. The Zonin Prosecco, which is one of our favourites, is only $19.00 RRP and it’s light and lively. Andrew pairs this with baked ricotta and roasted tomato bruschetta.

Alternatively, the Freixenet Prosecco, which comes in this beautiful bottle, is a little more complex and goes well, surprisingly, with popcorn! This bubbly tastes and looks way above its price at $22.99 RRP.

For pink, we see a return of the Cote des Roses rosé by Gerard Bertrand, which has an amazing design of a rose moulded into the base of the bottle. We mentioned this one a couple of years ago and we’re still impressed with it. $26.00 RRP.

Christina Hair Romance - pink at Pinnacle

Of course, if you want to really win some brownie points with Mum this Mother’s Day, bring a bottle of Champagne Lanson Brut Rosé with you this May 12th. Lanson is an excellent champagne house – one of the oldest in fact – and its rosé Champagne is exquisite.

Andrew pairs this wine with a berry-filled dessert, but I think it’s just as good on its own. $67.99 RRP.

Winter wines at Pinnacle Drinks

Finally, as we stare down the barrel of winter’s gun, we look for those comforting wines that take the edge off the coming cold. In the rooftop garden (yes, this amazing building has a rooftop garden!), the rich reds of roses and velvet welcome us to try some substantial whites and robust reds.

Winter wines at Pinnacle Drinks

Here are our picks from the winter table:

The impressive Chris Ringland Reservation Shiraz – to be had with some aged hard cheeses and a special occasion ($58.00 RRP).

The complex and delicious Guillaume Gonnet le Hardi Côtes du Rhône Villages Grenache Syrah blend ($25.00 RRP) for a steak dinner.

The Isabel Estate Pinot Gris for a lighter look at winter. Andrew points out that this wine has an interesting oily mouthfeel, which is actually quite lovely though it might not sound it. Its smooth texture balances with a slight spiciness and zestiness. $29.00 RRP.

Roses for winter - Pinnacle Drinks

But our favourites from the winter table are the Riddoch Coonawarra Chardonnay, which is an oaky rockstar with plenty of character and body. Good pairings are roast pork or chicken – or even turkey if you’re doing Christmas in July! $20.00 RRP.

Finally, for some serious value for money, the amusingly named Arrogant Frog’s Pinot Noir is not only delicious but cheap at $13.00 RRP. Thanks to a weak Aussie dollar of late, imported wine prices have hopped up a bit, so it’s rare to find French wine – especially of this quality – at a price like this.

And while the label might not take itself too seriously, the wine inside should not be ignored.

Dumplings Queen Chow, Enmore

This evening, Christina and I are out in Sydney’s Inner West with a couple of mates – Paul and Anton – to Queen Chow in Enmore for dinner. Paul, Anton and I have been here before but Christina missed out. Last time, we sat downstairs, but tonight, we’re up in the beautiful dining room on the first floor. Well worth booking a table up here.

Queen Chow, which is in the Queens Hotel, is a kind of modern Cantonese restaurant with an interesting range of traditional Chinese dishes and modern international fare. Bearing in mind this restaurant shares roots with Mr Wong’s in the city and Ms G’s in Potts Point, the food’s always going to be good.

We start things off with something traditional: steamed dim sum dumplings, which don’t last long.

Meat platter Queen Chow, Enmore

For mains – among other things – we go for the meat platter. Our waiter explains it’s the best of all worlds if you’re looking at the roast meats section of the menu. You get a taste of everything.

The roast duck in plum sauce is pretty good and the honey-glazed charsui pork is even better. But the crispy skin chicken maryland with a ginger and shallot relish is incredible. When we come back here, I’m just ordering this. It’s not exactly traditional Chinese food, but, to be honest, I don’t care.

Boneless spicy chicken Queen Chow, Enmore

We also get a repeat order of the Chonq qing ‘hot and numbing’ boneless chicken. This is another of my favourite dishes. These ‘chicken nuggets’ are cooked in a delicious crispy batter with lots of chilli and szechuan peppers. You can see some of them on the plate here.

On their own, they deliver a big punch of spice and then have a numbing effect in your mouth. They’re a bit like very spicy, less sweet clove. I can’t stop eating them.

The bar at Smelly Goat, Enmore

The Queens Hotel is home to three or four different venues. Of course there’s the main pub bar downstairs, and also a casual dining area there too. Upstairs is Queen Chow as we know, but on the same level is the Smelly Goat – a cocktail bar. It’s a pretty cool spot and perfect for a post-dinner nightcap.

Cocktails at Smelly Goat, Enmore

The cocktails here are well-made – though it can sometimes be a bit tricky to get the staffs’ attention. My Old Fashioned is great though, as are Christina and Paul’s drinks. They’re having the Smelly Goat’s version of an espresso martini, which has layers of condensed milk at the bottom, strong coffee in the middle and a creme foam on top.

In keeping with Queen Chow’s cuisine, the garnish is an Asian style soup spoon.

Jacoby's Tiki Bar, Newtown

After our drinks, we head across the road to another favourite spot when we’re in this part of town: Jacoby’s Tiki Bar.

This place is a lot of fun with good music and a friendly, busy vibe.

Cocktails at Jacoby's Tiki Bar, Newtown

And the drinks they do here are excellent. Memory starts getting foggy at this point, but I think Christina’s the piña colada with the pineapple and Paul’s is the dark and stormy on the right.

Mine is the tiki glass monster in the middle – the Señor Cherry. It’s a magic blend of Don Julio tequila, a very smoky mezcal, lemon and sour cherry. It’s one of the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever had. Smoky, sour, a hint of sweetness. Brilliant.

Anton, meanwhile, has opted for the hilarious Big Kahuna III – a spiced rum cocktail that comes in a coconut-shaped glass – sadly not pictured.

Us at the Smelly Goat

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition and that you try some of these venues. Just want to point out that we’re not saying this because we were paid to do so or visited for free. We dined on our own dollar.

As for the wine, we’re only recommending bottles we’ve either already bought ourselves or that we’d be willing to spend our own money on. 🙂

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx 

PS – don’t ask me why I’m wearing my sunglasses indoors at night. I thought it would look cool.

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