A Thai dinner, an Italian lunch and a Mexican tequila finale

Winter’s long fingers seem to be stretching out indefinitely around the city’s throat. It doesn’t feel like Sydney will ever be warm again!

So I decided to use this photo as our title shot to remind you what Sydney does have blue skies. It might not feel like it a the moment – especially with spring officially happening a couple of days ago.

Still, it’s great to be back in Sydney – if not for the weather, for the food! This Weekly Edition takes a trip around the world on a plate showing how easy it is to find excellent samples of different cuisines here in the Harbour City.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition – and it doesn’t make you feel too hungry!

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Chon Thai, Balmain - betal leal

Tonight we’re out to dinner with our friends Danny and Vicki. These are the guys who just recently got married in Scotland – and we were there too!

We’ve managed to coax them into Balmain with promises of the best Thai food in the city: Chon Thai.

I absolutely love these betal leaf entrees filled with shredded smoked trout, ginger and roasted coconut.

Chon Thai, Balmain - pork belly bao

We also can’t help ourselves and order these pork belly boa. Sorry the photo’s a bit grainy (bad lighting) but we had to share it. The pork’s perfectly cooked and coated in thick, delicious five-spice sauce. The steamed bao are sticky and fluffy. So good.

Chon Thai, Balmain - quail's egg

We also order some quail egg wrapped in minced prawn and egg noodle then deep fried. Such a clever dish with so much going on. And the tamarind sauce on top cuts through perfectly.

We also enjoy dishes like the lamb shank massaman curry and a pad see-ew, but we were too busy eating to take shots.

Chon was forced to close a few months ago due to a kitchen fire. It’s so good that this place has been able to re-open. It’s such a great restaurant. The food is superb, the service is excellent and the prices are even quite reasonable. It’s the magic combo.

Chon Thai, Balmain - Pablo & Rusty's cafe, Sydney

This morning, Christina and I are out and about in the city catching up with our friend Tash. She’s brought us to Pablo & Rusty’s on Castlereagh Street. The coffee here’s great – as is Tash’s hot chocolate… not that she’s sharing any of that!

The food here looks impressive too, but I’ve promised myself not to over-indulge. Especially as I have a lunch appointment coming up.

Barbetta, Paddington - anrancini

I’m in Paddington this afternoon enjoying the company of the lovely Besty Pie. She’s invited me to Italian restaurant Barbetta on Elizabeth St to meet with people from Lightfoot Travel. Lightfoot is an agency focuses on tailor-made luxe travel solutions and they deal with some amazing places across the globe – they’re well worth looking up. Drool-worthy destinations.

And talking of drool-worthy, these arancini balls Barbetta has served up to start lunch proceedings are amazing. Other entrees of vitello tonnato and – my favourite – melanzane parmigiana take me right back to many meals in Italy.

Barbetta, Paddington - polpetta burger

Betsy sells me on the Barbetta polpetta burger – a delicious, juicy burger made with Barbetta’s meatball mix, eggplant and provalone cheese. There’s a hint of chilli in the aioli and the chips are so moreish.

It was so hard to decide what to eat though, with options like the Barbetta lasagne and gnocchi tartufati al funghi available. Others who ordered these dishes almost give me food envy – but the burger’s pretty awesome.

Barbetta, Paddington - cannoli

Barbetta, Paddington - sfogliatelle

And brining the whole meal together in perfect Italian style are everyone’s favourites: cannoli – filled with either a choc-chip ricotta or pistachio – and other delicious little petit fours. But it’s the tray of sfogliatelle that catch my eye.

I fell in love with these delicate, shell shaped pastries when we were in Naples and I haven’t quite got over them yet. These miniature versions are perfect and take me right back to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast.

Here are some other delicious dishes from Campania you should check out too by the way.

I’m seriously impressed with Barbetta. It’s definitely on our hit list again – and will be perfect for our next big family dinner. If you’re looking for a restaurant to take you back to that special meal you had in Italy, this will be the place to do it.

Gelatissimo at Circular Quay

To show her devotion to gelato, Christina’s decided to hit the late-night Gelatissimo at Circular Quay. In spite of the chilly evening, she’s putting on a brave face (what a trooper) and has gone for a double scoop while she waits for her ferry.

It’s rare Christina turns down the opportunity for an ice cream. She did it once to me when I offered to buy her one on a hot day. She told me then that it was “too hot for dairy”. Tonight’s dessert shows that it’s never too cold though.

Grain Bar Four Seasons Sydney - tequila mezcal

Tonight, Christina and I are in Grain Bar, the awesome little bar off the Four Seasons Sydney. Grain has recently taken home the award for best whisky bar in the city, which is pretty incredible, but tonight, we’re here to celebrate a different spirit.

It’s the final night of Grain’s Two Months of Tequila fiesta, and they’re pulling out all the stops.

Just like their whisky collection, Grain’s tequila and mezcal range is an absolute delight to behold. Tequila’s quite a misunderstood and misrepresented spirit, and when it’s delivered well, it can be the base for some delicious drinks.

Mezcal is a completely different drink though, and much more like whisky in its profile. We’ve talked about this mysterious Mexican spirit in the past when talking to one of Australia’s leading importers. Here’s what mezcal’s about and how it’s different from tequila.

Grain Bar Four Seasons Sydney habanero seltza

To get the party started, we’re treated to Grain’s tequila habanero seltzer. It’s a delicious, light drink, fizzy, and fun. The roasted habanero chilli adds that extra flavour and a pump of heat to the cocktail. I could drink these all day – especially over the summer.

Grain Bar Four Seasons Sydney - food

The food – as always at Grain – is great. These mini enchiladas are amazing. There are also fresh oysters, fish tacos, bowls of salsa and of course a delicious mound of guacamole that I have to pull myself away from.

Grain Bar Four Seasons Sydney - mezcal negroni

The highlight of the night – apart from the 4-piece mariachi band that comes in to play for the bar – is this. It’s a mezcal negroni.

If you like your smoky whisky and your tangy negroni, this is about as good as it can get if you want to marry those two elements up. The mezcal, with its natural smoky depth, pits perfectly with the citrus zest of my favourite cocktail. The Campari gives that sweetness that brings everything together. Such a clever drink.

These cocktails will still be available at Grain, but for now the tequila fiesta is over.

Watch this space for Grain’s next extravaganza though. There’s always something cool happening in this place.

We’ve written more about Grain Bar, which you can read here. We’ve also reviewed the Four Seasons Sydney if you want to see what it’s like inside.

And that’s our week in a (quite large) nutshell. We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition and that – if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere – you’re staying warm.

If you’re in the Northern Hemo, I also hope you’re staying warm of course and that your summer continues for at least another month, because we’ll be coming your way very soon.

We leave you with this cute shot of Christina’s coffee and her quite remarkable socks!

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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