A VIP whiskey launch, a harbourside dinner and a journey through coffee

We’re finally back in Sydney and the jet lag has almost gone. But already the travel bug is nibbling at our chilly toes and nudging us to think once more about the open road. 

Thankfully, this week we’re able to travel without moving.

From the lapping shores of Sydney Harbour and the artisanal homeland of the US Pacific Northwest to the noise and chaos of ancient Istanbul, and the soiree elegance of Renaissance Venice, The Weekly Edition this week takes you to them all through fine food and drink.

We explore a new whiskey from Oregon, venture to dinner at a fine-dining restaurant on the harbour and step back in time to far-flung places at the sip of a coffee cup.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition and remember that, even if you might not be leaving your seat, it doesn’t mean you’re not on a journey.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Now that we’re back home and noses once again to the grindstone, Christina and I have realised we have ‘a few’ holiday pounds to shed. Cue salad lunches.

Thankfully, Christina’s brilliant at making healthy taste good, and this tuna and mixed bean salad with avocado makes me miss the UK pub lunches and fish and chips a little less.

But let’s just see how long this health kick lasts…

Westward Distillery single malt Pinot Noir expression

Yup. Not that long! Tonight, we’re out in Barangaroo (Sydney’s latest premium night spot) welcoming in a new single malt whiskey by our friends at Westward Distillery in Portland, Oregon in the States.

Last time we talked to these guys, I met and interviewed the head distiller Miles Munroe from Westward at their first ever venture to Australia (you can see the Facebook Live video interview here) at Archie Rose Distillery in Rosebury.

This time, Westward’s founder and CEO Thomas Mooney has made the trip over to talk us through the latest iteration in what is truly a wonderful American single malt whiskey.

Westward Distillery - Thomas Mooney CEO and founder

We’ve gathered in the back room of Nola – a smokehouse restaurant and whisky bar on the Barangaroo waterfront – to enjoy a few dishes that match with three of Westward’s whiskeys plus a glass of pinot noir.

Why the wine, you may ask. Well, Westward has just made a (very) limited release of their single malt that’s finished in pinot noir barrels. It’s a collaboration between the distillery and a neighbouring winery – Remy Wines.

The result is wonderful. The already full-flavoured single malt gathers sweetness and a little spice from the pinot finish, and the traditional beer yeast the distillery uses in its mash brings three of the world’s staple drinks together in a single bottle. Quite poetic really.

Westward Distillery single malt Pinot Noir expression

Along with the wine and the pinot-finished whiskey, we also get to try the un-aged and classic Westward single malts.

While we eat and drink, we hear a bit from Thomas Mooney and also from Bertie Cason, co-founder of The Whisky Club – Australia’s largest whisky subscription service. As far as Bertie’s concerned, Westward’s whiskey is comparable, if not as good as, his favourite Sullivan’s Cove French Oak. High praise from him indeed considering Sullivan’s is awarded as the best whisky in the world!

Bertie is here because this pinot expression of Westward single malt is only available (anywhere in the world) either from The Whisky Club or at this party. And as we’ve drunk all the event’s stock, there’s now only one place to get it.

Sign up to The Whisky Club for free here.

Nola smokehouse and whisky bar

After the tastings and the food, we’re released back into the general public where the bar at Nola is mixing up ‘cold fashioned’ cocktails. This is an old fashioned (whisky, sugar and bitters) with a difference.

Equal measures of Mr Black cold-drip coffee liqueur and Westward pinot expression. Delicious and very morish. We weave our way back to the ferry and home after a wonderful evening.

Q Dining - Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour

Tonight, Christina and I are heading to a rather special restaurant. Q Dining, which is part of the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour.

The location of this restaurant is kind of amazing. About as close to the harbour and Circular Quay without getting your toes wet, Q Dining is perfect for special occasion dinners (or lunches) when you want Sydney Harbour to feature in your plans.

The dramatic backdrop of the Harbour Bridge through the enormous glass wall and the elegantly lit lofted ceiling gives Q Dining a glamorous, sophisticated ambience that matches the quality of its cuisine.

Even better than that, it’s virtually next door to the Sydney Opera House and even has special set menus for pre-concert and opera dinners.

Q Dining Port Lincoln octopus entree

As we’re not here for the whole dinner-and-a-show evening, we’re looking at the a la carte options. The prices are a little high at Q Dining, but you’re paying for the location, the quality of the food and also the produce the kitchen uses is sustainably, ethically and locally sourced.

In fact, the kitchen has worked with Aboriginal communities to source rare, artisanal ingredients, which form the basis of many dishes at Q Dining.

To begin with, I can’t resist the call of the 12-hour Port Lincoln octopus. It comes with slices of a very tender kind of chorizo, which I initially thought would overpower the octopus.

But the char the chef has put on the octopus, which has already been braising for 12 hours, matches the spice from the sausage and the sharpness of the pickled basil leaves. A clever, delicious dish.

Q Dining - Tar & Roses shiraz

The wine list at Q Dining, as with the food menu, is brief yet bold. It’s lucky there are fewer choices, because if there were more options, I would have to spend the rest of the evening wrestling over my decisions!

Christina, who’s having steak for her main course, opts for a rich, gregarious shiraz – the 2015 Tar & Roses from Heathcote, SA.

For me and my main of quid ink pasta (plus the cold evening), I choose a 2017 merlot (Bouchard Aine & Fil) from Burgundy, France. It’s bolder than I was expecting, but absolutely superb.

Q Dining - 52 degree King Island tenderloin of beef

Talking of superb, Christina’s 52º King Island tenderloin is exquisite. The thick cut of meat is perfectly cooked and rested, and paired beautifully with huge wild mushrooms, tender kipfler potatoes and a cashew foam.

I’d come back here just for this dish.

Q Dining - black ink raviolo

My ravioli dish comes out and is quite a surprise. Not what I was expecting at all.

Under the delicate bubbles of a basil and chive foam lie several perfect discs of black pasta. Expertly cooked (squid ink pasta can so often be over-done), there’s the slightest of bites to the ravioli, and between each circle is a little layer of caponata.

The caponata – a classic, usually quite chunky, Sicilian dish of braised eggplant and celery – is impressive. Each piece of vegetable is chopped into a perfect cube of about 3mm³, seemingly by a sculptor rather than a chef.

Q Dining - asparagus and goat cheese side

We also order a side of asparagus and goat’s curd with pumpkin seeds and rocket. It’s a simple dish, but nonetheless delicious, though the curd on its own has a very slight grainy texture.

Initially, I blame Christina for ordering this instead of the duck fat kipfler potatoes, but by the end of the meal, it’s me who’s finishing the last asparagus spear and scooping up the last traces of curd.

Q Dining - Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour

Rather than dessert (we’re surprisingly full), we order another glass of wine, and sit and ponder the quick comings and goings of the busy restaurant.

We notice for such a fine-dining venue, the clientele are here early. When we arrived for our 6.30 booking (thanks jet lag) the restaurant was reasonably full. And tables turned over fairly rapidly.

I mention this to our server, who explains that many would be having dinner before shows at the Opera House and theatre. The dishes from the pre-theatre special menus (two or three courses) are slightly smaller than the a la carte dishes but come out quicker and are a little cheaper – a very good option if you’re in the city for dinner and a show.

Either way, if you’re looking for a romantic (and impressive) dinner spot in Sydney, Q Dining should definitely be on your list.

Nespresso new Venezio and Istanbul blends

Today, it’s all about the coffee. We’ve just discovered that Nespresso have released another limited edition range – two Coffee House capsules aimed at taking us back in time to the some of the world’s first coffee houses.

Embodying the atmosphere and dynamic vibrance of these ancient coffee cultures through the aromas and flavours of the blends, Nespresso takes you on a journey to Turkey and Italy.

Café Istanbul harnesses the peppery spiciness and rich, smoky tobacco notes of Arabian mocha from Yemen, beans from the Indies and India to recreate the bustling coffee bazaars of the Turkish capital.

Meanwhile, Caffé Venezia is less robust and spicy than the Istanbul and more fragrant, elegant and fruity. Ethiopian and Indian arabica beans that give a smooth, fragrant yet complex result that would suit a Renaissance cafe bar on the eloquent streets of Venice.

Nespresso new Venezio and Istanbul blends

Both these Nespresso iterations are available – for a limited time – in Original and Vertuo lines. The Caffé Venezia is best served as a flat white and has a medium-strength intensity, while the Café Istanbul is much bolder and matches a frothy cappuccino well. However, I quite like this one as an espresso shot to really enjoy those spicy notes.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

We ate as guests of Q Dining.

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