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The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards 2011 Results

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Another year, and another great set of results for the 2011 SMH Good Food Guide Awards. But first, I have to apologise on the shoddiness of my photo. I didn’t want to lug around an SLR, so my phone had to do the trick. This year, the awards were held at Water Bar, Woolloomooloo, a much smaller and more intimate venue than last year’s at Carriageworks, Eveleigh. I don’t know whether it was Dutch courage or the fact that I hadn’t just arrived from a 24 hour flight, but this year’s awards night was more of a relaxed affair for myself, and I got to speak to some awesome chefs and restaurateurs. The GFG Editors Joanna Savill and Terry Durack highlighted that this year, Sydney restaurants saw a shift towards produce driven menus and sharing plates (among other trends). The big shock for the night was the demotion of Bilson’s and Tetsuya’s to two hats. Mark Best, last year’s Chef of the Year, took away the Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year award with Martin Benn claiming the Chef of the Year award. Everyone who received an award came up to stage and had a brief speech while we munched on some tasty treats (and some not too tasty)  and drank way more wine than we ought to have drunk.It’s worth mentioning that the 2011 GFG is available online at There will also be an iPhone app, which is awesome. Last year I bought the 2010 iPhone app and I think it’s super useful, but apparently this year, we should also be able to do our restaurant bookings through the website and possibly the app as well, which is even better!

But without further ado, here is the full list of awards winners and hatted restaurants for the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2011. Congratulations to all the winners!

The Awards

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
Marque, Surry Hills

Emirates Chef of the Year
Martin Benn of Sepia, Sydney

Plumm Wine Glasses Best New Restaurant
Manly Pavillion, Manly

Navman Best Regional Restaurant
Lochiel House, Kurrajong Heights

Star City Award for Professional Excellence
Peter Doyle of est., Sydney

The Sydney Morning Herald Silver Service Award
Alon Sharman of Arras, Walsh Bay

Louis Roederer Sommelier of the Year
Matthew Dunne of Aria, Sydney

Brown Brothers Wine List of the Year
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney

Small Wine List of the Year
Spice Temple, Sydney

Regional Wine List of the Year
Margan, Broke

The Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef
Jason Saxby of Quay, Sydney

Vittoria Legend Award
Michael McMahon of Catalina, Rose Bay

Sydney Fish Market Best Seafood Restaurant
Fish Face, Darlinghurst

Dan Murphy’s Best BYO Restaurant
Il Perugino, Mosman

Coopers Sustainability Award
Margan, Broke

iPhone App People’s Choice Award
Tetsuya’s, Sydney


Favourite bar – LL Wine & Dine, Potts Point
Favourite bar with food – Bloodwood, Newtown
Favourite breakfast – Cafe Giulia, Chippendale
Favourite burger – Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney
Favourite cafe – Le Monde, Surry Hills
Favourite gelato – Pompei’s, Bondi Beach
Favourite pizza – Lucio Pizzeria, Darlinghurst
Favourite pub – Four in Hand, Paddington
Favourite sushi – Sake Restaurant & Bar, The Rocks
Favourite vegetarian menu – Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Surry Hills

The Hats – City

Three Hats
est., Marque, Quay

Two Hats
Aria, Assiette, Becasse, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Berowra Waters Inn, Bilson’s, Bistro Ortolan, Buon Ricordo, Claude’s, Four in Hand Dining Room, Guillaume at Bennelong, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Lucio’s, Pilu at Freshwater, Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sepia, Tetsuya’s, Universal

One Hat
Ad Lib Bistro, Altitude, Arras, Astral, Billy Kwong, Bird Cow Fish, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, buzo trattoria, Cafe Sopra, Catalina, Etch, Fish Face, Flying Fish, Golden Century, Jonah’s Whale Beach, Koi, Longrain, Mad Cow, Manly Pavilion, Omerta, Ormeggio at The Spit, Oscillate Wildly, Otto Ristorante, Pendolino, Pier, Restaurant Balzac, sailors thai restaurant, Sake Restaurant & Bar, Sean’s Panaroma, Spice Temple, Yoshii

The Hats – Regional

Two Hats
Lochiel House (Kurrajong Heights), Rock (Pokolbin)

One Hat
ashcrofts (Blackheath), Bacchus (Newcastle), Bamboo Restaurant & Bar (Casuarina Beach), bells at killcare (Killcare), Bistro Molines (Mount View), Caveau (Woollongong), dish (Byron Bay), Darley’s (Katoomba), Eschalot (Berrima), fins (Kingscliff), Italian and Sons (Canberra), Lolli Redini (Orange), Muse (Pokolbin), Neila (Cowra), No. 2 Oak Street (Bellingen), Ottoman Cuisine (Canberra), Restaurant Como (Blaxland), Satiate (Bangalow), sourcedining (Albury), Waters Edge (Canberra), Zest (Nelson Bay)

Sara Isabelle – A Recipe for Happiness

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Very few moments in life are impossible to describe. As emotions that are never before experienced start permeating our being, we stretch and reach for words to explain those torrential feelings, but the vocabulary fails, its limits falling too short, and we are left with a sweeping joy that is only ours to enjoy, only ours to understand. On Sunday the 18th of July, I was granted one of those moments and my heart, full of bliss, grew to unfathomable proportions; my daughter Sara Isabelle was born and went straight into her mother’s arms. All the love I had ability to hold within me multiplied ten-fold, repeatedly. In the fortnight that has passed, my euphoria has changed like burning coals, starting off fiery and unruly then moving on to becoming more focused and concentrated, burning with greater intensity to never extinguish. I’m not sure if there is any greater recipe for happiness than that of becoming a father to this blue-eyed girl.

Lainy and Sara

Dine with Me and Three of Sydney’s Food Bloggers @ Bistro CBD

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Join me and three of Sydney’s coolest food bloggers in a scary and thrilling experiment to see if we can stand the heat of a commercial kitchen. As part of the Merivale’s ‘A Feast for the Senses’ events, Linda, Karen, Billy and I will be putting our skills to the test and getting behind the burners to cook up a storm for anyone who dares risk their lives. So, on Wednesday the 28th of July, Bistro CBD’s kitchen will be invaded by some of Australia’s top amateur chefs (wink wink  Masterchef) trying to feed seventy discerning diners a five course meal. We will each be cooking one of the courses, with a fifth course prepared by Simun Dragicevich, Bistro CBD’s head chef. All this and a glass of sparkling are for a measly $60pp. Call now to see if there is any availability. We believe the event has already booked out, but regardless, you might be able to go on a waiting list, so book now or forever hold your peas.

My fellow friends and food bloggers who will be cooking with me are:

Karen from Citrus and
Linda from Eat Show and
Billy from A Table for

See our event and other Merivale winter events by clicking here.

Event Details

Wednesday 28th July, 6.30pm
5 courses including a glass of sparkling, $60pp
Bistro CBD, level 1, 52 King Street, Sydney
Call 9240 3000 to book

Muhammara Recipe

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The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a trial for me. Lainy is due to have our first baby in under ten days now, and I have stupidly over committed on many a demanding project. Plus, there’s the world cup. Sydney is in an unlucky situation yet again where the matches are held at midnight or after, which means I am partially sleep deprived. I guess that’s good because I will become fully sleep deprived when the baby comes, so maybe I should consider this as practice.

One of the projects I am working on is on a vein similar to my harebrained secret dinner, which means I have been brainstorming concepts for a Lebanese influenced dish that is simultaneously easy to cook for 70 people, tastes phenomenal, and manages not to look like a piece of shish tawook with garlic sauce and tabbouli. In the process, I’ve probably sketched around 10 dishes, imagined 20 more and attempted to cook half of those. It is only when you go through this process that you gain an appreciation for what chefs go through to come up with something original and exciting. One of the dishes I dreamt up is a slow cooked beef shin with green wheat (called freek) and muhammara. Delicious, but ugly as sin. Maybe one day I will figure out how to make that dish look good and The Food Blog will showcase it, but for now, I just want to share the recipe for the muhammara.

I don’t recall eating muhammara as a child. Maybe because my parents are from the South or maybe it’s because I grew up in Jbeil, but muhammara was never on the menu. According to Wikipedia, it’s a Syrian dip, and Wikipedia never lies, right? On my last trip however, Syrian troops had left Lebanon, and maybe Lebanon was again free to celebrate the food traditions of its neighbours, or maybe I was at the right place at the right time… but I ended up in this restaurant up North with friends, and friends of friends, sitting opposite to this very Lebanese guy with a thin moustache who all of a sudden started lecturing me on chicken livers, and saying something about how before chicken liver reaches The Gate (pointing to his mouth) it needs to pass by The Two Customs Officers (pointing to his nostrils). I’d love to tell you the story in person as I can never express the hilarity of the situation in writing. But to move on, the restaurant was serving muhammara with grilled meat skewers and I got a taste for this delicious dip. Capsicums are roasted on an open flame and then blended with walnuts, toasted bread, pomegranate molasses, garlic, sugar and lemon juice. The lot is spiked with chilli and then emulsified with olive oil. In a way, it’s a sort of Middle Eastern pesto, only hotter and more complex in flavour. It’s all together charred, sweet, rich, spicy and sharp, and goes well on its own with bread or with any form of grilled meat or firm fish. I’m sharing Greg Malouf’s recipe from his awesome book Saha. Try it and it will become a staple, but make sure it passes by the customs officers.

Muhammara Recipe – Adapted from Greg Malouf’s Saha


  • 3 large red capsicums
  • 1 red bullet chilli, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 125 shelled walnuts
  • 1/3 cup lightly toasted fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • juice of ½ lemon-1 lemon (depends on size and taste)
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


1- Char the capsicums on an open flame, turning until blackened thoroughly
2- Put the capsicums in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This steams the capsicums and helps them continue cooking and softening
3- When cool enough to handle, remove the charred exterior with your hand. Don’t rinse because that removes the nice smoky flavour. Take the seeds out and put the flesh in a blender or food processor
4- Add all other ingredients except the olive oil
5- Blend into a paste and then add the oil in a thin stream until the paste is thick and creamy
6- Taste and adjust ingredients if you have to
7- Allow to cool before serving