Summer 2020 restaurant reviews

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

We've rounded up a delicious array of food and cocktail reviews for this season!



Banksia Bakehouse


Food-porn bakehouse, Banksia, located on Sydney’s CBD shopping strip (George street), offers an exquisite array of food (or art, some would say) for those who have an insatiable appetite for premium sweet goods.


Personally delivered to my front door, I brought my package of bakery sweets to the back garden on a spring afternoon, ready to indulge. I carefully unwrapped the apple delight, lemon meringue & biscoff filled Croissant, eclair, and white berry chocolate mousse. The rainbow of baked goods tasted just as good as its aesthetic.





I first sampled the apple delight – a lime green, gluten free dessert with an apple cinnamon spiced compote, vanilla cream and white chocolate shell on a sable base. It was a delight cracking it open with my fork to see the surprise of what was inside. I felt like a young child excitedly unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. The taste of the apple delight was utterly flavoursome, so naturally I would strongly recommend it. I couldn’t really fault it whatsoever – the apple crumble-like flavours were perfection, and the array of textures gave it great substance and made it a more thrilling experience.


Next up was the lemon meringue croissant – my personal favourite. Watching the insides ooze out of the traditional french pastry was totally satisfying, and it tasted too good to be true. I’m personally a huge fan of lemon in desserts, so this one takes the cake (hah!) for me. The pastry as well was actually the best version of a croissant I’ve ever tried – yes, better than ones I’ve sampled in Paris. It was more buttery than the average croissant and it’s flaky exterior was absolute perfection.





The eclair wasn’t a highlight for me, however that could come down to the fact I’ve never been a huge fan of this dessert to begin with. My sister, who lives with me, was of course intrigued by the feast of sweets laying in front of me and gluttonously helped herself to everything – I don’t blame her. She actually said the eclair was her personal favourite, so it does come down to personal preference as these desserts we tried were quite bold and extravagant with maximum flavour. If you’re a lover of chocolate and coffee, this one's for you.


Lastly, I tried the white berry chocolate mousse – a lighter dessert that still boasted a great range of flavours. The fusion of berry and white chocolate was brilliantly done, and it was the perfect way to finish off the tasting.


Follow @banksiasydney on Instagram for all their delicious updates


Cabana Beach Kiosk


Tucked away in the Northern Beaches sits Cabana Beach Kiosk – a tapas bar with gorgeous beachfront views. The hidden gem offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, with locals expressing their favourite visits being early mornings to enjoy a coffee and house-favourite Italian eggs whilst watching the dolphins and surfers – the best way to start anyone’s day.


Co-owners (and life partners) Katia and Tim took over the venue in 2018, where they transformed the business and made it a hot-spot for locals to frequent for hot chocolate, cocktails and tasting plates.





My guest Pav and I arrived for an early dinner in late spring to watch the sunset and indulge in some of the savoury delights and tasty cocktails at Narrabeen’s best-kept secret. We began our Cabana experience with a chilli margarita – the spice wasn’t overpowering the flavour, and the aesthetic was equally as gratifying.


We paired our cocktails with some starter plates including the bruschetta and the mushroom and truffle arancini balls. I instantly fell in love with the latter – the fusion of mushroom and truffle was perfection. Pav really enjoyed the bruschetta, whereas I preferred my Italian love affair with the arancini.





Before continuing on with more dishes, we tried their mai tai – a festive concoction of white rum, dark rum, fresh lime juice, Curaçao and orange syrup. This cocktail paired with the breathtaking views, pleasant service and good company, it felt as if we were on holiday.


As the sun began to set, our mains arrived. Pav ordered a new burger they had on offer – a bold merging of sweet bacon, chicken, pulled pork (amongst other ingredients to make a happy life) seated inside a brioche bun. He savoured it slowly and verbally shared his admiration for the unique combination of elements. I was allowed a few bites (thanks Pav) and quickly understood what all the excitement was about.





As for my main, I tried the grilled barramundi paired with green mojo sauce (a Spanish recipe), roast potatoes and salad. It was light and delicate, and clearly a popular menu item as others around us had also ordered the fish. As beautiful as it was, I would recommend the burger – just because it’s something a little different and a refreshing, new item added to Cabana’s menu.


To finish on a sweet note, we tasted their espresso martini and Toblerone cocktail. We both agreed the Toblerone was a highlight in Cabana’s cocktail list with its creamy and chocolatey combination of frangelico, baileys, kahlua and honey. The liquid dessert was a wonderful way to end the evening.




Follow @cabanabeachkiosk on Instagram for all their mouth-watering updates.


Cicco Zetland


Pizza cafe Cicco in Zetland offers Italian dining in Sydney’s popular urban backstreets. Having been open since 2014 and formerly named Cafe Vité, the family owned and operated cafe and roastery which was established by Tony Pacitto, has undergone a makeover. The reigns have now been handed over to son, Alex, who has been the face behind the custom La Marzocco coffee machine for many years. With strong foundations in play, Alex aims to follow in his father’s footsteps however as Cicco Zetland, which remains a cafe by day and now operating as a Trattoria & Pizzeria by night.





The fusion of family values and MasterChef-style dishes ultimately creates a more relaxed fine dining scene – making everyone feel welcome. With warm service from the Italian waitstaff and Alex to the quality of food, the ambience is naturally beaming with personality.


My guest Pav and I arrived (I’d like to say in style, but what’s more appropriate is ‘fashionably late’ due to Sydney traffic!) and we were already in awe as we approached the venue. The trattoria-style exterior was as vibrant as the interiors with the romantic lighting and greenery.





We began the evening with starter plates: the seafood crudite and the eye fillet tartare. Pav and I had our own favourites – he absolutely loved the seafood starter whereas I preferred the tartare. I think it’s because of how obsessed I was with similar tartares I’d try when overseas, particularly France, so it personally gave me a sense of nostalgia. Both starters were beautifully made and constructed ever-so neatly with care.


With our entrees, Pav opted for a beer (classic) and I ordered the amaretto sour – it was honestly incredible. The perfect ratio of sweet and sour. Cicco is best known for their wine list (and coffee) so we knew it would be wise to try a glass of vino later in the evening.





Next up, we sampled the burnt butter and sage ravioli with a spinach and ricotta filling topped with grana padano fondue. It was as tasty as it sounds. The chilli oil was also a great touch to the simple yet flavoursome pasta dish. The potato gnocchi ragu (sausage, spinach and pecorino) was also a fan favourite at our table for two. We couldn’t decide which pasta dish we preferred, but both were high up there on the 5-star scale.





We then tried a special – octopus with a chickpea puree. Pav and I literally looked up at each other straight away locking our widened eyes at how delectable the puree was, and how it paired so well with the octopus. It was an unexpected fusion, but it worked. This dish was a tied favourite. Alex told us the octopus is vacuum sealed and then cooked for seven hours at 70 degrees before it’s marinated and thrown onto the flat top to finish them off – giving it a juicy, succulent texture, packed with flavour.





Following the octopus, we had the kingfish fillet served with an eggplant puree. This dish was definitely tasty, but didn’t quite compare to the octopus. We were 'sinful’ and had a glass of red with our seafood plates. We had the secondo marco valpolicella classico 2016 – a great choice if pairing with the eye fillet tartare or other red meat dish.


To finish the evening, we shared an espresso martini (well made, and had a nice head), with the lemon curd tart with meringue, garnished with mixed berries. The lemon curd was perfectly sour. A very playful and flirty dessert with the shortbread melting into your mouth. It was quintessential.





The service from Alex and his waitstaff was organic and in a way, theatrical. We felt satisfied by all elements of a dining experience you hope to be able to tick off when indulging on a night out in town. Thank you for having us Cicco, I’ll most certainly be back!


Follow @ciccozetland on Instagram for all their flavourful updates.


Harpoon Harry


Surry Hills’ bustling Harpoon Harry (a part of independent, heritage listed Hotel Harry) offers punters the ultimate after-work feed or casual dinner date experience. With it’s diner meets 80s pub interiors, the colourful venue is as aesthetically pleasing as its food and cocktail list.





I came along with my guest/best friend Joe to experience what I had been told by others as ‘a great spot for food and drinks’. And this statement definitely proved to be correct. Our friendly waiter greeted us warmly and started us off with some fan-favourite bar snacks and cocktails. We tried the ancho chicken (pulled spiced chicken and cheese) taquitos, nachos and crispy hot wings. It was definitely a big start – especially with everything else to come.





We paired our starters with a whisky sour and mango spritz. Both were devilishly good. As for starters, we both agreed the taquitos were incredibly delicious with their ‘spring roll meets savoury churros’ appeal.





For our mains, we ordered a scotch fillet with horseradish steak butter (for me) and the buttermilk fried chicken burger for Joe. We ate with gusto as we enjoyed both our meals so much – even though our jeans were growing tighter by the second! However, it was definitely worth it. The horseradish butter was the perfect companion to my scotch fillet, as it added juiciness and more flavour to my medium rare meal. Joe couldn’t fault his dish either, and he even recalls it being ‘one of the best burgers he’s had in some time’ – and this is coming from someone who eats burgers at least once a week! We matched our mains with a round of margaritas, which were packed with taste and had a great kick to them with their generous pour of tequila.


Dessert isn’t usually my favourite part of a dining experience – as I have more of a ‘savoury tooth’ than sweet. However, the dessert on offer at Harpoon Harry was the highlight of my evening. We shared (thank god) their famous dulce de leche sundae – a fusion of vanilla ice cream, peanut dulce de leche, violet crumble, topped with a giant waffle cone for garnish. Our taste buds were having a dance party to this wonderfully epic sweet dish. The peanut dulce de leche was a huge standout. We had an espresso martini with our dessert, and they too were incredible.




Overall, the service was tender and sociable, matching the vibrance of their food and cocktails and the extraverted personality of the venue. The other high point was how generous their servings were and at a lower cost, making any dining experience just that much better. It’s safe to say we’ll be returning soon. Thank you for having us!


Follow @harpoon_harry on Instagram for all their tasty updates.


Marrah


Coogee Bay Hotel officially launched their new dining offering, Marrah, in September; serving up a unique blend of Mediterranean-inspired dishes and delicious seafood. The new culinary treasure at Coogee’s oldest beachfront landmark heroes local produce, paying tribute to the neighbourhood’s history and setting a new benchmark for dining on the Coogee strip.


Originating from the Aboriginal word for fish, the name Marrah honours the original Gadigal and

Bidjigal coastal dwellers that fished Coogee’s waters, while also reflecting the local seafood offering throughout the menu.





“We are so excited to introduce Marrah to our local community. Staying true to the Mediterranean

lifestyle that has inspired our menu, Marrah’s new look and feel is welcoming to families and friends in a very relaxed environment enjoying the freshest produce and hand selected wines,” said Christopher Cheung, the Managing Director.


Paying homage to the iconic, beachside location Marrah’s menu has been carefully curated by

acclaimed Executive Chef Nathan Tillott, heroing some of Australia’s best and freshest seafood. The unique dishes feature local produce, while also embracing sustainably sourced ingredients from bushfire affected regions and local growers.


“Our menu is focused on heroing amazing produce, bringing simple yet delicious ingredients to life, all of which are thoughtfully sourced with a focus on quality,” said the Executive Chef.





Launching alongside the new menu is an equally exciting cocktail and premium wine selection,

carefully curated to complement each dish while showcasing Australia’s best wine regions alongside standouts from Europe and the New World.


Inspired by the surrounding coast, Marrah’s design embraces earthy tones and forest hues in

conjunction with the shades of the picturesque Coogee sky and sunset as it softens to night. Above

the cosy booths and tables with sea views, is a cleverly designed, gently curved ceiling to echo the

Coogee Bay’s ocean waves.


As I came in for a review last month along with my guest/life-long friend Chelsea, we were immediately blown away by the stunning interiors. We sat at a corner table by candlelight (how very romantic) and were quickly greeted by our amiable and helpful waiter. Chelsea, in awe of the venue, mentioned how this spot already appeared to be perfect for a date night or a girls dinner in one of the cosy booths.





We started off the evening with a bang by ordering a round of cocktails: the Marrah Martini and Beachside Daisy. The Marrah is a concoction of Tanqueray, Stone Pine Rhubarb Gin, passionfruit, lemon, sugar and garnished with a cherry tomato. The aesthetic reminded me of one of the cocktails I sampled at The Plaza in NYC last year, transporting me onto a wave of wanderlust. Chelsea’s cocktail Beachside Daisy (which happened to be the waiter’s personal favourite) is a gentle fusion of Ketel One, Mancino Dry Vermouth, cranberry, rose, lime, rhubarb bitters, and egg white. She utterly adored hers, however we both agreed the Marrah Martini was a winner. Our waiter mentioned the most popular cocktail on the list is the watermelon margarita – something we will definitely try next time.


Cocktails were followed by our aperitifs of seafood assiette (a selection of raw and cured seafood), and roast scallops paired with pumpkin purée, pine nuts, and burnt butter. Chelsea and I appreciated every taste on offer – our equal favourite being the roast scallops. The kingfish tartare was memorably succulent, and the salmon boasted a softness and elegance different to other sashimi-styles we’ve tried. It was a truly remarkable way to begin the evening.





As we chit-chatted about relationship highs and lows, and other usual conversations surrounding our social lives, we were greeted again with prosecco and a glass of ’19 Paddy Borthwick Pinot Gris from Wairarapa, New Zealand. They paired perfectly with our mains: seared swordfish and blue eye trevalla. My main, the swordfish (with an eggplant purée, tomato vinaigrette, and fried parsley) showcased maximum flavour – the puree boasted mediteranian flavours, reminding us of our Greek escapades. Chelsea’s blue eye trevalla proposed a French flavour palette with its sophistication and simpleness. The white fish paired with a buttery coat instantly made it my personal favourite.





To finish the evening on a sweet note, we shared the creme brulee that was partnered with pineapple, sugared nuts and garnished with colourful herbs and flowers. We felt the pineapple and sweet crunch gave this popular (and at times, quite average) dessert a tangy bite to it, making it original and something that still stays with us to this day due to its unique pairings.





Chelsea, who has IBS – an intestinal disorder causing pain in the stomach – joked how she was relieved how this dining event was the first time she hadn’t felt sluggish or overly full after a big dinner. Although the portions were generous, the type of cuisine as well as the style of cooking made it refreshingly light, making it a winning experience for the both of us. Because seriously, there’s nothing worse than a food coma!


Thank you for having us, Marrah. We can’t wait to return in the new year with our girlfriends!


Follow @marrahcoogee on Instagram for all their delectable updates.


The Cosmopolitan


Situated in the heart of Double Bay is stylish cafe The Cosmopolitan, offering alfresco experiences and warm-lit indoor dining. The luxe cafe-restaurant boasts a bustling vibe and extensive menu, perfect for any occasion – whether that’s brunch with close girlfriends or a dinner date with your new Tinder beau.


I came to review the dinner menu and cocktails with my guest/high school friend Ali, who was the perfect choice to bring along as we collectively adventure new wining and dining spaces during our midweek catch ups.





As we entered the venue, we were already blown away by its appearance. Think: NYC vibes with a touch of Hamptons. The inviting wait staff kindly ran us through the menu and specials; the two of us completely salivating by this point by the teaser trailer of food options.


Ali, who not-so-secretly adores cosmopolitan cocktails – like our beloved icon Carrie Bradshaw – of course decided to order the Cosmo Double Bay. Their version adds cherry heering – a flavour she usually can’t stand – although she admitted the cherry taste wasn’t too overpowering. I went for the Colada Double Bay; a sexy fusion of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, coconut, pineapple and passionfruit. Their unique twist on the original by using passionfruit was surprising yet exciting, and overall a very pleasant drink to start the evening on a sweet note.





We paired our cocktails with a starter of baked Hervey Bay scallops with whipped cauliflower, chorizo butter and almonds. We also sampled the salmon from the raw bar (with a wasabi cream to die for), and the salt and pepper fried baby squid. Each small plate offered a thrilling taste, and we were especially fans of the scallops.


For our mains, we tried the crumbled flattened veal cutlet and the grilled half peri peri spatchcock, with a shared salad. The veal (Ali’s meal) was paired with sweet and sour red cabbage, potato and mustard pickled. She found it to be utterly delicious and packed with flavour – and I won’t lie when I say I stole a few too many bites. My dish – the peri peri spatchcock – was something different to what I’d usually order on a night out (I habitually opt for duck, pork belly, and salmon). The spatchcock was married with lemon, a smoked paprika and garlic marinade, and topped with a chimichurri sauce. I found it to be a fantastic combination of flavours and elements. I’m content I tried something different, and would recommend it for anyone who is adventurous enough to steer from their typical orders.





To finish the evening in style, we requested two espresso martinis to partner with our dessert of Café au Lait (Mecca espresso, cream & mascarpone mousse, and Kahlua shortbread). In regards to the cocktails, we found it was placed on the sweeter side of the spectrum, rather than bitter. The funny thing is Ali prefers sweeter espresso martinis, whereas I prefer bitter. However, they were well-made, still tasted phenomenal, and were the pairing to our fan-favourite Café au Lait. We couldn’t recommend this dessert more (and I think we both wished we had ordered our own serving as we unapologetically polished off the plate within minutes).





Overall, I believe the dining experience at The Cosmopolitan is exciting, affluent, and perfect for the urban millennial who wants more than what they’d find in their usual stomping grounds.


Thank you for having us, we can’t wait to revisit the venue in the new year!


Follow @thecosmodoublebay on Instagram for all their appetising updates.


Muchacha


Tucked away in North Curl Curl is bustling Mexican kitchen Muchacha – a local favourite offering dine in and takeaway. The colourful joint boasts a casual dining vibe with its tuckshop style and little quirks of wall art and sombrero hat section, making your experience ultimately feel both homey and animated. Muchacha, with locations in both Curl Curl and Narrabeen, offers healthy, delicious, modern California-Mexican cuisine through their generous portions and fair price points.





My guest/school friend Maggie came along with me for a review. Maggie, to me, has always sported a flair of Mexican whether she knows it or not (think: dress style, lover of margaritas, first choice of cuisine on a night out, her birthday theme each year, and so on) so, naturally, it felt right to bring her and see what her take on Curl Curl’s favourite Mexican spot could offer.


We were greeted by the friendly staff and seated in the corner by the open entrance. It was a rainy evening, music was playing, our hair was tousled from the humidity – sounds like an unideal recipe for an evening out, but it felt like the perfect atmosphere, even when dining out on the beaches. The rainy-mood ambience was overpowered by the kitchen’s spirit and the venue’s overall sense of vivacity.





We BYOd a bottle of red and white from the bottle shop (literally next door) and began our first round of drinks whilst snacking on jalapeno frickles with citrus yoghurt and a bowl of freshly cooked tortilla corn chips partnered with a layered dip (in the form of a nachos, but with chips on the side). We couldn’t get enough of our starters – we really dove in. The jalapenos were light, had a great kick to them and the yoghurt was the perfect relief.


Welcoming owner of Muchacha, Lee, sat and chatted with us while we savoured our next meal – a plate of tacos, one with a beer battered flathead filling and the other with carne asada steak – both equally delicious). After sharing a round of laughs and stories, Lee mentioned how Muchacha is a family-owned restaurant – her husband (Matt) is the chef and her daughter works at the back with the rest of the team. Hearing this made our already great experience feel more special. Matt’s a five-star chef who worked in California before the two of them established the Mexican kitchen in Sydney’s Northern Beaches three and a half years ago.





Lee told us they pride themselves on using sustainable, ethically raised meat and poultry and will only source from the best market fresh local fruits and vegetables when creating their wholesome Mexican eats. They’re definitely passionate about Mexican cuisine and lifestyle, famous for its vibrant flavours and relaxed sense of dining – a perfect representation of what Muchacha has to offer diners.


We next feasted on the taco salad with seared rare ahi tuna – Maggie’s personal favourite. It was a theatrical dish offering layers of elements and fun and exciting flavours. Another generous portion that we almost couldn’t finish between the two of us, but of course attempted with gusto due to how utterly tasty it was.





To finish the evening with a bang, we were served dessert nachos with fried flour tortillas (made from leftover bits from their savoury menu) and ice cream. This was my best-loved dish for it’s flavour, creativity, and the sustainable touch with the anti-waste approach of using leftover ingredients to be transformed into a flavourful meal.





Before heading off, Lee mentioned how they sell their own margarita mix. Instantly drawn to this – as Maggie loves mixing up margaritas at home – we gratefully took a bottle home with us, excited to see what their version could offer when making at-home cocktails. Maggie and I brought it along with us to a girl’s weekend away in Port Stephens that weekend and the four of us fell in love with the mix after making rounds of margs on our first night of the trip. It was sweet, tangy, and had a great bite to it. We’ll definitely be coming back for another bottle of the mix (and tacos, too!).


Thanks so much for having us, Muchacha! We’ll see you in the new year.


Follow @muchacha_curlcurl on Instagram for all their exciting updates.


Kitchens on Kent


Situated inside one of Sydney’s best-loved hotels, The Langham, is Kitchens on Kent – an extravagant restaurant offering buffet-style dining.





I came in for a review recently with my sister Eloise. Approaching the venue, we were already in awe by the luxe interiors and well-dressed waitstaff at our service. We felt like we were in good hands and every diner appeared to be taken care of with the exceptional attentiveness from the staff. We were seated in a nice spot by a window in the centre of the establishment, excited and ready to taste what was on offer.





We first indulged in the caesar salad and a small Asian noodle dish featuring edamame, fried shallots and a special sauce. Both were equally tasty in their very different ways, and it was the perfect start to our lunch experience. Eloise especially loved the salad, whereas my love affair for Asian cuisine was utterly satisfied by the noodles.


Whilst sipping on their house champagne, we then spoiled ourselves with the raw plate consisting of Huon salmon and Hiramasa kingfish. With the fusion of seafood and accompanied champagne, neither of us could fault the flavours. It was a perfect pairing, and the seafood was utterly divine.





To keep the momentum going, we then sampled the seafood platter – a high tea of oysters, prawns, moreton bay bugs, and lobster. Every flavour was unique and light, leaving us feeling triumphant with the excellence in quality. It was perfectly timed as well, as wait staff wouldn’t rush diners, nor would they take too long.





Following the seafood experience was the yum cha from the Asian kitchen: pork dim sims and prawn gau gee with soy and sriracha. This was a highlight for me, especially the prawn gau gee, that was steamed to perfection and packed with authentic Asian flavours. After this, we tried the BBQ skewer plates – our standout being the pork belly.





To finish on a sweet note, we sampled the delicious array of desserts: the Yuzu meringue tart, berry mousse, and small bites boasting all-time-favourite dessert flavours like chocolate, caramel and vanilla. Our equal favourite had to be the lemon tart, as well as the fruit with chocolate fondue. Both were utterly flavoursome and a great way to taste sweetness after all the savoury, as neither were too rich.





We absolutely loved our lunch-time experience at Kitchens on Kent, and can’t wait to return in the new year to sample future menus. Thank you for having us!


Follow @kitchensonkent on Instagram for all their mouthwatering updates.