Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $18

The kids at the Blue Pyrenees Estate do good work. The packaging isn’t great but what sits in the bottle is fantastic. Apparently they have collaborated with the Heidsieck label(s) from France and the taste is somewhat similar as a result. The cork pops out with a perfectly. Mousse and bead is quite good for an Aussie sparkling. Bead is fine and persistent. Pale straw colour. Deliciously crisp. Grapefruit, apple, lemon, pear, peach. Finish leaves a little to be desired.

Probably one of my favourite sparklings for under $20.


WINE: SEPPELT Salinger 2002

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $23

So apparently this is one of the better Australian sparklings. If it is, we’re miles (kilometres) away from the French, Americans and Italians. I broke the crown seal and felt a little strange. Mousse and bead is heavy but lingers for a while. Golden straw with a hint of green. Very strong lemon tastes with a little lime and orange. Fresh tasting because of the bubbles and lemon. Long, unrefined finish. Probably needed a few years of cellaring. It would be nice with some Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc.

I don’t think this is one of the better Australian sparklings. Maybe above average, but that’s it. I might prefer it for some types of food but it’s not that pleasurable drinking on it’s own.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

RESTAURANT: Ice and Slice

Type: Pizza and Gelato
Location: 135 King St, Newtown
Booking Required: Only large groups.

Good pizza, good ambiance, good service, good prices, good gelato. It’s all good. Nothing is outstandingly good or bad about this place.

Had the Greek pizza which was good, if a cooked a little quickly. The Diavolo was also good. Simple, tasty, if a little tame. Had to get some gelato upon leaving. Tried the Belgian white chocolate, which tasted like vanilla ice cream, and the apple and ginger sorbet which was quite good and an interesting combination.

Well priced. A pleasing experience but with the amount of restaurants in Newtown begging to be tried, not enough to keep me there on a regular basis.

RATING: Okay, may go back

Ice + Slice on Urbanspoon

WINE: GRANT BURGE Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $20

A methode traditionelle sparkling, which is always good to see. Well packaged, which is somewhat of a change for Australian wines. Mousse isn’t anything special, likewise the bead which doesn’t last too long. Light straw with a hint of red. Light, complex aroma. Tastes of biscuit and stone fruit. Smokey. Hints of crispness. Finish is quite dry. Would go well with canapés.

Complex wine and decent value, but lacking something special. At times it feels like a muddle of flavours. Better options for the price that are worth trying.


Saturday, November 25, 2006


Type: Indian
Location: Level 2, 345 Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour
Booking Required: Sometimes.

Indian food is one of the best takeaway foods there is, in my opinion. The spices and flavours just blow my mind. Zaaffran is nothing like the takeaway fare I was used to. I didn’t even bother to imagine what fine-dining Indian-style would be like before I went into this place.

A waiter leads us to our table and the relaxed harbour air washes over us. We’re given a table right on the corner on the balcony which treats us to views of the entire harbour. One of the other people at the table considers himself the Indian-food master so he looks at the menu, while I have a look at the wine list. Well thought out and fairly extensive. Despite the possible clash I’m in the mood for something sparkling so we start with the Chandon NV, which is always good to see on a wine list. I have no idea the names of the things that we start with. Chicken tikka, fried spinach chard with beans and tandoor Indian cheese. All are very good. The spinach dish with beans and spices is amazing. Wonderful balance of flavours and textures. I can’t get enough of it.

For mains we have the standard butter chicken (aka the benchmark for every Indian place), a lamb dish that is similar to a vindaloo and a spinach a cheese. The Chandon is gone so we go for a bottle of the Bollinger Special Cuvee NV. Delicious and the markup isn’t too bad. To accompany the mains we get some saffron and delicious garlic and stuffed naan. The stuffed is particularly good. The mains are just as good as the entrees. While they don’t do anything incredibly special, they are better than the norm.

Service is fairly attentive but they constantly poured the sparkling wines too quickly, forcing us to taste the wine with a huge mousse still sitting there. Still, they are knowledgeable, friendly and relaxed which is what you want.

The price is surprisingly good for such a lovely location. $270 for three, with $150 of that being wine, and we were completely full.

I wouldn’t think this is a place to take friends for an evening curry, but for those times when you need an Indian restaurant with a bit of class, I wouldn’t go past this.

RATING: Will return to

Zaaffran on Urbanspoon

WINE: BANROCK STATION ‘The Reserve’ Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $9

Such a bizarre experience. I was looking forward to trying this wine for no real reason. I got the bottle out of the fridge and struggled for an eternity to remove the bloody cork. After it finally popped my hand was sore from the effort. The bottle says that Banrock Station is also concerned with preserving and restoring the local environment, which is interesting. Nevertheless, I sucked it up and poured. Very little fizz. Mousse was weak and didn’t last long. Mid straw colour. Bead was very heavy. Smells young. Excellent taste. Stone fruits and hints of the nearby wetlands. Smooth and approaching creamy. Unrefined finish. Refreshing.

It’s not the most complex or technical of wines but it drinks amazingly well. Very few wines for this price make me want to keep going back for more, but this does. Outstanding value. Easily the best sparkling wine under $10.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Various wines.

1. Wine: Moss Wood 2001
Type: Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: Australia (Margaret River)
Approx Cost: $100

This is regularly referred to as one of the best cabernets in Australia and 2001 has been one of the better vintages in the last 10 or so years. I took it to a restaurant with friends and it was the 5th bottle we drank, so my palate was leathery by the time I got to it. Despite being 5 years old, it still could have done with another 5 years, however it was still mighty impressive. Opening up with a big nose of blackcurrents, plums and vanilla oak, the first sip was full of fruit with a little bit of heat. A perfect example of Margaret River Cabernet, it was lean, with the dark current and cinnamon flavours really holding it up. Lovely silky texture with long velvety tannins. The length on this wine is impressive. It'll be very interesting to see how this wine looks in 2010. Thankfully I have another one for cellaring.

While this wine is fucking good and cabernet is my favourite red blend, I still prefer the Coonawarra/Langhorne Creek styles.


2. Peter Lehman Stonewell 1994
Type: Shiraz
Origin: Australia (Barossa)
Approx Cost: $80

This was well and truly ready to drink. At 12 years old it had matured beautifully and subsequently allowed all the right things to shine through. Really clean obvious fruit, quite elegant, however still maintaining the bold Australian style shiraz qualities. Fairly long and full of plums, it finished smoothly with a light licorice. Tannins had softened nicely.

I'm not a big shiraz drinker and to be honest I didn't give this wine the attention it deserved. In saying that, I still really enjoyed it.


3. Giaconda chardonnay 1992
Type: chardonnay
Origin: Australia (Beechworth, Vic)
Approx Cost: ?

Giaconda is a real cult kinda wine. It's for nerds and wine freaks. People who don't drink it, they just wanna own it. The guy who makes it is like a wine pedo. He keeps a low profile, he only sells to cult buyers and maintains a high level of exclusivity. For good reason too. His Pinots and Chards are the best in Australia. I had a bottle of this '92 about a year ago at the same place with the same people and we all agreed it was the best white wine any of us had ever touched. Unfortunately, due to bottle variation/poor cellaring/over-cellaring this bottle didn't live up to our expectations. It still had a beautiful buttery opening, really big and bold without any dominating oak (like most Australian Chards), however the fruit seemed to have fallen away over the years. It was like sitting in the shell of a Rolls Royce, except the leather trim had worn away. It would have been perfect a few years ago.

Expensive, hard to get, but still worth the experience.

4. Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 1992 (Aged release)
Type: Semillon
Origin: Australia (Hunter Valley)
Approx Cost: $45

This was the first old semillon I have tried and I did find it interesting although it did seem to have lost some of the qualities you'd find in a later/better vintage. It maintained a fairly full body, with hints of stonefruit, like peach and stuff. For some reason mushroom came to mind. Everyone looked at me funny when I said that. It was good and interesting.


5. Charles Heidsieck Mise en Cave 1994
Type: Sparkling
Origin: France
Approx Cost: ?

This opened the proceedings tonight and it was a pretty good start. I'd not had a Charles Heidsieck before and I didn't really know what to expect. It seemed to have held up to the aging quite well though and held quite a firm yeasty opening with a dry toasty flavour. It had an almost creamy texture . The bead was fairly light although it persisted and stayed bubbly. It'd suit a Bollinger fan. While I am a champagne tragic, this didn't really push my buttons. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really stunning.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

WINE: MORRIS Sparkling Shiraz Durif

Type: Sparkling Red
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $17

Curiosity forced me to open this wine tonight. To be honest I could have gone without it for a few more days but I haven’t had a sparkling red for an eternity. Opens well and smells divine. Very dark and intense burgundy, probably due to the durif in it. Mousse isn’t anything special. Bead is fine but burns itself out quickly. The sweetness surprises me initially before giving way to delicious forest berry flavours. Maybe even some aniseed and cranberry. Almost like a fortified shiraz in it’s sweetness. Decent finish. Enjoyed with a cookie. Very nice. I can see this as a great companion to chocolate.

Very good. Excellent for the price. One of the best values wines I’ve had, certainly the best sparkling red up to this point.


BEER: Kwak

Type: Strong Ale
Origin: Belgium
Cost: circa $4 a bottle

Sam’s review of a beer reminded me that I have a large deposit of exotic beers in my kitchen/fridgal area that I am yet to sample. This one pours a peculiar cloudy brown with a thick head. Combination of red and amber. Smells like caramel on a sheet of raw steel. Doubt I’ll like this. Light Belgian beers do not really appeal to me for some reason. The smokey/malty taste is repugnant. Very smooth on the palate and surprisingly creamy. Aftertaste, not surprisingly, of malt and smoke. Some honey too. Second sip isn’t as pleasing. The alcohol (8%) comes to the front and I can’t get rid of the taste.

It’s good and some people will absolutely love it, but it’s really not what I want.



Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $30

So called because the grapes for the wine are harvested only at night. Must be scary to pick grapes at night. Spiders, ghosts, etc. Must be why it’s more expensive than other wines from this estate (including the magnificent Vintage Brut). Golden in colour with a hint of green. Mousse is weak but bead is quite good. Tart and acidic. Wonderful on first taste. Combination of fruity and earthy. Finish lacks a little polish. Reminds me a little of a Pol Roger.

Fairly steep in price for an Australian but definitely pleasing. But I’d be more inclined to go for the vintage brut which is just as good and comes in at half the price.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Beer: Moo Brew

Type: Pale Ale
Origin: Tasmania, Australia
Approx Cost: $4.95 ($17.95 a 4pack)

Micro-breweries appear to be popping up thick and fast these days and most of them turn out to be expensive and shit. This is one, while expensive, is definitely not shit. Upon pouring it into my favorite beer glass a rich apple aroma was evident with hints of strawberry bubblegum. Nice thick creamy head and the colour is kinda straw yellow with a little bit of cloudiness. It's fairly hop-driven, very creamy texture and nicely balanced, lingering with a long clean, dry finish. It's approachable and by no means offensive. Unlike some of the other pale ales popping up these days it's not overly floral. It'd go wonderfully with a rich tomato based dish.

If you're sick of the overly-pungent, fruity pale ales, this is well worth a try.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

WINE: JACOB’S CREEK Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2004

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $13

Pale, green straw colour. Good mousse with wonderful fizz. Lemon takes centre stage. Finishes with creamy yeast and a nuts. Very subtle. I wouldn’t mind serving this extremely cold with some bready, slightly salty food. Nothing terrible special about it though. Doesn’t make me long for more.

While still cheap, there are more exciting options for the same cost or just a few dollars more.



Type: Sweet Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $30

Distinctive pink hue to it. Shut up I’m not a girl! The mousse and bead are excellently crafted for an Australian sparkling wine. Incredibly sweet. Fantastic combination of French technique with Australian grapes. Hints of guava, apricot and honey. I’d love to have this with a fruit salad or something equally cool and mellow. Sweetness gets to you after a while. Definitely has it’s place as a great dessert wine or even an aperitif, but lacks versatility.


RESTAURANT: Chinta Ria… Temple of Love

Type: Malaysian
Location: Roof terrace, Cockle Bay Wharf, 201 Sussex St, Darling Harbour
Booking Required: No.

Visited the sister restaurant in St Kilda—Malaysian Hawker Bar—over a year ago and they gave us a card for this place. Been keen to visit ever since. The only thing holding me back was the so-so reviews it has gotten.

Bloody hard to locate this place. Took us about 20 minutes of wandering around the wharves before we finally got there.

Started with the fried lohbak, which is solid. Wine list is refined and impressive for the lower end of the market. Surprised to see the Blue Pyrenees Estate Brut there so that was chosen. Wonderful drop.

Service is strange. It lacks the refinement of a restaurant aiming to impress, but still has an edge over your average Asian place. Dishes arrived quickly and they were always on the spot if they hear a chopstick drop.

For mains the scallops Mingus hit the spot. Perfectly cooked and well spiced. Strange to pair them with asparagus but it still works. Curry chicken with cucumber and onion is also an odd pairing but works well. Good food without being exceptional.

Lovely atmosphere to the place, despite the cyclonic winds hammering the city on the evening we visited. Maybe not the place suited for a dinner with friends, especially since the value is better at other Malaysian places. But would still return for a more intimate occasion.

RATING: Will return to

Chinta Ria (the Temple of Love) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 18, 2006

WINE: SEAVIEW Grande Cuvee

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $10

I suppose I can’t really complain for a $10 wine, but this never really impresses. A lot of sweet fruit aroma and taste. Young and lacking depth. Still tastes like the barrel. Still, drinks easily and has a pleasing taste. Creamy in a non-yeasty way. Lacks bite.

Not great, even for the price. But you could do worse.


WINE: CARRINGTON Brut Reserve Special Cuvee

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $10

Wow. Pale. Is that wine or sparkling water? Oh man they’ve ripped me off! Wait. No, it’s wine. Fine bead. Low on fizz. Presumably so you can slam it down fast. Lacks depth but the taste is good. Fruity and creamy. So very cheap. Good for the price. It’s sort of like a hot girl in a school uniform on the train. She isn’t as good as a proper woman and you sort of know that doing anything with her is wrong. But, still, you can do a lot worse and you know that since you’re an older guy with money then she will easily fall to your advances. Finish is lacking.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

WINE: SEPPELT Fleur de Lys Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV

Type: Sparkling White
Origin: Australia
Approx Cost: $13

Cork struggled out. Fizz disappears too quickly, even just after opening. Medium bead. Little to offer for the nose. Weak lemon and lime tastes. Seems watery. Clean taste. Good finish.

Cheap but unsatisfying.



Type: Champagne
Origin: France
Approx Cost: $75

Strange drink. Strong on the nose and the palate. Strong mousse, average bead. Quite acidic. Hints of crisp apple and citrus. Lengthy, acidic finish. Couldn't get rid of the taste.

Solid, but better options for the cost.



Type: Greek
Location: 161 King St, Sydney
Booking Required: Usually.

Haven’t had Greek in Sydney for a very long time, which is unusual because it’s a fantastic cuisine. Headed down to two-hatter Omega without a booking, hoping to get a table at Mezes at Omega, which is out the front of Omega and has a smaller, simpler menu. Managed to get a table in the main restaurant. Menu looks extremely impressive, consisting of modern Greek food, and the wine list is extensive. Decide over a chewy bread roll with tzatziki, hummus and extra virgin olive oil. Excellent. After a difficult decision, selected a bottle of Pol Roger White Foil NV (expected mark-up). Quite good for a NV. Offered a small, very tasty tart as an appetizer. Entrée was the anchovy baklava, served with a salad of marinated sardines, fennel and confit tomato. Initially smoky, then salty. The salad balanced well with the dish. Main course was the vine leaf roasted Flinders Island rib eye, slow braised lamb shoulder, proscuitto, truffled orzo and green peas. Divine. Incredible dish. Roasted rib eye is one of the best cuts of lamb I have ever eaten. Service was professional but far too slow despite the restaurant being half empty. Can be partly forgiven for some demanding diners at nearby tables, but the wait at times was just far too much. Dessert was passed up because of how long they took between offering the menu and returning to take orders. Décor is lush and funky but atmosphere is slightly stuffy. Very expensive bill, even without the champagne. But for the price, when you are specifically looking for something special, the service just wasn’t attentive enough to warrant a repeated return.

RATING: Will probably not return to

RESTAURANT: Chinese Noodle Restaurant

Type: Chinese
Location: TG7, Prince Centre, 8 Quay St, Haymarket
Booking Required: No

Took a friend who had never been before. Ordered the best: pan fried lamb and celery dumplings, steamed pork and chive dumplings, spicy beef salad, shredded pork with mini pancakes and chicken and capsicum stir fry. Service is extremely quick and attentive. (Free) Tea was refilled as soon as we turned the top over, dishes came at a frantic pace. Décor is strange. Rugs depicting country houses with purple hay hang on the wall and fake grapes and leaves hang from the ceiling. It’s quick and hardly refined but sometimes that’s what you want for dinner with friends. Never more than $10-15 a head. Advisable to go there in umltiples of 2 to make seating easier. Groups of more than 4 are a bad move. Chinatown Cellars is nearby with a good selection of cold beer and wine and BYO is welcome. No corkage. Ate too much but I don’t remember that ever being a problem. Friend remarked it was the best meal he had ever eaten, particularly enjoying the spicy beef salad (spicy chicken is probably even better). Off to nearby Easyways for a post-meal milk tea, even if there is no room left.

Have probably gone there 30 times. Will never tire of it.

RATING: Will constantly return to

Chinese Noodle Restaurant on Urbanspoon