Category Archives: Restaurants

Hong Kong – Upper House Hotel

‘Your mission – should you accept – is to live like James Bond for a day.’
‘Live like James Bond for a day, you say?’ Doesn’t sound too difficult.
You said live ‘like’ James Bond – not ‘with’ James Bond. After watching ‘Skyfall’ I rather fancy Daniel Craig. That back of his….hmmmm…’
‘Please try to focus on the mission at hand 008. I said live ‘like’ 007. Not ‘with’ him.You’ll be his decoy while he is in Hong Kong.’
‘Decoy you say? Just for one day? OK. I accept.’
‘Good. Let me take you through the accommodation we’ve selected for you.
 We’ve got you a suite at the Upper House. It’s where all the well-heeled hipsters stay and dine. So try to blend in and don’t wear those cowboy boots of yours.’
‘Hey! What’s wrong with these boots? They’re hand-made you know… from real rhino hide. I had to drag that rhino through the Botswana jungle.’
‘Look. Just try to be inconspicuous – is that too much to ask 008? You are a spy afterall.’

‘OK.. come this way. We’ve already checked you in as Ms Indira Naidoo. She’s an Australian journalist and broadcaster who’s meant to be reviewing this hotel so it won’t raise any suspicions if you’re seen taking photos and asking pesky questions.’

‘Do I have to be an Australian? You know I can’t tolerate that accent. Everything is ‘gday this’ and ‘ow ya going mate that’. It’s so grating. Can I be that Swiss gymnast again? Please?’

‘Not after all the weight you’ve stacked on. Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately.’

‘It’s just a couple of kilos….

‘008 can we just get on with it?

‘This is your room. As you can see it’s extremely spacious with views across Hong Kong harbour.’

‘Geez……007 really does get the royal treatment doesn’t he? You usually put me up in a Mecure. Look at these fabrics and furnishings, and potted orchids. No expense has been spared.’

…. I love phaelanopsises….

‘OK, 008 that’s enough horticultural observations… let me take you through to the bedroom..

‘Wow…. that bed looks dreamy….. what’s the thread count on these sheets? Looks like Egyptian cotton..

‘Don’t get any ideas 008. You know the rules. No sleepovers while on duty.’

‘ But 007 always …

‘ I don’t care what 007 does. No visitors. Period.’

‘Here are your suitcases…

‘… and the closet…’
‘… and the bathroom..’
‘That’s some tub. Nice a deep. Looking forward to a long soak. And there’s a TV as well… want to
  see the finale of American Idol. Love Keith Urban.’
‘There won’t be time for that 008. After you unpack I want to take you to the outside deck where you’ll receive further instructions from your contact.. ‘

‘Oh. He doesn’t seem to be out here. Let’s wait for him in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant Cafe Gray.’

“Nice views.’
‘I took the liberty of pe-ordering for us both.
I’m having the gnocchi…’
‘…And how’s the organic heirloom beetroot salad?’
‘Not bad. I’ll be able to squeeze back into that leotard in no time.’
‘I could get use to pretending to be 007.’
‘Don’t get any ideas 008.’
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Upper House.

Palm Beach – Frangipani Cottage

It’s the first weekend of Spring and the outdoors is calling.

We’re staying at Frangipani Cottage on Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach – the new accommodation
offering from the folks at Barrenjoey House a few doors down the road.

The two-bedroom cottage is perfect for two couples and a stone’s throw from the ferry and beach.

The frangipani trees in the front garden aren’t in flower yet. Now their branches look like huge chunks of underwater coral.

The cottage draws on similar design elements to the famous Barrenjoey Restaurant and Guesthouse.

.. light, space and air, textured collectibles all to be enjoyed from deep comfortable couches.

 It’s a space to relax and unwind in..

.. and with a large flat screen television and foxtel for those who don’t want to completely disconnect.

There are piles of books, magazines and travel guides to flip through

… although the outside is always beckoning.
your own private deck to daydream on..

The beds are extremely comfortable and covered with luxurious linens. It will be a sleep you’ll always remember.

a dreamy space to dream in…

as the scented spring air sends dappled light across the room


the kitchen is functional with only a microwave oven an obvious omission.

but with Barrenjoey’s excellent restaurant and a host of other eateries just around the corner you won’t be spending much time doing the dishes.

The cottage only has one bathroom so the sharing couples need to know each other well. We did notice that the hot water was peetering towards the end of our two showers.

After an evening walk on the beach it’s an early dinner at Barrenjoey restaurant. 

I’ve always admired the interesting decorating touches in this wonderful colonial-style space.

We begin with a plate of the most delicious briny oysters and then onto a crab pasta and a fillet
  steak – all cooked perfectly.
a sundowner and then a tipsy stroll back to our cottage for a deep, deep sleep surrounded by crisp fresh linen, soft pillows and that hypnotic sea breeze.

Saucy Onion stayed and dined as a guest of Barrenjoey House.

Edible Inspiration – Justin North

                                              (Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph)

I have many food heroes. Most I admire from a distance but some I am lucky to see in action at close range.
Justin North of Becasse fame was banging on about ‘local’ well before it became hip. He is a magnificent champion of fresh, seasonal and locavore eating. Combine that with his exceptional technical skills and it’s no wonder Becasse is always a special dining experience.
Every few months Justin hosts a lunch featuring local producers from around New South Wales.
This week it was the the wonderful free-range pork from Melanda Park on the Hawkesbury River, Bilpin Apple cider and the incredible Maya Sunny Honey from Mudgee.

Alto marinated Volos olives
Warm salad of autumn vegetable slow cooked in olive oil with marinated confit blue eye
Mosaic of Pork shoulder, neck, smoked hock and pickled tongue
Pork loin and belly, Jerusalem artichoke, pear, celeriac, and licorice

the crackling was like wafers of porky caramel
Ironbark honey cream and mousseline with compressed melon and melon sorbet
the textures were ethereal
And some of the little critters who helped make the honey were on display at the restaurant

There were about 20,000 bees in this glass urn.
Third generation Bee-keeper Andrew Wyszynski, using a secret techique he has developed, is able to entice the bees into individual jars where they make natural honeycomb and honey. 

After a good bank of honey has built up, he coaxes them out again leaving the honeycomb and raw natural honey in the jar which just needs to have a lid screwed on.

It doesn’t come more natural than that!

Raw, vegan and dairy-free at Agape Restaurant

I know, I know. Not a seared steak, hot pudding or cheese plate in sight. And guess what? We didn’t miss them.
Chef Simon Lawson wanted to show diners what a delicious and diverse raw diet you could enjoy with a little imagination – and a hydrator! And Georgia from gave us a nutritional overview of how raw food can rebalance our diets.

Here’s what we ate.
Everything was served at room temperature.

Asparagus, yellow banana pepper, silverbeet, avocado, mint, pistachio and basil soup

citrus and basil cured beetroot, olive, fennel, orange, mint, radish and coriander 
fennel, apple and pickled cabbage
cherry tomato, sprouted royal black quinoa, saffron vinaigrette, parsley, chive and broccoli sprouts

swiss brown mushroom, black truffle, thyme and white mushroom puree, kale, fennel and apple pickled cabbage

pineapple, coconut palm sugar, macerated blackberries, pineapple granita and coconut sorbet

MK Maison – Marrakech, Morocco

Finally a little peace in this crazy, mad, frenetic, crossroads of humanity that is Marrakech.

We’re staying at the MK Maison a hip boutique hotel on the other side of the Old Medina. It’s owned by British couple Paul & Aoibheann Hopkins who have created a slice of cool sophistication amongst the dust and alleyways. It has the most magical roof-top view of the city at sunset.
…the minaret of the famous Koutoubia mosque in the distance, hazy pollution blotting out the Atlas mountains, lanterns flickering and a chilled glass of local Moroccan chardonnay. It’s a big call I know… but this may well have just become one of my most favourite places in the world..
The attention to furnishings and lighting shows what a wonderful eye both Paul (a well-known photographer) and his wife have.
This is the tear-shaped pool in the entrance courtyard – again invitingly lit.
Our room is flooded with light, stylish yet comfortable.
rose petals are strewn on the velvet bed cover…
Fresh roses and fruit and a oil burner to also greet us
The bathroom is a marble-polished curvaceous retreat.

…complete with a giant-sized rubber ducky, over-sized shower-head (which can give the whole bathroom a soak!)

A luxurious bath that cleanses away the dessert heat and sand

rose petals also adorn the vanity basin

fun and playfulness

exotic Moroccan toiletries
Every room has an iPod docking station but the chilled grooves from the hotel playlist set the mood
Afternoon sun streams in through the intricate metal shutters
It beckons us outside again onto the roof under the gently flapping saffron-coloured shades
This is were British chef Jamie Oliver filmed some of the cooking demonstrations in his recent hit show “Jamie’s Food Escapes : Marrakech”
No wonder the international cooking star picked MK Maison … what a backdrop!
MK Maison also has its own gastronomic credentials. Its restaurant Gastro MK features perfectly executed reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes
This carrot and honey soup was spicy and sweet and beautifully balanced
crumbed quail eggs with beetroot carpaccio and dressed salad leaves
Grilled John Dory fillet with lentils, beetroot puree, lychee and caramelised mango spaghetti
leg of lamb confit with potato and carrot puree and couscous
And of course when the streets are this narrow this is how we moved hotels at the end of our very relaxing stay.
manager : Mary Teare
mobile : +212 (0) 661 09 61 27
hotel: +212 (0) 524 37 61 73
14 derb sebaai, quartier ksour, medina, marrakech, morocco
uk contact…
paul & aoibheann hopkins

uk mobile: +44 (0) 7733 265 658

uk landline: +44 (0)1428 682262
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of MK Maison

Hobart in Three Days – Garagistes Bar/Restaurant

In unprepossessing surrounds in a disused garage in the centre of Hobart is a dimly lit food alchemist’s lair.
It’s only 6pm but already foodies from around the state and from the mainland are securing their table for the night. Such is the reputation of this young restaurant. Seating is at the bar or at high communal tables set with stoneware.
Under the hyperactive creative genius of Luke Burgess –  who has already collected a bag of food awards – Garagistes is quite an exhilarating experience.
Garagistes is quickly raising the bar when it comes to sourcing the best local organic ingredients and enhancing their flavours with French and Japanese techniques.
Much of the cooking takes place on this dramatic exposed wood-fired grill pit in the centre of the kitchen.
darjeeling-brined quail eggs, toasted tashiminori rice , oyster cream
grilled lamb ribs, peppers, lemon, coriander seeds
Meltingly tender. Sucked to the bone.
Fried tripe, tomatillo mayonnaise. Spicy and gelatinous with a crunchy crust
braised heirloom carrots + turnips, almond cream, young garlic, nuts and seeds
strips of vegetable candy
crisp black pudding crumbs, salt-coated celeriac, apple allioli, pea flowers. Deeply rich but again a textural delight.
Look out for this rare Tasmanian label chardonnay. Unusally delicious.
This is a destination restaurant that every food lover wishes was in their city. Lucky Hobart.

Bowral, NSW – Biota Dining Restaurant

Biota Dining is not what you expect to find in the sleepy hamlet of Bowral in the NSW southern highlands

Head Chef Shaun Quade and executive chef and co-owner James Viles have embraced the bio/organic food trend and added their own exquisite twist.

The sprawling restaurant complex which includes a formal dining area and a more casual lounge area is set on rolling grassed property with a duck pond and organic kitchen garden.

The garden provides seasonal ingredients for the restaurant’s menu from fennel pollen to edible flowers.

When I took a squiz there were beds of winters greens and root vegies
The formal restaurant also has an organic feel with Scandanavian furniture, lichen-covered floral arrangements and blocks of pink rock salt as table centre pieces.

We loved the wine list – extensive wines by the glass, local southern highland varietals as well drops from Jerez in Spain.

The kitchen pumps with a youthful energy. The staff clearly eat the fresh ingredients they cook!

Our amuse bouche: anise jelly with chicken parfat and peanut crumbs. Worth the detour just for this textural delight.
beetroot and king fish carpaccio
Palate cleanser served on garden moss ( and , no, you don’t eat the moss.)
strawberries and raspberries
Roasted local lamb with garden silverbeet
Organic chicken with grilled greens and polenta
Biota Dining has all the style and attitude of a 5 star city restaurant with the heart of a country kitchen.
Check it out before it is too hot to get a table!