Brooks of Melbourne

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Gerald Diffey, wearing a dapper grey suit, stood by the striking white marble bar and surveyed the dining room of Brooks as it began to fill. This is the restaurant he opened six months ago in the centre of Melbourne, Australia, with his partners Mario Di Ienno and chef Nicolas Poelaert. When the music stopped, he turned on his heel, lifted the lid of the record player, flipped the record like an old-fashioned DJ, and swiftly turned back to ensure…






Eating out in Sydney’s CBD

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   The Bridge Room, which opened in August 2011, and Cafe Nice, which is only a month old, are no more than 500 metres from one another in Sydney’s Central Business District. Although their menus are very different – the former is a model of modern Australian cooking while the latter focuses on the equally colourful cooking of the French Riviera – they have a great deal in common. The first and most obvious factor to anyone visiting from Europe is…






Sydney’s well-named restaurants

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Australia has made a series of significant contributions to the world’s restaurants. The first has been the export of raw talent in the shape of young chefs and waiters. John Torode, Michael Benyan and Brett Graham decided to stay and Smiths of Smithfield, the Zetter Townhouse and The Ledbury are their respective contributions to London’s reputation. This wave was accompanied by the export of some really excellent-value Australian wine that brightened up many a restaurant wine list. This has been…






Eating out in Melbourne

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I learnt six years ago on my first visit to Melbourne that its citizens are as obsessed with food, wine and coffee as those in Singapore, New York and San Sebastian, north-west Spain. On a recent trip I was stunned by the even greater concentration of cafes, bars and restaurants around the centre. When I mentioned this to a friend who lives there, she countered by saying, ‘I suppose so. But there are several good galleries in between.’ We both laughed….






Sydney’s competitive chefs

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I arrived in Sydney feeling ‘crook’, or sick in Australian. This led, most unexpectedly, to a ten-minute lecture on the state of this city’s restaurants as compared with those of Melbourne, its main rival, at 9.45 on a Monday morning from the doctor I had been sent to. Having noted my profession, he promptly set out the reasons why he preferred the restaurants of Melbourne to those of his home town. Only then did he turn to me.These firmly held opinions…






Eating out in and around Hobart

This article was also published in the Financial Times. On the waterfront at Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the home to what I was reliably informed is the best-preserved collection of Georgian buildings outside the UK, is a large noticeboard. On it is a plethora of useful civic information such as the times of the church services and local taxi numbers as well as a number of business cards from local restaurants that gives the mistaken impression that the local cuisine is predominantly Indian. In true understated Australian fashion,…






Melbourne

Melbourne – 2006 Twenty four hours in the company of George Biron introduced me to two of Melbourne’s food markets, three of its distinctive restaurants and a café in one of the growing number of areas which, because of their predominantly Vietnamese population, are referred to locally as ‘Little Saigon’. The day began, however, enjoying the city’s strong Italian links as Biron explained over a caffe latte in Pellegrini’s, an Italian espresso bar that has been a fixture on Bourke Street for the past 50 years (very like Bar Italia…






Sydney

Sydney 2006 Twenty years ago Barry McDonald, then a young New Zealander and probably the best waiter I ever employed, knocked on the door of the invariably untidy office at the top of my restaurant. He had come to apologise, he explained, in case there were any complaints from a large table he had looked after the night before. Although he had tried to give them his best he had been continually distracted by what he believed was the host’s interminable clicking of his fingers, unquestionably the easiest way to…






Adelaide

Adelaide – 2006 The comforting news for anyone whose partner is soon to set off to watch England play Australia in the Second Test at the Adelaide Oval in Australia in early December is that at least their eating out expenses should not be too high. Adelaide is a compact, friendly city, with North Terrace conveniently lining up the Hyatt Hotel, the State Parliament, the Museum and Art Gallery, the Convention Centre as well as the casino in close proximity. And while it is home to a number of fine…






The evolution of the Australian restaurant scene

The evolution of the Australian restaurant scene – 2006 Five days assiduous and fascinating eating-out in some of Sydney’s newest restaurants – for articles that will subsequently appear here, in the Financial Times and in Condé Nast Traveller – left me pondering one of those phrases that are invariably complex and ultimately unsatisfactory. The phrase is ‘if only’ and in this particular case it was part of the following sentence: ‘if only Anders Ousback were still alive I think he would be very happy with the current state of Sydney’s…