Dove & Olive, Sydney

In the heart of Surry Hills lies Dove & Olive, a pub popular with locals with cheap food and drink, and a great atmosphere to go with it. I met Lex after work on Friday after booking a table for us and my Mum and Dad and surviving some excruciating traffic on Qantas Drive. After passing the creepy security guard and edging my way through the hoards of people, I managed to meet Lex in the upstairs dining area (which was also really busy – luckily I booked!). The dining area has two bars as well, so you don’t need to go downstairs for your drinks. The drinks were cheap – although originally I thought $12 for a Vodka + cranberry and a Pale Ale was really expensive, until Lex told me clearly I hadn’t bought a round in a long time (perks of being a female?!).

The great thing about the menu at Dove & Olive is that they suggest a beer to accompany each meal based on flavour palettes. This is pretty cool, particularly if you’re not sure what best suits the meal you’re eating. Since Lex and I were there an hour before my parents, we decided to nibble on some of their Spicy Shoestring Fries which had cayenne salt sprinkled over them, and chilli ketchup on the side (although I couldn’t taste the chilli in the ketchup at all so we went and grabbed some sauce from their shelves – there are heaps to choose from too!). They came out before I even had time to sit back down and were piping hot. They weren’t the best fries I’ve ever come across, but the serving was exceptionally generous, especially at just $7 a pop.

For mains Lex, Dad and I all went for the steak. Lex and I missed out on going to STK when we were in NY, so we were really craving a good steak. In hindsight a $16 steak at a pub wasn’t going to be the best ever, but I was still hopeful. Lex went for the Angus Scotch Fillet and Dad and I chose the Black Angus Rump with mustard and veggies. Another thing you should know about me is that I love gravy (I’ve even been known to pour it over fried rice), so of course I opted for the gravy on the side, Lex went for the Peppercorn. As I type this I’m reminded of a time Lex choked on a peppercorn when we were on a romantic date, it was too funny. I digress. Back to the food…Mum went for the Atlantic Salmon with steamed veggies and thought it was great. As for the steak, it was nice and really for $16 you can’t expect a Kingsley’s steak. As far as pub grub goes, this was a pretty good meal and we’d definitely come back again. At the end of a meal Lex and I always ask each other, “Would you come here again?, Would you order that again?” – and that’s how we can tell if we really liked the food. As for Dove & Olive, the answer would be yes to both questions.

I do want to add that on a Friday night the atmosphere in this local pub was something special. Packed full of people and tables cracking up with laughter – and that was just on the upstairs dining area! I can imagine what the downstairs bar area would have been like…

Lis x

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AOC, NY

After watching a great Rangers win at Maddison Square Garden, Lex and I decided to head out for a (really) early dinner at AOC in the West Village. This place is nostalgic for me as it was a restaurant I frequented with my Mum and Dad when we visited NY in the summer of 2010. If you’re a Sex and the City fan you might recognise it as the location of Carrie’s disastrous ‘simu-date’ before her ‘real’ date with Jack Burger…

We asked to be seated at the back section of the restaurant which faces out onto the courtyard. It was too cold to sit outside so we snagged a cosy little table for two near the bigger booth tables. Being as this is a French restaurant, it was great to see the waiters and owner Romain Bonnans (who we saw walking around) were French and highly knowledgable about their food. I must say also, going to eat dinner at 4.30pm is kind of crazy, but on the flip side, you get such personalised service and are able to catch a glimpse of the workings of a restaurant before the peak time crowed arrives. The decor is really cute in AOC and there is a distinct charm about the place.

AOC has some pretty impressive reviews from reputable food critics in NY. What they all agree on is that AOC has an extensive and traditional French menu with a distinctive homemade feel and offer dishes that are common to France but not so common in French restaurants in America.

What we ordered:

I don’t normally go for Risotto when dining out, but as soon as I saw it on the menu I instantly craved it! So I took the plunge and ordered the Wild Mushroom Risotto with baby vegetables, balsamic glaze and Parmesan cheese. There is also the option to add grilled seafood, but I ordered as is. I was a bit sceptical of the balsamic glaze as I’d never thought to add this to a risotto before, however it added a kick to the dish and definitely worked. I can’t fault this risotto at all, it was absolutely heavenly. Lex tried it as well and even he liked it (he doesn’t normally go for risotto).

Lex went for the Burger with Swiss, Cheddar and caramelised onion. It was a cheap burger too coming in at around $15 all up. You can also add mushrooms, Roquefort and bacon at an additional cost. Lex was impressed and although the burger was on the small side (compared to massive servings at some of the more touristy places in NY), he said it was really filling and noticeably made with fresh ingredients. The traditional french fries on the side were absolutely delicious (I would know because I pinched quite a few!). Although we didn’t have any wine with our meal on this occasion, I want to point out that AOC have an impressive wine list – so if you’re a bit of a wine connoisseur, this could be the place for you! The dessert menu also looked great with the creme brûlée looking very tempting, but alas we were too full!

Lis x

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The Royal, Sydney

Lex sometimes gets replaced for Jadey. She’s the bestie, and you’ll probably come to know her quite well as we’ve made it our mission to eat and drink vino at every restaurant in Sydney! We’ve actually decided to train hard at the gym so we can treat ourselves to a lunch date at Mary’s. Besides being an amazing friend, she also appreciates food and the memories that food and good company can create. She’s also getting married this year (yay!!!!), and Lex and I love going out with her and her fiancé Matt, so we decided to do just that on Australia Day.

Lex and I got to The Royal in Paddington (a cool and casual pub) pretty early after he decided to go shopping for a suit. I told him the shop would be closed as it was a public holiday, but no, Lex still wanted to go. I just gave him an “I told you so” look when we got there. Anyway, it was actually a really nice day in Sydney and we sat upstairs on the balcony of The Royal looking down on Five Ways and sipping on a Vodka + Cranberry – my current drink of choice. It actually felt good to get out of the house as over the four-day weekend we did some serious binge watching of Entourage.

When Jade and Matt arrived we migrated to an inside table with an open window and a nice breeze blowing through. This is a table-service area, although you can order at the bar downstairs if you prefer something more casual. The Royal has a nice atmosphere – youthful, casual, sophisticated. It almost seems like more than just the local Paddo pub. It also has a rooftop bar and seating area with spectacular views across Sydney. They often have live music on a Saturday if you’re in to that.

What we ordered:

I should mention that Jade and I have previously been to The Royal and it was a day when our lives changed forever – we met the Waffle Fries. They are exactly how they sound – a thick waffle shaped chip. No description can really do them justice. You feel fat as soon as you take your first bite, but it doesn’t even matter. Worth.every.calorie. We decided to enlighten Lex and Matt and order a bowl per couple. The waitress advised us just to order one bowl, we politely declined…

You’ll be pleased to know we didn’t just have the amazing Waffle Fries. We backed it up with some protein. Lex went for a steak, I went for the salt and pepper squid, Matt went for fish of the day and Jadey chose the salmon. The salt and pepper squid was served with pickled fennel and lime aioli. I order salt and pepper squid quite often and I must admit this wasn’t the best I’ve had. There wasn’t enough consistency on the plate for my liking, from portion size, cooking and the amount of spice sprinkled over the top. In saying that, the Waffle Fries have big shoes to fill! I also want to share the ‘Vitality’ salad that I ordered on my previous visit- it is a refreshing and super healthy salad that comes with organic quinoa, marinated feta, young spinach, roasted sweet potato, heirloom tomatoes, roasted seeds and a tangy green salsa. I would have ordered this again but thought the combination of a huge bowl of Waffle Fries and a salad was too ironic…All in all, the four of us were impressed with our meals and all agree it’d be a place we would visit again!

Have a look at the photos below – I understand why Sydney is Lex’s favourite place in the world.

Lis x

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Grimaldi’s, NY

It was a bitterly cold day in NYC when Lex and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and over to DUMBO (a really cool park with breathtaking views of Manhattan). In hindsight we probably should have waited for a warmer day as the chill and breeze only got worse as we crossed the bridge! I can’t complain though, it’s a great walk across the bridge and the views when you get there are absolutely worth it. We managed to get a panorama with The Chrysler Building and Empire State – I’ll upload it to the blog 🙂

After taking some happy snaps at DUMBO we decided to head back up the street to Grimaldi’s – a famous (and super popular) pizza joint in Brooklyn. It was originally on our list of must-visit NY establishments, however we were thinking about giving it a miss as we had read the lines were ridiculous. My tip? Try going at lunchtime on a Monday! We got a table straight away in a cosy and warm spot at the back of the restaurant.

Grimaldi’s most famous restaurant is under the Brooklyn Bridge (where we went), however they also have locations in New Jersey and southern and northern parts of the U.S. Their pizzas (which are only sold whole, no slices) are made using a coal-fired brick oven, and they have been Zagat rated as the ‘Best Pizza in NY’. I guess now you can understand why the lines are usually so long?

Whilst the original owner Patsy Grimaldi no longer has a connection to the pizzeria after selling it (along with his naming and branding rights!), just a few doors down you can go to Juliana’s which he opened as a tribute to his late mother. There is a fierce debate amongst locals whether Juliana’s or Grimaldi’s is the better pizza, maybe try both and make up your own mind?

What we ordered:

Our table (with the traditional Italian red-checked tablecloth) was tucked away in the corner and the waiter came over and filled our (plastic) cups with water and gave us the menu to choose from. It is a simple place Grimaldi’s, but thats the point. It doesn’t feel like a pretentious place, instead it’s really welcoming – and welcomes so many patrons, including celebrities, on a daily/nightly basis.

We decided to order half and half – half Margherita and half Pepperoni. We wanted to keep it simple and not order anything too fancy, and we always find you can’t go wrong with Pepperoni! The whole pie, as the Americans call it, was ready in no time and was so tasty that Lex and I were quietly in our own little foodie pizza heaven. I should point out that we went with the large and this was probably too much for two people, although Lex justified finishing by claiming that we only get one shot at Grimaldi’s and it would simply be disrespectful to leave anything on the plate…Also, Lex has spent considerable time in Italy and his opinion on pizza counts. He is continuously on the hunt for authentic pizza like he’s eaten in Italy, and as I type this blog he agrees with me that it was definitely in contention for the best pizza in NY, along with the Calzone he ate at Eataly. The pizza was nice and thin, had a generous spread of tomato sauce on the base, and the pepperoni and cheese were fresh and hot! It really is the freshness of the ingredients, the hint of basil and the oven baked crust that makes this pizza so noteworthy and understandably, a staple of the Brooklyn restaurant scene. It really was the perfect lunch time meal and kept us out of the cold too! We were just dreading making the trek back across the bridge. Luckily we were too full and felt we simply had to find a subway…

Lex and I wanted to absolutely LOVE this place, and whilst it definitely was a good feed, neither of us are quite convinced that it’s the best in NY. I do think that Grimaldi’s are able to bank significantly on their hype and reputation…In saying that though, going to a place steeped in NY pizza history was pretty cool, and you really couldn’t fault the service and value of Grimaldi’s. At just $16 for the ‘whole pie’, and a massive whole pie it was, coupled with the casual and laid-back atmosphere, Lex and I both agree it is the perfect place for just that – a casual and laid-back lunch.

Lis x

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Kouzina Greco, Sydney

Lex and I have been to Kouzina Greco a few times (of course that now stops since I introduced my rule of not going to the same place more than once!). It’s in a great spot when we go to watch the football, so we normally find ourselves there either before or after a game.

The staff at Kouzina are always welcoming and are very knowledgable about their food. It’s a family run business and the vibe really comes across as such. We normally start with our choice of three dips served with Greek pita bread. We’ve actually tried all five dips on offer and they’re all full of flavour. Our top three would be the Taramosalata, which is pink caviar, Tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and garlic), and the Tyrocafteri which is a mix of feta, fresh chilli and dill. We’re not huge fans of eggplant but we have tasted the Melinzanosalata (roasted eggplant, tahini and garlic), and the Skordalia – a mix of potato and garlic, lemon, olive oil – is nice but needs a stronger flavour for us to choose it again.

For mains we go for the traditional BBQ Souvlaki. This comes with either lamb, chicken or a mix of both (Lex goes for lamb and I go for chicken), with Greek pita bread, tzatziki and continental parsley, and a fresh tomato and onion salad. It’s a filling meal and I always feel bloated afterwards, but it is really delicious so I figure it’s kind of worth it.

I’d love to go back and order the Mezzedes which is $49.90 per person for a minimum two people. We’ve ordered something similar before when we went out with my parents but the menu has changed since. You definitely get enough food to go around. The Meddezes comes with:

  • A selection of dips, Greek pita bread and Greek salad followed by-
    Yiayia’s Greek Meatballs with fresh tomato salsa and grated kasseri cheese
    Dolmades vine-leaves filled with mince, rice and fresh herbs
    Spanakopites spinach, ricotta and feta pastries
    Fried Kalamari with skordalia
    Grilled Cyprus Haloumi Cheese with olive oil and lemon
  • BBQ Chicken Souvlaki w/ Greek pita bread, diced salad and tzatziki
    Kleftiko 3 hour slow- roasted lamb shoulder with  lemon potatoes

My favourite thing about Kouzina Greco is their philosophy behind food which is one that resonates with me:

“In Greece, food is so much more than a way of staving off hunger; it’s everything; culture, comfort, family, life.”

Lis x

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar, NY

We stayed in Midtown for the first few nights of our NY trip. Even though I love downtown (West Village, Greenwich, SoHo etc.), I thought it was important for Lex to stay somewhere central when we first got there, so that he could soak up the city. It was a rainy night in NY and we didn’t have a restaurant reservation so we scoured through Yelp and OpenTable to find somewhere local and affordable. Lex came across Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar and got a good feeling when he checked out their website – luckily I managed to get a booking for an hour away which gave us enough time to get ready and head out.

Locations:

  • Midtown (where we visited)
  • West Village

As it was a rainy day Ayza had their front area enclosed and heaters blazing. We snagged a seat inside on a bar stool table. It was a really intimate, dimly-lit and romantic restaurant – absolutely perfect for date night. In fact, we had a couple next to us who were on a first date. We could tell by the rigid, interview style conversation they were having. I think they looked cute together 🙂

Anyway, our waitress greeted us and asked if we were from Australia. She proceeded to tell us she’d spent time in QLD. We convinced her to come back and check out Sydney next time. Lex is a very proud Aussie and we both love when people love Australia. She was very attentive to us for the duration of our meal, and offered us each a sample of their hot wine. We drank it to be polite, it wasn’t really our thing!

What we ordered:

We started by ordering some mixed marinated olives and two dips, hummus with fresh parsley and olive, and tzatiki with cucumber and walnut. I couldn’t fault the dips, they were fresh and flavoursome, and the olives were delicious (especially as I LOVE olives and hadn’t had any since I got to NY). The food also arrived at a good time – not too quick, enough time for us to sit there and have a glass of wine whilst soaking up the mood and romance of the place. I can’t remember the exact red that we ordered but it was free flowing and went down easily!

For mains I ordered the Chopped Mediterranean salad and Lex went for the Ayza Shish Kebab. The salad was a mesclun mix with capsicum (bell peppers), tomato, feta cheese and cucumber. All the ingredients were diced (hence the chopped title) and all tasted fresh. It wasn’t the most complex of meals, but they did it well. I would have liked a splash of vinegar or chilli to make the salad really stand out. Lex’s Shish Kebab came with a salsa, as well as a fresh tomato, herb and onion salad. Lex thought it was yum and for the $19 price tag it really fit the bill.

The service and atmosphere of Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar was truly great and I’d go back for this reason. I loved the romance of the place and thought it was a great place for a date. Sure the food could have been more memorable, but if we weren’t full on dips and wine I’m sure their dessert menu would have been delicious – after all their chocolate bar is what they are most known for.

Lis x

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Jamie’s Italian, Sydney

Lex and I are big fans of Jamie Oliver and are always cooking using his recipes. In fact, today I was looking through one of my six Jamie cookbooks to decide what to make for dinner (we’re having Ginger chicken which can be cooked in 5 minutes – takes me longer of course!). In the ‘About’ section I mentioned revolutionary cookbooks that make cooking quick without sacrificing the taste – Jamie’s 15 and 30 minute meals are what Lex and I mainly use and there are some seriously delicious meals to be had.

Anyway, Jamie’s Italian is on Pitt St, Sydney in quite a discreet location. We actually walked past it by mistake. We decided to go for lunch as it can get quite busy, and although we had to wait a little for our table, it was cool to sit at the bar and watch the chef making fresh pasta. We were seated upstairs on the mezzanine and I must say the decor of this place is done so well and tasteful. It has been made to look rustic with an industrial vibe. The waitress came around with breadsticks to nibble on and we ordered our mains which arrived promptly. The servings aren’t huge and they were perfect for lunch. I couldn’t resist the Sausage Pappardelle which was a yummy slow-braised fennel sausage ragù with red wine, Parmesan and crunchy, herb breadcrumbs. This was actually the first time I’d tasted Pappardelle and in the many times I’ve had it since at other restaurants it’s never been as good as at Jamie’s. The red wine sauce had heaps of flavour and the rage was tender and broke apart ever so softly – I’m sure it tasted like Jamie had cooked it himself! The best part? Only $19.

The good news is that Jamie’s Italian is now open in a number of locations around Australia:

  • Sydney
  • Perth
  • Adelaide
  • Canberra
  • Brisbane
  • Parramatta – This is Jamie’s new ‘Trattoria’ restaurant (a bit more expensive than Italian)

Lis x

P.S. they now accept reservations online – yay!

Famous Famiglia Pizza, NY

We checked into our TriBeCa hotel after a long day of wandering around NY. We were pretty tired and having gone to Buddakan the night before, were just looking for a cheap eat for dinner. Lex loves his pizza and was craving some so after walking around TriBeCa for a little while, decided to go with Famous Famiglia Pizza. This is a pizza chain that serves slices, whole pizzas and other Italian food at a counter-setting. Lex went with two Pepperoni slices and I went for a Cheese slice and a Broccoli slice. Now, to be quite honest I’m not sure what possessed me when I decided to order the Broccoli slice. I would never have normally ordered a Broccoli pizza…and I never ate the slice. The Cheese slice was delicious though as was Lex’s Pepperoni slice. These are the typical massive slices that you always imagine getting when you go to America.

But the real stand out were the GARLIC KNOTS!! For just $1 you get three garlic knots. They are exactly what they sound like dough shaped in a knot and drenched in garlic. These were so nice and we were tempted to order another three. We actually said on our last day that we can’t believe we never went back for more garlic knots! They were honestly just too good.

The best part about Famous Famiglia Pizza? The price. Dinner was under $20, and tasted like it was worth more. It’s a casual place and the TriBeCa location was popular with the locals. There is also a Times Square store and a few others scattered around town.

Lis x

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Morandi, NY

Lex and I were lucky enough to spend NYE in NYC. There really is no other place in the world that does New Years like the Big Apple. We booked tickets to a comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea. Our tickets came with a small appetiser each and an open bar. Since the open bar included their impressive cocktail list we both decided to indulge. The show was hilarious and the cocktails went down nicely. After the show I needed to have something to eat to soak up the alcohol! Finding a restaurant without a booking in NYC is difficult at the best of times, but on New Years Eve we thought it almost impossible. It was around 10pm though so we tried our luck. We stumbled (I did literally…) into Morandi a beautiful, rustic Italian trattoria, and were lucky enough to snag a cosy table near the window. The atmosphere in here was so fun and festive. Interestingly enough, we walked past the next day and realised it was actually on my list of go-to restaurants in NY. I’ve since found out this is a bit of a celebrity hotspot with celebs including Meg Ryan and Cameron Diaz spotted there!

The waiter came around with some homemade bread and olive oil which was much appreciated. For mains Lex and I both ordered pasta. Normally Lex would go for a pizza but since there weren’t any on the many he decided to go for the Cavatelli al prosciutto – a delicious saffron scented pasta with prosciutto ragù and smoked mozzarella. I ordered the Pici al limone which was hand-rolled spaghetti with lemon and parmesan. Both pastas were delicious and made sure we needed 2015 on a foodie high. The menu is pretty impressive and I’d love to go back and sample a few of the other options.

After dinner the waiters handed around a goodie bag full of festive dress-up items. Beads, NYE glasses, tinsel…everything we needed to make the mood fun and celebrate NYE in (questionable) style.

Lis x

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