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Monday, July 15, 2019

Crescent Ramen Bar, Sydney

Pork, egg and fungus in the spicy salt yuzu ramen at Crescent Ramen Bar in Sydney

Japanese hostess bar or ramen noodle house? Why not both? Club Crescent's evening gentlemen's club turns into a ramen house by day  - surely a stroke of commercial genius. We bet you've walked past this basement bar and never noticed it before, a discreet set of stairs between the Hilton Hotel and the old Gowings building opposite the QVB. Now it's one of the most talked about ramen joints on Instagram.

Lounge area seating at Crescent Ramen Bar in a Japanese hostess bar in a Sydney basement
Crescent Ramen lounge area

Club Crescent still operates as a Japanese hostess bar, kicking in at 9pm each night. That explains the bar area set-up with numerous lounge chairs and low-set tables for drinks. A couple of private rooms with oversized lounges look a little worn and tired. They're also devoid of tables. It's worth arriving early to score one of the counter seats around the L-shaped bar.

Monthly ramen specials menu at Crescent Ramen Bar in a gentleman's club in Sydney
Monthly ramen specials

The menu includes seven varieties of ramen with two monthly specials. You'll need to order and pay upfront at the bar. There's a 50 cent discount if you pay by cash. Take your numbered order holder back to your table and staff will deliver your ramen with surprising efficiency.

Miso ramen with chicken and pork stock at Crescent Ramen Bar in a Japanese hostess bar in a Sydney basement
Miso chicken and pork stock ramen $16.50

The standard ramen base here uses a mixed of both chicken and pork stock. The resultant hybrid is a pleasing and flavoursome broth, the rich chicken stock emboldened with an undertone of porky unctuousness.

Order the miso ramen and the soup takes on a more savoury and earthy nuance. A good sprinkle of sesame seeds add a toasty nuttiness.The standard noodles served are thick and chewy, the ideal width for carrying the weightier soup. A handful of bean sprouts provide a palate-cleansing crunch.

Bonito ramen with chicken and pork stock at Crescent Ramen Bar in a Japanese hostess bar in a Sydney basement
Bonito chicken and pork stock ramen $16.50

Bonito ramen means a third protein added to the stock, enhancing the flavour profile with a smoky umami accent. Chef Tsuyoshi Shishido appears to acknowledge its weightiness by adding a good handful of raw sweet onions to the mix.

Spicy salt yuzu ramen at Crescent Ramen Bar in a gentleman's club in Sydney
Spicy salt yuzu ramen $15.50

Spicy salt yuzu ramen is a monthly special I can't resist. It's not noticeably zingy with yuzu citrus, but there's definitely a good whack of chilli. It's also one of the few ramen bowls to be served with a sail of nori seaweed (salt shrimp ramen, anchovy ramen and the tsukemen dipping noodles are the others).

Runny yolk inside the ajitama seasoned boiled egg at Crescent Ramen Bar in a Japanese hostess bar in a Sydney basement
Gooey yolked ajitama seasoned boiled egg

The noodles are cooked to the right amount of chewiness, and the pork is tender and fatty but it's the ajitama seasoned egg that steals the show. One bite and the yolk threatens to spill forth like a river of sunshine.

Crescent Ramen is still officially a pop-up but they have extended their original Monday to Friday lunch trading hours to include Saturday lunch and early. They'll be open from 12pm to 8pm on Saturdays. At 9pm it switches back to Club Crescent mode. Ahem.

Entrance to Crescent Ramen Bar on George Street in Sydney
Entrance to Crescent Ramen Bar on George Street


Crescent Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crescent Ramen Bar
Basement 468-472 George St, Sydney
Tel: +61 (020

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 11.30am-2.30pm (last order 2pm)

Sat 12pm-8pm (last order 7.30pm)
Closed Sunday


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/15/2019 12:05:00 am


Monday, July 08, 2019

Old Fitzroy Hotel, Woolloomooloo

Chip butty with curried egg at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney

Fun. Clever. Honest. Three words that aptly describe the revamped food menu at The Old Fitzroy Hotel, now in the hands of owners Jaimie Wirth, Joel Amos and Mike Delany as of February this year. Newly installed head chef Nic Hill has some serious pedigree, with stints at Sepia, Quay and Michelin-starred London restaurant, the Ledbury. You can tell. This is cheeky British gastro pub fare executed with flair. For cheap.

Beers on tap at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Beers on tap 

The front room of this local's favourite remains the same, dimly lit with dense carpet underfoot. An impressive range of beers on tap runs from Victoria Bitter to local brews. The Mr T blueberry ale by Alexandria-based brewery Yulli's Brews is a deliciously crisp way to ease into lunch. Or dinner.

The best area for dining would be the sunlit bistro area behind the bar, not immediately obvious until you walk past the kitchen. It's also where you'll find the cellar shortcut into the Old Fitzroy Theatre next door. Be warned this is a popular venue for theatre patrons, with a loud bell ringing staff member providing a ten minute warning before a performance commences.

Upstairs they've just completed renovations, although the small round tables would be more suited to drinking than eating.

Scotch egg at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Scotch egg $8

The menu riffs off British comfort food, pub grub classics like schnitzels, rissoles, and fish and chips with mushy peas. The scotch egg is up there as one of the greatest under-appreciated deep fried snacks.

Runny yolk inside the scotch egg at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Expertly runny egg yolk 

An egg encased in sausage mince, crumbed and deep fried doesn't sound like much. That is until you've had a good one. Here it's a revelation, a runny lake of egg yolk hidden within, like an adult version of a Kinder surprise. It's hard not to feel like a little kid again, marvelling in the rich egg yolk and juicy sausage mince against the delicate crunch of its golden fried breadcrumb shell.

Pork pie tart at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Pork pie tart with Queens mustard $16

The humble pork pie is lifted too, converted to a tart form (versus the usual encased pastry pie) and topped with a layer of glistening Branston Pickle jelly. The jelly and accompanying disc of Queens mustard are just what you need to cut through the rich and fatty cold pork pie. The piece de resistance is the pastry, satisfyingly lardy and short.

Tripe and chicken nuggets at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Tripe and chicken nuggets $8

We're quick to order the tripe and chicken nuggets off the regularly updated specials menu. Offal is treated like a beloved friend here.

Inside the tripe and chicken nuggets at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Tripe and chicken inside the nuggets

The nuggets aren't as tripe-driven as I expect - more of a croquette than a crumbed fillet - but there's still much to like about the saucy huddle of tripe and chicken chunks within. There's much more finesse here than most would associate with a typical nugget, but I love that Hill is doing his darnedest to bring tripe to the masses.

Raw beef on dripping toast at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Raw beef on dripping toast $14

On the other hand, beef tartare is served without euphemism, described simply as "raw beef on dripping toast'. The hand-cut beef has a pleasing acidity from capers and cornichons, served on a thick slab of toasted sourdough that almost squelches with dripping. Yum.

Chicken and lardo terrine at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Chicken and lardo terrine with tarragon mustard and toast $16

The kitchen sends out a bonus serve of chicken and lardo terrine. We've been discreet but maybe they've spotted our cameras. It's a meaty serve of compressed chicken chunks, covered in a pepper-dusted blanket of lardo. We scoff this on more toasted sourdough, served in the cutest toast rack for two.

Rissole sandwich at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Rissole sandwich with beetroot, cheddar and fries $17

The humble rissole scores an upgrade too, slapped between toast with beetroot, lettuce and melted cheddar cheese like a cross between a burger and a steak sanger.

Rissole, beetroot and cheddar sandwich at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Rissole, beetroot and cheddar sandwich

The beef rissole is a juicy concoction, and one that feels right at home alongside a mountain of fries. It doesn't escape me either that the bread has come from a tank loaf too. Pub grub perfection.

Pigs head, grilled onion and cheddar pie at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Pigs head, grilled onion and cheddar pie $22

Pies appear to be a rotating menu special, filled with everything from mackerel (fish head poking out at one end; tail at the other) to chicken (you bet he had a pair of chicken feet sticking out). On the day we dine it's all about the pigs head.

Inside the pigs head, grilled onion and cheddar pie at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Pigs head inside the pie

There's no pigs ear adornment (shame) but a charred onion half provides a smoky, almost jammy treat. Beneath the pillowy layers of flaky puff pastry we unearth a treasure trove of fatty pork pieces. It's a surprisingly rich dish, bolstered even more so with the inclusion of cheddar.

Hot chip butty at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Hot chip butty $10
with curried egg $4 and beef dripping gravy $4

But if there's one dish you need to order off the menu it's the hot chip butty. Long appreciated by drunken revellers stumbling home, the hot chip sandwich offers carb-on-carb salvation for a couple of quid.

Hill lets you build your own for ten bucks - either lay them neatly like a quasi-qualified bricklayer or just pile them in willy nilly. But first you'll need to butter the soft white bread generously, and lo, we applaud the room temperature butter that makes slathering so wondrously easy.

Curried egg chip butty at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Adding the curried egg to our chip butty

It's worth adding upgrades of curried egg or beef dripping gravy. Why not have both? We do. Add vinegar or HP sauce as you please.

Hot chip butty with curried egg and dripping gravy at The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney
Chip butty glory

Behold. Our chip butty masterpiece. Try getting your gob around this without dislocating your jaw.

The chips themselves are stupendous. Fat. Chunky. Fried to a decent longevity-holding crisp. The jug of dripping gravy clogs your arteries in all the right places. You'll probably want to share this between two people, maybe three if you don't have a defibrillator handy.

Better yet, bring a bunch of mates so you can share as much of the menu as possible. Go now. And keep going. This one's a beauty.

The Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo Sydney


Old Fitzroy Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Old Fitzroy Hotel
129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9356 3848

Kitchen hours
Monday and Tuesday 6pm-9.30pm
Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-2.30pm; 6pm-9.30pm
Sunday 12pm-9pm


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/08/2019 01:01:00 am


Friday, July 05, 2019

Esquire Drink + Dine, QVB, Sydney

Seared steak tartare at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney

So you've met Reign at the QVB. Esquire is her brother. And you couldn't find two restaurants with greater contrast. Where Reign is light and airy and all things pretty, Esquire is determinedly dark and moody with an aesthetic more geared to practical comfort. It'd be sexist to assume that Reign is marketed to women; Esquire to men. I do know that I take one look at the Esquire menu and feel right at home.

Bar at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney

The food menu is listing on a single black page, neatly compartmentalised into bar fare, small plates, larger plates, the grill and sides. The drinks menu is a weightier tome. Unlike the champagne parlour that is Reign, Esquire is all about whisky (there are more than 180 varieties) and wines (about 200).

Steak tartare at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Seared steak tartare $21

We can't resist ordering the steak tartare, even if we are a little nervous about the preceding "seared" on the menu. Thankfully it's not as cooked as we feared. The hand-cut beef tenderloin is pale pink and soft, a fresh contrast against earthy cubes of roasted beetroot and rich egg yolk. Finely chopped eschallots, cornichons and fresh horseradish add brightness; pommes gaufrettes provide the requisite crunch.

Crumbed sweetbreads at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Crumbed sweetbreads $22

Crumbed sweetbreads should appear on more menus. Here, the waiter explains, they use pancreas instead of the usual thymus gland, cooked with expertise so each mouthful offers a yielding lushness protected by golden deep-fried armour. Lemon, cauliflower, smashed hazelnuts and nutty brown butter add roundness and complexity.

Dining room at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Esquire dining room and bar

Riverina Angus sirloin steak at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
250g Riverina Angus sirloin steak $43

Protein options include pork jowl schnitzel ($32), blue eye cod ($39) and a whole roast chicken for two ($75 served over two courses as chicken salad and then with potato gratin). We're all about steaks though, ordering three steaks between the four of us.

The steaks are just that. A hunk of seared meat on the plate served with a cheek of lemon and your choice of sauce (bearnaise, red wine, mustards or peppercorn).

Pinnacle scotch fillet steak at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
350g pasture-fed Pinnacle scotch fillet steak $46

The sirloin steak is good but the scotch fillet is better, a little juicier overall with succulent pockets of delicious fat.

Grainge rump cap steak at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
250g Grainge signature MB3+ rump cap steak $44

My rump cap steak, from Grainge Black Angus cattle, isn't as tender as I expect although it has been cooked to more of a medium than medium rare at one end.

If you're in serious need of an iron boost, you can order the 800g T-bone steak for $90.

Glazed carrots at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Glazed carrots with miso, sesame and maple $12

We accompany our steak with carrots (the new cauliflower?), glazed with miso and sweetened to an almost dessert-like intensity with lashings of maple syrup.

Potato puree at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Potato puree $10

The little pot of potato puree is decadently good, like a Paris mash you want to savour slowly.

Gruyere de comte jaffle with fries and pickle at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney
Gruyere de comte jaffle with fries and pickle $20

Bar snacks include the classic wagyu cheeseburger ($26) and jaffles. You can order your favourite after school snack fancied up with ham and aged clothbound cheddar but it's hard to go past the cheesy satisfaction of gruyere and comte. The molten cheese stretches like a long hot summer afternoon.

Diners at Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney

Entrance to Esquire Drink and Dine in the QVB, Sydney



Esquire Drink + Dine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Esquire Drink + Dine
Queen Victoria Building
Level 2, Shop 1 (Market Street end)
455 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8023 7609

Opening hours
Monday to Wednesday 12pm-12am
Thursday to Sunday 12pm-2am


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Reign at the QVB
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/05/2019 12:05:00 am


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reign at the QVB, Sydney

House crumpets, cultured butter and preserves at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney

Remember the ABC shop in the QVB? It's now Reign, a glam and gleaming champagne parlour (yes, a parlour, darling) decked out in Insta-friendly tones of gold, dusty pink and marble. You would never know that the bar was once a display area for Dr Who, Bananas in Pyjamas and Wiggles DVDs.

Bar seating at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney

The Reign concept provides cocktails, wines and nibbles in a luxe and decidedly feminine setting. The emphasis on walk-ins (reservations are only available for groups of five or more) seems like a clever way to easily accommodate city shoppers. Its late night trading hours (until 2am Thursday to Sunday) are worth remembering.

Champagne tasting flight at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney
Champagne Districts tasting flight $75
NV Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Cuis, NV Nathalie Falmet Brut Cuvee,
NV Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Brut, NV GH Mumm Grand Cordon Brut Cuvee

Bubbles include sparkling wines and champagnes by the glass. Otherwise you can go all out with a tasting flight that includes thorough tasting notes ($55 for sparkling, $75 for champagne).

The food menu varies depending on whether you're dining at brunch, lunch or supper. A dedicated nibbles menu - which includes an eclectic mix of meatball sliders, wagyu beef dumplings and an okonomiyaki burger - applies at all other times.

Bacon and egg roll at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney
Bacon and egg roll, kipfler potato, scarmoza, watercress pesto and bbq sauce $21

We dine at brunch, when offerings are as light as bircher museli or as heavy as pork fried rice with king brown mushrooms. The bacon and egg roll at $21 seems a tad steep at first, but the huge hunks of deep fried kipfler potato add a heavy hit of carb-loading satisfaction.

DSCF2376-1906
Smoked salmon, creme fraiche, salmon roe and pikelets $24

Far more dainty is the smoked salmon with pikelets. There's been some obvious effort with plating but it feels somewhat forced, especially with the salmon rolls that are tightly compressed and a touch too chilled making it difficult to appreciate its flavour. We could do with a lot more creme fraiche too, but otherwise enjoy making little salmon and pikelet sandwiches. The table is divided over the relevance of lemon jam with this dish - I end up using this on my crumpets instead.

House crumpets, cultured butter and preserves at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney
House crumpets, cultured butter and preserves $12

I'd only expected two crumpets for $12, so am pleasantly surprised when three arrive. They're thick and soft although a little on the stodgy side of spongy. Accompaniments include butter and raspberry which doesn't help when I immediately get a craving for honey and butter instead. Surely every crumpet desires to be drowned in honey? It's like Vita Wheat needing Vegemite. Pavlov effect indeed.

The food offerings may be a little patchy but I expect that won't deter its target audience. And there's much to be said for a spacious bar with comfortable seating and great views in the Sydney CBD.

Marble bar at Reign champagne parlour and bar at the QVB Sydney


Reign at the QVB Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Reign at the QVB
Queen Victoria Building 
Level 1, Shop 48 (Druitt Street end)
55 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8023 7608

Opening hours
Monday to Wednesday 11am-12am
Thursday to Friday 11am-2am
Saturday to Sunday 10am-2am


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/27/2019 12:10:00 am



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