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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Madeira Grill, Petersham

Doesn't food always taste better on a stick? The Portuguese espetada takes things one step further.

Meat. On a sword.

I'm instantly sold.

Complimentary bread and olives

Madeira Grill in Sydney's Little Portugal, Petersham, is not overly busy on a Friday night, although they are playing host to a large party 16 people. The tables are decked in white tablecloths, but the feel is more of a family restaurant, with a drinks fridge and dessert fridge brightly illuminated in one corner.

A basket of bread rolls is swiftly brought to our table, along with a ramekin of black olives. The olives have a brininess to them, not as oily as Kalamatas. We know not to start on the bread yet - its use will come later.

Sumol Ananas pineapple soda

From the drinks fridge, I select the Sumol Ananas, a pineapple drink manufactured in Portugal that is lightly carbonated and not overly sweet.

Garlic prawns $15.90

We share an entree of garlic prawns, the terracotta pot sizzling with oil, and wafting aromatic fumes of caramelised garlic.

The prawns themselves are a tad flavourless, but as always, it's the oil at the bottom I'm more interested in. We finally allow ourselves to tear in the bread rolls, using the bread to mop up the sweet oil, chunks of garlic and bright red flecks of chilli.

Vongole in a mustard and lemon sauce $15.90

An entree serving of vongole is enormous, and we have to play table chess to make room.

There's a lovely sense of hands-on fun as we tuck into the baby clams, scraping the flesh from the shell with out teeth, and drinking up the juices, tangy with lemon and only faint with mustard. The clinking of shells as we scrabble for clams always makes me smile. The flesh is tender and sweet.

Grilled codfish in tomato and onions with fried potatoes $22.90

Speedy orders the bacalhau for mains, the salted codfish covered in a thick sauce of tomato and onion.

The firm texture and salty resonance of the balcahau is a fitting complement to the sweet tomato sauce. A rubble of fried potato chunks aren't overly crunchy, more like soft cooked potatoes with a thin golden skin.

Charcoal veal skewer $24.50
served with polenta, salad and garlic bread
Espetada a Moda da Madeira

"Are you sure the espeteda is for one person?" Veruca Salt had asked me, just before I ordered.

"Oh yes yes, I reassured her. Look at the price, it must be for one person."

If our table was packed before, it's chaotic now. A banquet of side dishes seems to arrive: a bowl of salad, a plate of polenta, a basket of garlic bread, and then the main attraction, a towering meat-skewered sword that hangs on a specially-designed stand.

Salad, garlic bread and polenta


Realistically, this probably could feed two people. I barely touch the garlic bread or the polenta (which tastes a little gluey even though it's been pan-fried) although the salad provides some much needed refreshment.

Resting on a cleverly-designed ledge, the espetada swings gently at the table. The fat chunks of beef have been rubbed with garlic and rock salt and then grilled until cooked. Beneath the sword is a slice of white bread, positioned to catch the drips of meat juice for those who wish to eat it as a final treat.

Removing the meat from the sword

Removing the meat from the sword is trickier than we think. I'm tempted to grip the meat too tightly when in fact it's best to gently guide the beef downward using the tongs provided.

Espetada beef

The beef is a little chewy in parts, although there's plenty of flavour, and some pieces are tenderer than others.

Steak served with prosiutto, egg and round chips $20.90
Bife a Portuguesa

Bellboy and Veruca Salt both order the Portuguese-style steak, a tried-and-true favourite. I've always been a little astounded by the purity of protein and carbohydrates on one plate - steak and chips and why not have some ham and, short on protein? Here have an egg as well.

The version here makes me see the light. The steak, cooked to a medium-rare as requested, is juicy and tender, however all the glory belongs to the round chips. Hand cut potatoes are fried to a mouthwatering golden hue, making a loud satisfying crunch with every bite. These are real kettle chips, the chips sliced thickly enough to still give resistance, and provide plenty of potato flavour.

Portuguese-style steak? Ahh... now I understand.

View Larger Map
Madeira Grill on Urbanspoon

Madeira Grill
82-86 New Canterbury Rd, Petersham, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9560 2898

Opening hours:
Monday to Tuesday 8am-10pm
Thursday to Sunday 8am-10pm
Closed on Wednesdays

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Portuguese - Sydney Portugal Community Club (Marrickville)

Petersham - Costa Do Sol (Portuguese)
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Petersham - Perama (Greek, modern)
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20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/06/2010 03:06:00 am


  • At 1/06/2010 5:11 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Love the look of that beef on the sword! And the pineapple soft drink sounds quite nice. Definitely have to investigate Petersham more.

  • At 1/06/2010 5:26 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    To be fair, though, there do seem to be some nubbins of pickled veggies on the portuguese steak :P Unless they just fell off the salad?

    Those mustard vongole look and sound delicious though. Not enough dishes use mustard as their primary flavouring!

  • At 1/06/2010 5:32 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Ive got to say, where do you always find interesting places in that area?! I've got to explorer more in my neighbourhood!

    Plate of protein and carbo sounds like my kind of plate hehe

  • At 1/06/2010 5:51 am, Blogger Justin said…

    i wonder if i could find that pineapple drink in the U.S.?

  • At 1/06/2010 7:31 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    The Portuguese steak was perfectly cooked but I miss the delicious winey garlic sauce that they have across the road.

    I recall saying that you were gonna have to fight me for that goodness soaked slice of bread. Real shame I was too full.

    I must go back for the vongle and to give the espetada may full attention.

  • At 1/06/2010 8:31 am, Blogger Rambling Tart said…

    Meat on a sword? Now that's just cool :-)

  • At 1/06/2010 8:52 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    here, have an egg hahahaha love it! was the sword of meat detachable?

  • At 1/06/2010 9:54 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Haha yes please to meat on a sword! Ooh they sell those sodas at the portuguese chicken shop near my work, I love them!

  • At 1/06/2010 9:55 am, Anonymous Ben said…

    I ate here a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a Portuguese friend. Looks like it's still the same place, same menu, same level of yum.

    Thanks for the review.

  • At 1/06/2010 10:09 am, Anonymous Fiona said…

    Try anything once - I love food that you put onto your own plate!

  • At 1/06/2010 12:24 pm, Blogger Shanks said…

    If food on a stick tastes good, then food on a hanging stick must taste sensational lol!! Looks like my kinda tucka :)

  • At 1/06/2010 12:38 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    omg meat on a sword sounds awesome!! I like the idea of putting the bread under the meat to catch the juices - it would certainly be one delicious slice of bread!

  • At 1/06/2010 12:41 pm, Blogger mimbles said…

    My 8 year old, reading over my shoulder, says "Oooo YUM! Can we go there?"

  • At 1/06/2010 5:06 pm, Anonymous Rose said…

    I really should make an effort to go to Petersham again - it's so easy to get to from Balmain. The food looks amazing!

  • At 1/06/2010 8:40 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Juicy juicy meat on a sword. How interesting. I would love to try that.

  • At 1/06/2010 9:56 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    The dramatic presentation of meat on a sword - I'm sold! =D

  • At 1/06/2010 10:15 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    Did anyone fight over that white bread? Mmmmm....... and apart from the meat, all the other entrees (prawns, clams, etc) seemed like really fantastic dishes!

  • At 1/07/2010 2:55 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joey - Petersham has lots of great feeds. If you're there during the day, make sure you get some pasteis de nata Portuguese custard tarts from Sweet Belem.

    Hi Hannah - lol. You're right, there were a couple of pickled cauliflower florets :)

    The vongole were great and yes, I really should use mustard more ofen in my homecooking!

    Hi Yas - Yep, you gotta eat more (do you need any more encouragement? lol). The Portuguese steak was pretty good. I can imagine you polishing that off easily!

    Hi Justin - I'm not sure. You might need to keep an eye out and ask around :)

    Hi Veruca Salt - I think you must be an expert on Portuguese steak by now :) The bread looked so good but argh, can't believe I was so defeated so early on. The vongole were great and oh, I'm still dreaming about those round chips.

    Hi Rambling Tart - I know. It's too fun isn't it?

    Hi Chocolateuze - The sword does lift off but it all looks rather precarious. Were you hoping to have a sword fight? lol.

    Hi Stephcookie - I'm sure if vegetables came on a sword, kids would eat more of them, and oh lucky you. The pineapple soda was pretty tasty.

    Hi Ben - There's such a bounty of Portuguese restaurants in Petersham I still haven't made my way to all of them yet!

    Hi Fiona - Communal food is always fun isn't it? Plus the sword factor gets instant bonus points!

    Hi Shanks - Ha, I agree! Now I wonder if anyone's thought to put swordfish on one? lol

    Hi Jacq - The bread under the sword is a great idea. Alas I totally ran out of stomach space and didn't even have room to try it.

    Hi Mimbles - lol. That's a clever 8-year-old! Always great to see kids with healthy appetites!

    Hi Rose - Lots of good things in Petersham. As above, if you're there during the day, make sure you get some pasteis de nata Portuguese custard tarts from Sweet Belem and there are a few Portuguese butchers around too.

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - You'll have to get over to Petersham sometime :)

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - I agree, presentation is half the fun :)

    Hi Trisha - lol, in actual fact everyone was too full and we didn't even eat the white bread. Terrible, I know, but I was too busy scavenging those round chips :)

  • At 1/07/2010 11:44 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Another great review Helen! Where do you manage to get all these neat ideas for restaurants to go to?

  • At 1/08/2010 2:07 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Trissa - I've actually been meaning to have espetada for ages. And besides, the inner west is where it's all at! :)


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