Reviews



Tum Zaap, Randwick

Restaurants, Thai

Overall 7.3  2

7.3 Recommended

Food  7      Ambience  5      Service  8      Value  9     


We lobbed in here after 9pm on a rainy Saturday night and were warmly greeted by the friendly wait staff. Which was a pleasant surprise since by this time, most other places on this dreary strip in Belmore Rd are closing up and not too amenable to guests arriving so late.

And an even better surprise was how fresh and tasty the food was. Four of us dined and we shared a selection of dishes including spring rolls, fishcakes, fried calamari, crying tiger beef, chicken with cashew nuts and a vegetarian choice. My beef was a tad chewy but cut into fine thin slices which made them easier to digest. The fishcake and spring starters were standard but decently prepared.

Helpings are a bit on the small side, but then so are the prices and we ended up paying a modest $60 for the four of us. That included rice but no drinks.

Tum Zaap is a fairly basic eatery with not much in the way of ambience, just simple wooden furniture and no toilets. The front door is flung wide open to the street: great for warm summer evening dining but it left us a tad chilly on a cool autumn night. Service was helpful, friendly and efficient and dishes come out quickly and in the right order.

So if you’re after a quick, cheap and flavoursome meal then you can’t go past Tum Zaap if you’re in the area. Living locally, we always walk, parking around here is a nightmare.

Mar 27, 2015

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Nar Ottoman, Cremorne

Restaurants, Turkish, Restaurant Bookings

Overall 6.9  15

6.8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  5      Service  8      Value  6     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Wednesday evening but only because we were redeeming a $50 Dimmi voucher. Nar Ottoman is a large, cavernous restaurant and when we arrived at 6.45pm we were the only diners. That’s never something I aspire to. So I guess the moral of the story is don’t bother to book, certainly not for midweek dining.

Food

The fare here is Turkish or Middle Eastern, something resembling Lebanese but tastier and with more subtle flavours and certainly in this department we were not disappointed. We were served a Turkish bread basket with pomegranate dipping for free (normally $4.50), I guess to reward us for staying. For our shared starter we chose the “Sigara Bourek”, which are cigar style rolls stuffed with feta cheese and parsley. The serving comprised four rather meagre rolls but they were deliciously crispy on the outer with a warm soft filling. For mains we choose the “Imam Bayildi“ - braised eggplant with onion, garlic and tomatoes - the “kuzu kofte” grilled lamb served with beans salad and rice and the “Mahmudiyye”, which to non-Turks is stewed chicken flavoured with onion, cloves and apricots, garnished with almonds and served with rice. Everything was fresh and tasty, neatly arranged on the plate and presented to the table in stylish white crockery. The best dish was the stewed chicken; tender succulent pieces of meat in a slightly sweetish sauce and accompanied by a mound of rice. It just melted in your mouth. The lamb was well cooked just the way we like it with a side of refreshing bean salad. You just can’t go past dessert at a Turkish restaurant and we weren’t disappointed here either. We choose milk custard with pistachio and almond and – what else – my favourite baklava with walnuts, topped with syrup. Both were decadently sweet and fragrant; the perfect way to end the meal.

Ambience

This is smart restaurant that’s been tastefully decked out in a Middle Eastern style with tiled floors, dim lighting and dark ochre colours. The comfortable leather chairs and tables laid with crisp white napery give it an air of class and elegance that you don’t find in too many restaurants these days. It reminded me a bit of something from a bygone era of fine dining. Unfortunately, the paucity of other diners though did leave us feeling a tad isolated at the back of the restaurant and, until a few other guests arrived, I found it be rather soulless and devoid of atmosphere. Not even the oriental “mood” music could cheer me up.

Service

We were more than happy with the service from the solitary female waitress neatly attired in a smart uniform with a black apron. She was sweet, helpful and polite. Dishes came out promptly in the correct order and there was no long wait for courses. She got everything just right.

Value

For the small serving sizes, I just can't say that this represents decent value for money in this age of austerity. Without our $50 Dimmi voucher we would have paid $107 for the single shared starter, three mains, two desserts and single beer.

Comfort

Once the place started to fill up, it became noisy due to the lack of carpets or other sound absorbers. Apart from that, we were quite comfortable at our table at the back near the window. Toilets are at the front, they’re signposted, easy to find, clean and well stocked. Menu is small and simple so presented no problems to read.

Location and Parking

You’ll find N.O. on Military Rd, about two blocks from the Hayden Orpheum Cinema (city side). Although the restaurant’s website claims that there’s “plenty parking” we struggled to find something on Parraween Street behind Military Rd, an awkward place to park, rear to kerb with traffic roaring up and down. Maybe I should’ve asked them where to find the “plenty parking”.

Verdict

On the plus side, this is a professionally run place where the food and service are first class. On the negative side though, it can be lonely if you’re the only diners (and hellishly noisy if you aren’t) and for the price it doesn’t represent value for money unless you have a voucher or a freebie of some sort. So we won’t be rushing back.

Memo

Just be aware that the menu prices on the web are a bit out of date and most dishes are about 10% more now. Time to update guys.

Bourek Lamb Eggplant Stewed chicken Small helpings Turkish pud Baklava
Waiting for guests Waiting for guests Welcome to Nar Ottoman Front of house


Mar 08, 2015

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Groove Train, The, Brisbane CBD

Restaurants, Italian, Modern Australian, Pizza, Child Friendly Menus

Overall 7.1  17

7.8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  9      Service  7      Value  7     


As visitors to Brisbane we stumbled upon this cool café/restaurant next to the Riverside Pier, whilst walking along the boardwalk. And what a pleasant and amenable place it turned out to be.

It’s an entirely outdoors venue but all under cover, just perfect for dining out on a hot and humid summer’s eve. The menu is fairly extensive and includes pizzas and pastas, burgers and Asian dishes. Check it out on their website, with no prices though!

Three of us dined and we choose the fish and chips, a burger and a warm Thai beef salad dish. Portions were generous and everything was fresh and tasty. My fish was succulent and tender and neatly enclosed in a crispy batter with a decent portion of crunchy chips to go with it.

Our waitress was friendly and polite and dishes came out quickly, except that she forgot the calamari starter, which was brought out at the end. Toilets are easy to find, clean and well stocked.

The décor is modern and trendy with wooden tables and chairs plus booth-type seating as well, all in dark but soothing chocolate colour tones, that work well to create a relaxed and casual atmosphere at the water’s edge.

We paid $80 for three main courses, a shared salad and a shared calamari starter. Not the cheapest gig in town but given the friendly and quick service, tasty food, extensive menu and premium location, we couldn’t complain too much.

Look forward to visiting again next time we’re in “Brissie”!

Feb 22, 2015

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Ta One Thai Restaurant, North Epping

Restaurants, Thai, BYO, Food Delivery, Serves Dinner

Overall 7.9  51

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  7      Service  8      Value  9     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Sat night (through Dimmi, but more about that later!) which was just as well as the place was pretty full. And that isn’t surprising given the paucity of other restaurants or anything else resembling “entertainment” in this rather drab outer suburban corner of Nth Epping. Midweek though, I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to score a table!

Food

As the name suggests, it's Thai that’s the fare here. Four of us dined and we started off with a plate of fish cakes to share. There were six little patties but they were smaller than your average Thai fish cake. Still, they were chewy and tasty and nothing to complain about. For mains, we shared a selection of dishes including Penang beef curry, a green chicken curry, a prawn and vegetable dish, a lamb massaman curry and chicken with cashew nuts. They were all solid dishes; fresh and tasty and served in generous portions. But really, nothing beyond what we’ve already had at dozens of other Thai restaurants around Sydney. Stand out dish of the night though was the massaman curry. The lamb was tender and flavoursome and smothered in a rich gravy sauce with soft potatoes to round it off. The meat in the Penang curry, I found a tad tough and lacking in taste.

We were presented with a dessert menu with some interesting choices but by that time, everyone was full.

Ambience

This is a small, rather ordinary suburban restaurant with wooden floors and plain functional furniture. Tables are neatly laid with fresh white napery and smart crockery and cutlery. One gets the impression that the folk who run this place know what they’re doing and it does have a clean and professional look about it. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. When we arrived we only had to poke our head around the door, to realise that sitting inside would have killed conversation, as it was hellishly noisy with all the wood and glass and not a sound absorber in sight. Fortunately the maître d’ kindly arranged an outdoor table which was fine on a warm summers eve. Not much to look at from that vantage point, apart from the some half-finished pavement work, but it was cool and relaxing out there, and we could easily converse. So that turned out to be a wise choice.

Service

Despite the crowds, everything went off smoothly and wait staff were pleasant, polite and courteous. Orders were promptly taken and dishes came out without delay and in the right order. Another sign that these guys are well trained and professional.

Value

With our Ent Bk voucher ($20 discount up to a max of $20) we paid a reasonable $86 for one shared starter, five mains, rice all round and corkage of $2 a head. Certainly can’t complain about that.

Comfort

As mentioned, we were quite comfortable at our table outside, but it was rather cramped and by the time main course no 5 arrived we were looking around for somewhere to put it. The menu is neatly laid out and easy to follow with a “specials menu” on a white laminated sheet and a more elaborate regular one. Toilets are out the back (where else?) requiring you to walk past the kitchen and general detritus of the place but when you do find them, they’re like an oasis. There are separate male and female ones and they’re sparkling clean and well lit. Only prob is that there were no hand towels or even a hand dryer. And there’s no signage from within the restaurant, requiring you to waste precious time by asking for directions. Visible signage from inside the restaurant and some hand towels wouldn’t go astray.

Parking

Ample free parking.

Summary

Overall, we had a pleasant evening here, better than expected. The food was fresh and tasty, service was quick and efficient and it was pleasant sitting outdoors on a warm evening.

Memo

Just be aware that if you book through Dimmi AND present an Ent Book voucher, they won’t accept your voucher. I must confess that this did leave a sour taste in my mouth because, as far as I can see, nowhere does it say that Dimmi bookers can’t use Ent Bk vouchers. We’ve booked at many restaurants via Dimmi and where they’re part of the Ent Bk program, they’ve never made an issue of taking vouchers. My advice to Ent Bk subscribers therefore, is to not book through Dimmi.

Feb 16, 2015

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Japaz, Neutral Bay

Restaurants, Tapas, Romantic and Intimate, BYO, Licensed

Overall 7  53

6.3 Average

Food  8      Ambience  6      Service  3      Value  8     


Our experience here was spoiled by slow service, unsatisfactory toilet arrangements and poor acoustics.

Things started off well enough after we arrived at 6.30pm on a Thursday eve. The place was still empty so it was quiet and drinks were ordered and delivered promptly. Four of us dined and our orders were smartly taken. The starter also came out fairly quickly, but it went downhill after that. One main course came out. Then followed a lengthy 30 minute wait for the rest of the mains. So, no matter how pleasant the ambience or how decent the food (and they’re both first class at Japaz) I just can’t abide a restaurant that makes you wait that long for your meals. I start to get irritated and agitated as does everyone else, as you struggle to make conversation! It’s tedious, annoying and guaranteed to put you in a bad mood.

And it’s not that staff are unpleasant or unfriendly; quite the opposite; they’re helpful, courteous and polite and for a small place (seats maybe 50 people) it definitely isn’t understaffed so I’m just wondering why they get it so wrong when it comes to service. The toilets are outside the restaurant at the back, requiring you to walk past the bowels of the place and into a courtyard full of junk. Not a pleasant look. The night we dined, it was quite chilly even though it was summer. The front door is thrown wide open to the street but we felt cold and in a draft until at last they figured that, and closed it. And once it filled up, it became almost impossible to converse above the din as there are no carpets or other noise absorbers.

Apart from these probs, the café-style ambience is modern and funky, with interesting retro wallpaper and white and wooden furniture. The menu is on different bits of loose leaf paper and a bit difficult to figure out, but on the whole prices are reasonable. And the food is fresh, tasty and full of delicate and subtle flavours. Serving sizes are more than adequate, so no-one should ever leave here hungry.

With our Ent Bk voucher (25% discount up to a max $25) we paid a reasonable $100 for a single beer, a pancake starter, a chicken dish and four salad dishes. Parking was fairly easy to find at the bottom of Wycombe Rd, a short five minute stroll from the restaurant, where restrictions end at 6.00pm. A pity that the poor service, unpleasant toilet arrangements and the chilly temperature spoiled what could otherwise have been a pleasant evening.



Feb 05, 2015

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Member since 2006

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Tum Zaap, Randwick

Restaurants, Thai

Overall 7.3  2

7.3 Recommended

Food  7      Ambience  5      Service  8      Value  9     


We lobbed in here after 9pm on a rainy Saturday night and were warmly greeted by the friendly wait staff. Which was a pleasant surprise since by this time, most other places on this dreary strip in Belmore Rd are closing up and not too amenable to guests arriving so late.

And an even better surprise was how fresh and tasty the food was. Four of us dined and we shared a selection of dishes including spring rolls, fishcakes, fried calamari, crying tiger beef, chicken with cashew nuts and a vegetarian choice. My beef was a tad chewy but cut into fine thin slices which made them easier to digest. The fishcake and spring starters were standard but decently prepared.

Helpings are a bit on the small side, but then so are the prices and we ended up paying a modest $60 for the four of us. That included rice but no drinks.

Tum Zaap is a fairly basic eatery with not much in the way of ambience, just simple wooden furniture and no toilets. The front door is flung wide open to the street: great for warm summer evening dining but it left us a tad chilly on a cool autumn night. Service was helpful, friendly and efficient and dishes come out quickly and in the right order.

So if you’re after a quick, cheap and flavoursome meal then you can’t go past Tum Zaap if you’re in the area. Living locally, we always walk, parking around here is a nightmare.

Mar 27, 2015

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Nar Ottoman, Cremorne

Restaurants, Turkish, Restaurant Bookings

Overall 6.9  15

6.8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  5      Service  8      Value  6     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Wednesday evening but only because we were redeeming a $50 Dimmi voucher. Nar Ottoman is a large, cavernous restaurant and when we arrived at 6.45pm we were the only diners. That’s never something I aspire to. So I guess the moral of the story is don’t bother to book, certainly not for midweek dining.

Food

The fare here is Turkish or Middle Eastern, something resembling Lebanese but tastier and with more subtle flavours and certainly in this department we were not disappointed. We were served a Turkish bread basket with pomegranate dipping for free (normally $4.50), I guess to reward us for staying. For our shared starter we chose the “Sigara Bourek”, which are cigar style rolls stuffed with feta cheese and parsley. The serving comprised four rather meagre rolls but they were deliciously crispy on the outer with a warm soft filling. For mains we choose the “Imam Bayildi“ - braised eggplant with onion, garlic and tomatoes - the “kuzu kofte” grilled lamb served with beans salad and rice and the “Mahmudiyye”, which to non-Turks is stewed chicken flavoured with onion, cloves and apricots, garnished with almonds and served with rice. Everything was fresh and tasty, neatly arranged on the plate and presented to the table in stylish white crockery. The best dish was the stewed chicken; tender succulent pieces of meat in a slightly sweetish sauce and accompanied by a mound of rice. It just melted in your mouth. The lamb was well cooked just the way we like it with a side of refreshing bean salad. You just can’t go past dessert at a Turkish restaurant and we weren’t disappointed here either. We choose milk custard with pistachio and almond and – what else – my favourite baklava with walnuts, topped with syrup. Both were decadently sweet and fragrant; the perfect way to end the meal.

Ambience

This is smart restaurant that’s been tastefully decked out in a Middle Eastern style with tiled floors, dim lighting and dark ochre colours. The comfortable leather chairs and tables laid with crisp white napery give it an air of class and elegance that you don’t find in too many restaurants these days. It reminded me a bit of something from a bygone era of fine dining. Unfortunately, the paucity of other diners though did leave us feeling a tad isolated at the back of the restaurant and, until a few other guests arrived, I found it be rather soulless and devoid of atmosphere. Not even the oriental “mood” music could cheer me up.

Service

We were more than happy with the service from the solitary female waitress neatly attired in a smart uniform with a black apron. She was sweet, helpful and polite. Dishes came out promptly in the correct order and there was no long wait for courses. She got everything just right.

Value

For the small serving sizes, I just can't say that this represents decent value for money in this age of austerity. Without our $50 Dimmi voucher we would have paid $107 for the single shared starter, three mains, two desserts and single beer.

Comfort

Once the place started to fill up, it became noisy due to the lack of carpets or other sound absorbers. Apart from that, we were quite comfortable at our table at the back near the window. Toilets are at the front, they’re signposted, easy to find, clean and well stocked. Menu is small and simple so presented no problems to read.

Location and Parking

You’ll find N.O. on Military Rd, about two blocks from the Hayden Orpheum Cinema (city side). Although the restaurant’s website claims that there’s “plenty parking” we struggled to find something on Parraween Street behind Military Rd, an awkward place to park, rear to kerb with traffic roaring up and down. Maybe I should’ve asked them where to find the “plenty parking”.

Verdict

On the plus side, this is a professionally run place where the food and service are first class. On the negative side though, it can be lonely if you’re the only diners (and hellishly noisy if you aren’t) and for the price it doesn’t represent value for money unless you have a voucher or a freebie of some sort. So we won’t be rushing back.

Memo

Just be aware that the menu prices on the web are a bit out of date and most dishes are about 10% more now. Time to update guys.

Bourek Lamb Eggplant Stewed chicken Small helpings Turkish pud Baklava
Waiting for guests Waiting for guests Welcome to Nar Ottoman Front of house


Mar 08, 2015

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Groove Train, The, Brisbane CBD

Restaurants, Italian, Modern Australian, Pizza, Child Friendly Menus

Overall 7.1  17

7.8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  9      Service  7      Value  7     


As visitors to Brisbane we stumbled upon this cool café/restaurant next to the Riverside Pier, whilst walking along the boardwalk. And what a pleasant and amenable place it turned out to be.

It’s an entirely outdoors venue but all under cover, just perfect for dining out on a hot and humid summer’s eve. The menu is fairly extensive and includes pizzas and pastas, burgers and Asian dishes. Check it out on their website, with no prices though!

Three of us dined and we choose the fish and chips, a burger and a warm Thai beef salad dish. Portions were generous and everything was fresh and tasty. My fish was succulent and tender and neatly enclosed in a crispy batter with a decent portion of crunchy chips to go with it.

Our waitress was friendly and polite and dishes came out quickly, except that she forgot the calamari starter, which was brought out at the end. Toilets are easy to find, clean and well stocked.

The décor is modern and trendy with wooden tables and chairs plus booth-type seating as well, all in dark but soothing chocolate colour tones, that work well to create a relaxed and casual atmosphere at the water’s edge.

We paid $80 for three main courses, a shared salad and a shared calamari starter. Not the cheapest gig in town but given the friendly and quick service, tasty food, extensive menu and premium location, we couldn’t complain too much.

Look forward to visiting again next time we’re in “Brissie”!

Feb 22, 2015

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Ta One Thai Restaurant, North Epping

Restaurants, Thai, BYO, Food Delivery, Serves Dinner

Overall 7.9  51

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  7      Service  8      Value  9     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Sat night (through Dimmi, but more about that later!) which was just as well as the place was pretty full. And that isn’t surprising given the paucity of other restaurants or anything else resembling “entertainment” in this rather drab outer suburban corner of Nth Epping. Midweek though, I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to score a table!

Food

As the name suggests, it's Thai that’s the fare here. Four of us dined and we started off with a plate of fish cakes to share. There were six little patties but they were smaller than your average Thai fish cake. Still, they were chewy and tasty and nothing to complain about. For mains, we shared a selection of dishes including Penang beef curry, a green chicken curry, a prawn and vegetable dish, a lamb massaman curry and chicken with cashew nuts. They were all solid dishes; fresh and tasty and served in generous portions. But really, nothing beyond what we’ve already had at dozens of other Thai restaurants around Sydney. Stand out dish of the night though was the massaman curry. The lamb was tender and flavoursome and smothered in a rich gravy sauce with soft potatoes to round it off. The meat in the Penang curry, I found a tad tough and lacking in taste.

We were presented with a dessert menu with some interesting choices but by that time, everyone was full.

Ambience

This is a small, rather ordinary suburban restaurant with wooden floors and plain functional furniture. Tables are neatly laid with fresh white napery and smart crockery and cutlery. One gets the impression that the folk who run this place know what they’re doing and it does have a clean and professional look about it. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. When we arrived we only had to poke our head around the door, to realise that sitting inside would have killed conversation, as it was hellishly noisy with all the wood and glass and not a sound absorber in sight. Fortunately the maître d’ kindly arranged an outdoor table which was fine on a warm summers eve. Not much to look at from that vantage point, apart from the some half-finished pavement work, but it was cool and relaxing out there, and we could easily converse. So that turned out to be a wise choice.

Service

Despite the crowds, everything went off smoothly and wait staff were pleasant, polite and courteous. Orders were promptly taken and dishes came out without delay and in the right order. Another sign that these guys are well trained and professional.

Value

With our Ent Bk voucher ($20 discount up to a max of $20) we paid a reasonable $86 for one shared starter, five mains, rice all round and corkage of $2 a head. Certainly can’t complain about that.

Comfort

As mentioned, we were quite comfortable at our table outside, but it was rather cramped and by the time main course no 5 arrived we were looking around for somewhere to put it. The menu is neatly laid out and easy to follow with a “specials menu” on a white laminated sheet and a more elaborate regular one. Toilets are out the back (where else?) requiring you to walk past the kitchen and general detritus of the place but when you do find them, they’re like an oasis. There are separate male and female ones and they’re sparkling clean and well lit. Only prob is that there were no hand towels or even a hand dryer. And there’s no signage from within the restaurant, requiring you to waste precious time by asking for directions. Visible signage from inside the restaurant and some hand towels wouldn’t go astray.

Parking

Ample free parking.

Summary

Overall, we had a pleasant evening here, better than expected. The food was fresh and tasty, service was quick and efficient and it was pleasant sitting outdoors on a warm evening.

Memo

Just be aware that if you book through Dimmi AND present an Ent Book voucher, they won’t accept your voucher. I must confess that this did leave a sour taste in my mouth because, as far as I can see, nowhere does it say that Dimmi bookers can’t use Ent Bk vouchers. We’ve booked at many restaurants via Dimmi and where they’re part of the Ent Bk program, they’ve never made an issue of taking vouchers. My advice to Ent Bk subscribers therefore, is to not book through Dimmi.

Feb 16, 2015

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Japaz, Neutral Bay

Restaurants, Tapas, Romantic and Intimate, BYO, Licensed

Overall 7  53

6.3 Average

Food  8      Ambience  6      Service  3      Value  8     


Our experience here was spoiled by slow service, unsatisfactory toilet arrangements and poor acoustics.

Things started off well enough after we arrived at 6.30pm on a Thursday eve. The place was still empty so it was quiet and drinks were ordered and delivered promptly. Four of us dined and our orders were smartly taken. The starter also came out fairly quickly, but it went downhill after that. One main course came out. Then followed a lengthy 30 minute wait for the rest of the mains. So, no matter how pleasant the ambience or how decent the food (and they’re both first class at Japaz) I just can’t abide a restaurant that makes you wait that long for your meals. I start to get irritated and agitated as does everyone else, as you struggle to make conversation! It’s tedious, annoying and guaranteed to put you in a bad mood.

And it’s not that staff are unpleasant or unfriendly; quite the opposite; they’re helpful, courteous and polite and for a small place (seats maybe 50 people) it definitely isn’t understaffed so I’m just wondering why they get it so wrong when it comes to service. The toilets are outside the restaurant at the back, requiring you to walk past the bowels of the place and into a courtyard full of junk. Not a pleasant look. The night we dined, it was quite chilly even though it was summer. The front door is thrown wide open to the street but we felt cold and in a draft until at last they figured that, and closed it. And once it filled up, it became almost impossible to converse above the din as there are no carpets or other noise absorbers.

Apart from these probs, the café-style ambience is modern and funky, with interesting retro wallpaper and white and wooden furniture. The menu is on different bits of loose leaf paper and a bit difficult to figure out, but on the whole prices are reasonable. And the food is fresh, tasty and full of delicate and subtle flavours. Serving sizes are more than adequate, so no-one should ever leave here hungry.

With our Ent Bk voucher (25% discount up to a max $25) we paid a reasonable $100 for a single beer, a pancake starter, a chicken dish and four salad dishes. Parking was fairly easy to find at the bottom of Wycombe Rd, a short five minute stroll from the restaurant, where restrictions end at 6.00pm. A pity that the poor service, unpleasant toilet arrangements and the chilly temperature spoiled what could otherwise have been a pleasant evening.



Feb 05, 2015

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Royal Bistro, Randwick

Restaurants, Italian, Family Dining, Good For Groups, Child Friendly

Overall 6.6  7

8.5 Highly Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  9      Service  8      Value  9     


I love the atmosphere here. It’s casual and relaxed with a generally mature and well behaved crowd frequenting the place. The venue is large and airy with plenty of seating across different areas. The fit-out and décor are modern but understated with muted, soothing colour tones, carpets throughout and comfortable seating. And even the ubiquitous TV screens seem to blend into the background rather than dominating the space with sound and light. There are soft couches for reclining while enjoying your drinks, but these aren’t too practical for eating on, so we’ll generally decamp to the more formal chair and table seating once the meals arrive.

We’ve dined here both midweek and weekends. Midweek it’s fairly quiet with plenty of tables and no long wait for service. Weekends obviously it’s a bit busier but even then, it’s generally not a problem to secure a table.

The wait staff are friendly, helpful and polite. Ordering of meals is done at the bar and you’ll be given a number to plonk on your table. The food is described as “Modern Australian” (what else?). There are specials every night of the week. On Friday nights for example, you can get fish and chips with salad and a midi of beer for a reasonable $15. On Monday nights its burgers and a midi also for $15 and Wednesday is steak night for $12.

We had the fish and chips on a busy Friday night. The portion was generous with loads of crunchy chips and two substantial pieces of fresh fish in a crispy batter with plenty of nutritious greens in the salad. My wife enjoyed the grilled asparagus salad ($16) with pumpkin, beetroot and haloumi cheese. We started our meal with tomato and basil bruschetta ($7): two large slices of toast with lashings of ripe tomato in a tangy vinegar sauce. So all that with a couple of extra drinks thrown in, and we left with change from $50. Can’t beat that for solid value in these austere times.

Parking isn’t great, but living locally, we walk and there is also plenty of public transport around the area. Toilets are huge and well stocked although by 8.30pm on a Fri night they’re in need of a bit of sprucing up. Check out the website where the menu can be found and it exactly mirrors what you’ll find in hard copy at the bistro.

Good luck to these guys and thanks to the management and staff for providing a pleasant, safe and homely place for us aging locals to hang out and enjoy ourselves.

Feb 02, 2015

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Zabars Delicatessen, Bellevue Hill

Cafes, Kosher

Overall 8  1

8 Recommended

Food  8      Coffee  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


We had a delicious lunch here on a hot day in January when all the other cafes and restaurants in the area were closed for the holidays.

Zabars is a casual and relaxed café, with indoor and outdoor seating; place for maybe 30 people in all. It’s not the kind of place you need to book for either, just roll up and grab a table.

Three of us lunched and we ordered the roast beef sandwiches, drinks and coffees. The sandwiches were neatly presented on crispy, toasted Lebanese bread, thinly sliced. They were chock full of tender and tasty roast beef slices with lettuce, tomato, mustard and generous slices of juicy Israeli cucumbers. The piping hot cappuccinos were perfect to end the meal with.

We chose to sit indoors but with a gentle breeze wafting in we were cool and comfortable on the wooden bench with the soft cushions. Service was polite, friendly and efficient despite the place being fairly busy. My only complaint was that no cutlery was brought with the sandwiches. Now I know that some people like using their hands for these things but at least give diners the option.

We paid a modest $36 for a small bottle of sparkling mineral water, two roast beef sandwiches and three cappuccinos. There was plenty of free parking (limited to two hours) along Bellevue Road to make Zabars the ideal, hassle-free lunch spot in Bellevue Hill.

Jan 21, 2015

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Saigon Hills, Castle Hill

Restaurants, Asian, Vietnamese, Serves Takeaway, Menulog Delivery and Pickup

Overall 8.2  19

8.8 Highly Recommended

Food  9      Ambience  8      Service  9      Value  9     


Booking

Four of us dined on a busy Saturday night in January and the place was pretty full, so I guess, it’s a good idea to book ahead for weekends. Being in almost-rural Castle Hill though, I can’t imagine that booking would be necessary on a weeknight.

Food

The fare here is Vietnamese and it’s superb: Every dish is beautifully prepared with love, care and attention to detail. For starters, we shared a single serve of “Cha Gio Chay “ - three delicate spring rolls with carrot, taro and mung bean - and “Banh Xeo Chay “, which is a Vietnamese pancake with tofu, vegetables, mung bean and crushed peanuts. Both dishes were fresh and tasty, full of nutritious ingredients but not too heavy or loaded up with sauces. The perfect way to start the meal. For mains we choose four dishes including honey chicken (“Go Mat Ong”), stir-fried beef with ginger and vegetables (“Bo Xao Rau Cai”), stir-fried prawns with garlic, broccoli, celery and onion (“Tom Xao Toi”) and “Ga Xa Ot”, stir-fried chicken fillets with lemon-grass, chilli, capsicum, carrot, mushroom, broccoli and onion. We rounded that off with steamed rice and a plate of crunchy vegetables in oyster sauce. Portion sizes were large enough to fill us all up; in fact we could easily have gotten away with three dishes and still have left full! But this food is just outstanding and everyone enjoyed their meals. For me, the honey chicken was the stand-out dish. The chicken was tender and succulent, sliced in small, lean pieces and smothered in a honey sauce. Just delicious. The spicy chilli chicken dish was the perfect complement.

Ambience

Saigon Hills is a smallish restaurant with room for about 40 diners in a neat, square configuration. The interior design has 1980s written all over it, with plain furniture, outdated, patterned carpets and a fish bowl at the far end (for decoration, not for eating, thankfully). But despite its age, the décor and fit-out work well to create a warm and homely atmosphere. Although the place was full, the other guests were all quiet and well behaved, making dining here a pleasure because it was casual and relaxing; just what we needed for after a hectic holiday season.

Service

Service was a pleasure and all the staff were attentive, friendly and polite. Dishes came out in the correct order and super quickly too. And the maître’d was extremely appreciative of the 10% tip we left at the end. Only complaint was that, once seated, we had to summon a waiter to take our order. I prefer not to have to do that.

Value

You’ll notice that I haven’t appended the meal prices in the “food” section and that’s because there really isn’t any need. Suffice to say that the value here is unbeatable so just order whatever you want and you’ll be bowled over by the modest bill at the end. We paid $140, which included a 10% tip and that bought us two shared starters, four mains, vegetables and rice all round. Although it’s licensed, we brought our own alcohol and that seemed to present no problem although I’m not sure if corkage was added or not.

Comfort

Being carpeted, acoustics were fine and we had no trouble conversing. We were given a large and comfy table right in the middle of the room. The menu is clearly laid and easy to follow in the strong lighting. Toilets are clean and well stocked, although one door in the gent’s toilet was broken and unable to close properly.

Location and Parking

Unlimited and free parking literally outside the front door.

Summary

We had a delightful evening here. Everything went off smoothly and the food was exceptional. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Memo

Book ahead for Saturday night to avoid being disappointed. And just one minor point here: Is the name Saigon Hill or Saigon Hills? A small point, I know, but it’s a tad sloppy and shows a lack of attention to detail in the marketing dept! Eatability says “Saigon Hills”, but the website says “Saigon Hill”. The cc receipt had “Saigon Hill” on it, but the all-important biz card says “Saigon Hills” so which is it, guys?

Jan 14, 2015

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Restaurants, Indian, Family Dining, Good For Groups, Banquet

Overall 8  3

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


Full marks to the management and staff here for coping so well on a hectic and busy New Year’s Eve. Despite the place being packed, they remained calm, composed and polite. Orders were promptly taken and there was no long wait for the meals.

And the food was of the highest quality. Five of us dined. For starters, we put together a mixed bag of samosas, potato patties and onion and spinach bhaji. For mains, we ordered a selection of beef, chicken, lamb and vegetarian dishes, plus basmati rice and naan bread. Everything we choose was fresh and tasty and presented to the table in stylish copper bowls. Portion sizes were just right for a satisfying and enjoyable meal.

As for the restaurant itself, the ambience is light and airy, and being so near Coogee beach you can almost smell the surf. With white tiled floors, plenty of space between the tables and the front doors flung wide open to the street, it’s pleasantly cool on a hot summer’s night. The only problem with this configuration though is that it can be hellishly noisy. And I guess because it was NYE there was an unusually high number of loud family groups which made it so bad we could simply not converse; not until the crowds had thinned after the 9.00pm fireworks and the place had quietened down a bit. Then, of course, it’s a pleasure to sit back and relax after your meal, looking out onto the streetscape outside as the cool breeze wafts in.

So I guess this would be an ideal choice for weeknight dining on a warm eve. But it’s best avoided at busy times and probably wouldn’t be too pleasant in the middle of winter either.

Male and female toilets are right next to each other with a shared basin in the middle: so that’s not great for privacy; especially not when the one YOU want is occupied: You’ll need to wait outside or go back to your table and try again later. Just not the best. Towards the end of the night, they tend to get rather dirty as well. The menu is clearly laid out and easy to read in the strong light.

Parking generally isn’t too much of a hassle during the week and you’ll find spots in nearby Arcadia Street. But again, special events and weekends are a nightmare, when Coogee must surely be one of the worst places in Sydney for parking.

The value here is second to none and I was surprised at how modest our bill was. And this was without any vouchers or docket deals and on NYE to boot, when so many restaurants load up their prices to ridiculous levels. For five of us, we paid $163. With a tip that took it up to $180 or $36 a head and everyone ate handsomely for that price. Clove is unlicensed, which may also account for the small price tag.

This is one place I’m looking forward to going back to.

Busy restaurant Happy diners NYE 2014 15 Light and airy Classy interior Onion and spinach bhaji Mixed entrees Basmati rice
Chicken saag Mango chicken Soft naan bread Quiet after the fireworks Thanks Clove


Jan 08, 2015

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Restaurants, Italian, Family Dining, Good for Business Dining, Good For Groups

Overall 6.6  78

7.5 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  5      Service  9      Value  8     


Unfortunately, our evening here was spoiled by the noise. We were celebrating a friend’s birthday on a busy Fri night. There were nine in our party and we were placed in the rather claustrophobic and drab back room, which is like the function room, along with one other party of 20 diners, (which included about half a dozen young kids), also celebrating a birthday. Now while this neighbouring party were generally well behaved and polite, it’s pretty much impossible to have a party of that size with so many young children and not make a deafening racket in a cramped space, with no windows and no carpets or other noise absorbers. So once our neighbours arrived, that put an end to all relaxed conversation. We simply couldn’t hear ourselves think.

And that was a pity since this is a fine restaurant that works well on all other levels. It’s managed with passion, care and attention to detail. The food is fresh and tasty, beautifully prepared with love and presented to the table in stylish white crockery. The service from Tony and his wife was attentive, efficient, friendly and polite. You just couldn’t have asked for better. Our table was attractively laid with crisp white napery and stainless steel cutlery. And despite my trepidation, we found easy parking about 500 metres from the restaurant further down Marion Street, where restrictions end at 6.00pm.

Now if I had been Tony I would have warned our party that another much larger party was going to share the back room with us and ask us to either choose another night or, better still, put us in the front room, which faces onto the street and seemed much more quiet, airy and comfortable. But back in the function room, carpets and noise absorbers are urgently needed.

Dec 17, 2014

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