Reviews



Willoughby Hotel, Willoughby North

Pubs, Modern Australian, Family Dining, Air Conditioning, Bistro/Brasserie

Overall 6.3  12

5.8 Average

Food  6      Drinks  8      Ambience  5      Service  5      Value  5     


We had a less than satisfactory dinner at the Willoughby Hotel on Penshurst on Father’s Day Sept 2014. I guess because it was Father’s Day or, by this time, Father’s Day Night, the place was packed. Plenty of large family groups which made it noisy and chaotic, never something I enjoy.

The venue itself is pub-style, but it’s quite bland and with nothing to separate the bistro part from the drinking part. So, for those unfamiliar with it, that just added to the sense of confusion: where do you order? Where do you collect the meals? Eventually we figured it all out and ordered three main meals and a starter at the bar counter. Our Ent Bk voucher offers one free main meal with every one bought, but the lady who took our order insisted that we should only get the cheapest part of the order for free. That would have meant the dips plate starter at $16 as the freebie, rather than the steak at $34, and would have added $18 to the bill. The docket clearly states that you are entitled to one free main meal. After some to-ing and fro-ing the ordering lady relented. So that didn’t exactly get things off to a flying start.

So to the food. For our mains we choose three eye fillets which at $34 was too expensive for a smallish piece of meat accompanied by chips and salad or mash and veg. It all tasted fine though and my steak was well cooked just the way I like it. A solid dish but nothing extraordinary to warrant the steep price tag. The dips plate starter was fairly generous with plenty of bread and a few dips but having to eat that with the mains spoiled the experience.

Service, such as it is, (you order and pay at the bar and collect your meals from the food hatch) was slow and I found it quite tedious sitting and waiting about 20 minutes for our little buzzer to go off. Then of course, everything is ready at the same time: mains and starters, something else I don’t particularly like.

Being a hotel at least the toilets were easy to find, clean and well stocked and the carpeted interior kept us warm on a chilly night. But noise levels were way too high and the whole atmosphere was too hectic to allow us to enjoy our meals in a calm unhurried and relaxed ambience which is what we always yearn for.

On the positive side, we managed to find easy parking right outside the venue and once inside, our booked table was ready for us with a neat little sign with my name on it! I don’t think we’ll be rushing back here, certainly not without next year’s voucher.

Busy bar counter Welcome sign Happy diner Busy bar counter Steak and mash Dips plate Steak and chips


Sep 16, 2014

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Bay Hong, Darlinghurst

Restaurants, Vietnamese, Hip and Trendy, Romantic and Intimate, Has Bar

Overall 7.4  80

7.3 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  7      Service  7      Value  7     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Sat night but it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps it was because of the rainy weather, but when we arrived at 7.30pm, the place was only about half full. It did fill up though as the evening went on but it seemed by mostly off-the-street diners. I can’t imagine this place getting too full during the week, but as it only holds about 50 diners, I guess booking for a weekend may be the prudent thing to do to make sure you get a table.

Food

Four of dined and all agreed that the fare was outstanding without exception, although serving sizes, especially entrees and desserts, were on the small side. The food is Vietnamese, everything home cooked, fresh and tasty and clearly prepared with love and attention to detail. We started with four entrees, two serves of fish cakes, one each of rice cakes and dumplings. The fish cakes were button-sized, yes, delicious but really just one mouthful each. In fact, I’ve never seen such small fish cakes. For mains I choose the lemongrass chicken with chilli and what a winner that was. The chicken was tender and succulent and I just loved that spicy lemongrass flavour and the crunchy vegetables that accompanied it. Two of our dining companions had vegetarian dishes and the fourth member of our party had a beef osso buco. Everyone enjoyed their meals. We finished off with a shared dessert medley of ice cream, crème caramel and black sticky rice pud. And here again, although it was a deliciously sweet and creamy offering, the whole concoction meant for four people was really only a single serve size.

Ambience

The décor is fairly bland and old fashioned with white walls and plain wooden furniture. The high ceilings create a slightly clinical atmosphere and it did lack warmth and cosiness. Perhaps the fact that it was only about half full and a wet and windy midwinter night to boot, exacerbated that feeling of dreariness. Still, I did find the ambience to be quiet, unhurried and relaxing.

Service

It's a long time since we've enjoyed such friendly, helpful and polite service. We were looked after by Clayton and from the moment we arrived we were made to feel welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for him and he took care of our every need. My only complaint was that after the entrees, the main courses arrived one at a time. First the beef dish which our friend promptly finished before the other dishes had even made their appearance. We did mention this to Clayton who explained the delay by telling us that we thought we were sharing each dish. Not sure about that, it was a bit disappointing to be let down in that department but I guess next time we should just ask them to bring all mains out at once! He was very apologetic and brought out the dessert quick smart.

Comfort

Toilets are clean, well-marked and easy to find. We were quite comfortable in our large table which was easily able to fit all the dishes. The paucity of other diners meant that sound quality was acceptable but I guess it could get noisy on a busy night. My main complaint though was the rather tatty state of the menu, with pages stuck together and the poor lighting which made it hard to read.

Value

We paid $146 for four of us and that included corkage, a single beer, four entrees, four mains, rice all round and a single shared dessert. Given the small helpings I was slightly surprised by that higher than expected price tag.

Location and Parking

You’ll find B.H. on busy Crown Street not far from the corner of Oxford Street. Parking in this part of the world is problematic, so we always take the bus and get off at Taylor Square from where it’s a short but interesting walk into Crown Street.

Summary

We had an enjoyable evening here, marred only by the fact that main courses came out one at a time! Still I think we’ll be back to enjoy that delicious, authentic and home-cooked food.

Aug 23, 2014

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Bistro Avoca, Randwick

Restaurants, Modern Australian, BYO, Licensed, Serves Dinner

Overall 7.5  29

7.5 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  6     


Booking

This is one popular joint, so booking ahead is essential. Twice we tried to book a table for a Saturday night and both times we were unsuccessful. This time we phoned in on the Mon and managed to secure a table for 8.30pm.

Food

As one would expect from a place that’s so popular, the food is carefully prepared with only the best quality ingredients. For want of a better description, I’d label the cuisine here as “modern Australian”. The menu is small with only a handful of choices but at least it makes ordering easy. You can check it out online and make your selection before you arrive. Four of us dined and we started with two serves of vegetable samosas with dahl puree and mint yoghurt. They had a soft, slightly doughy shell and a warm, flavoursome filling, but at $8 per samosa ($16 for a serve), a tad on the expensive side. For my main course, I went for the beef fillet at $30, which comes with pumpkin puree, dauphinois potato, brocollini and something called “onion jam”. Nothing to complain about here. The meat was presented in two round pieces, well cooked but tender, just the way I like it without being dry or tasteless. The limp brocollini and crunchy potato were the perfect accompaniments while the “onion jam” was an interesting one, slightly sweetish but the ideal way to round off this outstanding dish. My wife had the snapper fillets off the specials board which was a fresh and tasty dish but a stingy serving at $34. Our friends had the lamb and barramundi and were more than happy with their choices. We finished off with a selection of liqueur coffees and hot choc. No-one was game to go for the dessert which was a pity since, judging by the overall quality of everything else, I’m sure they would have been scrumptious!

Ambience

Congrats to these guys for making the most of the rather small, cramped space to create a stylish yet homely and relaxing ambience. The décor is fairly minimalist with white-washed walls, wooden floors and low hanging lamps. Tables are laid with crisp white napery and shining silver cutlery.

Service

Despite it being a full house, our booked table was ready and waiting when we arrived. And I've never met a friendlier maître d’ than the charming lady who welcomed us to her restaurant as if she was welcoming us into her home. She made sure that we were settled and comfortable before another pretty lady came to take our order. This is an all-female cast and they’re helpful, polite and neatly attired in smart black outfits. The entrees came out quickly enough, but there was a rather long wait of about 25-30 minutes for the main courses.

Comfort

Unfortunately, my chair was constantly being bumped by wait staff as they moved back and forth inside that confined space. I guess part of the problem is having the tables packed so closely together. That makes it a tad noisy too but that’s unavoidable. However, there were no loud diners so we were able to easily converse without too much trouble. The lighting is so weak that we had to use our friend’s torchlight built into his smartphone to be able to read the menu. Luckily for me, I’d read it beforehand on the web, so I pretty much knew what to expect. There’s also a specials board behind the cash register although no-one pointed that out to us. The toilets are unmarked but not hard to find in the small restaurant. There are two of them assumed to be unisex. But full marks to the management because these toilets are so clean, that they sparkle. Even though it was midwinter the place was warm inside though I didn’t spot any heaters.

Value

We came armed with our Ent Book card which offers 25% discount up to a generous max of $40. I’m sorry to say, but this just isn’t the kind of place to come to without a discount deal of some sort. Without it, we would have paid a hefty $180 for a small entrée of four pieces of samosa, four average-sized mains, one liqueur coffee and one hot choc. That’s just too expensive for what we had. Luckily our discount brought that back to $140 or $35 a head which is about the most I would be prepared to pay.

Location and Parking

You'll find B.A. in the heart of the Avoca Street dining strip not far from the intersection with busy Alison Rd. Living locally, we walked, but free parking is available in nearby Frances Street, across the road from the Randwick Town Hall and council chambers

Summary

We had a pleasant eve and everything went smoothly. We'll be back with next year’s discount deal, but not before.

Memo

For weekend dining, be sure to book well ahead of time.

Aug 16, 2014

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Patitat Thai, Randwick

Restaurants, Thai, Fine Dining, Good For Groups, Hip and Trendy

Overall 8  14

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


Booking

This is a small place with seating for maybe 40 guests at the most, so booking on a Fri or Sat night is advisable if you want to secure a table. Other nights of the week, you could probably stroll in and get something without too much trouble.

Food

We were impressed with the food. We started with a dish of mixed entrees (fish cake, spring roll, money bags and curry puff). A smallish serve for $9; just one modest piece of each item but they were tasty and went down well, whetting our appetite for what was to follow; which was the yellow chicken curry (off the specials board) and a vegetarian selection. The chicken was tender and drenched in a spicy coconut sauce. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy, a suitable complement to the chicken. For dessert we went for a black sticky rice pud with ice cream. That was a generous serve and the perfect way to end the meal.

Ambience

Surprisingly for a small place that doesn’t look like much from the outside, we found the atmosphere inside quite lively. It was pretty much a full house which kept it warm on a chilly eve in mid-winter with not a heater in sight. The tables are neatly arranged down one side of the restaurant with the open-plan kitchen and cash register down the other. The furnishings are fairly minimalist with plain wooden chairs and tables, wooden floor and black charcoal walls. But it all works well to create a casual and relaxing ambience.

Service

Our booked table was ready for us when we arrived. Order were quickly taken and the dishes came out promptly and in the right order. The maître d' was friendly enough although I found the sole waitress a little unsmiling.

Comfort

Two of us dined and I found our table cramped and not easily able to fit all the dishes. Lighting is too dim to allow you to read the menu without squinting. There are no carpets or sound absorbers and the tables are packed close together, so it can get a tad noisy but then it seems that most diners just come for a quick meal. So it isn’t such a problem. The single unisex toilet is at the back, but the sign is visible from inside the restaurant. It’s clean, well-stocked and I loved the panoramic pic of a Thai river market.

Value

We paid $52 for a serve of entrees, two mains, rice, a single shared dessert and corkage. That's outstanding value in these austere times.

Location and Parking

Patitat Thai is on Frenchmans Rd, near the corner of Clovelly Rd, (across the road from Bunnings), amid a cluster of little eateries in an area that never gets too busy. So we found parking right outside on Frenchman’s Rd, where there are no night time restrictions.

Summary

The term “Neighbourhood Gem” aptly describes this cute little place. We had an enjoyable meal here in pleasant surrounds. Parking is easy and the prices are reasonable. We won’t hesitate to come back.

Memo

Don't be put off by its modest exterior. Some may even think it’s just a takeaway joint. Once inside you’ll find it homely and comfortable.

Aug 09, 2014

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Al-Madina Restaurant, Castle Hill

Restaurants, Lebanese

Overall 7.4  37

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  9      Value  7     


Booking
We dined on a quiet Friday eve in midwinter at Al-Madina Restaurant. And although we had made a booking, it wasn’t necessary. There is an inside and an outside section, but due to the icy weather, there was no one brave enough to dine outdoors even though it’s under cover. Even inside was fairly quiet, with only a handful of other diners. We were told though, that on Sat (when they have belly dancing) it gets busy, so maybe booking on that night might be the prudent thing to do to secure a table.

Food
As there were four of us, we decided to choose the “complete banquets”, at $45 a head, which includes dessert, coffees and corkage. While that might seem a bit expensive–there are other cheaper banquet options at $35 and $40 a head–at least it’s an all-inclusive price with nothing else to pay. (We’ve all had so-called “banquets”, where you still pay extra for things like drinks, desserts, coffees, etc.)
This banquet had all the delicious Lebanese dishes that we love so much including first, pickles, olives, carrots, nuts, hummus and baba ghanouj dips, then fattoush salad and falafel, and finally a variety of marinated meats; shish tawouk (chicken skewers), shish kebab (tender lamb skewers), kafta (fine minced lamb with onion & parsley) with the prawn kebabs carefully placed on type of the pile.
Everything was freshly-prepared and delicious although if I had to choose one standout dish, it would be the shish kebab. The lamb was tender and flavoursome--it was like butter melting in your mouth. The fattoush salad had an original and interesting lemon flavour. Food was brought to the table in stylish white crockery and there was plenty of everything including lashings of our favourite Leb bread--both fried and fresh.
We ended up with a tray of Turkish delights and baklava and washed it all down with bittersweet Lebanese coffee. It was made to perfection in a little silver pot which was left on our table, allowing us to finish it to the last drop.

Ambiance
The décor is fairly simple, but clean-looking with crisp white napery and dark brownish colour tones on the walls. The carpets help to give it a warm and homely atmosphere. Although it was quiet, it was the ideal venue for an intimate birthday celebration.

Service
The maître d’ and his friendly assistant were helpful, efficient and polite. In a nice touch, they shifted us to a larger table in the centre, from our booked table in the corner. On departing, there were handshakes and friendly thank-yous all round. These guys know how to make you feel welcome.

Comfort
Our large table was comfortable and easily able to fit all the dishes. The paucity of other diners meant that noise levels were at the low end of the scale and we were able to enjoy our conversation without any trouble. Toilets are in the courtyard, just outside the restaurant so you’ll need to grab the keys first. They’re clean and well stocked, although having to step outside in that freezing weather was a tad unpleasant. Inside the restaurant though, it was fairly warm even without heating due to the carpets and dark colour tones. No trouble with reading the menu, as we didn’t have to! Another advantage of ordering banquets.

Value
As mentioned, we paid $45 per head, so with a little tip thrown in, we came out at $50 a head. Now that is pretty expensive for a fairly dull place like outer-suburban Castle Hill, with a just few rather empty restaurants in the locale. Not exactly a dining and entertainment hotspot like say King Street, Newtown, Glebe Point Road or Bondi Beach! Still, it was a pleasant eve and everything went smoothly, so no-one complained.

Location and Parking
You’ll find Al-Madina in the little Garden Piazza in Terminus Street. There are ample, free parking in the basement car park. You’ll need to drive slowly into Terminus Street as you come around the corner from Old Northern Road, or you’ll miss the entrance, as we did and then had to drive around again.

Summary
We wouldn’t hesitate to come again, even if the prices are a little steep.

Jul 28, 2014

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Member since 2006

I'm Male and married

My birthday is on 4th Nov 1956

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Apart from eating, I read

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Willoughby Hotel, Willoughby North

Pubs, Modern Australian, Family Dining, Air Conditioning, Bistro/Brasserie

Overall 6.3  12

5.8 Average

Food  6      Drinks  8      Ambience  5      Service  5      Value  5     


We had a less than satisfactory dinner at the Willoughby Hotel on Penshurst on Father’s Day Sept 2014. I guess because it was Father’s Day or, by this time, Father’s Day Night, the place was packed. Plenty of large family groups which made it noisy and chaotic, never something I enjoy.

The venue itself is pub-style, but it’s quite bland and with nothing to separate the bistro part from the drinking part. So, for those unfamiliar with it, that just added to the sense of confusion: where do you order? Where do you collect the meals? Eventually we figured it all out and ordered three main meals and a starter at the bar counter. Our Ent Bk voucher offers one free main meal with every one bought, but the lady who took our order insisted that we should only get the cheapest part of the order for free. That would have meant the dips plate starter at $16 as the freebie, rather than the steak at $34, and would have added $18 to the bill. The docket clearly states that you are entitled to one free main meal. After some to-ing and fro-ing the ordering lady relented. So that didn’t exactly get things off to a flying start.

So to the food. For our mains we choose three eye fillets which at $34 was too expensive for a smallish piece of meat accompanied by chips and salad or mash and veg. It all tasted fine though and my steak was well cooked just the way I like it. A solid dish but nothing extraordinary to warrant the steep price tag. The dips plate starter was fairly generous with plenty of bread and a few dips but having to eat that with the mains spoiled the experience.

Service, such as it is, (you order and pay at the bar and collect your meals from the food hatch) was slow and I found it quite tedious sitting and waiting about 20 minutes for our little buzzer to go off. Then of course, everything is ready at the same time: mains and starters, something else I don’t particularly like.

Being a hotel at least the toilets were easy to find, clean and well stocked and the carpeted interior kept us warm on a chilly night. But noise levels were way too high and the whole atmosphere was too hectic to allow us to enjoy our meals in a calm unhurried and relaxed ambience which is what we always yearn for.

On the positive side, we managed to find easy parking right outside the venue and once inside, our booked table was ready for us with a neat little sign with my name on it! I don’t think we’ll be rushing back here, certainly not without next year’s voucher.

Busy bar counter Welcome sign Happy diner Busy bar counter Steak and mash Dips plate Steak and chips


Sep 16, 2014

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Bay Hong, Darlinghurst

Restaurants, Vietnamese, Hip and Trendy, Romantic and Intimate, Has Bar

Overall 7.4  80

7.3 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  7      Service  7      Value  7     


Booking

We took the precaution of booking ahead for a Sat night but it wasn’t necessary. Perhaps it was because of the rainy weather, but when we arrived at 7.30pm, the place was only about half full. It did fill up though as the evening went on but it seemed by mostly off-the-street diners. I can’t imagine this place getting too full during the week, but as it only holds about 50 diners, I guess booking for a weekend may be the prudent thing to do to make sure you get a table.

Food

Four of dined and all agreed that the fare was outstanding without exception, although serving sizes, especially entrees and desserts, were on the small side. The food is Vietnamese, everything home cooked, fresh and tasty and clearly prepared with love and attention to detail. We started with four entrees, two serves of fish cakes, one each of rice cakes and dumplings. The fish cakes were button-sized, yes, delicious but really just one mouthful each. In fact, I’ve never seen such small fish cakes. For mains I choose the lemongrass chicken with chilli and what a winner that was. The chicken was tender and succulent and I just loved that spicy lemongrass flavour and the crunchy vegetables that accompanied it. Two of our dining companions had vegetarian dishes and the fourth member of our party had a beef osso buco. Everyone enjoyed their meals. We finished off with a shared dessert medley of ice cream, crème caramel and black sticky rice pud. And here again, although it was a deliciously sweet and creamy offering, the whole concoction meant for four people was really only a single serve size.

Ambience

The décor is fairly bland and old fashioned with white walls and plain wooden furniture. The high ceilings create a slightly clinical atmosphere and it did lack warmth and cosiness. Perhaps the fact that it was only about half full and a wet and windy midwinter night to boot, exacerbated that feeling of dreariness. Still, I did find the ambience to be quiet, unhurried and relaxing.

Service

It's a long time since we've enjoyed such friendly, helpful and polite service. We were looked after by Clayton and from the moment we arrived we were made to feel welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for him and he took care of our every need. My only complaint was that after the entrees, the main courses arrived one at a time. First the beef dish which our friend promptly finished before the other dishes had even made their appearance. We did mention this to Clayton who explained the delay by telling us that we thought we were sharing each dish. Not sure about that, it was a bit disappointing to be let down in that department but I guess next time we should just ask them to bring all mains out at once! He was very apologetic and brought out the dessert quick smart.

Comfort

Toilets are clean, well-marked and easy to find. We were quite comfortable in our large table which was easily able to fit all the dishes. The paucity of other diners meant that sound quality was acceptable but I guess it could get noisy on a busy night. My main complaint though was the rather tatty state of the menu, with pages stuck together and the poor lighting which made it hard to read.

Value

We paid $146 for four of us and that included corkage, a single beer, four entrees, four mains, rice all round and a single shared dessert. Given the small helpings I was slightly surprised by that higher than expected price tag.

Location and Parking

You’ll find B.H. on busy Crown Street not far from the corner of Oxford Street. Parking in this part of the world is problematic, so we always take the bus and get off at Taylor Square from where it’s a short but interesting walk into Crown Street.

Summary

We had an enjoyable evening here, marred only by the fact that main courses came out one at a time! Still I think we’ll be back to enjoy that delicious, authentic and home-cooked food.

Aug 23, 2014

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Bistro Avoca, Randwick

Restaurants, Modern Australian, BYO, Licensed, Serves Dinner

Overall 7.5  29

7.5 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  6     


Booking

This is one popular joint, so booking ahead is essential. Twice we tried to book a table for a Saturday night and both times we were unsuccessful. This time we phoned in on the Mon and managed to secure a table for 8.30pm.

Food

As one would expect from a place that’s so popular, the food is carefully prepared with only the best quality ingredients. For want of a better description, I’d label the cuisine here as “modern Australian”. The menu is small with only a handful of choices but at least it makes ordering easy. You can check it out online and make your selection before you arrive. Four of us dined and we started with two serves of vegetable samosas with dahl puree and mint yoghurt. They had a soft, slightly doughy shell and a warm, flavoursome filling, but at $8 per samosa ($16 for a serve), a tad on the expensive side. For my main course, I went for the beef fillet at $30, which comes with pumpkin puree, dauphinois potato, brocollini and something called “onion jam”. Nothing to complain about here. The meat was presented in two round pieces, well cooked but tender, just the way I like it without being dry or tasteless. The limp brocollini and crunchy potato were the perfect accompaniments while the “onion jam” was an interesting one, slightly sweetish but the ideal way to round off this outstanding dish. My wife had the snapper fillets off the specials board which was a fresh and tasty dish but a stingy serving at $34. Our friends had the lamb and barramundi and were more than happy with their choices. We finished off with a selection of liqueur coffees and hot choc. No-one was game to go for the dessert which was a pity since, judging by the overall quality of everything else, I’m sure they would have been scrumptious!

Ambience

Congrats to these guys for making the most of the rather small, cramped space to create a stylish yet homely and relaxing ambience. The décor is fairly minimalist with white-washed walls, wooden floors and low hanging lamps. Tables are laid with crisp white napery and shining silver cutlery.

Service

Despite it being a full house, our booked table was ready and waiting when we arrived. And I've never met a friendlier maître d’ than the charming lady who welcomed us to her restaurant as if she was welcoming us into her home. She made sure that we were settled and comfortable before another pretty lady came to take our order. This is an all-female cast and they’re helpful, polite and neatly attired in smart black outfits. The entrees came out quickly enough, but there was a rather long wait of about 25-30 minutes for the main courses.

Comfort

Unfortunately, my chair was constantly being bumped by wait staff as they moved back and forth inside that confined space. I guess part of the problem is having the tables packed so closely together. That makes it a tad noisy too but that’s unavoidable. However, there were no loud diners so we were able to easily converse without too much trouble. The lighting is so weak that we had to use our friend’s torchlight built into his smartphone to be able to read the menu. Luckily for me, I’d read it beforehand on the web, so I pretty much knew what to expect. There’s also a specials board behind the cash register although no-one pointed that out to us. The toilets are unmarked but not hard to find in the small restaurant. There are two of them assumed to be unisex. But full marks to the management because these toilets are so clean, that they sparkle. Even though it was midwinter the place was warm inside though I didn’t spot any heaters.

Value

We came armed with our Ent Book card which offers 25% discount up to a generous max of $40. I’m sorry to say, but this just isn’t the kind of place to come to without a discount deal of some sort. Without it, we would have paid a hefty $180 for a small entrée of four pieces of samosa, four average-sized mains, one liqueur coffee and one hot choc. That’s just too expensive for what we had. Luckily our discount brought that back to $140 or $35 a head which is about the most I would be prepared to pay.

Location and Parking

You'll find B.A. in the heart of the Avoca Street dining strip not far from the intersection with busy Alison Rd. Living locally, we walked, but free parking is available in nearby Frances Street, across the road from the Randwick Town Hall and council chambers

Summary

We had a pleasant eve and everything went smoothly. We'll be back with next year’s discount deal, but not before.

Memo

For weekend dining, be sure to book well ahead of time.

Aug 16, 2014

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Patitat Thai, Randwick

Restaurants, Thai, Fine Dining, Good For Groups, Hip and Trendy

Overall 8  14

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


Booking

This is a small place with seating for maybe 40 guests at the most, so booking on a Fri or Sat night is advisable if you want to secure a table. Other nights of the week, you could probably stroll in and get something without too much trouble.

Food

We were impressed with the food. We started with a dish of mixed entrees (fish cake, spring roll, money bags and curry puff). A smallish serve for $9; just one modest piece of each item but they were tasty and went down well, whetting our appetite for what was to follow; which was the yellow chicken curry (off the specials board) and a vegetarian selection. The chicken was tender and drenched in a spicy coconut sauce. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy, a suitable complement to the chicken. For dessert we went for a black sticky rice pud with ice cream. That was a generous serve and the perfect way to end the meal.

Ambience

Surprisingly for a small place that doesn’t look like much from the outside, we found the atmosphere inside quite lively. It was pretty much a full house which kept it warm on a chilly eve in mid-winter with not a heater in sight. The tables are neatly arranged down one side of the restaurant with the open-plan kitchen and cash register down the other. The furnishings are fairly minimalist with plain wooden chairs and tables, wooden floor and black charcoal walls. But it all works well to create a casual and relaxing ambience.

Service

Our booked table was ready for us when we arrived. Order were quickly taken and the dishes came out promptly and in the right order. The maître d' was friendly enough although I found the sole waitress a little unsmiling.

Comfort

Two of us dined and I found our table cramped and not easily able to fit all the dishes. Lighting is too dim to allow you to read the menu without squinting. There are no carpets or sound absorbers and the tables are packed close together, so it can get a tad noisy but then it seems that most diners just come for a quick meal. So it isn’t such a problem. The single unisex toilet is at the back, but the sign is visible from inside the restaurant. It’s clean, well-stocked and I loved the panoramic pic of a Thai river market.

Value

We paid $52 for a serve of entrees, two mains, rice, a single shared dessert and corkage. That's outstanding value in these austere times.

Location and Parking

Patitat Thai is on Frenchmans Rd, near the corner of Clovelly Rd, (across the road from Bunnings), amid a cluster of little eateries in an area that never gets too busy. So we found parking right outside on Frenchman’s Rd, where there are no night time restrictions.

Summary

The term “Neighbourhood Gem” aptly describes this cute little place. We had an enjoyable meal here in pleasant surrounds. Parking is easy and the prices are reasonable. We won’t hesitate to come back.

Memo

Don't be put off by its modest exterior. Some may even think it’s just a takeaway joint. Once inside you’ll find it homely and comfortable.

Aug 09, 2014

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Al-Madina Restaurant, Castle Hill

Restaurants, Lebanese

Overall 7.4  37

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  9      Value  7     


Booking
We dined on a quiet Friday eve in midwinter at Al-Madina Restaurant. And although we had made a booking, it wasn’t necessary. There is an inside and an outside section, but due to the icy weather, there was no one brave enough to dine outdoors even though it’s under cover. Even inside was fairly quiet, with only a handful of other diners. We were told though, that on Sat (when they have belly dancing) it gets busy, so maybe booking on that night might be the prudent thing to do to secure a table.

Food
As there were four of us, we decided to choose the “complete banquets”, at $45 a head, which includes dessert, coffees and corkage. While that might seem a bit expensive–there are other cheaper banquet options at $35 and $40 a head–at least it’s an all-inclusive price with nothing else to pay. (We’ve all had so-called “banquets”, where you still pay extra for things like drinks, desserts, coffees, etc.)
This banquet had all the delicious Lebanese dishes that we love so much including first, pickles, olives, carrots, nuts, hummus and baba ghanouj dips, then fattoush salad and falafel, and finally a variety of marinated meats; shish tawouk (chicken skewers), shish kebab (tender lamb skewers), kafta (fine minced lamb with onion & parsley) with the prawn kebabs carefully placed on type of the pile.
Everything was freshly-prepared and delicious although if I had to choose one standout dish, it would be the shish kebab. The lamb was tender and flavoursome--it was like butter melting in your mouth. The fattoush salad had an original and interesting lemon flavour. Food was brought to the table in stylish white crockery and there was plenty of everything including lashings of our favourite Leb bread--both fried and fresh.
We ended up with a tray of Turkish delights and baklava and washed it all down with bittersweet Lebanese coffee. It was made to perfection in a little silver pot which was left on our table, allowing us to finish it to the last drop.

Ambiance
The décor is fairly simple, but clean-looking with crisp white napery and dark brownish colour tones on the walls. The carpets help to give it a warm and homely atmosphere. Although it was quiet, it was the ideal venue for an intimate birthday celebration.

Service
The maître d’ and his friendly assistant were helpful, efficient and polite. In a nice touch, they shifted us to a larger table in the centre, from our booked table in the corner. On departing, there were handshakes and friendly thank-yous all round. These guys know how to make you feel welcome.

Comfort
Our large table was comfortable and easily able to fit all the dishes. The paucity of other diners meant that noise levels were at the low end of the scale and we were able to enjoy our conversation without any trouble. Toilets are in the courtyard, just outside the restaurant so you’ll need to grab the keys first. They’re clean and well stocked, although having to step outside in that freezing weather was a tad unpleasant. Inside the restaurant though, it was fairly warm even without heating due to the carpets and dark colour tones. No trouble with reading the menu, as we didn’t have to! Another advantage of ordering banquets.

Value
As mentioned, we paid $45 per head, so with a little tip thrown in, we came out at $50 a head. Now that is pretty expensive for a fairly dull place like outer-suburban Castle Hill, with a just few rather empty restaurants in the locale. Not exactly a dining and entertainment hotspot like say King Street, Newtown, Glebe Point Road or Bondi Beach! Still, it was a pleasant eve and everything went smoothly, so no-one complained.

Location and Parking
You’ll find Al-Madina in the little Garden Piazza in Terminus Street. There are ample, free parking in the basement car park. You’ll need to drive slowly into Terminus Street as you come around the corner from Old Northern Road, or you’ll miss the entrance, as we did and then had to drive around again.

Summary
We wouldn’t hesitate to come again, even if the prices are a little steep.

Jul 28, 2014

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Banana Palm, Coogee

Restaurants

Overall 7.1  54

7 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  6      Service  6      Value  8     


Unfortunately, our Saturday evening here was marred by excessive noise, inefficient service and poor lighting. Which was a pity since, Banana Palm works well on other levels, especially the food and everything we ordered was fresh, tasty and prepared with the highest quality ingredients.

The venue itself is elegantly decked out in dark colour tones and it’s conveniently situated across the road from Coogee Beach and around the corner from the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It’s a large, comfortable and airy place and the tables are easily able to fit all the dishes. Even the prices are reasonable at around $22 for a main meal and $15 for a generous serve of entrees. So we ended up paying $150 for five of us and that included two shared entrees, five mains, rice, a single beer, a single dessert and corkage.

The fare here is Vietnamese, similar in style to Thai but without the overly rich and creamy sauces. We started off with two entrées which we shared: vegetarian spring rolls and rice paper rolls. The spring rolls were piping hot with a crispy exterior and a tasty warm veg filling. The cold rice paper rolls were a suitable complement to the hot spring rolls. The beef dishes were beautifully prepared with the meat succulent and tender and accompanied by nutritious and crunchy vegetables. The apple and cinnamon crepe desert was a delight. Meals are brought to the table in stylish white crockery. Portion sizes are average, although they proved to be a bit stingy with the rice: only one small bowl for five people.

So overall, everyone was happy with the food but unfortunately, it’s a hellishly noisy place especially on a Saturday night when it’s likely to be full. The wooden floors with no carpets or other noise absorbers are a sound engineer’s nightmare. And service was a bit of a disaster. We ended up waiting almost three quarters of an hour for the first entrees. After that, things sped up a bit but by that time, most of us had lost patience and tempers were starting to fray.

It was all made worse by the fact that they mixed up some of the dishes and one of us had to wait an extra 15 minutes for her meal to finally be brought out – after everyone else had finished. I found the wait staff on the whole to be not only inefficient, but unhelpful and rather dour. And the poor lighting and small font size made the menu almost impossible to read. Toilets are unmarked but when you do locate them, you will find them clean and well stocked

Parking can be a bit of a headache but we were lucky to find something on nearby Waltham Street. I can’t see ourselves returning here in a hurry, despite the high quality of the food and the pleasant location. My suggestion to these guys is to carpet the place, upgrade the waitering skills, improve the lighting and increase the size of the menu. If they did all that, this place would be a winner.

Jul 15, 2014

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Sushi Inn, Randwick

Restaurants, Sushi

Overall 7.9  3

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


We’ve passed this rather inauspicious-looking place many times and never bothered to try it. But we were persuaded to by our Ent Bk voucher which offers a 25% discount off the bill up to a generous $35 (that’s voucher no. C41, for those who have the book). And what a pleasant surprise it was. This is a traditional sushi bar with seating around the counter. The place has been decked out in classic Japanese style with cherry blossom prints on the wall creating an atmosphere that is warm and homely, especially on a cold winter’s night. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in Japan!

The selections off the train are plentiful and varied with something for everyone from tuna, to beef, chicken and vegetarian. Everything we had was fresh, tasty and prepared with the highest quality ingredients. It’s licensed, or even if it’s not, they have a choice of local and imported beers at reasonable prices. I paid $5 for a Crown lager, which was the perfect accompaniment to our sushi.

Apart from the train, you can also order hot meals off the menu. We choose the wagyu beef and a spicy bean salad, and what inspired choices they were! The meat was pinkish, not something we usually take to too well, but the quality of this small dish made up for it. The beef was as tender as butter and we loved those subtle, aromatic flavours. The beans were juicy and crunchy and smothered in a hot spicy sauce.

All up and after our discount we paid a modest $38 for about six or seven dishes off the train, the wagyu beef and bean salad off the menu and two Crown lagers. Can’t complain about that. And the service was friendly, attentive and quick, despite our pretty waitress struggling a bit with her English language skills.

You’ll find Sushi Inn on busy Belmore Rd just a few steps from the Randwick Shopping Plaza, (also known as the Coles Plaza.) There’s limited street parking, but I guess this is the kind of place to mainly attract locals, who walk. We’ll certainly be back for more delicious sushi and wagyu beef, with next year’s voucher.

Jul 10, 2014

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Thai Riffic, Bondi Junction

Restaurants, Noodle Bar, Thai

Overall 7  14

8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  8     


We usually dine here at least once a year with our Ent Book voucher, which gives us a 25% discount up to a max of $20. We’ve never been disappointed and Saturday night was no exception.

We ordered two main meals and a single shared starter and that cost us a modest $27. The fare was fresh and tasty and served in generous portions. The fish cake starter was moist and chewy. Even better were the two main courses: the pad thai with beef and noodles and the tofu with vegetables and noodles. The beef was finely sliced and tender and the varied selection of vegetables were crunchy and nutritious. The noodles were soft and flavoursome, the perfect complement to the rest of the meals.

These guys just do it right every time so it’s no wonder then that this is one of the more popular places at the Westfield Food Court. Even though it was a Saturday night, there was plenty of seating. And being Westfield, it’s a comfy, well lit, clean and relaxed environment. Perfect for families, small or large groups or solo diners. Parking is free and unlimited after 7pm.

Jun 28, 2014

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Restaurants, Steak House, Serves Dinner, Serves Lunch, American Express

Overall 6.1  145

7.8 Recommended

Food  8      Ambience  8      Service  8      Value  7     


Booking

This ever-popular steak house in Manly was packed on a Saturday night, so booking, especially on a weekend, is essential to secure a table. Midweek though, I imagine you could get a table without a booking.

Food

These guys sure know how to cook a steak – and they also know how to prepare pretty much everything else as well, because all agreed that everything that was brought to the table was of the highest quality. Four of us dined and we started with a serve of herb baguettes ($6) and farmers sausages ($13). The bread was warm and soft and just the right serving size to whet your appetite. The sausages were firm but the meat was succulent and flavoursome. For mains, I played it safe with a 220g sirloin steak well done with chips ($28) and a side of coleslaw ($5). The steak was tasty and perfectly cooked just the way I like it without being over done or burned. The generous serve of crunchy chips and a large bowl of fresh coleslaw were the perfect complement. My wife also had the sirloin. Our friends both had the 180g fillet steak ($30), medium rare and they enjoyed that too. A nutritious and refreshing Greek salad for the table ($18) rounded that off. The cakes looked scrumptious but we were too full for dessert.

Ambience

As one would expect from such a popular place, the atmosphere was lively and energetic. The decor is cheerful and homely with bright red chairs and plenty of light streaming in from the large windows on the sea side. It seems most diners come to spend an evening and that’s what this place is all about. You come here for more than just a meal; this is a night out and no-one rushes you to leave when you’ve finished your meals.

Comfort

Toilets are a bit hard to find with miniscule signs on the door but they are clean and well stocked. Menu is easy to read in the strong light. Seating, with chairs and couches, are comfortable and the generously sized tables are able to fit all the dishes. It is a tad noisy though but I guess there’s not much that can be done about that.

Service

Service was first class. Our booked table was waiting for us on arrival. Our pretty waitress could not have been more polite, helpful and efficient, despite obviously working under pressure because of the crowds. There was no long wait for the drinks or the meals and everything came out promptly and in the correct order. Only suggestion for improvement is to bring beer glasses and not assume that we all like to drink straight from the bottle – I don’t!

Value

Being a tad on the expensive side, this isn’t the kind of place you’d rush to without a voucher or discount deal. We brought along our Ent Book card, which gave us a 25% discount up to a generous $50. That kept our bill for four down to $162, but that included three beers, three glasses of wine and two soft drinks. We were happy with that.

Location and parking

You’ll find R&R in the heart of the Manly dining and entertainment precinct opposite the beach, around the corner from the Corso. Don’t bother looking for free street parking as it’s in short supply. Instead, make life easy for yourself by heading straight for the nearby council car park, where you can leave your car for a flat evening rate of $12. Just factor that into your budget.

Summary

We had a pleasant evening here and everything went off smoothly. The food and service were outstanding, the ambience just right for spending a Saturday night with friends. And easy parking is available at a small price. We’ll certainly be back with next year’s Ent Book voucher.

Jun 19, 2014

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Niji Sushi Bar, Kingsford

Restaurants, Bars, Japanese, Family Dining, Good for Business Dining

Overall 8.2  10

8.2 Recommended

Food  8      Drinks  8      Ambience  8      Service  9      Value  8     


Booking

Whilst the place is called the “Niji Sushi Bar” (not to be confused with “Niji Restaurant & Bar” which is in Double Bay) there’s a formal sit-down restaurant part as well as the sushi train. Of course, you can’t book for the sushi train but you can book for the restaurant section, which we did. And lucky that we had because the place was packed on a busy Sat night and we wouldn’t have got a table without the booking.

Food

The fare is Japanese. First up and before we had even ordered; a plate of edamame (beans) was brought to the table free of charge, just to whet our appetites. For the formal part of the meal, we started with a seaweed salad ($5) and a serve of vegetables on skewers ($7). Both were fairly ordinary, small portions in line with the modest prices. For mains we shared a selection of teriyaki dishes: salmon ($18) chicken ($15) and beef ($16). Now this is where this place really excels, because all three were the best quality, fresh and tasty meals and served in generous portions.

The presentation was simple, with each dish accompanied only by boiled rice but that worked well, allowing you to enjoy those subtle teriyaki flavours without too much distraction. All agreed that the chicken was the stand out dish of the night. The meat was finely sliced, tender and succulent and coated in a tangy slightly sweetish sauce. But the others came a close second. The beef too was tender and tasty and the salmon was well cooked just the way we like it. We washed all that down with a few glasses of Riesling, beer and finally a glass of sake. Phew, that sake is enough to knock your socks off!

Ambience

Apart from the addition of the sushi train, not much changed from its previous incarnation as the popular Gourmet Pizza Kitchen, which sat on this site for many years. The interior decoration is still fairly ordinary with wooden furniture and concrete floors. However, as the place was full, with mainly students, young people and families with kids, it was humming with a lively atmosphere. Everyone seemed to be having a pleasant time.

Comfort

Furniture is basic and tables slightly cramped. Toilets are large, adequate and well stocked but by 9.30pm, they were in dire need of a mid-evening clean-up. More prominent signage would also help so that you wouldn’t have to bother the busy staff to find out where they are. The menu is straightforward, colourful and easy to read. Even though the place was packed, tables are well spaced out so we had no trouble conversing.

Service

Despite the crowds, we were made to feel welcome the minute we stepped through the front door. Our booked table was ready at the exactly the right time. Orders were quickly taken and meals came out promptly and in the right order. Our pretty waitress could not have been more friendly, patient and polite.

Value

With our 25% Ent Book discount, we paid a reasonable $85 for a seaweed salad, vegetable skewers, four mains, an extra serve of rice, a beer, a glass of sake, a coke and two glasses of wine. At a tad under $30 a head that represents solid value in these austere times.

Parking

We found easy parking a few blocks down Borrodale Rd, where restrictions end at 8.00pm. But forget about finding anything on Anzac Parade.

Summary

We all enjoyed our evening and are looking forward to a return visit. The food was delicious with polite and attentive service to match. We’ll be back with next years voucher!

Jun 09, 2014

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North Shore 
Created 03 Nov 2008
7 listings

    » Crows Nest 9.1 At Restaurant (@! Restaurant)
    8 Photo of At Restaurant (@! Restaurant)

    $$$

    Restaurants, Japanese, Family Dining, Good for Business Dining, Good For Groups
    417 Pacific Hwy, Crows Nest, Sydney
    At Restaurant's head chef was chosen to take part in the opening of NOBU-Bahanmas, and also has expe… more


    » St Leonards 7.2 Bazaar Beer Cafe
    94 Photo of Bazaar Beer Cafe

    $$

    Restaurants, Belgian, European, Modern Australian, Family Dining
    1 Albany St, St Leonards, Sydney
    Good times, boutique beers and hearty Euro comfort food are on tap at Bazaar Beer Cafe. Bazaar Beer … more


    » McMahons Point 7.2 Blu Ginger
    58 Photo of Blu Ginger

    $$

    Restaurants, Indian, Citibank Dining Program, Serves Dinner, Serves Lunch
    147 Blues Point Rd, McMahons Point, Sydney


    » Chatswood 8.1 Ichimaru
    11 Photo of Ichimaru

    Restaurants, Japanese, American Express
    226 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, Sydney


    » Willoughby 6.7 Kisuke Japanese
    4 Photo of Kisuke Japanese

    Restaurants, Japanese
    Shop 2, 56-58 Frenchs Rd, Willoughby, Sydney


    » Crows Nest 7.8 Tokyo Loco Bowl
    2 Photo of Tokyo Loco Bowl

    $

    Restaurants, Japanese, Family Dining, Hip and Trendy, Quiet
    82 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, Sydney


    » Crows Nest 6.2 Yakiniku Kashiwa Sydney
    12 Photo of Yakiniku Kashiwa Sydney

    Restaurants, Japanese
    7A Falcon St, Crows Nest, Sydney




East 
Created 28 Aug 2011
3 listings

    » Coogee 6.7 Cucinella
    15 Photo of Cucinella

    $$

    Restaurants, Italian, Mediterranean, Modern Australian, Vegetarian
    Shop 209B, Coogee Bay Road, Coogee, Sydney
    On a bustling strip of cafes in a buzzing beachside suburb, it's hard to stand out. But Cucinella, I… more


    71 Photo of La Spiaggia Italian Restaurant

    Restaurants, Italian, Modern Australian, Seafood
    248 Coogee Bay Road, Coogee, Sydney


    » Kingsford 7.2 Ubud
    88 Photo of Ubud

    $$

    Restaurants, Indonesian, BYO
    584 Anzac Pde, Kingsford, Sydney




Inner Fucking West 
Created 16 Jan 2014
1 listing

    2 Photo of Unoya Japanese Restaurant

    Restaurants, Japanese, Serves Takeaway, Menulog Delivery and Pickup
    336 Darling St, Balmain, Sydney








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