Just before Xmas I took in the Moss Vale Farmers’ and Flea Market in the spacious surrounds of Moss Vale Showground in the Southern Highlands. It’s a not-for-profit market, with a focus on producers and growers from the local district. My favourite stall had to be Beefalicious who raise Ausline and Lowline cattle in neighbouring Suttons Forest. Their beef is grass-fed, tender, fine-grained and juicy; and they make a mean snag-on-a-stick too – the wild mushroom and garlic were a particular favourite. You’ll also find Pepe Saya’s excellent butter and a range of local truffle products at their stall. Other market must-haves include
Melbourne better watch out, because we’ve dominated the laneway bar, conquered the surreptitious speakeasy, and are rapidly expanding into some epic rooftops. Even better: you can take in all three within a five-minute walk of this new York Street entry. First you need to find it...
Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque
You climb seemingly millions of stairs and erupt onto a rooftop. You’re handed an order pad and sharpened pencil. That’s not to say you’re left entirely to your own devices – sparkly, vivacious Keystone crew are everywhere, attending to your every need. The first brings drinks that take me back to my teenage years - scoffing a packet of Samboy BBQ chips then reaching for a (warm), sandy bottle of beer. It’s called the BBQ Shandy ($8) and while it won’t be to everyone’s taste, it certainly put a smile on my dial.
TOTALLY rate it. Down the postered laneway, once inside, it’s “a proper grown-up bar - not too grotty, not too snotty,” says regular Steph of her fav. as we share smoky Dirty Old Pals ($17.) I normally like my Islay neat but Freda’s iced mix is good: single malt whiskey, Rosso Antica Formula and Campari. Space is an old previously abandoned warehouse. Staff and owner/designer Dave Abram walks the floor making sure we’re all doing fine. We’re camped on mismatched chairs, gathered around one of the tables; others are on stools at the long bar.
The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room
Ignore the oft-repeated (and pretentious) New York Brasserie tagline that’s dogged this fancy remake of the Brooklyn Hotel. It reads like a gastro-pub to me. Think upmarket suit-dude food; and it seems that where there be bankers and bivalves, stiletto heels follow. The whole package plucks the bits I liked best about Sean’s Kitchen – produce driven seafood, and a man who can handle crabs – and sticks them somewhere more appropriate (outside of a casino). As I feel myself sliding into an intimate moment with a clean, herbaceous Bruny Island Oyster ($4.50/each) accentuated by a good Col Vetoraz Prosecco ($14.50/glass), I understand the appeal
My 2013 New Year’s resolution is to keep my bra on in public. FYI the pink satin and black lace bra that hangs above the Emmilou bar is mine. Guess the bra size and owner Chris Cranswick-Smith will shout you a tequila (and probably drink one with you – he loves the stuff!) Or tag the glossy red wall with the white texta to leave your mark (I’ve done that too “>> freefall
Excuse me for being a bit gooey about the cooking of Hamish Ingham, but after eating at both Grain Bar and The Woods at the end of 2012, he’s certainly my chef-to-watch for the year. This is another venue where you can see the ripple-down effects of Noma being the world’s number one restaurant for the last few years. There’s a definite return to the natural, down to the hunger-inducing aroma of burning wood (daily variety named on the menu) and a fit-out (McCann) that screams bespoke and artisan.
Swoon baby swoon. The sign out front is not up yet, though the elegant wine bar and restaurant Monopole – the latest offering from Brent Savage and Nick Hilderbrandt of the Bentley Restaurant & Bar – has (just) opened. I’ve taken an early peek and I’m truly excited by its showcase of classic and modern wines by the glass (from $8), carafe and bottle. Wines cover the globe from Burgundy (France) to the Yarra Valley (Australia.)
It’s been the year of the three-word slogan (‘stop the boats’), the verbal triptych; so this menu by ex-Ledbury boy, Nik Hill, is on-point. While the dish descriptions offer you just three key ingredients, unlike the Liberal Party, what’s on the plate is backed up by clear policies. While it’s still playful food – take Potato Risotto, Taleggio ($15) for example – these days it’s much more of a restaurant cunningly disguised as a gastro-pub. Dishes like Fried Chicken, Pine Needles, Herb Emulsion ($12) provide a linking line to the (somewhat overpriced) hipster venue it used to be; though now your chook’s presented Noma-light on a bed of pine needles adorning a lump of driftwood.
Even in this candy coloured environment, the vibe for Abby Dobson is relaxed and low-key at her free Thursday night Red Door Set. The crowd is a collection of upwardly mobile couples, mostly straight and moneyed, with a raggedy bunch of older singles sipping beers. Women seem keener on exploring the reasonably extensive cocktail list, offering options like the High Tea ($16) bearing house-infused chamomile and vanilla gin.