Run by husband and wife team Luiza and Marcello, Justine Grill sits unexpectedly on a leafy corner of Hunters Hill. Exposed brick, white paint and dark wood fit out a cosy, modern interior that feels a bit like a rural gastropub. To start, Crispy Quail ($25) is too tempting to go past, and sufficiently moreish to result in unbecoming bone-gnawing.
Entering Sydney's latest fine dining hotspot made me feel more like James Bond than a food writer. Buzzing through the entrance, we're ushered through a passageway of the fully restored yet still antiquated Old Clare Hotel, and placed in an elevator bound for the floors above.
Our understated country waitress is effortlessly beautiful. She gestures casually out one window to show where the 2014 Logan Sauvignon Blanc ($12/glass) comes from, then the other to indicate the origins of the Pressed Duck ($36) with lentils and heirloom carrots.
Hotel restaurants are curious beasts; and while Abode has been cleverly located as a stylish, stand-alone restaurant, it is still very much part of the Parkroyal Darling Harbour. As you’d expect, the restaurant fulfils a role in providing accessible, comforting and familiar food to overnight stayers.
William Blue Dining
If meals at most fine dining restaurants seem too expensive, I’ve found the fancy, white-tablecloth restaurant for you! William Blue Dining is located in the old Rockpool site, yet despite the fancy, heritage, sandstone location, a three-course meal is yours for fewer than forty bucks.
Bar at the End of the Wharf
My date’s late, so I’m nursing an Old Fashioned ($20). It’s not on their short list of cocktails, but they do offer to make any classics you have a hankering for; so I forgive the bartender for it being sweet and gritty with undissolved sugar. Ordering off-list isn’t my usual practice, but I’m combating pre-theatre anxiety.