29 January 2011

Cafe Sydney: Fine dining with a great view, Circular Quay (4 Jan 2011)

31 Alfred Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Great view and good service

To celebrate on my actual birthday my brother took the family out to Cafe Sydney for dinner. Arriving just before our 7 pm booking we were informed our table wasn't ready so we sat near the bar to order drinks. I sometimes think this is a ploy to have customers order pre-dinner drinks as I noticed other guests being let through to be seated but perhaps our special terrace spot was indeed not ready for a further 25 minutes waiting. In the meantime I enjoyed a Cafe Sydney Lounge cocktail ($19) albeit the excessive ice while others enjoyed the Bellini cocktail ($17), Hurricane cocktail ($19), Non-alcoholic Kiwi Crush cocktail ($11) and a Hahn Super Dry beer ($8.50).

Once we were finally seated on the terrace we realised the wait was worth it. With an outdoor terrace spot booked and thankfully clouds holding tight above the weather was very pleasant to enjoy the great views over Circular Quay including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House — I felt like a tourist in my own city. Being open to the elements I think having a comfortable experience on the terrace is very dependent on the weather and if it was very hot and humid it might have been a repeat of Berowra Waters Inn. Our wait staff seemed professional, friendly and accommodating which I wasn’t expecting. Even to the point where I complained about my table support not being correctly aligned for comfort and they managed to swap my table quickly to my liking — bonus ticks for service, but I felt a little guilty for the other couple still to arrive that got my misaligned table, sorry.

A pricey bottle of 2006 Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer, Marlborough NZ ($81) was good and the very affordable freshly cooked Garlic naan ($2), Spiced caramelised onion naan ($3) and Goats cheese and spinach naan ($3.50) were great tasty starters — very unusual to see on a fine dining menu. A side of Sauteed rosemary kiplfers ($9.50) were a bit oily but nevertheless full of flavour. I really enjoyed the nicely presented Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons ($27) which was light yet flavoursome. Equally enjoyable were the Pure Coffin Bay oysters ($22.50 for 6) which had been freshly shucked although I might have preferred the eschallots to be caramelized a bit to sweeten the oniony taste and not sure what the 'pure' meant. Chips ($8) were thin and crispy as hoped and reminded me of McDonalds French Fries but fresher — when they’re cut the same size how can one not joke if they’d actually been bought from downstairs, but I know they weren’t.

The Twice cooked pork ($38) was enjoyed along with the flavoursome Tarragon gnocchi ($32). I had a bit of food envy for the nicely cooked Herb crusted lamb rack ($39) and my Crumbed crab cake with grilled prawn ($27) was light yet tasty but relatively pricey I guess for the small serving. I really enjoyed the Mixed young salad leaves ($8.5) as a side which was very fresh and had a lovely dressing reminding me of the one I had at est. Some crispy skin was thankfully to be had on the W.A. barramundi with goat cheese ravioli ($39). The Buttermilk panna cotta with poached strawberry and rhubarb ($18) was chocolate signed with my surprise birthday wish — the strawberries could have been sweeter but the panna cotta was nice. The Warm hazelnut pudding ($18) and Baked cheesecake with glazed pineapple ($17) were rather simply plated but still enjoyable. You can’t go too wrong washing the desserts down with some 2009 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora ($9) and 2008 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon ($12.50). To my surprise the Cappucino ($4.50) and Flat white ($4.50) were pretty decent without being too bitter on the palate. The overall experience was very good and special and I think a great spot to wine and dine any tourist friends visiting Sydney or for those who are looking for what seems like a well-run enjoyable restaurant with excellent views and nicely prepared dishes.

PROS: Friendly and professional service, Nice dishes, Great view from terrace, Romantic atmosphere at night, Privacy screens in mens toilet, Entertainment Book discount available
CONS: Some table supports are awkwardly positioned (and should be corrected), Expensive but the view makes it special, Had to wait 25 minutes for our 7 pm table booking, Very limited free street parking, Terrace table is weather dependent
MUST TRY: Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons, Oysters, Mixed young salad leaves, Naan

Cafe Sydney Lounge cocktail: Fresh lime muddled with torn kaffir lime leaf, Bombay Sapphire gin, Bacardi Superior rum, citrus-ginger and melon liqueurs; complemented with cranberry juice ($19) — ice factor is quite a fair amount.

Bellini cocktail: White peach puree and Creme de Peche topped with Prosecco di Congeliano ($17)

Hurricane cocktail: A refreshing balance of passionfruit, orange and lime juices shaken with Bacardi Superior and Bacardi 8 rums ($19)

Kiwi Crush non-alcoholic cocktail: Crisp and fresh with kiwi fruit, lime and passionfruit syrup; finished with Appletiser ($11)

Hahn Super Dry beer ($8.50)

2006 Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer, Marlborough NZ ($81 bottle)

Garlic naan ($2), Spiced caramelised onion naan ($3), Goats cheese and spinach naan ($3.50)

Sauteed rosemary kiplfers ($9.50)

Pure Coffin Bay oysters on ice with eschallot and caramelised cabernet vinegar ($22.50 for 6)

Grilled scallops with zucchini ribbons, radish, lemon and horseradish creme fraiche ($27)

Chips ($8)

Twice cooked pork belly with pork fillet, prosciutto, caramelised apple, pistachio and jus ($38)

Tarragon gnocchi with asparagus, yellow squash, roasted eggplant, truss tomato and persian feta ($32)

Herb crusted lamb rack with braised lamb shoulder cigar, heirloom baby carrots and jus ($39)

Mixed young salad leaves ($8.5)

Crumbed crab cake with grilled prawn, cornichon, fennel and sauce gribiche ($27)

W.A. barramundi with goat cheese ravioli, butternut pumpkin, pine nut, raisin and sage brown butter ($39)

2009 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora ($9), 2008 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon ($12.50)

Buttermilk panna cotta with poached strawberry and rhubarb ($18)

Warm hazelnut pudding with chestnut creme and praline ice cream ($18)

Baked cheesecake with glazed pineapple, coconut crisp and pineapple sorbet ($17)

Cappucino ($4.50), Flat white ($4.50)

Bill $499.50 for 5 people, minus $50 with Entertainment Card discount = $449.50

The terrace view during the day and night

Terrace seating — best spot for a view when good weather

In good weather the terrace shade is retracted to open up the view to the sky

Inside restaurant dining

Bar area — I'm so glad I didn't wear my pink shirt otherwise I would have looked like a staff member

Lounge area — I find the seating too low and very uncomfortable

Table support not ergonomically positioned — a pet hate of mine

Table support corrected by efficient service — I'm much more comfortable now

Dinosaur Designs battery operated table lights — I want one

Aesops liquid soap in the toilets — nice. Also the mens toilet has privacy screens between the urinals, now that's a big tick in my 'finer details' book which you don't often find.

Interior of Customs House foyer

Customs House — Cafe Sydney located at the top

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Cafe Sydney on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

re "privacy screens" -- ha ha, I didn't realise you are the shy type!

Craig @ Craig and Caroline Hind Online said...

Privacy screens. The lack of them is why I hardly ever use urinals! You're not alone!

A lovely looking restaurant. We've seen it many times when passing on CQ but never went in. Perhaps now I will!

We're moving to Sydney in April so it's really nice to get an idea of all the great restaurants to go to.


Ben said...

Small details seems such a cruel thing to call it...


I picked a silly time to come looking on your blog...i skipped dinner and now i want all these things i can't possibly get at this hour! :(

Aesops liquid soap in the toilets, gotta love little finishing touches like these.
They have that in the bathrooms at 'the Auction Room' in Nrth Melbourne.Have you been there? I think you'd like it.



Pure Coffin Bay Oysters said...

Hi Simon,

I just wanted to let you know that the Pure Coffin Bay Oysters is a branding name for our family run oyster farm at Coffin Bay. The Pure is for the remote, pristine and pure environment that we harvest our product from. This also gives the fantastic fresh taste that you enjoy. For more information please check out our website at www.coffinbayoysters.com.au

susan said...

I have been wanting to go here for ages. It looks like such a wonderful place to celebrate a birthday!

Restaurant Sydney said...

Your blog is really very nice and informatics, Thanks for sharing and all pics are really awesome.

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Simon Leong said...

hi Restaurant Sydney, thanks for the positive feedback ;-)

Simon Leong said...

hi anonymous, or can be called modesty screens hehe i love them because i'm a shy guy ;-)

hi craig, i'm glad i'm not alone — cubicles are the bomb. i think it's worth a visit on a nice day so you can seat outside on the terrace to appreciate the view.

hi job, maybe i should rename finer details :-)

hi nardivile, i've bought aesops for home now — it's worked on me after all these years. smells so good. i'll have to put the auction room on my wish list :-) thanks for the birthday wishes.

hi Pure Coffin Bay Oysters, thanks for the clarification, i love em!

hi susan, hope you get to try it soon :-)

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