Featuring: Onyx Grill, Totti’s, Meu Jardim…
IT NEVER fails to amaze me when journalists and writers openly admit their ignorance in an article. Yet early reviews of the Marsden Hotel in Burwood were peppered with comments such as – “Why Burwood?” and “A bit of a left field choice”. Thankfully, the owners of the first new luxury boutique in the suburb are aware that Burwood has a median house price in excess of $2 million. It’s also one of the major hubs of Sydney’s Chinese community and the location of some of the grandest Victorian and Federation homes in the city, starting with the Appian Way where house prices exceeded $4 million before Sydney’s recent property boom.
Burwood is packed with top class Asian eateries, boasts a Westfield shopping centre and is only 15 to 20 minutes by rail from both the CBD and the ANZ Stadium at Homebush. All these facts and Burwood’s affluence were on show during the Marsden Hotel’s official opening. The 90 room, chicly-designed establishment is a sister property of the Marsden Hotel in Parramatta and its General Manager, David Johnston, has worked in Ritz-Carlton and InterContinental hotels around the world.
The hotel’s signature restaurant, the Onyx Grill, is as sleekly fitted out as the rest of the property. Design features include shiny black surfaces that mimic its namesake gemstone, emerald-covered seating and old wooden sleepers from the original Anzac Bridge. American-born chef, Jeffrey Forrest, earned his chops at the SoHo Grand and Plaza Hotel in New York and the uber-glamorous Anse Chastanet Resort in the Caribbean. The exceptional wine list is the work of F&B operations manager, Joe Chen (ex-Luke Mangan’s Luke’s Kitchen).
Meat grabs centre-stage at the Onyx Grill, equipped with a mibrasa grill and charcoal oven. Smaller meat offerings include 200g of 270-day grain-fed Angus striploin or 400g of 30-day aged Cape Grim grass-fed Angus. But if quantity and quality are your druthers, there’s major cuts for two such as the 1.5 kilo 28-day dry aged Tomahawk rib-eye or the 1.7 kilo Cowra lamb shoulder. To ease down the succulent flesh, there’s a choice of four sauces from classic bearnaise to Onyx wine jus.
Seafood from the cold bar follows the same absolute premium standard of quality. The Hiramisu kingfish sashimi is a top choice for a starter, sparked by edamame, watermelon and feta salad with chardonnay vinaigrette. Or, go for the fang-fresh oysters and mignonette dressing. Charcuterie is another speciality and the share plate is served with dry figs and toasted sourdough.
The charcoal oven is much in use for the main course seafood dishes such as toothfish with corn soubise, charred shallots and chilli oil and eastern rock lobster in seaweed butter. Following two recent restaurant visits where the servings were so small we left feeling hungry after spending more than $200, the freshly-made linguini, summer vegetables and crisp shallots hit the spot not only in terms of the serving size, but the deeply-flavoured sauce that lifted the dish to star status.
Desserts are on the light side, as they should be, from coffee parfait to guanaja chocolate tart. A restraint not seen in the wine and cocktail listings. A spectacular meander through the world’s leading wine regions, which rubberstamps Burwood’s wallet size from upmarket affordable to bottlings such as 2017 Louis Jadot Gevrey Chambertin at $268 a bottle.
You don’t feel as if you are in a hotel, apart from the fact that the waitstaff are much better dressed than they are in the majority of trendy restaurants. A nice touch that adds a bit of glamour to a date night or seriousness to a corporate meal. Our fellow diners were a snapshot of Burwood’s main “tribes”. Young Asian gourmets and old money Anglos, whose forebears built the suburb’s heritage-listed grand mansions such as The Priory, St Cloud and Lynton. If you still want more, the rooftop Skye Bar has a Champagne and oyster bar and delivers panoramic views of the CBD skyline.
The Onyx Grill, Marsden Hotel Burwood, 60, Burwood Road, Burwood; phone (02) 8889 3915.
In early 2019 Merivale opened its spiffy new Italian restaurant Totti’s in the back of the Royal Hotel in Bondi. Following the original’s roaring success, the hospitality group has launched a second version – Bar Totti’s – in the Ivy Complex in the CBD. The George Street location isn’t a me-too but head chef, Mike Eggert has hooked up with Jake Ahrens (ex-Uccello) to blend traditional favourites with more contemporary twists.
The venue sports two distinct spaces – a curved, designer-lit bar out back and a front dining room where customers can watch the world go by. Similar to Totti’s in Bondi, the decor features white-washed walls and a great deal of timber.
The wood-fired bread remains a star attraction in its second home, but the antipasti menu delivers the trump card. The 20-plus options veer from pickled octopus through scampi, garlic and seaweed butter, zucchini, mint and pinenut pangrattato, duck hearts, grapes and radicchio and beef tongue, pistachio and salsa verde.
The atmosphere is buzzy, but you can cool things down with the two main dessert options that have also made the trip from Bondi – tiramisu and Neapolitan ice-cream sandwiches. Naturally-oriented Italian wines form the core of the wine list to ramp up the re-invented trattoria feel.
Bar Totti’s, 330 George Street, Sydney; phone (02) 9114 7379.
There’s nothing retro about Meu Jardim, which means my garden in Portuguese. As soon as you enter, your eyes are skewered by 300 metres of coloured LED lights and a waterfall. Supposedly taking its cue from the rocky landscape of the Dordogne, the $4 million fit-out looks like something from Lost in Space – the current Netflix series. Open until 3 a.m., the French-inspired eatery is part of the Skye Suites development, a residential and hotel tower designed by new generation architect, Koichi Takada.
The dramatic premises span two levels to accommodate 340 customers and there’s a firepit amid the shiny glacier-like surfaces. Owner Ussi Minis Da Silva and chef Jason McCauley (formerly Il Bacio) don’t get too futuristic with the menu, though. Contemporary riffs such as heirloom tomato tart, fromage blanc, green olive and basil and wagyu tartare, brik pastry, quail yolk and Tasmanian summer truffle head the starter choices. Like the Onyx Grill, you can order a 1.2 kilo grass-fed lamb shoulder as a main act to share. Or, choose from updated favourites such as duck a l ‘orange, turnip, orange gelee and green olive or oxtail, parsnip puree, bone marrow, watercress and burnt carrot. The bar is great for after work drinks – cocktails or well-selected wines by the glass.
Meu Jardim, 304 Kent Street, Sydney; phone 0434 633 378.