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Finalists for Bar of the Year 2018
28.07.2017

Whether it's a late-night spot playing hip-hop at full volume, a throwback to the glamour of yesteryear or a bar-restaurant that slips the collar of definition, these three Bar of the Year finalists have all nailed one essential detail: good times.

Finalists for Regional Restaurant of the Year 2018
27.07.2017

These three restaurants - Fleet, Brae and Igni - might not be in capital cities, but the journey there is part of the unforgettable experience they offer.

Living off the land in winter
27.07.2017

The life of a farmer revolves around the seasons. Come winter, a certain thriftiness is needed in the kitchen to make the most of meagre produce, writes Paulette Whitney.

Why breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day in Italy
27.07.2017

Italy's claim to being the greatest of the world's cuisines has one key weakness: breakfast. But, argues John Irving, there's more to the story than first meets the eye.

Reasons to visit Los Angeles in 2017
27.07.2017

The hottest spots to eat, drink, play and stay on your next trip to LA, rounded up into one perfect day.

Reasons to visit Canberra in 2017
27.07.2017

Your guide to a perfect stay in Canberra, from where to sleep to the exhibitions you need to check out.

Restaurants with rooms
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Some of Australia's best dining destinations take the hassle out of a weekend stay by offering their own on-site digs where you can hit the hay in style after your meal.

Finalists for Maitre D' of the Year 2018
26.07.2017

The maitre d' is your first introduction to a restaurant - they do as much to create a sense of ambience as lighting, tableware and music. And these three professionals are top of the class.

Christine Manfield guests at Berta

Christine Manfield and Jamie Irving at Berta, Sydney

Christine Manfield and Jamie Irving at Berta, Sydney

The clock is ticking, Sydney. Christine Manfield has just five more weeks left in her cameo at Berta, and that means just five more Tuesday-night Sagra dinners. On the strength of last night's showing, that means you have just five more chances to get in on one of the best deals you'll see in Australian dining in 2015: a generous four courses from one of the most distinctive chefs of a generation, for just $65.

Under Berta's founding chef O Tama Carey, Berta's Sagra nights gained a cult following for their inventive celebrations of a single ingredient each week, and Manfield, who shares the kitchen with new chef Jamie Irving (pictured), has embraced the tradition.

Though Manfield said she thought choosing eggplant, her favourite ingredient, for her maiden voyage last night was cheating, the army of her fans who marched through the door for the two seatings were rapt.

The antipasti made a very welcome opening salvo, not least the sweet-sour spiced eggplant and peppers stained with turmeric, and focaccia spread with salty eggplant butter.

Pappardelle tossed with a ragù of eggplant and slow-braised duck followed, its duck liver-boosted richness complemented neatly by a nebbiolo grown in Lombardy, and then a fillet of wild kingfish, fat and juicy on a bed of warmly spiced honey and harissa eggplant.

And to close? A clean, crisp pear and ricotta chocolate tart freshened up with yoghurt sorbet, all the more delectable for its pairing with a glass of Piedmontese brachetto.

The challenges presented by the size of the kitchen and brigade were refreshing, Manfield said. "I kept wanting to add another element to the dishes, but had to keep batting my hand away." The result was a winning balance of Berta's trademark restraint and Manfield generosity.

Next week it's the Sagra of Autumn Milks, which will make use of cow, goat's and sheep's milk in curds, whey, cheeses and more. On Tuesday 12 May, Manfield won't be in the kitchen, but Irving will present a menu of grains and greens they've designed together, then on the 19th she's back for quince. The 26 May Sagra will be "going nuts" and then, for the finale of her time at Berta, it's the Sagra of Wild Things (From the Sea).

Manfield will be cooking alongside Irving and sharing duties writing the regular à la carte menus over this period too, of course, but there's something special about these mini-festivals - not least their outstanding value.

As Manfield says with a twinkle in her eye, "See you next Tuesday."

Berta, 17-19 Alberta St, Sydney, (02) 9264 6133

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