Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Rockpool, BentSpoke Brewing Co, Pei Modern and Olé Fuego.
The bar at Rockpool
Another week, another Neil Perry announcement. It was just last week that we told you about the introduction of yum cha at Spice Temple, but the new snack menu at the small bar at Rockpool on Bridge Street is just too good to keep quiet about. The chicken wings are topped with shavings of truffle and konbu butter, finger sandwiches get the luxe treatment with Tabasco-spiked crab and mayo, or caviar with chives and capers, and rice cakes take the form of little burger buns packed with pork belly, chilli and coriander. There are more substantial offerings, too (wagyu beef cheek "yakitori" grilled before your very eyes; truffle and cheddar brioche toasties), and a few favourites from the main menu (the chirashi zushi, the "rich and noble" congee with crab, peanuts and almond tofu, and the petits fours version of the date tart) appear as well. Top that with the blockbuster wine list and the finest view of the kitchen in the house and you've got the hottest new six bar stools in town. Thanks, Neil. What have you got planned for next week? Rockpool, 11 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 1888. MAYA KERTHYASA
BentSpoke Brewing Company
Brightly lit and gleaming with stainless steel and glass against a backdrop of tanks and pipes, BentSpoke might not have much in the way of classic-pub cosiness, especially in midwinter. But with Richard Watkins, the brewer best known for his work at The Wig & Pen, running the show (cask-conditioning this, barrel-ageing that), there's plenty in the glass to warm the cockles. Ask for a no-brainer sessionable number and you'll be directed to the highly drinkable Mort's Gold pilsener; opt for something a bit more scenic and you might end up with the Dick Tracy, a fruity brown ale. Or surrender choice entirely and go with a tasting paddle, perhaps the best way to quickly take the measure of what's coming out of the 18 taps. The eats are unabashedly pubby, but with spicy wings, meaty sandwiches, a solid burger and hop-dusted chips, it's not just ballast - it's ballast with beery ambition. Thanks to Watkins' work at the Wig, Canberra has been well ahead of the craft-brewing curve, and with the arrival of BentSpoke it seems like the future for beer-drinkers in the capital looks just as positive. BentSpoke Brewing Company, 38 Mort St, Braddon, ACT, (02) 6257 5220. PAT NOURSE
Pei Modern Istanbul
In the second of a series of occasional pop-up restaurants (the first was Victor Liong trialling Lee Ho Fook), Pei Modern is turning modern Turkish for a couple of nights when Istanbul-based chef Coskun Uysal takes over the kitchen. Executive chef of Istanbul's House Café group, Uysal has the River Café and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen on his CV, and has also done stages locally at Attica and Vue de Monde. According to Pei Modern co-owner David Mackintosh, the pop-up is a way for Uysal, whose partner lives in Melbourne, to test the waters for a possible move to Victoria. Pei Modern Istanbul will be a multi-course meal reflecting both the traditions of Uysal's mother's home cooking and the kind of modern Turkish cooking that's turning heads in Istanbul. Expect dishes in the vein of smoked eggplant with tahini, tomatoes and salted cheese, fava with raki and dill oil, and a dessert of pumpkin with salep ice-cream. A good chance to see for yourself whether modern Turkish cooking really is the next big thing. Pei Modern Istanbul is on Monday July 21 and Tuesday July 22. It's $90 a head. Pei Modern, Collins Pl, 45 Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9654 8545. MICHAEL HARDEN
The name references fire but, in the current cold-snap, patrons might be grateful simply for a bit more heat. Concertina glass doors lead to wraparound alfresco seating, Moorish-patterned cushions are scattered across slatted wooden benches, and the airy indoor-outdoor vibe will be muy caluroso in summer. But in the dark chill of winter, diners wearing coats are a bit of a mood killer. A quartet of crisp-crumbed croquetas, creamy with a béchamel-rich potato and jamón filling help lift the mood. Juicy tiger prawns follow, wrapped in a layer of judiciously salty serrano ham. Paella to share arrives correctly in the pan it's named for; a pollo version is all about the fat grains of flavour-laden golden rice, lightly studded with bone-in chicken chunks, mushrooms, chorizo, and even a couple of discs of morcilla. A clever wine list features Spanish varieties alongside Aussie counterparts, with flair by the glass. Sangria jugs might have to wait for spring. Olé Fuego, Shop R2, 322 Moggill Rd, Indooroopilly, Qld, (07) 3378 8333. FIONA DONNELLY
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