Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Cliff Dive, Thomas Olive, Mero Kitchen & Bar, Bread and Bone Wood Grill.
The Cliff Dive
Though it enjoyed success as a nightclub, the recent lockout laws put a crimp in the late-night follies at The Cliff Dive, so it's been retooled with more of a cocktail and snack focus. The same great tunes and kooky New Guinea-tiki vibe remain, but now there's a badass new drinks list from talented bartender Michael Chiem (late of Bulletin Place, and before that the cocktail master across Sokyo and Black), and a short, smart, well-priced menu of grilled things on sticks from newcomer Tin-Jung "Honky" Shea. You may not be able to rock up at three in the AM anymore, but the food still goes till 1.30, so drop in at your leisure and down a Jungle Bird (spiced rum, Campari, pine and lime) or pop a dirty tin and gnaw the genuinely impressive likes of pork with turmeric and lemongrass, say, or beef with wild ginger, served with fluffy coconut and pandan rice and spicy pickles. Better still, the Hungry Honky buys you one of each of the five sticks (the pork, beef, chicken, octopus and surprisingly delicious tofu) plus the rice and pickles for just $16. Jump in. The Cliff Dive, 16-18 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst, NSW. PAT NOURSE
Thomas Olive, the upstairs bar at Smith Street's Saint Crispin, has always had a yen for the French. The booze list includes separate anisette and apéritif sections and the décor, all dark polished wood, small round tables and dark-stained bentwood bistro chairs, doesn't try to hide its Francophile sympathies. Now the bar's menu, formerly a pretty snacky affair, has shifted focus to European-style pub food, courtesy of chef and co-owner Joe Grbac. Winter-friendly food includes chicken with wild mushroom sauce, beef cheeks with pommes purée, and salmon pie with celery hearts and a green salad. Grbac is one of Melbourne's great chefs and while he's shown time and again that he can do fancy and inventive (both at Saint Crispin and at his former gig at The Press Club), he's proving himself a dab hand with the classics, too. Given the hearty comfort-food style, plus the inclusion of oysters and charcuterie to kick things off, Thomas Olive might well shed its holding-pen persona and become a destination in itself. Thomas Olive, upstairs, 300 Smith St, Collingwood, Vic, (03) 9419 2202. MICHAEL HARDEN
The Mero Kitchen & Bar
Suburban shopping just got tastier. The latest runner from the Moubarak hospitality stable (owners of Brisbane's Gerard's Bistro, Gerard's Bar, Laruche, Hatch & Co, et al) is the family's tilt at a modern tratt. It's part of a quartet of new dining options on the perimeter of the revamped Indooroopilly Shopping Centre. Dishes hitting The Mero's retro-rustic formica-topped tables range from thin, crisp-based pizze (topped with, say, hot sopressa, provolone and mushroom) to hearty boards laden with slabs of porchetta and lamb shoulder. Seafood linguine is nicely al dente, lightly sprinkled with Queensland-made bottarga, twirled around a decent haul of spanner crab, clams, squid and more. The venue name is a nod to merum, the Latin term for undiluted wine and an appropriately punchy drinks list, dotted with a wide-ranging selection by-the-glass, looks likely to enhance late-night shopping forays. The Mero Kitchen & Bar, 322 Moggill Rd, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Indooroopilly, Qld, (07) 3378 5958. FIONA DONNELLY
Bread & Bone Wood Grill
The hottest new attraction in Adelaide's small bar scene is, literally, a hole-in-the-wall. Restaurateur Simon Kardachi (Press Food + Wine, Proof, Melt, The Pot) has provided the missing link in the burgeoning Leigh and Peel streets small-bar scene by knocking though a tunnel connecting the two streets. It also boasts a giant wooden door that leads upstairs to a diner-inspired eatery. Bread & Bone Wood Grill focuses on eight serious burgers, hot dogs and simple grilled meats, but thankfully avoids Americana kitsch. It's a neatly refined space with a long wooden bar, open kitchen, marble tabletops and blond wood with stainless-steel stools. Among the various sausages, try the Big Black Dog - morcilla with apple and egg rémoulade in a toasted brioche roll, crowned by slender, crisp onion rings. Afterwards, head downstairs to the opulent wood-panelled basement bar called Maybe Mae. Bread & Bone Wood Grill, 15 Peel St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8221 6966. DAVID SLY
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