Stuffed vegetables at The Animal

Terry Durack
Bunuelos de bacalao at MoVida.
Bunuelos de bacalao at MoVida. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts @ The Animal, Newtown Hotel
Okay, it may be called The Animal, and there may be whole animals turning slowly on a spit over glowing coals, but this dynamic new entry in the race to reboot inner urban pubs for a new generation can do sweet little vegies, too. Inspired by his Greek heritage, exec chef George Diamond sends out whole roasted baby vegetables stuffed with a soft sludge of rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts ($17). Add skewers of lamb and oregano or chicken and yoghurt, a lively young-pub atmosphere, heaving crowds, a games room and a beer garden, and the 130-year-old Newtown Hotel has a new lease of life.
The Animal 174 King Street, Newtown. Phone: 9557 6399.

Buñuelos de bacalao @ MoVida
It's hard to think of a better start to a meal at MoVida than these soft, seductive salt cod and potato fritters ($14.50), lined up like golden ping-pong balls, with daubs of Basque pil pil sauce - an emulsion of fish juices and olive oil that tastes better than it sounds. Catalan-born Frank Camorra, of Melbourne's mighty MoVida empire (bars, restaurants, taqueria, Spanish imports, cookbooks), has landed in the heartland of contemporary Sydney dining in Surry Hills. His mod-meets-trad take on Catalan and Spanish cooking runs from baby squid with black rice to chargrilled, grass-fed rib eye. Hey Frank, can we have one of those taco joints of yours, too?
MoVida 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills. Phone: 8964 7642.

Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint @ O Bar and Dining
What goes around comes around. Michael Moore, who started cooking at The Summit revolving restaurant in 2005, has given the place a new name, a new look and a healthy new food philosophy. The chef, who has type 2 diabetes, suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2009 and has since revised his menu to include more grains, nuts, seeds and greens, and less fat, salt and sugar. A case in point is his Burrawong organic chicken ($34), with its crisp, crunchy crust of buckwheat kernels, ground almonds, pepitas and sesame seeds. This could give healthy eating a good name.
O Bar and Dining Level 47, Australia Square, 264 George Street, Sydney. Phone: 9247 9777. MoVida 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills. Phone: 8964 7642.

Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts at The Animal, Newtown Hotel.
Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts at The Animal, Newtown Hotel. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Dark chocolate affogato with chocolate pearls @ Gowings Bar & Grill
Chocolate is the new caffeine at Gowings Bar & Grill, where diners are buzzing after consuming huge Finnish pressed-glass goblets of dark chocolate affogato ($16) that involve not only dark chocolate ice-cream studded with crunchy chocolate pearls, but ristretto and marinated organic prunes as well. And - you knew something was missing - chocolate mocha log grated over the top. Since opening on the site of the old Gowings store, the whole of the new QT Sydney hotel is buzzing, from the red-wigged door staff to the befrocked floor staff to head chef Paul Easson's kitchen brigade, swarming over the seafood gallery, wood-fired oven and charcoal grill.
Gowings Bar & Grill 49 Market Street, Sydney. Phone: 8262 0062.


Hungry for more?

Cheap treat
Share the noodle love at global Japanese ramen specialist, Ippudo, with a bowl of its signature akamaru shinaji - tonkatsu broth, garlic oil, noodles, pork belly and black mushrooms ($16). Level 5, Westfield Sydney. Phone: 9573 0011.

Best bite
Summer is easy and breezy at the Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque in Kings Cross, with "Shrimps on the barbie" ($30) and a beer shandy or cider slushie in hand. 33-37 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point. Phone: 9368 7333.

Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint at O Bar and Dining.
Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint at O Bar and Dining. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Cafe stop
Time for a rug rethink? Drop in to Cleveland's Salon & Cafe for a haircut, a fine Little Marionette coffee ($3.50) and baked beans on toast ($10). 311 Cleveland Street, Redfern. Phone: 9698 8449.

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