Category Archives: LFW Food&Wine

Bella Agostinis!

It’s relaxed, playful and a celebration of Dan and Dion Bisa’s ‘Italian life’. I’m talking about Agostinis, the latest addition to the food and wine scene at the award-winning East Hotel.

Kitchen from Hotel lobby Agostinis

This is the realisation of a dream for the Bisa siblings, who created Agostinis around their international dining experiences, their love of Italian food and all it represents, and their adorable and inspirational mum, Marisa—the matriarch of the family.

Chef Franceso (Frankie) Balestrieri, who always seems to be grinning from ear to ear, has created a menu that is simple, honest and not expensive given that virtually everything is made in-house—pasta, sauces, marinades, ice cream and even fairy floss.

The antipasti line-up is absolutely delish and will get your taste buds yelling ‘bellisimo’.

Italian Books on Tables Agostinis

Learn some Italian with Chef Francesco

The calamari is soaked in buttermilk before being lightly fried and it truly melts in the mouth. So too does the cured beef, which is sliced ever so thinly (it’s almost transparent) and served with textural elements such as crispy parmigiano and roasted hazelnuts. It’s a divine combination.

One of my absolute faves from the ‘primi piatti’ section, is the intriguing square-cut spaghetti (all pastas are served beautifully al dente). Frankie says this is a ‘true Sicilian delicacy with the taste of the Mediterranean Sea’, and he’s not exaggerating. The dish is created with love, by combining salty cured fish roe, garlic (what’s an Italian dish without garlic?), chilli, lemon and fresh parsley. Simply superb.

Another fave is the oh-so-classic, peasant-style spaghetti. It’s created with three elements—tomatoes that pack-a-punch with flavour, garlic and aromatic basil. That’s all it takes for an Italian masterpiece.

And, I highly recommend sharing the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, the most succulent t-bone I’ve had in yonks. Again, simple is best, says Frankie. The beef is prepared solely with salt and rosemary, grilled to medium rare and left to do what a fabulous cut of meat should always do, and that’s rest. The roast potatoes are to die-for and I wonder over and over why I can’t cook potatoes like that.

Tonnarelli Ala Bottarga Agostinis

Pasta Tonnarelli Ala Bottarga

Pizza fans will quickly fall in love with Agostinis. The state-of-the-art, rotating Marana Fornit pizza oven is a marvellous beast that can cook 15 pizzas at a time, in a record 4 minutes. All pizzas are created with a thin crust, made in a special way by Frankie and his team so the dough doesn’t weigh heavily on the tummy. At the top of the list is the famous Margherita, always a winner in my books.

Desserts include a mini chocolate ricotta cannoli with delightful fairy floss, made on a special machine daily. It’s fun to watch the floss being made. Speaking of watching, you can sit at the bar and dine if you’d like. It’s mesmerising seeing the Agostinis’ kitchen team in full swing.

MelanzanePizza Agostinis

Pizza Melanzane – tomatoes, mozzarella, eggplant, and basil

Agostinis has put as much love and attention into its wine list as it has its food. Several 100 per cent Italian-made wines are on tap and Bryan Martin (Ravensworth Wines, Murrumbateman) has been called in to work with the team, including on Beppo’s Blend. Agostinis uses the TAP. System, so wine quality is never compromised.

Al Fresco Terrace Agostinis

Dine al fresco at Agostinis

The décor at Agostinis deserves a whopper of a story in its own right. The attention to detail is unbelievable. Designed by Kelly Ross, who also designed Joe’s Bar at East Hotel, the décor is a perfect pairing of past and present. Ultra-modern neon pink signs mix comfortably with elements that harken back to Marisa’s Italian origins. The colour scheme is intriguing. The tiles are beautiful. The striking feature wall, by graphic designer James Manning, which forms the centrepiece of the restaurant, is loaded with memory and worth studying. Everything has meaning, including the 800 metres of distressed rope, cut to lengths and hung on dowel rods to represent home-made pasta hung to dry in the sun.

Agostinis. East Hotel. Open 7 days. 69 Canberra Avenue. 6178 0048.


Christmas Pampered Pavs!

Why is a pav always round? We don’t have the answer, but we do know it won’t ban you from family get-togethers if it’s not. So for Christmas … be bold and adventurous and take this quintessential Aussie dessert and turn it into a Christmas centrepiece!

Christmas wreath pavlova with berries and holly

Christmas wreath pavlova with berries and mint leaves

It’s amazing what you can do with a pav. Forget round, and make a wreath, a Christmas tree, gingerbread man, or yule log. Check our basic pav recipe below, and just add a Christmas theme, a bit of colour and bingo!—the Christmas Pampered Pav!

Christmas tree pavlova

Christmas tree pavlova

What you need: 6 egg whites, 1.1/2 cups caster sugar, ½ cup white sugar, 2 tablespoons cornflour, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus cream and berries, or whatever else you want, for decoration.

Yule log pavlova

Yule log pavlova

What you do: Step one (and before doing anything else) is to place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray, and draw the outline of the shape of the pav onto the paper, and pre-heat fan-forced oven to 180 degrees celcius*. Then … beat the egg whites until stiff shiny peaks form, and add the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, to the egg whites and mix until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Mix the white sugar and cornflour together and gently fold the mixture and the lemon juice into the egg white mix. Spoon the mixture into the drawn shape on the baking paper, turn the oven down to 150 degrees, and bake for approximately 1 hour until dry to the touch. Allow to cool in the oven with the oven door slightly open. The meringue should be dry and crisp on the outside and slight soft and gooey on the inside. When cool, decorate with your choice of fruit, and cream or custard.

Christmas wreath with red berries and holly

Christmas wreath with red berries, cherries, pomegranate, and holly

*Different recipes suggest different temperatures and timing, but we have used Nigella Lawson’s (aka The Goddess of Baking) temperature and timing.

Individual mini pavlova with berries and custard

Individual mini pavlova with berries and custard

‘Tis the Season to be cheery!

It’s summer and it’s holidays; time to kick back, put your feet up and relax. So cocktails or mocktails—what’s your favourite? Here at LFW we’re sort of into healthy eating (and drinking) so in the interest of keeping healthy we cut out the creamy cocktails and added fruit and fruit juice—well, it’s fruit right … so it must be good!

Classic Cocktails

Tropical Mai-tai and Magarita

Tropical Mai-tai and Magarita

Here’s our pick for some classic cocktails  to celebrate the season or welcome 2017! So get your shaker and little parasols ready and read on! Cheers!



Bellini Cocktail—although this was invented in Venice, Italy in the 1930s, it’s a great Aussie cocktail using fresh Australian summer peaches. Get a couple of nice soft’ish peaches and peel and chop. Place in a blender and whiz until pureed. Pour into a champagne flute and top with chilled Prosecco.

Classic Champagne Cocktail (serves 6)—place a sugar cube in each champagne glass and drizzle with four drops of Angostura Bitters. Cover the sugar cube with brandy, and top with chilled champagne or sparkling wine.

Daiquiri—this is super easy and you can whiz up in a blender. Start with 50ml of white rum (Ron Bacardi is a good choice), then add 10ml of freshly squeezed lime juice, 5 ripe strawberries, and sugar syrup to taste. Whiz it up with 4 ice cubes and pour into a Margarita glass. You can find sugar syrup at any good wine shop.


Mai Tai

Mai Tai

Mai Tai—this is one of our all-time fave cocktails!  What you need: 30ml white rum, 30ml dark rum, 30ml orange juice, 30ml pineapple juice,15ml Triple Sec. What you do: pop a few ice cubes into a cocktail shaker, and add all ingredients. Shake well and pour into a tall glass.

Margarita (serves 4)—in a large jug combine ¾ cup tequila, ½ cup fresh lime juice (between 4 and 6 limes), ½ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau, ½ cup water. Dip the rims of four Margarita glasses in lime juice then into salt to coat the rims. Add a couple of ice cubes to the glasses and pour over the Margarita. Garnish with lime slices.



Mojito—another of our all-times faves, this is nice and light and summery, and super easy to make. What you need: 1 fresh lime cut into pieces, 10ml sugar syrup, 2 tablesp fresh mint leaves, 50ml white rum, soda water, and 1 sprig of mint. What you do: place the lime, sugar, and mint into a cocktail shaker and muddle (mash) with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add the rum and stir well, then pour into a tall glass and add soda water until the glass is full. Garnish with the sprig of mint.

Classic Mojito

Classic Mojito

Magic Mocktails

Mocktails are non-alcoholic cocktails and are great if you’re the designated driver and don’t want to look like a wimp sipping on a mineral water.

m-blueberry_smashBlueberry Smash—a handful of blueberries, 10ml sugar syrup, 25ml fresh lemon juice, 100ml sparkling mineral water. Gently muddle the blueberries and syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add lemon juice and ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain into a tall glass, top with sparkling mineral water and stir to combine.

Lemon Island Iced Tea—make the tea beforehand and chill in the fridge. When cold place in a cocktail shaker with 50ml lychee juice, 10ml sugar syrup, 10ml fresh lemon juice. Pour over crushed ice into a tall glass and decorate with a stick of lemon grass.

Mockito Cooler

Mockito Cooler

Mockito Cooler—looks just like a Mojito! Combine together 4 cups of coconut water, 2 cucumbers (thinly sliced), ½ cup lime juice, ¼ cup sugar (optional if you like your drinks sweet), and ¼ cup chopped mint leaves. Chill for up to 2 hours before serving.

Pineapple Cobbler—this is a really neat non-alcoholic drink and looks great if you dress it up with a little umbrella or some small pieces of fruit on a toothpick and placed across the glass. Shake together 10ml of lime juice and 75ml of pineapple juice, and pour over ice into a tall glass. Add soda water to about ¾ of the way up the glass, and gently pour the strawberry juice on the top so it floats.


Summertime Stir Fry on the Barbie!

You know it’s summer when every man and his dog is in the back yard, BBQ tongs in hand, and the only time your man will wear an apron. Personally, I’ve never been a great fan of BBQs until I discovered that anything you can cook on a grill or in frypan, you can also cook on a BBQ! You can cook directly on the BBQ plate, or use a fry pan over the flame. So leave the wok in the cupboard, fire up the barbie, and enjoy an Aussie-Asian fusion summer stir fry.


Our recipe is for Thai Beef Salad Stir Fry and firstly you need a good cut of meat such as sirloin or porterhouse. You can substitute beef with chicken, or shell fish—just adjust the cooking time accordingly, and ring the changes with a variety of veggies. So let’s get going!

Basic Thai Beef Salad Stir Fry (serves 4)

Stir Fry Thai Basil and Chilli Beef Salad

Thai beef stir fry salad with chilli and basil

What you need: enough good quality steak for four people, 1 medium size onion (thinly sliced) 6 mushrooms (sliced), 1 packet ready-mix stir fry*, ¼ iceberg lettuce (chopped), 1 small packet crispy noodles, 1 Bok Choy (chopped), ½ red capsicum (thinly sliced). You can also add any other Asian veg or thinly sliced carrots, broccoli, baby corn, snow peas, cashew nuts, etc.

Marinade: 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 small and finely chopped hot chilli (optional, but preferable).


What you do:

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a jar and shake well. Slice the meat thinly, place in a bowl and toss in the marinade. Leave in the fridge overnight.

Fire up the BBQ and drizzle a teeny amount of extra-virgin olive oil on the plate. When hot, add the steak and sliced onion and toss for a couple of minutes. Then add the stir fry veggie mix and whatever else veggies your including, and toss together until the steak is cooked. Add the crispy noodles and toss in.

Place the chopped lettuce in four serving bowls. Place the beef stir fry on top of the lettuce and lightly toss. Serve immediately with rice or soy noodles on the side.

Chicken with stir fry veggies

Chicken with stir fry veggies

*You can buy ready mixed stir fry veggies from any major supermarket chain and they save endless slicing and chopping. You can get finely chopped or chunky varieties—buy as much as you need and use as soon as possible.

Twenty-Five Years with Poachers!

Poachers Pantry, and its winery, the Wily Trout, has been an icon in the Canberra region for over 25 years, and on Friday 2 September it celebrated its silver anniversary by launching a new Poachers Pantry and Smokehouse Restaurant and Wily Trout Cellar Door with a delicious degustation and wine tasting. By Aine Dowling.

Owned by Rob and Susan Bruce, Poachers Pantry is renowned for its mouth-watering home smoked meats and veggies. “We’ve been creating delicious stories in the Canberra region for 25 years now,” says Susan, “and we’re thrilled to officially launch the restored, renovated, reinvigorated and re-energised Poachers Pantry Smokehouse Restaurant and Wily Trout Cellar Door.PP Logo

“For our family, it’s always been about welcoming visitors into our lives. Inviting them to experience the way we live, as the restaurant is part of our home. We love sharing our food, wine and our table, and we can’t wait to share the new Poachers.”

Poachers Pantry Smokehouse opened in 1991, the vineyard in 1998, and the café in 2002. The new restaurant now seats 100 people inside in a brand new layout, and the outdoor deck and terrace accommodates a further 100 and offers a beautiful rural outlook over the 1890s woolshed, kitchen garden, and the rolling country hills. And the next generation, daughter Katie and son Will, are now entrenched in the smokehouse, weddings and conferences, and the vineyard.Wily Trout Wines

As part of the makeover, the Wily Trout Cellar Door has undergone extensive renovations and Will has taken over as vigneron of the 100 per cent estate grown brand including natural fermentation, and limited release cool climate wines using a ceramic egg rather than traditional oak barrels. The winery produces delicate whites including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and the reds include a soft Shiraz and delicate Pinot Noir.

Poachers Pantry 1But Poachers Pantry is more than a restaurant and winery. Poachers Pantry products are made using traditional curing and smoking methods, and the meat, poultry and herbs are all sourced from Australian suppliers. The smokehouse operates seven days a week and produces a wide range of smoked meats and poultry, plus, a range of ‘slow foods’ together with simple recipes means you can make your own delicious menus as home including antipasto platters, salads and canapes, and yummy hot dishes. The smoked meats are also available at selected quality grocers and delis in Canberra—and I can personally vouch for the bacon! The smokehouse also produces hams and turkeys for special occasions. The smokehouse range is also available for tasting at the cellar door.

Launch of the new Poachers Pantry Smokehouse and Wily Trout Cellar Door

Launch of the new Poachers Pantry Smokehouse and Wily Trout Cellar Door

The Poachers Pantry is located on Nanima Road, Springrange (Hall), NSW, and is available for weddings, conferences, and functions. For more information, or to make a booking, visit their website or check out their Facebook page.

Australian Winemaker Creates World-first in Wine Making

By Aine Dowling.

Winemaker Liz Barnes, of Star Lane Winery in Beechworth, Victoria, has created the world’s first wine matured in red gum hardwood barrels. Elements Shiraz is a ground-breaking wine matured in salvaged native Australian red gum, which creates a wine that tastes fuller and more mature than its actual vintage due the superior breathability of the red gum to that of traditional French oak.

Winemaker and vigneron Liz and Brett Barnes

Winemaker and vigneron Liz and Brett Barnes

Star Lane Winery is renowned for its outstanding boutique red wines and is the achievement of Liz and Brett Barnes (winemaker and vigneron respectively), who together have combined their experience and expertise to see the winery achieve the very highest levels and reputation for elegance, finesse, and distinction, being lauded five-star rating in the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2015.

The decision to use red gum barrels was not exactly spur-of-the-moment, but has been in the planning for the last 10 years with Liz’s family involved in the red gum timber industry for four generations, and now set to continue the tradition through her winemaking.

Red gum barrels

Red gum barrels

“We always knew we wanted to try the red gum barrel but we also knew we needed to building a name for ourselves first that people could trust and respect,” says Liz. “Having earned that respect over the last decade we’re now ready to push the boundaries and show that it’s OK to try something that’s different from everyone else is doing.”

Elements 2012 Shiraz, also matured in red gum barrels, was released in 2015 to great acclaim within the industry, with the limited 300 bottle run almost sold out, and the winery is now set to release its Elements 2013 Shiraz vintage which has attracted an even higher demand both within Australia and internationally.

Contrary to its reputation as a hardwood, red gum actually has a higher porosity and breathability that traditional French oak, which allows more oxygen to be drawn and in turn enhances the intensity of the wine. This also means a shorter cellaring time to deliver optimum drinkability. Aptly dubbed ‘The Taste of Australia’ the red gum aged wine captures the true essence of the Australian timber to produce a unique premium boutique wine.

Elements 2012 Shiraz - six pack box

Elements Shiraz – six pack box

That said, this wine is not for quaffing and does not come cheap. In keeping with the exceptional high quality and standards of the winery; the red gum matured Elements Shiraz will set you back $400 per bottle. Each bottle comes in its own Elements Shiraz box—made from the same salvaged red gum as the barrels—and nestles gently in pure Merino wool packing. Tasting notes include ‘slightly wild’ and ‘contemporary with a unique Australian personality’. What more could you want in a wine?

Star Lane Winery was opened in 2005 and has established itself as a leader in the Australian wine industry, earning multiple five-star reviews and praise from winemakers and critics across Australia. Wines are available online or at the cellar door.

Star Lane Winery, Beechworth Victoria

Star Lane Winery, Beechworth Victoria

Sexy French and Drunken Fruit

at Les Bistronomes by Wendy Johnson

Photo by Sean Davey.

Photo by Sean Davey.

Don’t classic French dishes, like bouillabaisse and duck à l’orange, just make you want to worship to the food gods? They make me want to worship. These sophisticated dishes, that require megadoses of talent to create and plate, are being celebrated on the newly released seasonal menu at Les Bistronomes in Braddon.

Owners Abel Bariller and Clement Chauvin, with their sexy French accents, live and breathe wonderful wines and dishes that you may think have gone out of style but which, if truth be told, never, ever will—especially when served with such finesse.

Image LFW

Image LFW

Les Bistronomes can best be described as rustic French chic. It’s a casual, comfortable dining environment, with padded chairs that allow you to sit back and relax, and tables large enough to hold beautifully plated food and several wine glasses (at least that’s how many accumulate each time we visit).

Clement says they have added new dishes to the autumn menu but wouldn’t dare remove some that customers order time and time again. And currently that includes the chestnut and caramelised onion soup—silky smooth, earthy in texture and perfect for this time of year. And the ash encrusted duck à l’orange, a whole duck with red cabbage, orange and pine nuts (served for two).

Another dish Clement wouldn’t have the courage to remove is La Bouillabaisse, with its wonderfully complex flavours. This fish soup, traditionally associated with the Provence region, has been made for centuries. This one is created with love with Rouille sauce, which, as it name implies, is rust in colour, adding to the richness and depth of the soup. And let’s not forget the salmon, scallop, mussel and clams.

Photo by Sean Davey.

Photo by Sean Davey.

The menu at Les Bistronomes has a section of mains to share for two people, and pre-ordering is recommended. New on the menu is roasted piglet and Alsace sauerkraut served with potato, caramelised apple and truffle ($72 for two). This special section of the menu also features Cape Grim rib eye served with bone marrow, chips and béarnaise sauce ($96 for two). Each one takes 25 or 30 minutes to make, so rest easy and enjoy the wine and the ambience.

And now it’s time for the grand finale desserts, which Les Bistronomes is so famous for. There’s that classic vanilla bean crème caramel which you simply can’t beat (this one served with a drunken fig), a famous pear and almond Tarte Bourdaloue with vanilla yoghurt sorbet, a raspberry soufflé and a chocolate mosaic. If you please, the French cheese platter is a winner and Abel will help you select the best wines to match.

Photo by Sean Davey.

Photo by Sean Davey.

Abel is a professional French master sommelier and a ‘Knight of Cognac’. He has a nose for the best varieties and labels and is happy to chat away about what makes each wine on the menu a top pick.

Clement’s background in the kitchen started early. He was a young 18 years of age when he landed a position working in two-Michelin star restaurant Pic (Valence) and also received some heavy duty training in executing perfect flavours and perfect plating at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridges in London.

For a special occasion give yourself time to peruse and taste, or book a five-course chef’s degustation on Saturdays at lunch for an amazing $50 per person (this is worth every bite). Or just enjoy whatever you’d like for lunch or dinner off the a la carte menu or specials board.

Bon appétit.

Image LFW

Image LFW

Les Bistronomes is at the corner of Mort and Elouera Streets in Braddon. Open lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday. 6248 8119.

Images by Sean Davey – unless otherwide indicated