Monday, April 4, 2011

Night in the Cross at LL Wine and Dine

There are 2 reasons I was really enthusiastic to be invited try the new menu at LL Wine and Dine in Potts Point:
1. The venue is a hip, happening wine bar-cum-restaurant that was voted ‘Favourite Bar’ in the SMH Good Food Guide 2011
2. It’s located in Potts Point, a place, believe it or not, I had never been to before.

The Location: Thanks to Google’s Street View for showing the way. LL Wine and Dine is in Llankelly Place, which just off Darlinghurst Road, about half way between Kings Cross railway station and the El Alamein fountain. It’s just a short walk from the station past infamous haunts like Porky’s nite club, several ‘adult’ establishments, backpacker tour joints and McDonald’s.  Made me feel quite cosmopolitan.  Llankelly Place is a pedestrian-only laneway and there are quite a few restaurants in the short street, from a Czech Bohemian cafe at one end to the Asian dumpling spot at the other. LL Wine and Dine is in the middle.

Background: It’s well documented that LL Wine and Dine is on the site previously occupied by an adult book store. Co-owned by brothers Matt, Chris and Tim Barge, Chris told us how they found lots of interesting reading material when the restaurant was being set up. They ended up expanding into the next-door cafe, and now the restaurant is an atmospheric combination of old upstairs-downstairs rabbit hole mixed with Chinese lacquered screens and silk wallpaper and cushions. It reminds me of the movie ‘In the Mood for Love’, where the apartment dwellers (in cheongsams) pop downstairs with a thermos for takeaway food, and if you live nearby, you’d be spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Potts Point/Kings Cross is that contradictory mix of well-off inner-city types and the old hardcore, homeless inebriants, both of whom are well represented on a fine autumn evening.
Warning: Sorry the pictures are a bit dark - it adds to the atmosphere!

The Food and Drink: That’s what we’re here for, so please bring it on. Chris was our host while his brother Tim was on bartending duties for the night. Chris suggested that we try a range of dishes from the menu and we’re happy to let him decide. The dishes we had were scaled down because there were so many – the sizes are normally a lot bigger than this, judging by what we saw on other tables.
Chee Chee Mule – muddled lychee and lime with 42 Below vodka and lychee juice, topped with ginger beer and cinnamon. I loved this, sweet and tangy with heaps of lime, though I had the virgin version (no vodka) because I don’t drink. Oh wait a minute, I do drink when it’s in a cute glass.
Ginger and Lychee Martini – fresh ginger and lychee muddled and shaken with 42 Below vodka and lychee juice. This was beautifully strong and dry. I’m a bit of a two-sip screamer so I just had a taste of this. And had a photo taken to prove it.

Sashimi nachos of kingfish and ocean trout – why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Super fresh cubes of raw fish with salsa, avocado, sour cream and black caviar on crisp toast. Great starter for the tastebuds.
Lobster bisque soup dumplings – like a really fancy xiao long bau, there is hot soup inside the dumplings, together with prawn and scallop. The dipping sauce of soy and red vinegar cuts through the richness. Lovely, strong shellfish flavour from the lobster bisque.
Mount Horrocks Riesling – goes well with these entrees (so I’m told).
Confit crispy skin duck breast – for a duck lover, this is a magnificent dish. The duck is beautifully cooked with its skin lusciously anointed with 5-spice. Served on thin taro chips with egg omelette pancakes and plum orange sauce. This one’s a keeper.

Crispy pork belly – you can’t go wrong with caramelised pork belly in palm sugar, kaffir lime leaf and rice vinegar syrup. Pork belly is the dish du jour around Sydney and this is a gorgeously moist and tasty offering.
Braised beef cheek – wow. The dishes were eaten with chopsticks, and you could just gently shred the meat from this soft, soft piece of beef cheek. The smoked bacon and sweet potato mash and sugar snap peas are a nod to the fusion of east and west. This dish so reminds me of my mum's braised beef in terms of authentic flavour.
Jumbo king prawn curry – Chris says that this dish is inspired by the crab curry of Singapore, with prawns being substituted for the crab. The prawns are U6 size – officially deemed ‘colossal’, as there are 6 prawns per kilo. As a result, they are incredibly meaty and perfect with the mildly hot curry. Comes with fried dough sticks to mop up the sauce.

Cinnamon and honey panna cotta – I really need to find out how to make panna cotta that can be unmoulded without falling apart. This is a nice example! Great flavours, too, especially with the caramel ice cream and cinnamon sugar pastry sticks. Great finish to the meal.
Final drink: Valdamor Albarino – Spanish. Again a dry white. Chris did suggest a red wine to go with the beef, but I put the kybosh on my drinking dining buddy’s intake.

The new menu was devised by Chris and his chefs, including head chef Jin Kung. It follows a tour around Asia to gather ideas, and it’s come together flawlessly. And you have to hand it to the cooking team who appear to be working in a very small but perfectly formed kitchen. The floor staff are super friendly, and with the welcoming Chris at the helm and Tim at the bar (brother Matt was having a night off when I visited), it has all the ingredients for a great night out.
LL Wine and Dine is a fabulous place to drop in for an after-work drink or meal. The food prices, I think, are in the mid-upper range, but for the quality and city location, that’s about typical. They also have a Sunday yum cha, with a band, so if you need a weekend dumpling fix without the Chinatown crowds, this would be the place to be. To paraphrase Dennis the lawyer in The Castle, it’s all about the ‘vibe’, and this place has it in spades.

On the way home, I had to stop and take a tourist shot of the El Alamein fountain (erected 1961) to round out my night at the Cross.

LL Wine and Dine is at 42 Llankelly Place, Potts Point, NSW
Ph: (02) 9356 8393
LL Wine & Dine on Urbanspoon

Thanks to Esther from LL Wine and Dine for the invite to this meal.


  1. WOW!!! ... damn it! wish i had heard of this place a week back! I was looking for a place to do my "farewell/birthday" piss up and this looks like the perfect place.. unfortunately ive already choosen but will def give this a go next time!! cinnamon and honey pannacotta!! yes please!

  2. Great job with the photos! Doesn't look dark at all although I know it is. Hehe. Wow, you've never been to Potts Point? Doesn't make me feel so bad now! LOL

  3. What a great venue indeed! Oh my..Sashimi nachos looks geewd and lobster dumplings: wow.

  4. Love the sound of the lobster bisque dumplings and the sashimi nachos! And to finish off, the honey cinnamon pannacotta! Great background and how could I resist this place when my real initials are LL? lol!

  5. Wow, that duck looks magnificent, and I'm liking the look of that panna cotta!

  6. The cocktails sound sumptious. And the cinnamon and honey panna cotta caught my eye.

  7. I think that wow is just about all I can say to this! Love the inventive fusion food on the menu. And those cocktails...oh I would kill for one of those cocktails right now!

  8. Haha I love that pic of the dof! Brilliant!
    The duck pancakes look amazing! Ummm and the cocktails?? Tres fab!

  9. Everything looks fantastic...specially the panna cota looks...yummie! Have a great week Bel :-)

  10. Wow, everything looks delicious esp the desserts - YUM!

  11. How exciting! I'm supposed to go here soon too so this post really whet my appetite :)

  12. The sashimi and duck were my faves out of those :) Great night out indeed!