There’s something enticing about the city during this time of year. The winter evenings, dark and crisp yet invitingly intimate. I feel this desire to discover the cosy places, the dimly lit, hole in the wall types playing live music, serving real cocktails or authentic food prepared by those whose recipes have been passed down by generations.
I like to think that if the seasons were men, winter would be the romantic one, the Mr Big. The one who pulls your chair out and brings an umbrella just in case it rains. Just lately, I’ve had my chair pulled out for me and an umbrella ready to save my straightened hair from the rain and along with these romantic gestures, I’ve discovered the cities best cocktails and dining experiences. For those who need a bit of inspiration, here are some winter nights I guarantee you will remember.
Dans Le Noir (In the dark) at The Ridges. Exactly what it says. You dine in complete darkness and what an experience! We were led through the black curtains by Parveen, a blind Fijian Indian man who, to my complete astonishment, plays blind cricket, lawn bowls and even surfs! Seated at a table with three others, we were equally impressed with Parveen’s stories as we were with the food. We were served a three course meal paired with wine. I was adamant it was a Pinot Noir. It turned out to be an oaky Chardonnay! I was amazed at the sensory confusion, experienced without sight.
After eating, Parveen led us back out into the foyer where we were shown images of the courses, so beautifully plated (slightly embarrassing as I had just smashed my cutlery all over the plate looking for the last piece of lamb). This is a true social, cultural and gastronomic experience I would highly recommend. Note, don’t wear white pants …
Taking over the old Iguacu in Parnell, Gerome has created a dreamy winter space. Draped with thick navy velvet, gushing over the intimate dimply lit booths, I wasn’t expecting the food to be as gorgeous as the décor, but it was. When a side of cauliflower was included in the order, I was expecting some lightly steamed cauli seasoned with spices. What came out was roasted cauliflower, capers, pomegranate drizzled with a sour cream vinaigrette, and it was everything. Inspired by the flavours of the greek islands, the menu is designed to be shared (meaning more dishes to try and no food envy). Surprisingly well priced at just over $130 for two, which included a couple of Negroni’s and food still left on our plates as we admittedly over ordered!
The bar at Gusto at Sky City Grand is lined with fresh out of the oven margarita pizza, bruschetta, perfectly seasoned calamari and the most exquisitely prepared tapas during their Aperitivo Hour. As part of Sky City Grand hotel the people-watching is fascinating, with fashion and culture making appearances from all over the world – always a great conversation starter! Their tapas are served with any drink purchased between 5pm – 7pm. Try the Sweet James, a whiskey based cocktail with elderflower liquor, lime, cucumber and maple syrup! This is perfect for an after work date; something a little more casual than committing to a full three hours.
Just down the road from Gusto is a little Indian restaurant called Chawlas. Cuisine served up little restaurants like this are often on par with some of the cities most accredited chefs. I like to support these little eateries where it’s clear to see the whole family is behind it. The cosy little booths are covered in bright colours and textures, the curries are authentically decadent and the service is real. Chawlas has been serving up curries since 1960, so you know after 57 years in the business they make a good one!
Happy Winter Dating!