Silo Bakery, Canberra

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Crazy delicious looking tarts

I think Silo Bakery is one of the café/bakery/eating spots to hit up while you’re in Canberra. It’s established quite a reputation for being a baked goods heaven of sorts (breads, tarts, exotic breakfasts and lunches….) and I kinda wish we had a place this fabulous in Sydney. One morning Big Bear and I decided to visit for breakfast. We arrived around 8am on a Saturday morning and it was pretty busy and were lucky to snag a table! (Unfortunately reservations aren’t taken for breakfast so you just gotta show up early okay). The staff are super nice and usher things along quite quickly (I’m guessing cause the place is so packed and they don’t want you loitering). But it’s more nice than overbearing/annoying – I don’t mind being asked a few times if I have received the menu or made my order – makes me feel attended to.

If you browse through their menu online you’ll see some wonderful breakfast selections to choose from:

  • Vegan breakfast (very impressed to see this!) with nut flatbread, tomato, rocket, avocado and cashew hummus
  • Eggs Florentine – poached eggs on grilled crostini with spinach, parmesan and olive oil

And a few items I have never heard of on a breakfast menu (some Googling is in order):

  • Welsh rarebit, egg, bacon and spinach
  • Piperade with chorizo
  • Fried milk with strawberries and candied orange

The prices are reasonable as well. Not uber bargain cheap buy the quality is definitely there.

I had the bircher muesli with pear juice, almond milk and blueberries, as well as an orange juice. Big Bear had the ham and cheese croissant (from that exotic looking menu you choose the ham and cheese croissant??) and a latte.

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Bircher muesli with pear juice, almond milk and blueberries ($9.00)

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The bircher is simply fabulous. Such a beautiful medley of ingredients when mixed and wasn’t too dry or too wet. I could have only wished for the portion size to be a tad larger. The orange juice was sublime – very sweet and refreshing.

Big Bear enjoyed his house made croissant as well, and the latte is knock out. I was tossing up whether to get one on my way out and sadly didn’t – regret! Anyway, I will definitely say that this was a lovely latte, and quite often it’s so hard to get a nice one. According to their website, all bread, pastries and jams are made on site which is such a treat and you can see the bakers hard at work making all of the breads, pastries and tarts.

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Ham and cheese croissant ($8.00)

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On your way out you can pick up some bread – walnut sourdough, walnut and cranberry, baguettes – or a delicious tart or pastry – vanilla brulee, pear and caramel, chocolate and chestnut, passionfruit and mascarpone…and many more flavours.

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Delicious baked goods a-baking

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Looking pretty darn happy with my orange and pistachio snail!

Divine pastries, breads and coffee. Canberra’s tucked away treasure of baked goodies.

Silo Bakery, Canberra

36 Giles Street, Kingston ACT 2604

(02) 6260 6060

silobakery@gmail.com

Tuesday – Saturday: 7am to 4pm

Bookings advisable. Bookings not taken for breakfast.

Website

The Rook, Sydney

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The Rook, located in the Sydney CBD specialises in lobster, burgers and liquor – one simply cannot argue with that! My good friend Edrea and a group of colleagues thought we’d give this one a try next on our mega list of places to visit and eat at around town. Although located on York Street you would never actually know it existed. It’s on the rooftop of a big building which is pretty much not visible from the street level. Once you get over that fact and make it up the lift and indoors, it’s a pretty hip venue. We arrived there early dinner wise (around 5.30pm) but the place did fill up quite fast after that. So anything after 6.00pm I would recommend a reservation for.

Our waitress came round after we were seated and handed out the dinner menu and drinks menu. A cool selection of – you guessed is – lobster, burgers and liquor. There are starters (lettuce cups with different fillings, arancini and croquettes), chicken, wagyu and a lone haloumi burger, standalone lobster and other lobster indulgences, and desserts (deep fried mars bar, cheesecake). Cocktails start from $18 and there are many-a other alcohol options to choose from. We all mostly decided on burgers (all served with truffle fries) and a scattering of cocktails for the night.

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Wagyu burger with cheddar and beetroot ($20)

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The meals came out fairly prompt. Edrea’s wagyu burger with cheddar and beetroot ($20) was juicy with generous fillings and the wagyu was cooked pink in the middle. She said the beetroot appeared to be house pickled and didn’t have that sort of canned sharpness as you’d traditionally expect. The bun was also nice and soft but not so soft that it disintegrated. The truffle fries could’ve been marginally crunchier but were nice overall and had a strong (and somewhat lingering) truffle flavour. Her Pineapple Express cocktail ($20) consisting of Tanqueray gin, pineapple juice, soda, Yellow Charteuse and peppercorn syrup was not too sweet, had a nice peppercorn flavour, and used fresh pineapple. The rosemary sprig added a strong, but nice flavour, but she overall would’ve preferred the pineapple to be more prominent. All that said though, Edrea wasn’t sure if she would spend $20 on it again.

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Orange County ($19) and Pineapple Express ($20)

The other cocktail ordered for the night was Shareeza’s Orange County ($19). This one had in it Bulleit Bourbon, passionfruit, and orange and elderflower liquer. Sweet, passionfruity, and bourbony. She said it was a bit small for $19 and was left wanting more!

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Lobster roll ($25)

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As a bit of a change from the burgers that we all had, Dakota had the lobster roll ($25). It looked quite large on arrival and appeared to be full of delicious, juicy lobster. A little disappointingly, however, the lobster roll actually contained a few more ingredients – potato and bacon in the mix as well, so it was mostly potato at the end, which was a little bit of a let down for her.

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Haloumi burger with peppers and spinach ($20)

My burger (the vegetarian option on the menu although not labelled as such) had a nice combination of haloumi, peppers and baby spinach ($20). Initially I wasn’t sure what ‘peppers’ meant – soft and sweety capsicum? or death by chilli jalapeno peppers? or worse? Needless to say I forgot to ask before I ordered! The flavours of the burger worked well together. The peppers were actually marinated red capsicum which provided a lovely sweetness. The haloumi I found could have been a little bit more salty, and unusually had a spongey/springy kind of vibe like eating a chicken burger (thinking Oporto here). The scattering of baby spinach added some nice greenery. The actual bun worked quite well – soft, not crusty. The chunky fries were lovely, generous and large although I thought they could’ve been a touch crispier. The mayo sauce was fabulous – thick and flavoursome. Overall, a really great burger experience, but I was expecting something a tad bigger/taller for $20, particularly since Jamie Oliver’s burger is $19.50 and it is, well, a Jamie burger. Or maybe like this ginormous burger that Big Bear and I tried at the Hazelhurst Gallery and Café.

Deep fried mars bar with vanilla bean ice cream ($14)

Deep fried mars bar with vanilla bean ice cream ($14)

Gabriel and Dakota ordered the deep fried mars bar with vanilla bean ice cream to share ($14). The crispy batter encasing the mars bar contrasted well with the gooesy mars bar inside. The extras on the plate – vanilla ice cream, meringue, nuts, soaked cherries, caramel and chocolate bits – helped to break up the richness of the mars bar, but also enhanced the flavour when it was eaten with the mars bar. It’s also recommended to share this dessert as most people probably couldn’t eat all of it unless it was the only thing you were eating!

I would visit this place again if I needed a good burger or if someone else wanted to pay for my cocktails and let me enjoy them free of charge.

Palatable level of hipsterdom for the after-work crowd with lobster, burgers and liquor a-plenty

The Rook

Address: Level 7, 56-58 York Street, Sydney 2000

Phone: 02 9262 2505

Lunch: Wednesday – Friday

Dinner: Weeknights from 4.00pm, Saturday from 6.00pm

Website

Facebook

Melbourne Sweet Treats

I went down to Melbourne recently and, as you do, ate my way across town. I thought I’d collate some photos of the many ‘sweet treats’ I enjoyed along the way and what I subsequently had to spend a solid two weeks at the gym burning off. It samples one of my all-time favourites as well as some new places I researched before the trip down. American Doughnut Kitchen First up, American Doughnut Kitchen. I can’t even recall how I stumbled upon this gem but it goes way back to one of our family holidays around a decade ago. Anyway, whenever I have journeyed to Melbourne I am a serious repeat customer here. Never has a doughnut been this good, and I’m actually glad I live 1,000km away just so I am not compelled to visit it every weekend. IMG_0511  IMG_0508 Situated in the Queen Victoria Markets since 1950, it operates out of a van selling only one thing – jam filled, sugar coated doughnuts. It’s a popular tourist destination and there is a constant line up outside the van, but don’t worry, the line moves fast. The doughnuts are made and baked inside the van using a ‘secret recipe’ and the smell is simply incredible. I’m pretty sure the price has fluctuated over time but I scored my bag of 5 for $6. I usually pause to have a smell inside the bag and let the world keep spinning while I am in my doughnut moment. Here’s the experience – crunchy, sugar crystallised doughnut exterior with a soft and fluffy interior and an oozing red jam centre. It’s simply incomparable to any doughnut I’ve had elsewhere. I’m fairly sure also that I overheard a customer say “no sugar or jam please” on their order and I quietly died on the inside…Ok so the doughnuts aren’t gluten free, contain animal products and yellow food colouring, and are fried in oil using animal fat, but heck, you’ve got to make compromises in life sometimes! IMG_0515IMG_0524 Website Facebook Merry Cupcakes As a bit of a complete contrast to the American Doughnut Kitchen are Merry Cupcakes. All their cupcakes are 100% vegan and contain no animal products. Even more tantalising is the fact that their cupcakes have on average 77% less saturated fat and 5.3% less sugar than your regular cupcakes. Some are gluten free as well. Merry Cupcakes loves to incorporate real, seasonal fruits and vegetables into the mix all the better to increase the fibre content of the cupcakes. IMG_0533IMG_0530 “We focus not only on the taste but also the nutritional content of our cupcakes. We make sure that when we create our recipes, we increase their nutritional goodness so that they are healthier than the average cupcakes of their corresponding flavours.” Their Facebook keeps you updated on all the flavours going for the day. Here’s a sample: Vanilla Ice, Beet It, Chocolado, Strawberry Fields Forever, Blondie, Passion Pit, Charlie Brown, Blueberry Pancake, and Carrot Top. Website Facebook Invita Living Food Situated in the Queen Victoria Markets, Invita Living Food offers super healthy food at reasonable prices. Pop in for breakfast or lunch and enjoy some award winning coffee, scrambled tofu or french toast for breakfast, hearty soup and salads, and round it off with a sweet treat – vegan muffins, carrot and olive oil cake, banana bread, cheesecake, or raw bliss balls. IMG_0572IMG_0569 I opted for a vegan lemon poppyseed cake this time round – light and fresh and poppyseedy. I don’t get people who don’t like poppyseeds with the ‘but they get stuck in my teeth’ argument. Lemon and poppyseed or orange and poppyseed is the absolute best, and the frosting is always amazing. This place is highly recommended if you are looking for something fresh, filling, wholesome and cruelty-free around the markets. Seating is provided (though it sometimes might be tricky to snag a table with the crowds) but it’s comfy and enclosed. Website

The Epicure Store, Camden

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Through random Google searches and flicks through various issues of In Macarthur Magazine I first found the Epicure Store in Camden. I grasped a good idea of their services – sellers of cheese, tea, antipasto, oil and vinegar, sourdough bread, handmade cookies, muesli and granola, and raw honey etc etc (according to their website) which surely was good enough to drag me there. It wasn’t until, however, I happened to walk past it on my way back from the Camden Fresh Produce Markets one time that I found it and had to have a peek inside finally. I won’t spoil the details just yet, but can I just say upfront WOW! Not only is this place packed to the brim with bundles of delicious gourmet goodies, the actual goodies they sell are second to none. I have travelled to the Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains and the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show to hunt down particular goodies (Whisk & Pin muesli, The Gourmet Nut Company, and Bruny Island Cheese to name a few) when I could’ve actually driven 20 minutes down the road on any day of the week to get the same goods. On top of all that, they have a café – a quaint and divine experience where you can take the ‘epicure’ further and try out the produce they sell. I just had to drag my gorgeous partner back to make sure we got a proper chance to try out the café for brunch.

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The shop itself is rather small and tightly packed with limited seating on the front veranda of the store. The lady who runs the store is just delightful and helpful and pretty much steers the whole ship herself very impressively!

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The menu although “small and simple” is certainly fabulous. A beautiful selection of breakfast and lunch items – fancy cheese toasties (we’re talking with fillings of blue cheese, gruyere cheese, truffle salt, haloumi and quince jam), salad, soup, platters, gourmet toasts and granola. A really interesting feature of the menu is that they don’t serve coffee. What!??!! I know…. But can you believe that I didn’t even notice, and more importantly I didn’t mind at all, not with the absolutely delicious hot drinks on offer – chai tea, DIY Belgian hot chocolate, spiced raw hot chocolate….plus a terrific selection of T2 teas. They also have a little disclaimer at the bottom of their menu just to explain why: “We know espresso is an art, and our little cottage does not have the space for a canvas. We don’t serve coffee here, but we don’t mind if you BYO.”

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The menu looked so appetizing and I kind of wanted a bit of everything. I was tossing up between the soup of the day (lentil and chickpea) or one of the fancy toasties. In the end I chose the blue cheese toastie with fig jam and rocket along with the chai tea – blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey. Big Bear had the Plougman’s Lunch consisting of cheddar, gruyere, cold meats, chutney, figs and sourdough bread plus the spiced raw hot chocolate – organic cacao drinking chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon.

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Blue cheese toastie with fig jam and rocket ($8.50)

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Chai tea - blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey

Chai tea – blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey ($4.00)

Big Bear and I were so pleased with all the food and drinks – arrived promptly and with such a personal touch. I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese to be honest but I’ve been doing better in handling and adjusting to it over the years. The toastie was gorgeous! A mostly sweet flavour and the blue cheese was so subtle and didn’t overpower the sandwich. The chai was frothy, spicy but not too heavy on the spices. Big Bear’s platter was equally impressive. A generous selection of cheese (from Tasmania and New Zealand), meat, bread and local condiments. He informed me that they had run out of gruyere cheese but was offered brie instead. The brie went really nice with the chutney and Big Bear ate the prosciutto and ham faster than he realised he could’ve made a sandwich out of them!! (that being said, you can totally make a sandwich out of it all as well when you’re there). The vintage cheddar was strong and crumbly and paired nicely with the sweet, syrupy figs and the sweetness of the chutney. The hot chocolate (although not too hot) came with a side of marshmallows and cinnamon stick (so cute!) and had a beautiful spice flavour.

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Plougman’s Lunch – cheddar, gruyere, cold meats, chutney, figs and sourdough ($16.00)

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Spiced raw hot chocolate – organic cacao drinking chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon ($5.00)

All in all a beautiful, local experience of quaint country café dining in Camden. Definitely need to come back and try some more items from the menu I had my eyes on. You can also take home a range of delightful goodies from their store out back – cookbooks, aprons, pancake mix, nuts, fresh bread, tea, cheese, tea cups, sweets, jams, spreads…..so much going on!

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“Our fresh lunches are carefully prepared using a selection of our specialty cheeses, sourdough bread, local produce and gourmet ingredients from our shelves. Our menu is small and simple but delicious, and is updated regularly according to seasonal produce and cheeses.”

Local and imported goodies. No coffee? Don’t worry, we have spiced chai and raw hot choc.

The Epicure Store

Camden Cottage, 39 John Street, Camden NSW 2570

02 4655 4336

hello@epicurestore.com.au

Monday – Wednesday: 9.00am – 5.00pm; Thursday – Friday: 9.00am – 6.00pm

Saturday: 9.00am – 4.00pm; Sunday: 10.00am – 2.00pm

Website

Facebook

Lentil as Anything, Newtown

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I have always wanted to go to Lentil as Anything since I first heard about it many years ago. I got my chance when in St Kilda Melbourne about a year ago. Hearing there was a new branch opening in Newtown Sydney, I was there. Big Bear and I went there mid-week. This isn’t your average place to eat. The most distinguishing feature is that there are no prices. You don’t get handed a menu with the price of what each item is. You can literally go in, eat and pay nothing. Alternatively, you could pay $50. You choose! There is a ‘contribution box’, however, so the ethos of the place isn’t really ‘come in here to get a free feed’. It’s a really interesting concept and I won’t go into the debate about how they can keep running financially after all these years, but the place definitely attracts a crowd for it not to be in perpetual bankruptcy.

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So we were counting the numbers along King Street and kind of walked right past it and looked at each other in confusion. At this point I wondered whether I dragged Big Bear to yet another one of my odd, must-try-restaurants-because-it-sounded-really-cool-but-I’m-not-sure-if-it’s-real-cause-the-website-hasn’t-been-updated-in-a-while, the-phone-is-disconnected-or-it-just-doesn’t-exist. The signage isn’t obvious so keep your eyes peeled. It’s fairly centrally located in Newtown, a short 10 minute walk up from Newtown station. All that said, it has very very recently changed address, so maybe you will have more luck that me.

I have to give you a warning though in terms of what to ambience you should expect. If you want a ‘quiet night’ or ‘romantic dinner with the partner’ choose somewhere else. Or, on a different point, if you’re not happy to go vegetarian or vegan for the night your choices will be a significantly if not completely limited. On the contrary, if you are happy to shuffle onto different seats at different stages of the night to make room for extra people, aren’t too socially awkward to turn strangers into acquaintances, and don’t mind getting all cosy with others, this is the place for you! 100% community oriented so just breathe it in.

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Warm spiced chai

So once we actually found the place and were informed outside to wait to be seated, we walked into a loud, buzzing and almost full to the brim room. At 6.30pm it was nearly at capacity. We received some water and warm spiced chai on arrival and were told about the menu for the night. 3 items – a burger, moussaka or curry. The chai was lovely. The first sip gives a great flavour and then you’re hit with a strong punch of cinnamon and cumin.
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The menu is slightly different every night. I would recommend following their Facebook page for updates on the latest. Some dishes you might be lucky enough to sample:

  • Baked sweet potato gnocchi with green vegetable and pesto salad
  • Chunky silverbeet, chickpea and tomato curry with rice pear chutney and poppadums
  • Pumpkin and green bean tagine with apple and shallot infused cous cous
  • Warm organic quinoa wombok salad with sprouts, nori and sesame served with a tahini and miso dressing
  • Sliced apple topped vanilla cake with ginger caramel sauce

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From the choices, Big Bear had the open lentil burger with hand cut chips and pickled vegetables and I had the lightly spiced pumpkin and tomato moussaka with mixed grain garlic bread. In the meantime, Big Bear was off making friends with people he’d just met and we both enjoyed the music of a live and loud duo hitting up some acoustic tunes, who I found out to be known as the ‘Investment Buskers’. I think at this stage we also had to move at least once to make some more room on our table for others who showed up.

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Open lentil burger with hand cut chips and pickled vegetables

The meals arrived rather quickly. Big Bear said the wedges were hand cut, cooked wonderfully and seasoned well. The burger itself was nice but more of a half burger since it was a pattie sitting on one piece of bread! The nature of the pattie being fairly crumbly made it somewhat difficult to eat. But the taste was great and it came with a tomato salsa on top which blended well with the burger. The pickled vegetables were basically a coleslaw. Portion size was good and it didn’t detract from the rest of the dish. Overall, he said it was a good portion size and the food was definitely of quality right down to presentation.

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Spiced pumpkin and tomato moussaka with mixed grain garlic bread.

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The moussaka presented really nice as well with bases of pumpkin, tomato and eggplant. Flavour was a little bit lacking however (a sentiment I think shared with a fellow patron who ordered the moussaka and asked for the salt) but the meal was filling. Half of my bread was unusually burnt as well.

Service was great. All the waiters and waitresses were really nice and didn’t mind stopping and having a chat. The clientele is also a spectacle in itself. Hipsters…hipsters everywhere…You gotta see it to believe it!

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The slide downside to the night was that I was hoping for some dessert. The menu posted onto their Facebook page earlier in the week spoke of delicious coconut rice pudding with caramel sauce. But they were out!!! *Sad face* I’ll need to come back to sample a bit more of the menu I feel.

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Pay as you please. Communal. Hippie. Newtown as its finest.

Lentil as Anything, Newtown 

391 King Street, Newtown, NSW, 2042

12.00-3.00pm Lunch and 6.00-9.00pm Dinner

02 8283 5580

Website

Facebook

Want to volunteer? Email sydneyvolunteers@lentilasanything.com 

Amoretti’s

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Amoretti’s in Abbotsbury. Again, the South-West is giving itself a little nudge in the cool culinary direction, and it’s only a 10 minute walk from Big Bear’s house. But despite this, we still decided to drive, mainly because we were headed for breakfast/brunch and service was gonna be over real soon (hey, it was Sunday, can’t blame the sleep in).

Located in Western Sydney Parklands, specifically Plough and Harrow Park, Amoretti’s has been there for a little while now (I used to jog around the area and has seen it transform quite a bit over time) and is also located in Chiswick if you’re ever in that area and want to pop in. Amoretti’s distinguishes itself as specialising in seafood, pizza and tapas, with a wine bar, and offers meals all through the day. Parking is plentiful – it has to cater for a popular and growing public park after all.

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We walked in and were informed by the waitress that yes we had made it in the nick of time for breakfast (woo!). We decided to not book ahead and we were lucky that it wasn’t bursting at the seams when we got there. We were shown to a small two-seater table inside and provided with menus. Seating is mostly indoors, with an attached and enclosed alfresco area and an outdoor area with metallic seating.

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If you know me by now, you know I love my muesli (had some delicious Farmer Joe muesli at Alby & Esther’s in Mudgee a little while ago), so alas, I chose the muesli with banana, strawberries and yoghurt off the menu. Big Bear is a tad more refined than me when it comes to breakfast, and had the eggs benedict consisting of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce and baby spinach on Amoretti’s freshly baked organic bread and choice of smoked salmon. For drinks, I had a soy cappuccino and Big Bear a full cream latte. It was a little bit of a wait on the coffee, but this was acknowledged by our really nice waitress.

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Muesli ($10.50)

The muesli was a nice sizeable portion. I also got asked what type of milk I would like and chose soy. There must have been a bit of confusion in the delegation of tasks over milk served to customers because whilst I received a tiny jug of soy milk from the head waiter/possibly owner, a second later the waitress arrived with a large teapot of regular milk. So now I have two different types and sizes of milk (?) Oh well. More for me. Back onto the muesli…it had a lovely combination of oats, bran, sunflower seeds, pepitas, raisins, dried apple and craisins topped with strawberry yoghurt and slices of banana, strawberry and rockmelon. Yum, yum! Overall, great quantities of each element and quite a hearty muesli to satisfy my brunch needs.

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Eggs Benedict ($19.00)

Big Bear enjoyed his eggs benedict too. He said the poached eggs were well cooked, the salmon was fresh and the just baked bread was lovely. He did, however, wish that there was a little more balsamic glaze and hollandaise sauce going on the plate. Portion size was decent too. The coffees were good and pretty standard when it comes to café coffee.

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Afterwards, we went for a lovely walk around the parklands. Heaps of walking tracks and a recently renovated playground area, kinda overrun by small children, so there’s no chance of getting bored here. There are also very large sheltered picnic areas with BBQ facilities, which you can either hire for an event, or get there super early in the morning and snag.

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Friendly and attentive staff. Dining in the park. Classic and comforting.

Amoretti’s

Located inside Plough & Harrow Park, Western Sydney Parklands

745-899 Elizabeth Drive, Cecil Hills, NSW, 2176

Breakfast: 8.00am – 11.00am (Saturday and Sunday only)

Lunch: 12.00pm – 3.00pm (Thursday to Sunday)

Dinner: 6.00pm – 10.00pm (Thursday to Sunday)

Bookings can be made on 0450 726 673 or (02) 8786 1777

Website

Facebook

 

Harajuku Gyoza

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My good friend Edrea is always on the lookout for cool places to dine for post-work dinner. This time around we treated ourselves to Harajuku Gyoza in Potts Point. Famous for its Japanese dumplings (described on their website as being “Japanese dumplings of happy”), we trekked up Bayswater Road after work to satiate out dumpling fever. We booked for 6.30pm but arrived around 6.00pm and the restaurant was fairly empty at that time. The staff didn’t mind that we were a little bit early for our reservation. In fact, the staff were really nice throughout the whole evening – accommodating, responsive and enthusiastic.

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Browsing over the menu, the dishes always confuse me at these types of places as I can never quite anticipate the portion size and how much I’ll need to order or not order straight up. This all means that I’m invariably in a state of flux over deciding what to get. And often price doesn’t match up with portion size. Even from the photos I browsed while Googling beforehand, it was a bit tricky in determining comparative sizes of the dishes. The menu is split up between gyoza (little dumplings), side dishes like edamame and miso soup, izakaya dishes (tofu, eggplant, chicken), and dessert (nutella and banana dumplings).

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Amongst the group of us, we decided that we were going to order each of our meals individually and not do a system of just ordering everything and sharing it around. After much deliberation, I settled on the vege gyoza (grilled) ($8.00 for 5 pieces), miso soup ($3.00) and tempura eggplant ($6.00). Sporadically, parts of our meals started to be brought out. It wasn’t until a couple of minutes in that our waiter realised that we had each ordered our meals separately and weren’t going with the sharing thing (we ordered off someone different initially). We weren’t too fussed with this, but the restaurant specifically operates in bringing out one dish at a time, no matter whose it is, so FYI, if you’re expecting to eat all your little dishes at the same time.

Grilled vege gyoza (5 pieces for $8.00)

Grilled vege gyoza (5 pieces for $8.00)

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Miso soup ($3.00)

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Tempura eggplant ($6.00)

The vege gyoza had a lovely flavour. I couldn’t distinctively pick out what vegetables were used, it seemed to be a bit more of a mush or paste with some spice flavourings, but was really tasty. Although I mainly think that is attributed to the fact that I drowned it in soy sauce – absolutely love soy sauce and frankly would drink it straight out of the bottle! The portion size was reasonable, however for the price of $8.00 for 5 pieces it kind of doesn’t balance out too well. The miso soup was lovely with some spring onions and tofu. The most memorable and interesting dish of the night was the tempura eggplant. For a ‘side dish’ it was massive and was a main meal in itself – I am fairly sure it was a whole eggplant sliced up on a plate. The battered coat was quite light with a slight crunch. The syrupy sauce it was sitting in was really unusual, almost like a slightly thick maple honey. It was quite nice to begin with but after some bites into it became a little overpowering for a savoury dish. I found that what I had ordered was actually a decent amount – I was pretty full at the end – stuffed with salty and sweet.

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Cucumber and miso salad ($5.00)

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Chicken Karaage ($8.00)

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Raspberry sake

Edrea’s poached duck gyoza was equally as nice as the vege gyoza but she felt that the duck could’ve had a stronger flavour. On the plus side, the fried chicken (chicken karaage) with mayonnaise was delicious and was well on its way to being completely eaten and gone before I had the chance to take a photo of it. The cucumber salad with sesame seeds was also flavoursome. Not a fan of cucumber myself, I didn’t go there. Edrea felt a bit adventurous that night and also ordered the raspberry sake – a really strong and sweet hit of alcohol and fruity flavour. Others in the group didn’t quite get that ‘how much do I order/not order balance’ right, and had to order a few other accompanying dishes, mostly different flavours of the gyoza.

A really interesting and rather unusual feature of the restaurant was the choice of music. Contemporary, thrown in with some jazz and piano, then some dance tracks and a bunch of other things, in a way that kind of cuts through everything making it very noticeable. By the time we were towards the end of stuffing ourselves, I hadn’t even noticed that the restaurant had filled up considerably. If you’re there early enough, like we were, a booking wouldn’t be essential, but anything after 7.00pm would be necessary.

All in all, a delicious and filling experience, however Edrea didn’t think it was a big enough drawcard to warrant repeat visits.

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Sweet and salty. “Japanese dumplings of happy”.

Harajuku Gyoza

9-15 Bayswater Road, Potts Point, NSW 2011

Open 7 days for dinner and Wednesday to Sunday for lunch

(02) 9356 3834

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The Rocks Aroma Festival

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Coffee, chocolate, tea and even a hot dog. This year’s Aroma Festival offered up some new as well as traditional delicacies and, for another year, got me out of bed early on a Sunday morning and into a sunny winter’s day in Sydney. Big Bear and I, for once, actually got there at a decent time, and by decent I mean before the festival ‘officially’ started at 10.00am. By that time, there were already queues of people waiting to get their morning hit of coffee and sweat dripping from barista’s faces trying to serve coffee after coffee to the growing masses. My recommendation is early is best. There is a considerable shift in attendees between the 9.45am and 10.00am gap, so visit the information tent and grab a brochure, get your bearings, and go!

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But the day overall is pretty cool with heaps of stalls lined up along Circular Quay and The Rocks and a combination of Sydney-based retailers and those a little more regional like the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley. Along with a smorgasbord of coffee and tea to choose from, you can also treat yourself to some gorgeous finds – cupcakes, brownies, choc pops, cakes, gingerbread, chocolate, baklava, cookies, muesli, churros, cannoli, and more. Walk a little deeper into The Rocks and you can also enjoy the tourist hot spot of the area – the weekend markets on every Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 until 5.00pm.

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A bit of friendly latte art competition and still life coffee painting!

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Big Bear was in search of some breakfast so, of course, had a hot dog by InterContinental Sydney!

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Some of my favourites from the places I’ve travelled….Whisk & Pin gourmet goodies from the Blue Mountains (think muesli, pancake mix and cookies) and Hunter Valley Cookies (vintage style giant cookies in mega delicious flavours)

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Cupcakes…cupcakes everywhere!! From The Cupcake Bakery and Sparkle Cupcakery

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Spoils from the day that Big Bear and I indulged in:

  • Ricotta and chocolate cannoli ($4.50), along with a latte and soy latte by Danieli ($3.50 each)
  • Nutella filled doughnut by La Renaissance Patisserie ($4.00)
  • Baklava by The Baklava Stall ($5.00 for 2)
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Spoils from the day….with an uber vintage scrap of something on the streets of The Rocks

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Oh yes!!….nutella filled doughnut from La Renaissance Patisserie. I did expect the dough to be a little softer, however, and the doughnuts were coming out of a vacuum sealed plastic bag even though the shop is minutes up the road, but oh well, it’s nutella.

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Gentlemen, I expect all barista’s to look like this and make me good coffee. Thanks.

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Waiting for the baklava…

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and getting the cannoli! The most delicious ricotta filling ever!!

Fabulous looking chocolate enrobed deliciousness from ChocolArts (choc pops in flavours like passionfruit, caramel, strawberry, pineapples and Bailey’s) and cool looking Argentinian things from AlfaChoc
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La Toosh on wheels – capturing the essence of Parisian life

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Tea. Coffee. Chocolate. Do I need to say more?

The Rocks Aroma Festival

Sunday 27th July 2014

10.00am – 5.00pm

George Street, The Rocks, NSW 2000

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Hazelhurst Gallery & Cafe

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One Sunday morning Big Bear and I headed to the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre in Gymea for a leisurely brunch/lunch and a bit of peek around the gallery. Specifically, Big Bear and I wanted to check out the recently released exhibition of the work of Australian artist George Gittoes, which you can read my review on here.

Navigating parking is always a bit of a challenge. I’m fairly sure parking is available on-site, which is confirmed on their website, but I had to do a bit of a weird loop around the gallery and the suburb itself to get to it, so instead chose some free off-street parking which was also available.

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When we initially arrived we walked straight into a bit of hustle and bustle working out where we needed to wait to be seated and wondering if we were even going to get a table! Okay…so the website does warn us and say that bookings are recommend. I would advise that needs to be amended to say bookings strongly recommended despite the seating being generous. It was seriously busy that morning. The café is definitely a hot spot in the shire with a mix of eclectic people. After a little wait we managed to snag a two seater in their indoor/outdoor area. To me the seating area seemed split up into three – two exclusively indoor and outdoor areas area and then a space in the middle which allows the sun and breeze to come in. This area was perfect for a leisurely, unseasonably warm 25 degree day for this time of year.

After sitting down we were provided with the regular lunch menu and the autumn specials menu. I had a bit of a dig around the menu online before arriving, but the specials definitely tantalised me further. The menu itself is always changing to keep up with the seasons. So what deliciousness was on the seasonal menu? Sirloin with mash and mushroom sauce, red wine beef pot pie, twice cooked pork belly…I ordered the caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves and Big Bear ordered the wagyu beef burger with hand cut wedges and chipotle mayonnaise sauce, along with a soy cappuccino and a full cream cappuccino.

Upon sitting down we were advised that it would be about a half hour wait for the food to come out as the kitchen was quite backlogged with breakfast orders. We said that was okay and were happy to mill around and chat (always really helpful to be advised of the wait time so you’re not bugging the staff!) Sitting around we noticed a small pamphlet on our table advising us of High Tea. Yum yum! Ribbon sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries (and crème brulee spoon!!) At $29 per person (a bit extra for champagne) it doesn’t break the bank either. After about 5 minutes into the lunch we were presented with our cappuccinos to sit on whilst we waited for our meals. Cutely coloured coded (red cup for soy), the coffees were a good temperature (not too hot) although the soy was a bit too soy and Big Bear said his coffee was a tad bitter.

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Red for soy

True to word, about half an hour later our tart and burger arrived. Initial thoughts – immaculate presentation. Despite the wait time, both dishes were beautifully presented which kind of makes you forgive the kitchen staff a bit more.

Caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves

Caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves

The tart was a nice sizeable portion sitting on top of a small bed of rocket and decorated with micro herbs. Beautiful flaky pastry, sweet, caramelised beetroot which wasn’t intensely sweet, overdone or gluggy, soft melt-in-the-mouth goat’s cheese, and a decent portion of rocket but not drowning in rocket. I find it’s often tricky to jazz up rocket but this was just enough. The textures of the dish also worked together very well with the softness of the goat’s cheese and the beetroot melding perfectly with the pastry, which surprisingly didn’t become soggy despite all those moist ingredients. Visually, the stain of pinky purple beetroot on the cheese was gorgeous. Safe to say I was pretty full after the meal and impressed despite the wait.

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Wagyu beef burger with hand cut wedges and chipotle mayonnaise sauce

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Big Bear’s wagyu beef burger came filled with homemade pickled cucumber, swiss cheese and tomato relish inside a brioche bun, and with a side of hand cut potato wedges lightly salted with sea salt and a chipotle mayonnaise dipping sauce (like a regular mayo with more tang). He noted that overall the presentation was lovely – everything was served on a wooden chopping board and arranged in an appetizing manner. I couldn’t help notice the ooziness of the burger and the cheese well on its way towards a delicious melting state from across the table. Big Bear said that at first he thought the wedges were a little under done as they were still quite hard, however, after a few more bites realised that they were not meant to be like your regular store bought frozen wedges. Instead they were more akin to baked potatoes, and mixed with the chipotle mayonnaise he couldn’t get enough!

The burger did attract a little criticism however. Because of its sheer size he wasn’t too sure at first how to approach eating it. The pattie was quite large and although satisfying maybe half its size would’ve been perfect to avoid overpowering the other elements in the burger. The cheese looked very nice but unfortunately got a little lost in the pattie.

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Rhubarb and strawberry frangipani tart with vanilla ice cream and poached champagne rhubarb and strawberries

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After all that eating and drinking I still had a tiny bit of room left and couldn’t pass up dessert. There were two autumn dessert specials on offer – rhubarb and strawberry frangipani tart with vanilla ice cream and poached champagne rhubarb and strawberries, and classic sticky date with almond praline, butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream. Usually I would indulge in the sticky date, but the description of the tart sounded divine.

An elegant presentation of not-too-dense tart with vanilla ice cream, crumble, oozy soaked strawberries and cinnamon rhubarb. We demolished it fairly quickly. All elements worked beautifully together and filled us up. The only small let down was the tart itself, which I thought could’ve had a richer, more show-off flavour.

After a bit of a look around at what the other guests were sampling, I noticed quite a few of them had ordered wine and was a little let down that we weren’t offered the wine menu as a cool glass would’ve rounded off a lazy Sunday lunch nicely. Oh well, next time.

Once you’ve had a little peek around the gallery itself you can also go outside and enjoy the gallery’s beautiful park area which gets transformed into an exhibition from time-to-time and is home to the more weather durable sculptures and installations.

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Art class anyone?

Art class anyone?

Gift shop

Gift shop

The great outdoors

The great outdoors

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Seasonal. Filling. Art meets deliciousness.

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre – Café

782 Kingsway, Gymea, NSW, 2227

Mon-Sun: 9.00am-4.00pm

Breakfast: 9.00am-11.00am

Lunch: 11.00am-3.00pm

High Tea: Saturday’s only from 2.30-4.00pm. Bookings essential.

Closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday

Bookings are strongly recommended on (02) 8536 5755

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Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

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As the title says…yes, there was good food…and good wine, and lots of it! This year was the year to hit up the Good Food and Wine Show in Sydney with my sister. Arriving around 10.00am at Sydney Olympic Park on the Sunday we were met with a line, a seriously long line, just for people who had pre-booked online and were just waiting to get through the doors. Excitement building met with some nervous sweating about the anticipated crowds. Any later and I think I would’ve been scared away! But not to worry, we got in soon enough, and there were plenty of FREE samples waiting for us.

First place we hit up – the Cheese Alley!

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Showcasing some of my old favourites like High Valley Wine & Cheese Co. who offered delicious FREE tastings of marinated tomato, pesto, olive and chilli feta cheese. The obsession first started on my trip to Mudgee earlier this year which you can read all about in my post.

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Followed shortly up with some FREE samples from the Bruny Island Cheese Co.

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Jams, sauces, spreads and other delicious FREE condiments next…from Beerenberg, Pukara Estate and Caramelicious.

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Pizza and salumi sampling! Pretty tasty for frozen pizza….

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And watching a Barilla’s Authentic Italian Pasta Sauce Masterclass and kinda wishing I was eating a bowl of freshly cooked, warm pasta…

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Staring at baked goods…

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Fresh and much needed caffeine hit to keep us going thanks to some FREE generous servings of coffee from Nespresso

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Complimented with Jordan’s oats and muesli and healthy, no sugar doughnuts by Noshu!!!!

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And a bit of casual celebrity spotting….

Who can spot Zumbo?

Who can spot Zumbo?

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Darren Robertson of Three Blue Ducks

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Even (then) current MasterChef contestant Colin Sheppard doing his wine thing

Which brings me to happy wine time!

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The delicious spoils from the day…

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  • ‘Nanna’ cheese courtesy of Bruny Island Cheese (Tasmania)
  • Sparkling Moscato courtesy of Savannah Estate (Hunter Valley)
  • Sleepytime Vanilla Herbal Tea, Peppermint Herbal Tea & True Blueberry Herbal Tea courtesy of Celestial Teas
  • Canadian Maple Cashews & French Vanilla Almonds courtesy of The Gourmet Nut Co.
  • Creamy Parmesan Caesar Dressing, Apricot Jam & Honey Mustard Dressing courtesy of Beerenberg

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Completely food and wined out at the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show.

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

26 – 28 June

Sydney Olympic Park

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