Sunday, 16 November 2008

garfish @ holtermann st., crows nest

For a change, I suggested to J 'Let's go for brunch, it'll be cheaper than lunch' and as to where 'How about Garfish? We've been talking about going for ages'. J kindly agreed and I woke up bright and early on Saturday in anticipation of brekkie/brunch at Garfish in Crows Nest. It's about a 20-30 minute drive from where I live and well, to some it might seem like a bit of a trek for a bit of breakfast but well, I don't mind it all too much (especially when you know there's good food to be had that 20-30 minutes later).

Seated outside, we ordered our mugs of Flat White to kick start our day. J was surprised at how big it was (he's not a big coffee fan) but for me, it was just the perfect cup - the smaller cups just don't do it for me. I think J thinks I'm a bit of a coffee addict and ever so subtlely, he'll give me a talk about how it's such an expensive habit and that he doesn't think it's good to drink too much. The way I see it, it's got milk, it's got calcium, it can't be that bad.
The meals took a little while to get to the table (during which time I aw-ed and ah-ed at the dog at the next table that just couldn't sit still - so cute!). I'd ordered the Kipper's Florentine - the poached eggs were arguably the best that I've ever had!
J goes for the Garfish Breakfast (a sizeable feed) which comes with sourdough toast.
Sourdough toast with a generous serving of butter..mmm...
I look better in this photo than I did for the rest of the day. After breakfast, tiredness (could have something to do with waking early) swept over and I started to fall asleep in the car (much to J's amusement). Well, there was a lot of food!
Seems like Garfish is quite a popular place with the locals - from those with their dogs, those in their gym/walking gear, friends meeting up for coffee, young couples and old, the place filled up from the time we sat down (which was probably close to 10am, breakfast is served till 11am). I'd actually come here wanting to try their belgian waffles (but J thought it wasn't a proper breakfast and unfortunately, despite me thinking I could fit it in after breakfast, I really couldn't and had to give it a miss). It worked out to be about $22.50 per person which I wouldn't call cheap for breakfast but I do commend the place for it's friendly service (we had a very attentive waiter), food was excellent and the cafe/restaurant is set is a rather comfortable and relaxing part of Crows Nest which makes you want to live there. Metered parking is available just outside but you're better off trying the next street where you can get all day parking for free (and with a big breakfast, you're better off doing some walking anyway).

Thursday, 13 November 2008

high tea @ t2 teahouse, mac centre

It's suiting and it makes sense; yay to the fact that T2 are serving up High Tea at their teahouse in Mac Centre! J&I had seen it whilst walking past the shop 2 weeks ago and finally got round to trying it last weekend. It's $30 for 2, you get 2 pots of tea (your choice from the range on their menu) and there's a 3 tiered cake stand (comprising scones with cream & jam; nougat, cupcake, lemon meringue tart, macaroons, finger sandwiches and mini quiches.)

J scowls at the flower tea cup he gets with his pot of Lemongrass & Ginger Tea.
J relaxing in their oversized armchairs (you end up getting so comfortable in them you don't want to move).
The cake stand devoured from the bottom plate (savouries), scones (top plate) and finally all the sweets (on the middle plate).I already have a T2 tin at home but I went for a pot of English Breakfast tea - just love it!
In summary: the tea is fantastic (I don't think you can go wrong), sandwiches/scones/quiches/macaroons have my thumbs up, the lemon meringue tart in my opinion is a bit too big as are the nougat pieces and well, the cupcake (whilst pretty) was quite terrible (dry and crumby). I'm still in love with the interior of the shop, love all the colours, the seating, the lighting (you forget that you're sitting inside a shopping centre until you look back out the door.) High tea is definitely one of my favourite pastimes for a weekend!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

cupcakes on pitt @ pitt st., town hall

It's been a good year or so since I was last at Cupcakes on Pitt. The last time I went, they still had the large sized cupcakes and now they've all been replaced by the smaller/bite sized ones which cost $2 each. It actually makes more sense that they're smaller - they're much easier to eat and not as filling. Well, that's until you scoff 3 of them down in one sitting which is what I did when I got home that day after picking up 6 cupcakes en route to the train station after work.

Check it out! The cupcakes have new packaging. So pretty! You can't believe how many people stared at me that day going to the train station, on the train and then on the walk home. So funny, I even caught my mum's attention (we were on the same train and she saw my box of cupcakes before she saw me!)
The flavours: Tiramisu, Pumpkin, Lemon Meringue, Peanut Butter, Green Tea and Cookies & Cream. There's actually quite a few more flavours to choose from - these were my top 6.
First to get eaten was the green tea, followed by the pumpkin - these were their most breakout flavours and I'm pretty sure they didn't have these flavours back a year ago. Liked the green tea, pumpkin - indifferent. To be honest, I was actually a little disappointed with the cupcakes - they just don't seem to taste the same. These smaller cupcakes are a lot drier (probably cause the icing on the top doesn't actually cover the entire top of the cake) and the texture is just very crumby. Can anyone tell me what's happened? I actually think the new cupcake shop that's opened up near Wynard is tasting better.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

hurricane's grill & bar restaurant @ darling harbour

After the Melbourne Cup last week, J&I finished up at our respective work functions and decided to eat out at Hurricane's at Darling Harbour. I can't remember how long it took us to get together but I remember J complaining about it - unfortunately due to me being in heels for most of the afternoon, my feet were aching and so we took a very long winded bus trip which potentially took about 3 times as long as it would've to walk. Anyhow, I was more than relieved to plonk my bum down on a seat at Hurricane's. I didn't care all that much that we had to finish dinner by 7.30pm - my feet were aching and I was hungry.

It's quite a relaxed fit out at Hurricane's - I haven't been to the one in Bondi which everyone seems to talk about but somehow, I'd thought it was more upmarket? J reminded me that it is a steakhouse and it probably makes more sense for a more relaxed setting but anyhow, you get the nice view out over Darling Harbour which definitely compliments the meal.

Garlic Roll. J says the Herb Roll is actually even better.
Since ordering the mushrooms at Ribs & Rumps, J&I have become quite big fans of mushrooms - thought we'd try the garlic mushrooms here. These taste even better!
J is laughing at me because it seems that my camera has taken to eating food - apparently there is a sliver of garlic bread on the lens of my camera.I went for the 350g New York Strip with Pepper Sauce. Definitely recommend this over the Prime Rib Eye which J had - much more tender and seemed to have a bit more flavour to it. Chips were a tad burnt so I started eating J's which were fine.The 500g Prime Rib Eye with a side of mushroom sauce. J actually struggled with this one.
Food actually came out quite quickly because we left way before the time we were going to get kicked out. I saw a very pretty dessert at the next table but unfortunately, was too full to fit in any - next time. Anyway, might I add, next door to Hurricane's is the British Lolly Shop where J accused me of flirting with the guy that was working in there. But hey, all I did was walk in to look at lollies whilst he was going to the toilet, and the dude that was there comes up and offers me a lolly (as they do in every other British Lolly Shop you go to). So yes, just making that quite clear to all.

adriano zumbo chocolat cafe @ darling st., balmain

At the mere mention of Adriano Zumbo, my face lights up. Last week, I actually saw him in person and all I could do was sit there stupidly and stare. J actually looked at me and asked if I wanted to go get a photo with him and here I was in a state of nerves 'But what am I going to say'. So yes, all I ended up doing was stay put and stared longingly through the window where he was. (Yes...I grudgingly admit how stupid I am).

For weeks I'd been reading through other blogs the upcoming opening of Adriano Zumbo's Chocolat Cafe - positioned just a couple of doors down from his main shop which I've been frequenting as much as physically possible this year. J seems amused by the fact that I get excited each time I'm staring at the rows of cakes - and well, he's been doing the sensible thing each time making sure I look for traffic before I run across the road into the shop. And yes, then he eventually pulls me out after my hands are laden with cakes and then he also puts up with the fact that I get grumpy when he's driving (and I'm protectively guarding my cakes to make the trip home). So yes, J would've had more than one reason to be annoyed to see Zumbo in person but fortunately, he seems to get me enough to understand who and what Zumbo is.

It was actually lunch time and the plan had been to go to Zumbo's for dessert after some lunch. J suggested that we may as well have lunch at Zumbo's with the dessert. Great idea! One dark and one chilli hot chocolate (the chilli one has serious bite!), a Toasted Ham & Cheese Brioche, and a Chicken & Avocado Toasted Sandwich all enjoyed in the comfort of the courtyard with a stack of magazines and newspapers. Arguably the best way to spend the weekend.
Definitely recommend their sandwiches and toasts but the main reason I was here was to check out their desserts; it would've been less than a second after I finished my sandwich that I jumped back up to the counter to order. Here's the deconstructed Miss Marple. The girl at the counter actually came around to the table to ask what I thought of this one - I said to her quite honestly, I actually prefer the Miss Marple Cake, this deconstructed version was nice but it was just a little sticky and stuck to the bottom of the plate. And well, those orange balls (melon balls?) were frozen and didn't go that well with the crepes.
In response to my feedback on the deconstructed Miss Marple, the girl looked a little surprised but actually, I was just about to say that the main reason why I didn't like that one as much was because I liked the other dessert we'd ordered 'The Younger Years' - a chocolate fondant served with peanut butter icecream and peanut brittle in a novel silver kidney dish with a shot of raspberry coulis in a syringe. J has fun with it!
You see what I mean!
And ok, then the most embarrassing thing in the world happened. We headed up to the counter to pay and realised that between the two of us, we didn't have enough cash for the the food that we'd eaten (and as they've just opened, they've only got cash sales only). Ended up having to leave J at the shop whilst I quickly dashed to the ATM up the road. It wasn't to bad, cause after going to the ATM, I had enough cash to pick up some goodies for home.

Walking out of the cafe, it hit me then and there the amount of food we'd ate - and to eat so much and not have enough money to pay, it was a little hilarious (or maybe I was just that little bit delirious from the amount of sugar I'd had and the fact that I'd met Zumbo - the man himself!). It was definitely a good day and I look forward to going back and trying out the rest of the menu and fingers crossed Zumbo will be surprising us with more of us his cakes and bakes. And hopefully next time, we'll be just as lucky to get a seat as by the time this post and all other posts by fellow food bloggers make their rounds, I wouldn't be surprised that the whole world will be at Zumbo's cafe trying to get a table!

pho sam vietnamese noodle house @ oxford st., epping

It was another Saturday night, J&I and our eating partners in crime, E&E(P) ventured over to Epping to grab some dinner. J's bro had recommended this place for it's tasty yet cheap food and I have to agree, food was uber tasty and extremely cheap! It was great to see how at the end of the meal, we were all rummaging through our wallets for the $5 notes and the coins to make up the bill - it was that cheap.

My crispy chicken with tomato rice. E had the same as me and we were both contentedly full. Chicken is crispy and the rice - let's say I could probably just keep eating that if I lacked any self control!
J went for the Special Beef Noodles and he gave it his thumbs up. The soup is flavoursome and J had to stop himself from downing it all.
We also had a serve of spring rolls to share and each of us got a drink - again, thumbs up! The restaurant was full throughout our meal (we were actually lucky to come in and get ourselves the last table) and the minute we emptied out, our table was reset and the next group was seated. One of the waitresses there is actually one of my parents' favourite waitresses (she used to work in one of those Chinese Cafes in Eastwood). At least that should give me a reason to get mum and dad here! This place is definitely worth a try for those after Viet food - a very extensive menu and quick/fast service and that's also light on the wallet. Tasty too!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

eurolounge @ castle towers, castle hill

J&I were in Castle Hill the other weekend visiting Cake Decorating Central (stocking up on supplies as I'm back to cake decorating this term) and decided to grab lunch at Castle Towers. It was probably close to 2pm when we got to Eurolounge due to the time it took to pull myself out of Cake Decorating Central (hmm..this time round J actually sat in the car to wait cause he couldn't be bothered following me into the store). Anyway, so by the time we settled for Eurolounge, we were really quite hungry.

I was tempted to go for the High Tea which was on the menu but J was insistent on lunch. Eurolounge offer a $22.50, 2 course lunch special which also comes with a beverage. I'd read about this place on Suze's blog and was actually quite excited to finally see what this place had to offer.

Spicy Tomato Soup with dipping bread. Tasty!
Breads and Dips - also tasty! There was an Olive Tapenade, Pesto Tapenade & a Capsicum Tapenade. The capsicum tapenade left the two of us boggled at first - we ended up having to ask our waitress what it was - J thought it was pumpkin, I thought it was carrot - I guess neither of us were close.
A content J after our entrees. My Fish & Chips with Aioli. It was a massive serving and all the better for it - I easily cleaned everything off the plate! By the way, these are beer battered fish & chips; you can taste the beer when you bite into the fish - it was good!J went for the Asian inspired Steak which was very tasty and came to the table very prettily presented. Again, a massive serving -just a suggestion, they could cut back a little on the chilli oil which they use to decorate the plate.
So for $45 for two, it's not a bad deal at Eurolounge. Food is excellent, servings are more than decent - you'd think that you would be paying much more for what you get. J&I sat outside to take in a bit of the sun but for those that prefer sitting indoors, there's plenty of tables available inside. Seems like the place is quite popular with the locals and looks like they've even hosting children's parties. We watched as couple after couple of mum and kid (kid holding a wrapped presented) file into the restaurant - what grown up b'day parties kids have these days! Anyway, I'm keen to come back and try dinner!

happy birthday bro!

For those that don't know, I have a younger bro - his name also starts with J (something about Asian families and naming their children with names that start with the same letter - it seems to run across both my mum and dad's side with maybe that one exception). Anyway, it was my bro's b'day and he decided he wanted to have his b'day dinner at 'Dai Wan Lai' in Eastwood. Mum rounded up the troupes aka. rest of the family and we were there for dinner on a Friday night.

We made a booking for 14/15 and were surprised to be given one of their private function rooms. The function room isn't all that big - just fitting one big table but otherwise nicely furnished. Bro & me.
Being tucked in a function room at the back of the restaurant had its downsides. You could hardly get any service and everytime we needed a waitstaff, someone had to stand outside the door, at the top of the stairs and wave manically at the waitstaff that stood at the front of the restaurant. Very slowly the food starts to arrive...
As you can see, there's a lot of us and the dishes arrive one by one...ever so slowly.
Expensive Jellyfish (almost $20 for the tiniest of plates). It worked out to be about 2 strands per person.A dish slightly more decent in size - Spicy/Singapore Crab. Quite tasty but also a very heaty dish - the crab is completely smothered in fried garlic and spices.Fish - very average. Despite 'Dai Wan Lai' being a seafood restaurant, I actually think their non-seafood dishes are much better.Onion Bread accompanied by an assorted pickled dish. Liked this one but be warned about the pieces of pickled garlic - lethal!One tasty pork knuckle! See that skin - there was so much of it that despite there being 15 of us, we couldn't get through it all. Prawn Skewers that were a lot of fun to eat.
What did I say - the prawn skewers were fun!
There were actually a few other dishes that we had that I didn't take photos of - you'll find those in my previous post on 'Dai Wan Lai'. The meal, overall had been good; the food is a bit different but actually makes it something to look forward to (it's not just your average Chinese restaurant), servings are decent, admittedly service was slow that night (but the thing is, the owner did come in to apologise at the end of the meal and gave us an extra plate of fried dumplings which I thought was really nice of her - and can I add, their fried dumplings are nice!). Well, I do not recommend their function rooms - by the end of the night, it just go too hot and stuffy and we had to leave the door open. And well, it does seem that they're busy on a Friday night so maybe another weeknight would be better if you are intending to go.

Happy B'day Bro! Hope you enjoyed the meal.

Friday, 7 November 2008

2008: sugar hit @ the intercontinental

As it is each year, Good Food Month rolls by in October, I get excited and make plans to do as many Sugar Hits as possible and then it's already the end of the month, and again (for the second year running), I only managed to squeeze in the one. This year was Sugar Hit at The InterContinental with a bunch of the high school girls.

Tasting platter of Grand Marnier-Strawberry Infused Panna Cotta; Chestnut Timbale, V.S.O.P cognac cream & White Chocolate-Rasberry Torte.
G intent on getting a photo of her cake.
Moi!K and the twins. G&I must've been a little tipsy! Love this photo.
Seated on the couches, glass of wine in hand and yummy dessert to line our stomaches, it was hard to get up afterwards! My favourite dessert out of the tasting platter was probably the Chestnut Timbale - unlike other Chestnut cakes I've had, the taste was more subtle and well, I could've easily eaten a much bigger piece! (Grudgingly I do have to say, is it just me or what, but is Sugar Hit getting more expensive and the desserts getting smaller?) Anyway, we had the friendliest of waiters who passionately explained all the desserts when they got to our table and chatted to us about which were our favourites. Lucky him, he gets to taste the desserts even before the month of Sugar Hit has started for the rest of us! Au revoir Sugar Hit 2008, hopefully I'll get to see a bit more of you in 2009!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

ribs & rumps @ talavera rd., north ryde

I was very pleased to discover a few weeks ago that there's a Ribs & Rumps close to home. Instead of heading all the way to Gordon, there's one on Talavera Road in North Ryde, just tucked behind Mac Centre - a mere 15 minutes by car for me. And to top things off, this Ribs & Rumps is way, way better. Not only do you have both indoor/outdoor courtyard seating, there's square tables and large round tables plus function rooms; parking is also just out the front door. I'm already thinking about my next meal there - I'm determined to get a seat at one of those round tables (you actually have to go there to see what I mean). Seating aside, it's a mix of both the service and quality of food which make it much, much better than Gordon.

Dinner was with our eating partners in crime: E&E(P). Entrees we had the Black Mushrooms (awesome!) & Caesar Salad (a bit tasteless; could do with a lot more dressing).
I went for a half rack of Beef Ribs with Chips. Unreal! FYI: Beef Ribs are my favourite out of beef, pork and lamb :P
J goes for a steak with Baked Potatoes. I think their ribs are better!
It had been a Saturday night and they were pretty much booked out. We'd made the last minute decision to eat there on a Saturday afternoon and only managed to squeeze ourselves in - so I encourage anyone eating here to book in advance. I actually quite like the outdoor seating here (it's covered and not too noisy) and the place seems to attract a nice crowd. They have desserts and cocktails! But unfortunately, half a rack of ribs later, my stomach couldn't quite fit it in. Might try next time and ooh...I definitely want one of those Cobs that come to the table with a Steak Knife stabbed through it - they looked dangerously awesome!

takeru @ victoria plaza, victoria ave., chatswood

I love the fact that there are so many Jap restaurants in Sydney and that each and every one of them has its own style, it's always fun to stumble across a new one and try out what's on the menu. A friend recommended 'Takeru' in Chatswood for one of our group dinners which is tucked away at the back of Victoria Plaza - had you not known that it was there, you can easily miss.

J has the Calpis Water and I have my stock standard, Iced Green Tea Latte. To date, I think Ichiban Boshi's 'Iced Green Tea Cappuccino' is still the best of them all.
There were actually 9/10 of us for dinner that night but we ended up being split across two tables. Their tables really only fit a maximum of 6 and the option to set up a long table outside the front door hadn't been too enticing - too windy that night. J&I were with P&E - amongst us we ordered 4 mains and 2 entrees; leaving us satisfyingly full and content. They do actually have a very delectable dessert menu which E&I agreed to come back to later for afternoon tea.

Cha-han with Prawn & Garlic.
Cheesy Curry Rice Cake - I can't say I would order this one again.Spaghetti that didn't have a whole lot of filling to it. Still nice though.My choice: Omelette Rice with a Bolognese Sauce. It's humongous! Can easily feed 2. Super tasty with Tabasco Sauce which the waiter/waitress brings to the table.Nanban Chicken - thumbs up to this one, highly recommend ordering.Unagi Cha-han.
Despite the initial kafuffle with seating (the fact that we were such a big group), service is actually quite friendly and food comes out quickly to the table. Prices are very reasonable and we even got a 1o% discount on the bill! I think it was just that week though. It's a shame that they don't really cater for larger groups but for a group up to six, Takeru is definitely a place to visit. And well, for families that have little bubs, the restaurant actually has a play pen with TV which will definitely keep the bubs well occupied whilst you're eating. I'll be back for dessert :P