Snapshot: Sydney Cafés IV

Friday, 4 April 2014

Luxe Bakery Café

195 Missenden Road, Newtown

Credit: Sophie Roberts (Broadsheet Sydney)

As if Sydney didn't already have enough cafés but perhaps Luxe can claim to be one of the originals. With multiple branches around town, Luxe Newtown is also the site of their bakery, a converted 5-bedroom house on Missenden Road (alrighty then). If it weren't for the big love heart adorning it's side wall you might totally miss it. If there is no wiggle room in Campos (the coffee aromas coming from that place are off the charts...) then Luxe is surely your best bet. That or Black Star Pastry, Brewtown Newtown (with their  enticing pistachio affogatos at The Affogato Shack) or 212 Blu...Plenty of choices!

Tea smoked ocean trout omelette, creme fraîche and trout roe. A sure-fire winner in my book and very pleasing to the eye!

My only gripe with this café is that it becomes super heated in the summer heat. The ceiling fans do little but circulate that hot air around. Yes, I did resort to fanning myself like a lunatic. Maybe it's oven firing out the back, churning out great organic sourdough loaves to envy the baking big wigs. There's also a good variety of pastries for the sweet tooth. Scrawled on the blackboard menu is a standard selection of eggs, eggs with carbs, eggs with protein, carbs and more (you get the picture). The brekkie and brunch service easily rolls into lunch time and with coffee like that, you'll soon be grinning ear to ear.

The one stop shop for your daily bread Credit: Sophie Roberts (Broadsheet Sydney)

Luxe Bakery on Urbanspoon
Twig Cafe

357 Cleveland St, Redfern

The perfect hangover cure: grilled sardines, baked egg, haloumi, avocado and whole grain bread. Plain awesome

Finding inspiration in London's Petersham Nurseries, Richard and Rainey Francis' Twig Cafe shares the green oasis of Garden Life. The result is a relaxed urban café surrounded by water features and greenery aplenty. You can tell by the crowds milling outside and number of dogs tied outside the popularity of this place amongst locals. The menu is 'classic' breakfast with a few Twig twists. They are well known for their Egg in the Basket and house made Toasted Date and Walnut Brioche (served with ricotta and wild honey). What's more the prices are quite acceptable for these parts. Make tracks...

Credit: George Popov (Broadsheet Sydney)

Thanks for reading!
Twig Cafe on Urbanspoon

Three Blue Ducks

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Here we are, I've thawed this post from the archives (read: lazy bones)! Three Blue Ducks is lauded as one of Sydney's finest cafés and I can understand why. Opening back in 2011 (the dark ages by today's standards) it is now a treasured part of Bronte and a must-visit. When descriptors like 'honest' are used for food it does make me cringe (can food somehow be deceptive then?) but I'm happy to make allowances for this suburban gem. This is a little café on Bronte's main strip that is definitely making waves.

As soon as this cookbook was announced I bought myself a copy, bringing a bit of the TBD philosophy into the home kitchen. The back stories are a fun read and the recipes delicious! Credit: Three Blue Ducks

I had been looking forward to FINALLY trying this place out for an age. Masterchef 3 also bolstered their popularity where the team delivered some fabulous food and beautiful plating, I suppose working in Tetsuya's is a good start (!). Three Blue Ducks is the product of a collaboration between 5 mates (so Five Blue Ducks, really) including chefs Darren Robertson and Mark LaBrooy. Sam Reid-Boquist is front of house, barista Chris Sorrell and Jeff Bennett put together the wine and craft beer list. 

The distinctive graffitied interior, which was largely done by the Ducks themselves. Pretty good handiwork I must say. The café is spread over two shopfronts with an adjoining portico Credit: The Australian

One thing that appeals about Three Blue Ducks is it's accessibility.  You have laid in front of you what could be restaurant quality food in a place where you could clearly wear flip-flops. TBD was constructed with not only a food philosophy in mind but an entire lifestyle (involving lots of sun and surf). It's no secret that the boys love to surf, so a beachside café starts to make a whole lot of sense. What's more, they also have an urban garden in which they grow a lot of their fresh produce and keep chickens in the "Chook Mahal" along with a bee hive. Not too shabby!

Eel, green tea and kombi. Perched atop daikon. I confess, I am a total sucker for eel, especially Japanese style Unagi-Don...AAAAh. The eel portion was rather on the meagre side here but the combination of flavours was intriguing but harmonious all the same

The menu is divided into small, big plates and sweets. Make of it what you will, you have free reign over the menu - have as many (!) or as few (boo) as you like. In the early days they did a dinner degustation where you chose your courses (up to 4), each costing $17. I for one never thought I'd write café and degustation in the same sentence but there you have it. The menu is literally your oyster (they're also on the the menu). It was a pretty sweet deal at the time; they must have cottoned on to how labour intensive degustation-anything is.

Calamari and smoked corn. By golly miss molly. This dish is a CRACKER. A smudge of corn purée (not enough) with perfectly fresh & tender squid laced with corn kernels. It is so light and delicious I could easily have had bowls of the stuff!

During daylight hours the coffee machine is busy whirring away but at night it takes on a different hat. It becomes the casual restaurant serving restaurant-quality food and that's the truth. The  formative years in fine dining establishments have clearly shaped the food at TBD. The technique certainly shows and speaks for itself. As you'll see, plating is elevated to an art form (watch out  Quay! Only joking). You almost forget you're in Sydney suburbia. They prefer the big plate, food on the side approachThis is classy, well thought out food without any of the fuss. Versatility is key here; being able to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner is surely an asset.

Mushrooms and grains: a generous pile of shredded mushrooms on grains cooked al dente? Err what's not to love?

Black cake, fried egg, apples and beets (left) and mussels, clams and lemongrass (right). The black pud, delicately hidden by the egg was so smooth and goes perfectly with apple (weirdly). The raw onions were not really my cup of tea

Wagyu, bone marrow and kale. Of all the dishes, this was perhaps on the plainer side flavour-wise but the cooking of the wagyu was faultless

Duck, rhubarb and licorice. Just. Wow. The duck breast was super tender, like unbelievably so. I could not get over that...dying to know their secret!

Orange, chocolate parfait and ganache. A tried and tested combination that totally works

Lemon, meringue and celery. The star dessert, by a mile. This looked stunning when it was presented. The skewed plating is almost a trademark, maximising the effect. The plating would probably have taken ages!!

This dessert was a big highlight for me, one of the best desserts I've had in a while. It is a take on a lemon meringue pie (deconstructed) with a dash of candied celery. The latter sounds bizarre but it did add a refreshing crunch to the dish. Curd? Tick! Meringue? Tick. With candied zest and lemon jelly, it was an intricate piece of handiwork

Expect the unexpected, that's what I took away from TBD. As I'm sure many Bronte locals do, you could easily drop-in several times a week. Finding excuses: the morning coffee run, brunch on a Saturday, the can't-be-bothered-to-cook night... is just too easy. Unsurprisingly, the Ducks have done so well that they've opened another café in Falls Creek which opens to during ski/snowboard season (another fortuitous venture? I think not). There's also another Inner Sydney café planned for Bondi Beach which is one to watch out for. Exciting times ahead for the Three Blue Ducks and their loyal fans.

Credit: Three Blue Ducks Instagram (@joelbennetts)

Thanks for reading!
Three Blue Ducks on Urbanspoon

An Apple Cake for the Afternoon

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

There's nothing quite like settling down to a cup of tea at 3 in the afternoon with a wee slice of cake. Afternoon tea is an incredibly English institution (nothing wrong with that) which I've taken into my own hands. Here is a recipe adapted from The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans a.k.a. The Gourmet Farmer. The result is a deliciously moist cake with a fine crumb that you don't have to do the hard yards for i.e. my kind of recipe. Enjoy this one, especially as the days get cooler.

"Just a small slice": the best thing about this cake is certainly the apples. Cut into generous cubes, they are the star of the show here. Land yourself some apples from you local farmer's markets, the growers can advise you on which are best to use

1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1.5cm dice
200g raw sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
A few drops of vanilla extract
125ml extra virgin olive oil
200g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g self-raising flour
1.5 tspn ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, grease and line a round 28cm cake tin (I've used a loaf tin out of convenience)
2. Mix apples in a bowl with sugar, egg, vanilla, oils and walnuts
3. Sift in flour, cinnamon and salt and stir
4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for ~45 minutes
5. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes until turning onto a wire rack to continue cooling
6. Serve that baby up!

Don't be alarmed by the apple to cake batter ratio, it does seem like an awful lot of fruit to be baking in there. Miraculously though, it just works with beautiful results!

This cake is just one of those recipes that are handy to have around, when friends drop by or you're craving something to tie you over until lunch time. It will keep for a good 3 days in a container  too. Can't go wrong with this one!

Thanks for reading and happy baking!
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