Snapshot: Three Williams

Tuesday, 28 January 2014



Come get your narnies! Now doesn't that just sound rude. You can find these curious hybrid sandwiches at Three Williams, a new Redfern café that has plonked itself on Elizabeth St. These are just some of the offerings from ex-Aria chef Tim Bryan, as well as some flipping good coffee from Single Origin Roasters. Three Williams is the latest to join a swag of café and restaurant openings in the the Redfern area which is certainly on the rise. 

A riff on the humble sarnie: grilled prawn, avocado, corn and tomato salsa narnie. The narnie itself is a glorious house made naan bread that is buttery soft. All in all, it makes for one happy camper!

Curiously enough Three Williams isn't named after it's owner(s) but takes its name from important figures for the area like William Redfern. The first thing you'll notice about the space is how cavernous it is, as it was converted from an old storage warehouse. It's no wonder the fit-out looks like it's come from a flat pack, but it certainly gets the job done. It has a slightly retro feel with ochre bench seats running down the length. The marble topped tables (though tiny) give a little touch of class.


The first and most important order of the day - coffees

The menu is of a decent size, but why not go for a signature narnie or two? The crunchy brioche french toast and caramelised cauliflower  tabouli also look amazing (separately, of course). The service is cheerful and efficient. They have a lot of ground to cover between trips to the kitchen! The vibe is nice and chilled so you don't feel pressured to finish and pay like you do in some cafés (which can spoil the meal entirely).


Fish croquettes with lemon and aïoli, a delicious starter with a lightly crumbed and crispy outer. The aïoli was a winner for me with it's lovely whipped texture Source: Daily Addict

Get your hands dirty with the grilled beef brisket, slaw gherkins and chipotle mayo narnie. A definite crowd pleaser and jam packed with fillings

Three Williams is sure to be on the regular visit list, especially for locals. Funnily enough, I spotted Hugo Weaving dropping in to grab a coffee that day too. The national obsession with café culture and coffee is going strong. Make Three Williams your next café destination.

Three Williams, another win on the café front

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Three Williams on Urbanspoon

Nomad

Sunday, 19 January 2014



Sydney, this is how you do it. The Sydney dining scene is seeing a resurgence of 'the wine bar' *cheers*. Changes in liquor licensing laws some years ago have been met with Gen-Yers spending their (few) dollars on a curated glass of vino. Places like Monopole10 William St, and Wine Library are leading the way. Nomad is a newie following suit in Surry Hills with an emphasis on Australian wine. Who knew we could hold our own? 

A design lover's paradise; the sun drenched restaurant/cellar door Credit: Broadsheet Sydney
I first walked past this warehouse space (formerly the site of the Spence & Lyda showroom) some months ago, and was  curious as to what was opening. By the end of last year, Nomad was born in true style, reminiscent of restaurants in NYC or Northern Europe. The copious blonde timber finishes and flashy central kitchen make this 150 seater sure to impress. The charcuterie hanging in all its glory in the custom built drying room doesn't hurt either. It ticks all those design aesthetic boxes for me.  

Head Chef Nathan Sasi who has Rockpool, Husk (in Sth Carolina) and Heston Blumenthal's Dinner on his CV. A new generation of young guns forging their own way on the dining scene  Credit: Australian Financial Review
Opening a food & wine bar is as much an investment in funds as in hard yakka. Thankfully, Nomad has got some proper talent on board in Chef Nathan Sasi and Rob Geddes MW (niice). The popularity of independent films like Red Obsession and new Aussie publication, Alquimie - wine has certainly piqued our interest. For starters the majority of the menu is wines, 20 each of red and white with the food offerings at the back. Don't be fooled however, the food is very far from an afterthought and takes its  inspiration from the Middle East. The list also features each winemaker by name, giving credit where it is well due. I went for a happy medium in the Ngeringa 2011 Rose (Mount Barker, SA) which had a lovely smooth finish. 

Pages from the first edition of Alquimie. For a complete wine novice like myself, Alquimie is wine magazine very much in the style of Kinfolk. The article on the granite cellar in Giaconda's Vineyard is a must-read Credit: Another Something & Co.

More than once the wait staff had caught us clueless on what to order. It all looked moorish, to be frank. However, we were given some recommendations which didn't disappoint. Service was friendly and efficient at the start of the night, hopefully consistency is a strong suit as the hours wear on and there are more bums on seats.
Here is a sampler of what we ordered:

Okay, so I stupidly didn't take a photo of this amazing salad. A daily special it consisted radicchio, figs, toasted almonds and lashing of shaved manchego cheese. It was so simple yet heavenly! Credit: Food52

Raw Kingfish, preserved lemon, fennel, dill. I am sure this would be a very popular entrée. Each mouthful left you wanting more and the fennel was a pleasant 'something different'

Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi, BBQ zucchini, pinenuts, raisins, water cress. This one was one of my favourites. The disc of haloumi was cooked perfectly, slightly stretchy with such a delicate flavour. A real winner for me

BBQ Lamb rump, Moroccan eggplant salad, sheeps yoghurt. Cooked in all its fat (i.e. goodness), this lamb dish is quite home style but no less impressive

Bunuelos, rose water and cardamom custard. We were fooled into thinking this would be a 'light' dessert, a spiced custard perhaps. Err no...fried doughnuts coming right up. Can't be helped haha. These were executed very well, not a trace of doughiness

Nomad 3 month aged goat cheese, membrillo, dried grapes, ash crackers. A final touch to the seal the deal

I don't know about you but I was sold after this meal. Yes it sits on the pricier side but for that you are getting the best in a pretty neat package. Whether you know wines or not (I sit very much in the latter) be prepared for a good time with a lovely wine in hand. Nomad has become a fast favourite in critic's circles and the full house night after night is a great omen. Terry Durack 'lavished' it with a solid 15/20 and 4 *'s from Time Out Sydney Nomad's future is looking very bright.

A final look at that décor, who could resist? Credit: The Love Assembly

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand Nomad on Urbanspoon

Vincent

Tuesday, 14 January 2014



It comes as no surprise that there's always room for one more. Restaurant I mean. Vincent has thrown open its French doors on leafy Queen Street, Woollahra. Tucked to the side of a boutique hotel, The Hughenden is a new francophile venture for chefs Todd Garratt and James Hird. The pair is well known around these parts for Buzo and the wildly popular Wine Library in the same suburb. The philosophy of Vincent is a simple one: to offer some of the best cheeses imported from France (aged in the restaurant's cheese room, obviously), to make their own cheeses and serve with some top notch drops (vino).  Sounds like my kind of place!

My birthday bombe glacée - coffee, cocoa nib & toasted meringue. This dessert was definitely as delicious as it looked. The fluffy meringue makes the dish!

Vincent maximises the available space with a pleasant front courtyard area and the sun room down the side. The restaurant has quite a similar vibe to Chiswick, suiting the ladies that lunch to a tee. If only the rest of us plebeians could spare the time and dosh to do this everyday. My plan B of food critic could perhaps be realised (probably in my retirement at this rate)... But no matter, there was certainly cause to celebrate - my birthday!

Sunny, peaceful & chilled - all those nice things.

The menu is small plate shared style, which suited the group perfectly. There's actually a lot of choice there, with a variety of entrées e.g. potato baked in hay with smoked eel butter (YUM) working up to the heartier meat options e.g. steak frites 'beurre Vincent' (a French bistro classic). I was charged with ordering for the table, a task that I relished. Thus began a feast that rolled on, in a most delicious way! 

The course of courses...
Baked comte custard, soubise, onion powder. The custard was a whole lot of oh my god. The texture was unbelievably delicate. The indisputable signature dish of Vincent, this was my favourite savoury dish by far!


Braised lettuce 'polonaise': a rather saucy dish, added to the fact there was a soft poached egg on top

Spetzle, braised oxtail, tendon, roast carrot. Home made spaetzle pasta with a slow braised sauce, a hearty made-for-Winter dish if ever there was one

Spanner crab & asparagus omelette, beurre noisette. We had a hard time dividing this between everyone, tiny pieces of crab were strewn through the omelette

Poulet au vin jaune: a very tasty dish, not just because I am obsessed with mushrooms. The chicken breast was succulent and tender, something that is usually difficult to achieve (even by restaurant standards)

Duck crepinette, rhubarb compote, mustard greens. Yes, the serve looks small but the flavours pack a punch. The rhubarb was a very welcome addition

DOLCE - so utterly important haha

Coconut sorbet, fresh mango, lime. This sorbet was so light and airy, almost like cream and rich in coconut flavour

Maple pot de crème = DANGER. Served with caramelised slices of brioche, the pot of crème is enough to satisfy even the sweetest tooth

Caramelised wafer, peach, rose & verjus. This mille feuille style dessert wasn't quite up there with the others. Poached fruit with a bit of pastry - perhaps it needed a bit more cream to bind it all a bit better?

Chocolate & salted caramel tart, buttermilk mousse. A gorgeous little tart, though a good dig with a fork was required to break up the pastry. The cream I could do without (for obvious reasons) but c'est très jolie!

After all that food and wine I was as happy as Larry. The food I really can't fault - lovely flavours with a good splash of technique. There was however a minor 'incident' with staff at the end when we were settling the bill regarding the size of our tip which left me a bit nonplussed. It rather tainted the afternoon for me. If I can't give the service top marks, make sure you go for the food, it's a treat.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand Vincent on Urbanspoon

The Business

Thursday, 9 January 2014



Any Australian readers have probably cottoned on to what I'm writing about. Coffee...the other C word, the most important order of the day, the up and go, the fuel that drives a nation. Apparently Danes consume the most coffee per capita in the world, but us Aussies are giving it a red hot go. Nowhere else is there such a massive array of options for your coffee. We have gone and complicated the humble Italian espresso to dizzying heights. It's enough to make your head spin. 

This is NOT a joke. Well, maybe a little. Get your microscopes out, the full sized version can be seen here Credit: Pop Chart Lab

Confused yet?

Let me give a wee example...

"A large double shot skim hazelnut latte with one sugar"
Note: this is for demonstration purposes only, I don't think anyone would actually order that (at least I hope not)

Key (brace yourself)
Size: espresso (short), regular or large
Coffee: how many shots? Espresso or any of those funky things (cold drip, aeropress, siphon, chemex...)
Milk: black - long or short. White (skim/soy/regular full cream) - 'flat' or with froth (latte or cappuccino)
Extras: flavoured syrups, chocolate (a.k.a. mocha) or chai 'latte' (no coffee in that one, just milk and sometimes chai tea)
Sugar: how many? Real or substitute?

Phew! I think I've managed to make the point that we're a little cray for coffee. Nowhere is this obsessional need felt more than in the heart of Melbourne, Victoria. This is a city where espresso has been honed to a fine art, and I'm not just talking coffee ferns. 

Pellegrini's

66 Bourke Street, Melbourne

The same photograph that has been taken for 60 years...Pellegrini's is a Melbourne icon

Pellegrini's has been trading since 1954, an astonishing 60 years in 2014. Prop yourself at the bar and admire the yellowing portraits of celebrities who have visited over the decades past. I might add the barista made a quip about being surrounded by beautiful women as we girls walked in. I was almost expecting a "Ciao bella" in there. The coffee here is the equivalent of a stiff drink, full bodied and an assault on the tastebuds. Just in case you weren't awake, you definitely are now! Everything we claim to know about coffee we owe to the Italians who invented espresso (molte grazie). This is how you do it. 


A cappuccino in a glass tumbler, now that is a foreign concept. The froth is exceptional, the coffee very strong without being bitter. The best part? It still costs 3 bucks - bellissimo!

Degraves Espresso

23-25 Degraves Street, Melbourne

A neat little package, the perfect introduction to Melbourne laneways and café culture Photo credit: James Jardine

The big easy; this Degraves is all about location and convenience. Situated a stone's throw from Flinders Street Station, this one has also been around for donkey's years. This is the kind of place that is effortlessly casual, a Sydney café without the pretensions of being hipster (which gets a bit tiresome to be honest). Sit yourself outside to while away the hours people watching or on a big old cinema seat inside to read the paper. Anything goes and that's just one of the things I love about this city.

Curiously watching the barista make my coffee in his flip flops, he could have done it blindfolded. This was my first coffee on this Melbourne trip and my eyeballs nearly popped out - 'twas amazing. Hello endorphins!

A simple lunch without the fuss. Vegetarian panini with eggplant, pumpkin, capsicum, mushroom and lots of melted cheese. Yeaaah

St Ali

12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne

Just follow the crowds and you'll find that graffitied roller door Photo credit: Time Out

If it weren't for the heady aromas emanating from behind the garage door at St Ali, you'd think there were some dodgy dealings going on at this South Melbourne venue. Co-owner Salvatore Malatesta (also behind Seven Seeds and Sensory Lab) is pretty much the Coffee Don of Melbourne and yes, I just made that up. The queues at this 'Holy house' start right at opening time so be prepared. If you can't be bothered catching the 96 tram to the south, head to Sensory Lab on Little Collins for your beans - or get a coffee subscription, you fiends!


Since 2003, this warehouse space is also home to a coffee bean roasting get-up Photo credit: Time Out

Around the world Australians are renowned for being relaxed and laid back. This is obviously a portrait painted in the afternoon once we've been happily fed and caffeinated. Ever heard of the term hangry? Well we should be coining the coffee equivalent, people. Tip: don't get between an Aussie and their morning coffee or there will be hell to pay... When travelling overseas I am often bemoaning how abysmal the coffee is. It's a bad sign when Starbucks is 'the best' on offer (oh dear). Or, perhaps I'm just being a proper snob. Perhaps not. 

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Degraves Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Chow Bar & Eating House

Saturday, 4 January 2014



Sydney's dining scene has become a game of musical chairs. A fickle beast, that's for sure. Chef Chui Lee Luk of Claude's fame (R.I.P. and case in point) is the latest to venture into more casual dining, a glaring sign of the times. Chow Bar & Eating House sits flush on Crown Street at the former Bentley restaurant site (who has upped stumps to the Radisson Blu Hotel in the CBD) - it's hard to keep up some times! This is an exercise in getting back to basics.

Drunken mussels with beer, galangal, lemongrass. A very similar dish featured in Claude's - quick, hot and moorish

As with so many venues in Sydney these days the emphasis is placed on beverages (you know what I mean) where the margins are much higher. Food is often an afterthought as a result (fried chicken and burgers get a bit old after a while) but not so at Chow. Luk's menu is an homage to her Malaysian roots and classical French training and technique. Seated at our long table with mahjong tiles inlaid, we soaked up the relaxed Sunday afternoon vibes. And to the difficult task of choosing from the menu, with a good range dishes  for sharing. Happy days.

The interiors by Giant Design remind me of a sort distressed version of the ritzy Mr Wong's on Bridge Lane. A den for drinks and snacks aplenty, this is a parlour without the seedy underbelly

First, some bar snacks to whet the appetite

Cannon Shot Dumplings filled with roast pork, shiitake, yam bean (L). Chilli dipping sauces (R). The dumplings were delicious morsels, delicately fried. So tiny you could easily polish off a bowl yourself but save room for what's to come!

Xin Chow Bao - DIY goat sausage, lettuce wrap. This dish was one of my favourites, a play on the traditional sang choi bao - this version uses goat (but you would never know, to be honest). The sausages are house made and boy doesn't that make a difference; juicy, succulent and begging you to go in for more

The main event

Fried cauliflower, seeds, hot mustard. This came in second for me, the heat from the mustard is a nice combo with the humble cauliflower. However I would have to say some pieces were a bit bitey and undercooked :/

Whole fish, black bean, capsicum, garlic. This dish is a total staple in traditional Chinese cooking. The fish was steamed to perfection and the black bean sauce a perfect complement - this one was gone in a flash

And Sweetie, darling

Avocado blancmange with cocoa jelly, pear, caramelised white chocolate. Wowsers, another beautiful Chui Lee Luk dessert. Thrown together with panache this dish is the perfect union of textures and flavour. The avocado blancmange itself was a  heavenly soft mousse, the dusting of white chocolate just in the right proportions. Miam-miam!

Egg custard tart (dan tat), a dish referenced from the hallowed halls of yum-cha. This Frenchified version served warm is no match to the original I'm afraid

Chow Bar & Eating has its sights firmly set on the bearded hipster Surry Hills set. Not taking itself too seriously and shaking the fusty rep of fine dining, this bar slash diner is all about a warm welcome, fun times and full bellies. Enjoy this one.

Numero uno, the mahjong mats set into the tables. A nice touch along with the joss stick (incense) inspired chopstick holders

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand Chow Bar and Eating House on Urbanspoon
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