Snapshot: Sydney cafés VI

Sunday, 31 August 2014



Isn't incredible that we are already approaching the start of Spring. August has ended with weeks of rain and blustery winds but today was something else. A clear blue sky day conducive to outdoor pursuits, a swim in the ocean or a long leisurely walk. Talk about weekend revival. With coffee in hand, once you take a sip everything seems right in the world - if only for a second. Today's post is another instalment of my cafe snapshot series. There's plenty more where that came from...!

Anvil Coffee Co

Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli

Walk straight towards the ferry wharf and you'll find this place where you'd least expect. With a beat up pallet finish, Anvil pays homage to shabby chic (emphasis on shabby)

Anvil Coffee Co opened in late 2013 with little ceremony, literally inhabiting a nook of Kirribilli ferry wharf. Like a barnacle, it seems to have unwittingly found itself perched where waves lap quietly below. The whole concept of a café suspended over the water is rather magnificent.  And for the local ferry commuter, a god-send. The menu is sharp and succinct where magic words 'poached eggs!' and 'pulled pork!' lend an easy appeal. Pair that with some solid coffee and you've got a charming harbour oasis. But sssh, let's keep it our little secret.

Before I knew it, my soy cappuccino was already gone. I could have almost convinced myself to have another!

The Antonio: Spanish style baked beans, pulled pork, a fried egg with grated manchego and sourdough toast. Something I'd love to make at home but just 'never get around to', this dish was the perfect way to start the day. Hearty and healthy, well sort of

Buttered Arabian Eggs: poached eggs, Greek yogurt, garlic, chilli & lemon juice burnt butter with mint on sourdough. Simply and elegant, this dish represents everything you'd want in poached eggs. I must say though at $16, this veggo option is a bit steep

How to make the most of beautiful Sydney Harbour, getting schooled at Anvil Coffee Co
Anvil Coffee Co on Urbanspoon

Lox Stock & Barrel

140 Glenayr Avenue, Bondi Beach

Pumpkin salad with kale, quinoa, red cabbage, cucumber, carrot & spinach with sesame & miso dressing. With the addition of hot smoked ocean trout, this salad is taken to great heights. Just a really nice combination, vibrant, fresh and feel-good

Ah Bondi, how I've missed you. I always find myself waiting way too long between visits because it really is a lovely spot (and world famous with good reason). Home of barefoot surfer types, bleached hair and real-fake tans; Bondi locals take coffee and brunch rather seriously. With eyes firmly set on whole foods and promoting 'farm to table' eating, Lox Stock & Barrel is a deli with a difference. With some loose Jewish influences, LSB is cranking out some very fine sandwiches (read: bagels!) and delicious salads. And to further sweeten the deal, they're now open for dinner 4 nights a week. Why do we even bother to cook at home?! Be warned though, the weekend queues aren't to be sniffed at.

Pretty in blue: my obligatory cappuccino, a fair effort by LSB

Grilled, spiced Albacore tuna panini with jalapeños, miso dressed slaw and cucumber. The tuna was cooked well to medium-rare. The biggest challenge was actually eating the thing trying to avoid sandwich-filling spillage. First. World. Problems.

Hot smoked ocean trout salad with beetroot, freekah (I just love typing that), rocket, shaved fennel, mint, zucchini, caramelised walnuts with lemon & buttermilk dressing. This one was a masterclass in modern salad making. Gone are the days of garden salads with boring lettuce, tomato and cucumber! The caramelised walnuts basically sealed the deal, so nice

Yes, it's a bit of a squeeze but LSB does some great food and is probably worth the wait
Lox, Stock & Barrel on Urbanspoon
Thanks for reading boys & girls!
xGourmand

Cho Cho San

Saturday, 23 August 2014


Jonathan Barthlemess and his assembled A-team have taken Macleay St by storm, again. This time with a touch of Japanese flair, Cho Cho San has taken over the former Shogun restaurant site replacing old world Japanese with new. Potts Point has always been a delectable melting pot of restaurants and bars so a new opening like this is always looked keenly upon. Strolling towards the restaurant, CCS is lit up like a beacon, attracting hipsters like moths to a flame. The media has certainly done a great job creating a stir around this place. I was almost surprised not to see a mob at the door clamouring to get in.


Skipping straight to dessert! The rather lush steamed yuzu pudding, perfect for this cool blustery weather. The yuzu in this dish served as a little palette cleanser. Topped with cream to seal the deal

Let me just put it out there that this is a gorgeous restaurant, with minimalist hues of white, birch ply and bare concrete. Employing once again, the services of interior designer George Livissianis who has rendered one of the most photogenic restaurants in town. The backlit ceiling is punctuated with perforated beams which hide the air conditioning and audio system, also acting as sound absorbers. The soundtrack, as if straight from my own playlist (weird) features SBTRKT, Glass Animals and Lorde. So far, CCS is getting big ticks.

The geometry of the table settings; the food is certainly designed to share

Following the successes of The Apollo, Cho Cho San takes loose inspiration from Japanese cuisine which has been rejigged into something rather new and exciting. Combining the very best seafood Australia has to offer with more traditional techniques of pickling (all. the. rage.) and grilling over a hibachi; Barthelmess has created a menu that is adaptable. Be it for some casual drinks at the bar with snacks or a veritable feast, it all works. Mind you, the good stuff doesn't come cheap (but what does in Sydney these days). What's more, they open 7 days so you can maximise your chances of getting a table (so not kidding here). Failing that they're also open for lunch Fri-Sun. 

Down the barrel, communal dining at its best. The bar seats have little bag hooks so all your devices are within easy reach, haha Credit: Hayley Morgan for Two Thousand

Already, in its early days there are some crowd favourites. I had read the high praise for the fried chicken alone (done) in Gourmet Traveller and seen their soft-serve cones all over Instagram and the like. Initially a vibrant green tea version, the ice cream and the menu have had a few seasonal tweaks to change things up. The service was excellent, and staff were happy to accommodate for dietary requirements at the table. It was all good fun going through the procession of dishes we had ordered (crazies), almost like a custom degustation. Roll up!

From the raw bar: Petuna ocean trout, black pepper and wasabi (left) and Tuna, avocado and pickled eggplant (right). Both of these dishes were delicious, not only because I am a total sucker for sashimi. Sliced to order, the fish was of phenomenal freshness and quality. I probably could have polished them off myself!

Fried Chicken. Simple in name but there are some subtleties to delivering one this good.  There's a lot more finesse involved in creating a dish like this. Tender and juicy chicken, still succulent and piping hot with a familiar crispy, crunch on the outside. Be warned, the wasabi mayo is addictive

Prawn buns (left) and fried miso eggplant (right). No boa for us, these prawn buns were super tasty, I think fresh prawns and kewpie had a lot to do with that. But at $9 a piece...REALLY?! The eggplant was a nice dish but I tend to prefer the more traditional version  of nasu dengaku (miso glazed roasted eggplant)

Japanese charcoal chicken, read: spatchcock. The bird was cooked really well, with a delicious black charry crust (the best bit). Finger lickin' good

King crab omelette, Japanese curry. A very mild curry flavour allows the crab to shine through. The egg was also nice and soft, not overcooked and dense

Teriyaki T-bone, onion salad. Simply delicious, mop up the dark soy sauce and let the meat do the talking. Thank goodness it came ready carved

Miso cod, celery, ginger (left) and brown rice, shitake mushroom, egg (right). The former dish sort of faded into the background compared to some of the more tasty dishes. The cod was cooked well but none of the miso really came through over the burnt crust. And at $40, was rather meagre. The fried rice was respectable, and a good way to marry everything together

Two green lights: banana soft-serve cone, peanut, caramel. I make no apologies for the amount of food we managed to order. The ice cream was the perfect way to finish the meal. The salted caramel was perfectly balanced but still allowing the banana flavour to come through. Bringing out the inner child in each of us - a triumph!

Cho Cho snow: ginger custard topped with shaved ice, jackfruit. A nice little number but I was a bit distracted by the ice creams. Sorry

In all its bright and spangly newness, Cho Cho San is the place to be. An oasis all in white and timber, CCS represents a rather exciting venture in Potts Point. Offering a rather watered down version of Japanese cuisine, this is dining for the well-to-do masses. Ultimately, the variety of dishes and balance in flavours wins you over - it's almost all too easy. When The Apollo burst onto the scene, critics were quick to sing its praises for bringing a renewed energy and innovation to the dining scene. I think it might be time for round two! 

Cho Cho San, positively glowing Credit: Tom Ferguson for Yellow Trace

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Cho Cho San on Urbanspoon

Beach Club @ Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Monday, 18 August 2014


Winding your way up New and Old South Head Roads, there's a vague feeling that you're traipsing to the ends of the Earth. A day excursion of sorts, with some spectacular views en route. Heartbreak Hill is nothing of the sort when you take a sweeping glance to the left. There's something special about Watsons Bay, because it is a 'visit once a year' sort of place, each occasion is special and gives out warm and fuzzy holiday vibes. This month I made the pilgrimage to Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Beach Club, a venue has been on my wish list for the longest time.

Lunch: my best impressions of a vogue living shoot! Loving the look of the concrete tabletops, functional to a T

A grand renovation saw the new and improved Watsons Bay Boutique throw open it's doors late last year, just in time for the summer season. Living by the harbour, Sydneysiders love a good outdoor venue and Watsons Bay is no slouch. With styling and interiors by Sydney company Alexander & Co., the outfit looks pretty schmick with a bold use of colour (and nautical stripes for that matter) and great attention to detail. Antiques and flowers dot almost every flat surface giving a very lived-in and comforting feel. Affording water views from inside and out, the Beach Club certainly maximises every inch of its precious real estate. The restaurant and bar occupy multiple levels for relaxed wining and dining.

Let the light in: glimpses of the harbour from one of the many window seats

Keeping it casual, orders for drink and food are placed at the bar and you take a table number. I can only imagine the kind of crowds that the Beach Club contends with during the summer months, but on the day I visited it was really quite civilised and relaxing at that. A quick getaway, if only for the day. The sheer size of the Beach Club itself is quite impressive and also caters for larger groups and conferences. The Sunset Room is also available for private hire and perfect for weddings (or miscellaneous party time). 

Interiors by Alexander & Co. perfectly encapsulate seaside chic. Now, if only we were in Byron Bay...

Executive chef John Pye has designed a menu for all ages (including big kids); featuring crowd favourites like fish & chips, the Bay burger and a dedicated kids menu. On top of that there are seasonal main courses (read: comfort food during this wintery wet spell) as well as all-day breakfast options for those of us who sleep past 10.     The direction is mostly casual and great for a long lunch followed by a luxurious beach stroll. Simple pleasures.

Crab carbonara linguine with pancetta and organic egg. This dish looked good on paper but unfortunately fell short. The sauce was far too rich ad overpowering for the delicate crab, a great shame for such a beautiful ingredient (which was rather sparse on the plate). Perhaps the addition of some sort of vegetable, like asparagus could do this dish a world of good. A bit one dimensional for me

Hot out of the oven, the rather generous serve of (Shepherd's) fish pie. Easily enough for two at lunch, this dish is the perfect winter warmer. The lovely gratinated top is just the start, with lovely large fresh chunks of fresh fish including salmon, mussels and prawn. Towards the end, I was digging for treasure, trying to retrieve each skerrick of seafood embedded in the thick layer of creamy mash. Everything I could wish for in a fish pie :)

The outdoor bar and dining area. Only for brave souls during the cold!

One couldn't help but notice there was a major shortage of pepper, also keenly felt by our neighbouring table. Only after surreptitiously going up to three or so tables and giving the pepper mills a good shake, were we able to find some. Small inconveniences like this stop me from heaping praise on this place, or perhaps I'm being fastidious. The shortcomings at lunch are more than made up for in the atmosphere, service and charms of the Beach Club. Watsons Bay Beach Club is well suited to but not limited to preppy Eastern suburbs types heading for a quiet cocktail or beer. Don't let the driving rain in Sydney (at the moment) deter you from the decent pub-style food and fun times to be had at Watsons Bay Beach Club. Keep this venue in your back pocket.

Beautiful little flower arrangements are a nice touch at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Watsons Beach Club on Urbanspoon

Gourmand dined courtesy of Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Thank you for having me!

Snapshot: Sydney Cafés V

Tuesday, 12 August 2014



Sydney is now home to a swathe of new cafés, quickly swelling to Melbornian proportions (well, almost). Quite frankly, the industry has become a rather perplexing beast swaying under the pressures of sky-high rent, keeping up appearances on social media and somehow having 'an edge' over everyone else. Because let's face it, the standards of coffee and café fare at the moment are nothing to be sniffed at (go us :D). Now the rest of us can go forth and reap the spoils! Sydney café society is very much alive and kicking, particularly in the Inner West. Suburbs like Chippendale, Enmore and Marrickville are running red hot at the moment. Here are a few that are leading the charge:

Brewtown Newtown

6-8 O'Connell St, Newtown

I may just have a thing for great typography and signage. Here are the 23 karat gold leaf efforts by Lynes & Co Source: Lynes & Co

Ever since my time as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed undergrad (back in the day) I've always had a soft spot for Newtown. Not only for its accessibility and character but also all the cafés, bookshops and quirky boutiques that line King Street in their dozens, not to mention $6.50 thai food. It's utterly irresistible. It's a little cultural hub and if I ever lived there...I might never well leave! Ever since opening last year, Brewtown Newtown has had a dream run. I'm thinking the alliteration might have a role there. Taking over the old Berkelouw bookshop site with an 'industrial' revamp, this airy space is now home to a café, micro-roastery and boutique of nice things in O'Connell Street Merchants upstairs.

And so, the battle of the coffee ferns ensues... After watching the Latte Art Smackdown at the Aroma Coffee Festival this year I have a new appreciation for the pouring of milk. Crazy. Person. I feel as though coffee in Sydney has reached a plateau, but in a good way. Not quite to the ridiculous standards of Melbourne (ruthless) but we try!

It's a familiar story, these lads (and ladettes) are serious about their coffee.  Sourcing green beans from a far off plantation in Panama, they are then roasted onsite where all the magic happens under the name of Gnome Coffee Merchants. Brewtown prides itself on showcasing seasonal blends as well as single origin brews. Take your pick from espresso, cold drip or filter; it's all there and if you don't know what I'm going on about, just order your go-to like I eventually did. A regular cap, s'il vous plaît! The menu is nice and concise with options appealing to all. I zoned in on the most unhealthy thing on the menu - there were cronuts involved. I have to say that Brewtown is hitting all the right notes with their set-up. Definitely worth a try if you can get a table! Good luck with that.

Baked polenta with mushrooms, grilled asparagus, poached egg & parmesan ($15). A super popular dish on the Brewtown menu, this is a lovely combination perfect for lunch or brekkie. The eggs were poached well, with the polenta to mop up all the yolk

Elvis burger: ground beef, savoury cronut, canadian bacon, gruyère and mayo with chips and relish ($16.50). It looks half eaten but actually this was the perfect serving size considering how calorie laden every mouthful was. Hidden under the innocuous disc of cronut was a proper hamburger, and very indulgent at that. The relish was a nice touch and potato wedges go with everything...

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Bion Societé

Cnr Layton & Lambert Streets, Camperdown

A decent cappucino, or maybe I was just dying for caffeine at that point!

Not far from Sydney University or RPA, Bion Societé is tucked away from the chaos of Parramatta Road. Like a suburban oasis for locals, this is the perfect local coffee shop by all accounts. The interior is quite striking with floor to ceiling windows, larger communal tables and a green wall. With a very warm welcome we are ushered to our table, crowned with a huge pot plant which I discreetly pushed to one side. With coffee orders placed, I was already in my happy place.

Another rather swanky and super appealing café interior Source: Bion Societé

Chef Cherag Baria and the team have devised a very thoughtful café menu featuring plenty of crowd favourites from the all day breakfast  as well as a few dishes with a Bion twist. The crispy skin ocean trout dish with harissa looked delicious! As soon as the dishes hit the table we were pleasantly surprised by the care put into the plating. From the get-go I was pretty impressed by the whole package. The food was also a cut above (in the café food stakes) with a nice attention to detail. A big tick from me!

Persian breakfast: oven baked eggs and spiced lamb slowly cooked in tomato, capsicum, ricotta & coriander sauce with toasted sourdough ($21). The eggs were perfectly cooked, nice and runny to trawl through the dish. A good effort although I do look back fondly at Kepos Street Kitchen's version

Smoked salmon stack: sourdough toast, avocado puree, feta, smoked salmon, trout roe, fresh herbs, pesto olive oil & marinated black olives ($14.50). A thing of beauty, you wouldn't dream of doing this kind of fancy work at home. And the perfect serving size

BION Café breakfast: 2 eggs (cooked to your preference) with caramelised tomato, herb butter, mushrooms, chorizo, bacon, wilted spinach & toasted sourdough ($20). Old faithful = the perfect hangover cure (not that we were hungover :D)

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Bion Societé on Urbanspoon

Sushisamba

Thursday, 7 August 2014



If there's one venue in London that's been hit by the hype machine, it's Sushisamba. Seats have never been such hot property than at this fusion restaurant nestled near the top of Heron Tower. Downstairs to its decidedly tame buddy Duck & Waffle, Sushisamba lets its hair down in a tumble of bamboo and hanging light globes. If you're confused by the name, you're not alone. Describing itself as blending Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian influences I see this going only one of two ways: to soaring heights or a crushing low. And so the bar is set, and it's about 39 storeys high.

Yellowtail Sashimi Tiradito with lemongrass and jalapeño. The yellowtail was a bit on the fishy side for me i.e. could be fresher (shame!). The dipping sauce gave a nice spicy kick however

The Sushisamba name has officially gone global with venues also in Miami beach (well, duh) and Vegas. As you stroll casually into this vast space, you feel like you're at a nightclub in broad daylight...Ou est le dancefloor? CetraRuddy who took charge of the interior design really went to town with a restaurant floor bordering on the excess. I do appreciate the leather 'luggage strap' seats, they look great (and are really comfy). This is a restaurant designed for A-listers and Ibiza-type party people, and I notice the lounge area perfectly positioned for people watching. As for me? I'm hoping there's a bit of substance amongst all this style. I just want some decent nosh (it's all I ask for)!

If it's wow factor they were going for, they have it in spades. The rather dramatic bamboo and light feature sets the scene for a different kind of dining experience... Source: Pure Consult

One glance at the menu and you know it's not for the faint hearted, not only for the unusual flavour combinations but also the prices. Prepare to do some serious damageIf you fancy trying the ishi yaki (grilled) wagyu it'll only set you back a tidy 49 pounds ;) And the serves are not big here, let me tell you. If there's one thing that I will give credit for, it's concept. All those preconceived ideas about food in London being dull and lifeless are about to come crashing down.

Crispy taquitos: wagyu, avocado and shichimi mayonnaise. These were a standout of the meal for me. Delicioso! The combination of wagyu and avocado were divine. This was the perfect dish with a generous squeeze of lime. Must. Try.

Tuna seviche with pomegranate leche de tigre (say what?), maiz morado (translation?), wasabi peas and basil. I thought this dish looked stunning when it came out, like edible artwork. Although the foam was rendered a bit superfluous once it disappeared. After a while the flavours in the seviche sort of amalgamated together, so it ends up all tasting the same with an overwhelming, vinegary aftertaste - am I painting a picture here?

Ezo samba roll: soy marinated salmon, asparagus, onion, chive, sesame, tempura crunch, soy paper and wasabi mayo. Who needs nori when you've got soy paper? This was quite an interesting element. I could happily have eaten this roll with raw salmon (instead of seared). A bit more mayo would have been ideal

Pork ribs, BBQ miso, pickled yuzu apple. What can I say, you can't go wrong with meat that pulls of the bone like this did and a bit of stickiness from the glaze that coats the fingers...yes.

Teriyaki poussin, japanese-style mayonnaise, yuzu kosho. Poussin is basically a fancy name for a young chicken. The salty soy hit from the teriyaki sauce went beautifully well with the mayonnaise (which was itself a high point). A good effort, and the meat was well cooked

The Brazilian-Peruvian-Japanese fusion thing is admirably conceived and executed. As if going through some sort of identity crisis, the only similarity I can see between those cuisines is the use of raw fish (i.e. sashimi and ceviche). It still remains a little on the weird side and 'niche' for me, but I have to applaud the effort of it all. The plating for one is some of the best I've seen; full of vibrancy and delicate touches. Perhaps this has come at the expense of developing flavour. The more traditional Japanese dishes, the sushi and sashimi were nothing to write home about sadly. But look, it's difficult to criticise this emerging empire which is doing so fantastically well i.e. book well ahead. As a unique dining 'experience' Sushisamba certainly gets top marks; just be wary of becoming a victim of the hype.


My rather amateur photog effort - I'm blaming the equipment here! Haha

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Sushisamba on Urbanspoon
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