Cumulus Up

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Chef Andrew McConnell has cracked the big time in Melbourne, literally. With a fistful of venues around town he's given the whole dining scene a good ol' shake up and now he's moved into the domain of beverages with a new wine bar. Good man. Cumulus Up has only been open a short while but will be adored for years to come. Just upstairs from all day diner Cumulus Inc., you can literally spend the whole night quite happily at the same street number (45 Flinders Ln). Since visiting Cumulus Inc. and Cutler & Co. a couple of years ago I was impressed with the type of food he was serving all in a neat little package of service, wine and style.  

Some cumulus themed mirrors, perhaps? Gomes-McNabb does it again Source: Daily Addict

McConnell has teamed up once again with architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb to wave her magic wand over the place. It seems that together they are basically unstoppable! Similar to Cumulus Inc. in design, though upstairs the palette is darker and moodier, with mismatched chairs a bit of this and that. It is all ultimately welcoming. Like being invited to the cool kid's party, a Melbournian would never admit to it as such. He or she nonchalantly sips a glass of red, thinking 'Goddamn, I wish we could smoke in here'...

Sort of like an XL dining room, Cumulus Up is a great rendez-vous point Source: Good Food

If I knew more about wine I'd make some witty comment about the wine list but I do not and besides, I just had a beer. Beer + bar food = a resounding YES. The menu reads well, it all sounds good really (well wouldn't it?). The best thing is its versatility; pop in for a drink before dinner,  plant yourself for a proper meal or just a nightcap (and sweet) before bed. There's even a Chef's Selection Menu which sounds intriguing ($65). You can skimp or splurge, the ball is in your court.

Et voilà!
Kale fritters. Chips sans guilt, because they are dehydrated and not deep fried...right? Once you crunch into one, you forget that you're getting a serve of veg (justifying away here)! Perfect for lounging with a movie ;)

Duck waffle, foie gras and prune ($8). Though there were initial misgivings, I insisted we ordered this (like a crazy person). A seemingly odd combination yes, but it works (or McConnell has made it work). A genius creation of a buckwheat waffle mixed with confit duck (+ skin), piped with foie gras parfait and topped with prune purée. Everything about this is just so crazy it's perfect - all those textures and surprise of the duck inside. Di-viine.

Now, to a more traditional crowd pleaser: spiced lamb ribs with smoked tomato. The serve was so tiny I was a little bit disappointed! But at $7, it's not so bad. The ribs were ridiculously tender, you could pull the meat off the bone without any effort

Golden roasted chat potatoes - these were on special request, not usually on the menu. The C-Up kitchen was kind to accommodate. Oh and FYI, they can roast the hell out of potatoes. It must be all the duck fat they've basted them with!

This was a great way to end my first night in Melbourne (reunited, at last!). In all seriousness, it seems McConnell can do no wrong. Yet again, he has come up with the goods on this little standout bar. A decent wine list with excellent bar edibles will keep the masses coming. Will Cumulus Up stand the test of time? You betcha.

I couldn't help sticking another photo in, it is just TOO GOOD, okay. We had one of those "Are you serious?!" moments...the my mind is blown/good kind. Try it! Photo credit: Kristoffer Paulsen

Thanks for reading!
Cumulus Up on Urbanspoon

Snapshot: Sydney Cafés III

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Devon café has its head tightly screwed on. When it comes to coffee and café dining, it means business. Surrounding themselves with some proper talent (alumni from Guillaume and Toby's Estate), husband & wife team Derek Puah & Noni Widjaja have filled an apparent hole in Sydney's café market with Devon. A 2 minute walk from central station, this nook of Surry Hills is being revived of sorts. When we sauntered up to the shop front, both breakfast specials had been emphatically crossed off the specials blackboard. Dang it (great for them, bad for us). As is often the case in Sydney; you snooze, you lose.

The new golden arches? Uh, yes please Photo credit: The AU Review

Devon isn't just a bunch of hipster friends tinkering in the kitchen or with an espresso machine. The team is all about offering restaurant quality food with a decidedly casual mode of delivery. Devon's staff are proud that much of their pickles, preserves and cures are made in-house. The lengthy coffee menu goes into great detail about where beans are sourced and then you have the choice of espresso, cold-drip (already sold out on the day for us) or chemex. My head might explode with the choices. Amongst the camouflage netting the vertical herb garden in the courtyard is a nice touch.

The sunny plyboard interior with baby blue racing stripes Photo: The Urban List

The menu reads as a veritable feast. Most dishes I would regard as quite hearty with only a smattering of lighter/veg options. There's a bit of a fusion going on with some Indonesian/Japanese influences (all welcome). As you'll see, the portion sizes are very generous but so delicious you feel compelled to finish

Citrus cured salmon with split dill cream, apple, celery, cucumber, fennel, soft boiled egg and brioche. This dish is amazing, not to be missed. Everything gels together so well, or maybe I just love salmon so much. It could be the latter

Breakfast with the Sakuma's (L) and the Flying Chook (R). Miso grilled king salmon, smoked eel croquette, 63' egg, radish petit salad and kewpi mayo - a great combination, would have like the croquette to have had a tad more eel. The miso was cooked perfectly though! Our sanga: Portugese chicken, grilled zucchini, baby spinach, cheese, chilli mayo & side of fries - umm, delicious! Those fries had a great dipping sauce too

Ogre 'Happy Meal': ox-tongue, hash potatoes, cauliflower puree, pickled onion & fried egg. Hiding under the egg were slices of ox tongue, so completely tender and tasty. Another great dish, and filling

Gone Bananas: banana pancakes, palm sugar caramel, banana fritters, pandan ice cream. Okay, this is not for the faint hearted and no I did not eat this alone. The pancakes were slightly heavier than I expected. Like 'sweet' is going out of fashion, this dessert is on 'roids - hitting that sweet button with a 1-2. I. need. water.

My second Asian cousin: tapioca & coconut, burnt citrus, almonds, chia and poppy seeds. This was my favourite dessert, for sure. Light, refreshing and sort of healthy. It was gone in the blink of an eye i.e. much preferred ;)

I had heard great things from friends about Devon Café and I'm happy to say that it is different, but in a good way. My one gripe with Devon would be its soundtrack, it was quite disorientating. At times I felt like I was at a rave (at 2pm?) or in the middle of a video game. It was a very strange feeling, sipping a coffee and trying to enjoy the ox-tongue! Like the quirky kid at school, Devon excels where it counts most - food + coffee. And that's all a girl can ask for.

Caffeine, a serious business. Chemex coffee @ Devon Credit: Daily Addict

There's plenty more where that came from, including write ups from my most recent overseas trip :D
Thanks for reading!
Devon Cafe on Urbanspoon

A Kinfolk Salad

Monday, 18 November 2013

I don't know about you, but I adore receiving things in the mail. Snail mail, as it's come to be referred. Call me a nana but in an age where everything is about instant gratification, a small reminder of the old ways is a welcome relief. The day I was delivered The Kinfolk Table was a particularly exciting one. A self -proclaimed disciple of the Kinfolk camp, their philosophy is all about simplifying in the best possible sense. Singing the virtues of the shared table where time itself is the greatest luxury.

To my excitement, the Kinfolk Table is quite a tome to be pored over again and again Photo: Kinfolk

I want to cook everything in this book, the recipes are not there to challenge or dazzle you with technique but to simply enjoy the process: the market shop, the meander in the kitchen almost an idle.  Here is the first thing I made from the cookbook at home, it was a pleasure to put together (because that's all it was really) and to devour. 

Hearty Barley Salad with Broiled Feta and Tomatoes
Recipe by Nathalie Schwer

The finished product, a serving of deliciousness - and sort of healthy too!

Don't let this longish list of ingredients deter you!

230g feta cut into small cubes
230g small ripe tomatoes, halved
70g pitted black olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs e.g. rosemary, oregano, thyme
60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
200g pearled barley
2 cups water
2 ripe avocados, cut into cubes
455g marinated artichokes, in wedges
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
30ml (2 tbspn) fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, position rack in centre of oven

2. Combine feta, tomatoes, olives, herbs and olive oil on a foil lined baking tray and toss to mix

3. Bake for 25 mins or until the feta has melted and the tomatoes soft and brown

Oh man, just imagining this as a tart/quiche filling right now...

4. Meanwhile, bring barley, water and 1/2 tspn salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20 mins or until tender. Fluff barley with fork and transfer to a salad bowl

Believe it or not, I haven't actually cooked with pearl barley before. I had to buy it from the trusty health food shop up the road. It has a texture very similar to brown rice, slightly nutty

5. Add avocados, artichokes, cucumber, basil and lemon juice to barley and toss to combine

Any other day, I would happily sit down and polish these off just as they are

6. Stir in the feta mixture. Season to taste with S & P

Be aware that feta tends to be quite salty so don't be too heavy handed with seasoning

7. Serve warm with bread and/or charcuterie (whatever's lying around) and a glass of wine

A hodge podge of veg and colour! I found the feta let off a lot of oil once baked, add the pan juices to the salad with care

There's a lot going on with this salad flavour wise. The feta offers a real kick that is tempered by the sweetness of the tomatoes and cucumber. Add in those divine artichokes and the occasional olive saltiness. The freshness of the basil features with almost every mouthful. The recipe apparently serves 4 but I stretched it to 6 pretty generous serves. Great as a party starter!

Thanks for reading!

Sixpenny & Co with Dan Hunter

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What a greedy guts I am. When the opportunity arose to attend a once off dinner at Sixpenny with guest chef Dan Hunter, it was a complete no brainer. It's been almost a year since I first visited this little Stanmore restaurant and I've been singing its praises ever since. Dan Hunter ex-Royal Mail Hotel just happened to be between jobs, as he is on the cusp of opening his own restaurant called Brae. All the better for us Sydneysiders to nab him for an exclusive Good Food Month dinner.

This dining room for 30 is a Scando minimalist gem Photo credit: Foolscap Studio

Tonight's event would be a special treat, a 'clash' of food philosophy and the finest ingredients our country has to offer. Call it the sustainable food brains trust. Hunter has spent the last several years as head chef at the much lauded Royal Mail Hotel, known for its play on modern Australian cuisine (which remains a rather cryptic phrase if you ask me). Previously head chef at Mugaritz (ranked #4 restaurant in the world), Hunter's food is very much based around the land and using what is immediately at hand, foraged or found in season. Simple as that, right ;)

Unleashing the beast...

Kipfler potato chips (L) and rye cracker with oysters and sea lettuce (R), the latter a delightful mouthful, as if straight from the sea

Prawn on prawn cracker - the meat, so delicate and refreshing

Golden beet, baked in salt crust (L) and linseed cracker with wallaby tartare (R).  The first dish, presenting just like a bird's nest and the latter a DH dish, something entirely new to me and exciting ++

A note on service. Sixpenny has the curious custom of chefs bringing out each dish to the diners' table. Not only is this particularly labour intensive, it runs as if finely orchestrated. The front of house staff are particularly attentive, I suppose it's not too much of a stretch if your wait station is right there! One of the many reasons why I've come back for Sixpenny seconds... 

Dan Hunter's garden: new season asparagus, frozen radish and nasturtium. The technique really enhances just how gorgeous those ingredients are. Eat before it disappears into a puddle on the plate!

Ogle away because this dish is just about my favourite of ALL TIME. The stakes are  high. Steamed snow crab, macadamia milk, chamomile and shaved macadamias. A smooth and creamy consistency, it simply melts away on the palate

A 'simple' dish of mulberry and leek. I'm just imagining the old tweezers getting a good work out here. The leeks were so sweet

Another Hunter dish: WA marron, sea lettuce juice, artichoke and rose. Don't those ingredients read beautifully? The subtle flavours of the lettuce etc allow the marron to work its magic. Glorious.

A rather demure looking bass grouper from South island NZ, sea nettle, burnt butter, steamed nettle sauce. A Sixpenny dish, the sauce was a deliciously creamy concoction, and let's not forget the fish!

The final savoury dish for the night, a Dan Hunter creation. Squab a.k.a pigeon, charred radicchio, quandong and beetroot. How beautiful does this plate look, and vibrant! Ending on a high, the pigeon was cooked so well I think duck might have a new rival...

Parsnip, blueberries, caramelised apple and creme fraiche (L). Pear, toasted milk crumb, vanilla ice cream & pear and chocolate ganache (R). It's a dessert face-off, DH has it by a whisker for sheer originality

Sixpenny's killer version of a salted caramel TeeVee snack and chocolate doughnuts. OMG

Back for more, this meal did not disappoint. I could rattle on about everything Sixpenny for days but I will resist. Dining here is all about the experience, with more substance and less pomp. Chef Dan Hunter's food fit the degustation like a glove. It's no wonder Sixpenny was awarded 2013 Restaurant of the Year by Time Out Sydney. It was well deserved in my book.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. a big congratulations to Sixpenny's sommelier Seb Crowther who has recently been awarded Master Sommelier
Sixpenny on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Heralding in the warmer months, there really isn't anywhere better to be than Sydney (sorry, Melbourne). Spoilt for choice between sandy beaches and innumerable harbour vantages, our love of outdoor dining is no surprise. Today I'm jotting some notes on two venues owned by husband + wife team Gary & Stephany Burton, adding a distinctive twist to the humble poolside café. I remember back to the days of drenching hot chips in salt and vinegar! Welcome to another Sydney café round-up post, it really is a never ending story...

Poolside Café

Andrew Boy Charlton Pool
1C Mrs Macquarie's Rd, The Domain

I was half expecting to be getting plastic cups by a pool but no ;) Bring on a jug of Poolside Pimm's!

A pleasant stroll away from Mrs Macquarie's Chair or Woolloomooloo wharf, Poolside Cafe takes casual dining up a notch at Andrew Boy Charlton Pool. With a liquor license and the venue even available for hire, it's a great indoor-outdoor cafe for a lazy lunch after your laps in the salt H2O. The drinks menu is a good one, order a jug of Pimm's or sip on a smoothie (I had a delicious açai berry, coconut, banana, almond and honey concoction). The menu is a la carte but can I recommend choosing one of the Chef's specials. Soak up that sun and while away the afternoon listening to Flume in a sombrero. Yeaah!

Making the most out of beautiful weather, take up a table outside and you will be offered a sombrero to wear (super stylish, ja) Source: Poolside Cafe

The wait for the food was perhaps longer than expected but this really was restaurant type food we were getting here. Et voilà:

Grilled barramundi with capsicum broth and fried zucchini flower ($29.50). A perfect size for lunch, the barramundi was soft + flakey with a crisp skin. The fried basil leaves were a nice touch and the broth (more like a capsicum passata) was mopped up without hesitation

Chef's Risotto: pea, prawn and fennel risotto ($23.50). Pretty as a picture, this is a classic risotto combination

"Signs point to yes": try Poolside next time you're scratching your head as to where to go (as I often am)

Meadow Café

Prince Alfred Park Pool
105 Chalmers St, Surry Hills

The newly redeveloped Prince Alfred Park pool in Surry Hills has opened just in time for summer and with it, Meadow Cafe. The café has a 1950s Miami feel in all the details. With generous splashes of yellow and sky blue about the place and blankets draped over the back of seats (just in case), it's definitely time to break out the cossie. This café is much more relaxed compared to Poolside, you can definitely sidle up barefoot and in your bathers and have a bite to eat. Do it.

All we wanted: for the longest time the P.A.P site was a dirty hole in the ground.  Now, a pool with a bit of style and some good eats Photo credit: Brasserie Bread

Drinkies on a warm day: açai berry (left) and banana, date, almond and vanilla (right) smoothies. Bringing back the paper straws too, v. retro

Daily special: pork and coleslaw burger with french fries. The toasted Brasserie Bread bun was delish, though I found the meat a little bit dry. No matter, those chips were good, if not great

Hope you're hungry! Roast chicken sandwich with crispy bacon, slow roasted tomato, lettuce, aioli & chips ($16)

Bright, airy and very yellow, Meadow is a win for residents and visitors alike Photo credit: Brasserie Bread

Does anyone else feel like a swim now?!

Thanks for reading!
Meadow Cafe on Urbanspoon

Buffalo Dining Club

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Michael Fantuz is onto something. He has encapsulated the secret to a rollicking good time. Owner of Table for 20 and now Chester White in Potts Point - his empire is quietly expanding into tiny nooks in the East. Buffalo Dining Club lives in this wee terrace on Surrey St, Darlo where cheese and wine are Italian styley BFFs. Recently named People's Choice in the Time Out Sydney Food Awards, the hoards that surround this place of a weekend don't lie.

Trading since 2011 and going strong if the wait list is any indication. Logo design by Tony Zafirakos Credit: Desktop Mag

But be prepared, the Buffalo is of the no-bookings tribe so you'll be slapped on a wait list as long as the night. We made a detour to Li'l Darlin across the road for an apéritif (or several), camping out for the wait. The wait comes as no surprise actually when you step inside to be met with waves of noise, vino and cheese wafting out at you. Did I mention noise? It is tiny! Shepherded upstairs to our table, it took some serious contorting to read the black board menu. The wine list is a single A5 page, and not too shabby/exxy. The Malbec was my personal favourite. 

My round-up of the food stakes:

It's in the name: buffalo mozzarella, Jamón Ibérico (peeking in the distance), potato croquettes, grilled broccolini, toasties and taralli bread. The Jamon and buffalo were obvious stand outs, obviously. A perfect way to start an Italian fiesta

Them cured meats, closerrr Credit: Best Restaurants Blog

Lamb ragù orecchiette: this pasta had a nice tender ragù, the orecchiette was slightly overcooked however. A hearty serve to complement that splendid glass of red

If there ever was a signature dish, the cacao e pepe would be IT. Served with theatrical flourish out of a whole wheel of buffalo milk pecorino, this simple pasta dish consists of 5 things: spaghetti, pepper, cheese, parsley & olio = dynamite, apparently! I was quite amazed this was such a hot ticket, lots of people could give this a good crack at home

Enter tirumisu entry #456 (no, seriously). Freshly made in-house, this dessert was light & delicate with a good kick of coffee. I think the appropriate word here would be 'demolished'

The Darlinghurst masses have been flocking to this place for years now (well, 2). A full house (given it seats 25-ish) every night can't be a bad thing. The man himself (Durack) has given it a solid 13/20 in the Herald. Buffalo has set out for a singular purpose: the anti-establishment (fine dining, that is). Conceivably not one of Sydney's culinary finest, come to BDR for wine, nibblies and assured good times. That is all ;)

Word as art: the typography wall by Georgia Hill Source: Behance

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand Buffalo Dining Club on Urbanspoon


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