Bourke Street Bakery – Surry Hills – Numerous Occasions

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Rarely do we fall in love at first sight when it comes to restaurants. Many times we have an amazing experience, but cannot afford to go back any time soon, or want to try a new experience given the price tag.

Is that why we often say we “love” places like bakeries and gelaterias when trying to explain our affinity towards them? Many times I have said I love Messina or Beechworth Bakery and well and truly adding to a reasonably long list is the Bourke Street Bakery. There are numerous outposts but Surry Hills is the original.

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More than once over the Easter weekend, we were here for lunch or afternoon tea. It was Catherine’s first time and the way I described it was “everything is good – pies, croissants, cakes, breads – everything!” Luckily I didn’t ruin her experience with a heightened expectation that could not be met. Even the coffee is pretty good here.

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The pistachio creme brûlée may have been the ultimate sweet from the selection we tried over a few days but only a short margin away was the brandied prune custard tart, rhubarb and almond tart, and the lemon curd tart.

While on Good Friday we tried a vegetarian sausage roll with eggplant, the best savoury was our pie with beef brisket on the Sunday which had enough red wine sauce (and mushroom) to not need any of the tomato variety added.

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Something that made some of these treats taste even better was eating them at the harbour beach in Vaucluse. While it might be called “Shark Beach” there is nothing dangerous about it – one of the great inner harbour beaches Sydney has to offer, complete with a shark net just in case.

This bakery makes a beeline towards complete and utter happiness, not to mention yet another love.

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday roast at Four In Hand – Paddington – Sunday 5 April 2015 – Dinner

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A few years before Four In Hand became better known for its executive chef, it was better known for honest rustic British food celebrating the nose to tail concept. While it is now better known in broader circles for Colin Fassnidge of the reality television show, My Kitchen Rules, the locals have continued to flock to the warm pub and dining room.

On Sunday’s, a roast is offered for an extremely reasonable $24. Having no idea how long we might have to wait on Easter Sunday for a feed, Catherine and I got to the pub a little after 5pm and had no trouble finding a table in the pub dining room, tucked away from the main bar. There is plenty of atmosphere with standing room only in the main bar, most watching one or both the rugby and AFL on TVs around the venue. At this stage, the main dining room is just being set up for the evening’s more formal punters.

If it wasn’t for the great feeling of the pub, its applauded food, and the opportunity to catch some of the game, this pub in the suburban part of Paddington could be missed by most. Even on the third visit it still feels like you have uncovered a hidden secret. We go up to the bar to order our roast but it has changed from the pork belly (that looked amazing on some other tables) to the beef.

We will never know how the pork belly tasted, but the beef was cooked perfectly for most tastes (medium rare). The rustic plating true to what we experienced in country England for similar meals included huge roasted carrot, pumpkin, onion, and some small potatoes. All of the vegetables were beautifully cooked and seasoned, with a good amount of caramelisation. The gravy was good, but definitely not generous enough given the quantity of the main ingredients, meaning the only critique would be the last few mouthfuls having almost no sauce at all.

Whether washed down with a glass of red wine, or a pint of beer, there is warmth and reassurance about a Sunday roast this good. It’s not rocket science to do a great roast, but how often can you find this type of amazing and honest food at your average pub? If Four In Hand were around the corner, down the road, or within a few suburbs, I would be there more than once a month. The locals here are extremely lucky.

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Coffee and scrambled eggs – part 2

Still feeling wanting from my scrambled eggs miss from a couple of days prior at Sprolo I ordered the same again.

Boucla Kafenion is a cafe I’ve occasionally grabbed a coffee from while visiting Jean Claude Patisserie for any one or more of baguette, pie, cake or bread. The coffee is passable and not bad but the focus is not specifically on coffee so my hope is the food is excellent.

It’s a nice place and sitting out the front on a sunny morning is perfect. It is busy and the staff are in good spirits. However it is also the sixth cafe I’ve visited in a row in Perth that has no table service. I still don’t understand why it is so hard?

So as I eluded to, I ordered the scrambled eggs on toast. They are presented in a cool rustic terracotta plate with high edges. Once I got over the fact that again the bread was not buttered (and further no butter was offered) I then had to wait for some salt and pepper. Now I was ready and all I can say is breakfast was plain. I needed to add salt three times which I never ever do, nor should need to.

I don’t want to go on, but I can do passable scrambled eggs at home, adding a touch of Parmesan for extra flavour and making sure they are slowly cooked to retain moisture and fluffiness. It is not hard but yet I can never match the best cafes and their cream additions and extra saltiness that many home cooks just can’t morally throw in. It is one thing to know what is added, and another thing to add it yourself! Well, I can beat (pardon the pun) these eggs, and I can butter toast.

I won’t be back at Boucla. It really is a nice spot but around the corner is Little Pantry and there are other places I haven’t yet tried. It’s time for some surprises and improvement.

Boucla Kafenion on Urbanspoon

Coffee and scrambled eggs – part 1

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Normally coffee on my way to work in Perth is via Hay Street’s Bench Espresso. However, Perth is in a state of grand development along Riverside Drive and as usual, where there is development, traffic flow stops as a result. Tired of coffee becoming an outlandish adventure through crosstown traffic, new options were needed.

Introduce Sprolo on Canning Highway in South Perth. Easy parking and the promise of some of Perth’s best coffee led me there but would the change bring rewards or regret?

Focussing on the coffee, it is indeed superb. The guys here seem to tag team as baristas and are both very good at their craft. There are several types on offer between blends and single origins. The long black comes in a small cup which is perfect for me, preferring not too much hot water in addition to the just extracted espresso. Normally in Perth I have to order “half full” but not here.

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The barista chooses the coffee to match your order and in this case selected the Etude blend by Blacklist Coffee Roasters for my long black. It is almost like syphon coffee in its subtlety and continuity of flavour, without the robustness normally associated with black coffee. I came here two mornings in a row and was pleased to be remembered by the guys on the second morning, with the barista offering for me to try a single origin but such was the coffee the day before that I opted for the blend again.

Back to the first morning though and I was here early. The coffee machine was naturally on and ready as the opening time is 7am. However, the kitchen opens at 8am. Needing to eat at 8am or just after at the latest I asked whether the chef could organise my breakfast earlier if they were to arrive before 8am? I was a little bemused to hear that the chef was there out back but was prepping for the day. Sprolo is going well, but that is almost like throwing money out the door for someone who can’t wait. I can’t think of one place in Melbourne where I’ve been told similar.

I’m pleased to say that my scrambled eggs and toast arrived at 7.50am which is a credit to the staff for breaking the rule. Unfortunately in this coffee temple, the food in this case took a backseat. The toast is not buttered (a pet gripe), but worse than that, with the scrambled eggs presented in a side bowl, there was a watery residue surrounding them in the bowl that may have escaped had they been presented normally. The presentation was not bettered by the taste and even with the addition of a lot of salt and pepper, I just couldn’t finish. It was like eating scrambled eggs out of a buffet bain marie.

On the one hand this place has superb coffee that I will continue to go back for on future visits to Perth, but on the other, misses with simple breakfast dishes are unforgivable. It is time for the food to match the coffee without any exceptions.

Sprolo on Urbanspoon

Lucy Liu continues to shine

Barramundi and scampi dumplings

Barramundi and scampi dumplings (from last visit)

Catherine and I were back at Lucy Liu on a Sunday night with four other friends recently (see previous review here). The food and its execution seems to have stepped up even further than the last visit, and the restaurant was full for both the earlier and later sittings.

Our friends were very complimentary of the service, but even more satisfied with the food. We ordered the chicken wings, yellow fin tuna tataki, barramundi and scampi dumplings, crispy pork buns, crispy fried Szechuan duck, Korean style crispy pork hock, and sides of spiced green apple coleslaw, and green beans and mizuna salad.

Every dish was excellent with several being suggested as favourites. Personally the dumplings were my early favourite with beautiful wrappers in particular. Later, the table favourite was the pork hock when combined with the pancakes and hoi sin sauce. The duck was rich in flavour, but the pork hock was so generous, providing a bit of theatre (and hard work) for the person responsible for carving.

It seems not even a year in and Lucy Liu is really cutting its teeth in the dining district that has the deepest offerings in the whole of Melbourne. Another excellent experience.

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tipo OO – Melbourne, City – Friday 10 April 2015 – Lunch

Gnocchi di patate – braised duck, porcini mushroom & pecorino pepato

Gnocchi di patate – braised duck, porcini mushroom & pecorino pepato

It is hard to have not heard of Tipo OO if you read any of the national or Victorian based food press in recent months. What is the foundation of most Italian joints across the country seems to have been perfectly laid on a busy part of Little Bourke Street in the middle of the city.

When a restaurant is named after the flour used as the base of pasta, you naturally expect excellence. Judging by the hectic long lunch crowd built up inside the restaurant, the chefs and floorstaff are definitely doing something right.

The almost square room is not overburdened with decoration but at its centre is the traditional meat slicer being used to full effect throughout service. There’s some of the usual adornments including plenty of bottles of wine, but like the dishes themselves, the base ingredients are doing much of the talking.

In a little bit of a rush, Eddie and I order the salumi to share as he sits down. The table next door, and most tables around the restaurant seem to have had it, no doubt the cascading effect being due to the meat slicer, and the fact that the meat is almost shining on the plate. It comes quickly and is perfect as a starter.

For main I order the gnocchi with braised duck, porcini mushrooms and pecorino pepato. The gnocchi holds its shape and is light, bathed in a sauce that speaks volumes of the deep flavour of the duck at its heart. In fact, the duck is so defined it is unmistakable. When combined with the gnocchi and other ingredients it is heavenly. A superb dish. Eddie orders the risotto and says it is excellent too. However, we realise that neither of us have tried the pasta, meaning another trip is compulsory in future weeks.

Service is excellent as you would expect from this type of informal Italian restaurant where charisma is part of the job description. It might be Friday but you get the feeling that every day of the week here feels similar. The wine list adds interest with plenty of wines from Italy in addition to Italian grape varieties grown in Australia. We try the Corinva Blend by Speri, a Valpolicella Classico from the north-east of Italy, and it marries beautifully with my duck gnocchi.

Tipo OO doesn’t merely add another great Italian restaurant to the Melbourne scene; there is something purposeful and focussed about this place which goes beyond many of its siblings. When you add to that the extremely reasonable pricing, it is a restaurant that I can easily see myself frequenting.

Tipo 00 on Urbanspoon

Three Blue Ducks – Bronte – Monday 6 April 2015 – Breakfast

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Breakfast is different in Sydney. Every time I come to Sydney I seek out one of the best because breakfast is one of my favourite activities whether it be at home in Melbourne, across the country in Perth, or far away overseas. In Sydney, it is often sunny and bright; people are a bit more done up; and many of the good cafes verge more on the cool than the hip.

The downfall in some of the top Sydney cafes is the sameness of the food offerings. Today at Three Blue Ducks we are banking on exceptional breakfast food set apart from the crowd. No easy expectation.

We wait about ten minutes in pleasant Easter sunshine for our table in an extremely busy, and large, restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating, and lots of breezy sections inside too. We got lucky because we are on a bench completely open to the beautiful day outside, but out of direct sunlight. The crowd waiting ebbs and flows out the front, adding some interest to an otherwise normal street setting removed a few hundred metres from the beach.

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We are off to the races which have been delayed after heavy rains on the Saturday. I play it safe and order poached eggs and bacon, but Catherine takes a risk ordering the bacon and egg roll. The poached eggs and bacon is not as I expected when it is presented. There is plenty of tomato and basil on the plate and there is a pesto spread over the toast, along with some hollandaise sauce on the side.

What I ordered is excellent. The poached eggs perfectly cooked, and the bacon full of flavour. The unexpected ingredients are deep in flavour. Some of the best tomatoes I’ve eaten recently, and the aroma of the basil is only matched by its flavour. Also a little unexpected was the price tag but I can let that go given the flavour. Catherine’s bacon and organic egg roll with pimento salsa and hollandaise was delicious too. Packed full of each tasty ingredient the bread roll was soft and giving like it needed to be.

Service had been pleasant and the coffee up to scratch too, without being exceptional. The focus here is definitely on the food, and I’ll be on the lookout for anywhere else in Sydney that can match the flavour in what are reasonably straightforward breakfast dishes.

Three Blue Ducks on Urbanspoon