Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I think calling Subo my neighbourhood gem is a big stretch since it is located in Newcastle, about 2hrs drive from Sydney. So I'll call it my regional gem.

Run by a husband and wife team, Subo does exactly what they aim to do "provide high quality, delicious and interesting bistro food in a relaxed, contemporary and modest setting". Their menu focuses on local produce and changes monthly. 

Subo on Hunter Street
The most elaborate decor for this small, intimate restaurant is probably its front door, made of blocks of wood that could easily be mistaken as a brick wall from a few paces back. Inside, the brick wall theme flows through the venue, exposed bricks breaking up what otherwise would be a simple but functional room with polished concrete floor, whitewashed walls and dark wood dining furnishing. The overall feeling is minimalistic, relaxed and inviting, with a bit of funkiness thrown into the mix. I spotted a few animal head wire sculptures on the wall, but what caught my attention were the giant wooden pegs near the entrance, they made pretty cool cloth hangers.

Greeted at the door, we were led to our table by Suzie, the "Su" in Subo, it just so happens we were seated in her section for the night. We gave the 5 course tasting menu a quick once-over and confirmed that we were happy with the dishes. Substitutions can be made if you are allergic to, or have a strong dislike towards certain ingredients on the menu.

The December menu is Christmas themed, so we kicked off the evening with Tasmanian Salmon Smoked In-house with Hickory. The salmon had a lovely smokiness to it, without being overpowering, so you are left to fully appreciated the freshness of the salmon. The Yuzu kosho mayonnaise and fennel fronds were excellent companions to the fish.

Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Glazed ham is probably one of the things I look forward to the most at Christmas, so I had high expectations for the Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham accompanied by pumpernickel, native muntries, riberries and gravy. It was the first time I had muntries and riberries so it was pretty exciting for me. The native muntries, little berries that looks like mini apples, gave the dish its subtle sourness which offset the sweetness of the glazed ham perfectly. The riberries had a clove taste to them, reminiscent of the flavours of a traditional Christmas ham. The grainy, coarse texture of the pumpernickel was a complete contrast to the soft, tender ham and gave the dish more character. The only way I could sum up this dish was, Christmas on a plate!

Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison
The main course of Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison was served with pepperberry, juniper, parsley root and parsnip puree, shio kombu and pinenuts. And it came with a side of stuffing. I'm usually not a fan of stuffing, but this one, made of sourdough, celery, garlic, onion and thyme, was delicious. I just wish I didn't have to save room for dessert. Even though Suzie smiled and told us that we shouldn't feel obligated to eat everything on the plate, but the truth is, when the food is so delicious it feels like such as waste to leave even a crumb behind.

Following the savoury dishes was the pre-dessert, Mulled Wine Granita with buttermilk granita on top. I love mulled wine in winter so a granita version of it in the summer is such a treat and brilliant idea I might add. It was so very refreshingly delightful. Dessert came in the form of Brandy Baba. It was served with vanilla custard, confit quandongs with candied orange and a few extra splashes of St. Agnes Brandy at the table. Need I say more? 

Suzie volunteered to "peg" herself for our photo,
brilliant, don't you think?
At the end of our meal Suzie came over for a chat and her responses to my questions only highlighted just how much they cared about what they put on the table. When I asked her why they stopped offering the a la cart menu alongside the set menu, she explained that with a small team they found it hard to offer food at the quality they wanted, by removing the a la cart menu they can focus on the set menu and serve only their best.  

With its contemporary bistro setting and fine dining quality food, Subo has a strong local following and well deserved 2 hats from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide. While the decor may be minimalistic, the food and service are anything but. It is also one of the best value for money restaurants I've come across. The portions are so generous, there is no chance of anyone going home hungry. Food coma on the other hand, is very likely.

So was the 2hr drive to Newcastle just to have a meal at Subo totally worth it? You bet!

Subo: 551D Hunter St, Newcastle West 2302   Subo on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 6, 2013

Salt Meats Cheese

I have driven pass Salt Meats Cheese (SMC) on numerous occasions, while I was always curious about it I never got the chance to step inside, that is until the Mutti Pasta Bar launch event last week. So on Saturday I decided to venture back and explore.

I wanted one of everything for my pantry
Located next to The Grounds of Alexandria, SMC is an Italian grocery store run by two passionate Italian boys, Stefano De Blasi and Edoardo Perlo. Besides offering high quality products from around the world at wholesale prices (that's right, you've heard me right, shopping at this place won't break your bank), they also do private dinners, catering, events and cooking classes.

The vast warehouse space is filled with olive oil, vinegar, salts, jam, grains, sauces, pasta, cheeses, cured meats, sweet and savoury snacks, the list just goes on and on. If you don't have specific items in mind, you could easily spend a good part of an hour looking through the shelves. I certainly did!

Sea salts sold by the gram
Oh and who knew there are so many different types of salt! Black truffle, Thai ginger, Spanish rosemary, aged balsamic, roasted garlic, just to name a few. But I think the best part is, at SMC, you can buy as much or as little of these gourmet natural salts as you want. 

Among all the imported products, you'll also find SMC branded items, some of them are made on site, and since these are done by hand there is no mass production, once something is sold out, like their freshly made mozzarella, it is gone for good till the next batch.

Galeria Del Jamon
A visit to the Galeria Del Jamon, "Gallery of Ham", is a must. Some of the best cured meats and cheeses are on offer. Not sure what you want? Grab a stool and menu and start tasting. Yep, you can taste anything on the menu. And if you are hungry, the Galeria staff will be happy to make you sandwiches with meats and cheeses of your choosing.

By the way, there is a foosball table too, a great way to keep the kids busy while mum and dad do their shopping. Or, the big kid in some of us might just challenge our mates for a game or two.

freshly baked bread
To further share their passion for fine food and cooking, a second SMC has been penned in for opening in February in Martin Place, no doubt it'll be a massive hurray for those work in the city. The Mutti Pasta Bar will likely to follow some time soon after, as it was announced last week a specially designed pasta bar will be launched at the Alexandria location early next year.

There are certainly a few things to look forward to in the SMC universe in 2014, but for now, you can swing by for all the goodies, catch some live sausage making action on the weekend and get your hands on freshly made mozzarella, courtesy of Stefano himself, which is simply divine.

And if you are feeling inspired after wandering around the warehouse then get your hands on the SMC recipe app (available free from Google Play and App Store). Worry not, all the curated recipes in the app consist of recipes with 10 ingredients or less, so you won't need bags after bags of ingredients, and there are pictures and tips in preparing the dishes too. Happy cooking I say!

Come to think of it, I should add a pasta machine and pasta & ravioli cooking class at SMC to my Christmas wish list!

I have to thank the gorgeous Bridget, a.k.a. the Internet Chef, for introducing me to SMC, I was hooked the moment I walked in. It is a wonderland for home cooks, aspiring chefs and of course, me, a lover of all things Italian, and yes, the accent too!

P.S.: Santa, I have been a very good girl this year! 

Salt Meats Cheese: 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria NSW 2015   Salt Meats Cheese on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mutti Pasta Bar @ Salt Meats Cheese launch

I think I fell in love with Italian food ever since the first time I tried it and nowadays, pasta is my go to comfort food. It doesn't matter how tough a day has been, a big bowl of delicious pasta, especially with a tomato based sauce, seems to lower my stress level right down. So when I received an invite from the lovely Sarah at Thrive PR for a pasta bar launch last week, I couldn't wait to say yes.

the Bloody Mutti
Upon arrival, guests were greeted with drinks, including Bloody Mutti, a special version of the Bloody Mary made just for the night, served in a Mutti can. While canapés from Chef Massimo Mele circled the massive space that is Salt Meats Cheese (SMC), we also got to watch a live demonstration of mozzarella making from Stefano De Blasi (one of the owners of SMC), followed by Chef Massimo Mele serving up some great pasta, and of course not to forget the delicious freshly made pizza from a giant pizza oven. 

Mr Francesco Mutti, a 4th generation Mutti and the current owner and CEO of the company, was on hand to talk about his family brand, their love for tomatoes, and what makes them the most loved tomato brand in Italy.

Mr Mutti talking about his family brand
Based on a tradition of taste and innovation since 1899, Mutti focuses on quality and integrity in their production process. Today, sustainability is at the heart of their business model and all Mutti products are made from 100% natural ingredients with no added preservatives, colours, artificial flavouring or thickening agents. It is also noted that to capture the freshness of the just harvested tomato, attention is given through out the whole chain, from seeds selection in January to harvest in August to rigorous quality control and checks before the tomatoes are turned into the Mutti products we see on the shelves. 

It was formally announced on the night that a Mutti Pasta Bar will open for business at SMC early next year, and since it's a partnership between Salt Meats Cheese, Sydney's fastest growing gourmet retail outlet, and Mutti, Italy's number one tomato brand, I think it's going to be a pretty special pasta bar. 

If only there is a fast forward button... but in the mean time I suppose it's make your own at home.

Mutti, taste of Italian harvested tomatoes

Mutti tomato products available in Australia include: 'Polpa' Finely Chopped Tomatoes, Baby Roma Tomatoes, Passata, Double Concentrated Paste, Pizza Sauce and a selection of ready made sauces.

Coming soon: Mutti Pasta Bar Salt Meats Cheese: 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria NSW 2015

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

West Juliett

My first visit to West Juliett a few months back happened purely by chance. A simple wrong turn on the way to a bakery took us to this year's new addition to Marrickville cafes.

Juliett salad
Having eaten a pretty big breakfast that morning I opted for the Juliett salad (avacado, seasonal vegetables, leaves, nuts, seeds, herbs). If you automatically think of the word "boring" when salads are mentioned, then you have to give this one a try. Fresh green leaves, crunchy red cabbage, sweet carrots, lightly anise tasting fennel (my favourite ingredient in a salad), and crisp radish and cauliflower pieces, all topped off with half perfectly ripen avocado. The addition of nuts and seeds not only enhanced the flavour of the dish but also added more texture to it. This salad was deliciously fresh and light, the word "boring" doesn't even register.

French toast
My subsequent visit was, of course, very intentional and I made sure I brought my appetite with me. The French toast (ricotta, roast rhubarb, salted caramel) was definitely not your average French toast. Soft, creamy ricotta, salted caramel, sweet and sour rhubarb, what a combination! My friend's Breakfast plate (poached egg, avocado, leg ham, tomato, provolone, toast) was well portioned, the side order of chorizos proved to be an excellent choice. The toast came with a very generous serving of beautiful, smooth, soft butter.

Occupying the corner of quiet, tree lined streets, West Juliett is inviting and the doors open up to a spacious indoor dining area, including a long bar table, from where you can catch all the actions in the open kitchen. If you want to watch the world go by while sipping your coffee then grab a seat outside, the overhead heaters will keep you nice and toasty during the colder months.

Baked goods
West Juliett focuses on fresh local produce; pastries and baked goods are done in house while the coffee beans are roasted locally by White Horse Coffee and changes seasonally. Their house made soda which comes in two mixes: rhubarb+lemon+ginger and quince+lime+cinnamon are the perfect drinks on a hot summer day. Thirst quenching and super refreshing.

Make sure you get your hands on some of the baked goods proudly displayed next to the register on your way out, and by all means, one or several of those pink salt chocolate-chip cookies. They are big and chewy, with the pink salt offsetting the sweetness, simply divine and rather addictive I may add. The small pile of those perfectly baked cookies sitting on top of my kitchen counter proves it.

West Juliett: 30 Llewellyn St, Marrickville NSW 2204   West Juliett on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ume Japanese Restaurant (CLOSED)

The main dining room
Taking up the site that used to house Bistrode, Ume Japanese Restaurant is carrying on the torch of being a neighbourhood gem. The first thing I noticed after walking through the front doors were all the shochu and sake that lined the shelves behind the bar and a lovely ume (plum) blossom mural on the opposite wall. I also spotted some Japanese artefacts around the restaurant. 

It was mid week so the restaurant filled up slowly, I think our group might have been the loudest as we chatted and laughed our way through dinner. We worked our way through the al la carte menu and several sakes, including a fabulous sparkling sake. The dishes here are designed for sharing, Japanese tapas if you like, and the flavours and textures of each dish were simply tantalising. The Snapper Carpaccio (white soy, rice wine vinegar, shredded cucumber, Shiso, black sesame) was so delicate and delicious it had our whole group buzzing about it. Seared Scallop Carpaccio (soy brown butter, finger limes, young sorrel, dulse) arrived at our table looking like a flower, where the petals are made up of finely sliced scallop, citrusy and buttery, absolutely delectable.

The Riverina Lamb
The Riverina Lamb (charred, soft lamb shoulder, wasabi-pea sauce, yaki-nori, wasabi cress) got lots of praise from the table for the tender lamb and its perfect companion, the wasabi-pea sauce. The Wagyu 'Sukiyaki' Style (David Blackmore Wagyu 9+, yaki dofu, shimeji, nasturium, soy-mirin reduction, onsen tamago) was served rare and tasted heavenly. Everything on the plate just worked so well with each other.

When it came to dessert time, the decision was easy, since there were 5 of us and only 3 desserts on the menu, we ordered one of each and shared them.

Dark Chocolate 'Terrine'
First up was the Mandarin (mandarin tofu, frozen green tea, dehydrated cocoa mousse, mochi, mandarin sherbet), it was wonderfully light and refreshing with an overall delicate tart sweet flavour. The "30 Second" Black Sesame Sponge (Tasmanian Leatherwood honey poached Granny Smith apple, candied apple & ginger, vanilla-gingerbread ice cream) was such a treat. Because of the technique used in making the sponge cake, you get two completely opposite textures on the plate: soft and weightless clouds of black sesame sponge versus the airy but hard and crunchy black sesame masses. And finally, my favourite of the desserts, Dark Chocolate 'Terrine' (Michel Cluizel 70% dark chocolate, white chocolate crumble, matcha soy ice cream, quandongs, soy milk crisp). I'm usually not a big fan of chocolate desserts, but the rich, bitter dark chocolate was perfectly balanced by the somewhat tart quandongs and sweet ice cream and chocolate crumble, it left me wanting more.  

Besides the food, what I love about Ume is that there is nothing fancy about its setting. The dining room is simple, functional yet intimate and inviting; its menu isn't huge but has a great selection of dishes that would keep everyone at the table happy. And you know the chef has got it perfect when a simple Kaiso Salad (darling mills lettuce, pickled wakame, sesame) was so marvellous that we ended up having four servings of it.

Go for the food and let the sommelier take you on a sake journey. The whole experience willl leave you wanting to return time after time, I know I'll be back for more before long.

Ume Japanese Restaurant: 478 Bourke St  Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Ume Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hurricane's Grill, Bondi Beach

Full rack of pork ribs
Every now and then I'd get cravings for a rack of tender, juicy ribs and my go to place is Hurricane's Grill Bondi Beach. With several branches across Sydney and one in Surfers Paradise, this chain of steakhouses dish out some of the best ribs I've ever come across.

Last weekend we arrived at the restaurant an hour later than our reservation, thanks to the traffic on the way back from our 11km coast walk in the Royal National Park. Luckily it wasn't an overly busy night, the hostess was lovely and seated us at the first available table despite our very late arrival.   

I've always found the service here to be friendly, when the venue is full it can be a bit hard to get the waiter's attention, but once you have placed your order the entrees come out pretty fast. The Garlic Mushrooms (tossed with fresh garlic, olive oil and butter with a hint of port wine) is a must try. It's a superb dish with well balanced butteriness and garlicky taste. I do miss the complimentary bread they used to offer but now if you want bread you'll need to order it from the menu.

It's always a good idea to grab a few friends when visiting Hurricane's, that way you can share and not be limited to one main dish given the array of food on offer. Aside from their signature dishes, beef steaks and pork, lamb and beef ribs, you can get seafood, barbecue and spicy Portuguese chicken, burgers and meat skewers, as well as vegetarian dishes. One thing to note is that they bring out all the mains at the same time, so you'll need to be patient if you are eating with a big group.

What makes their signature dishes so special are the secret recipe basting sauces they use. Everything the sauces touch becomes finger licking good. Cooked on an open flame grill the ribs are deliciously tender and juicy. The pork ribs are the biggest out of the three; the lamb ribs are delicious, but you'll need to eat it while it's still hot otherwise you'll get that fatty taste. As for the beef ribs, I can't say I found them special aside from the fact that they are marinated in the same sauces as the others, it just didn't have the same kind of draw the pork ribs had on me. 

Lamb skewer
One of the new menu items, the lamb skewer deserves a mention here. The lamb was sublime, the spicy aioli it came with was excellent, we ended up using it as a dipping sauce for our chips. If only I could order it as a sauce separately.

Given its popularity, reservation is highly recommended otherwise it could be a long wait on a busy night. But if you decided to check the place out on a whim, you can chill at the bar while you wait for a table. 

The drinks menu lists soda, shakes, juice, cider, Australian and International beer and cocktails. Their signature cocktail Ruby Red (PAMA Liqueur and Absolute Vodka, muddled lime & Muscat grapes and a hibiscus flower) is one of my favorites. Sweet and sour, a perfectly refreshing drink after a day at the beach. For something adventurous and exotic, give Ohayo a try. A Japanese styled cocktail with Soho Lychee Liqueur, Marie Brizard Watermelon, lime, lychee and a hibiscus flower. You'll also find classic ones such caipiroska, margarita and mojito on the list.

There is also a bar food menu that offers crispy whitebait with aioli, mini flame-grilled beef skewers among other small dishes to tide you over while you wait for a table. But a word of caution, make sure you don't fill up on these dishes and miss out on the ribs, because they are worth every minute of the wait!

Hurricane's Grill Bondi Beach: 130 Roscoe Street Bondi Beach, NSW 2026   Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Royal National Park Coast Walk

As a city girl who took the occasional short trips to the countryside, it was not surprising I was rather hesitant the first time I was invited to join some of my friends on a bushwalk.

Fast forward a few years, I now love going on these walks, perhaps not quite as much as I love exploring bars and restaurants, but I really enjoy being surround by nature, breathing in the fresh air while taking in some gobsmacking views. And just the other day my friend alerted me to the fact that over several separate walks I've actually done the entire Coast Track in the Royal National Park. The 26km track runs from Bundeena to Otford, unless you are super fit it would require an overnight stop at a campground to complete it in one trip.

Otford Lookout
What brought on this realisation was our recent group walk from Otford to Garie Beach, with a detour to the Figure of Eight Pools. It was a beautiful sunny winter day, there was a slight breeze but the sea was calm so we were able to check out the Figure of Eight Pools. Our walk was about 11km long and took around 5hrs at a very leisure pace plus a long lunch stop at the pools.  

It's recommended to walk this track between May and August if you want to do some whale watching, of course it's not guaranteed you'd spot the migrating humpback whales, we didn't. But we did see a dolphin porpoising very close to the shoreline when we stopped for lunch.

Bush bashing through heathland plants
The Coast Track has an overall medium difficulty rating. For the Otford to Garie Beach section, most of it was relatively flat, with some hill climbs. We had to do some bush bashing in areas where the bushes have gotten quite dense and the track has disappeared under all the heathland plants. There are several sign posts along the way to point you in the right direction, but not necessarily at all the forks, so it's always handy to have someone in the group who knows the way.

There was rock scrambling involved but only if you want to get to the Figure of Eight Pools. We went pretty slow over the rocks, taking extra care when placing our foot down, the last thing you'd want is to slip or fall. However, the reward at the end was definitely worth it, just look at the view!

One of the Figure of Eight Pools

Just an hour drive from the Sydney CBD, this heritage-listed and the world's second oldest national park offers a number of walking tracks with different levels of difficulty to suit everyone. I do however recommend having at least two cars when walking one way tracks, especially if it's a reasonably distanced one. You'd want to park one car at the start and the other at the end point, that way you can eliminate a return trip on the same track.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Morena (CLOSED)

Morena dinning area
Whenever someone mentions Latin America, the word "exotic" pops into my head, and Morena, a modern Latin American fine dining restaurant in Surry Hills definitely matches that. In the evening the space is dark and moody; while timber screens and hanging glass decors gave it a modern feel, banquettes upholstered in hand woven fabric and yarns stretched across the walls and timber screens added splashes of colour. With a strong Peruvian influence, the dishes arrived at our table were drool-worthy. 

Ceviche Peruano, small dices of fresh pink snapper gently cooked in lime juice and Ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli) served with cancha (roasted Andean corn) & caramelised sweet potato, is a traditional ceviche and an excellent entree at that. As soon as the snapper hit your tongue, a wave of citrus and a hint of chilli took your taste buds into overdrive. The tartness of the dish was like a massive sign that says "Hello appetite!". The roasted corns gave the dish a crunchy texture against the soft, melt-in-your-mouth snapper, brilliant! 

It's not often that one gets to taste a delicacy like Alpaca meat, so I jumped at the chance of ordering Anticucho de Alpaca, grass fed Millpaca Alpaca skewers marinated in a traditional anticucho sauce (mix of Andean roasted peppers, vinegar and garlic) served with chimichurri (fresh aromatic herbs macserated in oils and apple vinegar). I find it hard to describe the taste, perhaps a cross between lamb and beef. The meat itself was very succulent with a slight sweetness to it. 

Chirraron de cerdo lechal
We were going to ordered 3 dishes to share thinking that we need to leave some room for dessert, but our waitress suggested that we should have one more small dish and recommended the Chirrarón de cerdo lechal, twice cooked crispy suckling pork belly served with caramelised sweet potato & orange puree, pickled dikon and malagueta chillies (spicy andean chilli). And what a great recommendation! The pork was cooked beautifully, once again there was the contrasting crunchiness of the crackling and soft, tenderness of the meat. Oh and the chillies had a pretty big kick to them, loved it!

Pollo a la braza
I tend to avoid ordering chicken in restaurants nowadays after eating many so-so chicken dishes, but the words "Peruvian style" got me intrigued. So for our main we ordered Pollo a la braza, Peruvian style roasted free range 1/2 chicken, served with chips, apple & red cabbage salad with traditional South American sauces. And I was not disappointed. The chicken was full of flavour, even the breast was moist and tender, not a hint of dryness. 

When it was time to order dessert, there was no need to look at the menu again as we made the decision the moment we sat down, it had to be Borracho de pisco, Latin American sponge cake soaked in Pisco & spice syrup, served with currants & dulce de leche ice-cream (Argentinean caramel). The cake was dense, rich and simply delicious. It was a far cry from the usual light and fluffy sponge cake I've came across. 

Feeling adventurous? Curious about what Alpaca taste like? Or just want to see sponge cake in a whole new light? Then Morena is the place for you. I know I'll never be able to look at sponge cakes the same again.

Morena: 15/425 Bourke Street Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Morena on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parma Cucina

Named after the provincial city in northern Italy famous for its art, music, architecture, surrounding countryside and of course, gastronomy, Parma Cucina brings us that wonderful Italian dinning experience.

Peroni on tap
The venue is causal yet cosy with friendly service. The drinks menu offers cocktails, wine, beer and cider. You can get Peroni and Grolsch on tap, while the wine list favours the red, there is a good selection of white and sparkling to keep you interested. You'll find classic cocktails on the list plus some rather interesting sounding ones, such as Strawberry Balsamic Martini (fresh strawberries muddled with sugar and lemon, strawberry liquor, vodka and Balsamic vinegar), definitely one for the adventurous.

We kicked off our evening with the Parma House Antipasto (Chef's selection of salumi, cheese, marinated vegetables, olives, smoked salmon, panelle and grissini). The serving is very generous and could easily satisfy 3-4 people as a shared entree. For something light to go with the mains we ordered the Caponatina (seared tuna, Spanish onion, deep fried eggplant, baby fennel, orange, cos salad, pistachio and mint). It is full of flavour and the seared tuna simply melt in your mouth.

Lasagna D'anatra
Their signature dish, Lasagna D'anatra (slow roasted duck and porcini lasagna from their pizza oven) is a must try. It is deliciously cheesy, rich and very filling. The Orange Tagliatella (with spicy saute of swordfish, green olives and wild fennel leaves) had a real kick to it, you can really taste the swordfish and chilli, of course the pasta was cooked al dente, the Italian way. 

They source their coffee from Mecca and organic tea from The Rabbit Hole, I like the fact that they have included a few caffeine free teas on the list, I know for those like me, who tend to stay away from caffeine in the evenings, a small detail like this comes much appreciated. What I also noticed from the menu was the numerous gluten free dishes on offer, definitely a plus for those who has gluten sensitivity.

The Rocher (Ferrero Rocher cheese cake with vanilla gelato and chocolate bread) looked very tempting but given the amount of food we ate, thanks to the generous servings, none of us could fit dessert in, or anything else for that matter.

Don't have time for a trip to Italy in the near future for that glass of sparkling Prosecco? Not to worry, just head to Parma for happy hour and stay for dinner. Buon Appetito!

Parma Cucina: 285a Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Parma Cucina on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 12, 2013

MYER S/S14 Fashion Show

As a Myer one member I got invited to the Myer Spring Summer 2014 fashion show last Friday night. Stage 7 at Fox Studios was transformed into the outback, with a 48 metre long runway that pays tribute to the sandstone flats of the Kimberley. While the event was not as extravagant or star powered as the launch the night before, it still buzzed with excitement as we mere mortals got ready to see the latest looks for the upcoming season. Guests were welcomed with Connoisseur ice-cream while they gathered in the lounge area prior to the show. The native floral arrangements on tables suspended from the celling were simply stunning.    

Myer Ambassadors Jennifer Hawkins and Kris Smith lead 62 models down the runway with glittering abstract sand dunes and ravines, they showcased 200 looks from 31 designers, including Seafolly, now exclusive to Myer.

Cameras went off as a glowing Jen opened the "This is Australia" themed show in a white Manning Cartell gown. 

While many of the designers seem to have favoured white and neutral colours, there were plenty bright pops of colour and florals in the mix. Monochrome lead the trend with bold stripes, graphic prints and statement shapes, but bright, colourful patterns and digital prints are definitely in. Peplums makes a return for the season alongside pencil skirts, capri pants and A-line skirts and dresses.

Hair were textured waves swept back from the face giving the models a very polished look.

Denim, short-sleeved shirts and tailored shorts dominated menswear, and if you haven't heard, it's all shades of blue for the boys this Spring/Summer.

Oh, and I absolutely loved the live performances from cellists, their beautiful orchestral arrangements that complemented the show's soundtrack made the event that much more elegant.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chur Burger

I have been mourning the loss of the best burger place I know ever since the corner cafe near my parents' place changed owners. Gone are the soft buns, perfectly cooked beef patties and delicious caramelised onions. But then the burger god took pity on me and pointed me in the direction of Chur Burger, which recently took over the former Albion Street Kitchen.

Finding the place isn't hard but deciding on what to order was a different story. After a good five minutes of debating I finally settled on the pulled pork burger with Chur BBQ sauce, red slaw, fennel mayo and then promptly pushed away the menu, before I could change my mind again.

Besides great burgers, I hear they make pretty awesome milkshakes (all with Heilala vanilla) too. However, if you are like me and feeling a little dairy overloaded on the day, no worries. They also offer soda, beer, cider and wine, or you can dive into their spirits selection for something with more of a kick.

My friend got me a bottle of 4 Pines Kolsch to try, it's a handcrafted beer brewed a short distance away in Manly. For someone who's rather particular about beers I quite enjoyed the malty citrusy crisp taste. Then again, who wouldn't love a beer with an ingredients label that reads: "water, malt, hops, yeast +♥"?

Pulled pork burger
Albeit there was a bum on each and every single seat in the house, it didn't take long for the burgers to show up. My friend's burger (grilled beef, cheese, tomato jam, mustard mayo, pickle) received high praises, I was told the tender, juicy beef patty couldn't have been cooked more perfectly. So it wasn't surprising that one bite into my burger, I could see why Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food section named these burgers the best in town. The pork was tender, slaw crunchy, BBQ sauce and fennel mayo worked wonders together, oh and the sweet, soft brioche buns didn't fall apart on me at all. The sweet potato fries deserve a mention too, they were simply addictive!

It seems the burger god did not steer me wrong. I shall be back for more! And hopefully, the music won't be so loud next time, I don't fancy having to compete with it and yell across the table while enjoying such delicious burgers. 

Chur Burger: 48 Albion Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Little Marionette - Annandale

Lately I've been spending a lot of my Saturdays in cafes, it started out as a nice way to catch up with friends, but somewhere along the line it turned into a cafe exploration around Sydney. So when I heard the young roasting house The Little Marionette churns out pretty good coffee I called upon a friend, who, has been on the hunt for the best coffee Sydney has to offer ever since his trip to Melbourne a few months ago. For convenience, we decided to leave Balmain (the original cafe) for another time and headed over to their Annandale cafe.   

Arriving well after the morning rush we took up an empty table next to the big wide open window that looked onto the street. A quick glance at the menu told us that if you are after something more substantial, like a big breakfast, then you'd want to look elsewhere. This little corner cafe focuses mainly on their coffee and does little on the food side. However, it is worth a mention that they source their pastries and pies from the well known and much loved bakery, Black Star Pastry in Newtown.

Cappuccino & cinnamon scroll
While contemplating a healthy dose of muesli with yoghurt and fresh fruit I spotted some deliciously looking cinnamon scrolls on the courter and the decision was made for me. My friend was feeling a bit more peckish so he ordered the lamb shank and red wine pie.

I'm no coffee connoisseur by any means, but I have an idea of what good coffee is since I do drink my share of it these days. And true to word of mouth, the house blend was fantastic! Rich, smooth and oh the delightful bittersweet chocolatiness (is that even a word?). 

Also known as Little Marionette on the Dale, this little corner cafe run by proudly self named "coffee nerds" definitely got my thumbs up for its delectable coffee and well chosen pastries, it also scored in the cool factor with its "secret" room behind a revolving bookcase. Oh and the huge smile I got from my friend after he took a few sips of his coffee told me that we'd return one day soon for an espresso, well, maybe a macchiato for me. It seems my dear friend might have at last found the best coffee Sydney has to offer.

The Little Marionette: 8A Trafalgar Street, Annandale, NSW 2038   Little Marionette on the Dale on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 30, 2013

La Banette Pâtisserie

After being drenched from head to toe for most of the week, it was a relief when I woke up this morning and didn't hear the usual heavy rain beating down my window, so I jumped at the opportunity for a lazy late brunch outing.

Drawn in by the unmistakable smell of freshly baked bread and pastries, La Banette was bustling with its late morning crowd. After a few minutes of staring, I still had no idea what I wanted to order. As if the baskets of croissants, Pain au Raisins (aka sultana snails) and danishes weren't enough, the glass display cabinet was brimming with delicious treats: chocolate éclairs, all sorts of tarts - mixed fruits, lemon meringue, creme caramel, just to name a few, then there were the mille-feuilles, boxes of Petit fours and divine looking opera cakes!

I was like a kid in a candy store, I didn't know where to look and I wanted one of everything!

Pain au Raisins
Eventually I settled for a Pain au Raisins, an all time favourite of mine. The buttery pastry dusted with icing sugar had glazed sultanas on top and juicy ones in the middle, it brought back memories of my early morning bakery runs in Paris. Délicieux!

If you could be persuaded away from the sweet treats, quiches, pies and not-your-average sausages rolls are on the savoury menu. My friend who didn't need a sugar fix opted for the beef and burgundy pie. When I saw the big chunks of slow cooked beef encased in crispy golden pastry and heard it being called THE best meat pie ever, I felt a tinge of jealousy. The solution? I ordered a second cup of coffee and with it, the Ratatouille quiche. It was loaded with chunks of tomatoey zucchini, capsicum and eggplant, who would have known a vegetarian option could be so delicious? 

Paris has always been one of my favourite cities and now I've discovered a little slice of Parisian charm in Glebe! From the rows of crusty baguettes on the wooden shelves to its sandstone benches that were surprisingly comfortable to sit on, this little bakery doesn't just bake treats that will leave you drooling at the counter, they also make a mean cup of coffee!

La Banette Pâtisserie: 18 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW 2037   La Banette Pâtisserie on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ananas Bar & Brasserie

The cloud rolled in and brought with it heavy downpour on the night I was out for the Vivid Light walk with a friend. To take shelter from the rain we decided to grab dinner first and Ananas seemed like a good choice, with a champagne bar, cocktail lounge, oyster bar and brasserie all under one roof, we could spend the whole night there without getting bored. I've spent some time in the cocktail lounge when it first opened last year but haven't had a chance to try their food, advertised as "a contemporary twist on the best classic French Mediterranean food".

The Champagne list reads like a who's who in the bubbly world, and if you have the dough then why not splurge on a bottle of Krug Grande Cuveé Brut? As for me, I opted for one of their signature cocktails, Fleurette (Crème Yvette, a Berry Liqueur, shaken with gin and drenched in champagne), it was suppose to be served in a coupette but came in a champagne glass instead, not a complaint but an observation.

Settled with our drinks at the table, we started our meal with some fresh Sydney Rock Oysters, shucked-to-order of course. For something a little more substantial we ordered the classic hand cut steak tartare with crisp toast from the hors d'oeuvres selection followed by my favourite dish of the night - duck liver & armagnac parfait, rabbit rillettes served with toasted brioche. The rillettes was simply amazing, soft, buttery and melts in your mouth. It reminded me of the meal I had in a little bistro in Paris years ago...

seared scallops, caramelised veal sweatbread,
trio of jerusalem artichoke
For main I had the seared scallops, caramelised veal sweatbread, trio of jerusalem artichoke while my friend went for the pan roasted pork cutlet, caramelised apples, artichoke, tarragon vinaigrette. The scallops were done perfectly, but the sweatbread was a bit too rich for my taste, I'd preferred less of it in the dish. If you had to order one side dish, I suggest the truffled pomme purée, it was deliciously creamy and silky smooth, went nicely with our meal.

As for dessert, ananas four ways with coconut mousse was the way to go, it made sense to at least order something with pineapple in it, considering we were eating in a restaurant named after the fruit! Well, that was my reasoning on the night anyway. I adored the pineapple crisps, can't seem to get enough of those dehydrated treats; the sorbet went well with the roasted pineapple with rum caramel, but I didn't quite taste the coconut in the mousse. The real let down on the night was the peppermint tea. I expected loose leaf tea in the teapot rather than an ordinary Twinings tea bag, especially for the price they charged for it. It'd been a close to perfect meal if not for the tea.

Ananas first caught my attention with its infamous urinals that made the news, but now with Executive chef Paul McGrath and Pastry chef Yves Scherrer working up a storm in the kitchen, my attention is firmly focused on the food. I'm well on my way to joining the French evolution.

Ananas Bar & Brasserie: 18 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000  Ananas Bar & Brasserie on Urbanspoon