Monday, July 21, 2014

Gowings Bar + Grill. CBD

Miss Piggy and The BFF received a $150 dining credit from Gowings Bar + Grill. Everything spent over this was kindly paid for by The BFF…he knows how to treat a lady (who spends all her food money on fabric these days)!

It’s really lovely to see the transformation of 49 Market Street from its former incarnation as Gowings, the department store, to the newly (ish) opened Gowings Bar + Grill and QT Hotel.

As soon as your enter the building and head up to the first floor to Gowings Bar + Grill you can sense this space is something special. A respectful refit of the old store has led to an old-style New York diner meets modern, hip space complete with trendy black-clad wait stuff wearing anything but your traditional waiter garb . It feels fancy, and special yet not stuffy or intimidating.

A large open kitchen runs along the side of the restaurant with chefs bedecked in white peak-hats. For such a large kitchen that houses A LOT of staff it’s amazing how quiet it is. There is no shouting, no clanging of plans…nothing. Just the quiet efficiency of a well-run kitchen turning out delicious food.

The menu seems to have a slight French influence and we start off with six snails roasted in puff pastry shells in garlic, lemon and mint butter ($23 .00). I loved the snails we had in France last year so was very keen to try them again in Australia. Our sauce wasn’t quite as garlicky as other snails I’ve tried (probably a good thing) and our snails were very good, being *just* on the right side of too chewy. The puff pastry shell takes the place of the traditional baguettes slices that you get in France to sop up any butter sauce – which is possible better for the waistline (bread vs puff pastry, hmmm --- I’m not so sure now that I think about it). 

Our second entrée was the steak tartare of pasture-fed Ox/Beef ( $29.00). The tatare is mixed with pickled black shimeji mushrooms, a free-range egg, and other classic condiments and is accompanied by a generous serving of shoestring fries.  I’m never sure how to eat steak tartare with shoe string fries? Whilst the fries were super scrummy, I think I would’ve liked some crackers (or something) to scoop the tartare on to. Fries, or no fries, our steak tartare was EXCELLENT, so flavoursome and totally moreish. The steak was lusciously tender and the mushrooms added a nice textural element. I love how the condiments add a nice bit of “zing” to the dish.

Now, it’s probably work pointing out that the serves at Gowings Bar + Grill are REALLY generous…like REALLY REALLY generous! We could have easily gotten away with one entrée (or maybe two), one main between us and just one dessert. Whilst I would consider this a “not-cheap” restaurant you really are getting value for money, especially considering you don’t really need your own entrée, main and dessert! It’s probably a great place to go if you want to experience a more fancy dining experience, but minimize the cost by sharing some courses with your dining companion.

So with that disclaimer above I was clearly entering food coma territory as I TOTALLY forgot to take a picture of our first main!  We opted for the delicious tender, ½ serve of organic herbed chicken that is served with a lush, creamy Paris mash, steamed black cabbage and salt bush ($33.00). This was a lovely main and would easily serve two greedy people (like us)! In fact it comes already plated up individually. The Paris Mash was so fine and creamy…really good! Like I said, there's no photo of this dish...but here's a picture of the kitchen where it was cooked!

Despite feeling rather (very) full at this stage we do a fine job of polishing off the thick-cut free-range Berkshire Pork Chop. The chop is served on a platter with green lentils, carrots, pearl onions, beer-battered sage and Marchetti's rosemary brown sauce ($39.00). I really liked trying the beer-battered sage, it’s an usual element that I’ve not seen on a menu before.

To accompany our mains The BFF ordered a bowl of fried onion rings ($7 .00). The slices of red onion are coated in a crunchy batter – really good.

I think one of my favourite things of the night was this lovely salad of iceberg, red peppers and Ortiz anchovies doused with a seeded mustard dressing ($14.00). This salad was so fresh, and whilst many consider iceberg to be tad…dull, I think that the dressing, the anchovies and the peppers really gave what would otherwise be a bowl of lettuce a real kick. So delicious, so zesty and I so wish the bowl was twice the size!!

I could easily have forgone dessert but desserts are The BFFs happy place so I couldn’t deny him. We kick off with a double baked dark chocolate crème brûlée topped with last season’s sweet marinated cherries ($16 .00). Boy this was GOOD! The dark chocolate wasn’t too rich, and the sourness of the cherries really elevated the chocolate flavor up to something special.

We probably should’ve stopped at one dessert but seeing plates and plates and plates of the Hot Beignets come out of the kitchen was too much to bare. We asked for a half serve of these French market doughnuts that come heavily dusted in icing sugar ($16.00). Our waitress suggested that we get a little pot of hot chocolate sauce to poor over the doughnuts – and all good waitresses should be obeyed!

Gowings Bar + Grill is at Level 1, 1/49 Market Street, Sydney. Phone them on 8262 0062.

Gowings Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gatehouse Tea Rooms, Parramatta Park

A few weeks ago I headed off to the Gatehouse Tea Rooms in Parramatta Park (just off Macquarie Street, near the Rose Garden) for morning tea with a bunch of my new sewing buddies. We were heading up to Old Government House to see a costume exhibition and I thought this would be the perfect place for a little snack beforehand.

I think that the Gatehouse Tea Rooms is one of Parramatta's true gems. Set in a World Heritage listed, 1887 built gatehouse it's the perfect setting for a spot of morning tea, or you can go full hog and order the indulgent looking High Tea. It's a beautiful setting, both inside and out and I'd say it's a perfect place for a casual catch up with friends, or something more fancy like a hen's party.

Sadly on the day we visited I'd been put on a pretty restrictive diet by my specialist to try and work out some tummy issues I've been having.  I think I gave myself cheese poisoning in Paris last year thus leading to Lactose Intolerance but he thinks that's nonsense.

Anyway...long story short, I had to order the gluten free English Tea Sandwiches ($15, or $13 if you can eat normal bread). I opted for a chicken filling and I have to say it was really delicious (though I do wish it was a tag bigger as I was still hungry afterwards). If you order this with "regular" bread it also comes with a little biscuit on the side to have with your tea.

All of the morning and afternoon teas, plus the High Tea's, come with your choice of beverage.  Nearly all of us ordered the lovely, fresh tasting Lime + Ginger Tea.  Tea's are all served in a prettier-than-your-granny's tea cup.

Most of the others ordered the lovely looking Devonshire Tea ($19.00) that comes with two scrumptious scones with served with seasonal jam and cream with your choice of beverage. I'm told the scones were excellent!

Gatehouse Tea Rooms can be found within the Macquarie St Gatehouse in Parramatta Park, Parramatta. Phone them on 9635 1515.

Gatehouse Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 07, 2014

Paper Plane (+ #mushroomMania2014), Parramatta

I don't mean to gush but, OH MY GOD! My discovery of Paper Plane cafe in Parramatta has made me VERY VERY happy!

Paper Plane opened around February of this year, but I actually first became aware of them when I was trying to post an Instagram photo to Paper Planes in Bondi yet this place kept popping up in my geotag. Hmmm? It wasn't until I started seeing a few photos on IG that I realised a) this cafe is open on weekends and b) this is just the sort of cafe that I LOVE. Quirky decor, interesting menu, drinks served in jars, in Parramatta and like I all weekend.

We both decide to detour away from coffee on this visit and Dave orders a Caramel Milkshake ($6.00) that comes in a cute little milk bottle with a paper straw (squee factor = about 100). I have a little sip and it's a great milkshake - very traditional tasting. Milk is no longer my friend so I choose the Peach Melba Iced Tea ($5.00) that come with fresh lemon and mint floating about in my jam jar glass. The paper straw sort of give up half way through the drinks though and become a drink fast.

We visit the cafe just before lunch so it's a struggle to decide if we should order breakfast, brunch or lunch. They had some VERY impressive breakfast boards coming out of the kitchen that looked very hearty.

In the end we both go for lunch. The general vibe of the menu is trendy-style sandwiches (I don't want to say "dude food" but you know what I mean), big burgers, little sliders and salads. All good stuff.

The lunch menu quite large and everything is tempting.  After dillydallying for AGES I finally order the Midnight Cuban Sandwich ($15.00) that comes with a side of big, fluffy Bad Boy Fries that are dusted with a salty, spicy seasoning. This is one tasty, and very filling sandwich! Crammed between generous slices of sourdough bread is triple smoked ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and  white BBQ sauce (not sure what that is). Yep, it's as good as it sounds!

I was stunned when Dave by-passed the Big Breakfast and ordered the Beef Burger with the Lot ($14.50). A soft, brioche bun is topped with a perfectly-cooked and very tasty beef patty, bacon, oozy fried egg, carmalised onions, beetroot, Swiss cheese, tomato and lettuce! Just in case you're still hungry after all of that the burger also comes with a side of Bad Boy Fries.

It's not long before we are back to spend the gift card I received from Australian Mushroom Growers Association to help them promote and celebrate #mushroomMania2014 which runs through all of July. 

And FYI to all you 'shroom lovers out there...if you share a photo of your own mushroom meal during July 2014 you could win a $100 voucher from Australian Mushroom Growers Association to spend on your own delicious meal out. If you're keen to enter check out the details here.

For my mushroom extravaganza it's hard to go past the Portobello Eggs Benedict ($14.00). The Portobello Mushroom is stuffed with feta and pesto (a match made in heaven) accompanied by two pieces by sourdough toast with poached eggs that are smothered in a beautifully smooth Hollandaise Sauce. I was a bit worried about this dish being served on a wooden board, but thankfully the eggs weren't too runny so nothing ended up running off on to my lap.

Oh looky, Dave's ordered the Big Breakfast ($16.00)!  Are you surprised? This is one impressive looking breakfast let me tell you, especially considering that it's only $16.00. Served on a BIG wooden board. Th Big Breakfast is resplendent with button mushrooms, fried eggs, toast, chorizo (which was SO tasty), a hashbrown, tomatoes, bacon...and a token green salad.

We enjoyed great coffee over our breakfast. A large cappuccino for him; and a piccolo latte for her! I really liked my piccolo latte. Often I find these a tad too strong/bitter but this one was very smooth and easy to drink. I can't drink black coffee (other than cold drip 'cos I'm hip like that) and I can't drink anything too the piccolo is a good option for me when it's made to my taste.

Oh, and we shared an OJ ($5.00)...because it was breakfast time and we're both getting over a cold.

Paper Plane is a GREAT new addition to what I hope is Parramatta's growing (weekend) cafe scene. The menu is large and varied, the staff are very friendly, the decor is comfortable and homely, and the food is delicious and well-priced. Two hoofs up from me - cannot wait to come back!

Paper Plane is at 5/2 Horwood Place, Parramatta. Phone them on 0400 888 772.

Paper Plane Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 30, 2014

Big Tree House Cafe, Rydalmere

Sometimes if you want something bad enough it may just happen! In my case I'm desperate for more cafes to open locally that are willing to serve me brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  Parramatta has one such place, Castle Hill has three (1, 2 and 3), Baulkham Hills has one...but that's pretty much it as far as weekend brunch options go in my neck of the woods (if you know of more, please let me know). Until now...

I recently became aware (thanks to Instagram) of a cafe in Rydalmere that is open ALL weekend.  Hello to Big Tree House Cafe! The photos on Instagram looked pretty great so Dave and I swung by there a few weekends ago for a take-a-away coffee. This place is CUTE and the food coming out of the kitchen looked so tasty.

Normally I'd wait for the weekend to try out a new local cafe with Dave, BUT I had the very next day off work so I hopped in the car and drove the 4kms to Big Tree House and had myself some lunch.

Whilst they serve breakfast all day I was really in the mood for lunch-type food and the Rachel Sandwich ($15.00) sounded pretty great to me! The Rachel is packed with pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and pickles and comes served on a board with a bundle of hot chips. I have to say this was one very good sandwich. It smelt incredible which made taking the time to snap a couple of photos nigh on torture. And, two thumbs up for FAT CHIPS!

They also do freshly squeezed Apple or Orange Juice ($6.00) served in a jam jar...because Rydalmere is hip too you know! The juice is great, very refreshing.

The coffee served at Big Tree House is Campos and the chef's wife (and owner) tells me that the staff have undergone training with Campos on how to make a great coffee and I think this is a very good cuppa.

A few days later I'm back with Dave to try the breakfast offerings. The cafe is busy, but not packed and we get a table straight away which is nice. There's also plenty of parking in the area as the cafe is on a quiet, residential street. Win win!

Dave, as predictable as always, orders the Big Tree House Breakfast ($16.00). His plate is heaving with poached eggs, bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, roast tomato and two generously sized pieces of sourdough toast. My eyes hone right on in to the super crispy bacon and I manage to score myself a piece. So good! The chef has done time working in fine dining restaurants, namely with Peter Doyle, and this man sure knows how to turn bacon into perfection!

Everything on the breakfast menu looks so appealing, eventually I settle on the Chorizo and Scrambled Eggs ($12.00). There's not a lot to say about this dish other than it was really delicious. Chorizo for breakfast = winning!

Big Tree House is a great local cafe. The food is delicious, service is efficient, everything on the menu is tempting and the decor is really sweet. In warmer weather it would be lovely to sit out the back under the big old Magnolia Tree that gives the cafe its name. Well done Rydalmere, who knew you were harbouring such a hidden gem!

Big Tree House Cafe is at 88 Calder Rd, Rydalmere. Phone them on 8626 9007.

Opening Hours: 8 am ~ 4 pm and closed on Tuesdays.

Big Tree House on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dos Senoritas, Gladesville

Dos Senoritas is a colourful looking Mexican restaurant on busy Victoria Road in Gladesville.  The menu claims to serve up "authentic street style Mexican food we all crave". I've never had "proper Mexican food" before but I do know that I've been craving something cheesey that involves corn chips and Dos Senoritas delivers.

I'm quite taken with the Jamaican ($5), a non-alcoholic drink (cos I'm a wowzer) that is a traditional sweet Mexican infusion of hibiscus flower. My friend has a Corona as she's a proper grown-up.

A basket of crispy, salty corn chips comes free to every table - which is dangerous as it's hard not to scoff the whole lot within minutes of taking our seat.  The salsa is great, it's really substantial with lots of tomatoes and spices which gives it a nice, smokey flavour.

In a (failed) effort to be healthy I order the Taco salad ($24) mainly has it has iceberg lettuce tossed in ranch dressing (I love Ranch dressing SO much). The salad is topped with seasoned steak, jack and cheddar cheese, pico, black beans, guacamole and sour cream. The whole lot comes in a crispy tortilla shell that serves as a bowl. By the end of the meal there is nothing left on plate at all - not even the tortilla bowl the salad came in. 

My buddy orders the Chipotle Chopped Salad ($24) which looks the same as my salad but I swear it's not! Her tortilla bowl is filled with grilled chicken breast (I had steak), iceberg lettuce, jack and cheddar cheese, pico, black beans and avocado. Plus its tossed with chipotle ranch and tortilla chips - so double crunchiness eschews.

For the prices and the size of the meals I'd say that Dos Senoritas is really really good value. You definitely won't leave here hungry. The menu says that this food is not Tex Mex - but I do wonder if food it eaten out of tortilla bowls in Mexico (are they, can someone fill me in please)?

Dos Senoritas  is at 265D Victoria Road, Gladesville. Phone them on 9817 3737 (they get pretty busy, even on a Sunday night so bookings are recommended).

Dos Senoritas on Urbanspoon

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