Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bread and Circus, Alexandria

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Whoever coined the phrase"you don't make friends with salad" has certainly never met me. I LOVE a good, hearty, tasty salad and it was the lure of such salads that drew me to Alexandria's Bread and Circus.

Bread and Circus is a wholefoods canteen with a focus on hearty, healthy fare. When the first opened a few years ago they didn't even serve coffee (just teas and juices) but I think they may have changed that policy...after all the lure of coffee is hard to deny (as is the revenue it brings in the door I'm sure).

There's quite a lot on offer on the menu from sandwich boxes, sandwiches and various breakfast items and daily plates. That all sounds really tasty but I'm here for one thing, and one thing only. SALAD!

The salads come in three sizes: side ($10), regular ($16) and sharing ($25). I decide to order the regular size as that way I can fit ALL the salads on offer on my plate.  It's a good size though if you're ordering a side and aren't overly hungry and side plate would probably be enough.

There are five different salads on offer and I love the way that are all piled next to other. My favourites were whatever it was that had goats cheese in it, plus that cauliflower you see there...I reckon it has some cheese action going on as well.

A girl cannot live on salad alone however and a side of haloumi ($6.00) is to hard to resist. It is grilled to perfection and is SO delicious and I'm pleased that the serve is so generous (does anyone else thing the haloumi looks like toast in this photo)?!

I wash all of this down with a juice. This red coloured juice is aptly, but probably PC incorrectly, called The Ranga! It's a mix of orange juice, watermelon juice and ginger (if you heart desires). It's very tasty, but I think it's more Strawberry Blonde than Ranga.

I really loved my first visit to Bread and Circus. It was hearty, filling and tasty. The atmosphere is lovely and the staff were very friendly.

A few weeks later I'm back at Bread and Circus with my sister who lives not too far away. I was really hoping for more salad but alas, no lunches before noon. We arrived at 11am so it's just too long to string things out til lunch is served so I end up ordering toast with feta, tomatoes and a side of their delicious haloumi. I did have a bit of a struggle deciding what to order for brunch as nothing really leapt out at me...I definitely think, for me, lunches are the way to go here. They just seem a bit more interesting and no so run-of-the-mill.

Bread and Circus is at 21 Fountain Street, Alexandria. Phone them on 9698 2939.

Bread & Circus on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Goodtime Diner, Bondi Junction

Miss Piggy dined as a guest of the Goodtime Diner.

I’ve not paid a visit to Westfield Bondi Junction since the place very first opened. And even then I didn’t really have a very good look around – a quick look at Target, a glance at the “posh shops” and then it was off to the beach for Fish ‘n’ Chips.

Needless to say on this visit I was pretty amazed to find a huge, multi-level pub nestled into the building. At first I couldn’t figure out of The Eastern was part of the Westfield building or something that existed before Westfield took over Bondi Junction. Turns out the pub has been in Bondi Junction for decades and Westfield was built around the structure. It’s quite nifty looking and from certain angles the circular façade of The Eastern reminds me of a lighthouse.

On this visit I’ve been invited to the Goodtime Diner on level one to try a selection of New Orleans inspired eats where meats are cooked in an American Yoder smoker for up to 18 hours. Let me at it!

Our foray into the good old days of America start off with a Charcuterie Plate featuring smoked pork belly, smoked cheese, gherkins, smoked nuts and salumi. The cheese was a bit light on the smoke for me, but I loved the smoked nuts and smoked pork belly. Both had a good whack of smokiness about them.

Next up is a serve of garlic bread. It was nice and buttery, and the wasn’t too pungent from too much garlic.  There's not much you can say about garlic bread really other than my piece was pretty good.

I think EVERYONE at this dinner loved the Mac n’ Cheese which came served in a little, cast-iron pot. Beneath the layer of crunchy breadcrumbs was a pile of tender macaroni laden with stringy, gooey cheese. I think this dish was the highlight of the night for me.

Coming a close second though was the spicy hot Cajun Corn that was generously slathered with butter. If you’re shy of chilli just beware of this dish as it has a slow burn.

Next up is the meet platter. I felt so sorry for the vegetarian sitting next to me whose eyes brightened for a moment before she realized that the Beef Short Rib was in fact, NOT a chocolate brownie. More for me though, which is great as I really enjoyed the short rib. The meat was tender, fatty and quite moist though I didn’t detect much of a smoked flavor. Accompanying the beef was some Smoked Chicken – again, not overly smokey, but still tasty.

Our feast came with two salads - Cous Cous salad with chickpea, pinenuts and roast pumpkin and a lovely, fresh goats cheese, fennel, walnut, pear and spinach salad which I really loved. The creamy, rich goats cheese paired really well with the zesty pear.

I think if you’re in the area the Goodtime Diner is a great spot to catch up with friends or family. Just don’t try to share your Mac ‘n’ Cheese – it’s too good to share!

The Goodtime Diner is at The Eastern Hotel, Level One, 500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction. Phone them on 9387 7828.

GoodTime Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Keg & Brew, Surry Hills

The KB Hotel on Foveaux Street in Surry Hills has recently received a bit of a facelift and reopened as Keg + Brew, serving up a menu of delicious eats inspired by the "deep south" of the USA.

You'd be forgiven for walking right past this pub in its former incarnation as it did have the look of a bit of an "old man's pub". The sympathetic refurb has spruced the place up but the pub still retains many of its glorious old features such as the stunning bar that takes center place.

Once you get closer to the bar you'll notice a bank of stunning looking beer taps - each one is a work of art in its own right. Whilst I'm not a beer lover I can certainly admire the taps, of which there are over 30! Keg + Brew serves a HUGE array of local craft beer along with a few Aussie staples like VB (that is still their highest selling brewskie). If you're not into beer they also specialize in a bespoke range of Bourbons...many hailing from the US of A.

I'm not really into beer or bourbon so I opt for refreshing apple cider. The Pink Lady Cider is a brew made by cider-makes, The Apple Thief.  The cider is so sweet and crisp, almost like eating an apple but in liquid form. I like this drink A LOT!

We start our lunch off with a few morsels from the "Fixin's" section of the menu. I of course can NEVER go past Buffalo Wings ($10) when then are on offer and Dave is quite smitten by the sound of the Monterey Jack Fried Cheese Sticks ($10).

The Buffalo Wing Board isn't stingy on the wings and comes with a really dang good gorgonzola docle blue cheese dip. Just as an aside nearly everything you order will go fantastically with this flavoursome dip (trust me, I know as I dipped everything into barring the Twinkies we had for dessert).

The cheese sticks are also quite a generous serve and we're impressed at how well the cheese has held its shape despite being crumbed and deep fried - is there anything that cheese cannot do? The texture of the cheese is almost like a cross between a fluffy-on-the-insidi-crisp-on-the-outside hot chip and a Kraft cheese stick. The plum sauce is sweet and smokey and the bartender tells us it's one of his favourite sauces on the menu.

Moving on to the "Grub" section of the menu I feel compelled to try the KBFC ($19) as fried chicken is so "in" right now it would be remiss not to order it (also it goes SO well with the aforementioned blue cheese sauce). For your nineteen bucks you'll get a half Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken that has a light, crispy coating. The serve is pretty big so I think it's great value.  The chicken is SO tender and moist, it really is quite amazing. The chook is served with a hot mayo, french friends and a crunchy salad (that I don't rate at all - needed more dressing and seasoning I think, but we're here for the chook not the salad).

For our second main Dave orders the Chipotle Pork Ribs ($19) that are so tender the meat practically falls off the bone. The ribs are doused in a smokey chipotle sauce that is sweet and finger licking good. The ribs are topped with a slathering of chimichurri which helps cut through the richness of the chipotle sauce. This is one messy dish but that's half the fun of eating ribs isn't it? Again this main comes with french fries and a salad (again with the meh for the salad).

It wouldn't be an American-style meal without a deep-fried dessert now would it? Behold the deep-fried Twinkies ($10 for 3). There was a bit of a miscommunication when ordering dessert and we each end up with our own Twinkie platter...possibly too many Twinkies but we gave it our best shot (and failed to finish either platter). These were quite nice - not overly sweet and definitely not oily at all. The batter was quite soft (almost like a dagwood dog batter in texture). For those not in the know a Twinkie is similar to a light sponge cake with a creamy filling...I don't think there's one natural ingredient in them which explains why they handle the deep-frier like boss! Only think that would've made this better would've been a scoop of ice-cream on the side. Vanilla of course.

Dave and I really enjoyed our lunch at Keg + Brew. The fit out is really great, reminiscent of an old style of pub with a few quirky elements of Americana thrown in (like these hulking guys in the photo below). The food is very hearty, filling and epically good value I thought. We only made the smallest dent in the menu and there are a lot of items I'd love to come back and try (po'boy anyone)?

The Keg + Brew is at 26 Foveaux Street in Surry Hills.

Keg & Brew Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Burger Project, World Square

Miss Piggy and Dave attended the launch part of Burger Project as guests.  Sadly my Logistical Director (that's YOU Dave) accidentally left my camera at home, so please excuse my phone camera photos...they don't do the food justice!

There’s been much anticipation in the lead up to Neil Perry’s latest venture, Burger Project. Much of this anticipation is no doubt surrounding whether the burgers at this new causal eatery are going to be anywhere near as good as Perry’s famed burger the Rockpool Bar + Grill. I’ve never had the pleasure of indulging in that famous burger so I’ll leave the comparison making up others.

We visited Burger Project on their media preview night last night, two days before their scheduled opening on 31st October. Things are SUPER crazy and the kitchen is packed to the rafters with blue-shirted staff working the production line. Neil Perry is in there somewhere too, no doubt flipping his fair share of burgers. I think once the craziness dies down here, and the staff get in to the swing of serving a normal amount of people this place will be great.

Burgers aside, one of the most admirable things about Burger Project is the restaurants focus on the provenance of their produce. Only free range meat is used and their philosophy of using only animals that have led a happy life is plastered all over their website and the restaurant. For that very reason Burger Project will shoot to the top of my burger joints in Sydney.

You’d think will all that free range meet gracing the menu that prices would be high, but it’s quite the opposite. The price of a classic burger (grass-fed beef, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and a “secret sauce”) is just $7.90. For that price I thought the burgers would be tiny but rest assured these babies are monsters…definitely a two-hand burger if I ever saw one. Why are these great quality burgers so cheap? Who knows, but I’m thinking that perhaps with the size of Neil Perry’s restaurant empire he’s getting some good economies of scale which are feeding down into this venture. Dave and I do have a bit of a chuckle though that the most pricey burger on the menu is the mushroom burger which clocks in at $12.50. We think they must be “special” mushrooms?

To kick off our Burger Project adventure we decide to try the Crispy Hot Wings ($3.50 each or 3 for $9.00). The whole chicken wings are HUGE and come with your choice of Sichuan pepper and salt or a classic hot sauce which looks a bit like the salted duck egg sauce we had in Ashfield a while ago. We opt for the Sichuan pepper and salt (because I love salt, der) and it is delicious. The chicken wings are super moist and tender, though a smidge oily and the seasoning is spot on. 

Although there are hot dogs on offer we both decide to order a burger. Because I had been thinking the burgers would be small, and because I am a guts, I order the Double ($11.90) which is a mistake as it’s HUGE! The monstrous burger holds two grass fed beef patties, cheese, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and the aforementioned secret sauce. It looks remarkably similar to the famous Shake Shack burger, coming wrapped in a grease proof paper bag. The burger is tasty but doesn’t blow my mind. Like I said less meat is probably a good thing for me on this one...and I think the burgers will be great once the place calms down a bit and the staff hit their groove.

Dave goes for a single patty option with a Cheese and Bacon burger ($9.50). His burger is basically the same as mine with minus one patty and plus some bacon. He really likes it...as evidenced by an empty tray at the end of our meal.

Housemade chips are on offer for $4.90 and as with the chicken wings you have a choice of seasoning. You can choose to dust your thrice cooked chips with either just salt, salt and vinegar or chipotle chilli. We both have no trouble in deciding on a salt and vinegar flavour…and it’s GOOD! The chips are crunchy and fluffy, and I love how the vinegar is just tart enough to make your eyes squint with each bite.

Dave obviously enjoyed his salted dulce de leche “real shake” ($6.50) as he goes back for a second pretty much as soon as the first one is done. I had a sip and can attest that this shake is THE BUSINESS PEOPLE! Alas milk is not my friend so I made do with a house soda ($4.50) – mandarin for me, though next time I’ll be trying the passion pop.

If the shake is not sweet enough for you there are some desserts on offer. Dave clearly hasn’t had enough dairy this evening and goes for a double scoop of ice cream ($6.50) that is topped with crumbled meringue (toppings are $1 extra). His ice-cream flavours are good old vanilla and again with the salted dulce de leche.

I think it's unfair to judge a restaurant within their first few weeks of opening, let alone solely on a pre-launch party where hundred of people came through door in a feeding frenzy. Given how crazy pants last night was I think every was pretty great for us. Staff were friendly, food came out in a reasonable time considering all of Sydney were there, and our food was hearty and tasty. I'm super keen to come back and try some more things in a few weeks.

The Burger Project is at Shop 11.06, World Square (next to Din Tai Fung, on Level 1); 644 George Street, Sydney. They are open 11am – 10pm every day.

Burger Project on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2014

El-Phoenician Restaurant, Parramatta

Whilst we’re still drooling over the delicious food from my last post let’s continue with the Lebanese theme. Back to Parramatta where we hit up El-Phoenician for a family birthday. El-Phoenician is one of the many restaurants located on the "Eat Street" part of Church Street. This area has changed a lot since we moved in but El-Phoenician is holding steady.

I wish my photos were better but when you're dining in a BIG group it's the quick or the hungry I'm afraid. So you'll have to trust me when I say the food was really great.

I’ve been wanting to go here since we first moved to the ‘hood over four years ago now. Not sure why it took this long to make it, but it was always the baskets of crisp, fried Lebanese bread set alluringly on each table that had me wanting to come here. Fried bread = winning.

Because we dining in quite a big group we decide to go for one of the group menus – always the best way to go when there are so many people eating together. We choose the “Roche” banquet for meat lovers for $50 per person. Massively good value. I have have to give the staff two thumbs up for happily accommodating all of our varying dietary requests with hardly the blink of an eye.

The banquet kicks off with a trio of dips that are all very lovely. The Homous is a smooth, creamy blend of chick peas blended with tahina and lemon juice. The Baba Ganouje is a heady mix of smoky char-grilled eggplant blended with tahina and lemon juice. Yum. And last but not less a beautiful Labne made from fresh home-made yoghurt. I really love the tanginess of labne. Needless to say that all the dips go really well with that crispy bread I’ve been drooling over since 2010.

We also enjoy some fresh salads. I loved the tangy Tabouli (not pictured as we ate it too fast) – a mix of finely chopped parsley, tomato, shallot with crushed wheat and mint mixed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  We also get the chef's salad as part of our banquet. Bad photo but a good salad.

Possibly one of my favourite elements of the banquet is the feta cheese that comes on a plate with one of my all-time favourite foods, PICKLES!!! A plate of kalamata olives, pickled cucumber, turnip, radish and whole chilli (hot, but not deadly so) is nestled alongside fat slabs of creamy, tangy feta cheese.

And lastly we come to the “meat lovers” section of the banquet. This platter is piled high with a medley of mouth watering meats. All of them are deliciously charred and smokey after their treatment over the hot grill. So what do we have? Let’s have a look:

  • Jawaheh (chicken wings) which are marinated in lemon, garlic and extra virgin olive oil
  • Kafta (skewered minced lamb), one of my favourite Lebanese meat dishes that consists of premium lamb mixed with parsley, herbs and onions
  • Shish tawouk (skewered chicken) which his Marinated with traditional Middle Eastern spices and a hint of garlic
  • Shish kebab (skewered lamb) which is marinated in vinegar and traditional Middle Eastern spices
  • Batata b-kizibra (potato coriander) a bowl of yummy diced potato fried and tossed in a fresh coriander dressing.  Dip it into the garlic sauce provided to take it up a notch.
Because my sister doesn't eat lamb (long story) we also receive a plate of fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside falafel with tahina sauce for no extra charge. It's little touches like this that make me want to return to certain restaurants. Everyone at El-Phoenician was very accommodating, which is no easy feat given there must have been about 200 people there on the night we visited. Oh, and the falafel is served with mixed pickles so double win.

In keeping with the El-Phoenician motto that “food isn’t simply about eating, it’s an experience” as the night carries on out come the belly dancers. Lots of fun (though the music was deafeningly loud and quashed any conversation that people were having). I'm not sure what the deal is with balancing the walking stick on people's heads but it is worth nothing that Dave's brother (not the dude in the picture below) can balance a walking stick on his head for a VERY VERY long time. I'd totally be putting THAT skill on my resume for sure.

All in all I had a great night at El-Phoenician. It's popular for big groups, but it is definitely somewhere I'd go with just Dave and myself as it has a intimate vibe due to its nice, warm decor.

The only thing that would make it better is if they served homous with lamb mince (hint hint if you're reading this  El-Phoenician).

El-Phoenician is at Church Street, Parramatta. Phone them on 9633 1611. 

El-Phoenician on Urbanspoon

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