Monday, October 20, 2014

Emma's on Liberty, Enmore

Miss Piggy and Dave dined as guests of Emma's Snack Bar. 

Fans of Emma's on Liberty would've had their hearts in their mouths earlier this year when the newspaper went up on the windows of the restaurant, the lights went out and they closed the place down. Never fear however as they restaurant has reopened as Emma's Snack Bar.


During the brief shutdown Emma got herself a new kitchen, a new look and a new direction, bringing a more casual vibe to your Lebanese dining experience. Owner and chef Anthony Sofy is still cooking delicious Lebanese food (so fans of the former incarnation needn't worry), just in a more simple, street food-esque kind of way these days. He tells that after operating Emma's on Liberty for 13 years it was time for a bit of a change of pace and to make things more simple.  This isn't really surprising to hear is it, given so many other restaurants are following the same path.



I have to confess that I never got myself to Emma's on Liberty so it's impossible for me to compare the old and the new. What I can tell you is that the food we had on our visit to Emma's Snack Bar is some of the best Lebanese I've had anywhere...ever...and I've already made a booking for a family dinner this week! Dave has plugged the address of Emma's in to his GPS so it's set to become a firm favourite with us.



We kick things off with a drink. Dave goes for a refreshing Lebanese Beer and I have a shot of Arak - a milky-looking spirit that tastes similar to Ouzo. I love it. I'm told that you are meant to sip Arak slowly and enjoy the flavour and coolness the ice imparts in the drink (I obviously look like a boga skuller of tiny drinks)!



We ask Anthony to choose our dishes for us, although I do have just one request. Hummus with meat is something I hunt high and low for on every Lebanese menu I come across and I'm delighted beyond belief that they serve it at Emma's. I'm going to put it out there and say that this is THE BEST Hummus with meat I've very had. EVER! The meat is so deliciously charred, with just the right hint of spices like cumin to elevate the flavor of the lamb to something amazing. The hummus is really nutty and creamy. I basically forget eating this with the bread provided and just scoop the dip out of the bowl with my spoon.



I had read that when Emma's reopened the much-loved baba ganoush was no longer on the menu, much to the regular customers dismay. It wasn't long before it reappeared however and I have to say I can see why people were so upset that it was no longer on offer. Our baba ganoush had a wonderful smokey flavour - not overpowering, just enough to let you know that this is the real deal. A little dash of paprika and a handful of pickled turnips makes this a bit different to other versions of this dip that I've had before.


I've made fattoush salad at home myself (I know right, I cannot believe it either) and I'm really taken with the combination of fresh veggies with the crunch of crispy, fried bread. It's a good textural combination and the fried bread perks up what could otherwise just be a regular salad. Unlike other versions of fattoush that I've had Emma's offering does away with the flat bread and uses a thick, rush like bread known as ka'ak. It's quite hard initially but softens up as it spends time in the bowl with the dressing and other salady items. I can detect of slight aniseed flavour - not sure where this comes from, but I like it!


What can I say about the Moorish Chicken other than Dave liked it so much that he ate all of his share plus most of mine! Outrageous! You've got to be quick around these parts folks. The chicken is tangy, moist and tender and comes wrapped in charred flat bread. Inside the flat bread the chicken sits on a bed of thinly sliced red onions and the dish is accompanied by little pot of potent garlic sauce. You all know the garlic sauce rule right? If one person eats it then everyone at your table has to too otherwise you risk killing each other with your garlic breath!


At the first taste of the fried cauliflower Dave declares that "Emma's has done for cauliflower what Porteno has done for the brussel sprout" (if you've been to Porteno and had the brussel sprouts then you'll know what I'm on about). He's right of course, dramatic, but right! The crispy florets are doused generously in a tangy tahnini sauce and scattered with parsley.



When presented with the bowl of fried potatoes we politely and sedately pick at them until we realize that perhaps the other person may have had one more potato cube than the other...and with something this tasty that is just not on. I wanted my fair share of these as they are GREAT (I'd already lost my share of Moorish Chicken so I was now keeping score)! The potato is wonderfully crunchy on the outside with pillowy soft innards. The whole lot is drizzled in garlic sauce and topped with a pinch of coriander. Honestly, so so SO good!



And last but not least is the shish kebab - tender pieces of lamb and skewered over the grill which gives them a wonderful flavour. It's amazing how much flavour the lamb dishes here have - I think that's down to the quality of the produce used. I love pickled veggies and the little pile of pickled red cabbage is very welcome.


It's funny to me (well, more like sad really) that I drove past Emma's on Liberty regularly over the last decade or so and never really gave it a second thought. I'd often hear people saying how lovely the food was there but I had no idea what the place was about, nor that they served delicious Lebanese food. I feel like with the opening of Emma's Snack Bar I've been given a second chance to make up for last (eating) time.


Emma's Snack Bar is at 59 Liberty Street, Enmore

Emma's on Liberty on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bowrey Lane, CBD

Miss Piggy dined as a guest of Bowery Lane and Wasamedia

It's always great when a new dinner option pops up in the CBD, and it's especially good when the restaurant offers great food in a lovely setting.


You'll find Bowery Lane on O'Connell Street, nestled on the ground floor of a gleaming office tower in "The Big End of Town" as I like to call it. Why do I call it that? Ummm...isn't this where all the bankers and stockbrokers lurk about during the day?


Bowery Lane's menu declares they are channeling the New York of a bygone era when the area known as Bowery Lane became one of New York's poshest areas and was no longer a thoroughfare connecting farmlands and estates to the city.  The menu offers a  "collection of local flavours and textures reminiscent of industrial era New York including an updated era style cocktail bar".  Well, I'm not much of a history buff to be honest so all I can tell you is that the food we had was very nice...I'll let the history boffins among you decide if the food channels the end of the 18th century in NYC.


Menu interpretations aside I really like the interior of Bowery Lane - the hardness of exposed brick walls and concrete are offset with comfy black leather banquettes, deco fixtures and a huge 18 seat communal table (where this group of hungry food blogs descended for our dinner).


And speaking of dinner you're probably wondering by now what we ate...well here it is!

We kick things off with a few items from the "snacks" section of the menu.  Here we have some little Yamba prawn sliders; succulent, fatty (in a good way) char-grilled lamb ribs that I could easily have eaten 10 of; and some oozy, crunchy, and totally moreish Manchego croquettes that were served with a tasty smoked chilli aioli.


Next up is a few tasty treats from the "entree" section of the Bowrey Lane menu. The house-smoked hickory salmon is a delicate dish served with puffed wild rice, bottarga salad and burnet (whatever that is) - the salmon is quite meaty in texture and very fresh. The Master Kobe wagyu is cooked on the rare side and comes with a tangy chermula and a wedge of lemon. As someone who usually gets their steak cooked to "charcoal levels" I can see how the rare treatment keeps the meat tender and flavoursome. The jamon serrano was perfection! Eaten with the creamy, buffalo mozzarella, bitter  witlof rocket and sweet shaved pear all the flavours combined to make the perfect mouthful of food. Loved this dish.


The "share" section of the menu is where you'll find, hearty platters of meaty goodness.  Let's address these in dot point format shall we as there's nothing as ace as a good old bullet list: 
  • The 1kg braised wagyu short rib was super tender and the perfect "wow" dish to kick off our foray into the sharing dishes. The short rib pretty much fell apart without much help from the sharp knife provided. And, I just loved the peppery horseradish cream that accompanied this dish. If you're warding off vampires there's enough roast garlic here to see you through the entire Twilight series.
  • Another "wow" moment was the massive piece of crackling nestled alongside the Pork Collar + Scratchings. The pork comes with apple, parsley + fennel salad with pear chutney and the fresh accompanies marry really well with the fatty, unctuous pork.
  • The whole BBQ organic chicken comes with lentils, grains and smoked yoghurt and the combination of these elements is quite wholesome and rustic (and yum). 
  • I was too slow to get a picture of the slow cooked lamb shoulder before it was demolished by the other end of the table, so you'll have to trust me when I say it was good. So good that it was photographed and devoured before I even knew what was happening!
  • Oh, and with meat there must be salad! I LOVED the baby cos salad with peas, beans and mint. The perfect accompaniment to the meat-coma you've just bestowed upon yourself.


If you're still hungry there's an entire "mains" menu section to delve into. We got to sample the towering tempura soft shell crab burger and I have to say it was GOOD! I loved the saltiness off the softshell crab and the zestiness of the Asian slaw and miso mayonnaise.


And finally desserts! There was a bit of a lull in the eating for me as I couldn't face ordering a main for myself...so I was well and truly ready to sample the desserts on offer. They look pretty good don't they!

Here we have an ice-cream sandwich; a jar of "cookies and cream"; and a strawberry shortcake. It's a toss up as to which was my favourite but it's a tight race between the "cookies and cream" and the strawberry shortcake. Both were so light and summery...perfect to end a big, hearty meal.


Bowrey Lane is at 1 O'Connell Street, Sydney. Follow "the suits" and you'll find it!  Call them on 9252 8017.

Bowery Lane on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 13, 2014

Food tour of The Rocks

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’re probably aware that I LOVE a tour…especially a tour where food is involved.

When the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) invited me on a media “food and beverage” tour of The Rocks I quickly submitted an annual leave day from work and RSVPd YES YES YES!


Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority owns and manages some of the State's most significant assets, including The Rocks. The SHFA website tells us that their “vision is to make extraordinary places the world talks about by preserving and enhancing the inter-generational value of the State, heritage and cultural assets it manages”.

I think it must be a tricky balance to preserve the heritage of The Rocks precinct whilst at the same time making the area relevant and modern through food, beverage, shopping and events in order to attract locals and visitors alike. The SHFA are the brainchild behind the ever popular Vivid Festival which was designed to bring visitors to the area in the normally quiet (for them) month of May. I’d say that idea worked pretty well, huh?


So where did the tour take us? Read on to find out. All of these places were new to me and I’m super excited to get back to some of them to revist.

Le Pain Quotidien

Firstly, massive props to the Le Pain Quotidien website which tries to help us pronounce the name of the place. They say it sounds like “luh paN koh-ti-dyaN”. Yep…still cannot pronounce it but in English that translates to “the daily bread”.

The first stop on our food tour of The Rocks is Le Pain Quotidien...a bakery hailing from Belgium that is located in a (very) old police station on George Sreet. I cannot count the number of times I’ve walked past this building and not given it a second glance. This is a lesson in why it pays to look up from the pavement and take in the beauty surrounding us!


At the back of the café is where you’ll find the old gaol cells. The "cells" have been done up as little dining spaces and it is really really cool. If you don't like your dining buddies you could just get up from you cell and lock them in the cell behind you! If you cannot get yourself locked in a cell never fear! There is loads of seating in the front of the building and also out on George Street where you’ll have a stellar view of the MCA.


On this first pit stop we get to try a few items from the Patisserie menu and I go for the almond and cheese croissant which is delicious. The cheese is almost undetectable so don’t let that put you off.  It provides a subtle sweet and and creamy note to the pasty.  This is not like eating a slice of Kraft cheese on your sweet croissant I promise. I also sink my teeth in to the fruit bread with a good sized schmear of the creamy, luscious hazelnut spread. All of this is washed down with some tart, refreshing Homemade Lemonade.


I really like this space. I think it’s fantastic that the café is making use of one of the most interesting features of the buildings (the cells for those not keeping up with my love of THE CELLS). I’m keen to come back on the weekend to have brunch or lunch with Dave and enjoy some French goodies. And YAY for somewhere that is open for brunch in the city ALL weekend (they also open for dinner FYI).


127 George Street, The Rocks
Phone them on: 9252 3840
Trading hours: Monday - Sunday 8.00am - 9.00 pm

Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

ChocolArts

Next stop on our tour of the rocks is one for the lovers of handmade, artisan chocolate. Behold the wonder that is ChocolArts.



This place smells INCREDIBLE - rich and luscious. At ChocolArt you’ll find a HUGE range of beautiful handcrafted chocolates make from premium Belgian and French couverture chocolate. There's also some couverture on hand from North Queensland (it's grown on a banana farm)! Fantastic!  What's more is that there’s no artificial ingredients or preservatives in the ChocolArt choccies so this place is basically a health food shop if you think about it!


ChoocolArts has a range of traditional chocolates but I also like the addition of a few Australian flavours such as Lemon Myrtle (which is super yum FYI) and also the Leatherwood Honey. Whilst in store I also tried the Fleur de Sel. One word = YUM!


75 George Street, The Rocks
Trading Hours: Monday - Sunday: 10.00am - 6.00pm

Chocolarts Handcrafted Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Ananas Bar and Brasserie

Moving right along to the third stop on our food tour. We pop into the beautiful Ananas for some wine and a light lunch.


I figured out pretty quickly that Ananas is French for pineapple as there are pineapple "things" all over the joint. Pineapple lights of different shapes and sizes adorn various parts of the bar and brasserie and it REALLY is gorgeous. How have I not been here before?   Now, if you're wondering about the link between France and pineapples we are told that "way back in The Day, pineapples were a sign of wealth and great hospitality in France".  You learn something new everyday.


The bar area takes up a huge chunk of the building and is light and bright with a touch of “old world France about it”. It positively shimmers from the glow of the pineapple chandeliers. LOVE!


We move through to the brasserie, which is dark and lux, and settle at the tables for some tasty treats. First up is a glass (or two) of a smooth 2012 Château Darzac Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, France (naturally). I think I can now add another wine to my list of wines that I like…welcome to the club Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc!


On to the food… King Crab Salad with avocado and fresh green apple (from the restaurant lunch menu); Chef's celection of house charcuterie with brioche (from the bar menu); Ananas seared yellow fin tuna salade niçoise (from the restaurant menu). The dishes we are presented with are all beautiful with delicate flavours and textures that all blend perfectly together. I adored the charcuterie as it just screams Paris to me...


We finish off our light lunch with a trio of Ananas eclairs – the Chef's selection as Chef knows best after all. We had an African chocolate éclair, an Earl Grey Tea éclair (oh boy this was GOOD) and a salted caramel éclair. We cut each éclair into five pieces so we could each have “just a taste”. The perfect, guilt free way to have dessert I think.


18 Argyle Street, The Rocks
Phone them on 9259 5668 or email reservations@ananas.com.au
Trading Hours:
Lunch = Mon - Fri 12.00pm – 3.00pm
Dinner = Mon - Thu 6.00pm – 10.00pm | Fri - Sat 5:30pm – 11.00pm
Bar = Mon- Fri 12.00pm – 1.00am | Sat 4.00pm – 1.00am

Ananas Bar & Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Wine Odyssey Australia

Moving right along on our food tour of The Rocks to Wine Odyssey. This is another venue with a historical past – built in 1886 it initially operated as a hotel run by one of Australia’s first female publicans. 


The resident archaeologist from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, who attended the tour with us, tells us that this building also served as a morgue (pubs with cellars = cool, dry place to store the bodies) as well as a “house of ill repute”!


I've never seen a DIY "wine tasting machine" before...and now I have. This month the machine is loaded up with NSW wines...you put credit on your Wine Odyssey card...stick it in the machine and taste away. More fun than an iPad people.


As well as the DIY "wine tasting machine" Wine Odyssey also has a wine bar, wine store, wine club and can host a variety of events. On the second floor of their venue is a “theatre” which is where we head to try both a red and white wine, and to sample a few of the delectable cheeses on offer.


39/43 Argyle Street, The Rocks
Phone them on 8114 0256
Trading hours:
Monday - Closed
Tuesday to Saturday – 12.00pm to late
Sunday - 12.00pm to 10.00pm

Wine Odyssey Australia on Urbanspoon

The Push

Next stop on our food tour of The Rocks is The Push. It's the first pub you'll meet as you enter The Rocks ...a really cozy space for a cocktail (or two) and something to eat. The Push sits on the ground floor of the lovely (and again, historic) Russell Hotel building.



The Push is a bit of a funny name isn’t it? It comes from a Blues and Jazz Club that operated in the Rocks in the 70’s, known as “The Rocks Push”. The club took its name go back to the early 1800s when a group of ye olde worlde gang-bangers (also referred to as “larrikins” back in the day) formed a gang called “The Rocks Push”. They terrorized the area and sailors frequenting the Rocks.


During our brief stop at The Push we get to sample a few of the bar snacks on offer and a few cocktails. I LOVE LOVE LOVED the crumbed calamari strips that are dusted with sichuan pepper and kaffir lime. I ignored the accompanying soy dipping sauce and dunked the calamari in the aioli that accompanied the cheesy little arancini balls. Good stuff. The nachos bites were piled high with spiced beef flank, beans, rocket, cheese and avocado – not so pretty to eat (more of a shove-it-in-your-gob) but really tasty! I also loved the slider I tired - pulled lamb with mashed peas (there’s also pork rib and vegetarian sausage sliders on offer if you prefer).



We try a few cocktails here, include their signature cocktail ‘Push Over’. The drinks menu tells us this drink is “inspired by the well-dressed ladies who were dazzled by the charisma of the members of The Push in the 1800′s. This cocktail is a fruity, refreshing mix of raspberries, lime, Chambord and vodka”. I’m not sure I’m classified as a “well-dressed lady” (I err more on the casual side of things) and I don’t go ga-ga for gang members BUT I did love this cocktail. Yum.


143 George Street, The Rocks.
Phone them on 9241 2999
Trading Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12.00pm - 11.00pm
Friday – Saturday: 12.00pm – 12.00am (nice one lock-out laws...not)!
Sunday: 12.00pm – 10.00pm

The Push on Urbanspoon

The Glenmore Hotel

The rooftop of The Glenmore Hotel is a SPECTACULAR place to end our food tour of The Rocks. Stunning views...especially in the glorious weather we’ve been experiencing lately. The rooftop has received a face lift and is the proud owner of a a retractable roof. This means the rooftop will be open rain, hail or shine. Woot.


I take a seat at the table that overlooks the Opera House...and that overlooks three giant jugs of cocktails. I’m not sure what any of there are I’m sorry (I heard mutterings of Pimms and of rum {not in the same jug of course}) – but I had a VERY good sample from each one and can confirm that they are all delish. Coupled with the stunning, warm spring weather and the million dollar view I’d say these cocktails are darn near perfect!


Quite a few plates of food came out but I didn’t get to sample (or snap) them all. I'm keen to come back and try the chicken wings which we are told are devilishly spicy and messy.


The Salt and Pepper Squid was dusted in chilli and came with a coriander and lime mayonnaise – yum. I loved the BBQ corn salsa and tartare sauce that accompanied the Fish Cakes (which reminded me of a prettier version of the tuna patties I used to try and make at home, but they would never stick together).   After a few fried dishes the Tuna Salad was fresh and refreshing. Seared Albacore Tuna is plated under a medley of avocado, cucumber ribbon, heirloom cherry tomato, crispy panache salad with spicy sesame soy dressing.


I absolutely LOVED spending time on the rooftop of the Glenmore Hotel.  It just felt like the quintessential Sydney experience - big blue skies, warm weather, sunshine and a dazzling view of the sparkling water and Opera House.


96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks.
Phone them on: 9247 4794
Trading Hours:
Mon – Thurs: 11.00am to 12.00am
Fri -- Sat: 11.00am to 1.00am
Sun: 11.00am to 12.00am

Glenmore Hotel on Urbanspoon

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