El Bulli Spanish Tapas

Earlier this week my family and I celebrated my graduation from Uni at Randwick’s El Bulli Spanish Tapas! I was really excited as I’ve wanted to dine here for ages but, because of its location (which is a bit far from where I live) its often been forgotten! Luckily though, mum suggested it and I am so glad that she did!

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When we arrived we walked into a dimly lit room, furnished with wooden style benches and a quaint little bar. It was warm and cosy (totally the opposite of the weather outside!) and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The seated us at a window table, sort of like a nook, where one side of the seating was a long bench filled with comfortable cushions and furnishings. Right from the outset, the restaurant smelt fantastic so I couldn’t wait to start eating! My family and I have been to a couple of Spanish Tapas style restaurants, so our rule is always to try to order a couple of different dishes each time that we go and with the menu presented to us we were spoilt for choice. Personally, I love Spanish tapas style food, in fact I would love to cook it one night for my family, although I’m not quite sure about the logistics of it for five people, but still, that would be a great night! So as a result we’ve only ever really eaten Tapas at a restaurant, which is a shame because it can be quite expensive. I will say that while the meals at El Bulli weren’t cheap, the food was fantastic!

We started off with some Sangria (of course!) and then ordered a selection of tapas dishes to share. Our first dish to arrive was the Pinchitos de Pollo ($16.50) which are essentially chicken skewers. These were beautiful though, moist perfectly cooked chicken skewered and marinated in chimichurri (a herby, green marinade common in Spanish cooking) before being grilled and drizzled with lemon and a light mayonnaise. Perfect little portions of tasty-ness!

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Following this, the Patatas Bravas ($12.50) arrived, with soft, pillowy potato quarters fried to give them a crispy outside, before being cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Yum Yum! We also shared the Empanadillas ($17.50)  (a personal favourite of mine) which are a deep fried puff pastry filled with mince, herbs and egg! Seriously crispy pastry filled with the most beautifully seasoned and flavoured mince, I could have eaten these all day!

One of the evenings specials was the Zucchini Flowers which were stuffed with a ricotta filling before being lightly battered and deep fried! I love zucchini flowers, and my boyfriend (whose never tried them before) devoured these ones! So crispy on the outside and stuffed to the brim with rich, creamy ricotta. The flowers were plump and fresh and had so much beautiful flavour to them!

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Now if that wasn’t enough, we then ordered a seafood Paella ($29.50) for one to share, which was divine! Perfectly cooked rice with a rich tomato and saffron flavour topped with flavoursome choritzo, chicken and fresh seafood including huge King Prawns, Octopus, Mussels and Clams! It never ceases to amaze me with just how much flavour some people can pack into such a little rice dish! Seriously good and highly highly recommended!

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The highlight dish for me though was one that I had almost told mum not to bother with; Zarzuela ($33.50) a dish I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Spanish restaurant before, but have heard of in cooking shows. Essentially, it is a seafood soup or broth but wow, I really don’t think I have ever tasted something so unbelievably flavoursome before. There were so many layers of flavours, salty, sweet, spicy and of course seafoody. It was all perfectly balanced and a perfect dish for such cold cold weather. I would highly highly recommend this dish, plus it was huge!! Even my dad loved this one, and he hates spicy food! The broth itself also had a light tomato flavour and just the right amount of spice to hit the back of your throat, but not overpower the soft flavours of the seafood. Now thats a dish I would love to learn how to make.

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We had hoped to order dessert (Churros) but at almost $17 per serve we decided to go to the Italian restaurant around the corner instead, which was a shame as churros would have been delish! Overall, we had a wonderful evening and the food was fantastic! It’s a shame they don’t have a set menu so that you could try more options (for a slightly cheaper price) but hey I’m not complaining, the food was phenomenal! If your ever in Randwick (or Surry Hills as theres another one there) then make sure you stop by!! You won’t regret it! Yum!!

Check out their website here….

 

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Chur Burger

ImageIn honour of it being National Burger day here today I thought I’d do a little review on an awesome place I visited on the weekend, Sydney’s Chur Burger! I’ve wanted to visit Chur burger for ages and finally on Saturday night I got my chance. After we had driven around for what felt like forever to find parking we arrived at a small little restaurant/cafe space with a whole lot of people waiting outside! In my mind I was thinking “just great, every other Sydney-sider has also had the same idea as me and also come here tonight!” but luckily the friendly staff at the door took my details and ensured me it would only be a half hour wait. Thankfully, the Ridges was located across the road, so we just popped in there for drinks (I think that most of their customers, if not all, were doing exactly the same thing as us). While we waited, we got chatting with the bar staff who assured as that the wait was this long every night, even on weekdays, and then like clockwork, exactly half an hour later my phone rang with our table! Yay!

If you’ve not heard about Chur burger before (then your missing out!), but think of it as a trendy little burger bar located in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. The bar is owned and run by New Zealand chef Warren Turnbull, which gives some reasoning for the bar’s name (the word “Chur” apparently, is a slang New Zealand term meaning awesome, cool or thanks!). As we entered I found myself in a really cool, very laid back room, which, while small was filled with groups of people. The seating and decor was very eclectic, and I suddenly realised that I was actually sitting on a giant paint tin turned upside down with a cushion on top! It was all very Surrey Hills! Once you walk in you order your food from the bar to your right (they serve alcohol too) and then take your place at your table. The whole thing really reminded me of an old school milk bar with lots of shared tables and benches to sit at.

Between the three of us (myself, sister and boyfriend) we ordered two of the Pulled Pork Burgers ($10) and a Grilled Beef Burger($10)  as well as a bowl of chips with chilli salt ($5) and sweet potato fries with lime and garlic ($5). To drink, the three of us all got the salted caramel milkshake ($8) because, well lets be honest who wouldn’t want a salted caramel milkshake!

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The food arrived quickly but no so soon that you felt rushed. Often at “food bar” type establishments (particularly in Surrey Hills) I feel like I’ve got to eat quickly so that they can turn over the table but not here. We were presented with a beautiful big burger each and wow, just wow it was so good! Just as a burger should be, not showy or fancy but just a good old fashioned burger on a soft fresh bread bun. My Pulled Pork was for sure the winner, with tender pork meat, BBQ sauce, red cabbage and fennel mayo all served on a soft brioche style bun! Seriously so damn good, I couldn’t fault it! The Beef burger was also delish, and I was impressed that the patty was cooked perfectly medium rare! Wow! That one was served with tomato jam, pickle, cheese and mustard mayo, you can’t go wrong there! 

The chips were also amazing, with a crispy finish and light coating of chilli salt. i think my favourite though were the sweet potato fries where the combination of lime, garlic and cinnamon really got my taste buds going. And if your wondering, both styles of chip were the proper old fashioned fat cut! YUM!! I’d probably recommend sharing the chips as the serve is really big, even the three of us with our huge appetites couldn’t finish it all!

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The highlight for my taste buds though was the milkshake which, dare I say it, would have to be one of the best milkshakes I have ever tasted! I felt like I was drinking a salted caramel macaron. It was honestly everything a milkshake should be, served in a tall silver milkshake glass, thick and rich and full of flavour it did not disappoint! Almost a meal in itself.

I think that the only downside to this place was the noise/heat level that quickly built inside and I had to remove myself for a bit to get some fresh air. Aside from that though I can’t wait to go again! Get down there Sydney-siders, this place is sure to impress!

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Element 6 Cafe

ImageAs a kid, I never really stuck to the whole “3-meals-a-day” thing but sort of spent my days grazing away as I pleased. As I got a bit older and discovered the concept of “brunch” I felt excited at the prospect of having another reason to keep eating away. Nowadays though (and as my trusty metabolism has started to slow down a bit!) I tend to think of brunch as a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family on the weekends over a lovely cup of coffee and a plate of something delicious involving eggs. For me, the best sorts of places are those hidden gems; little local cafes that serve up beautiful homely food at a recent price. The service is friendly and laid back and the decor is warm and inviting. Sadly though, if asked for a local venue that fits this bill I probably wouldn’t be able to think of one. I mean, its not that my immediate local area in Sydney doesn’t have something to cater to this need, but more that I personally am not aware of any such places. Instead, I often venture to places in Rozelle or Alexandria, areas that have sort of made a name for themselves as Sunday brunch venues. Luckily for me though, a friend of mine recommended a fantastic little place thats super close and absolutely stunning, Element 6 at West Ryde.  

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The cafe itself is located amongst an odd collection of old corner and specialty stores on the slightly less pleasant (visually) side of the train station but don’t let that put you off. When you arrive, your greeted by some of the friendliest group of staff I have ever encountered! Literally nothing seems to be too much to ask of them and they somehow always manage to find you a table. The decor is a little unusual, with a collection of random artefacts around the walls but I think they were very much going for an eclectic artsy feel. My mum comments that its a bit like they’ve furnished the cafe with bits and bobs that they found in the op shop two doors down and I’d have to say that I tend to agree with her. That being said, I didn’t really mind that “look”, its comfortable and an inviting.

Taking a look at the menu, I really struggled to decide what to choose because there were so many delicious sounding options. In the end I went for the Moroccan Spiced baked Eggs with haloumi cheese and chickpeas and wow I wasn’t dissapointed. I was presented with a huge moroccan ceramic dish filled with two perfectly cooked eggs (runny in the centre) baked in a rich tomato sauce throughout which were loads of chickpeas and capsicum. On top were two lovely pieces of crisp haloumi cheese, which added a perfect level of saltiness and a fantastic spice blend similar to a dukkah! Every mouthful was heaven! to soak up all the goodness, a soft Egyptian bread was baked and placed on the side of the board. Now I don’t often eat bread but when I do its only if I know its a good one and wow was this bread good! So soft and fluffy and just perfect in every way! I was stuck in a weird position of not wanting it to end but being super full so in the end…i ate it all! To wash it all down I had the HoneyBee Smoothy which was a rich and thick combination of fresh banana, yogurt, honey and cinnamon! You can’t go wrong with that combination!

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My sister also ordered the N6 Eggs which included two huge pieces of organic sourdough bread topped with a mound of buttery, garlicy mushrooms, haloumi cheese, spinach, roast tomato and two perfectly poached eggs! Another divine dish, which I can safely support, considering I had it a couple of days later when we returned! My mum also commented on the coffee, which was nice and hot and very flavoursome!

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Overall, i would highly recommend a visit to this local favourite! A friend of mine eats there weekly and can not stop raving about it! Next time I think the french toast with mascarpone, seasonal poached fruit and pistachio praline will need a definite look in, I mean how can you resist that!! Yum Yum!!

Macarons with the Master…Adriano Zumbo

ImageIf you’re a resident of Sydney (or maybe even Australia) then you’ve probably heard of Adriano Zumbo. For those of you that haven’t though, Zumbo is like Australia’s answer to Heston Blumenthal. Essentially, he made the humble French Macaron a household name here in Australia, opening several cafes throughout both Sydney and more recently Melbourne. His specialties include desserts and pastries, but not just your humble croissant or mousse cake, no Zumbo is famous for his experimental flavours and whacky combinations! He has always been a great favourite of mine as a chef, I think mostly because his recipes are quite complex but always look spectacular and as a result, I always want to conquer the challenge. Recently, he started a cooking school at his Rozelle premises and I was lucky to receive a class for Christmas!!  

So off I went, feeling slightly nervous at the prospect of meeting a culinary icon but also at the thought of having to successfully cook macarons in front of him! Now to be honest I have made macarons many many times before and each time to a varying level of success. I have come close to perfection quite a few times, but when attempted with the same recipe a second time, I sadly fail. Whether its French meringue or Italian, these things have a mind of their own! As a result I couldn’t successfully tell you which recipe is best or even how to make them properly to guarantee success. Despite that though I (of course) keep on trying (even though every time it ends in disaster I promise myself Never Again!)  

When I arrived I was directed to a room above the Rozelle Cafe (where you can watch the chefs at work while you fill your belly with delicious sweets) where I met the rest of my class. Altogether there were 12 of us, all women except for one brave man and I was quite surprised to hear that some of the group had travelled from inter-state just to take the class! There’s dedication! We received our recipe book and an apron before heading into Zumbo’s test kitchen, where the class would take place.

 

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The room itself was quite large (particularly considering it was sort of like one mans office) and filled with all kinds of equipment. Four moveable benches were set up down the centre of the room and the ingredients were placed on a side bench. We all washed our hands before finding a place at a bench with two others who we would be working with. Co-incidentally I found my way to a bench with two lovely ladies who were also school teachers! Needless to say team teacher worked very well together throughout the day! Then it was time to meet Adriano, who I must say is very very lovely and slightly shy. But a master none-the-less. He explained that each bench would make two flavours of macarons (about 60 macarons of each flavour) and then at the end we would split them all up amongst us. We would start with each group making their fillings, requiring us to measure out the specific ingredients that we needed. It was very much like being in a real kitchen. Everything was available to us but it was up to each group to collect their specific ingredients, in the right quantities as well as with the right equipment. I really liked that actually, as it felt more independant. It wasn’t like someone had measured it all and set it all out in front of me, but more similar to a real cooking environment at home. It seemed more realistic in the end, although I think some people were a little shocked that we got free range. 

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Adriano instructed each group as to what flavours they would be making, with all the recipes included in our cookbooks. My group would be making Lavender Macarons and also Chocolate which excited me greatly as I have never made either of those flavours! And then it was all systems go! The kitchen tentatively started moving into a whirring pace, with everyone moving about collecting what they needed. Our group didn’t have too much to collect incidentally, as our fillings were quite simple (that and we were an excellent group if I do say so myself!) so we finished quite quickly.

Adriano then explained that whilst there were instructions in our cook books, he also wanted to show us different ways/processes to achieve the same filling so he wouldn’t necessarily be going off the written recipe. At this point I got my pen ready, I didn’t want to miss a second. He then worked with each group individually to demonstrate how to create the fillings. This part was really fun as we got to be involved but also learn how to create wonderful flavours with relative ease. Most of the recipes involved a ganache base, with additional things incorporated for variation. My favourite was the rice pudding, which (believe it or not) required the group to make a beautiful creamy rice pudding and mix it with a white chocolate ganache. All the while we also received little tips and tricks, my favourite being to keep the vanilla bean pod once the seeds are scraped, the dry it out in the oven and grind it up to a fine powder. This can then be used in recipes for a more intense flavour with hints of coffee! Adriano also reminded us that its the filling that makes a difference!

Once all the groups fillings were made we moved onto the shells. This was the bit I was most interested to see as this is where I always feel most uncertain. Adriano demonstrated how to make a beautiful vanilla shell which was actually so simple to make. I was really surprised! It was fantastic because I was able to iron out some of the uncertainties that I had about it and also see the consistency of a correct mixture (which is a lot more fluid then I have always thought). Overall I feel that what I am missing is the use of an electric thermometer for precise measure and also the non-stick mat that we used when piping it out.

ImageAgain it was time for us to take the reigns and move onto the making! We broke off into our groups and set about following our recipes. Everyone was working away in their teams, adding egg whites here and heating sugar there, it was so much fun! And then within a matter of moments we were all done and they looked great! I really couldn’t believe that we had done what we did so successfully. Sadly they still had to cook and form the foot so the proof of success was still yet to come. We left them to rest and form a skin while we sat down to lunch!

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Whenever I go to these cooking classes I am always surprised at the fact that we get lunch, not to mention the beautiful food that was on offer. We had two salads (a Greek salad and a chicken pesto pasta salad) and then a choice of two Quiches. Mmm yum!! it was fantastic! I would of had more but I didn’t want to look like a piggy. There was also a beautiful coffee machine inside the kitchen which we were able to use at any stage throughout the day!

ImageAfter lunch we re-entered the room to find our benches covered with beautifully cooked macarons! Everyone was so surprised by the level of success! Not one group had any dodgy ones! Fantastic! We paired the shapes up and then started to fill them all and wow, it was such a feeling of excitement for me! I finally succeeded in making proper macarons! Yes! 

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Each group then plated up 6 of their best for a photo opportunity and they all looked spectacular. I loved the range of colours and flavours! One of the ladies asked for a photo with Adriano, which was possibly a mistake as then we all wanted one. I was clever enough to remember my cookbook which he very nicely signed. Seriously, he was so lovely and nothing was ever a trouble!

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The last part of the day was the best! We each received a box and then were let loose to collect whatever we liked and wow did we all take home a lot of macarons! Check out my box, I couldn’t close the lid!

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Overall, I had the most wonderful day and would gladly do another class! I highly recommend this class to anyone who has a love for baking, trust me, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Magical Messina and the Golden Egg

If your a resident of Sydney then you will be well familiar with Gelato Messina. For those of you that aren’t, Messina is a bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate Factory, only this time with Gelato. The company produce a wide variety of unique gelato flavours that are made daily in store. Some of my personal favourites include Italian Nougat (a honey based gelato with roasted nuts, egg whites and Italian nougat), Salted Caramel & White Chocolate (salted caramel gelato with white chocolate chip) and Pannacotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti Biscuit! Yum!! You really can’t go wrong whatever you choose. Aside from gelato though, Messina is very well known for their Gelato cakes and this Easter was no exception. 

This year, the team at Messina created “Veruca Salt” ($28) and I was lucky enough to snatch up one of the few that were being sold, and boy-oh-boy was it well worth it!!

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The “cake” (if that’s what you call it) was encased in a crisp white chocolate shell, dusted with gold and shimmering along. Inside, we discovered a creamy salted caramel gelato with, would you believe it a gooey orange yolk centre. Between all of us eating it, we felt that the centre was a cross between a subtle lemon curd/passionfruit/pineapple flavour that surprisingly worked perfectly with the salted caramel flavoured gelato. What I love in general about Messina Gelato is that whilst they create unique and unusual flavoured products, all gelato is of a high standard, tasting just like they make in Italy. Now if the egg wasn’t enough already the whole thing rested on a base of milk chocolate hazelnut mousse, filled with a soft vanilla marshmallow placed on top of an amaretti crunch. My boyfriend described this bit as a wagon wheel on steroids but put more eloquently, the mousse was rich and fluffy, while the amaretti crunch added a beautiful crumbly texture. Finally, the egg was nestled in a web of crisp, glossy spun sugar that reminded me of gourmet fairy floss!

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Wow! the whole this was an amazing experience to eat, with every single component working harmoniously with the next. I kind of wish I bought two! Nonetheless, if your in Sydney, be sure to go and give them a visit!! For more info on their many store locations or the test your taste buds with their phenomenal range of flavours, check out their website here.

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Death By Chocolate

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Last night my friends and I went on what we like to call a “Food Safari”! Basically, we all have a huge passion for food (eating it and cooking it of course!) and so spend hours catching up every few months at a different eatery around Sydney. Despite the fact that we all live in the same area, we are more then happy to travel for great food, which is exactly what we did last night! Of course, as it is Easter, what better opportunity to venture to Brighton Le Sands to make a visit to Bay Vista, a chocolate cafe (who really needs an excuse anyway!)

Luckily, two of my friends had been before, so they were able to advise on whats what and thank goodness they did because the menu choices are HUGE!! Thankfully, I was also encouraged to go with an empty belly so as to leave optimum room for dessert, which is exactly what I did!

When you arrive at Bay Vista, you enter a warm chocolate coloured room with low lighting that provides a nice intimate feeling. A perfect location for eating rich chocolatey desserts. I could honestly smell the chocolate from the moment I entered the room, and not in a sickly way that was overpowering, but more in a subtle way that was warming and a little exciting. If that didn’t get my taste buds watering then the huge chocolate fountain filtering silky, shiny milk chocolate most certainly did! mmm yum! As I mentioned earlier, the menu is absolutely HUGE! Who would have realised that there were so many ways to eat and serve chocolate! Additionally, there is a savoury menu but hey, who has time for that! Cleverly, the owners have divided the menu for your convenience into areas including Crepes, Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Drinks, Pancakes, Waffles and Ice Cream Bowls (and yes all of these are on offer for you to choose from!) Of course, for someone as indecisive as me this proved a huge problem…where do I even start! Never fear though because I had a plan. I firstly agreed with myself that I wanted 

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something with chocolate, preferably including ice cream and with something hot like a crepe or waffles. As my sister was with me we also agreed to share two things (that way you get the best of both worlds) and then finally eliminated waffles based on the idea that after past experiences at other venues, waffles can be a bit doughy (although they did look amazing and I think next time I go, I’ll give them a try). And there you have my fail-proof process of elimination! The only step was now to decide which crepe and ice-cream bowl we wanted (trust me, this then took a while) but eventually we agreed on the Snickers Crepe ($16) and the 5th Avenue New York Ice Cream Bowl ($24).

To be honest, the Snickers Crepe was my favourite of the two! A huge, thinly cooked crepe filled with Snickers pieces and roasted peanuts, then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce! The dish was served with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream and dusted with icing sugar! Wow! This was soooo tasty I could have eaten it all day! I loved discovering little pieces of chewy nougat throughout my crepe and the roasted peanuts added a nice little crunch. A very tasty option which I would highly recommend.

Our second dish was the Ice Cream Bowl which was served in the biggest parfait glass I have ever seen! Inside the bowl we had a scoop each of peanut butter, chocolate and boysenberry ice cream topped with another scoop of soft serve vanilla ice cream and some whipped cream (if there Imagewasn’t enough cream for you yet!). Scattered throughout were pieces of chocolate brownie and new york cheesecake before being drizzled in chocolate fudge sauce! Wow what a dish! Now I know that that sounds irrisitable on paper, and trust me it was, I had a few reservations about it. Firstly, if your ordering this then I would certainly share it with a friend and order something on the side like we did. Also make sure that you like cream, not ice cream but cream, because they put an awful lot of it on the top, which there’s nothing at all wrong with, I’m just not a huge fan of cream. My other sense of confusion was the inclusion of boysenberry ice cream, which didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the flavours included. Perhaps it should be replaced with something more caramel-like? Despite that thought, the chocolate fudge sauce was rich and gooey and the brownie pieces with the ice cream was just delish! I loved the peanut butter ice cream, in fact I wish they had given us a bigger scoop of that one, which had a very subtle peanut butter flavour (so don’t worry about it being too rich) and fantastic creamy consistency. Although we shared ours, I did see lots of people finish a whole one on their own so I’m sure if you’ve got a sweet tooth you would be able to manage! Overall, so much yummy-ness in one big bowl!

After a good rest we all got a hot chocolate ($6) which I would very much recommend as almost a meal in itself! Three cute little serving dishes were presented to me; one empty mug, one filled with warm frothy milk and the last with rich, silky milk chocolate. Then, if that wasn’t enticing enough, a skewer was placed across my cup with alternating waffle pieces and marshmallows! It was like a chocolate fondu AND hot chocolate in one! Great value! I decided to use mine for that exact purpose but in the end couldn’t quite finish it off as I slowly slipped into a food coma (a fact that I deeply regret now!)

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Overall, I would highly recommend a visit to Sydney’s Bay Vista! Be prepared for beautiful rich dessert dishes which will take you quite some time to decide upon. You may even need to have a little system like I did before you go!! Either way, you won’t be disappointed! I’m already counting down until I go again!!

PS. Check out their website here!!

Enjoy!!

Dude Food – Sydney Steakhouses

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So today marks my first ever blog-rant! And what else to write about then the recent diner obsession with steakhouse style dining in Sydney! I’m hoping that I’m not judged severely as some sort of food snob for saying this, but these sorts of “restaurants” annoy me to no end with their overpriced, under value food and after a more then a few poor experiences I felt like it was time to share my frustrations. I had never really noticed the growing trend of places such as Hurricanes Bar and Grill, Outback Jacks, Outback Steakhouse and Ribs and Rumps, popping up around Sydney and perhaps its because my boyfriend LOVES meat, but had never really frequented them until recently either. I guess the opening of so many must reflect Sydney’s desire for such food; American style diners that serve up huge portions of steaks, ribs, chips and burgers and are renowned for their irresistible marinades and sauces! Now something like that sounds really very appealing to me! It’s definitely not something that we have a lot of in Sydney, so acts as a nice option for couples and families looking for a nice meal. But alas! It seems it was all too good to be true…or maybe its just me who’s had a bad experience?

I suppose the purpose of this rant is partly as a means for me to express my frustration, but also possibly to see where it all goes wrong. When it comes to dining at any of these venues I am always sure to make a booking. For some reason unknown to me, they are always fully booked on weekends, so I have learnt to book well in advance. Despite that though, I have never arrived to be told that my table is ready to go. Literally every single time I have dined at any of these restaurants I have been directed to the bar and asked to wait for periods of between 10-20minutes while my table is prepared. Perhaps it’s a ploy to buy one of their highly overpriced drinks (Rekorderling Cider for $12) or maybe it’s me thats confused with thinking that the purpose of making a reservation is so that you can be assured a table at a certain time. This past weekend, my boyfriend and I dined at restaurant X (lets keep it unnamed) after making a booking a few days prior for 7:30pm. Sadly, were running about 15mins late as we couldn’t manage to find anywhere to park. Upon arrival however, we were greeted by a very rude member of staff who told me that as I was late she had given our table away and that it was our fault that we would now have to wait an additional 20mins for another to be made ready! Aside from her rude manner (which is another point of frustration) I was never informed when making the booking that there was a time limit on holding the table. If I had been I certainly would have called to let them know. Additionally, most restaurants tend to give you a courtesy call to see if your still coming, but again that wasn’t afforded us. So, we diligently waited for our table.

In general, service at these sorts of places is always very very poor, which I wouldn’t mind entirely if the food was of a high standard or the prices were not so high. On another past occasion, my boyfriend and I were served a cold entrée of chicken wings (6 wings for $15.95!) which we had not finished eating before our (again) cold mains were plonked in front of us by a hurried staff member. On this occasion, I had ordered a steak (300g for $34.95) which was served with chips. Thankfully, I was able to change the chips to vegetables, which was really nice as often you have to pay extra for that service (again, what a joke!). Now, quite obviously to me, but evidently not this restaurant, I ordered steamed vegetables with the premise of being a little bit healthier, which makes me wonder why they were drenched in butter, a fact not shared with me when ordering or anywhere on the menu. At the time though, I thought thats ok, a little butter (well a whole lot in this case) never hurt anyone. So I proceeded to eat my meal. I had also tried earlier to order a drink off the menu, only to be told that “they actually don’t sell that here”. Then why is it on your menu? When the waitstaff realised that we had no plans to order any dessert (and thus not spend anymore money there) he quickly brought over our bill, on which he had highlighted and circled the tip line! I almost couldn’t believe it!

As I mentioned earlier, food is expensive and of a very low quality, although on a bonus the sizes are generally very big (so there is a silver lining if your into that sort of thing!) At a third restaurant (which we can name restaurant Y) I again ordered a 300g rump steak ($24.95) served with chips and salad. Again, I asked for no chips and just salad which to me then means replace the chips with the salad, I mean I’m still paying exactly the same price (I had asked to change the chips to vegtables but was told that would cost me extra, to remove something and replace it with something else? Are you serious?). Perhaps the kitchen staff thought it was a funny joke (I didn’t see the humour there) but when my meal was served I received the normal salad serve and in place of the chips a single piece of lettuce. Wow! Across from me, my boyfriend was looking just as puzzled after having ordered the steak and ribs combo ($39.95) and being presented with a tiny portion of steak and three baby ribs! Considering this was a combo and the price payed I was just as disappointed as he was. Aside from that, I have eaten at plenty of fine dining restaurants (where fantastic food is coupled with outstanding service) and payed a lot less for a lot more! Truly, how do people accept this sort of thing. On top of that, both our steaks were dry and stringy, which is confusing considering they are supposed to specialise in the cooking of such things!

Reading this back to myself, I am really starting to sound like the world’s biggest food snob and I promise I am not, I have just had enough of overpriced food at sub-par standard. How can people charge you $49.95 for a rack of ribs that I know costs about a quarter of the price and then not even follow through on decent service. Have we really come to a time when consumers will willingly accept this? Perhaps we have, because diners continue to flock to American-style eateries all around Sydney and I really still can not work out the appeal. Maybe its because there is so little competition, or that people have come to associate the chains to the product that they are not willing to give anything else a go. Either way, I am starting to think that I am in the wrong profession because owning a Steakhouse seems like an easy way to make a fast dollar! That or I have been very unlucky to have a bad experience every single time that I have ever eaten at a Steakhouse…somehow I am doubtful! On what can possibly be the only positive note, they always seem to have rather large portion sizes, and men in general seem to love them. So if you’re looking for a way to please a male and you don’t mind paying a fortune to do so, then without a doubt go for it! If not, then I would certainly (and somewhat sadly) give it a miss!

French Flair

ImageA few months ago I discovered Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen and immediately fell in love with the simple, yet delicious recipes she had on offer! Every Thursday night I would rush to my TV with pen and paper in hand, frantically scribbling down her recipes, and giving cross looks to anyone who dared to speak or ask questions (for the duration of the episode my family was sworn to silence!) Every dish was a beautiful celebration of Parisian culture and fresh ingredients and I can honestly say that I sat licking my lips for the most part! I was absolutely devastated when the series finished, and also somewhat disappointed at the BBC’s poor efforts of uploading recipes to their online website (she has a cookbook though which I plan on investing in very very soon!)

One of my favourite must try recipes though was her Chocolate Mousse, which was by far the most decadent, light, creamy, fluffy mousse I have ever tasted! While Rachel served hers with cocoa nibs I made some chocolate bark to top it with, but either option would work perfectly. Sadly I was too excited to eat the mousse to take any pictures of the process so you will have to trust me when I say MAKE THIS DISH!! Especially if you like chocolate, and even if you don’t it will change your mind! It’s not overly sweet but perfectly balanced. Be warned, you’ll only need a little as it is very rich!

So here it is, Rachel Khoo’s Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

For the crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
  • 3 free-range egg, yolks only
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 20g/1oz cornflour
  • 250ml/9fl oz whole milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
For the chocolate meringue
  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  • 50g/2oz icing sugar
  • couple drops lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g/5½oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 200ml/7fl oz whipping cream
To serve
  • 2 tbsp soft butter
  • 50g/2oz cocoa nibs

Preparation method

  1. For the crème pâtissière, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and thick, then whisk in the cornflower.
  2. Add the cocoa powder to the milk and bring to a boil then switch off the heat.
  3. Pour the milk in a slow stream onto the egg mixture, whisking vigorously all the time. (Pour slowly to avoid scrambling the egg.)
  4. Return the mixture to a clean pot over a medium heat and whisk continuously. Make sure to scrape the sides and the bottom, otherwise it will burn.
  5. The cream will start to thicken. Once it releases a bubble or two, take it off the heat.
  6. Pour into a shallow bowl. Cover with cling film (pat the cling film so it sticks directly on to the cream) and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.
  7. For the meringue, put half the egg whites into a clean glass or metal bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and whisk until white.
  8. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks when the whisk is removed.
  9. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water) or in the microwave on a low setting.
  10. Whip the cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
  11. To make the mousse, beat the chilled crème pâtissière to remove any lumps before stirring in the melted chocolate. Mix in one third of the meringue, then gently fold in the rest followed by the whipped cream.
  12. To serve, brush 4-6 glasses or ramekins with soft butter. Add some cocoa nibs and roll them around the sides and bottom of the glasses until evenly coated.
  13. Divide the mousse between the glasses and chill for at least an hour, but ideally four hours. Serve chilled, sprinkled with cocoa nibs. The mousse is best eaten the same day and should not be kept for more than two days (due to the raw egg whites).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-KWWKGJK1U

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Japanese…Yes Please!!

ImageThe words ALL YOU CAN EAT tend to catch my eye any day of the week. Add to that Japanese and you’ve got yourself a winner! Recently, my sister discovered a beautiful little Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s Glebe which I just have to share with you all. Mori Sushi (175 Glebe Point Rd) offers one of the best all you can eat deals that I have ever seen. Last weekend my family and I went for dinner and opted for the $30 all you can eat menu (the restaurant offers 3 types all ranging in price). What’s great about this restaurant is that you can literally order any dish off the menu and stay and eat for as long as you like!! I’m not even exaggerating. The first time we ate there I was a bit sceptical because it all just seemed too good to be true but then our lovely waiter explained that you truly could order anything in as many quantities as you liked! There were no rules that stipulated you must finish a dish in full before you can order another or that you could only order one dish at a time, the waiter even encouraged us to eat as much as we possibly could! And after we had finished there, I’m not sure how they could possibly be making any money!

Throughout the evening we ordered an assortment of hot and cold dishes (probably a few too many to name them all) but one of my all time favourites were the Yakitori (chicken teriyaki skewers)! Moist pieces of chicken, floured and fried to give a crispy finish before being marinated in a rich, thick teriyaki sauce and served on skewers. Mmmm yum! I probably ate about 5 because it was just so delicious! Another surprisingly tasty dish (which I had no expected) was the Crunch sushi roll which was an inside out roll filled with crab meat and cucumber, deep fried to give a crispy outer shell to the rice. Wow! It was like a Japanese version of arancini!! Image

Other recommendations include the sashimi salad, which was beautifully light and fresh with a large portion of mixed sashimi on top and the seafood hotpot, a light miso broth filled with a whole assortment of mixed seafood (including a whole fish!) and served in a stone bowl and kitchen stove/oven! It was very very tasty and a perfect Winter warmer I would imagine. You can’t go past the prawn tempura which is one of the lightest tempura dishes I have ever tasted, and doesn’t leave you feeling overly greasy. 

Aside from all of the wonderful food (from which you really can not go wrong) the waitstaff are so friendly and welcoming, encouraging all of their patrons to eat until their hearts are content. Whilst the majority of people dining on Saturday night were doing the all you can eat deal, food was very fast to be served and of a beautiful, high quality. Everything was very fresh and beautifully presented, especially the mixed sashimi plate, which included a huge collection of fresh sashimi (prawn, salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop).

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Finally, after almost 2 hours of eating and chatting we were finished and what a beautiful meal it was! Trust me, don’t have lunch before you go and be prepared to eat (maybe wear loose pants too!). Overall, I would highly highly recommend a visit to Mori Sushi. Even if your not interested in the all you can eat menu, the a la carte menu is very reasonably priced and includes a fantastic range of dishes. Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did! PS, I’ll be back for a third visit ASAP!

 

The Grounds

 

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The Grounds at Alexandria has got to be one of Sydney’s best kept not-so-secret places to eat. If your young, hip, trendy, health conscious, love coffee or just plain hungry it is most definitely the place to be, and trust me there are many many reasons why. But be warned, on a weekend you best be ready for at least a 2 hour wait!

Aside from brewing and making their own coffee, The Grounds presents a complete picture of everything diners are after, especially the locals of Alexandria. The cafe, bakery and restaurant are located in an old Pie Factory and the owners, Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna have literally thought of everything! The decor is rustic and homely with wide wooden tables and vintage flair. Externally, the cafe is surrounded by beautiful gardens from which some of the kitchen produce is grown and it is here that you’ll find the little animal pen. Once again, a genius foresight by the owners, ensuring that yet another market is catered for; families with young children. 

On weekends, the Grounds markets add an extra special something, with fresh fruits and pastries available for sale as well as flowers and candles, roasted nuts and gelato. The staff are wonderful and are always willing to allow you to taste till your hearts content. Again, a brilliant idea marketing idea as while patrons are whiling away the hours waiting for a table in the cafe they can peruse and make extra purchases from the market stalls. And who can blame them! 

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The pastries alone look sublime! And they taste that good too, as does the freshly baked bread! So damn delicious!!

Luckily I used my brain and planned a trip to the gym across the road whilst waiting the hour and a half for a table (this was a very very good plan). Once seated though it was completely worth the wait! Sadly we missed the breakfast menu (which finishes at 11:30am) but the brunch and lunch menus were of course still available and equally as beautiful. For lunch I had the duck and pear salad which was filled with moist flakes of duck flesh, crispy radish and firm pistachio nuts. And such a nice big serve too I couldn’t finish it. To wash it all down I had the Banana Smoothie which is by far the best smoothie I have ever had! Sweet, creamy and thick, I completely understand the necessity for the giant, fat straw that it was served with. And I love that their drinks are served in mason jars! Very trendy and unique. 

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My boyfriend had a coffee first and he dubbed it the best coffee he has had in a while, very strong and full flavoured. Following that he had the lamb shank which was flavoured with middle eastern spices and served with wild rice. So much lovely flavour packed into a dish with beautiful, moist meat. Looking around though, the steak sandwich look beautiful with a huge serve of the house-made bread, caramelised onions, steak and pickles, Yum! On a previous occasion I have also ordered the New Zealand Salmon which is so perfect! Crispy skin salmon with moist flakey flesh served on a bed of quinoa and broad beans, mmm you literally can not go wrong!

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For those with kids, there is a great kids menu and overall the whole experience is reasonably priced especially considering the quality of produce and use of fresh, clean ingredients. Be ready to have savoury and sweet because the pastry display looks as good as it tastes! While I didn’t sample any of these delights on the weekend (hardest thing to do ever!) I have been told that the cinnamon and Nutella donuts are to die for! 

Regardless, I highly recommend a trip to The Grounds at Alexandria. Whether its for Sunday brunch with the family, coffee with your friends or just for a nice outing you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have, and I can’t wait to get back there again!