Posts Tagged ‘surry hills’

Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

I had the opportunity to go to a work conference in the city, so I went to bed early, and caught an early train into central station. Devon Cafe was the destination, and I had a mere 40 minutes to order, consume, and then walk to Hyde Park. Truffle cheese toasties are only available when in season, and only on the weekend. Darn it! Worker Bees need truffle toasties too!

Two breakfast dishes caught my eye, and after being reassured that it would take ten minutes, I made my choice.

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s ($25):

Breakfast with the Sakuma's

Miso grilled king salmon,smoked eel croquette, 63′ egg, radish petit salad & kewpie mayonnaise. This had a extra unami scattering of seaweed and sesame flakes, plus some brown crunchy stuff that I couldn’t identify. The croquette was mostly rice, and very crunchy on the outside. It came with lots of different elements that kept me interested, all the way to the end. I couldn’t really use the mayonnaise as I found that the salmon was quite rich even without it.

The other dish that piqued my interest *had* been the Eggs Blini – for the mere existence of the blini, but having seen my communal table mate get his serving, I was very happy with my choice.

Ovvio Ginger Zap tea ($6.5):

Ginger Zap Tea

This was nice and tingly ginger flavour. I was surprised that it didn’t come served with honey, but then I didn’t ask. It felt like such a waste to use this loose leaf ‘tea’ tissane only once, so I took the remainder with me in a little container and enjoyed its zippiness for the rest of the day.

The Devonshire, Surry Hills

On my to-do list for several years, I have finally made it to the one hat restaurant, The Devonshire. A combination of a freed up work schedule, the pre-theatre menu plus a discount using the entertainment card made this excursion possible. The pre-theatre menu gives you two courses for $49, and you’re out by 8pm.

Bread & Butter:

Bread and butter

No ordinary bread & butter, the butter on the left is “honey butter”. Being a beekeeper I had to try it. It was crunchy from salt crystals, and sweet from the honey. Kind of like oily sweetness…

Salt fish brandade with caper sauce:

Salt fish brandade

This was a little aperitivo to whet the appetite. I wonder if the salt fish is the Portuguese Baccalao? The caper sauce was like a fancied up tartare sauce without that heavy oiliness or fridge like flavour.

Beef Tartare with kale chips and saboyon 65 deg egg:

Beef Tartare

My brain no worky. I saw the word ‘tartare’ and thought of thin slices of barely cooked beef, japanese style. It was marinated raw beef mince with capers – quite salty. I was also interested in how the egg would be done – it turned up like a foamy yellow custard (which I suppose is egg), but didn’t really taste like egg at all. The kale ‘chips’ had been coated in oil and fried. Quite salty, quite oily. I prefer my version of kale chip, but I suppose it wouldn’t stay crispy.

Smoked and seared ocean trout:

Seared ocean trout//

This one was a gem, with little microherbs, enoki mushrooms and a puff of mushroom cream.

Pork loin, crackling, roast carrots:

Roast pork loin

This was a dish in earth colours. The crackling was very crispy with no gummy stick in your mouth bits. The port reduction jus quite sweet. The ‘cigar’ on the left reminds me of a chiko roll.

The recipe for the crackling was so involved that the chef came out from the kitchen to explain it to the table next to us. I wonder if I can create crackling in a dutch oven over a fire pit?

Mulloway fish:


Pieces of fish skin had been deep fried until crispy. Oddly, this provided a more satisfying crunch than the pork crackling, possibly because a vestige of flavour remained with the crunch. This dish also had julienned octopus legs and a little squid ink.

Haloumi and greens:

Aphrodite Haloumi

Such a green coloured dish. Charred broccolini, broccoli, raw broccoli ‘noodles’ – which I thought tasted like cucumber. There were four pieces of panfried Aphrodite Haloumi – more salt to my diet, or it could have been lemon juice as I do have very confused taste buds. I really like the little nubbins of parsnip chips on top.

Tea from T2.

There is a lack of interesting non alcoholic drinks apart from the usual multinational soft drinks. I think a quite a few places seem to let themselves down in this area. We did however, enjoy the rest of our meal and the attentive service. I go to the theatre quite often nearby, I’m going to have to make a return trip sometime.

The Devonshire
Street: 204 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, 2010
Phone: +61-2-9698-9427

Sample Coffee, Surry Hills

I spotted this slightly bigger than a hole in the wall place on the way up the hill to visit Bourke Street Bakery. I stopped in on my way down the hill: BSB did not have any green olive loaf ready for sale at 830 in the morning, which made me sad. Doesn’t everyone eat green olives for breakfast?

Sample Coffee

The pastries and biscuits are from Penny Four’s, Leichhardt. I *thought* that I recognised that chocolate hazelnut cookie! There was a slight markup of 30c, but it saved me a trip into Leichhardt, so it was with it.

Here is what my soy flat white looked like:
Coffee, Sample Coffee

Yup, I ordered my coffee with milk, and it was goooooood.

About once a month, the owner Reuben Marden has a ‘black Saturday’ event, where upon ALL coffee is served black. Apparently coffee with milk is just ‘flavoured milk’, and to get the true character and flavour notes of the bean, you need to drink it black.

Mon-Fri: 0630-1600
Street: 1A/118 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills

Nourishing Quarter

I had a little trepidation when ringing to make a booking at Nourishing Quarter. It had been the record breaking wettest month in Sydney ever, and when I was told that I would be getting a courtyard table I had to confirm –

“Will I be undercover? Will I get cold?”.

The response was: “Yes, it’s quite cosy back there.”


Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I feared. You walk through the main body of the restaurant, past the kitchen, past the dripping wet smaller courtyard at a lower level, and then up into a small back room with blankets, a heater and your very own waitress.

After confirming the gluten free options (everything except for the “pretty dumplings”) we ordered:

* nourishing rolls with Thom Mint
* ancient grains within our grasps
* amaranth and quinoa noodles salads (in two sauces) with crispy tofu

There were a selection of herbal teas on offer, and after giving each on an aroma test, we decided on the Vitali-tea for two.

NQ -tea

It had lemongrass as one of the components and was quite delicate in flavour even though it had coloured up during infusion. Aren’t the tea pot and cup and saucer gorgeous? The pot was refilled with some more hot water when the chilli in the dishes got a bit too much.

The rice paper rolls were the first to arrive:

Nourishing Rolls

These are described as:
“South American Royal Qunioa grains, Omega-3 Chia Seeds, light stir-fried crispy julienne vegetables, diced tofu, rolled in Vietnames rice paper, served with NQ special Peanut & Bean Dipping Sauce”

Instead of the wheat based soy sauce as noted in the menu, the rolls came with a small dish of chilli sauce (it seemed like siracha sauce or similar), and a small dish of what seemed like fermented apple sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. In fact, every dish came with these two sauces, which was my only quibble about the place. The rolls themselves were very meaty in a nutty kind of way, and quite delicate.

The ancient grains were served in big iceberg lettuce cups:

lettuce cups

These are described as:
“Lettuce pouches carrying the red royal quinoa grains, with exotic mushrooms, marinade protein beancurd, crunchy diced seasonable vegetables & sprouts, served with sprinkles of sesame seeds, black pepper, Omega-3 Chia Seeds and a zesty sesame oil, lime and chilli accentuated dressings”

They appeared to be a vegan version of that Cantonese Chinese dish of Sang Choy Bow: minced duck in lettuce leaves. Being of a scientific bent, I had to poke through the whole dish and analyse what was in it. I think that got pretty much every ingredient, except for “this white crunchy thing, that doesn’t have a taste. It’s not celery, fennel, celeriac, or potato.” Our waitress didn’t know and consulted the kitchen. It was jicama.

The ancient grains were very quickly followed by the salad:

amaranth quinoa mungbean salad

These are described as:
“An Asian-style noodle salad using Qunioa/Amaranth & rice flour base, and mung bean noodles with vietnames spearmint, coriander, roasted sesame seasoning, garnished with living sprouts and crispy marinated tofu”

I dived straight into this, because I didn’t want the crunchy stuff to go soggy.  The crunchy stuff were skeins of twisted tofu/beancurd sheets that had been marinated and deepfried to “resemble” roast duck. There was a nice mixture of amaranth/quinoa noodles, mung bean noodles, julienned carrot and cucumber. It reminded me of a cross between a Thai and Vietanamese noodle salad.

The salad dressing was intriguing: I picked up notes of apple cider vinegar (not too harsh), toasted sesame oil, citrus and chilli. Not just the chilli sauce on the side, but there was some in the dressing too. I wouldn’t say that the crispy tofu stuff tasted like “duck”, more like “marinaded tofu”.

Dessert was a choice of either mango or a chocolate strawberry cheesecake. We chose chocolate cheesecake:

NQ - tofu cheesecake

We were once again intrigued about how you would do a vegan gluten free “biscuit” base. It turned out to be coconut cream and peanuts (and possibly a little shredded coconut in there too: It reminded me of an Arnott’s butternut snap biscuit – the ones that are in the plain assortment). The “cheesecake” itself, I didn’t much care for, but H really liked. It had a slight ‘sour’ aftertaste to it, and the strawberry ontop looked like a defrosted frozen strawberry. Surprisingly the accompanying orange and apple slices, dusted with cinnamon were very tasty.

It was indeed, cosy in the courtyard. The total damage came to $65 for two, including a $2.50 charge for the extra cup for the pot of tea.

The list of ingredients in the ancient grains cups wethinks were: carrot, snow peas, red quinoa, coriander, vietnamese mint, wood ear mushroom, chinese white fungus, firm tofu, jicama, sesame seeds.
Nourishing Quarter

street: 315 Cleveland St, Redfern NSW 2016
phone: 61-2-8399-0888

Dinner Tuesday to Saturday in two sittings: @1800, or @2000 hours
Closed Mondays

Reuben Hills Cafe , Surry Hills

I have heard great things about Reuben Hills, so it was time to check it out for myself.

Reuben Hills

It was busy on a weekday lunchtime, but not so that I had to wait.

I was seated at the communal table near the garage door, and confronted with a terrible choice. Firstly, what to eat, and secondly: if I had one of their famed milkshakes, I would have no space for gelato from gelato messina. The shake menu changes on a weekly basis; I remember seeing coconut & lime, and rosewater and lychee.

Communal Table

I asked for a recommendation, and the waitress said that the watermelon salad was nice and very fresh (and it did look very nice on a neighbouring table), the crab tacos had a yummy corn-based slaw: but this was different to the slaw that came with the corn tortillas. A couple on the communal table ordered the F-Ing Great Chicken in a basket. This looked like big chunky strips of chicken in a pale orange batter, with a dipping sauce and some fried chillies. I had to take a sneaky pic:

Fried Chicken

It may have tasted F-Ing Great.

After some dithering, I settled on:

1. Cold pour over coffee ($7.5):
This was described in the menu as: peachy tea, fruity.

2. Not the Reuben ($16)
This was described in the menu as: wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, manchego & horseradish cream on rye.

The water bottles were reusable 1 pint glass ones, originally used for milk. Where on earth did they source those from?

The Not-Reuben, although ordered second, arrived first in a pretty red plastic basket.

Not The Reuben

On top was a half radish which had been dipped in a chipotle salt which provided a nice contrast to the sandwich. The slaw had a slight gherkin like quality – as though the coleslaw had used leftover pickles water to loosen up the mayonnaise. This was very mouth-filling and moreish, and the horseradish cream added a little bit of a hot bite every now and then. The wagyu beef brisket had been nicely seared and had lots of caramelised crunchy bits to enjoy.

The cold pour over coffee was served in a white granite-like flask, with little foamy bubbles on top – from the nitrogen liquid cooling no doubt. It smelled as though I was biting into a roasted coffee bean; but it tasted like I had left my drip filter coffee sitting on the table all day and it had turned sour. I’m glad I tried it.

Cold Pour Over

I shall have to go again another time, and forego gelato for a shake!

Organic Bread Bar

So many times I have driven past the Organic Bread Bar, and wish I could pull over and go in. Finally I did!

The bread bins use the wooden crates that French wine is shipped over to the boondocks in. Seating is an odd assortment of milkcrates and mismatched seats.
Organic Bread Bar

I got:

Caraway and Salt breadstick ($1.5)
Seeded bread stick ($1.5)
Multigrain loaf ($6)
Olive bread roll ($1.5)
Sticky Fruit Bun ($3)

Organic Bread Bar

The Caraway and Salt breadstick had a lovely gummy sourdough texture, and wasn’t too overpowering with the caraway which were scattered on top. The olive bread roll was soft – too often the olive rolls are like little rocks. This was wonderfully soft and had lots of kalamata olive scattered throughout.

Multigran @ Organic Bread Bar

I had to get the sticky fruit bun, because it was, well, sticky.

Fruit Bun @ Organic Bread Bar

It didn’t want to let go of the baking paper that it was resting on. The whole bun was coated in a sweet sticky fruit juice based glaze. Instead of toasted sesame on top, it was toasted quinoa! It had a sweet almost fermented sourdough type fragrance. Yum! Something to return to.

The Organic Bread Bar uses Bonsoy soy milk and organic Country Valley milk.

I apologise for the terrible photos in this post. Remember when a 2 megapixel phone camera was considered the bees knees?

Organic Bread Bar
365 South Dowling Street
Paddington/Darlinghurst NSW
7days, 0700-1900.

District Dining (Closed)

I have wanted to try District Dining ever since it opened in 2010, but never quite got around to it.

Finally, when I heard chef Warren Turnbull was moving to New Zealand and had put both Assiette and DD on the market, I knew I had to make a proper effort.

About half full on a Friday lunchtime. The main window above the central hotel faced west. Lovely to catch the winter sun, but also at risk for serious sunburn. Luckily there was a electonic sunshades on the outside of the window.

Snacking dishes ranged from $10-20, ‘dishes to share’ from $24-$34. I was in a quandrary about what to order – district’s Russian salad with beetroot ($10), the wagyu brisket pancakes ($24), the crispy quail eggs ($16). Or what about the main? 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder ($30) sounded yummy.

In the end I settled for two snack sized dishes. Crispy pig ears with Szechuan salt ($10), and smoked eel pate with green onion( $12).

While I was waiting, I asked for a mocktail ‘citrus and sharp’. Corinne made something sweet with orange zest in a martini glass. This is what I like about places like this: I can ask for a non-alcholic cocktail, and the staff are willing to make something up for me. As much as I like the tacos at El Loco, the staff are not willing to make anything that deviates from their set list.

District Dining

The pigs ears had been sliced into skinny little strips and deep fried. Yes they were crispy. But they were very very salty.

The eel pate came served in a little oval ‘eel’ tin, and two slices of Sonoma mission sourdough. Two thirds of thr tin was filled with a creamy pink eel pate. The other third had a deep green bitter tasting onion complement. It tastes so bitter that I’m convinced there is something more than just green onion in it. The eel pate has flecks of smoked eel pieces, diced boiled egg and dill. It tastes nice, but is also very salty!! I need an extra two slices of bread and jug of tap water to wash it all down.

The guy next to me ordered two salads. Next time, I should take heed of his example.

District Dining

17 Randle Street, Surry Hills 2010
Sun-Mon: Closed
Tue-thu: 1200-1500, 1800-2300
Fri: 1200-2300
Sat: 1200-1500, 1800-2300

Post-post note: District dining has closed as of early 2013.

Foveaux Restaurant, Surry Hills

I’m not really a fan of those coupon websites, I don’t think that they don’t really build brand loyalty. I have also heard that there is a really heavy handed sales pitch from these coupon companies – after all, they don’t exist if these businesses don’t sign up with them. On the flipside, coupon customers can suffer a little from ‘entitlement’ syndrome feeling that they have already paid for a service and should get the same treatment as the full paying customers.

Despite that, when my sister bought a coupon for Foveaux restaurant – entree and main for $35; how could I refuse? After all, we had been there before, surely we counted as loyal customers?

There were no restrictions on the use of the coupon; pick any entree and main each; drinks, sides and desserts were extra.

You’ll have to excuse my appalling photos. I haven’t yet learned that my phone camera just doesn’t cut it.

Feeling under the weather, I grabbed a citrus zing mocktail ($10), with grapefruit juice, lemon juice and a curl of mandarin peel.

The Amuse bouche was Curried lentil soup with yoghurt, served in a shot glass. There was a lot of cumin in this one, and by contrast, the yoghourt was almost goat-like in flavour.

Entree 1:


Soused Tommy rough, vongole, garbanzo purée, toast, yellow capsicum butter and borage flowers.

Unexpected! The toast was so thin, like having been cut with a mandolin, or a pile of pecorino cheese shavings melted down into a thin crisp.

Entree 2:

Pig Celebration Starter
Pigs head and black pudding terrine, pigs ear crackling, celery radish and apple jelly with red wine smear.

Not sure what I expected, but the mention of ‘bits’ always has me intrigued. Rather than a whole pigs ear, it is sliced thinly, lightly crumbed and fried. I’m not too sure of the terrine, it is hard to puck out discernible bits of black pudding: and what bits of the head were used anyway? It is in the whole, quite rich with refreshing jelly bits and tiny hourglass radishes to break up the flavours.

Main 1:

Wakame wrapped lambs rump

Wakame wrapped lambs rump, green pea and miso purée, squid ink smear – salt and pepper tofu, braised fennel strips.

The ‘wakame’ is white in colour, I’m sure it should be green. I love the salt and pepper silken tofu – if I could make this at home, I would! The purée has an intense pea flavour, and the lamb is tender on the inside. There is a lovely combination of flavours on this dish, so you never get bored.

Main 2:

Smoked beef shin and cheek

Smoked beef shin and cheek, swede puree, celeriac cream, puffed pearl barley, toasted barley jus.

Oh my. Yum. The beef cheek is so tender and fall-apart in texture, and oozing in caramel flavours: I want more! The swede purée is very creamy and rich and adds to the dish’s intensity. I love the little bits of puffed pearl barley, it is like miniature popcorn. Is this the same puffy stuff found in hippy cereal? I need to check at my local hippy store. The overall dish is very rich and intense; it is good I have the refreshing bits from the other main to ‘reset’ my tastebuds when I get overwhelmed. If you have this dish on it’s own, you would definitely need a side to vary it with.

The debate was had about whether to have dessert in-house, or grab gelato elsewhere. We were intrigued by the thought of carrot marmalade, so that settled it.


Ginger sponge

Ginger sponge, carrot marmalade, walnut powder, cream cheese gelato.

Carrot ‘marmalade’ had the texture of the guava jelly I had made earlier in the year, but no curlicues of carrot inside. I guess a lot of added pectin (or agar agar?) to make it set. I really enjoyed the carrot ‘shards’ which seemed to have been soaked in sugar syrup and then dehydrated. The cream cheese gelato …. Reminded us of Philladelphia brand cream cheese. It was not too sweet but did go well with the lightly ginger ginger-cake!

I have noticed that Foveaux put up another discount coupon for sale recently, so perhaps the business model works for them.

Foveaux Bar & Restaurant
65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
(02) 9211 0664

Tues-Sat: 6pm – late
Thu: 1200 – 1500 for lunch.

Mohr Fish, Surry Hills

After being dosed with culture at the nearby Belvoir Theatre, we often come wondering in this direction hunting for food. The Shakespeare hotel with its $10 meals and beer in tap is usually the winner. However tonight Mohr Fish has hit a convenient lull, and the pub is overcrowded, so Mohr fish it is.

I am tempted by the Boullaibaise. I like the sound of the word, plus itius the comfort food dish of Beauxbaton Academy in the Harry Potter set of books. I have tried to make it a long time ago, but the bit where you grind up the lobster shells to provide more flavour proved too much for me. Alas, it was not to be.

We got to share; scallops with herbed butter ($15.50), and the salmon ($24). These are all slightly cheaper if you get it takeaway.

Scallops @ Mohr Fish

Tablespoon sized patties of parsley butter had been deposited on each scallop prior to cooking under the grill. This dish was swimming, nay, wallowing in butter. The accompanying crusty bread slices were a great match, and went so well that we asked for more! Or perhaps it was the perfect foil to dip into the melted butter.

The salmon had been simply panfried on a hot pan until a nice crunchy crust had formed. Served atop some Chinese shanghai pak choy, roast potatoes and … beurre blanc. Also known as white butter sauce! I like butter in small quantities, and we had managed to pick two dishes in which butter featured as a primary flavour. Perhaps I won’t order both in the same sitting next time.

Mohr Fish

The dish itself was very tasty, the crispy salmon flesh contrasting with the mellow butter. The potatoes were very moreish and good for mopping up the sauce.

Some new ideas for cooking fish at home are now welling around in my brain. If only I could get that kind of crust without stinking out my house!

Mohr Fish Surry Hills
202 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia, 2010
Daily: 1100-2200

Mohr Fish Top Ryde
Top Ryde Shopping Centre
Corner Devlin Street and Blaxland Road, Ryde, 2112.
Mon, Tue, Wed & Fri 09.00 – 18.00
Thursday 09.00 – 21.00
Saturday 09.00 – 18.00
Sunday 10.00 – 17.00
Telephone: 02 9807 5458

El loco, Excelsior

In the theme of The Norfolk pub, The Excelsior has also turned its bistro to Mexican style food. My sister suggests trying El Loco one night to compare.

It is a drizzly weeknight, and the crowd spills amiably onto the street. We manage to snare half of an outside table covered in yellow gingham style contact which reminds me of my childhood. There are bottles of red and green hot sauce of the table. the outside walls are decorated with brightly colored metal pots containing succulents and herbs.

After much deliberation, we decide to order prawn taco, chicken taco ($5 ea), the El Loco “healthy” chilli marinated tofu salad($12) and pork “torte” sandwich ($10). Most fillings that are available in a taco are also available in sandwich/burger format.
Of course our careful menu planning goes out the window when I get to the bar, and there are also quesadilla’s and a secret taco in the menu.

How could I resist?

The chicken is jettisoned, and we order a secret taco instead.

About 10 minutes later, the pulled pork sandwich arrives. The pork has been spit roasted, pulled to bits, and placed on a hamburger type bun. There’s mayo, grated cabbage, coriander and it is quite moreish. The coriander is part of the ‘picco de gallo’ sauce, but tastes very fresh and not like it has been marinating for too long.

El Loco, The Excelsior: Pork Sandwich
The secret taco arrives. It has little fried white bait, with lettuce, cabbage, coriander and a swirl of smokey chipotle chilli sauce that looks like thousand island dressing. It is served on a soft wheat tortilla. The whitebait is crunchy and the taco flavour combination goes down well.
The prawn taco is topped with a light brown sweet-ish salsa. I can’t quite place it, but I think apple is involved.
El Loco, The Excelsior: tacos

Finally: the El Loco salad. I dispute its billing as a “healthy”. It has fresh deep fried silken tofu (supposedly marinated in chilli sauce, I couldn’t find it), and skinny cut strips of tortilla. When it arrives there are gasps of amazement from other diners. The tortilla chips keep their crunch throughout the eating, and don’t taste as floury or oily as from The Norfolk. The salad also contains spring onion, strongly flavored fennel, chunks of avocado, coriander, freshly grated cheese and radish. Radish, which is normally very strong and peppery is quite sweet and hard to spot. We really liked this salad, and it comes in meateater format with a slab of minute steak.

I tried the El Loco salad again at a later date and the chilli marinade on the tofu appears to gave been replaced with Hoisin sauce which I dislike.

The secret taco changes on a weekly basis. On a later date the secret taco contains slow-cooked beef chunks and smokey chipotle chilli mayo.

All soft tacos are also available with a lettuce as an alternative.

El Loco @ The Excelsior
64 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills 2010
Mon-Tue: 12noon -11pm
Wed: 12noon – 1am
Thu – Sat: 12noon-3am
Sun:12noon – 10pm

Seating available outside until