Citrus – drinks only

27 Feb

Citrus street viewStrolling home through the heart of Newtown, having just dropped off pooch for his last summer cut  we take the opportunity to try Citrus Espresso Bar on King Street.

A world away from the retro and traditional styles of so many Sydney cafes, it has modern signage of  bright orange with a futuristic font and there not a hipster to be seen. Instead it seems this place is popular with families, the grey brigade and possibly tourists.

A faux leather couch runs along the wall with tables of two spotted along. They have those comfy padded chairs that make me feel like I’d be happy to sit  watching the rest of the weekend stroll by through the large window at the front. Booths are available towards the back but someone in the know has these reserved. The modern design continues inside, it’s almost like a leather lined spaceship – maybe this is what Argo would have been like if the fake film was actually made!

Citrus - omlette

The large front wall/window  fills the place with natural light and allows for some great people watching, although it can get a bit noisy when the buses pass by. There is one of those fluorescent fly killers mounted on the wall but flies still seem to be everywhere today.

We take our seats and they are quick to bring water over. We then continue to sit and wait but don’t get any menus for a short while. Someone notices and he drops them off with a sorry, so all fine there.

The menu and liquor license suggest that this is more of a lunch and dinner venue as breakfast is just at the top of their enormous menu.

I ordered the three egg omelette with capsicum, onion and mushroom with a chai team. He gets bacon and eggs with haloumi and avocado, flat white and a milkshake. Our waitress doesn’t write anything down, but remembered it all.

 

Citrus - Bacon and eggs

The drinks take a while and come out individually but the chai is lovely and worth the wait, not a packet of chai powder in site with lots of fresh spices. I watch the Barrista as he makes his coffees and he takes great care and it looks like a little love goes into each and every one.

We were going well until the food came out.

My omelette was simply a fried pancake of egg, folded in half with an assortment of items placed inside. I found tasteless old, whole mushrooms, that tasted like they had come from a tin or they had been soaked within an inch of their lives. The capsicum was soggy and could have been sloshing around in the same barrel of water as the onions – or were they just tinned too? The onion was chopped so they must have had a knife kicking around somewhere but lacked any flavour. Despite my attempts to add salt and pepper, this was nothing but a bland and greasy plate of food.

His bacon had no flavour and tasted like it had been boiled into oblivion and I’m not really a fan of 1 inch white toast – more trukkie than inner west brunching.

The people who worked there seemed lovely, the drinks were great but the food was very disappointing.

5/10

 

 

Plenty to look at – Kitchen by Mike

16 Feb

The building is a factory conversion with a designer furniture store in the same premises. It looks very stylish with distressed bricks, oversized lampshades, exposed  pipes and industrial styled light fittings. It’s a safe and conservative colour palette of black, white and chrome, mixed with natural tones of wood and copper. It is a blend of urban chic meets provincial kitchen.

Ham and eggs

A glass wall across the back of the building floods the café with natural light. The glass is shielded by a herb wall; an iron frame houses a multitude of black pots filled with herbs, spices and house plants like a vertical greenhouse . I take note of this genius approach to growing herbs, keeping them well out of harm’s way and the clutches of our pet Spaniel or visiting children.

It is very hard to create much of an atmosphere in a room with very high ceilings, despite the polished finish it lacked a little heart.

There is plenty to look at, you order at the counter where you see their freshly baked wares of pastries muesli and accompaniments, I love the honey dipper – it’s the little things that count.

The fresh mango and berries looks very appetizing, I almost consider ditching my eggs for mangoes but resist – can you have dessert at breakfast?

KBM room

The menu is simple:  fruits, muesli and staple bacon and egg dishes. It’s simple but clear the ingredients are carefully selected for their quality and I expect mostly home-made.

The menu is hand written onto a chrome extractor fan – looks trendy and industrial but you miss the detail that a menu offers. I ordered the Kurobuta ham with smashed eggs and I am picturing an omelette. When I get ham and eggs on toast, it looks lovely but I can’t eat the gluten so had to send it back for a redo. They were perfectly lovely and changed it with no hassles.

The ham and smashed eggs were a pleasant surprise, the ham was full of flavour and the prinkling of chilli flakes on top really set this dish apart from the rest.

He gets a bacon buttie AND eggs benedict (he was hungry). I think he is bold ordering two breakfasts but they are small portions and he easily puts both away with little effort.

The coffee is great although it comes standard as a double shot – yikes! You order and pay at the bar so it’s a quick turnaround, we are in, fed and out within 30 mins.

A lovely breakfast and a solid 7/10

A cafe by the park – Bar Nosh, Erskineville

17 Sep

A few weeks ago we were enjoying the last night of our Fiji holiday. The landlady at a Nadi watering hole, asked us where we lived and it transpired that her niece ran a café in our home town – Bar Nosh, 110 Swanson Street, Erskineville.

How could we have missed a café that has been right under our noses all this time? Ah yes, it is next door to Bitton, that’s a tough neighbour to have in the brunch market.  I recall trying to visit Bar Nosh once before, until we spotted Bitton next door and simply wooed by their flirty French-ness.

Unfortunately, I am on a strict elimination diet to identify food intolerances, which means no yummy food. A month into the diet and I am starting to try eating wheat so we celebrate by going out for breakfast.

Since our last breakfast trip, we bought a Cocker Spaniel puppy – Ralph, so we will now be focusing on cafes with outdoor seating. Fortunately, Bar Nosh has plenty of seats outside so we are in luck.

It’s a spring, Sydney morning and we drive up to Bar Nosh and get a parking spot right outside the front. Swanson street can be quite a busy road, but right opposite the café is a great little dog park – a particular favourite of Ralph’s – which makes eating here feel quite relaxing.

We have our pick of outdoor tables, the staff greet us quickly with menus and acknowledge the dog, yes we have become those people, he is a part of the family and is equally a part of our brunch experience. We order drinks, I’m still off coffee but he orders and it arrives promptly and it’s great, we are off to a good start.

We place our order in good time, no waiting around, I almost wonder if our waiter has a stop watch to perfectly time his visits against best practise. We are hungry and so very pleased by the fact that we don’t have to wait around to be noticed.

Im still limited with food options so after drooling over the menu, more so than Ralph, I wipe up and stick to the rules and go with poached eggs on toast. He orders scrambled eggs with camembert, smoked salmon and pesto oil – I have food envy and it hasn’t even arrived yet. The menu is really interesting, lots of twists and extras to the standard brunch fair.

Ralph and I run across the road and we say hello to a few walkers and Ralph sniff’s a few bottoms. We run back and breakfast is served.

His scrambled eggs are huge, you can just eat the egg without the bread and that will still be a mighty feed. It gets wolfed back pretty quick, always a good sign. The cheese is a real winner. My poached eggs are perfectly cooked and the wholemeal sourdough is tasty and filling.

We really enjoyed our first trip to Bar Nosh and we will definitely be coming back to try out some more things on this menu. 7.5/10

Beware of the zombies – Grub & Tucker Newtown

7 Jul

It’s Saturday morning and my head is pounding from too many lemonades last night. I have an itch in the form of a nasty hangover which needs some serious scratching by a satisfying morning brunch.

Off we venture to the other side of the tracks and up to King Street, but the wrong end, or so we have been told. We haven’t even scratched the surface as far as Newtown breakfast spots are concerned. After rejecting three cafes because of either: only accepting cash, too many kids or really average looking menus, the hunger is kicking in, we spot a sign in front of a cafe, ‘Hungry? Hungover? so we decide to jump in.

This is a strange-looking little place, the tiled floor, painted squirrels in the jungle mural on one wall, wicker seats and African wood tables, make for a confused style. The mis-matched feature lamps suggest this place is trying to pull off ‘street’, but we feel more like we are in a West African colonial outpost and a massive fail on the ‘street’ look. The scene is really set off by the sound of the Spice Girls, hammering out in full squeal.

We find a table easily, which should have been our first warning sign for Newtown at 10am on a Saturday. The tables appear to be covered in slime, on closer inspection, it’s just the varnish on the wood tables, but it looks a bit unclean, or is that just because this place is called Grub?

The waitress gets off to a great start, she is straight over with water and menus – tick (unfortunately the one and only tick they will get).

We have worked up a thirst from walking and want to get straight into coffees before looking at the menu. We are not asked, so try to order a couple of drinks. The waitress looks at us baffled, like we have broken some sacred breakfast convention by ordering coffees before the food. She hurries away for a few mins to return with her pen and paper to take down our extensive drinks order for 2 people – 2 flat whites. I am not sure why she needed to write that down, she appears to be semi-conscious or was she reviewing us?

Nature calls, I pop to the bathroom and it looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in years – now I understand why the word grub is in their name. I keep this to myself until after we have left to save her from causing a scene.

The longer we are left waiting for our food, the more we can taste the fail, even before any food has passed our lips. After 40 long hangover fuelled minutes, the food finally arrives, we swap plates after our zombie waitress plonks down our dishes mixed up. No pepper is offered, no cutlery and our side orders don’t arrive until part way through eating. Pepper arrives once we ask, it is surprising how much these little touches really set a place from the rest.

I have never seen an Eggs Benedict look like that before, it was poached eggs on toast with deep fried fatty bacon and a vinegary milk sauce sloshing about in the bottom of the dish. One poached egg decided that it had suffered enough, it showed its protest by leaking into the disgusting, milky matter below. I thought the food tasted bad due to the poor service and the wait, but no, this meal gains that title single-handedly. I eat just a few mouthfuls and leave the rest – unsatisfied.
She orders the Vegy Lady with poached eggs, mushrooms, fried tomato and toast with a side of avocado. This was fried, bland and underwhelming, much as I had feared. A little touch of balsamic or basil could have resuscitated this dish.

We pay our bill and remind ourselves that this cost the same as the mighty Bitton – and simply does not compare. I finally scratch that itch at the Bugerfuel over the road – finally, satisfaction.

Grub and Tucker get a 2/10

Chai heaven – Vargabar, Newtown

26 Jun

It’s Sunday morning and after a night on the dance floor with no kebab follow up – I am ready for my brunch. My best mate stayed over so we feel the need to impress with the best that our area has to offer. However, we have done our favourite Erskineville spots to death – Bitton and Shenkin.

Never seen our Shenkin review? That’s right, we will never review Shenkin as this one must remain pure, untouched and just for us.

So where do we go? We do a quick interweb search and most forums seem to be pointing us to Vargabar. This has been covered by our guest reviewer – Julie Cutting 5 May, but we haven’t been here yet and are excited to give it a whirl.

Coffees Vargabar

We take a short stroll down our road towards Newtown and approach Vargabar. It’s a popular spot and my heart drops a little as I see the throng of people out the front – mine enemy from now until I have a table – inside!

We poke our noses into the cosy warm cafe to be told that it will be a short wait, so we take our seats on some miniature stools (why does everywhere have miniature seats?), bracing from the chilly Sydney, winter morning – I exaggerate, it’s Sydney, it’s really not that bad.

I love the 1940’s erotic art on the walls. This combined with the classic rustic feel portrays an immediate atmosphere that is friendly and welcoming.  There are all walks of life seated and people seem to be enjoying themselves. It’s cosy not cramped. There is a buzz without the clatter and the aroma of the coffee just gives you further confirmation that you have made the right choice.  The website also made me love this place a little more as I read their about section on the organic and biodynamic foods they use. I also love the toilet sign – ‘Alberto’s thinking seat’.

OmletteAfter a few short minutes – she was right – we are shown to our table. The waitress is really friendly, we are greeted with smiles, she stuck to her word on the wait and she promptly delivers our menus. The menus let you know that ‘you’ve arrived’, not a single grubby laminate in sight, the pages are backed onto a solid wood block, so chunky in fact that it wouldn’t be allowed in your carry on.

Tortilla - VargabarOur drinks arrive, now that is a Chai Latte – heaven (once you let it cool a little). The menu described the Chai as described as stovetop, homemade and caffeine free and after yesterday’s disappointment, I’m excited. It’s packed full of creamy, fluffy, sweetness and flavour, its hot enough to really have just come off the stove. The coffees are great too, smooth and strong, the perfect combination.

Poached eggs VargbarI order the mushroom, coriander, fetta and sweet chilli omelette which came recommended in one of the forums I had read. The presentation of all three dishes was excellent, I really enjoyed my omelette, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and would have preferred real chilli over the sweet stuff. But apart from that, it was a delicious breakfast and definitely a contender for the Newtown title.

He gets the pan baked eggs served with Cajun tortilla with chorizo, chilli pumpkin, tasty tomato, spinach, parmesan and pear chutney. He is very impressed. There is a flavour combination that works so well. He uses the soft fresh tortilla to roll up bits of chorizo and egg and pear chutney. “Yum!!” He comments that he could eat this every morning.
My bestie orders the poached special eggs on rosti with roast mushroom, asparagus and parmesan – rookie. She finds it a bit bland.

We are all left feeling satisfied and full without feeling bloated. I would absolutely come here again and it was a vast improvement on yesterday.

Vargabar scores a very comfortable 8/10

You must be brave to go to Brave Cafe – Bondi Beach

25 Jun

We are sending off some good friends who are departing to South America for a year, so we mark the occasion with a brunch in Bondi. We don’t often make the trip to Bondi so we are pretty excited to sample what this hipster haven will deliver.

brave cafeWe are heading to Brave Cafe, 68 Gould Street, Bondi Beach as it is a short stroll from our friends apartment. As we approach, I get a little excited by the faded organic and wholefoods sign, once seated I scan the menu for some mention of the organic claims and see nothing. I double check with the waitress whether the foods are in fact organic? She nods nervously. I think they should enforce this a little more on the menu as the sign outside was so faded it could have been a remnant of a previous business.

We take our seats and we quickly realise this place is pretty hipster, its beards and beanies galore and the 1950’s; primary school chairs creak and bend under my weight as I crouch into my tiny seat.

I catch the chorus of a song I like and this place gets points for the tunes – an important factor for me. We settle in and start to browse the menu, when visiting Brave Cafe, take a magnifying glass so that you can read the tiny, decorative serif typeface. It’s pretty to look at but close to impossible to read through a grubby, fingered laminate.

We order our drinks, 2 large coffees, a regular flat white and I choose a Chai Latte. Now I am not Chai connoisseur, I’m really only getting into it, but compared to the last few I have had, this has to be the worst. It is lacking in the creamy, sweet and spiciness that I love about Chai’s – it is a bit thin and bland. The large coffees are enormous; you certainly get your money’s worth here. The coffee is also very strong; I would have probably gone into cardiac arrest if I had drunk a large one.

We place our orders and catch up with our friends, fighting to hear over the loud clangs and crashes of dragging children’s chairs, crashing plates and the smash of the coffee machine filler as it gets emptied against the side of a bin. This is a small little cafe and the plates are cleared and stacked in the front area of the cafe which makes having a conversation or a hang over a bit tricky.

We both order the corn fritters with sour cream and parsley with a side of bacon. There is a quote on the menu, Good food takes time and great food takes longer. That should have been a clue as we wait 50 minutes for our meals to be served – officially the longest I have ever waited for breakfast. We are all starving and I am starting to feel a bit faint, so when the food arrives we tuck in like we haven’t eaten for days , with such haste we don’t even leave time to take photos – sorry.

So in the absence of photographic evidence, the presentation was pretty good. We order the same but have opposite opinions. I really don’t like mine, I have 3 fat, corn fritters stacked with a slab of sour cream on top – this looks like it should be served in an American restaurant not a Bondi hipster organic wholefood cafe. The fritters are thick and stodgy with just a spattering of corn throughout the massive cake of batter; the slab of sour cream adds no flavour, adding to the heaviness of this dish. Thank goodness I ordered the side of bacon, this would have been really miserable without it.

However, his thoughts were “Ah yeah, no it’s good”.  I’m speechless; I think he must have been so hungry that it tasted better than it really was.

I won’t be returning the Brave Cafe – 3/10.

A dog watching paradise – The Hive Bar

21 Jun

Bloody Mary's

We are enjoying a weekend in our home suburb of Erskineville; a short stroll from our front door, brings us to The Hive Bar. This quirky small bar provides a great drinking alternative to the more traditional pub next door and they now serve breakfast at the weekends – bonus.

As soon as you enter Hive bar, it’s a sensory overload, there is plenty to look at, from a giant black cobra coming out of the pipes to an antique gramophone horn as a tip jar. It almost feels like we have stepped out of Sydney and into the back streets of Byron Bay. It took me a while to realise I was holding a menu, they are all cunningly disguised as album covers.

We have popped in here a few times now and all the staff we come across seem to have a genuine passion for their product  – booze – and have been always been incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.

Home made corn fritters

It’s quite early so we can take our pick of the seating. It’s either outside – for an up close and personal people watching experience, or tucked away in the cosy bar, listening to the tunes. We are welcomed by the barman and take our seats at the window, a safe distance to watch the wacky world of Erskineville whizz past.

We kick start brunch with 2 bloody Mary’s to knock off the cobwebs from the night before – we are in a bar after all and in desperate need of a hair-of-the-dog. They make their own Mary mixture and it is really worth a try, a double will well and truly wake you up.

I order the home made corn fritters with fresh corn off the cob, zucchini, Spanish onion and roast capsicum, served with one fried egg, but I am having mine poached, with oven roasted tomatoes , spinach and tomato chutney. It certainly hits the spot, the fritters are thin and light, different to the thicker version I am used to but I like it, they somehow feel healthy.

He has the Goats cheese scrambled eggs with shallots, served on sourdough toast, with oven roasted tomatoes, spinach and tomato chutney, with an added extra serve of bacon, which really makes this dish. If you are hungry, we highly recommend going for the extra bacon.

Goats cheese scrambled eggs

Now we are watered and fed, we can sit back and let the drama before us unfold. A local eccentric is hassling to all the Hive customers in the outdoor

seats – rookies! We can observe from a safe distance but just out of earshot, much to my displeasure. The barmaid comes out to speak to our eccentric, she has obviously had to do this before and handles the situation with grace and even returns with a coffee for her as a gift  – the staff here get another star.

In addition to eccentrics, Erskineville has more dogs than people; if you are an avid dog watcher like me, there might not be a better spot in Sydney. We spot, Collies, Spaniels, Spoodles, Poodles, Pugs, Chiwawas, Westies, Staffies and Labs, all in the time it takes us to finish slurping on our hair-of-the-dog.

We love having this place down the road, its packed full of character, the bar staff know what they are talking about and mix up a top Bloody Mary. The breakfast is pretty good too.

7/10

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