Archive | May, 2012

The pancake could have been a bit bigger – Kazbah, Balmain

19 May

Kazbah - breakfast tagine

Today we have set out to achieve the impossible – a table for 6 at one of Sydney’s most popular breakfast spots on Mothers day, with a one and three year old in tow. Most would call that insane, but I have always been an optimist.

It’s been a hectic morning, my optimism has me in trouble again. I am convinced that I can fit in an unrealistic number of jobs, errands and tasks into the 2 hours before meeting for brunch. We get parked and only 5 minutes late, we are approaching Kazbah for our 11.30 Arabian breakfast. I spot my sister and hubby unloading their two bablets, she has some kind of park from the gods, right outside the front door of Kazbah – she doesn’t even seem to notice,  this is our first miracle of the day.

Kids unpacked, we turn to face a crowd resembling a Stella McCartney sale at Target – it was going to be hand bags at dawn to get in the front door. We salvage some comfort in that we did book our table weeks ago, will they take that into consideration and let us through?

We are summond, group by group and we only had to wait a few minutes and as if by magic the crowd was cleared within 10 minutes as breakfast sitting round 2 (or possibly 3) is seated.

I did pre-request a high chair, when I ask the waiter, who looks like he has been running on a treadmill for the last 2 hours, he rushes back with our baby seat.

So, we are in! smug and settled into our table in the corner by the bar. The kids are sorted, the tables are covered in paper and pots of coloured crayons keep them entertained while their parents justify vodka for breakfast – its Bloody Mary’s all round – they are bloody good, like an ice cold liquid curry. Be warned, they knock your socks off – packed full of spices and Tabasco for the chilli

Kids - what's the verdict?You can’t go to Kazbah and not have the breakfast Tagine – how often is there a Tagine on the breakfast menu? All adults agree so we get a large one to share between 4 of us. It lives up to expectations, it includes: lamb mince, sucuk (which Google tells me is Turkish sausage), spinach, roast capsicum, roast tomato, caramelised onion, fetta and eggs, along with a host of spices and flavours. The eggs continue cooking freshly on the hot plate in front of us. The Tagine is accompanied with flat breads for dipping. There is an ample to fill 4 hungry bellies. Why do I feel like I am doing something forbidden by having spicy mince for breakfast? The guilty pleasure adds to my excitement.

I once heard that a Labrador doesn’t know when it’s hd to much to eat, they risk eating themselves to death – for todays visit to Kazbah, I am a Labrador.

The kids get the pancake which is more cake than pan. It is enormous and very rich, they soon give up and the adults try to be of assistance, but with bellies full of spicy mince and bloody Mary’s, this probably wasn’t wise.

We eventually roll out the front door, Kazbah was very busy today but they pulled it off. They even followed up with a phone call on Monday to enquire about my experience as they were busier than usual – nice touch.


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Ampersand Cafe Bookstore – it’s a good ‘un

10 May

So we are back in Surry Hills, I think there is a long rubber band connecting us to a Crown street sign post: after a long stretch away, it tugs us back again. What better way to mark our return, but to visit what is apparently a contender for the top breakfast in Sydney title – Ampersand.

I have walked past Ampersand hundreds of times and never really noticed it, I must be seriously out of the loop. I wasn’t aware of its reputation, celebrity chefs and ability to go 4 rounds in the ring with Kazbah and come out with only a little egg on its face. I needed to see this for myself.

Corn fritters  - Ampersand The timing could not be better, with a Kazbah booking, safely locked into the diary for next weekend, Ampersand this weekend made for an epic ‘clash of the Sydney brunch titans’. I’m pretty excited.

It‘s a lovely day and Sydneysiders are out in force with a ‘garage sale trail’ on throughout NSW, everyone is out looking for a bargain. After a successful ‘garage sailing trip’ and a few vintage bargains under my belt, we had worked up an appetite for a brunch (we hoped) to remember.

As we enter, it’s clearly busy and we are in risk of being turned away. We were greeted promptly and with a smile – this is already a lot better than usual. The waitress suggests we could find some more seating upstairs. My heart slumps as I fear being ‘that table’ tucked away that the waitresses have all forgotten, slowly starving to death. We climb the stairs to find a busy room full of brunchers and no room for us, around the corner is a little library selling second hand books with a couple of tables and some couches for a coffee and a short read. What do people read in these places – 1 chapter? I never understood the point. It’s like watching 10 minutes of a movie and then turning it off.

To our surprise, the waitress who directed us upstairs has come to find us and take a drinks order. This lady isn’t our waitress; she just came up to make sure we were ok. Our waitress then checks we have ordered drinks and fetches us fresh menus, we relax in the knowledge that we are going to be looked after here.

The coffee arrives and it is great, it smooth but strong and flavour filled.

There is a buzz of chatter and noise from next door, but our little book room has soft furnishings from the carpet and the walls of books, which muffles out all the racket for a quiet and relaxing ambiance. The music is good too, the soft sultry sounds of a female vocalist, calls for a Shazam. Its ‘Emiliana Torrinie’ and the song is ‘Gun’, I have never heard of her, but I can watch her on YouTube, see her upcoming tour dates and lip sync to the lyrics – I love my phone!

Bloody Mary - Ampersand Back to brunch, I order the ‘Corn fritters – sweet corn and capsicum, gluten-free, fritters served with fresh avocado, rocket and tomato salsa’. Finally a healthy breakfast option that tastes divine, I have a little dance in my seat. Packed full of flavour, I savoured every single mouthful. I quite often chose a corn fritter option, and these might be the best that I have had to date. Light, fluffy, not too stodgy and the capsicum gives them a nice fresh bit of a crunch. This is pesto perfection. The sauce is packed full of flavour and really sets off the dish, making it a real winner.

 He orders the “Bloody Mary breakfast – baked eggs with chorizo, avocado salsa & sour cream served with toasted sour dough’ without the Bloody Mary accompaniment, it’s pretty bloody good! Add tabasco sauce if it’s too early for vodka.

What’s the damage? No more than we spent in Corelli’s last Saturday but a million miles from that grease pit.

For me Ampersand is no longer an innocuous cafe opposite the library, this was a brilliant experience with service and a price which can’t be faulted. One not to miss, Kazbah better bring it on Saturday!

Vargabar Espresso – Feature review

8 May

Feature reviewer – Julie Cutting, Sat.5 May 2012

We’re not local to Newtown. In fact we actually probably only go there once or twice a year when we have take our car in for a service at a family friends mechanics in St Peters and this Saturday was service day.

There’s not a lot to do in St Peters so we took a stroll down into Newtown to kill some time and what better way to do that than having a long lazy breakfast!

Vargabar omlette

I chose Vargabar Espresso from a review on UrbanSpoon. Its 5star rating and descriptions attracted me. “Vargabar is named after pin up artist Alberto Vargas. The walls (and toilet) are littered with prints from the incredible pin up artist”.

It’s tucked away in a tiny little corner just off the hustle and bustle of King St and is a very neat and extremely popular find.

We got there just before 11am and had to wait about 10mins for a table due to its popularity and size/limited seating. There’s a few wooden stools outside to sit on while you wait and the espresso bar was busy too (a hole in the wall where the coffee orders were continuous). We were offered drinks while we waited, which I thought was a nice touch.

The wait wasn’t more than they said it would be. The service was quick. The staff were also attentive, happy and friendly.

Vargabar special

Bernard ordered the flat omelette. His review:

“Great coffee, quaint little café on the corner away from busy high street of King Street. Breakie was average but coffee made up for it…6/10”

I had the special: A huge croissant with poached eggs, hollandaise, asparagus, pecorino cheese… freshly squeezed orange juice, hot lemon honey and ginger tea (also made with fresh ingredients). It was a massive breakfast…very tasty…8/10

We both had plenty of micro-herbs and sweet potato crisps on top as garnish. It made our dishes look more expensive than they actually were. Overall we paid $38 for 2 coffees, an orange juice, one tea and two breakfasts….a bit of a bargain – I would have been happy to pay more!

Vargabar EspressoVargabar has a good atmosphere, all the ingredients tasted extremely fresh.

Their website describes it as “the gem of Newtown” and it is indeed a popular place and worth a visit.  We might even go back without the excuse of the car needing a check-up!

Map: 10 Wilson St, Newtown

 

Bitton – Erskineville

1 May

Weekend number two in our new surroundings and we have Bitton on our radar.
Word of mouth has drawn us to this place and driving past numerous times in the past few weeks has kept us curious.

Bitton inside

Bitton in French doesn’t mean a single thing. To me it sounds like a French word. Perhaps something to do with the act of eating or biting? Nope, neither. My French co-worker has set me straight and assured me that it is not a French word. Perhaps it’s a surname? Yes it’s the surname of the owner David Bitton.

As we approached Bitton we could see the place was popular. There was an eclectic mixture of patrons inside and out. From young families with kids running around the place with toy trucks, to multiple tables of couples and even the start of a hens party beside us.

People were chatty inside, I was unable to tell if music was coming through the speakers due to the poor acoustics. The atmosphere was still very comfortable.

After a short wait at the door we eventually managed to make eye contact with someone and settled into our own table of two. Our waitress was promptly over with menus and asked if we wanted something to drink.

To be honest the menu did look very exciting. When you spot something on a menu that is different from the norm I think you should try it. That’s exactly what we did.

OmletteI opted for the Three Egg Omelette with Roasted Capsicum and Chilli Garlic Masala

In summary, this was amazing! Presentation was impressive and the flavour combinations in this meal were outstanding. The omelette itself was not a greasy sloppy mess that you receive in some places but cooked to perfection. There were hints of curry and spices within the omelette itself which is certainly a different twist. The omelette was folded in half over some deliciously soft potato chunks. To compliment the flavours and textures the Chilli Garlic Masala just sent this dish into a completely different place. That place put a smile on my face. I’ll give this an 8 out 10

Breakfast saladJo went for the Breakfast Salad of Rocket, Tomato, Haloumi,Bacon, Poached Eggs and Sherry Vinegar Dressing.

The quality of ingredients will make or break any salad. Bitton use quality ingredients. A decent sized flavoursome healthy breakfast option

Jo was quietly content with this dish. 7 out of 10.

In a nutshell..

Pros

  • The food was brilliant and lived up to the good reputation this place has. The quality of ingredients used in the dishes made all of the difference to the final result. Some very original, exciting menu options as well.
  • The cost of the meal was reasonable.
  • Very clean facilities and kitchen which is reassuring.
  • There was even an area set aside out the back for toddlers to play with their toys, discuss the latest issues on dealing with sand getting caught in their runny noses while they sip away on their babycinos.

Cons
The service could have been better. Jo had to ask three times for her tea before it finally came which was when we had actually finished eating our meal. Staff looked very flustered and stressed at times. This makes patrons uneasy, rather like a dog chasing its tail. However It was very good to see who I think was the owner manning the till when I went up to pay.

Corelli’s Café Newtown

1 May

Our first and last time

Corellis front buildingAfter an early Sunday morning walk to explore our new surroundings in the Newtown area, we strolled past a charming building on King Street opposite the Greek Church. We thought it would be a great place to eat breakfast and watch the world go by. A couple of hours later, Newtown was filling up fast, we stopped at Corellis Cafe.

As soon as we walked in the door we realised we had made a big mistake. While standing in the cramped doorway for 5 minutes, student styled staff glided around in a stoned haze. I felt like we were in the middle of George St in everyone’s way rather than waiting to be seated. Once the crowd cleared, finally a grown up appeared and seemed to be in charge, we were relieved. We asked for a table for two and she informed us we could “Just pick one”. We quickly realised this place is more DIY than fine dining.

The place just feels grimy and in need of a good scrub down. After a quick scan of the room, we could go inside, at the bar in front of the window, but cramped up next to a table used for preparing food, covered in butter and crumbs. We decided to sit outside.

As our water and coffees were served, all the glasses and cutlery looked like they needed a good wash. Then to top it off a fly landed and drowned in my coffee – not the fault of Corelli’s however, my revulsion seemed to sum up the place nicely.

My vegetarian breakfast was swimming in oil and a light year away from the healthy option that I had envisaged – your run of the mill, greasy fry up. His Eggs Benedict were not too bad but oodles of dressing made it feel like an indulgence.

So for the same price as every other swanky cafe, we felt kind of violated by the grease invasion which stayed with us for the next 2 hours despite copious amounts of mints and gum.

We won’t be returning.

2/10

 

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