Archive | June, 2012

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

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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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