Drinking in Sydney: The Newtown Hotel

IMG_5639The everchanging Newtown Hotel

Oh, gone are the days… I used to love the Newtown Hotel, not that I frequented it very often but it offered a completely different atmosphere than the gay bars on Oxford Street, more down to earth, more fun, more silly.

It seems to have gone through a bunch of changes over the last years. Last I’d remembered, the restaurant was Greek. Now it seems to be serving either Japanese-influenced of pan-Asian bar food. Looks fun. I’ll be back to try it sometime.

In the meantime, we just had a last drink here, and decided to have a glass of Greek white wine. Why not? There was an impressive selection of drinks (particularly compared to the wine selection at the Corridor Bar across the street…). The wine was kind of mellow and savoury, rather than say crisp and light. I liked it enough, and it was better than a retsina.

Lots of different drinking spaces to hang out at, louder and funkier downstairs at the bar, and spacious and cool upstairs. Probably a great summertime hangout too.

Newtown Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Blue Mountains Food Diary: Flemish Flavours, Leura

IMG_5640 Food to warm your cockles in the Blue Mountains.

It was so cold this Saturday evening coming up to the Blue Mountains, a bright and sunny day in Sydney but the closer I got, by train and then a torturous bus ride, replacing trains, because of trackwork, the temperature just seemed to drop and drop.

So, some hearty Belgian food was welcome.

IMG_5641As I lived in Brussels for two years, back in the days, I was curious to see what they would have. Mussels of course. Some very good fries. Also potato croquettes. And an excellent selection of very reasonably priced Belgian beer.

I had mussels, which were tasty. I think it’s pretty hard to muck up mussels. Frans found his main, the vegetarian dish, very tasty, and I heard no complaints from Bella about her soup. The fries were really crisp and good. I’ve had better croquettes.

IMG_5642The dessert was impressive though, a chocolate-covered nougat with three different types of ice cream. Very tasty. It was busy enough and so the service was extremely charming and slightly erratic. If you’re craving Belgian food (or even if you’re not), this is a good option on for a meal in Leura!
Flemish Flavours Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Bliss and Chips, Newtown

IMG_5638How do they do that, anyways?

It’s a pretty fantastic story that Bliss and Chips don’t necessarily shout out their vegan credentials, and that some people walk in, order fish and chips, and have no idea that they’re not eating fish, but instead something… else…

I mean, how do they do that, anyways? The battered mock fish that we had tasted just like fish. I mean, it tasted like a processed piece of fish, as it was cut into a perfect rectangle, but the colour was right (white, with grey parts) and more amazingly, the texture was right, with little bits of faux-fish that flaked off under your fork. We were super-impressed.

IMG_5620The fries were tasty and crisp. The dipping sauces OK. The faux seafood basket was slightly less successful than the fish. I thought the squid really tasted like squid. The crabstick tasted appropriately like fake fish, because that’s what crabsticks taste like. The prawn looked like a prawn but… didn’t have a variety of texture.

In any case, for ten bucks for each main, and five for a healthy bowl of chips, this is inexpensive eating.

IMG_5621I suppose that’s my problem. I really did want to love this place, instead of just being impressed with the wizardry but on a cold Friday evening, with the open shopfront (chilly!), and plain tables and cutlery, this place feels like a bit downmarket, a bit too much like fast food. There’s also a bit of a headspin with the idea that the food is healthy for the environment (being vegan) but the perfect shapes feel processed, and the deep frying doesn’t feel so healthy.

We should probably have ordered some salady things as well, to make it feel more complete and formal and less fried. So, I couldn’t recommend it as a place to go as a destination, or to really enjoy a meal… but if you want a vegan snack (or even just a tasty deep-fried snack) and you’re in the neighbourhood, you should definitely try it.
Bliss and Chips Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Corridor, Newtown

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Buzzy, hip and crowded. Who cares about reviews?

Corridor has a good look about it, the open frontage revealing a shiny bar, and in back and upstairs, classic Newtown: it could be a share house, really: pull up a few chairs around a table to have a drink with your housemates, and turn the music on.

IMG_5626I arrived just after 7pm on a Friday night and it was buzzy. My pal said it had been packed 15 minutes before. Strangely, while I felt like a cocktail, nothing on the list really jumped out at me. It was like I’d stumbled into the wrong house party. And then, on the wine list, under white wines, there were only three choices, a chardy, which we had, and was pretty good, and not one but two Kiwi white wines. After the glut on the market a few years ago, I’m still a bit apprehensive about them: I don’t know the names of the better winemakers; and often find them too generic.

IMG_5623But who cares if I don’t vibe with the cocktail list and think there should be more white wines to choose from. Newtown doesn’t! Corridor’s a popular place, and looks like it won’t be going away anytime soon, on ever-changing King Street.

Corridor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Nordic B., Newtown

IMG_5627 Is a Scandiwegian food and drink trend sweeping Australia?

IMG_5632Just this week, I tried the fabulous Norsk Door in the CBD and now I stumble across the charming Nordic B. in Newtown which has only been open for two months. There are so many new restaurants and bars in Newtown that you have to actually walk down each side of King Street to figure out what’s the same and what has changed.

This apparently was a Japanese place. I vaguely recall a place that maybe trying to market different varieties of gyoza. In any case, we had planned to stop here for a drink, and a charming woman outside showed us the menu and invited us in. Detecting a Nordic accent, I asked whether she was Swedish, then Norwegian and Danish. Wrong on all accounts: Finnish. Usually I can hear that accent.

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IMG_5635The menu here is simple; it’s really a place for some snacks and drinks. The cocktail menu is really interesting, using Scandinavian liqueurs. My Scandinavian version of a mojito had lime and mint, but matched with aquavit and something else. My pal had a tall drink with absinthe, so the flavour of anise seeds; he liked it. We were given a complimentary mushroom pastry, which was delicious; the Scandi-pastry is more like a shortcrust, slightly crisp and tasty.

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And of course, the whole place is kitted out in Scandinavian furniture. I’d be happy to come back, hang out, try a few more cocktails and pick and choose from their bar menu. Hopefully Newtown and Sydney will give these folks a try. I like the concept.
Nordic B Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Norsk Dor, CBD

IMG_5605 Scandinavian fine dining comes to Sydney: Fantastisk!

IMG_5602Eating our way around Scandinavia was a pleasure and a surprise a few years ago, and I loved being introduced to the new Nordic cuisine: breads and grains, creams and butter, hearty root vegetables, and interesting proteins, along with some flavours and techniques which tasted unfamiliar to this tongue. There seemed to be a focus on a few key ingredients and elements, and often with some rather nice plating.

So, I was delighted with our experience at Norsk Dor on Monday night. New Nordic cuisine in Sydney. Wow. Getting to the restaurant, past the norsk dor, and down a long hallway and around the corner, was fun. The interior of the restaurant is chic and felt with no windows or passage to the IMG_5603street like it could be anywhere in the world, really. There are kangaroo pelts made to look like deer pelts, slung over the seats and some lustworthy wooden bowls lining the bank of booths.

I loved the menu. There are about 6 dishes which come as part of the tasting menu, and then you get to choose your own main dish. There were recommendations of three different alcoholic drinks along the way. I didn’t resist.

IMG_5606Norsk Dor has the sort of lighting which I knew wouldn’t make great photos with my iPhone so I didn’t take pics of everything… But rest assured: The oyster with an apple sorbet was delicious. A perfect grilled prawn. I loved the bone marrow to be scooped out on crisp crackers with a light salad of fennel and dill on the side (which seemed very Scandinavian in its flavour profile). Ah, and a mouthful of aquavit to wash it all down. A nice touch.

IMG_5607The salmon gravlax was beautiful, quite firm and flavourful. A light combo of goat cheese, some more crackers and a few vegetables was nice. For the main, I had the venison… which was beautiful, and my pal had the beef, and I didn’t even ask him what he thought of it.

IMG_5609But we both agreed, in addition to not having enough room for dessert, that it was a really, lovely meal, memorable and interesting. Highly recommended.

Norsk Dor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Dumpling and Noodle House, Potts Point

IMG_5595I have meant to try this little hole-in-the-wall eatery on Victoria Street for ages. And that, really, is its charm. That I don’t think there’s anything else like it in Potts Point, and that it’s small and humble with some outdoors seating.

Otherwise, the food is basic Chinese food, from the north rather than Canton. The veg were fine. The deep-fried chicken was too salty, but crispy.

IMG_5592What stood out was a technique used on the dumplings which I’ve never seen before, a bit of batter to make them all stick together. The extra crispy bits were indeed delicious, but otherwise, they were plain, not especially delicate or tasty dumplings. But it’s hard to find a dumpling that I don’t really like…

IMG_5593I should try the Xiao Long Bao, the soup dumplings, which seem to have some good reviews here on Zomato. But otherwise, it’s a good thing for Potts Point to have some authentic and humble Chinese food in their neighbourhood, though I don’t think the food is anything special.
Dumpling and Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: MissChu, Darlinghurst

IMG_5580 This Sydney food phenomenon is still delivering

MissChu has been around for a long time in Sydney, and I liked the way it sort of took the city by a storm. The freshest rice paper rolls I’d ever tasted (because often, a regular Vietnamese rice paper roll, tastes a bit plain to me). These ones made me understand what the fuss was about. Matched with a smart selection of other Vietnamese street food, it was cool to see how someone was producing smart, affordable food, with such authenticity and flavour, it was changing Sydney’s tastes.

IMG_5582So, it was sad to also read about MissChu’s rise and fall and partial collapse a few years ago. The story stuck with me: expanding too quickly, without the right management in place. It seems though that the chain is back on its feet, in some form. The Darlinghurst branch is still there; I believe the one at the Sydney Opera House is still running, and a new one is to take over the old Russian Coachman restaurant in Redfern (which was a fantastic heritage convict-built building, lately with two huge concrete naked angel nymphs on each side of a doorway which I really hope they keep).

IMG_5583In any case, it’s been years since I’ve had MissChu’s and I was happy to find that it was as good as I remember. Basically, a perfect quick meal, packed with flavours, and even a surprise. The ‘special’ dumplings turned out to be stuffed rice rolls… and so delicious. The duck pancakes were perfect. The Vietnamese spring rolls also perfect. The afore-mentioned rice rolls, and we split two steamed buns, one pork and one vegetarian. We managed to grab one of the handful of tables on the footpath, and there was a nice buzz of people dropping by to grab food, mostly take-away. I think all up it was 30 bucks for the two of us, and for a good portion of yummy food.

misschu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake, CBD

IMG_5585 Oh, how I love a food phenomenon.

I’m sure my brothers have asked me whether I’ve tried Uncle Tetsu’s and I hadn’t.

So, I’m very pleased to discover that one has opened up in Sydney. I stumbled across it on the way back from a meeting in the CBD. The area in front of the shop was stanchioned off so that customers could line up in a neat and orderly way. The open kitchen was a buzz of activity which reminded of the Din Tae Fung’s windows where you can watch their soup dumplings being made. Fun.

A sign says that there is currently a limit of one cheesecake per customer.

IMG_5589Dear reader, what could I do but join in the queue?

Apparently, it is a Sydney food phenomenon already… and also a global phenomenon (Toronto got its store over a year ago…)

I discovered that they sell their own version of a French madeleine pastry… and the famous (apparently) cheesecake. Oh, and they’re from Fukuoka, where my sister-in-law is from (Hi Kimiko).

IMG_5586I got my treasures home to split with the hubby. The madeleine, still warm from the oven, was light and crisp and not too sweet. It was, in fact, a perfect madeleine, though a different shape than the ones I’ve had from France (or Spain).

IMG_5588Now, the cheesecake!

I had no idea what to expect. It is wrapped in a light white cloth, and amusingly branded.

IMG_5590Cutting into it, it is super light and fluffy. It’s certainly not like a heavy, creamy Western cheesecake. It has an interesting texture, delicate and light, and is hardly sweet at all. We quite liked it. It tasted different the next day after being in the fridge, a bit denser, but also nice.

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I’m not sure I’d want to wait a long time in a line up (apparently, waits can from 40 minutes to two hours in some locations) and $18 for the cheesecake was pricy (though $18 for an international phenomenon is perhaps cheap). Not something I’d crave, or was immediately taken with, but it would be amusing to take one of these to a dinner party and make it a conversation point.

Uncle Tetsu’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Our Place on Bourke, Darlinghurst

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IMG_5597 A pleasant Saturday lunch with pleasant service, sitting in the sun in Darlinghurst.

The menu seems simple and healthy. Both me and my pal both ended up having the same thing, a chicken salad with quinoa. The chicken was grilled nicely, and there were good flavours in the salad, though it was a slightly too generous portion.

Finished off with an acceptable coffee and we were on our way.

Current rating on Zomato has 6 votes that would average out to 4.5/5… but somehow it’s showing up as 3/5. Ignore that. The people have spoken, and say, obviously, with the new owners and all, that this is a cafe definitely worth trying out.

Our Place On Bourke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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