Food blogging: I’m Number One!

Well, this is a surprise. So, I think I’ll allow myself the obnoxious headline. Today, I seem to have ascended to the top spot of food bloggers on Zomato.

Now, is this a great accomplishment? Perhaps not. At a Christmas gathering of food bloggers, Chocolate Suze and Grab Your Fork (Helen) reported that the number of food bloggers in Sydney drops every year (as opposed to the food instagrammers who I think are on the rise). Many food bloggers have abandoned Zomato; I heard they’re getting more perks, whatever those are, from True Local.

View my food journey on Zomato!

But I like Zomato. I can count on it to give me a good impression of whether a restaurant is worth trying or not, and to see what other folks have said, with a truly wide range of people who are leaving reviews and blogs. And in any case, I got hooked early. When Eatability was shutting down (which was great, until it got bought out), I transferred my reviews to Zomato and suddenly became one of their top ten bloggers. While I don’t take it too seriously, it is a fun little game that encourages me to blog regularly.

I’ve been hovering around the middle of the pack for a long time, but I ate out so much with my family over the holidays… and continued to do so… that I’ve done rather a lot of reviews lately.

I wasn’t sure what happened, but I now know that ‘Does My Bomb Look Big In This?’ (a wonderful and incisive food blogger) pointed out to Zomato that the scoring system for Sydney was screwed up; the former #1 (Sir and M’lady) had maintained the same score without any new blogs in about a month.

Anyways, while it seems like this might go up and down by the day (continuing my friendly competition), for a moment (and possibly longer) on 24 January 2018, I was number one…

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Coffee in Sydney: Whole Meal Cafe, Taylor Square

First of all, props to the Whole Meal Café for opening up right at Taylor Square with an offering of healthy food (‘Vegan!’ shouts their chalkboard). This isn’t a spot I’d expect nutrition, surrounded by so much alcohol and decadence. But of course, folks in the Eastern Suburbs purport to be healthy and go to the gym an awful lot.

I just stopped by to treat myself to a coffee and then decided to half a little sweet treat. They are too healthy to have my favourite indulgence, a caramel slice, but the chocolate granola bar was sweet, tasty and didn’t taste healthy (that’s a compliment). And my coffee was just fine.

The ambience was comical: a lovely sunny day, and to one side, a tranquil view of Taylor Square, a little too hot to be busy. But on the other side, in front of the convenience store and the nightclub ARQ, there were a bunch of rowdies sitting on the sidewalk and milk crates shouting at each other, drunk, and possibly having an argument. Ah, Sydney.

Whole Meal Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gogyo, Surry Hills

Oh, I wanted to like this so much: ramen, regional ramen, and a dish I’ve never tried before. Plus it’s in my ‘hood, taking over from Salaryman (with its slightly objectionable theme and decor but really very good food). And it’s the company behind Ippudo, a restaurant chain I like very much.

We headed over on a Friday night, and it was packed, so we were lucky to get a seat. So far, there’s on website and no reservation services, just an instagram account: so you’ve got to call them.

Obviously, we need to talk about the ramen. The specialty here is burnt miso ramen. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The dish looks dark, mysterious and inviting with black swirls of oil on top. It is definitely worth a try, and I can imagine it hooking in some eaters. It’s got a very rich flavour, oily and intense. I wouldn’t have been able to finish a whole bowl on my own. It’s also sweet. I thought it was pretty great, but my two dinner companions didn’t like it (one thought it was too sweet).

We ordered a handful of other dishes to try. I was excited about the miso black cod (or was it another fish?), but this rendition had an odd flavour where the sake really stood out. I love this dish normally, the tender buttery flakes of fish melding with a buttery grilled flavour or miso, but this wasn’t quite right.

The rock potatoes, as promised, were super crispy potatoes with a creamy, salty sauce (kombu and kelp were the flavour).

We started with a delicate stick of cucumber in sesame seeds, which I thought was refreshing.

It was packed with Surry Hills hipster and style mavens. I’ll come back to try the other ramen dishes, and I’d normally give a new restaurant like this the benefit of the doubt, just because of the novelty, but my two pals pointed out that they didn’t actually like any of the four dishes… It will be interesting to see how the menu, vibe, food and crowds develop…

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

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Sydney Food Diary: Alchemy, Surry Hills

Alchemy has been around for yonks in Surry Hills. I’ve had another brunch here and had perogies for dinner one time (Yum. Heavy but yum).

A Sunday after the dawning of a new year and man ,was Surry Hills ever busy. We wandered down a little further towards Cleveland Street, and Alchemy was pleasantly quiet.

We both ended up having the same thing! Obviously, we couldn’t go past a Polish sausage, served with eggs in your preferred style, some fried onions, a piece of bread with butter, and an interesting Eastern European salad (this combo is called the ‘Vistula’ and with two eggs was $19.50).

We weren’t in a rush, but weirdly, our breakfast took a very long time to come out (and neither did the manager serve us our coffees until after a good wait). It felt a little pricy, but I was very full after eating it (the large plates make it look smaller than it is). All in all, it wasn’t fabulous but it was fine, and Alchemy does offer something a little different than most of the other restaurants in Surry Hills.

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

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Coffee in Sydney: Two Good Eggs Cafe, Surry Hills

Two Good Eggs does a cracking business, meaning I should have a breakfast and see what the fuss is about.

But I just wanted a coffee, after doing some chores in the ‘hood. It’s got a nice view of Harmony Park and was buzzy with, I assume folks working nearby, as well as some possible food tourists.

I usually have a bit of a sad when I don’t get coffee art… but my latte was so tasty, I couldn’t fault it.

Two Good Eggs Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Chinese Noodle Restaurant, Chinatown

My marketing advice to the Chinese Noodle Restaurant is that when you’ve got a relatively Unique Selling Point (USP, kill me now, I know) you should flaunt it. Why hide under such a generic name like Chinese Noodle Restaurant when you are serving up interesting dishes from Xinjiang, and Northern Chinese snacks and dumplings. If I had enough stomachs, I would have tried all those dishes…

But instead, trying to find somewhere for a quick meal after the very strange show time of 6:30pm to 9:30pm (but the show, Muriel’s Wedding, seen on a Tuesday night, was great: a wonderful new Australian musical), we really only had the appetite for a quick meal, and even then ordered too much. Husband thought he’d go for a classic sweet and sour pork, so we weren’t expecting this shredded pork dish served with Chinese pancakes as a wrap. I actually love Chinese pancakes, but there was way too much of a mainly salty, a little sweet sauce. Not terrible but I didn’t love it. You can see this is a humble place, but there’s a buzz about it, even at 10pm or so, with people who I think are coming for a simple, humble place like this, inexpensive and authentic.

On the other hand, the cumin lamb dish was delicious. There’s something about that Xinjiang dish, the spices and the way it’s fried up so it’s fairly dry, that I find delectable. Two dishes plus rice and some sadly cold tea (though I should have asked for the pot to be replaced but couldn’t be bothered): $40 with a small tip, and I’m coming back for dumplings (and maybe hand-pulled noodles…).

Chinatown Noodle Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Coffee in Sydney: Rapha Cycle Club Cafe, Surry Hills

And why not have coffee in the front section of a shop in Surry Hills that sells cycle gear?

I like the casual and simple feel here. It’s a limited menu as there’s no space! So, not sure how much luck you’ll have if you want to eat, but for coffee (or ice tea as my pal had), it’s fine.

I got a cute heart on my large latte, and I have to say it was very delicious.

Rapha Cycle Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Sven-San, Paddington

Are Japanese-Scandinavian restaurants the new trend in Sydney? Following Edition Coffee Roasters in Darlinghurst comes Sven-San, at the top of Oxford Street in Paddington, just across from an entrance to Centennial Park. It looks rather casual from the outside (and has outdoors seating and a casual cafe) but we found the interior very classy and contemporary.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Sven-San isn’t really trying to do a fusion of Japanese and Nordic cuisines; there just happens to be both cuisines on the menu. And why not?

We ordered a few dishes to try. Their version of Japanese fried chicken was light and crisp and savoury with a tasty mayo.

The paté was moreish; served with perfectly crisp homemade crackers, I couldn’t get enough of it.

We thought we should try something recognisably Scando and why not the meatballs? With dill, lingonberry sauce, some cucumbers, and gravy, this was (thankfully) a step up from the IKEA version (which I admit I love).

We had a casual meal with only these dishes, but there’s the option if coming with more friends to try more dishes, and I think to make a more formal occasion of it. In the end, we sort of forgot about what cuisine the dishes were supposed to be and just enjoyed the flavours. I’d go back!

Sven-San Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Black Star Pastry, Moore Park

What a contrast to the original Black Star Pastry in Newtown (0pened in 2008 by Haberfield’s own Christopher Thé)! Rather than a tiny serving space, and probably a line up to try to find somewhere to sit down and have one of their famous pastries, sausage rolls or meat pies, this location in the Entertainment Quarters, once a Lovesac store I believe, is huge, two floors, a very high ceiling, and ample seating and display. Also fun is that next door you can see them at work, in a large working space, with glass windows open for passersby, heading, perhaps like us, to the movies.

We split a cake and god it was good, pistachio lemon zen cake, ‘layers of pistachio ganache, white chocolate mousse, lemon curd and crunchy pistachio dacquoise’. So many layers, it felt really decadent, and complex with so many ingredients.

Since it was too late in the day for a coffee for me (after 3pm, it keeps me WIDE AWAKE), I was really happy they had both a matcha latte and a black sesame latte on the menu: also – yum (it’s not pretty but it’s delicious). What a perfect place for a snack.

Black Star Pastry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Sonoma Café, Paddington

Since the Sonoma bakeries have such a great reputation for supplying bread to many places in Sydney, the bread and pastries at one of their cafés were great. I got to introduce my non-Australian family to a perfect Lamington. The cinnamon bun was tasty as was the almond croissant. One of us had toast with a bit of Pepe Saya butter.

My problem was a mismatch of expectations. We were hoping for a relaxed brunch place to sit down. But the seating area across from the counter was cramped and packed out when we dropped by, so we found seating in the back yard, a bit wet that day, but we managed. So, between ordering at the counter and being out back, it was less formal than the other brunch places we passed by in Five Ways.

If that suits you though, this café is a cut above with the quality of its baking and food. My eggs and smoked salmon on a croissant was delicious, and as you can see, rather pretty. Also the coffee was good!

Sonoma Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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