A hidden piece of Sydney

Church Point
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Owning a motorcycle means that you are more likely than most people to just go out cruising around without actually needing to go somewhere. The benefit of this is that you end up exploring some wonderful roads and areas that you would normally never think to visit.

One of the places that I discovered was Church Point, up the northern end of Sydney. After a ride through the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the West Head Lookout to check out its lovely views over Pittwater and to Palm Beach, a lunch at the Waterfront Cafe at Church Point is a nice way to enjoy a sunny Sydney weekend.

 

Sitting on the deck at the cafe makes you feel like you a thousand miles from the city, when you’re only 32km away. Boats bobbing about on their moorings, and you can enjoy the views to Scotland Island and the Pittwater activity.

Church Point waterfront cafe

The menu here is pretty extensive, which is usually a bit of a red flag. It spans Italian classics such as veal saltimbocca, pizzas and pastas, to burgers and steak sandwiches, fish and chips, a mezze plate, and seafood platters. At least there will be something for everyone!

The mezze plate comes with 5 generously proportioned servings of dip (beetroot, eggplant, olive, roast capsicum and avocado) and is served with a cheesy, garlic pizza.

Meze plate

The bouillabaisse is a delicious serve of seafood in a tomato-based broth. Be prepared to get your hands dirty working through that crab.

Boullabaise

The burger comes stacked pretty high, which can make it a challenge to get your mouth around. The bread is thick and crusty, which is a change from the soft, brioche buns that are the latest trend.

Beef burger with chips

The fish special is pan fried dory, which was served with wilted baby spinach, roasted potatoes and a fresh tomato sauce.

Pan fried dory

Sadly we were pretty stuffed and didn’t have room for dessert (who would’ve thought this possible?) I can’t even explain the pain of regretfully turning down a sweet finish when the selection which came out on a long paddle to tempt us. However, despite our early misgivings, the food here is decent and it’s well worth the trek up here to enjoy a relaxing lunch with friends, family and the spectacular views.

Waterfront Cafe on Urbanspoon

A taste of Canton at Mr Wong

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October is one of my favourite months of the year. It’s spring, the weather is warming up, and the days are getting longer. Best of all, it’s Good Food Month, which means lots of special food events, and an excuse to taste lots of different foods all around Sydney.

Most of the events are in the city, and it’s a shame that I don’t work in town to take advantage of all the lunch specials. Regardless, I managed to make it to a couple of restaurants that I have been meaning to try, including Mr Wong.

This funky Cantonese-style restaurant has had an amazing year, being crowned Best New Restaurant by both the Good Food Guide and Time Out, and winning two chef’s hats in the Guide. The decor transports you to an old Chinese opium den, with exposed brick and timber, and dim lighting. The service is friendly and eager to ensure a seamless experience. The bar staff are also very handy at dishing up some delicious cocktails too, if that’s what you want with your dim sum!mr wong bar

The menu for this “surprise” lunch was a mix of treats from their existing menu, but some special guest appearances as well. We started with a leafy salad of cucumber, fennel, woodear mushroom with chewy glass noodles, before each of us received our individual mini bamboo steamers with plump dim sum.

mr wong dim sumThe dim sum here are exquisite, and you would expect no less from the master himself, Eric Koh, from the globally successful Hakkasan and Yauatcha. Succulent and juicy, and left us wanting more.

mr wong

Stir fried corn kernels were a surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen corn in a Chinese restaurant, except for those tinned baby corn spears, but this was very good. Then again, anything with lap cheong, the deliciously fatty Chinese sausage, is guaranteed to be a winner.

mr wong mr wong mr wongThe mains were a lot more familiar, with lovely, delicate steamed fish with ginger and shallots, stir fried king prawns with black pepper and garlic, and a fantastic crisp-skinned Shandong chicken, which is twice cooked with a black vinegar sauce.

mr wongThe perfect finish to our meal was a light and refreshing lychee sorbet with raspberries.

We had a wonderful time here, thanks to the stream of surprise dishes (we hadn’t seen a menu), the attentive service, and the fantastic atmosphere. For $55 a head, I thought it was very good value, since we were well and truly stuffed, although I think that the a la carte menu could get way out of hand pretty easily. Having said that, I’m looking forward to coming back here one lunchtime to take the dim sum menu out for a spin.

mr wong

Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Highland feasting

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The Sunshine Coast hinterland is situated only an hour north of Brisbane, and it has some amazing views over the coastline. There are a few historic towns in the area, including Montville, which is popular with weekend tourists from the big smoke.

It’s a unique little township, with buildings that look like they have been plucked straight out of the Swiss Alps or Tudor England. For some strange reason, there are also quite a few places that specialise in cuckoo clocks.  You know, for all your timekeeping needs!

Situated just outside of Montville is The Long Apron restaurant, part of the Spicers Clovelly Estate retreat.  We drove up the long driveway to the majestic main building, which houses the two-hatted restaurant, and couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty of the surroundings.  Lush, green, rolling lawns, a grand jacaranda tree shading the terrace, a kitchen garden bursting with herbs, and a quaint bench to take in the lovely serenity of it all.

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

We were seated in the dappled sunlight of the terrace, and enjoyed feeling the warm sun on our skin. It didn’t take much twisting of our arms before we chose the 5-course a la carte ($105), since it was just too difficult to eliminate any of the wonderful choices on the menu for a 2 or 3-course lunch ($75 and $85 respectively).

There were some complimentary starters that were a little fun and quirky, such as a watermelon sashimi, and an edible pot plant!

long apron montville menu

edible pot plant long apron montville

watermelon sashimi long apron montville

What struck me most about all the dishes was the celebration of textures, colours, and flavours. The presentation of each course was balanced, with lots of different interesting elements, most of which comprised of local produce and stuff straight out of their kitchen garden. My favourite dish was the “Garden Salad”, which sounded pedestrian on the menu but was a bit like garden foraging, on a plate!

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

We chose to have our dessert on a table out on the grass to bask in the last of the afternoon sun. Already feel more than pleasantly full from the first four courses, we took a stroll around the gardens while we waited for our desserts. As we were determining which herbs were which in the kitchen garden, we heard the polite yell, “HELLO??”, to let us know that dessert was ready. More than ready, in fact, with the ice cream accompaniment for our desserts looking a bit melty.

the long apron montville

Sadly, our long, leisurely lunch came to an end, and we drove our full bellies back to Maroochydore airport to get our flight back to Sydney. The service here was impeccable, being attentive, friendly, and very knowledgeable. The dining experience at the Long Apron would be a top pick for a special occasion, or if you just want to spoil yourselves!

The Long Apron on Urbanspoon

A weekend escape to the Sunshine Coast

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It’s customary when you’re suffering through the shivering throes of winter to book a getaway to a sunny destination.  In Australia, that sunny destination for us Southerners has traditionally been somewhere in the state of Queensland.

As it turned out, this was the mildest winter ever in Sydney, but the White Russian and I took the opportunity anyway to spend a weekend on the Sunshine Coast.  We flew into a Maroochydore, hired a car, and drove to Noosa Heads to check out the beach!  Yes, this is winter in Australia…

sunshine coast queensland beach

At Noosa Heads, we walked along the busy shopping strip of Hastings Street, checking out the little boutiques and galleries.  When lunchtime rolled around, we were eager to seek out something other than your run-of-the-mill diner.  We headed to Bistro C, which overlooks the beach, and has a great, buzzy vibe.

bistro c noosa bistro c noosa

We indulged in a few wines over lunch (a weekend away counts as a holiday, right?), and our waiter was very knowledgeable about the wine list, which featured a reasonable selection by the glass from wineries around Australia and New Zealand.

My Asian-inspired coconut chicken salad wasn’t cheap at $25, but it was a tasty mix of tastes and textures from the coconut marinated chicken, shredded tofu, and crunchy cashews, brought together by a salty and sweet nuoc cham dressing.  The WR ordered the whole spatchcock, which was compromised before I am able to get a shot of it!

coconut chicken salad bistro c noosa

I couldn’t go past the dessert special, since I’m a sucker for anything with caramel.  The banana caramel tart was deliciously creamy and rich, served with candied pecans, but I think it needed a little acidity or something to offset the incredible sweetness.

banana caramel tart bistro c noosa

Despite our lack of reservation, our waiter and all the other staff are very accommodating and friendly.  We’ll just know for next time to book beforehand for a better chance of getting a seat with a view of the gorgeous beach!

noosa heads beach

Bistro C Beachside Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Launch of Noisy Noodler

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Yes, I think I have previously professed my passionate adoration for noodles. And what better way to show this love than to create a shrine to my favourite starchy carbohydrate.  Whether I’m slurping ramen or laksa, or tucking into a tasty plate of char kway teow or ho fun, my love of noodles encompasses the spectrum of noodle offerings.

My new food blog, Noisy Noodler, will capture my noodle experiences across Sydney, on a hunt for the best noodle dishes in my home city.

CHECK IT OUT!

char kway teow

Leading with the stomach

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Coming back to Sydney after three years away makes me feel like a tourist in my home city.  As a result, I was looking for ways to explore new areas of Sydney and what better way is there than through culinary explorations of all of its ethnic enclaves.  Oh, and I love eating!

So every month since September, I’ve been organising a group of intrepid food lovers that were willing to travel further west than the CBD in search for a feed.

September food tour – Indian in Harris Park

I asked an Indian colleague where I could find the best and most authentic Indian curry in Sydney.  He immediately responded “It has to be Harris Park”, and I blurted out, “where the heck is Harris Park?”.  It turns out that it is right next to Parramatta, and walking around  the main section of Marion Street we passed Indian sweet shops, grocery stores with Bollywood movie posters stuck on the windows, and many Indian restaurants.

My colleague’s recommendation of the Copper Chimney didn’t disappoint.  Our table of 12 shared several delicious starters, including samosas and tandoori chicken, and a vast array of meat and vegetable curries, such as goat saagwala, lamb rogan josh and curry chicken.  All the curries were relatively mild as I had completely forgotten my colleague’s comment that they make everything mild to cater for us piss-weak non-Indians with sensitive stomachs, and we should specifically request for a spicier dish.

[Photo courtesy of NicCooks.com]

It was a definitely worthwhile trek out west for an Indian feed, and if I was in the area I’d drop by for a curry.  Unfortunately I don’t think they would home deliver the 45-minute drive to Balmain.

October food tour – Vietnamese in Cabramatta

When you mention “Cabramatta” to a Sydneysider, their first thought will be “Vietnamese”, shortly followed by “violent shootings”.  Yes, Cabramatta has been notorious in the past for gun crimes and drug dealing, but hey, if you want to experience Vietnamese food in the heart of Little Vietnam, Cabra is where you go.

I read some good reviews of Tan Viet, who specialise in crispy chicken.  Our group of 14 piled into the restaurant to the curious gazes of the locals, with some people trying out the crispy chicken specialty, and others settling for noodles.  The food came extraordinarily quickly, piled with fresh herb flavours and a waft of pungent fish sauce.  And we didn’t see anything dodgy in the Cabra streets on our early Sunday evening at all!

November food tour – Italian in Haberfield

I debated whether an Italian night out was worthwhile, since the well-known fare of pasta and pizza is pretty pedestrian in adventure terms, however I challenged everyone to order something that they wouldn’t normally eat at an Italian restaurant.  Leichhardt is more traditionally and commercially known as Little Italy in Sydney, however Haberfield has probably taken over the mantle.

A few friends had recommended Dolcissimo in Haberfield for fabulous food, although one had pre-warned me about “the worst service in the world”.  With those low expectations, the ten of us were pleased to have our food arrive within an hour of ordering!  I never cook veal at home, so I ordered the scallopine di vitello all a pizzaiolla, which was cooked perfectly tender and served with a lovely olive and caper tomato sauce.  For dessert, I couldn’t resist a canolo with a creamy ricotta filling, and I am not kidding you when I say that I have been dreaming of canoli almost every day since!

December food tour – Lebanese in Lakemba

Ever since I went to Lebanon in January, I have been slightly obsessed with Lebanese food.  The smoky grilled meats, creamy hummus and baba ganoush, fresh tabouleh and fattoush, and the acceptable (actually, expected) practice of eating with your hands – bliss! And oh, that garlic sauce!

Three unrelated friends of mine recommended Jasmins restaurant in Lakemba, which is home to one of the largest mosques in Australia.  Despite having been warned that there would be a lot of food and there was very little chance of finishing everything, I was completely out of the running after going too hard too early when the bread first came out, with plates of that delicious, light and fluffy garlic sauce, as well as sliced tomato, mint, onion and olives.  By the time our 13 respective mixed plates came, piled with an assortment of lamb shish kebab, smoky grilled chicken, lamb shwarma, kebbe and felafel (not to mention the hummus, fuhl and tabouleh), we were almost full!  Everything was delicious, especially the grilled chicken and kebbe, and I think we all polished off almost every dollop of garlic sauce served to our table.

But wow, what a feast, and I discovered that Lakemba is actually only a 25 minute drive from home, so I can definitely see Jasmins becoming a regular eatery of mine.

The new year will bring lots of new food adventures, with plans for Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, and Croatian to name a few!  So much eating to do.