Cornersmith, Marrickville

There are other good cafés in Marrickville but this is the one, I think, that has really put our home suburb on the map, such is its popularity. Mr T and I wandered down there today for only the second time since it opened almost exactly a year ago. On my first visit I was a bit nonplussed, slightly put off by the lack of meat options – there was only some organic salami that day. Today they had wagyu corned beef and pasture-raised ham (all their meat is organic and sourced from local providore Feather and Bone) as well as house-smoked ocean trout. What’s on the menu entirely depends on what seasonal, local produce they’ve bought in.

Menu

Menu, Cornersmith

On arrival we add our name to the list on the blackboard beside the door but we don’t have to wait long to get a table in a perfect spot from which I can see all the action and take photos. It’s a small light-filled room with white-tiled walls, an ornate ceiling and funky bare light globes hanging down above the counter. You can sit on high stools at said counter or at little tables that line the floor-to-ceiling window that runs the full length of the café on the Illawarra Street side. On the counter is a big Italian coffee machine churning out great coffee and behind are several black-boards displaying the menu, and below them shelves filled with jars of pickles, chutneys and jams, all made on the premises. Run by a husband and wife team, Cornersmith is open for business Tuesday to Sunday and on Mondays they close for pickling. Whatever fruit and veg is in season features heavily on their menu, and come Monday is also turned into various preserves which are served with the meals and also bottled and sold to visitors. According to articles I’ve read, some of their produce is grown and given to them by locals who have a glut of something or other, in return for lunch or a jar of pickles. I love that kind of community spirit. They even use and sell honey from bee hives on their roof, supplied and tended by a company called The Urban Beehive. It’s altogether a thoroughly feel-good kind of venture!

Cornersmith

Cornersmith

Today the menu features a lot of zucchini – roasted with okra as a side dish with harissa, feta and mint; in a salad with asparagus and grapefruit; and in the form of zucchini pickles. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is as pretty as a picture, full of vibrant colour, a love letter to fruits and vegetables, like a harvest festival on a plate! It’s very wholesome and healthy, but not even a little bit puritanical or worthy – it’s just fresh, beautifully presented, delicious food. We start with a latte for me, a strawberry, green apple and beetroot milkshake for Mr T, which comes in a glass jar with a straw (to me it’s just strawberry flavoured but Mr T can detect the earthiness of the beetroot), and a muffin to share.

Latte and strawberry, green apple and beetroot milkshake

Latte and strawberry, green apple and beetroot milkshake, Cornersmith

The muffin is a thing of beauty: topped with pumpkin seeds and a slice of oven-dried nectarine, just below the crunchy surface is a well of ricotta (from local Italian cheese factory Paesanella) and then big chunks of fresh juicy nectarine, all subtly flavoured with cardamom.

Nectarine, cardamom, banana and ricotta muffin

Nectarine, cardamom, banana and ricotta muffin, Cornersmith

We also order one each of the two ‘plates’ to share – the ploughmans plate and the Cornersmith plate. The ploughmans is meant to feature the wagyu corned beef but in fact comes with ham. When Mr T points this out later we receive an apology and a little dish of the beef to try – it’s full of flavour but a little dry and powdery on the tongue. The ham is moist and smokey and is accompanied by crumbly, bitey Maffra cheddar, dressed heirloom tomatoes with basil, zucchini pickles, a perfect sliced nectarine and toasted sesame seed sourdough. The Cornersmith plate consists of a little glass jar of chunky, herb-flecked house-smoked ocean trout terrine, creamy labneh sprinkled with caraway seeds, sharp pickled celery, a delightful salad of rocket, watercress, finely sliced blanched asparagus, zucchini and flaked almonds, and sesame seed toast drizzled with olive oil. I am absolutely in heaven as we pick, using only our hands, at these two laden wooden boards, vocal in our appreciation of the quality and flavours of the food.

Ploughmans plate (ham, Maffra cheddar, heirloom tomatoes, nectarine, zucchini pickles, sesame seed toast)

Ploughmans plate (ham, Maffra cheddar, heirloom tomatoes, nectarine, zucchini pickles, sesame seed toast), Cornersmith

Cornersmith plate (house-smoked ocean trout terrine, asparagus salad, pickled celery, carraway labneh, sesame seed toast)

Cornersmith plate (house-smoked ocean trout terrine, asparagus salad, pickled celery, carraway labneh, sesame seed toast), Cornersmith

I am entirely won over by my experience at Cornersmith today and it’s officially my new favourite Marrickville café. I want to eat there, support them, tell everyone about it and buy their pickles and jams. I’m a committed Cornersmith convert!

Cornersmith

Cornersmith

Cornersmith
314 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Visited 16 December 2012

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Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

The Italian cooking theme has slightly fallen off the radar of late with my intense focus on job hunting, but a girl’s gotta eat! And so it was that I finally found an excuse to try out Reuben Hills a couple of weeks ago for lunch with a fellow redundancy victim. One may as well do a bit of ‘ladies who lunch’-ing while one can!

A long, narrow industrial space, Reuben Hills plays its music quite loud and has an air of hipness which I find slightly intimidating on arrival. However, the friendly girl who greets me and guides me to a table quickly dispels any fears. The lovely Renée arrives soon after and we fall into catch-up mode over a coffee before checking out the food. They roast their own coffee on site – we could see a dark, bearded man checking the machines upstairs – which they sell wholesale and they also hold public cuppings every Friday at 10am. I wish I could tell you what the coffee was like but I can’t remember. I certainly didn’t have any complaints.

When we finally stop talking long enough to look at the menu, we discover that it features lots of Mexican and Spanish ingredients: jamon, ranchero sauce, Manchega (a cheese made from the milk of sheep that roam the plains of La Mancha), queso fresco (a Mexican fresh cheese), chimol (a radish salsa from El Salvador), jalapeños, chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeños) and pico de gallo (a Mexican fresh salsa made from tomato, onion and chilis). There’s a mixture of breakfast and lunch items which, pleasingly, are all available all day. I do hate going to a café feeling like eggs at lunch time only to find I’m too late.

But today I don’t feel like eggs and I go for the cafe’s ‘signature dish’, the NOT Reuben, so-called because it’s a bit of a variation on the famous sandwich. According to Wikipedia the Reuben is a hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut with Russian or Thousand Island dressing, on rye bread. The Reuben Hills’ NOT Reuben comes in a plastic lattice basket, topped with radishes, and has wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye. Jolly tasty it is too, especially the thick slab of salty beef. However, at $16 a pop I feel it’s a bit on the small side.

NOT Reuben (wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye), Reuben Hills

NOT Reuben (wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye), Reuben Hills

Renee’s corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo are again very small for the price (also $16). She finds that the flavours are well balanced with no stand-out flavour, ingredient or texture. The fried chicken is not greasy, thankfully.

Corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo

Corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo, Reuben Hills

An amiable woman, who I presume is one of the managers or owners, offers us (and persuaded us to have) dessert. I’m up for sharing but Renee’s attitude is ‘no way, Jose!’ to that, so we order two of their Doggs Breakfast – an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel. Who could resist? If I’m entirely honest it’s the principal reason I wanted to come here! The quenelle of solid caramel is divine – rich, full-bodied and slightly grainy. The Maxibon-style processed chocolate biscuits that encase the ice cream, though, are soft and pappy and let the dish down; it could have done with some crunch to add textural variety. But I do love the blue enamel spoon!

Doggs Breakfast (ice cream sandwich with salted caramel)

Doggs Breakfast (ice cream sandwich with salted caramel), Reuben Hills

Reuben Hills
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills
Visited 7 November 2012

The Grounds, Alexandria

There are many features of The Grounds’ interior design that come straight from my fantasy kitchen checklist: farm-house style timber cabinetry with granite tops, plenty of industrial shelving and glass-fronted cupboards, and floor-to-ceiling white tiling reminiscent of old-fashioned butchers’ shops. Now imagine all of this in a large, high-ceilinged former pie factory with polished concrete floors and exposed brick walls and you’re half-way to conceiving the splendour of The Grounds. Add to that an enormous semi-covered garden with long trestle tables under groaning hanging baskets and simple glass lanterns, and veggies and herbs grown in raised beds built from old rail track sleepers. Then there’s the coffee research facility where they test different roasting profiles and techniques on the single estate and single origin beans which they source from various regions of the world. And we haven’t even started on the food yet!

The Garden at The Grounds

The garden at The Grounds

The breakfast menu is available only until 11.30am so a return visit will be in order. I thoroughly approve of its emphasis on free range eggs with various mouth-watering accompaniments: lemon myrtle mushrooms and brioche; tomato sauce, cannellini beans, spinach and labneh; double smoked ham, avocado, Persian feta and pesto; house cured ocean trout, dill crème fraiche, pickled cucumber and herbs. Lunch features salads, sandwiches, a burger, a cheese board, a pasta… nothing radical but all of it utterly delicious sounding and featuring plenty of veggies and herbs from the garden.

A slow cooked lamb salad with roasted pumpkin and chickpeas is fresh and plentiful with tender, rich pulled lamb complemented by a sweet, sharp sherry vinaigrette.

Slow cooked lamb salad with roasted pumpkin, chickpeas and sherry vinaigrette

Slow cooked lamb salad with roasted pumpkin, chickpeas and sherry vinaigrette, The Grounds

Tea smoked kingfish rillette is beautifully smokey, as you might expect, and comes served in a glass preserving jar sealed by a veneer of butter, with a crusty seeded baguette, pickled radish and salad garnish topped with pretty edible flowers. We share a brown paper cup stuffed with fat, dark golden, salty chips, their outsides fluffed up slightly to make them incredibly crunchy. To drink there’s ginger beer served in glass jars with handles and fresh mint from the garden.

Tea smoked kingfish rillette with crunchy baguette and pickled radish

Tea smoked kingfish rillette with crunchy baguette and pickled radish, The Grounds

Having admired the cakes and tarts on the way in we simply have to add a couple to our bill as we pay on our way out. For afternoon tea, back at the office, we share a dark chocolate dipped florentine and a divine peach tart, its frangipani filling light and moist and the fruit juicy and intensely peachy.

The Grounds

The Grounds

The Grounds is ridiculously popular at the moment – deservedly so – which means that even on a week-day you’re likely to wait for a table. We waited, on a Thursday, only ten minutes, which we passed very pleasantly perusing the menu in the garden, but Clare has queued for an hour at the weekend. Another option is to line up for takeaway and eat it in the garden. (I’m not sure why they’re not doing table service to the garden; perhaps that will change.) The takeaway menu is much more concise, however, so my advice would be to go the eat-in option and don’t be in a hurry – you’ll be richly rewarded.

The Grounds

The Grounds

The Grounds
Building 7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria
Visited 25 October 2012

Bitton Café & Grocer, Alexandria

We had actually planned to go to The Grounds of Alexandria, voted best new café in the recently published Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide 2012 (also available as an app). However, it’s closed, being a public holiday – I had failed to check that in advance. So we walk back towards Erskineville through quiet, picturesque residential streets to try our luck at Bitton Café & Grocer on Copeland Street, opposite Erskineville Oval. Café, bistro, grocery shop and product line with a book, a blog and cooking classes, this mini empire is headed up by Parisian managing director David Bitton.

Bitton Cafe & Grocer

Bitton Café & Grocer

I’m surprised that we manage to get a table quite so easily considering Bitton is always packed to the gunnels whenever we go past. We’re catching up with friends with a toddler so we park ourselves in the covered outdoor area at the back, right next to a great little playroom complete with ride-on vehicles and chalkboard. A side order of fried mushrooms for the hungry little chap arrives promptly and a highchair is manoeuvred into position.

The breakfast menu is available until 5pm, something of which I heartily approve, and as you’d expect it has a hint of French flavour, including crêpes, Croque Monsieur, croissants and brioche. A bit of clever cross-promotion highlights which of the dishes are included in The Bitton Book, and which sauces, pestos, preserves and so on are available to buy from the laden shelves inside the café or online.

Bitton Cafe & Grocer

Bitton Café & Grocer

Coffees come quickly, which is quite a relief this morning, followed by food. The service is friendly, efficient, attentive and entirely unphased by all the strollers blocking up the passage-ways. Mr T and I both opt for the Croque Monsieur, two slices of white sourdough, sandwiched with ham and Gruyère cheese sauce and fried to a satisfying golden crunch. A side dish of zingy Bitton spicy tomato sauce and a garnish of bitter salad leaves with salty-lemony dressing both help cut through the richness.

Croque Monsiuer

Croque Monsieur, Bitton Café & Grocer

Al has the one pan bacon and eggs with wood-fired bread which also comes with the spicy tomato sauce. He says it’s good without being particularly remarkable.

One pan bacon and eggs with woodfired bread and spicy tomato sauce

One pan bacon and eggs with wood-fired bread and spicy tomato sauce, Bitton Café & Grocer

And Nicole goes for sour cherry toast with poached rhubarb, ricotta and Bitton orange jelly. The caramel coloured orange jelly gives a nice bitter-sweet flavour contrast to the creamy ricotta and the rhubarb has held its shape and has a bit of bite to it. (I admire the whole chunks of fruit since I don’t seem to be able to cook rhubarb without it quickly turning into a purple purée!)

Sour cherry toast with poached rhubarb, ricotta and orange jelly

Sour cherry toast with poached rhubarb, ricotta and orange jelly, Bitton Café & Grocer

After eating I take a few snaps inside the café, trying to capture something of the bustling atmosphere and the shelves filled with freshly baked bread, fruit and veggies, as well as the Bitton range. David, the MD, asks me – in his fabulous French accent – why I’m taking photos and we have a brief chat. He gives me his business card and asks me to send him a link to my blog post – if the write-up is good. Well, David, if you’re reading this – c’est très bien, n’est pas?

Bitton Café & Grocer
36 – 37a Copeland Street, Alexandria
Visited 1 October 2012

Bread & Circus, Alexandria

I’m instantly won over by the mismatched stripy canvas deckchairs outside Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen. We lounge and luxuriate in the sun for a few minutes before deciding that sitting upright will be much more conducive to comfortable eating – and that’s why we’re here, after all. Inside, this cafe takes up a light, airy corner of an as yet otherwise almost empty warehouse-style space – apart from the coffee shop serving Campos coffee next door.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

The overwhelming impression is of an abundance of produce everywhere: in front of the long counter there are stacked up boxes of oranges and tomatoes, hessian sacks of organic potatoes and trays of avocados. The counter itself is also brimming with bottles and jars and boxes of yummy things, punctuated by the odd aubergine or head of garlic, and a display of beautifully packaged dark chocolate bars flavoured with lavender, orange or earl grey tea. There’s a jungle of succulents and pink-green foliage in bottles and jars as well, which also adorn all of the long, rustic wooden tables, and a bookcase full of more produce, propped up against which is a 10kg bag of Callebaut Belgian chocolate.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

The images formed make me think of the old Dutch masters, decadent in their saturated colour and overflowing plenty.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

There’s a breakfast menu which we don’t even look at. For lunch the choice is mainly between a range of meat-free salads which you can have alone or in combination in half-, full- or share-plate size, and sandwiches which do include various proteins and come deconstructed (I mean that ironically!) with an assortment of salady bits and two slices of sourdough bread in a cardboard container as a DIY affair. None of us has the salads (next time, for sure), three of us have sandwiches – beautiful rare roast beef with horseradish yoghurt for one and tart, creamy ash-rolled Meredith chevre with basil oil for the other two…

Meredith chevre, avocado and tomato with basil oil and sourdough bread

Meredith chevre, avocado and tomato with basil oil and sourdough bread, Bread & Circus

…and one has black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger.

Black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger, Bread & Circus

Black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger, Bread & Circus

Everything is so fresh and ripe and generously seasoned – and utterly delicious. The others all also have soy chai latte served from a big soup canister on the counter, sweet and spicy and gingery.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

Clare had promised us huge spelt cookies with dark chocolate and sea salt but sadly today they don’t have any, so we settle for coffee from next door, and some of the lavender chocolate Ann has bought, to keep us awake for the rest of the afternoon. Do we really have to go back to the office?

Bread & Circus
21 Fountain Street, Alexandria
Visited 18 September 2012

El Amigo, Glebe

For Ann’s belated birthday lunch last week, the legal beagles and the PAs headed off to El Amigo in Glebe. And a friend it certainly was with its welcoming, smiley service and flavour-packed Peruvian fare. Warm red walls are decorated with a few woven Peruvian hangings, plastic figurines of a guitarist and dancer pose atop the counter ready to burst into action, and there’s just three or four wooden tables at which to sit in this tiny sandwich-shop-cum-cafe.

El Amigo

El Amigo

Amanda’s special of ‘aji de gallina’, a traditional Peruvian chicken stew in a nut-based cream sauce, looks and tastes like a warm coronation chicken with its tangy, fruity flavour.

Chicken stew in a creamy, nut-based sauce

Chicken stew in a nut-based cream sauce, El Amigo

Ann goes for ‘higado encebollado’, beef liver schnitzel with sautéed tomatoes and onions. Mildly spicy and again quite tangy in flavour, the schnitzel is delicious and flash-fried very tender.

Beef liver schnitzel with sauteed tomatoes and onions

Beef liver schnitzel with sautéed tomatoes and onions, El Amigo

‘Cau cau’, which Clare chooses, is a typical Peruvian dish of beef tripe, diced potatoes and fresh herbs. I’ve never eaten tripe before so I try a piece; it’s just like a sort of soft, frilly calamari in texture, but I’m not overly keen on the sauce it’s cooked in here which has quite an earthy flavour.

Beef tripe with diced potatoes and fresh herb

Beef tripe with diced potatoes and fresh herb, El Amigo

My Peruvian ceviche comes about ten minutes after the rest of the dishes (which we were warned about) as it takes a little while for the fish to ‘cook’ in the lemon juice. There’s a very generous mound of tart, clean-tasting fish on a bed of iceberg lettuce, seasoned with cayenne pepper and topped with plenty of thinly sliced red onions and fresh coriander. It’s accompanied by sweet potato, corn and a few kernels of roasted Peruvian corn which are larger than regular corn kernels and have a dry, powdery consistency inside the husk and a pleasant nutty taste.

Diced fish cooked in lemon juice, coriander and Spanish onions with sweet potato and corn

Diced fish cooked in lemon juice, coriander and Spanish onions with sweet potato and corn, El Amigo

For dessert we share a plate of ‘picarones’, mildly spicy Peruvian doughnuts served warm and dripping in a honey-lemon flavoured syrup.

Peruvian doughnuts with homemade syrup

Peruvian doughnuts with homemade syrup, El Amigo

And as if that isn’t quite enough we each have one of the delicate little pastries sandwiched together with dulce de leche that I’ve been admiring under the glass counter; they look like the macaron of Peru. At only 50c each we could have happily popped in a few more.

Peruvian pastries sandwiched with dulche de leche

Peruvian pastries sandwiched with dulce de leche, El Amigo

The other three of us treat Ann to her lunch and even then it comes to only $20 each including a generous tip. What a great and unusual little find – thanks, Clare, for the suggestion!

El Amigo
35E Ross Street, Glebe
Visited 13 September 2012

A weekend in Melbourne

With a wedding in Melbourne last weekend, and friends and family to catch up with while there, it was inevitable that we were going to end up eating a lot (what a shame). For some reason I didn’t foresee quite how much, and I definitely hadn’t anticipated the quantity of pig fat…

A beautiful sunny Saturday sees us at Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy to meet up with whoever is able to make it along. But getting there early and unbreakfasted leads us to seek out a suitable café. Marmalade and Soul hoves into view on a corner site at the end of quiet Queens Parade, but with a gaggle of people standing outside we fear the worst – a wait for tables. Fortunately said gaggle have presumably eaten their fill and are on their way out for we get a table straight away. Inside is a large two-roomed space with exposed red brick and quirky little displays of old, hardback books and retro storage jars on wooden shelves.

Marmalade and Soul

Marmalade and Soul

Waitresses are becomingly attired in pale blue striped shirts and sandy-coloured (I’m assuming some sort of raw natural fibre) aprons. I’m giving Marmalade and Soul an award right now for the most adventurous breakfast menu I have ever seen with dishes like ‘potted breakfast trifle’ and ‘spiced five rice porridge with curry and broken eggs’.

Marmalade and Soul

Marmalade and Soul

I go for hearty, sweet-spicy, richly tomatoey house-made baked beans with chorizo and chipolatas served in a small paella pan with crunchy croutons of garlic bread, all sprinkled with Parmesan.

Housemade baked beans with chorizo, chipolatas and garlic bread

House-made baked beans with chorizo, chipolatas and garlic bread, Marmalade and Soul

The portion size is huge and Mr T eats about half of it. That’s on top of his own breakfast, a titillating taste combination of caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon, burnt orange custard and raspberry coulis. Mr T especially loves the citrus bitterness of the custard, and the sweet-tartness of the raspberry, but finds the sticky bacon a bit on the tough side (“like trying to chew a Minty”).

Caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon and burnt orange custard

Caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon and burnt orange custard, Marmalade and Soul

We spend the rest of the day basking in the Melbourne Spring sunshine with friends and picnicking at a VFL match (Fitzroy vs. Hampton at Brunswick Oval, for those, unlike me, who understand these things), followed by a wonderful wedding with very good champagne and fabulous finger and buffet food – oysters and macarons, anyone?

Le Flaneur

Le Flaneur

Next day is Father’s Day, or Godfather’s Day as we rename it, since we are staying with Mr T’s godfather and his wife. We all meet up with their daughter, son-in-law and two gorgeous granddaughters for brunch at Le Flâneur in Hawthorn, a lovely laid back café with a French bent. Really good coffees all round to start, babyccinos for the girls, and a Valrhona hot chocolate for Mr T which promises greatness but sadly doesn’t deliver to his exacting (“I want it the colour of espresso coffee”) standards of strength.

Flat white, Le Flaneur

Flat white, Le Flâneur

To eat I go for the Croque Madame (a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg on top) which has creamy, stringy cheese sauce and good ham, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the sweetness of the brioche used here in place of bread.

Croque Madame

Croque Madame, Le Flâneur

Mr T has French toast (again made with brioche) with bacon and honey, topped with sliced strawberry and pear. The bacon is good quality and plentiful, the fruit fresh and beautifully presented, but the honey is not a very present flavour.

French toast, bacon, honey and fresh fruit

French toast, bacon, honey and fresh fruit, Le Flâneur

Everyone else around the table has beautifully made omelettes with various delicious fillings. We could happily, and do, spend quite some time here.

Le Flaneur

Le Flaneur

We decide to spend the afternoon, before our flight back to Sydney, hanging out in the trendy Gertrude/Smith/Brunswick Street area of Fitzroy/Collingwood where we’ve enjoyed much mooching time in the past. What actually happens is that we park on Smith Street and walk straight into Josie Bones, a bar/restaurant we’d both been keen to go to for a while.

Josie Bones

Josie Bones

Run by Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins who were contestants on the first series of Masterchef, Josie Bones is a fabulous place seriously dedicated to beer and nose-to-tail eating. A long chunky wooden bar runs the full length of the large room (below an enormous and confrontingly visceral mural of a skinned rabbit), purveying some 250 local and international craft beers, plus eight rotating beers on tap. We sit up at the bar and leaf through the exceedingly thick beer list, grouped according to type and origin. The friendly barman’s knowledge and description of beer knows no bounds and he helps me to choose a Croucher Pilsner from Rotorua in New Zealand which is deliciously fruity and hoppy.

Croucher Pilsner - Rotorua, New Zealand

Croucher Pilsner – Rotorua, New Zealand, Josie Bones

Despite having eaten only a couple of hours prior, we can’t possibly not sample some of their meaty offerings. We decide we’ll risk scurvy and skip the vegetable matter, cutting straight to the chase with pork crackling, lambs tongue sliders, pigs trotter and rolled pigs head. Enough pig, do you think? The crackling is fabulously crunchy and the lambs tongue sliders soft, sweet and slightly smokey with toasted brioche buns, tomato relish and creamy mayo.

Lambs tongue sliders

Lambs tongue sliders, Josie Bones

The pigs trotter is stuffed with black pudding on a bed of earthy braised Puy lentils. I’m used to black pudding being much richer and bloodier than this paler, lighter version which has a touch of fruitiness from the calvados-flambéd apple that they include. The salty, crumbed crispy pigs ears on top are a wonderful textural marriage of crunch and chew.

Trotter stuffed with black pudding with braised lentils and crispy pigs ear

Trotter stuffed with black pudding with braised lentils and crispy pigs ear, Josie Bones

The dish of the day is the pigs head which they braise in beer before pulling the meat off, rolling it up with the tongue down the middle along with herbs and lemon zest, and steaming it before it’s sliced and pan-fried golden brown to order. Decadence in a dish, it’s full of large chunks of unctuous, melting fat and falling-apart meat, topped with another shard of the fabulous crackling. It rests on a bed of jewel-green sauce gribiche; performing the same role as a salsa verde or a chimichurri, it’s the perfect foil to the fattiness of the meat with its inclusion of zingy, acidic capers and cornichons as well as fresh herbs.

Rolled pigs head with sauce gribiche and crackling

Rolled pigs head with sauce gribiche and crackling, Josie Bones

We waddle off to the airport sated and very happy but swearing off pig products for… well, as it happens, only two days! On Tuesday we have lovely thick pork chops with a syrupy balsamic glaze; can’t get enough of that pork on ya fork.

Marmelade and Soul
162 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North, Melbourne
Visited 1 September 2012

Le Flâneur
5 Church Street, Hawthorn, Melbourne

Josie Bones
98 Smith Street, Collingwood

Both visited 2 September 2012

Petty Cash Café, Marrickville

Petty Cash Café has been in my ‘hood for a couple of years now, and I’ve been meaning to check it out pretty much all of that time, especially since it’s right opposite the gym we go to. And now we’ve been twice in the space of three weeks! The first time, Mr T took me there practically straight off the plane from London, in a bid to prevent me from going to bed and ruining my anti-jet-lag strategy. I had the Mexican Breakfast which is an enormous pile of scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, studded with slices of chorizo, roasted red capsicum, chilli and coriander. Seriously yum and very filling – I didn’t need to eat again until the evening.

Mexican Breakfast

Mexican Breakfast, Petty Cash Café

Mr T had extremely tasty duck, orange and pistachio sausages served with wickedly creamy mash, bok choy and a couple of different relishes which are all made on the premises. The sausages come from acclaimed AC Butchery in Leichhardt and they don’t supply just any old cafe, you know!

Duck, orange and pistachio sausages, mash, bok choy, relish

Duck, orange and pistachio sausages, mash, bok choy, relish, Petty Cash Café (photo borrowed from Petty Cash facebook page!)

Our second time was this very morning to meet fellow Inner-Westie friends (and a Redfernite, which is near enough). Coming straight from the gym on a rather chilly day I’m a little nervous that the only table that becomes available is outside, but it matters not – there’s a huge pile of multi-coloured, crocheted knee-rugs to wrap oneself in. In fact, if there are no tables, which looks to be a regular occurrence, you can take some of said rugs into the park opposite and they’ll bring your order out to you to eat picnic-style. They’re nice like that, the bunch who run this place; several armfuls of tattoos between them, they’re friendly, down to earth and proud to be producing good, homemade food in a relaxed, homely environment with quirky, nana-chic charm.

Coffees all round to start with, which come out in mismatched cups and saucers, and very nice coffee it is too.

Flat white

Flat white, Petty Cash Café

Mr T has a Belgian hot chocolate which is always a mistake since nobody, but nobody, makes it as strong as he likes it, except him. True to form it’s not up to scratch, but it’s not really their fault. I go for the Petty Cash Breakie (vego version): eggs (poached) on sourdough toast, haloumi, roasted tomatoes and homemade baked beans.

Petty Cash Breakie (vego version)

Petty Cash Breakie (vego version), Petty Cash Café

The roasted tomatoes could do with a bit longer in the oven but the baked beans are great – sweet, spicy, tomatoey goodness. Mr T finds his lemony lamb burger a bit underwhelming on the flavour front. Jono very much enjoys his poached eggs on toast with a side of relish, and Mindy’s boys hoover up their bacon and egg Turkish sandwich with barbecue sauce.

The star of the day, for me, is our shared ‘second breakfast’, accompanied by more coffees, of toasted brioche slices sandwiched with vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache, covered with copious quantities of chocolate sauce, maple syrup and sliced strawberries. So eager am I to dig in that I completely forget to take a photo! It’s a bugger, really, because it means I’ll have to go back again soon and order the same thing – such a great pity, but there you have it.

Petty Cash Café
68 Victoria Road, Marrickville
Visited 12 August 2012

Arras Too, Sydney

This is going to be a short post after my last mammoth one but I simply have to write something about the delicious lunch I had on Thursday. My colleague Ann and I walked into the city for a spot of shopping on Kent Street, and I remembered there was a place in nearby Clarence Street that I’d been really wanting to go to. Arras Too is a barely more than a hole-in-the-wall with a few tables outside on the street, next door to its big brother Arras restaurant, a fine diner which moved here from Walsh Bay. The Clarence Street address is the same site that used to be occupied by Becasse and its baby version Plan B, before their ill-fated move to Westfield. But, enough of restaurant relocations!

Arras Too has good coffee and a great selection of gourmet sandwiches, salads, pork pies, sausage rolls and a few sweet treats like brownies and custard tarts. But the reason we’ve come here is for the Scotch eggs. Boy howdy, do I love a Scotch egg! When I was back in the Isle of Man visiting family recently I had one for lunch every single day. They’re not readily available in Sydney, as far as I can make out, so I had to get my fill back in Blighty. So, you can imagine my delight on hearing from a friend a while ago that Arras Too (which, as you might have supposed, is run by a British couple) not only had Scotch eggs, but they were homemade, and they were the bomb!

We have a Scotch egg each and split a roasted vegetable, bean and feta salad. I cut my Scotch egg in half with a sense of eager anticipation… it looks magnificent! The egg has a beautiful, moist, dark-yellow yolk, the sausage meat is wonderfully seasoned and oniony, and the crumb on the outside is crisp and crunchy. Homemade Scotch eggs are so superior to shop-bought ones! It’s safe to say I’m very happy at this point and know that Arras Too and I will become firm friends. The salad is really good too and the whole thing comes to under $16 for the two of us – and we’re full for the rest of the afternoon!

Scotch egg and roasted vegetable, bean and feta salad

Scotch egg and roasted vegetable, bean and feta salad, Arras Too

Arras Too
204 Clarence Street, Sydney
Visited 9 August 2012

Revolver, Annandale

Forgive me readers for I have sinned; it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post!! And oh my goodness I’ve missed it! So, on with the show…

I really needed to go into the city at lunch time on Tuesday to do some last-minute birthday shopping for Mr T, but instead I was arm-twisted to go for lunch, with the lovely ladies in my pod at work, to Revolver in Annandale. Boy am I glad that I did!

This beautiful building was originally intended to be a pub, back when it was constructed in the late 19th Century, and it’s clear why with its big corner site and wrap-around balcony. In a terrible state of disrepair when they bought it, the current owners have lovingly restored it – don’t you just adore them already? Inside it’s all dark wood and warm tones with a fire in one corner and a sliding library-style ladder, which I covet, attached to the produce-laden shelves. I could seriously move in for the Winter!

Two of my companions have been here before and there’s much oo’ing and ah’ing as we study the menu and choose food as well as tea all round. Apart from the wide selection of delicious premium teas it’s the genteel ritual of it that we can’t get enough of – our infusions arrive in individual delicate glass teapots with pretty, assorted bone china cups and saucers.

Boost: echinacea, Siberian ginseng, spearmint, ginger and yuzu citron honey

Boost: Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, spearmint, ginger and yuzu citron honey, Revolver

Food arrives shortly after, also on mismatched china plates. My lemon myrtle cured, house smoked ocean trout on sweet corn rosti with chilli, capsicum relish and avocado is simply delicious, although the rosti does get a bit soggy and I could have done with a little more of the very succulent trout to go with the generous amounts of the other elements.

Lemon myrtle cured, house smoked ocean trout on sweet corn rosti with chilli, capsicum relish and avocado

Lemon myrtle cured, house smoked ocean trout on sweet corn rosti with chilli, capsicum relish and avocado, Revolver

Everyone else declares their meals divine too: Amanda goes for the veggie stack with sweet potato, roast capsicum, zucchini, spiced eggplant, grilled haloumi and a mixed seed and rocket salad;…

veggie stack with sweet potato, roast capsicum, zucchini, spiced eggplant, grilled haloumi and a mixed seed and rocket salad

Veggie stack with sweet potato, roast capsicum, zucchini, spiced eggplant, grilled haloumi and a mixed seed and rocket salad, Revolver

Clare has harissa poached chicken breast on a green pea, mint, baby spinach and organic red quinoa salad with tarragon buttermilk dressing;…

harissa poached chicken breast on a green pea, mint, baby spinach and organic red quinoa salad with tarragon buttermilk dressing

Harissa poached chicken breast on a green pea, mint, baby spinach and organic red quinoa salad with tarragon buttermilk dressing, Revolver

…and Ann decides on the Revolver veggie big breakie: baked eggs in housemade beans with buttered mushrooms, roast tomato, avocado, Danish feta, hummus and toast, plus a side of honey-cured bacon. Are you salivating yet?!

Baked eggs in housmade beans with buttered mushrooms, roast tomato, avocado, danish fetta, hummus and toast, plus a side of honey-cured bacon

Baked eggs in housemade beans with buttered mushrooms, roast tomato, avocado, Danish feta, hummus and toast, plus a side of honey-cured bacon, Revolver

I seriously can’t wait to take Mr T here, although I will be heeding the advice of the terribly friendly and enthusiastic guy who served us (possibly one of the owners?): on the weekend, arrive before 8am or after 2pm if you want any chance of getting a table. That’s one hell of a popular place!

Revolver
291 Annandale Street, Annandale
Visited 31 July 2012