The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Review: Easy Street Diner (Gold Coast, QLD)

12/2563 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5554 6542
http://easystreetdiner.com/

I get the sense that the easiest (legal) way to make money in Gold Coast is to open up a burger place. Seriously, they’re everywhere now – and quite frankly, it’s getting to the point of mass saturation. But when your non-foodie friend asks you to do dinner with him, going to the GC’s newest burger joint is a far better option than walking into the nearest surf life saving club or pub in the ‘burbs.

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Easy Street Diner is the latest ‘cool’ joint to grace the Goldie Highway. Several years ago, this long stretch of road used to be the last place you’d grab a meal at but it’s now home to some hip and happenin’ eateries. Easy Street Diner happens to be one of them. They haven’t really advertised much but if you think you can stroll in at 6pm on a Sunday evening and be seated immediately, you’d be wrong. Thanks to the power of Instagram and the all too powerful #burgers hashtag, this place was pumping when we rocked up. Luckily though, the turnover is quite quick so Adam and I were able to score two seats at the bar.

Easy Street Tonic ($8)

Easy Street Tonic ($8)

The cocktails here are cheap and simple. Apple juice and whisky were the only two ingredients in my Easy Street Tonic. If you want bells, whistle and smoked salt dust with shaved bits of gold truffle in your cocktail, this place isn’t for you.

Royale with cheese ($12)

Royale with cheese ($12)

Adam ordered the royale with cheese, an item which seems to appear on every second burger joint’s menu. It’s like, wow, you are paying tribute to Pulp Fiction – do you want a gold star for that? Sarcasm aside, Adam said it was a nice enough burger… ‘kind of like a Big Mac, but better.’

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What I liked about the presentation was that all the salad items were placed on one side so you can choose what goes into it. Being a typical boy, Adam initially picked up his burger with both hands without chucking anything into it – but then quickly added the lettuce leaves when he saw my glare. It was me who ended up eating the tomato and pickles. Bloody hell.

Chick n waffles ($22)

Chick n waffles ($22)

I decided to be different by ordering the chicken and waffles. The waffle base was beautifully crispy without being too heavy, while the chicken tenders were gloriously crunchy, light and tasty – think KFC, narrow the spice count down a bit, use better chicken meat and add a hundred times the crunch. Accompanying my dish was a bit of whipped butter and maple syrup to tie everything together. Oh yeah.

Loaded fries ($14)

Loaded fries ($14)

I probably would have been happy just eating my chicken and waffles but Adam insisted we order the loaded fries. I was reluctant after ordering a similar dish in Sydney’s Hartsyard and not being too impressed with it but hey, if I was able to make Adam eat lettuce with his burger then he can twist my arm into ordering these bloody fries.

I shouldn’t have whinged so much – they were delicious. While the Hartsyard version was soggy, gluggy and just unpleasant to eat, these were more than decent. The shoestring fries remained crispy, despite being drenched in an omg-wtf-are-you-crazy dressing of pork belly bits, bacon, cheese and creamy special sauce. While the dressing isn’t going to give anyone abs, it wasn’t terribly heavy and we were able to polish the whole thing off without feeling gross.

While Adam isn’t keen to go back to Easy Street Diner in a hurry (he argued that it was too far from his house and Boom Boom Burger Bar, while not AS good, was cheaper), I enjoyed our dinner. A lively atmosphere, fast-paced service, cocktails for less than a tenner and probably some of the best fried chicken you can get on the ‘Coast, what more can you want?

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Review: Burleigh Social (Gold Coast, QLD)

2 Hibiscus Haven
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 421 460 739

All things considered, I’m pretty lucky to be living smack bang in the middle of Gold Coast. I live within five minutes of Muso Ramen, Paddock Bakery and Bac to Nam, all excellent places to grab a feed. Another place I can add to this list of decent local hangouts is Burleigh Social.

When my old boss and her husband decided to escape Melbourne’s horrid winter temperatures by coming up to Goldie, my original plan was to take them to Paddock. Unfortunately, Paddock was stupidly busy when we drove by just after 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon. ‘Do people here not work?!’ I grumbled as we made a group decision to venture elsewhere; luckily, Burleigh Social was just down the block. It wasn’t my first choice but I had heard enough good things to pique my curiosity and plus, it wasn’t busy.

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Burleigh Social was started by a group of mates who worked in the airline industry and two of them were pilots – being a bit of an aviation geek with a bit of a thing for pilots, this joint was already getting thumbs up from me. The joint is a tin shed at the back of the site that was once occupied by Feather and Docks. Fitted out with an open kitchen, coffee bar and alfresco seating options at the front, Burleigh Social is a lovely, relaxing space to unwind and, um, be social.

Granola cup

Granola cup

Although I was tempted by the hot options on the menu (burgers, croissants and the like), I decided to be good by ordering a granola cup with my coffee. I drink macchiatos these days but I had cravings for a milk coffee, so I had a latte. Made with Allpress beans, my latte went down a silky, smooth treat.

Unfortunately, my granola took quite some time to arrive. A storm was passing through so the power went out for 10 minutes or so. While all this was going on, the kitchen somehow forgot about my order (my companions both had their fruit salads and croissants). After a quick follow up with the kitchen, my granola did arrive in a matter of minutes with an apology.

I’m not one to normally order granolas when eating out (I make my own quick five minute version at home with lots of honey and butter), but Burleigh Social’s version was pretty damn good. It was toasty, nutty with a lovely hint of butter and not overly sweet. Paired with natural yoghurt and fresh Queensland strawberries (gotta love Queensland winters), it went down a treat.

At just after 2pm, we got the firm but polite nudge to leave the premises as they were packing up for the day. Despite the fact that they forgot my order, it was a lovely lunch. While I can’t see myself coming here every week, it’s definitely one to add to my Gold Coast café list for those odd mornings when I need to leave the home office to recharge with yummy wholesome food and a lovely coffee or two.

Review: Boom Boom Burger Bar (Gold Coast, QLD)

7-9 Burra Street
Chevron Island QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 3718
http://www.boomboomburgers.com.au/

My friend Adam lives on Chevron Island, just west of Surfers Paradise. It’s a bit of a strange place; there’s a main drag that tries to be buzzing and hip like Surfers, yet it’s full of mediocre bars, takeaway eateries and late night Asian massages. In other words, it’s not known for excellent dining options. But when a workmate told me of this new burger place that just opened up, Adam and I decided to give it a go. Plus, it had a pretty quirky name: Boom Boom Burger Bar.

We rocked up early on a Sunday evening, thinking that it’d be quiet and that’d we’d snap up a table quickly. WRONG. The place was packed with happy families and couples while a guy with a guitar supplied the live music. There were only a couple of empty tables so Adam and I were lucky to arrive when we did or we would have had to face a bit of a wait.

Smoking hot ($15)

Smoking hot ($15)

I ordered Boom Boom’s signature burger, the Smoking Hot. It was presented under a smoke-filled dome and when the dome was flitted, we were supposed to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ as the smoke wafted out. It was a bit of fancy schmancy stuff, a nod to owner Meyjitte Boughenout’s Absynthe days, that was designed to make the casual dining experience more memorable.

Unfortunately, the waitress kind of spoiled this ‘boom boom’ experience for me. Naturally, I was like ‘give me a sec, let me take a photo!’ before she lifted the dome. To my annoyance, she sighed and rolled her eyes. Look, I get it. I was definitely not the first person to want to take photos of the above and as someone who serves hundreds of this, I’m well aware that she’d be over it by now. But still, not need for that attitude!

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The burger itself was nice enough. The 150-day old aged beef was gently smoked to give it a bit of a lift. It was served with mushrooms, spinach, cheddar and ‘secret sauce’ (which tasted almost like a Big Mac sauce but with a hint of mustard).

They also chucked in cucumbers in the burger. No, not pickles. CUCUMBERS. They were soggy and tasteless; I’m not sure why they bothered, but it did damper what could have been a better-than-decent burger.

Meanwhile, Adam had the Boom Boom Bang, their basic $10 burger comprising of wagyu beef, beetroot, caramelised red onion, cheese and lettuce plus homemade tomato sauce. He polished it in a matter of half-minutes and said that he’d come back to get this burger if he felt like takeaway so it had to be better than mine.

Hand cut chips ($5)

Hand cut chips ($5)

I was also underwhelmed by their chips. They were super thick, which meant that they were soft on the edges but also a tad hard inside. They were also not the least bit crispy and they were definitely not golden.

Onion rings ($5)

Onion rings ($5)

Ditto the onion rings. The batter was so thick that Adam and I ended up playing a frustrating game of ‘where are the onions?’ – we left the rings mostly untouched.

I didn’t have the best meal here (half because of the food and half because of the waitress), however Adam said that he’d come back again. I guess if I was living just around the corner from Boom Boom, I’d come back when I’m craving a burger and can’t be bothered cooking. And I guess if I happened to be chillin’ at Adam’s place that afternoon or evening and if he insisted on going to Boom Boom, I’d tag along. But for me to make the 10-15 minute drive from my end of the ‘Coast? Hm, probably not.

Review: Globe Café (Gold Coast, QLD)

30 James Street
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5520 0230

On sunny mornings, I like to take my laptop out and find a café to work in. Sometimes it’s nice to grab a window seat and sip a well-brewed cup of coffee (i.e. one that’s not made by me) and watch the world go by in between churning out work and faffing away on social media.

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When in Burleigh Heads, I normally duck into Quest. Introduced to me by one of my first Gold Coast friends Yanni, Quest is one of my favourite places to enjoy a milk coffee on the ‘Coast. Unfortunately, it’s also a favourite of many coffee-loving Gold Coast folk so mornings are often super busy. Plus, there is limited seating so if you rock up between 8:30 and 11 in the morning, you’re usually forced to take away.

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Just a few doors down on James Street though is Globe Café. If you’re in search of a place to plonk your laptop by the open window down for an hour or two, this would be it. On a Friday morning, it attracts a steady stream of patrons and although it’s busy, it’s not terribly noisy.

Latte

Latte

When I used to live in Melbourne, I was a frequent visitor to Di Bella Roasting Warehouse in North Melbourne. I’m not particularly a brunch person per se but they did a decent breakfast and their lattes were always reliably good. I’ve yet to try a coffee from Di Bella Coffee outside of this establishment (probably due to my bad experiences with Campos coffees outside of Campos flagship cafés – Trunk, I’m looking at you) so this was my first time. I need not have worried though – my latte was rich, nutty and velvety, very much like the ones I enjoyed at the Melbourne café.

Banana bread board

Banana bread board

Because I wasn’t terribly hungry, I ordered a banana bread to go with my coffee. Perhaps a bit astonishingly, it arrived on a board with all these bells and whistles. To be fair, it was kind of my fault. When I asked the lady at the counter for a banana bread, she then asked, ‘On the board?’ to which I absentmindedly said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I didn’t know that I was being given an option to have it on its own.

So anyway, the bread itself was lovely – it was warm, light and not terribly sweet (always a plus in my books). The hazelnut butter that came with it actually complemented the bread quite nicely, giving it a bit of a salty nutty kick. It was just the presentation that threw me off. Planks of wood? Yawn. Lots of icing sugar everywhere? What on earth for? And yeah sure, berries and stewed pears are nice but this was perhaps trying a bit too hard.

I also ordered a chicken schnitzel wrap to take away for lunch. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it but it was a little wrap that contained chicken schnitzel pieces, maybe a pinch of shredded cheese, spinach, walnuts, avocado and a LOT of sweet chilli sauce. At $10, I thought they were a bit stint on the fillings – not so much the chicken but I did expect more than an index finger-sized slice of avocado, for example. It didn’t taste bad, but a little less sweet chilli sauce would have been fab.

Although I wouldn’t come back for the food, I think Globe is a nice place to chill for an hour or so. You get the sun streaming through in the morning and the beach is just a short walk away. The service is also friendly, quick and efficient and I definitely can’t fault the coffee. I’ll definitely use Globe as my coffee back-up option if I can get a seat at Quest (which, let’s face it, is most of the time).

Review: Waterman’s Lobster Co (Sydney, NSW)

5/29-31 Orwell Street
Potts Points NSW 2011
+61 2 9380 2558
http://www.watermanslobsterco.com/

When the co-owner of one of my favourite wine bars (Love Tilley Devine) in Sydney decided to open a lobster roll bar in Potts Points, I just knew I had to visit the first chance I got. That moment happened just a few weeks after the lobster roll bar, Waterman’s Lobster Co, opened. I arrived in Sydney just after dinnertime which was fine because according to Waterman’s website, they opened until late. By the time I met up with my friend Dom in front of the Potts Points establishment, it was just after 9pm.

And Waterman’s just had closed.

One of the guys at the bar told us that they decided to shut down early because they hadn’t ‘seen a single person walk in for at least an hour’ (this was followed by his co-worker giving him side greasy). They had just closed the kitchen and weren’t taking any more orders. Disappointed, we went into the winter night and into some random pizza place in the ‘Cross.

I did, however, get my second chance only a few weeks ago. Long story short, but I had to made a trip to the French Consulate in Sydney one Thursday morning. Not wanting to risk a delayed morning flight out of Gold Coast, I decided to fly into Sydney the previous day, stay there overnight and wake up refreshed the following morning to (nicely) take on the French.

It was around 6:30pm on Wednesday night when we decided to give Waterman’s another go – and the place was buzzing. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze the two of us in at a communal table in the back room.

New England clam chowder ($12)

New England clam chowder ($12)

Because it was such a cold night, we figured a bowl of crouton-topped chowder would be a perfect starter to share. It arrived immediately so I’m guessing everyone else had the same idea and the kitchen had heaps ready to ladle out. The chowder was rich, creamy and deep in flavour; I haven’t had many chowders in my life but I’m fairly certain that this was the real deal – at least compared to the pretty-sure-this-ain’t-legit one I had at a Marlborough winery a few years ago.

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Waterman’s offers two different types of lobster rolls: the Maine style one and the Connecticut style one. Dom suggested we order both and split them, which was a brilliant idea. I then decided to order a glass of Gosset Brut Excellence ($20) to have with my lobster, another brilliant idea if I do say so myself. It was a beautifully balanced champagne; rich and creamy yet fragrant and fruity, the bubbles complemented the buttery lobster rolls to a tee.

‘Maine Style’ lobster roll ($18)

‘Maine Style’ lobster roll ($18)

The Maine style lobster roll came with mayo and celery; after one bite, I was hooked. The closest thing I’ve had to this was Andrew McConnell’s now-famous lobster roll from Golden Fields which, at the time, sent foodgasmic shockwaves around Melbourne’s foodie set. I, however, found it underwhelming mainly due to its price point – $15 for a small roll? Yeah, no.

This roll, however, was big. As big as a hot dog. And sure, the lobster may have been imported from the ‘States (according to the owners, they tasted better) and sure, there may have been a bit of a wait for them but hey. The combination of succulently sweet lobster, buttery bread and mayo, accentuated by the crunch of the celery pieces, was nothing short of amazing.

‘Connecticut Style’ lobster roll ($18)

‘Connecticut Style’ lobster roll ($18)

The Connecticut Style roll was just as good. It was a simpler roll, with just a dash of warm butter to coat the lobster. I think I liked the Maine style lobster more because of the beautiful balance of flavours and textures, though the simple nature of the Connecticut roll meant that I really got to taste the natural flavour of the lobster meat.

We both added some lightly seasoned fries ($2) and a pickle ($1) to our plates to make it a complete meal. While Dom was a bit underwhelmed by the pickle (it lacked flavour, he argued), I thought otherwise – it was especially great with the Connecticut Style roll as it added a bit of extra flavour.

Of course, Waterman’s rolls aren’t just limited to lobster ones. They also sell prawn, scallop and smoked eel rolls, all of which I’m keen to try the next time I’m down in Sydney… which probably won’t be until the end of the year. Sob.

Review: Mary’s City (Sydney, NSW)

154 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000

After spending a morning at the French Consulate, I found myself roaming Sydney’s city streets looking for a good feed. It was a glorious winter day in my favourite Aussie city – sure, it was cold but the sun was out and the winds were (thankfully) nowhere to be found. There was no better way to spend the afternoon than by enjoying lunch outside, in Hyde Park.

Luckily, my favourite Sydney burger joint, Mary’s, has a branch in the city. The city joint is just a block away from Hyde Park so I decided that lunch that day was going to be burger, fries, gravy and a lot of bloating (totally worth it though… or so I thought).

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Predictably, the Thursday afternoon queue was massive. The diminutive city store only does take away and most of the people patiently lining up were hungry office workers. Fortunately, the line does move fast. (that said, I then waited an extra 15 minutes to the side for my food to be ready.)

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Taking cues from its Newtown big sister, the city store also has a wall where punters can scribble dick pics and lewd messages to their heart’s content.

Cheeseburger ($10)

Cheeseburger ($10)

Walking over to Hyde Park, I eagerly unpacked the contents of my white paper bag. Although the city store has all the Newtown menu favourites, its price point is a bit different. If you order a cheeseburger in Newtown, $15 will get you a generously sized burger with chips. Here, $10 gets you a much smaller burger and no chips. In fact, I was surprised at how small, deflated and sorry-looking my city burger was. I was even more surprised to find that it tasted like a Maccas cheeseburger minus the onions and pickle. It was hard to believe that this burger was actually a Mary’s burger. What. The Hell.

Gravy ($4)

Gravy ($4)

You can’t leave Mary’s without ordering gravy to go with your fries. Seeing as the burger came without fries, I ordered a serving of them ($4) and a tub of gravy ($4). Thankfully, they tasted just as I remembered; the chips were crispy and well-seasoned and while the gravy wasn’t as lusciously velvety as the ones I’ve enjoyed in Newtown, it was still delicious. God bless rendered chicken fat and a splash of warm stock, oh yeah.

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Look. Despite the #burgerfail, it was actually not a bad lunch.

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Review: Green Peppercorn (Sydney, NSW)

388 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 8080 7043
http://www.greenpeppercorn.com.au/

When Dom told me there was a place that served a decent Thai food in the same building as the Civic Hotel in the city, I wrinkled my nose. To me, the ‘Civ was in the same league as Melbourne’s Club Retro, a place that I’d only set foot in after 1:30am on Saturday morning after more than a few wines and after frequenting the city’s better night haunts. In other words, it’s not a place that I’d start a night off at.

Yet, Dom also happens to be my intel when it comes to good cheap Sydney fare so I did I protest when he lead me up to stairs to the Civic? Nope, not at all. The place we’re talking about is Green Peppercorn, said to be one of Sydney’s better Thai restaurants. Being from Melbourne and having lived on Gold Coast for more than a year now, I’ve had my fair share of mediocre Thai food so anything from a Sydney Thai restaurant was always going to be a marked improvement.

Green Peppercorn has two branches, this city one and one in Fairfield. Both promise casual contemporary fit-outs and a menu combining Lao and Thai cuisine, featuring traditional favourites and a few regional specialities from northern Thailand.

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I ordered a glass of white, Dom ordered a beer and we decided on several dishes to share.

Sai krok ison ($11.90)

Sai krok ison ($11.90)

We both enjoyed the Issan-style sausages. Made from a traditional Northern Thai recipe, these house-made pork sausages were slightly seasoned and grilled over charcoal for a smoky and slightly tangy flavour.

Prawn pad thai ($17.90)

Prawn pad thai ($17.90)

Much to Dom’s amusement, I decided to go all Aussie, mate, by ordering the prawn pad thai. Hey, don’t diss me – I’m allowed to crave pad thai just as you guys are allowed to crave Nutella donuts, okay? Green Peppercorn did a lovely version – the noodles were perfectly firm, the proteins all well-cooked and the sweet-sour ratio on point. Topped with bean sprouts and crushed peanuts, this pad thai was a study of what Thai restaurants in Gold Coast SHOULD be doing, rather than dousing the noodles with too much sweetness.

Roast duck red curry ($17.90)

Roast duck red curry ($17.90)

Our final dish was an excellent roast duck red curry. It was a beautifully hearty dish that soothed my cold bones, minus the heaviness. A handful of cherry tomatoes, pineapple and lychees worked well to counteract the creaminess while an appropriate amount of chilli provided a much-welcomed spicy kick.

If I had more room in my stomach, I would have loved to try some of the traditional Laotian dishes but hey, next time. My go-to place for Thai in Sydney city is still Chat Thai (sorry, you’ll always remember your first…) but Green Peppercorn is a great alternative if you can’t be bothered queuing up for a peak hour dinner table.

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Review: Yasaka Ramen (Sydney, NSW)

126 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9262 9027
http://www.yasakaramen.com.au/

There are several things you can’t really avoid when in Sydney city: riff raff on George Street at night, bad drivers and great ramen eateries. I happened to be in Sydney for a very quick afternoon stopover; it was cold and windy, and my stomach was yearning for a bowl of unctuous, porky goodness with lots and lots of noodles. My friend Dom, who is my go-to person for cheap eats in Sydney, mentioned Yasaka Ramen during a conversation we had one night so I knew that’s where I wanted to go for lunch before I even stepped off the plane.

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Word.

At 11:30 on a weekday, Yasaka was dead quiet so I had my pick of bar seating. There, for the next thirty minutes, I was able to slurp, savour and worship each spoonful of ramen in silence before Sydney’s office workers and tradies started arriving for their fix.

Tonkotsu shoyu with egg ($14.80)

Tonkotsu shoyu with egg ($14.80)

This. Perfection right here. (yes, I’m aware that the word ‘perfection’ is used way too much in food blogging but screw it, it really was perfection.)

Takoyaki (four for $6)

Takoyaki (four for $6)

I can’t say no to good dose of takoyaki and Yasaka does a fantastic version. Yasaka’s takoyaki comes in multiples of four or eight and you can choose from a range of toppings such as spicy mayo, wasabi soy sauce or even grilled cheese. I decided to be sensible and boring, though, by opting for four pieces drizzled with the original takoyaki sauce and shaved bonito flakes.

Slightly firm to the bite and full of flavour, they were pretty on par to the ones that I enjoyed on the streets of Osaka last year. No sign of soggy ball syndrome here, my friends.

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I could also wax lyrical about my bowl of tonkotsu shoyu ramen, which was reasonably priced given the amount and quality I received. The milky, flavoursome tonkotsu broth was infused with a soy sauce paste to give it that extra bit of umami oomph (not that it really needed much anyway). To top things off, there was a buttery piece of chashu, bamboo shoots, chopped spring onion and nori. Oh, and a soft-boiled soy egg – you can’t forget that.

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It wasn’t a terribly big bowl but I really did struggle to finish it (I’m blaming the takoyaki). Still, the ramen didn’t leave me with that nasty bloated feeling I get when I eat at some of the city’s other ramen restaurants whose offerings tend to be on the super-ridic-heavy side so that’s a good thing.

In terms of taste, price point and service, I’d say Yasaka is up there with one of my favourites in Sydney now. Cheers, Dom.

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Review: Mary’s (Sydney, NSW)

6 Mary Street
Newtown NSW 2042
+61 2 4995 9550

When I’m in Sydney, there’s only one place I go when the burger craving hits – and no, it’s not McDonalds, not even when I’m desperate. I go to Mary’s, one of Newtown’s favourite eateries and by that, I mean one that’s often frequented by hipsters and food bloggers.

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Blending into its grungy Newtown surrounds, Mary’s is befittingly dingy, dark and, let’s face it, uninviting from the outside. It’s pretty much the same story inside but with constant loud Angry White Boy music blaring from the speakers – not exactly a place I’d take my conservative Asian parents to.

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That said, the former sexual health clinic-cum-burger joint is strangely cosy and inviting once your ears get used to the thumping music. The team are friendly, attentive and full of energy, even on a Saturday afternoon before 1pm.

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Mary’s keeps its menu simple by offering only three burgers, including a mushroom one for the vegos. I usually go the cheeseburger ($15), though in the past I’ve sometimes gone for the namesake Mary’s burger with trashcan bacon (essentially bacon that’s been cooked in a trashcan, $15). All burgers come with a generous serving of crispy shoestring fries.

Irrespective of what burger ends up being ordered, they’re always consistently damn good. The bun is simple, soft and white (none of this overly sweet and buttery fancy brioche stuff if that ain’t your thing), the meat is well-seasoned and juicy and the whole thing is held together by salad and a squirt of ketchup. It’s simple stuff, done very very well and sometimes that’s really all you need.

Mashed potato and gravy ($5)

Mashed potato and gravy ($5)

I also make sure the mash and gravy is ordered. Ladies and gents, you really haven’t lived unless you’ve tried Mary’s mash and gravy. The potato was so soft and so silky that it was almost like eating a carb version of velvet. Meanwhile, the gravy was full of flavour, thanks to the generous amount of rendered chicken fat that was used to boost the flavour profile. Give me a spoon and I can eat this stuff all day long, baby.

The perfect beverage choice to match the burgers would be, of course, be a Bloody Mary’s. If you’re more into beers, however, Mary’s has a decent selection of pilsners and craft beers. The cocktail list is also worth pursuing – they even have a drink called the ‘Noble C*nt’ if you’re feeling particularly bold. In all seriousness though, just give me a beer, a burger and gravy and I’m a happy camper.

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Review: Pinbone (Sydney, NSW)

3 Jersey Road
Woollahra NSW 2025
+61 2 9328 1600
http://www.pinbone.com.au/

It’s been a while since I’ve had a dining experience that made me go ‘wow’ – and I don’t mean the ‘wow’ that’s usually uttered when you see the astronomical bill at the end of the night. I’m talking about the wow that’s normally reserved for those restaurants that offer something different, restaurants that don’t try too hard, restaurants that serve beautiful and refreshing food and finally, restaurants that just KNOW how to get everything right. Pinbone was a culmination of all those factors – and a lot more.

It all started one Saturday morning in Sydney. MVB and I were nibbling on dumplings at the markets, trying to figure out where to go for dinner that night. We didn’t have the foresight to book ahead at any of the hot and happenin’ places nor did we feel like queuing up for burgers at Mary’s. Someone on one of our Instagram feeds mentioned Pinbone, a Woollahra icon that had been around for as long as MVB could remember but he, himself, had never got around to going. We didn’t like our chances of getting a table but we thought we’d give them a ring anyway.

Predictably, the restaurant was closed when I rang them to see if I can squeeze in a table for two so I left a message on the answering machine with my mobile phone. Not even an hour later, a text from an unknown number came through:

‘Hi Libby, it’s Berri from Pinbone. I just wanted to check how many people your booking was for?’

And just like that, after a few rapid text exchanges, a table was booked for 6pm that very night. As someone who dislikes phone conversations, I was happy – an entire booking conducted by text message!

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We rocked up to the split-level restaurant at 6 on the dot before being ushered upstairs to a beautiful room, surrounded by white walls. Our soundtrack for the night began with the likes of The Cure before heading into Joy Division and New Order territory; that’s when I knew I had already fallen in love with this place – and we hadn’t even tasted any food yet!

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After a boozy night the previous night, we hadn’t planned on ordering drinks but decided to look at the wine list anyway. There was a very respectable list of whites and reds in addition to a succinct ‘fizzy shit’ list covering champagne and sparkling wine. No, that’s what it actually said on the menu: fizzy shit!

It worked though. Before we knew it, we were clinking our glasses of fizzy shit and sipping it while we waited for our little snacks to arrive.

Pinbone’s list individual snack also had some eye brow-raising items. There was ‘fairy bread’ listed as the first item as well as something called ‘smoky cheesy potato thing.’ Well blimey, both those items were ordered in addition to a few sundries that caught MVB’s attention. Yup, I’m a sucker for oddly worded things.

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Our spread of individual snacks.

Chicken popper ($4)

Chicken popper ($4)

MVB ordered the chicken popper which, to me, looked like a piece of chicken karaage on a butter lettuce cup with a bit of mayo hidden in there somewhere (‘lol lol lol san choy bao,’ I sniggered. ‘lol lol lol’). MVB said the chicken was crispy and succulent, but didn’t exactly blow him away.

Fairy bread ($4)

Fairy bread ($4)

My so-called fairy bread looked like it was a much better choice. The base was brioche, the ‘butter’ was masacarpone and the topping, flying fish roe. I enjoyed the wonderful contrast between the creamy, velvety cream and the soft, crunchy roe. This was sure better than any fairy bread I had back when I was a little kid.

‘Smoky cheesy potato thing’ ($4)

‘Smoky cheesy potato thing’ ($4)

Pinbone’s ‘smoky cheesy potato thing’ looked like a ‘very very naughty thing.’ Essentially, it was a hollowed out baked potato half that held a lusciously buttery gruyere and parmesan filling. I gave it my two thumbs up.

Crispy chicken skin, bread sauce, anchovy ($4)

Crispy chicken skin, bread sauce, anchovy ($4)

The crispy chicken skin was another fantastic snack – I’m a sucker for fried chicken skin so this dish was always going to be a winner by default. Chuck in a creamy bread sauce and a single anchovy though and you have me singing hallelujah, Dr Alban style.

Peanut custard, pickled peanuts, edamame ($20)

Peanut custard, pickled peanuts, edamame ($20)

We then moved onto the larger plates. The peanut custard was a dish that caught both our eyes because c’mon, who’s ever heard of peanut custard? We’re not normally ones to order vegetarian dishes (unless it’s a begrudging side dish to make ourselves feel better) but we were curious.

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The peanut custard was very much like a piece of silken tofu, but with a subtle nutty taste. I liked the custard itself (So light! So delicate! So silky!) but I didn’t think the dish was as cohesive as it could have been. The pickled peanuts just seemed like they were thrown in there as an afterthought and I’m not a big edamame fan to begin with so these didn’t exactly win points.

Grilled salmon belly, charred shallot, mirin ($22)

Grilled salmon belly, charred shallot, mirin ($22)

Much better was the grilled salmon belly, a silky, buttery piece of protein intertwined with lovely fatty goodness. A lovely dose of mirin broke down the richness a little while adding a lovely sweetness, while the charred shallot imparted a much welcomed smokiness to the dish. Flawless, absolutely flawless.

Chicken breast, prawn head gravy, celery ($28)

Chicken breast, prawn head gravy, celery ($28)

Chicken is not normally something we order at restaurants but I frothed when I saw ‘prawn head gravy’ so I knew we had to try this. The chicken was beautifully cooked; soft, succulent and verging on delicate, it was enough to turn me into a breast woman. The beautiful albeit pungent prawn head gravy more than enough flavour while the celery provided a nice crunch.

Roasted carrots with smoked macadamia ($14)

Roasted carrots with smoked macadamia ($14)

Of course, we had to have some vegetables to go with our naughty smoky cheesy things, chicken skins and chicken boobs. The roasted carrots here were on point – they were full of lovely charred goodness and sweetness, accentuated by the crunchy macadamias.

At this stage, we appropriately full – satisfied enough to go home without raiding the pantry for midnight snacks yet not full enough that we had food babies growing in our tummies. The problem, however, was that MVB wasn’t done.

Oh no, he wanted dessert.

And he wanted ALL OF IT.

‘We’ll order everything off the dessert menu, thank you,’ he casually said to the passing waitress. She raised an eyebrow just as my eyes grew wide. ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS?!’

MVB nodded. ‘Yes, EVERYTHING.’

I’m not much of a dessert person and goodness knew exactly how we were going to finish four whole desserts but somehow we did it.

Toasted sorghum ice cream, buttermilk, brittle ($14)

Toasted sorghum ice cream, buttermilk, brittle ($14)

There was the toasted sorghum ice cream (sorghum is a grain, btw) topped with a crispy popcorn covered brittle. A tick for me.

Daily Pinbone tart ($14)

Daily Pinbone tart ($14)

Then there was the rich chocolate ganache tart with vanilla milk ice cream. A would be tick if it hadn’t been for the orange flavouring they decided to chuck in there (never was a Jaffa fan, sorry).

Neapolitan ($14)

Neapolitan ($14)

Pinbone’s rendition of the classic Neapolitan ice cream did get a tick. I couldn’t decide which part I liked the most: the crispy chocolate-covered chocolate mousse, the strawberry tapioca or the luscious vanilla parfait. Dairy Bell, eat your heart out.

Lemon curd, burnt milk custard and black olive ($14)

Lemon curd, burnt milk custard and black olive ($14)

The tangy lemon curd provided a much needed sour boost to all the sugar we had and was probably my favourite dessert. It was paired beautifully with burnt milk custard and crumbs of dehydrated olive and brown sugar. Tick, tick tick.

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BOOM.

The meal was well paced without being too rushed so we were out of there before the second wave of diners started to arrive. Overall, it was a fantastic dining experience boosted by efficient, cheerful and attentive staff and a cosy environment. We had plans to return for brunch the next time we were both in Sydney but unfortunately, word on the street is that the Pinbone crew are closing their doors in a couple of weeks. I won’t be able to relive the Pinbone experience again (sniff) but it doesn’t mean you guys can’t – get on it, Sydneysiders!

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