Sunday, 30 May 2010

Garden Brasserie, Neutral Bay

Garden Brasserie is located in the quite backstreets of Neutral Bay and it has only been opened since late April this year, so it is fairly new.
I stumbled upon this place while researching on the web for late dinner outing with some friends.

Garden Brasserie's living wall and birdcages lamps.

As you step into the door, you felt like you've stepped into someone's garden.
There is a wall of plant on one side , white garden tables and chairs around, and birdcages lanterns.
Birdcages !! I love birdcages \^o^/

Because they do not take booking after 6.30pm, there was no table available for our group of 9 when we got there.
Since it will be a while till they are able to put together some tables for us, the waitress ushered us to the lounge upstairs to have some drinks and nibblies first.

The lounge is equally amazing as the dining area downstairs. There are antique style couches and chairs around, warm lighting, just cozy.

Bartender in action ; Garden Brasserie cocktail menu

As I've researched their menu beforehand , I know what I want from the coktail list.
So I asked our friendly waitress if I could possibly has an alcohol free version of it (I'm allergic to alcohol, sad I know T___T). When she returns from asking the bartender, she said yes (yay!) and they are going to charge it as OJ price ( double triple yay !!).
That was very nice of them to do that and totally unexpected.

Mocktail version of Mai Tai w Lollipop!  ;  Pomegranate Lollipop

Mai Tai w Lollipop! , the original, is made up of Appleton Estate Reserve 8 Year Old rum, Wray & 
Nephew White Rum, triple sec, fresh-pressed lime juice, in-house orgeat syrup & Citrus Bitters served w house-made pomegranate lollipop. 
With my version, remove all the alcohol components LOL
Orgeat syrup is a sweet syrup made from almond, sugar and rose or orange blossoms water. I think Garden Brasserie's orgeat is made with orange blossoms as it is very citrusy and refreshing.
Tackling the pomegranate lollipop is tricky, it is really sticky and most of the time I'm trying to get it unstuck from my teeth or somehow form it into a candy ball so I can eat it safely ^o^
Nonetheless, it is still fun to eat and it tasted good.

Upstairs lounge area

Food Menu

We ordered a shared plate and an entree to share, just to fill our stomach while we wait for a table.

Something to Share (for two) - Vegetable Board 

A colourful board of marinated char-grilled zucchini, asparagus, capsicum, eggplant, baked ricotta, confit tomato & pesto arrived. 
Somehow I didn't manage to try any of these (how did that happened ?!?!), but judging from the reaction of others, it is safe to say that is is a big TICK !
The board was polished off in no time, I regret not trying that baked ricotta , it looks soo good T___T

Chili Salt Calamari

Now this I get to try , the calamari is served with chilled cucumber & peanut salad and asian chili dressing. The calamari is well seasoned, not too salty and the it is deep fried in a light batter. 
The accompanying salad of cucumber is the highlight for me, it is marinated in some sort of vinegar and there are some coriander as well. It is refreshing and tangy, matches well with the hot and spicy calamari.

When we inquire whether our table is ready yet , the waitress told us it is probably still going to be another 25minutes wait.
So she suggested, if we dont mind, she can move us to a more spacious corner of the lounge that has just been vacated, and we can have our dinner there.
Since we really can't be bothered to find somewhere else to eat, luckily all of us don't mind crouching a little to eat from the low lounge tables.
*relocate to more spacious corner*

Placed our main orders, waited a while and finally the foods are here !!

Coorong Angus Scotch Fillet

The scotch fillet is served with some pont neuf potato chips, watercress and bearnaise sauce.
My friend's verdict : good steak, and he loved the house made chips.

Roast Duck Breast

The perfectly cooked duck is topped with apple & celeriac remoulade and drizzled with hazelnut and honey vinaigrette.
I tried a bite of this, the duck is cooked just right and the accompanying sauces are light so the dish is not too heavy.

Beef Short Ribs

My friend's beef short ribs is amazing !! It has been braised for 12 hours , served with carrot puree, parsley salad and caramelized vinegar. 
The meat is so tender, you don't really need a knife for this. It is juicy and full of flavours, and not to mention the generous portion size.

Hellow !!

I was not expecting the marron head to be still on the plate LOL All of us went "Ooooohh" when the plate was set down. Marron is a large freshwater crayfish found in Western Australia, texure wise, it is quite similar to lobster I think.

Salad of Poached Marron 

Up close with the salad "body"

The poached marron is served with marinate kipfler potatoes, green beans, confit tomato & sauce Marie Rose (fancy name for a blend of ketchup and mayonnaise LOL).
The marron is thankfully not overcooked, it is still tender and goes well with the vegetables and creamy sauce, the micro basil also add a light kick to the dish.
I love this dish, it is light and not to heavy, so I can leave some room for desserts !!

Polenta Chips w/ Gorgonzola Cream

We also ordered a side dish of polenta chips as some of us have never tried polenta before.

The chips are crispy on the outside and soft & fluffy on the inside. The gorgonzola cream is surprisingly not too strong *phew* I usually can't stand blue cheese *urrghhh*

Since some of us are stuffed, so we just ordered a couple of desserts and share it around.

Orange Creme Caramel w/ Cinnamon Poached Pear

When I saw poached pear on the menu, I was not expecting diced up poached pear.
So I was a tad dissapointed when it arrived.  The creme caramel has a nice set and not too sweet at all, making it easy to eat. The poached pear is too mushy to my liking :P

Dark Chocolate Torte w/ Quice Jam & Vanilla Ice Cream

My picture doesn't do this dessert justice ! It is soooooo gooooodddd >___<
The chocolate torte is amazing, the chocolate creme is smooth & bitter, but there is a hint of sweetness from the quince jam on the base. The pastry is perfect too, crumbly and buttery. 
The vanilla ice cream...if it is sold somewhere, I want it !! The chocolate torte eaten on its own is amazing, but eaten with the ice cream - WOW! >_<
I think I've written enough on how much I looovee it LOL

As I was taking photos of the restaurant, the manager approaches me ! I thought , damn...I'm gonna get told off now... -___-
He just wanted to ask how was our meal *pheww* , so I took this chance to get the okay from him to take photos, and he happily said go ahead *yay!*
Then he said "This is too dark for you to take photos, it would be better if there are more lights, would you like me to turn them on for you?"
You have no idea how happy I was , I was running back to our table and told the others LOL

Turned on the lights, and he returns and we chit chatted some more. 
These lights that he just turned on are UV lights that are turned on from noon to 4.30pm to mimic the sun rays to nourish the plants. Yes, that is a living wall !! There is an irrigation and nutrition system running on the back to keep the plants going. I thought they were fake plants , how cool is that !!

Because the lights are so bright, they cannot turn it on at night time, it is not too bad from the lounge but he said it would probably annoys those dining downstairs :D
But fret not fellow food bloggers, they are in the process of installing more lights so it will be not as dark as it now at dinner time. 

UV Lights ON !

Living Wall ; White Patio Chairs & Table

It has only been opened for a month, but the service is on par with other well established restaurants.
There is no hiccup whatsover during the service, the waitresses are very friendly and they know their stuffs. Not to mention the manager is very accomodating and friendly too.
The foods are delicious, with main ranging from $21 - $29, and their cocktail menu is a must try.

Garden Brasserie opens from noon to midnight on Fri & Sat, and 5pm to midnight on Mon - Thurs. 
It is a great place for lunch and dinner, or just to have some drinks and lounge around upstairs.
Worth crossing over the Harbour Bridge to get there, a place worth returning too.
*Dark Chocolate Torte...mmmmmmm**

Garden Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Friday, 28 May 2010

Kari Kari Mada Aru ?

"Kari kari mada aru ?"

Kazuko , my colleague from Tokyo office has brought me some omiyage on her recent visit to Sydney.
Arigatou !!!! \^o^

Got a box of curry senbei - curry flavoured rice crackers. Looks like it's made by a curry restaurant chain in Hokkaido, Sapporo Curry Yoshimi (putting it down on the list of things to try when I'm there in December *scribble*scribble*).

8 portion controlled packets - must control self , must control self

Curry senbei - *nom nom*

It tasted just like japanese curry , but a portable and snackable version.
It is a tad spicy but it's still bearable for me (no visible allergic reaction....yet !).
Shared it with the others in the office, some found it too spicy and start coughing LOL
I'm saving the rest of the packets for late night snacking !!

And also got this pretty handkerchief as well , I think I should start carrying handkerchief from now on :D
A very good excuse to start pretty handkerchief collection perhaps ?

As always , cute packaging from the Japanese ^_^

Plum blossoms pattern

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Vivid Sydney 2010 & Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe, Circular Quay

It's time for another Vivid Sydney festival !! Yippee \^o^/

We have some overseas colleagues visiting this week for some meetings so it's good timing that Vivid Sydney starts today.
Initial plan was to go with just a colleague from Japan but then the others caught wind of our small night tour LOL
So off I go playing tour guide for our visitors ^_^

We arrived at the Opera House right at the moment the light was switched on !
It was packed with people so we had a quick bite at Guylian cafe first to avoid the crowd.

We had some savoury meals first, but didn't whip out my camera since I'm not sure what will my colleagues think of me taking photos of their food...ehehhee....

But when the desserts arrived....well...that's a different story LOL
Big camera - OUT !!

Opera Evolve

Another lesson learned, do not always assume the website will have the most current menu -___-
I cannot remember exactly what is Opera Evolve (and this is only a few hours ago...getting old...arrgh!).
I think it was coffee sponge, coffee buttercream and raspberry sauce in the pipette.
You squeeze the sauce into the cake, so you end up with a raspberry centred opera. It is an evolved opera indeed....more interactive !
Obviously I chose this cake because there is a pipette stabbed into the cake....ehehehhee..

100% Pure Pleasure

It's Belgian chocolate & Guylian praline enriched with coffee sponge and pannacotta.
I didn't get to try this, but from previous visits, I remembered it being quite good.

My colleagues ordered milk hot chocolate, dark hot chocolate and iced chocolate for the drinks.
So by the end they were on chocolate coma LOL
We had these 2 desserts between the 4 of us and we couldn't finish it.

By the time we finished dinner, most of the crowd have left, so no need to squeeze around to take some photos :)

Please excuse the blurry photos, that is as stable as my hands can be on a cold night *_^
Definitely have to go around to see all the light projections again, armed with a tripod.

The Sydney Opera House - as it is usually

Sydney Opera House - 1st Projection Pattern

Sydney Opera House - 2nd Projection Pattern

Then it gets too cold so it's time to go home...

We saw all the light projections and the arc as we drive along Macquarie Street, and then a quick stop by the St.Mary's Cathedral.

St.Mary's Cathedral Light Projection

The projection here is very pretty , just took a quick snap since I have parked illegally on the street :P
I shall be back !!

But not before picking up the free mini torch and Vivid Sydney 2010 guides ^_^
The mini torch is dual powered - by battery or man powered.

Vivid Sydney Mini Torch - Battery Mode

Vivid Sydney Mini Torch - Man Powered 

How do you work it ? Just like you would a stress ball, squeeze release squeeze release.
Will probably end up with a cramped hand by the end of the night...ehehehehe....

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Bacco Wine Bar , Sydney CBD

After a full one hour of emailing back on forth , choosing which new place to try out with my friend, we finally decided on Bacco Wine Bar @ Chifley Square for dinner.

Bacco Wine Bar Pasticceria is located on the ground floor of Chifley Square in the Sydney CBD. It's a pity that their pasticceria is only open on weekdays up to 5pm.
The only time I could go there is when I have my dentist appointment and with fluoride still on my teeth, purchasing some cakes LOL

We arrived at 6.30pm, and there were only a few tables of businessmen & women winding down the day with some wine.
Their wine cellar is all glass and located outside the restaurant, and if I remember correctly, it is right underneath the centre's escalators !

As we walked in, there were some pasta making going on in the open kitchen. All their pasta are handmade and made fresh on the spot.

Open kitchen on the back ; Grapevines chandelier on the wall

We were told to sit anywhere we like, so we chose one of the booth. Although it looks cosy and pretty, it was a bad idea after all...because it is really dark -___-  *dum dum*

Candle lamp ; Wine Menu ; Glass of Wine & Sparkling Water

After our drinks order were taken, we were asked if we are having dinner as well. It appears that people usually just have wine and nibblies here :)
And yes...we are eating and boy....did we eat .....

Fiori di Zucca ; Caprese Bruschetta

I ordered Fiori di Zucca, zucchini flowers filled with Italian mozarella, lightly fried and topped with tomato compote. Okay, not quite topped with the compote, it is served in a small dish on the side.
This is good stuff ! It is not oily at all, the zucchini flowers are sweet and stringy mozarella...mmmmm...
There are 6 flowers served on a bed of greens in the one serving.

My friend on the other hand ordered the Caprese Bruschetta, Italian bocconcini cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil & oregano on wood fired sourdough bread. There are 3 large slices of bread and the toppings are generous. It's a pity that there was only a single leaf of basil and miniscule amount of oregano. It is still lovely though, just need more herbs and it would have been perfect.

To be honest, I was not expecting such a big portion of entrees, and then we start to worry...
If the entree were of this size, what would the main be like ? -__-;

Of course we must try out the pasta after watching the chefs in action earlier.
With the pasta, you have an option to have it as entree or main sized, the difference was only around $5.
As per usual, hunger over ruled commonsense - we both opted for main sized pasta.
Big mistake...

Trofie Pancetta & Pecorino - trofie pasta tossed with guanciale, fresh tomatoes & Italian Pecorino Romano cheese

I was panicking when my plate was set am I going to finish this ?!??!
There is a huge mound of trofie pasta (pasta that has been rolled on flat surface until it rolled around) and I am already quite full from the entree.
The pasta was cooked al dente, the cubed pancetta is crispy, the tomato based sauce is light and refreshing. It was very good indeed...unfortunately I was too full and couldn't finish everything *sorrryyy*

Ravioli di Asparagi - ravioli filled with fresh ricotta & asparagus, tossed in thyme, cherry tomato sauce & Italian Parmesan cheese.

My friends ravioli was delicious as well. The filling is light with chunks of fresh asparagus, and the sauce is thankfully very light and not cream based *phew*
The portion was generous as well (although not as heaped as my trofie !), I think there were about 8 or 9 large rounds of ravioli.

At this can probably rolled us around the floor...we are that full *burp*

But how can you go pass the dessert , Misto di Dolci - selection of 3 desserts of your choice from the pasticceria for $15 !!
Since their pasticceria selection varies on daily basis, they do not have a menu for them.
Instead, the waitress took us on a tour LOL
The pasticceria is located outside the restaurant, near the entrance to the centre, so off we go, skipping behind the waitress  *la la la la*

Bacco Pasticceria Display

"You can choose any 3 from these" said the friendly Italian waitress (btw, everyone in Bacco is Italian, can't go more authentic than that !).
She patiently described each desserts to us while we are still ooh ahh-ing, deciding which 3 to pick.

What to choose ? What to choose ?

After finally choosing our 3 desserts, we skipped back to the restaurant while the waitress stayed back to make our tea and get our desserts.

The much needed peppermint tea to calm our bursting tummy 

So what did we end up choosing ?

Pannacotta ; Zaffelano Anguria

Pannacotta with seasonal fruits, which happens to be raspberries and apricot. The pannacotta was smooth and not too creamy at all. The sweetness is balanced by the sourness of the raspberries >__<
I cannot go pass anything topped with macaron :P
Zaffelano Anguria is a shortbread of orange blossom, with cured watermelon and berries, saffron macaron & rose. I loveee this one ! The shortbread is really good and the orange blossom aroma is quite subtle. The watermelon is cured in lime juice cured in red wine balsamic vinegar (thanks for the correction Ja :D) and it really goes well with the sweet base.

And last but not least...the 3rd dessert....
Formaggio Pomodoro & it's cross-section

Obviously we chose this out of curiosity, walnut sponge with tomato jelly, sweet feta cheese and sugared parmesan tuille ...hmmm..
And the verdict ?
It's really hard to decide whether I like this or not. I don't mind the sweet feta cheese & walnut sponge, the tomato jelly and parmesan tuille I'm not too sure about.
The tomato jelly is like eating tomato juice but gelled, and the sugared parmesan tuille,'s salty yet sweet.
BUT ! If you eat them all together, it actually tasted good. It is a bit out there, but somehow it works ^_^

We left extremely satisfied and walking out slowly and rubbing our tummies.
There was just way too much food ordered for 2 girls LOL

Next time we will be smarter in ordering, get few of the Antipasti & Spuntini and maybe a Primi to share and of course the dessert ^_*
Definetely coming back again, friendly service, nice atmosphere and the food is very reasonably priced and delicious.
A perfect place to relax after work ...why is my office not located in the CBD area ?!?! Darn.....>_<

Bacco Wine Bar Pasticceria on Urbanspoon

Deserted Chifley Square at night

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bangbang Espresso Bar, Surry Hills

Before an afternoon of boots hunting with the girls, we thought we'd had lunch at Bangbang in Surry Hills.
A quick trivia on the owner, Alan Thompson, he is actualy a DJ !! Famous for his work on Ministry of Sounds Housexy and Clubbers Guide compilations.
He has relocated from the UK to Australia and decided to open up this little cafe on Reservoir Street in Surry Hills.

When we decided to go here, I had my mind set on ordering the Wagyu Burger after reading  A Table For Two's review on this place.
Alas...they don't serve the usual lunch menu on weekends T_____T
Bye - bye wagyu burger *sob*

Lucky people who got a table ^_^

It was packed when we got there,  we were given stools to sit on while we waited and our coffee orders were taken.
Thankfully we didn't have to wait too long at all for a table *phew* because our tummies are grumbling *grumble grumble*

I want that water bottle !!   ;  Campos Coffee & Bangbang's Breakfast Menu

There are a couple of interesting dish on the menu, like Welsh Rarebit. I was gonna go for that ( seen it before on British food channels) , but changed my mind since I'm hungry and cannot risk being adventurous and end up not enjoying it :P

Sweet Corn Fritters ; Bangbang Breakfast Stack

I ordered the sweet corn fritters that comes with 2 poached eggs and 2 rashers of crispy pancetta, added a side of haloumi as well. It was supposed to be served with some maple syrup but I think they have forgotten :P
Thankfully there are tomato sauce bottles on the table, so that will do !
The corn fritters are super good and the eggs are poached perfectly, the pancetta adds some fat and saltiness to the dish - perfect ! Although the missing maple syrup would have made it better I think ( like french toast with bacon and maple syrup...mmmmmm ).

My friend's Bangbang Breakfast Stack looked delicious. It's a stack of potato rosti, 2 poached eggs, crispy pancetta, wilted spinach and topped with hollandaise sauce. She also got extra haloumi on the side.

Reflections on the wall ; Cute little red chairs & cool stool ; Kitty mirror at the bottom 

Barista in action ; Bangbang Banana Bread

DJ Alan Thompson himself was manning the cashier when we got up to pay.
And he has kindly allowed me to take a shot of the various loaf of homemade breads on the counter top, thanks :D

The cafe is packed with locals and I hope I'll get a chance to try out their weekday lunch menu one day !
Bangbang Espresso Bar is now open on Sundays as well.

Neighbourhood houses

Walking back to our car, we walked pass a few cool looking houses around the neighbourhood. Sadly, the rubbish bins are ruining the view -____-

After a few hours of failed boots hunting for me, dropped by Simon Johnson's in Pyrmont on the way home.

Was just gonna get a jar of strawberry jam but ended up taking home a box of Mariage Freres's Ceylan Orange Pekoe as well.  I'm such a sucker for pretty packaging :P
I know they are just tea bags, but hey...they are muslin cloths tea bags. How can you say no to that ?!?

Fancy Mariage Freres Ceylan Orange Pekoe tea bags (muslin cloths !)

Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Simon Johnson (Pyrmont)
181 Harris Street
Pyrmont, NSW 2009
Phone : (02) 9552 2522