Bird Cow Fish

At the moment the weekends are mostly mine, trips to the markets, cafes and restaurants to visit, countryside to see….I have alot of catching up to do.

Wandering through Surry Hills on a Sunday lunchtime it’s really pretty quite. I found myself at the busy doors of Bird Cow Fish. A place I recognised, thanks to my friendly local newsagent in London who ordered Gourmet Traveller for me (and text me when it came in!)

Bird Cow Fish has a very relaxed bistro feel with dark timber tables, lighter timber floors, food art and French posters adorning the walls. Their food philosophy centres around seasonal and sustainable produce.

Not having a booking they found me a table just near the door but I managed to spot a couple leave and the staff kindly swapped my table. I had already decided to have fish for my main. The waiter suggested I order a side or an entree if I was hungry as the dish was not very substantial. Yes I was hungry, but as usual famished for a feast but quickly filled to bursting.

In the spirit of making summer last as long as possible I went with the waiters suggestion of a dry crisp 2008 Even Keel riesling from Clare Valley ($12). Don’t worry you do get more in your glass, I just had a few sips before I thought about getting the camera out.

I had my eye on the gnocchi with prawn meat sauteed in burnt butter, verjuice, capers and sage ($19.50). The waiter agreed as he tells me it was one of their signature dishes that chef, Alex Herbert, had demonstrated on Masterchef. Sounded good to me.

It was the best gnocchi I have ever had. I started to make hmm noises, in my mind I was rolling my eyes too, I hope no one saw. Alex adds a little parmesan to her gnocchi which adds a slight salty cheese flavour. I haven’t had much experience with verjuice, it’s not widely used in the UK. I knew there was something in the mix, not just olive oil but I couldn’t pick it until I read the menu again. It added a lovely light citrus acidity to the dish.

Palmers Island Mulloway Fillet with carpaccio of zucchini, olive tapenade and skordhalia filled fried zucchini flowers ($35.50). Was actually quite a sizable serving with two fillets upon which to work my way through. The crispy skinned fish was full of juice, and look at those zucchini flowers, the batter is so fine you can see the flower through it. If I was really picky a little acidity in the dish, maybe in the zucchini carpaccio, would have made it perfect for me.

Dessert special was roasted figs with vanilla bean ice cream honeycomb and caramelised walnuts ($15.50). Just looking at the picture you can imagine how good this was.There was still steam coming off the figs and as the vanilla ice cream melted into the caramel sauce, the chewy honeycomb sat sweet with crunch. I was still savouring my second mouthful when they brought over my macchiato ($3). Just looking at it I had a little laugh to myself happy in dessert and good coffee land. Fabulous food, lovely friendly, accommodating staff. I left happy. I’ll be back for sure.

Yes two days later in fact. Looking for a nice relaxing lunch I headed back. The weekend informalities had been replaced with crisp white linen and folded napkins. I opted for the lunch special of salmon fishcakes, watercress and frisée salad with hass avocado and a tartare sauce ($18.50). Not overloaded with potato and a touch of dill, the fishcakes were satisfying with a chunky tartare sauce.

A glass of dry Crawford River rosé ($11) on the side and some old issues of Gourmet Traveller magazine, made for a midweek lunch for one. And yes, I’ll be back….

Unfortunately Bird Cow Fish closed it’s doors in February 2012.


Rozelle Markets and Le Grande Bouffe

There are often things in your mind that you remember differently to what is actually reality. I’m not sure if that is what happened when on a return trip to Rozelle markets or I have just been spoilt.Every Saturday and Sunday the markets are held on the ground of Rozelle Primary School. It has been about 15 years since I was last there so I guess my mind played tricks on me although their website does claim they are Sydney’s favourite second hand market. Really!? Surely not. 

There are alot of second hand clothes, brick-a-brac and plants. If you have a really good look you may find a few odd things but I doubt it will appease the yearning for a good market find. There was one little stand at the back of the school grounds enclosed in it’s own white marque which stood out form the surrounding brick-a-brac. The stallholder had gone to alot of trouble to present her goods in a more appealing way. It did work and I was drawn into her marque away for the impending rain. 

Although, if you want quality vintage pieces I suggest you save your pennies and head further up the road to quintessential duckeggBLUE.

I had already planned to head to for lunch after reading about it on Katie’s blog but unfortunately it was closed. Saturday lunch in Rozelle closed?? Apparently only open 5-930pm daily. Anyway I headed to the nearby Le Grande Bouffe which was busy busy busy. I arrived about 130pm to be told there would be a 45min wait for a table. I was hungry but after pounding the pavement all day I was not prepared to walk back into Balmain to find lunch. The “old man’s pub” on the corner provided a quick drink while I waited.

The lightest entree on the menu was a salad of smoked trout, radish, lettuce, and trout roe in a horseradish cream. It was a pleasant first course, crispy crunchy lettuce, very light horseradish and popping trout roe.

Fish of the day was bonito served with carrot puree, potatoes and a red wine jus. I love crispy fish skin, although the fish itself was over cooked. Combined with the sweet carrot and flavoursome jus it managed bring moisture to the dish. The raw tomato cubes lifted the freshness of the dish. If only the fish wasn’t over cooked I would have loved it.

Dessert, sour cherry clafoutis with vanilla ice cream was the highlight. Even the outer edges of what some may say are over cooked, were a flavour filled texture crunch. The vanilla ice cream was very sweet but balanced with the sour cherries a great match. Thin but fluffy, I wanted another.

It was a good way to end a meal and I was well looked after by the staff who continued to smile during the lunchtime rush. When I’m back in Rozelle I will ring ahead for a table at Le Grande Bouffe. The area was obviously in need of a neighbourhood restaurant of this caliber and has welcomed a bit of french flair amongst the overload of Asian and Italian restaurants which line Darling St.

Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh and their no photo policy

I have read a few blog posts now where people warn against taking photos, or at least asking politely, at certain restaurants and cafes. Even though my blog is still in it’s youth I have been avidly taking photos of food for many years. Lunch at Cafe Sopra was the first time I have been asked not to take photos and to be honest I was a bit stunned.
It seems to me that if you use your common sense about when it is appropriate or not to get your camera out you shouldn’t get into too much trouble. I didn’t take photos at the Waterside Inn or Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley as I didn’t feel it was an appropriate atmosphere for photos but my camera was going crazy at The Fat Duck.  I am discrete, I don’t use a flash and only take a tiny point and shoot to restaurants.

I thought I had used my common sense at Sopra. It’s a very relaxed place, in fact it sits above the Fratelli Fresh warehouse in Danks Street, Waterloo. Fratelli Fresh stocks fresh food and produce for commercial use by restaurants. They also open their doors to the public to purchase the same stock as the restaurants, such as Iggy’s bread, smoked trout, olive oil, herbs, imported pasta and cheese etc etc.

I managed to briefly snap two pictures before being politely asked not to take photos. Unfortunately they were before the food arrived, so no food shots. 

It was another steamy day in Sydney, the place was very busy and I sat at the bar very close to the till. They have some new wines from Italy on their menu and a ’08 Paolo Sordo from Roero Arneise, Piemonte ($9.50 a glass) was recommended to me as a crisp dry wine. Loved it so much I had a second.

Sitting so close to the till I heard one of the waitresses come past mentioning to the other that she had to tell someone else not to take photos. So curious to know why, I asked. The waitress said the owner doesn’t want any of his team photographed in a compromising position and that the concept is his original idea and he doesnt want anyone to copy it.

Interesting, yes the produce warehouse/cafe is a great idea but hardly ground breaking and it’s open for anyone to walk into, you don’t need a camera to copy ideas. I don’t get it. I think there is more to the story than just stealing concepts.

All being said, the staff were very polite and happy even though it was hot and they were woking hard. I could sit then and enjoy my meal thinking it was a bit crazy but knowing I wasn’t the only one told ‘no photos’ today and I wont be the last.

The smoked trout fishcake with soft boiled egg and a herb and caper mayonnaise ($20) came out looking like it might not fill me, with one fishcake on the plate but it was huge and the potato mix inside the crispy fried 2 inch thick fishcake definitely did the trick.

My eyes being larger than my tummy decided that I must try some dessert too. Orange cake with almond sorbetto. Baked in a flan tin with thinly sliced orange decorating the top with the almond sorbetto melting into it. It was great but I could only manage half, yes too full.

If you want to see a post of someone who managed to get some photos here is the link to one by Grab Your Fork

Greenhouse by Joost

Now this is what I expect from Australia. A restaurant with eco, sustainable, renewable, reusable and waste free in mind. Greenhouse by Joost has been seen in Melbourne, and as a permanent feature in Perth and now it’s Sydney’s turn. It’s creator, Joost Bakker, is a guy with alot of energy.

The floor is made from tiny pieces Joost cut from mining conveyor belts which were potential landfill. Chairs are welded together from old pipes and leather off cuts from a saddle maker in Ballarat. The produce is sourced from local ethically conscious suppliers. Butter, cheese and yogurt are made on site from scratch and oats are rolled fresh. Herbs are grown on the rooftop and fresh strawberries on the side of the building.

To top it all off the place has the best spot in town, camped between Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in Campbells Cove the view is nothing but stunning. Greenhouse by Joost is only a pop-up, a fleeting experience open until the end of March after which Joost is packing up to recreate the installation for the International Furniture Fair held early April in Milan .

We arrived early, 1130, and were promptly served a lemonade full of zesty flavour and background sugar. We were hoping lunch would be served from 1200 and we were happy to wait and enjoy the view. Lunch service was a little slow as the waiter recited the short menu to each table and others who ordered after us were receiving their food.

Ok it was their first week open and they were still finding their feet. I really wanted to love the place. How could you not with the waste free ideals they strive for.

Both my sister and I wanted the beef salad but I decided to have something different. It ended up being a case of…oh I wish I had yours, so much. The wagu beef ($27) was tasty and the vietnamese style salad full of spice, sweet and sour.

My red mullet, currently the most sustainable fish in Australia according to Joost, with heirloom tomatoes ($25), was juicy and rich. Although after tasting the mouth awakening wagu beef salad it was hard to compete.

It was a bit difficult to get specific details from the waiter but the wines served are natural wines, mostly from South Australian. I had a well balanced sangiovese rosé ($9), perfect for the balmy Sydney day. The prices for our food are from memory peering over the counter as our bill was tallied. There are no paper menus.

Saying all that please don’t get the impression that I don’t love the place, I do. You don’t go for menu/service perfection but the experience. Maybe I’m not explaining myself well, the food is good the view is to die for, the concept is inspiring…what’s not to like. Would I go back, definitely but I had better be quick.

Bills – Woollahra

Lucky me! I had in my hands a voucher to eat at bills. Bill Grangers third Sydney cafe in the upmarket suburb of Woollahra. It was for quite a bit so my brother, sister and brother-in-law became lucky too. You can’t book a table at bills on the weekends so we just had to take our chances on the Saturday lunch rush. They looked really busy when I arrived but they soon found me a table while I waited for my siblings to arrive.

Coffee at bills is good. He has a custom made blend just for his restaurants from Single Origin Coffee. My brother has updated me on the Sydney coffee scene and he seems to think Single Origin is on top. oh yeah, and that’s my little sister in the pic.

Wagu beef burger with zucchini pickles and herbed fries. The burgers are served well cooked, which didn’t impress my brother who likes his meat not far off mooing. I like the salad on the side so that you can choose what you do or don’t like in your burger. The tomato sauce was freshly made too, no heinz bottles here.

I ordered the grilled halloumi open sandwich with cucumber, parsley, mint and tapenade bread. The freshest herbs I’ve ever had in a salad. Love halloumi, love tapenade, it was a good choice.

Prawn, chilli  linguini with rocket and lemon. Looks very homely doesn’t it. I think that’s the thing about Bills, it’s a cafe that serves good food but it’s the kind of stuff you could quite easily make at home with little sweat.

Bills at Woollahra does have a lovely outdoor courtyard with huge umbrellas, so rain or shine, it is a pleasure to sit in. I guess it’s the kind of place you could meet with friends and you’d be pretty certain that there would be something on the menu to please everyone.

Famous ricotta hotcakes with banana, honeycomb butter and maple syrup. There is definitely a reason why these are famous. The aroma of freshly cooked vanilla pancakes with pockets of warm ricotta are comforting. Now these are worth making a stop for. A weekend breakfast when you don’t feel like cooking…..absolutely worth the trip. And just so you know, this is a smaller dessert size portion.

I have had Bills brown sugar pavlova before, in London. I went to the dinner Bill held at Hix Selfridges sometime ago but never got around to writing it up. The pavlova was divine and my favourite dish of the night, so I had no hesitation but to order it this time.

My sister ordered the same. As you can see she got quite a few more raspberries than I did. Sadly it didn’t taste anything like I remembered, in fact it didn’t enjoy it at all. I thought the blueberries tasted a bit sour.

At the end of our meal when our waitress asked how everything was I told her about my sad pavlova. Without hesitation or even a thought of prompting she took both off our bill. Impressed, that’s all I can say. Lovely staff who work to ensure customer satisfaction will always leave me with a good impression. Bill, you should be proud.

Lunch at Danks Street Depot

So it’s been a long time since I’ve been a ‘local’ in Sydney. In fact I still don’t feel like one yet. I still need my brothers Sat Nav to get around, I have no idea where to get my haircut and haven’t really had a restaurant meal here in 10 years. I do however know where to go to get a good lunch. Of course I started my research early in that department.

Danks Street Depot was not open when I lived in Sydney but I was curious after seeing their cookbook on a browse through Selfridges one Saturday afternoon. It looked gooood, really good. Opening in 2002, chef Jared Ingersoll was serving up food I wanted to eat in a relaxed open cafe style of place.

I love it when you sit in a cafe and it’s the standard to serve you a carafe of tap water. It makes me feel welcome and also reminds me to drink water. I need constant prompting.

This week in Sydney has been hot, actually really hot, tipping the 45°C in some areas. I’ve been struggling to eat more than salad. So what did I have today, salad. Pickled beetroot, roasted walnuts, ruby pink grapefruit, Valencia orange, goats milk feta and baby shoots, served with sourdough from Brasserie Bread Co.

I could be a beetroot ambassador, I love the stuff. There must have been at least 2 decent sized beetroots here, all the flavours worked well. Nice and fresh, I would have liked a few more walnuts but I’m not complaining. I’m not turning into a health freak yet either…I did sip my way through 2 glasses of Kladis Estate Verdelho (yes I enjoyed it) and I had dessert.

Vanilla pannacotta and red wine poached pears. I have been disappointed with over set pannacotta before but not this time. I plunged my spoon in and it gently gave way. I started to eat it smiling like I wanted to savour every mouth full although I couldn’t help but scoop up big creamy mounds, making it end all too soon.

The pear however was a little on the hard side which made it difficult to enjoy next to that pannacotta. I didn’t care though I just had maybe the best pannacotta to ever pass my lips.

Thanks for the welcome home Danks Street Depot..x