I had made big plans for myself to get up super-duper early each day when I was in Sydney so that I could stroll over to my new favourite restaurant Bills for breakfast before heading to the Uni for my conference. Those big plans were all fine and dandy until I had a succession of late nights. I think the Boy’s keen passion for a good night’s sleep and his persistent cry of complaint to turn the lights out each night actually has a great influence on me. Just don’t tell him I admitted that. If you take his sleeping demands away and leave me to my own devices I seemingly want to have the best of both worlds. I want to be a night owl AND a morning person. This is a hard act to follow and before long something had to give.
I fell asleep to dreams of Bills’ eggs only to feel like I woke up five minutes later. That night I had finally decided to pull the curtains closed for the first time in three nights and the hotel room was cloaked in pitch black. I guessed it to be around 3 to 4 o’clock in the morning and gazed lazily over at the clock. To my horror it wasn’t 3am or even 5am. It was 7.15am and I was supposed to leave at 7.00. I needed a good 45 minutes to shower and get dressed so a deviation via Surry Hills was not an option.
Begrudgingly I dragged myself out of bed, into the shower and out the door as quickly as I could and Urbanspooned while I walked. I found a suggestion called Clipper Café that had great ratings and was very conveniently located directly on my route from the hotel to the Uni. I was greeted by an effervescent American waitress who proudly told me I could have nearly anything off the menu gluten-free. I ordered my usual short Mac while I perused the small menu which contained traditional staples with a few slight twists. The coffee is Clipper’s own blend roasted at Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville. I really enjoyed this cup; it was much sweeter than my coffee at Bills with a lovely creamy aftertaste.
I ordered poached eggs on gluten-free bread with prosciutto, tomato and Pecorino. My order came out in great time as I was definitely on a tight schedule due to my little lie-in. The salty crisp grilled Pecorino totally overpowered the prosciutto flavour and I was left wishing that I had read the menu more carefully before ordering. To make matter more disappointing my poached eggs were slightly overdone leaving only a small amount of gooey egg yolk to goomp everything together. The gluten-free bread tasted like standard shop bought bread and was nothing special.
Overall I enjoyed my breakfast but it simply did not compare to my repeat experiences at Bills. The coffee however was very good. Oh, and by the way just a little heads up if you go there – they are cash only so bring your wallet.
Check out my other Sydney posts hereClipper Café 16 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 2037 | 0411 800 063 Price: $ ($7-12 Breakfast) Food: 2.5/5 (slightly overcooked eggs, crumbly GF bread) Service: 4/5 (quirky, fun and quick) Ambience: 3.5/5 (country café feel) Drinks: 4.5.5 (scrumptious coffee) Total: 14.5/20
It was our first night in Bali and our refreshing welcome drink served at our villa was a much needed treat. It had taken us no less than an hour and a half to travel a mere twelve kilometres through bumper to bumper traffic from the airport to Seminyak. Once we had checked into our villa and discovered the free minibar wasn’t very well stocked, we decided to head out into the town in search of something to eat and drink. I had been given a long list of eating venues from friends back home so I started at the top of the list and chose Ku De Ta.
I tried to not to compare my first impressions of Bali with our recent times in Thailand but this was a difficult task to do. Having been to a few locations on a couple of trips to Thailand, there is definitely something about the people and their country that makes me smile. I guess that is why they call it the “Land of Smiles”! Bali just didn’t give me that same overwhelming feeling of happiness but at this early stage of the trip I hadn’t recognised this fully nor even now do I completely understand why.
Ku De Ta is an impressive venue day or night and I regret not going back there during the day to get a better look at their beach club in the sunlight. The venue is spacious with several different areas to either relax for drinks or sit down for something a bit more formal. The bar opens directly out onto the beach with sun beds and parasols all set up for those who want to enjoy a sun downer. The crowd was predominately Australian and had an air of pretention about it, which I think was the first distinct difference to equivalent venues in Thailand. I started to feel like I may as well have come to a beach club in my own country. In contrast to the patrons, the service was very welcoming and they were more than happy to take my eating card back to the kitchen to determine what I could have off their menu. The waiter returned with two entrée options and four main dish options that would be possible.
As you may know, I love my oysters. More specifically, I like trying new types of oysters that we haven’t tried before. Sydney Rock Oysters are a particular favourite of mine – they are smaller and have a more intense and distinct flavour than Pacific Oysters and they take apparently take 2-3 times longer to reach maturity. Ku De Ta offered two types of oyster but unfortunately they were not Sydney Rock. One type was from Eagle Rock and the other was from Otter Cove and both are Pacific oysters grown in Washington’s Puget Sound in the US. We ordered half a dozen of each type. The Eagle Rock were delicately flavoured, sweet and very creamy. The Otter Cove oysters were also quite sweet but were a little brinier than the Eagle Rock. Both were very fresh and left me with that lingering salty aftertaste of the sea.
My entrée of tuna and lobster tartare was visually very appealing and almost looked too pretty to eat. It was served on paper thin slices of cucumber placed crisscrossed against each other to make a decorative pattern on my plate. There was just enough wasabi to give the dish a kick making every mouthful a burst of freshness and the dressing had just a hint of sweetness ending the orchestra of flavours perfectly.
The Boy had crispy soft-shelled crab salad which was served with pork belly. He let me have a little taste of the pork belly and it was cooked perfectly with a succulent layer of meat covered with a very crunchy and crispy layer of crackling. The soft-shelled crab was battered so I didn’t get to try any but according to him it was again cooked to perfection although it wasn’t very meaty. He said the salad was an explosion of flavour with the sweet Borneo honey, tangy citrusy pomelo, cucumber and salty cashews.
My main dish was similarly mind blowing. The cod was the texture of butter and fell apart under my fork purely melting in mouth. It was marinated in a shiso dressing which has a similar taste to basil but much more subtle. The salad contained mushrooms which you may know are pretty much my favourite vegetable of all time and this was also dressed with the syrupy shiso.
The Boy ordered the grilled seafood a la plancha. It was served on a bed of fregola (small ball shaped pasta resembling Israeli couscous) and a soffrito sauce (basically tomato, onion and garlic). His fish was not as delicate and buttery as mine as they used barramundi which is a slightly more firm fish. The remainder of his seafood was juicy and tender particularly the scallops.
Pleasantly impressed with the quality of the food and the service, we both were too full for dessert and decided to get the bill before returning to our villa. To our complete surprise the bill came to nearly $300 Australian dollars! In Bali! The Boy was in shock! When you consider the local’s average income this meal was extremely overpriced from what it was. It was however the best one we had in our whole time in Bali and I will return next time I’m in Seminyak.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!Ku De Ta Jalan Laksmana, 9, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | +62 361 736969 | www.kudeta.net Price: $$$$ (142K-220K Rp/ $15-23 AUD entrée, 300K-370K Rp / $32-40 AUD mains) Food: 4.5/5 (wonderful layers of flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (accommodating and friendly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (gorgeous setting but lots of pretentious Australian tourists) Drinks: 4.5/5 (cocktails were delicio!) Total: 17/20
I love the constant pulse of Sydney’s heartbeat. You can feel it as soon as you arrive. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way complaining about the laid back lifestyle and beautiful sunny days we get to enjoy in Perth but Sydney is most definitely a city that feels like she is alive. I could happily see myself living here if it wasn’t for all our strong ties back in the Wild West. We both have our careers which we love and also as a direct result of living in London, the Boy has a complete dislike for residing in big cities. He needs space around him to grow all his delicious fresh produce, loves open spaces and craves peace and quiet. I’m easy either way as long as we are both happy, like I said, Perth is a beautiful and relaxing place to live and despite my yearning for bright lights and the big smoke I still love Perth with a passion.
Not keen on subjecting myself to an overpriced and tasteless hotel breakfast, I consulted my fellow Foodspotters’ from Sydney for advice on local gluten free breakfast options. I was advised to avoid the CBD area directly surrounding my hotel and take a short stroll over to Surry Hills where I was given a range of venues. One of those venues was Bills which I have since learnt seems to be an essential item on most foodies bucket lists when coming to Sydney. I am quite familiar with Bill Granger’s story, he is a self-taught chef who has now gone on to become something of a global phenomenon owning restaurants around the world, he has published best-selling cookbooks and has had his own TV shows on BBC.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of being able to walk everywhere here. Not an easily accomplished task back in my home town. As I strolled past the colourful costume shops on Oxford St which were stocked all ready for the Mardi Gras, I stopped to peer into a couple of windows to see an abundance of multi-coloured fairy wings, feather boas and a variety of tightly clad male mannequins.
Upon arriving to Bills I was greeted in a very warm and friendly manner and was supplied with my short Mac before I could even think about how much I needed it! I noticed around me a number of regulars were on a first name basis with the wait staff. Return customers are a sure sign you are doing something right.
Bills uses their own organic coffee from Single Origin Roaster. My short Mac was served at the perfect temperature and had my preferred balance of slight bitterness with a creamy aftertaste. I must confess though I still prefer my Nespresso Arpeggio. I had their famous scrambled eggs on gluten free toast with a serve of button mushrooms and cumin roasted tomatoes. I apologise for the poor photos due to an unintentional misty effect on my lens, it was a little rainy on the walk there and the lens fogged up! For those more talented photographers out there any recommendations for remedying this?
The gluten free bread was of a very high standard. Some of you may be familiar with the problems that result from the omission of gluten in bread. It can often be crumbly and dry and can taste more like a savory cake than bread. Alternatively on the other side of the extreme, it can be hideously stodgy and heavy like a rock. This bread was crisply toasted on the outside with a soft and fluffy bread texture in the centre. There was no bitter or gluggy aftertaste. Positively one of the best gluten free breads I’ve eaten in a long time. The only downside was the butter served with the bread was very hard and impossible to spread.
I was happy to overlook the hard butter because piled upon my plate was fold upon fold of light fluffy scrambled eggs. They almost tasted aerated! The button mushrooms were meaty and firm, with generous lashing of EVOO and fresh thyme. The cumin roast tomatoes had caramelised into intense sweet deliciousness.
I enjoyed my breakfast so much I decided to get up half an hour earlier for the next two mornings so I could work my way through their menu prior to my return to Perth. The next morning I decided to step out of my predictable choice of anything eggie and ordered the cured ocean trout with fresh curd on gluten free with fresh avocado and tomato. Fortunately my camera was back in action this time to capture the brilliant colours that were arranged on my plate. Once again the toast wowed me and I savoured the enjoyment of trying to get a small amount of each ingredient with every mouthful. The trout was delicately soft and the tangy curd lightened the whole dish. As opposed to yesterday I didn’t feel overly full this time round which was an added bonus as Sydney Uni (where the Conference was held) was another good 40 minutes’ walk from Bills!
My final breakfast at Bills came a day late due to a minor accidental sleep on the following day. It’s surprising how just a three hour time difference can throw your sleeping rhythm quite out of whack! I’ve been remaining bright eyed and bushy tailed until far too late each evening. In order to have enough time to walk to Bills, have breakfast and then walk to Sydney Uni I need to get up by 6am – very difficult when you’re wide awake until all hours!
For my final breakfast I chose the soft boiled eggs with “toy solder” bread, fresh tomato and aged cheddar. This was my favourite and made me so chuffed I made the effort to return one more time. The thinly sliced strips of scrumptious gluten free toast were cut to the perfect size to dip into the gooey eggs and I was definitely in seventh heaven. I’m really looking forward to my next excuse to visit Sydney for a number of reasons and breakfast at Bills is one of them!
Check out my other Sydney posts hereBills 359 Crown Street, Surry Hills 2010 | (02) 9360 4762 | bills.com.au Price: $$ ($12-18.50 breakfast, $10.50-23 lunch)
Food: 4.5/5 (awesome GF toast, fresh produce)
Service: 4.5/5 (very efficient with a bit of funky)
Ambience: 4/5 (buzzing brilliant breakfast vibe)
Drinks: 4/5 (good eco-friendly coffee) Total: 17/20
For those who follow Urbanspoon you may be familiar with the “wish list” feature on everyone’s profiles. This is a handy way to earmark interesting restaurants for later reference. Whenever I have the freedom to book a dinner outing wherever, I try to whittle away at this ever lengthening list of mine.
The Boy and I had just started our holidays and I needed a Bestie time instalment before the two of us headed off to Bali for the week. After seeing some delicious pictures of my sister’s meal at Nine Fine Foods, I was reminded that this restaurant has been on my wish list for quite some time. Previous attempts to eat there had been thwarted by a variety of reasons, but this time it looked like we were good to go with an available booking.
I was so delighted with the prospect of eating some interesting Japanese fare but as I eagerly told my Bestie where I had booked us for dinner, I was met with a distinctly grim and nearly nauseous expression on her face. She had recently visited an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant and the very thought of another slice of raw salmon was enough to turn her similar shade to our nephew on the way to Rottnest.
As I was yet to see her new residence in Perth, she suggested we enjoy some drinks at her house and then go to a local restaurant at a winery called Conti’s. Feeling a little guilty that our catch ups seem to always end up back at my house and not hers, we agreed this sounded like a good plan. On arrival to put us all in the mood, we drank some delicious Bombay Sapphire Gin accompanied by sparkling fruit juice and fresh lime. So refreshing and uplifting!
For a bit of a history lesson on Conti’s humble beginnings; Sicilian immigrant Carmelo Conti moved to Australia in the 1920’s where he grew veggies for the local market for just over a decade until he decided to diversify and planted vines in 1948. The Conti family have been making wines ever since and it has remained a family owned business which impressively is now entering its third generation of wine making.
The restaurant is housed in the original homestead built in 1927 where the family raised their eight children. The house is beautifully restored maintaining the stunning wide jarrah floorboards and high ornate ceilings that are typical of this era. I simply love old character homes, our own home was built in 1928 and shares many similar features.
The menu described itself as “a deliciously wholesome menu, commonly referred to as international French style combined with traditional Australian cuisine”. We all puzzled over this fact. Here we have a Sicilian family that are cooking French food with a traditional Australian twist? How does one cook such cuisine? My mind wandered with visions of steaming hot bouillabaisse, sumptuous foie gras, comical frogs leg’s and other French delights only to become perplexed how such distinct flavours could ever combine successfully with meat pies and lamingtons!
My Bestie and I are big lovers of oysters. One of our favourite ways to commence shopping expeditions together is to head into the City and make a beeline for the Oyster Bar in David Jones. Once we are fuelled with a few glasses of champagne and a dozen oysters we are both in the perfect frame of mind to shop. So on this evening, we were quick to decide that ordering a dozen to share was a must. Unfortunately, Conti’s oysters were definitely not freshly shucked nor were they actually fresh at all; in fact they tasted nearly off leaving an unpleasant aftertaste lingering on the palate.
Believe it or not. Under this bizarre mound of salmon pictured above lies a mushroom. You may just be able to see the dark earthy rim around the edge. Topped with a criss-cross made with Brie the visual presentation of this dish started to drag me back to the eighties. Despite the meal being a bit of an eye sore, it was actually fairly tasty in a hearty home cooking kind of way!
The Boy opted for garlic prawns. A simple dish that is easy to do well. In his rush to gobble them up he burnt his tongue. Doubtful he will learn a lesson, he is definitely the fastest eater I have ever met. He enjoyed his entree although he did feel the amount of onion was excessive. This is not one for the fructose malabsorbers!
The Bestie ordered the crumbed camembert. I didn’t get to try this as the crumb was not gluten free. I noticed each of us had the same styled side serves of salad that were similarly eighties themed.
I had never heard of a carpet bag steak until Bestie’s man Timmy started to describe it to me over NYE celebrations at the Greenhouse. Apparently it is an American dish that was very popular in Australia and NZ in the 70’s. Ah haa! The presentation of the meals is starting to make sense. This is where the traditional Australian comes into it all!
The other three all ordered this insane dish. It was met with mixed responses. The Boy initially said it was disgusting but on further questioning he said it was purely just the cooked slippery oysters that were embedded in the steak that he found gross. The rest of the dish was quite flavoursome. Unfortunately, the key component of the carpet bag steak is in fact the oysters, so I’m figuring overall this was a thumbs down. To be fair, the Boy hasn’t been the greatest advocate of oysters since an accidental ingestion of one that subsequently gave him food poisoning.
I ordered my venison rare. I struggle to eat beef or venison beyond rare as the meat loses its soft texture and delicateness. It was served medium rare and some of the medallions were heading towards medium and were fairly chewy. The meat was drowned in sauce which managed to inject some much needed moisture back into the neglected meat.
My meringue dessert comprised of an exploding volcano of strawberries tumbling out of a dry and stale meringue tartlet that tasted shop bought. Curiously balanced on top of this fruit eruption balanced a nearly phallic shaped cylinder of more meringue. Next to this a mint leaf was speared into the centre of a squirt of presumably canned cream. I was thankful that everyone was sharing their desserts as my choice was not enjoyable.
Timmy ordered the hazelnut gelato, once again there were some oddly positioned pieces of fruit decorating his plate, nearly resembling the elegant female form. The gelati was hard and icy, and tasted like it had spent a little too long in the freezer prior to serving.
The Bestie has the Brandy snap basket which I completely forgot to photograph as we had worked our way through a fair amount of Paul Conti’s crisp Unwooded Chardonnay. I did manage to sneak a couple of mouthfuls from her and it gave me definite dessert envy!
Overall for the price Conti’s desperately needs some shazam injected back into the kitchen. Their food appears tired and old fashioned, and some of the ingredients used were not fresh. Having the history behind them of being a self-sufficient farming family who grew everything for themselves, they even made their own cheese and milk; they should get back to their roots and carry this core value into their restaurant today?Conti’s Restaurant
529 Wanneroo Road, Woodvale 6026 | (08) 9409 1516 | www.paulcontiwines.com.au Price: $$$$ ($18-22 entrée, $31-38 Mains)
Food: 2.5/5 (need to update presentation and use fresh ingredients)
Service: 3/5 (pleasant and efficient)
Ambience: 3/5 (beautiful old homestead)
Drinks: 4/5 (definitely worth a try, maybe skip the food) Total: 12.5/20
In January every year, the Boy’s family organise a joint holiday for all of us somewhere north of Perth. It is a big endeavour to get all eight of us able to coincide this time together so in order to simplify things for everyone they decided to change the tradition and take us over to Rottnest Island for a day trip instead. Rottnest Island is located about 18 kilometres off the coast of Perth and is only about 11 km long and 4 ½ km wide. Despite being a popular tourist destination since the early 1900s, the island itself is not overly developed having just a modest number of fairly basic beach shacks and villas, a YHA backpacker’s hostel and a camping ground. There is also some accommodation at the only pub on the island which now called Hotel Rottnest (it used to be called the “Quokka Arms Hotel”).
One of the most popular ways to get to the island is via one of two ferry companies. We travelled with Rottnest fast ferries. Ticket prices for day trippers are $82 for an adult, $43 for a child or you can purchase a family pass for $210. The ferry that we boarded was slightly old and run down. With Perth currently being in the thick of a heat wave; the ferry’s air conditioners struggled to cope leaving a stale almost mouldy smell in the cabin. Not pleasant.
Our journey over was pretty rough going which I am told can be quite a common occurrence. If you are one of those unfortunates who are prone to getting seasick, I strongly recommend dosing yourself prior to departure with some travel sickness tablets. Thankfully neither the boy nor I suffer from this but it was a completely different story for the poor children. Shortly after embarking from Hillarys, I noticed each child gradually turning from white to green and becoming unusually quiet. It wasn’t long before our niece admitted defeat and was headfirst in a sick bag, tears streaming down her pale face. Our nephew tried his hardest to tough it out at first, repeatedly saying to us that he felt absolutely fine and stubbornly refusing to take a bag. The Boy loves to stir the pot at any opportunity so he started to show our nephew photos on his phone of delicious greasy hamburgers and barbequed pig’s intestines! This didn’t go down very well and before long he was grabbing for a bag and joining his sister. Already surrounded by the thick stale air, the smell quickly diffused throughout the cabin and even I started to feel a little nauseous! I certainly didn’t need a bag though.
On arrival to the island the Boy’s parents wanted to catch the bus around the island in order to see the sights. On such a glorious day, the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck on a bus with a bunch of tourists, so I suggested to the Boy that we hire some bikes and explore on our own. Rottnest Island Bike Hire is the largest facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with over 1,300 bikes available. They provide helmets, locks and each bike has a luggage rack for you to store your beach towel or other belongings. Hire prices are very reasonable; we paid $27 each for the full day (plus a refundable $25 bond per bike).
The boy and I used to do a lot of outdoor exercise together in years gone by. We once walked 34 km on a round trip from our chalet in Margaret River to Clairault Winery in order to enjoy their five course degustation. However over recent years, my keen running obsession combined with his devotion to strength training with weights has meant our exercise regimes have drifted apart. Treadling around the island with him was so much fun that I might consider diversifying my exercise a little so we can enjoy our endorphin highs together.
After working up a bit of a sweat coursing up and down the hills, we stopped off at The Basin for a well-earned dip in the cool ocean. The water was so refreshingly good that after drying myself off in the glorious sunshine, I felt rejuvenated and ready for more exploring. The boy had a different idea and I have to admit it took minimal persuasion for him to convince me to join him at the pub while we waited for his parents to return with the kids form their bus ride.
The Hotel Rottnest is located at Thompson Bay in the main settlement area on the island. The historic building dates all the way back to the late 1800’s where it was originally the Governor’s residence. In 2007 the building underwent a major restoration which took over two years to complete. It has a spacious outdoor dining area facing directly onto the beach and its presence injects a bit of a much needed modernisation to the otherwise out-dated architecture on the island.
The hotel was well prepared to cater for gluten-free customers with a ready prepared list of suitable items from their menu. The boy and I chose to share the grazing plate, a bucket of Exmouth prawns and some chips. The grazing plate wasn’t the best value nor did it’s ingredients show any flair or talent of the kitchen. The prosciutto was delicately flavoured with the perfect balance of slightly salty and fragrant sweetness. The bresaola was not as good quality, it was sliced a little too thickly making it a bit chewy in texture and must have been sliced a considerable time before serving as it had dried out and gone a little hard.
The menu mentioned the tasting plate featuring a third meat, some lombo (meaning pork) however this wasn’t on the platter and was replaced by three dolmades. We were not advised of this at any point by the staff. The dolmades tasted like they were from a can. The fetta and olives weren’t really anything special either. The platter also had some fresh Fremantle sardine fillets topped with gremolata. Thankfully I came prepared with some gluten-free crackers, and topped with the sardines they were a treat.
The Bucket of Prawns contained about a dozen juicy and fresh prawns. We felt they were quite overpriced at $42 considering most of the bucket contained ice. This is when compared to other touristy places in Australia such as On The Inlet in the beautiful Port Douglas marina where they cost less than half the price at $18.
Overall our experience was relaxing and pleasant however there is a lot of room for improvement with the food and the prices. Being the only pub on the island has allowed them to overinflate their prices because customers don’t really have anywhere else to go!Hotel Rottnest 1 Bedford Avenue, Rottnest 6161 | (08) 9292 5011 | hotelrottnest.com.au Price: $$$$ ($25-42 entrée, $26-42 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (boring and overpriced) Service: 3/5 (didn’t inform us of menu alterations) Ambience: 3.5/5 (great scenery and relaxing vibe on the terrace on the beach) Drinks: 2.5/5 (again overpriced, limited wine selection, at least they had fresh limes this time!) Total: 11.5/20