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Eat + Drink | Posse

Devout dining in Sydney’s Thai scene

January 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm

 

Image by Ramen Raff

Image by Ramen Raff

Known for being one of the best in the west, Holy Basil has branched out from the central Asian restaurant hub in Canley Vale and scattered its blessings upon Sydney’s CBD.

Best described as a divine eating experience, you’re immediately immersed into the exoticism of Thai and Laotian culture through the cacophony of intense smells, sights and vivid colours scattered across every table.

The story of the restaurant’s unique food heralding from deep in the southwest is not unknown – local cuisine hitting a high note and making it big in the city. But this fresh new location offers something a little more posh. Mashing together a perfect balance between sophisticated and casual dining are long wooden communal tables, dazzling red ceiling lanterns, and extravagant golden statues.

A mellow aroma of herbs and spices escapes the open kitchen and ties in with the décor, capturing the essence of Asian culture, Buddhist tradition and Thai delicacies. Come opening time at midday, the Liverpool St restaurant is thriving with hungry eaters scouting a convenient location for both sociable catch ups and business lunch meetings.

The menu offers a modern twist on traditional Thai and Laotian dishes ranging from rich creamy curries, to exotic salads. Then there’s the not to be missed marinated seafood and red meats, roasted or fried to perfection. Every dish is bursting with flavour combinations that are sure to not only satisfy but also excite.

Oodles of noodles with this winner - Pad See Ew. Image by Jina Hong

Oodles of noodles with this winner – Pad See Ew. Image by Jina Hong

In true essence of Asian cultures far and wide, sharing dishes with fellow dining companions is the way to go, and is definitely the best way to explore the menu – it’s also an easy way to save yourself from forking out big bucks and purchasing several dishes for your lonesome.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the savoury dishes on offer, it is impossible to over look the intriguing desserts, especially the likes of the outstandingly popular fried vanilla ice cream, encased in a warm and crispy fried pastry sheet, served with coconut muesli, caramel drizzle and topped off with a light dusting of icing sugar. The whole arrangement is a serious killer in taste, texture, and presentation. With those 3 boxes checked, it’s no wonder this mouthful is a foodie fave.

From start to finish, your tastebuds will be on a ride through sugar, spice, and everything nice, so expect nothing short of a glorious stomach-filling meal and a sanctified soul after an experience at this heavenly destination.

Coffee by the horns

January 20, 2015 at 3:19 pm

When passing through dense CBD corridors in Sydney, there’s a limited possibility you could stumble across some coffee action that’s as good as that in Melbourne. There’s the odd coffee shop bustling with caffeine-crazed commuters around the railway corridors, but buried in the northern end of the city is an iconic little place whose main focuses are coffee, coffee and coffee.

Cabrito Coffee Roasters is nestled proudly within the walls of history; the heritage building it’s positioned in teaming with regular activity behind the brick archway and pouring onto the sidewalk. With roaring chitchat from happy customers, owner Kit Cheong and his business partner Michael Cookson have stripped the building down leaving the original wooden flooring, rustic beams and patches of ‘historic paint’.

It’s a business design for success – but the Little Goat (that’s what Cabrito means in Español) would be nothing without the brewing talents of their baristas. Whether your poison is a full-bodied espresso or a rich and creamy cappuccino, they’ll work their magic and deliver every time.

For a spot not out in the open, being hidden away on Bulletin Place has served them well. Those who are in the know are treated as royal regulars and fresh faces are welcomed just as enthusiastically – it’s a comfort knowing their cosy location doesn’t leave them disadvantaged. Cabrito is basically just a Hispanic, goat-filled version of the Little Engine that Could.

With kitschy Keep Cups lining the shelves (in an array of sizes and materials, mind you), you’re well aware that they’re conscious about the planet’s waste. Though we feel it could, maybe, not likely, but possibly have something to do with the fact that if a takeaway cup is made of glass, not paper, any billy goats roaming down Bridge St would leave you the heck alone.

The cheesiest toasties can be found here. Image by Sheena and Thomas Southam

And food, glorious food… Well, there’s no hot sausage and mustard. But you will find some delectable sweet treats and savoury eats. From the famous cheese-loaded (ricotta, mozzarella and jamón) toastie and sandwiches to the rotating selection of contemporary LusciousKiki lamington flavours (think raspberry cocount, pink velvet or salted caramel) and pastries, there’s always something to accompany you on your journey to caffeine heaven.

If you’re having a downer of a day and in need of a pick me up, take action and swing on by. Grabbing the goat by the horns is exactly what you need to keep your spirits up.

Southwest Sydney’s cafe food of Angils.

January 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Bacon & egg brioche with provolone, aioli and smokey BBQ. Source

Bacon & egg brioche with provolone, aioli and smokey BBQ. Image by Katrina Pham

A lot can be said for a man who introduces great coffee to a region of Sydney long untouched by inner-west coffee connoisseurs in favour of something a tad closer to the city’s art-filled laneways and beachside barista hangouts. 

Frank Angilletta – who we believe to be an angel in disguise if his Italian last name isn’t enough – has successfully sculpted a café setup that suits the burgeoning southwest region of Sydney and become a mecca for Liverpool’s coffee-deprived residents.

Having grown up in the area, Angilletta says he “could see there wasn’t anywhere decent in Liverpool to get a cup of coffee.” And that’s how the idea for Ristretto & Co, his cosy Surry Hills-like terrace café that sits proudly next to St. Luke’s Church on Northumberland St, was born. He saw the opportunity, and like an angel, descended upon the narrow block of land with a plan to resurrect the area’s associations as a caffeine-dead-zone with that of abundant life.

Espresso Ristretto

Campos Coffee brewed to any bean-hunter’s top standards, every hot-drip beverage is a knockout. Flat white to foamy cappuccino, every cup is guaranteed to be a winner. And then there’s the rest of the drink menu – creamy hot chocolates, a T2 selection, and fresh orange juice, which we guarantee is 100% fresh – we witnessed a trolley load of the citrus fruit being delivered to the store room upon arrival.

Moving onto edibles, Ristretto is open for brekkie or lunch, but for anyone ready to take on the chef’s Italian cooking skills, lunchtime is where the menu has been weaved together from regions around Italia. There’s paninis and pastas of the day, traditional beef lasagne, pizza e toglio – and a vegetarian’s dream: bruschetta with grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers, Persian feta, rocket and pesto.

The ultimate bread board. Source

The ultimate bread board. Image by Katrina Pham

Despite the generous selection on offer after midday, breakfast is where the star players come out. From the simple, but sublime burnt fig and raisin toast to the extravagant bread boards layered with grilled truss tomatoes, poached eggs and a variety of meats or vegetables, there’s plenty to stress over when ordering. But the top dog is Angilletta’s favourite – “it would have to be our signature dish, the uovo in pomodoro,” which is free-range egg poached with chorizo, spinach & pomodoro sauce in a terracotta pot, served with toasted sourdough. The cost of this saucy monster? Less than $15.

Fig and raisin toast, Ristretto

Fig and raisin toast, with jam and butter.

Perhaps the greatest ensemble of coffee beans, Italian-esque delicacies and kitsch, mismatched furniture we’ve ever come across (you’ll also love the ferns dangling from the awning in the courtyard out back), guardian angel Angilletta has commenced construction on a second venture – and it’s almost finished.

Opening January 27 at 7am for the Monday rush, pop-up The Shed will bring new life to Bigge Park, servicing customers from the mega-sized Liverpool Hospital, TAFE and nearby transport interchange. “It’s a beautiful space on the grass,” Angilletta says. “The building is actually an old changing room that we’re fitting out.”

Opening soon... Source.

Opening soon… Source.

More of a tuckshop than hit Ristretto, the focus will be on easy meals and coffee. “But there’ll be sandwiches, salads and other produce made onsite at Ristretto and delivered daily,” he points out.

Regardless of the downsize to the amazing menu, The Shed will be a welcome addition to Liverpool’s café culture. Sitting on the grass, iced frappe in hand and munching on a grilled panini seems the perfect way to spend a lunch break, or heck – any time of day.

Being situated so close to the station, there’ll be no excuses from any inner-city coffee fiends not to pop by and revel in the new Liverpool that Angel-etta is helping create.

Something special in Canley Vale

January 12, 2015 at 12:27 pm
TK Something Octopus

They may have eight legs, but you’ll need eight stomachs to get through every dish. Source

Canley Vale is essentially the lesser-known, quiet underachieving brother of Asian cuisine behemoth Cabramatta. And he’s currently going through puberty, becoming more and more well rounded as the months go by.

About 1500 metres from the most popular eateries in Canley Heights, another hotspot for Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes, TK Something claims an all-you-can-eat throne. It’s here, for around $30 per person that the best of south-western Sydney is in the spotlight, the restaurant basking in a glow that lasts well past sunset and into the late evening before closing time.

Roaring crowds of local families from backgrounds that encompass much of South East Asia flood the restaurant on the daily. They come for the simplicity offered in a self-serve, buffet-style Korean BBQ restaurant.

Sweet or spicy - you're spoilt for choice with the sauce selection. Source

Sweet or spicy – you’re spoilt for choice with the sauce selection. Source

As an accompaniment to the classic sweet chilli, soy and sriracha, a range of Korean sauces are also perched on the large wooden table tops for those more traditionally inclined. But breaking traditions and blending cultures is what contemporary dining is all about.

Rather than being limited to a few choices of poultry or red meat, TK Something goes all out and offers a wider variety of meats than found on Old MacDonald’s farm. Ranging from pork belly and chicken breast to kangaroo and octopus, they’ve scoured their local supplier for the best picks for us to chow down.

Got s Source

Got beef? Or are you more of a chicken? Source

With the option of choosing as many plates as you want, the only ‘difficulty’ is that TK, like a number of barbeque restaurants, is not pre-cooked. You need to pick up a pair of tongs and rotate your own beef strips or calamari, grilling it to your own preferred standards.

But relax – you won’t go entirely hungry as your meat sears in front of you. Scattered between you and your dining companions are several side dishes to peck at – there’s boiled white rice, iceberg lettuce, cucumber strips and of course, kimchi.

Kimchi or Cucumber? It isn't all about the spice and rice.

Kimchi or Cucumber? It isn’t all about the spice and rice. Source

Once you’ve dunked your dishes in sauces and cleared your plates, make sure there’s room for dessert – it’s the first time the word buffet makes total sense – as you wander towards the small fridge in the centre of the restaurant and make your choice from numerous rotating desserts. Pana cotta, crème brûlée, fresh watermelon and sliced oranges feature upon last visit, each worth trying if you’ve saved enough space.

Ready to take on the blossoming teen of South-West Sydney? We hope so – Canley Vale’s sure to be a stud in the future with joints like TK Something dotted along their main street.

Tiny packs a large, hazelnut punch

December 17, 2014 at 4:02 pm
Bombs away - The Nutella Bomb's a taste explosion. Source

Bombs away – The Nutella Bomb’s a taste explosion. Source

After first visit to Piccolo Me, it’s difficult to determine whether they take their name from a translation of the Italian word for small – their adorable hole-in-the-wall setup and a pint-sized coffee hit both coming to mind – or that of the lesser-known woodwind instrument. 

Much alike the Pied Piper leading a trail of tiny beings behind him, the growing café chain’s specialties seem to wield a similar power, beckoning foodies near and far. Success for them is in the menu; their unique creations not found anywhere else in Sydney.

One key item reappears several times as you scan the menu for the most weather-appropriate sweet treat: Nutella. Deliciously rich and creamy hazelnut goodness whipped together in a family-run factory found in the hilly region of northwest Italy.

Every creature on this planet – I once saw a squirrel nibbling on some from a tossed-aside jar in Germany – is a fan of the good stuff. Its mother company Ferrero would probably win the title of ‘Best chocolate factory of all time’, runners up Lindt, Cadbury and the completely real Willy Wonka all kicking themselves in jealousy.

But down here in Sydney, titles don’t really matter – it’s all about the flavoursome qualities of a product, and this is where Piccolo Me have found a business winner, now operating seven citywide cafés that stretch from their latest shopfront on the CBD’s King St to Bella Vista in Norwest Business Park.

For the caffeine savvy, there’s the Esprookie – a store-baked choc chip and Nutella cookie cup sprinkled with crushed hazelnuts and accompanied by a hot espresso syringe. It’s ideal for those who mightn’t wish to fill their ‘mug’ to the brim.

Chocolate chip + nutella + espresso = happiness a.k.a The Esprookie. Source

Chocolate chip + nutella + espresso = happiness a.k.a The Esprookie. Source

Then there’s the equally delectable Nutella Bomb – a thick block of hazelnut chocolate on a stick plated beside a glass of hot milk, which can be made into a hot chocolate or mocha. Slurp this down with their latest creation, the Crotop (Nutella-stuffed mini croissant bite topped with peanut M&Ms or hazelnuts), which is bound to infuriate the most conservative Frenchman alive.

And for the affogato lovers? They’ve got you covered with two menu regulars – the Nutellagato or The Cookiegato (with that delicious choc chip and Nutella cookie base), both complemented with vanilla ice cream, double ristretto and chocolate flakes.

Is your mouth ready to give a few of these a go? You won’t even have to leave your office – a number of Piccolo Me stores do catering.

And then there’s the most important question for any brides-to-be – have you got your wedding catered yet?

Marlowe’s Way the right way

December 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Beat the rush in this laneway setup. Image supplied.

Beat the rush in this laneway setup. Image supplied.

A soul-filled slice of Sydney CBD takes the form of Marlowe’s Way, writes Ryan Auberson-Walsh.

For a slick little city café with vinyl plastered across the walls and over doorframes, you’d certainly expect a bit of noise to be blasted from the in-house sound system – an old-school record player. But a mini construction zone set up in front of the laneway coffee stop is temporarily hogging a visitor’s first impression.

Walk past the grey concrete and bouncing jackhammers however, and Marlowe’s Way sits, proudly as ever, tucked in the side of a beautifully ageing Bridge St building. As you creep closer to the robust caffeine aroma wafting from the gleaming countertop appliance, the sounds of James Brown or Jimi Hendrix blare soul and rhythm into your eardrums – the cacophony of street sounds and blues slowly morphing into a symphony of urban noise.

Perhaps a reminder of a bygone era when outdoor festivals and record bars peaked in popularity across the world, the friendly décor and quality croissants (among other amazing nibblies) cement this record bar as a colourful addition to Sydney CBD’s eclectic café scene.

Construction ruckus aside, one would be a fool not to swing by, let the barista whip up a stupendously smooth latte and munch on one of the menu’s numerous delectables. From the simple flavours of the avocado toast with lemon and seasoned olive oil to your choice of three breakfast boards (think boiled egg and mayo with prosciutto, salmon or provolone on rye crispbread), brekkie is a treat.

And lunch you ask? The tastiest salads in the city’s north, or a generous selection of heavier treats – but we think that if you’re sitting at a messy office desk and in need of a bite or coffee top up, we advise you to “get up offa that thing” and visit this groovy hole-in-the-wall for yourself.

The Li’l Darlin of Darlinghurst

December 12, 2014 at 10:37 am
Prosciutto that literally makes the mouth water... Source: Li'l Darlin

Prosciutto that literally makes the mouth water… Source: Li’l Darlin

Located in the heart of Darlinghurst, and just a five minute walk from Kings Cross station, Kieran McKinn found Li’l  Darlin to be a welcome change, breaking the monotonous trend of usual joints that he and his mates usually end up in.

After jogging through the rain, I would be forgiven for having to do a double take to find this inconspicuous bar. Shaking my rain sodden hair, I was welcomed with a chorus of chatter as vintage lamps and lanterns bathed a series of stone tables in a golden glow. To my surprise, half of Sydney had braved the weather and the venue was bursting at the seams.

My visit to the cocktail bar was for a friend’s 21st and without wanting to waste the bar tab (as good friends do) we sampled some of the finest cocktails Sydney has to offer. Not only did they taste exceptional, but they were presented in a pleasantly unique manner. Step back into your childhood with the hundreds and thousands cocktail, a refreshing mix of homemade apple and strawberry juice, infused with lemon and vodka (and of course the topping that turns any slice of buttered bread into fairy goodness).

If you’re not too worried about your waistline, my drink of choice for the night was the pomegranate sour, a combination of white rum, apple juice, lemon and lime, with a crusty exterior coated in vanilla sugar.  After walking into Li’l Darlin, positively anti-rum, my taste buds were easily overwhelmed and were constantly thirsty for a follow-up jar.

Little Darlin_002

Pamper yourself with the fairy floss cocktail. Source: Li’l Darlin

The variety of food at Li’l Darlin compliments the extensive range of cocktails on offer. Whilst the kitchen provides pastries, pizzas, salads and sides, the tapas made for the perfect snack. The Bocconcini cheese platter filled with chargrilled vegetables and an assortment of dips were a huge hit and didn’t last long at our table. Whilst I didn’t get a chance to give the pizzas a crack, it appears the chefs really know their stuff.

For those with a sweeter tooth, give the desserts a shot, especially the vanilla & orange panna cotta with berries & mint compote. If you don’t want anything too heavy, then nibble on a li’l dried fruit, nuts, water biscuits and a selection of imported cheese (a perfect light meal for two).

How's the serenity - there's plenty of room to move around at Li'l Darlin

The open space bar facilitates for both food enthusiasts and those looking to sample a range of cocktails. Source Lil’ Darlin

The best part is that a night out at Li’l  Darlin isn’t going to hit your back pocket too hard. Offering all the luxuries of a quintessential bar, the cocktails are reasonably priced at around $17 each. The smaller sides and tapas are the best option and you can get away with bread, olive oil and balsamic for $5 or share a platter with friends for a bargain $28.

Li’l Darlin is ideal for those wanting to head out for a few quiet drinks with friends, date night or as I found out, a great opener for a hen’s or buck’s party. Open from 4pm till late, make sure you pencil it in for your next post-work drinks. I’ll see you there with a pomegranate rum in hand!


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