Thursday, April 28, 2011

G.G. cooks Donna Hay's Beef, Onion and Red Wine Pie

Confession time: I never really used to like Donna Hay. Eeeeeeeeekkk. Don't get mad at me, I can hear you, you crazy fans yelling at the computer screen. Stop please, or I won't be truthful. So... I just didn't get the whole 'I love Donna' craze. I wasn't that sold on her earlier recipe books and I didn't really warm to her when she was on the tv screen. The second really shouldn't matter though, should it?! Unfortunately whether I like someone 'personally' or not (I know, I know, I don't KNOW her personally...) somehow does influence the feelings I have towards buying the cook books. So basically you could sum up my attitude as 'not sold on Donna.'

So here I was going along in life, with not much Donna in it, until one of my friends (who didn't know about my indifference) bought me her Season's cook book as a gift. I am always appreciative of any gift, and I know my friend puts a LOT of thought into her gift giving, so one day I decided to get over myself and have a flick through. I was amazed. The styling of the food is absolutely gorgeous and the recipes are easy to follow and simple but interesting. I became immersed, reading the whole book from cover to back. I don't exactly know what started my unfairly cool attitude to Donna, but her Season's cook book certainly ended it.

Since then, I have decided to branch out and buy a couple of other of Donna's books- I've got 'No time to cook' and 'The instant cook' and am on the look out for others. I know she has a few, so if anyone has any suggestions, they would be much appreciated. I've even started buying Donna Hay Magazine.. Consider me a convert. 

Now that the weather is changing, I decided to look in the Season's book for some Autumn ideas and seeing I had scored some cheap rump ends at the markets, thought a pie was the order of the day. I also noticed a beef and mushroom pie recipe in the latest Donna Hay magazine (April/May) edition so I sort of did a combination of both.

The recipe follows below.

So, tell me readers - Have you ever had an unfair bias against someone?

Notes from G.G. -  
The pie turned out reasonably well, but I think omitting some of the liquid could be a good idea as I think there was just too much in there and I already took out about 1/3 out.

Don't preheat the oven at the beginning, wait until after you have cooked the filling because you don't need the oven to be on for 2 hours whilst slow cooking the meat.

I always leave a little longer than 1 1/2 hours for meat to cook down- 2 - 2 1/2 hours is better!

I put mushrooms in about 1/2 hour before the meat had finished cooking and this worked just fine for me. 

I didn't set my mixture aside to cool completely, naughty me, but it worked just as well and means that you don't need to cook for as long in the oven.

Beef, onion and red wine pie
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1kg beef chuck steak, chopped
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) beef stock
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) of red wine
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of thyme leaves
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 cup (60 ml) water - extra
1 x 200 g sheet store-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed
1 x 375 block store-bought puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add the oil and beef and cook in batches for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, water, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender. Combine the cornflour and extra water, add to the beef mixture and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. Set aside to cool completely.

Line a 22cm pie dish with shortcrust pastry. Spoon the beef mixture into the dish. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until 3-4mm thick. Cut out a 22cm round, place on top of the pie, press the edges of the pastry together and trim. Brush the top of the pie with the egg and make a slit in the top. Bake for 30-4o minutes or until the top is golden. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Palace Chinese - Sydney City

By now, you probably know that I am a little bit of a yum-cha fiend. Luckily for me, my family are all the same and similarly, never like to pass up the opportunity to yum cha either. When I recently was in Sydney visiting my sister, we decided to embark on a little yum cha mission prior to doing a spot of shopping in the CBD. As my sis is a Sydney local, she often hunts around and although Palace Chinese isn't her favourite Yum Cha destination, it is pretty decent fare right in the city, so it is a spot she often visits.

As there were only two of us, we couldn't go too insane, but still helped ourselves to a good selection of dumplings and other offerings. First off the rank were some of Amelia's (my sis) old favourites, steamed pork buns. The buns were really good, lots of saucy and tasty pork packing out the soft and sweet, steamed bun. These didn't taste like the generic pork bun and had a little something special. 

Steamed snow pea and prawn dumpling sounded like an enticing option but ended up being a little bland. The prawns and snow peas were fresh, but not very flavoursome. 

In stark contast, were the beautiful garlic chive and prawn dumplings which were tasty as can be. The oustide skin was soft and almost sticky and the inside was fresh, hot and moreish, so moreish, I could have had another serve all to myself. These were definitely the best dumplings of the day.

Obviously I wouldn't be myself If I didn't order some scallops when they were being offered! These scallop dumplings were quite good. Although halved and not as fat as I'd have liked, they were perfectly steamed resulting in a really tender outcome. Sometimes, scallops become rubbery when steamed, but in this case, it wasn't so! Easy to bite through, it was nice to see a real scallop in the dumpling other than the dried scallop that sometimes appears in these situations.

At this point, the efficient and pleasant service was very apparent. Staff were watchful and very helpful which is often a stark contrast to other Chinese restaurants. Getting more tea or asking about ordering dishes was no problem at all, and everyone was eager to please, even when there was a bit of confusion due to lost in translation moments.

We had almost eaten enough food, but found some space for the BBQ soy chicken. My sister raves and I had to try. Luckily we did!! Silky, tender and beautifully moist, with a flavour packed skin, this was without a doubt the best BBQ soy chicken I have EVER had. Ever. Seriously, this chicken was moist, almost so moist it was wet! The skin had a great depth of flavour and as it was served with the bones removed, it was incredibly easy to eat. I almost wanted to order another serve to take away. If you are trying to entice a vegetarian over to the dark side (like I may have been known to do- Sorry Soph!!), get them to eat this chicken, that's seriously how good it is!!

In short, Palace Chinese is centrally located, has some good dumplings, great service and AMAZINGly good BBQ soy chicken. It's in the perfect spot to fit in a little bit of yum cha before hitting Pitt Street, and well, whenever you are in the city really! There is no bad time for yum cha. Note: Sorry can't remember the prices but the total bill was around $40 which included 15% off for leaving before 12:30 p.m. 

When to go:   Whenever you can! You must try the BBQ soy chicken. You will not regret it.

Tell me readers, how often do you go to Yum Cha?

Shop 38, Level 1 
Piccadilly Tower
133-145 Castlereagh Street
Sydney City NSW 2000
02 9283 6288

Yum Cha:
Monday- Friday 11am - 3pm 
Saturday - Sunday 10:30 am - 3pm

5pm till late
Palace Chinese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pourboy Espresso Brisbane

I don't work in the city. Sometimes this is great, like when all the traffic is going the other way. Other times, not so great. Eating options are severly limited and it means that C gets to check out cool establishments that open in the city often months before I get a chance. I'm a little jel jel of him!! This was the case with Pourboy Espresso. Even though I don't drink coffee, I had heard good things and was really keen to check it out. C has been going there for coffee basically since it opened and has raved about everything- including the hot baked chocolate brioche which sounds amazing. Really, I didn't have that much of an excuse, because unlike a lot of CBD dining places, Pourboy opens on Saturdays and Sundays too. Finally, last weekend, when driving home from the farmer's markets at New Farm, the opportunity arose to stop in and enjoy some brekky. 

Pourboy Espresso officially opened in March with dynamic duo Chef Mark Bell and Barista Sebastian Butler-White at the helm. According to the press release I received a little while back, their focus is 'superior coffee alongside an innovative menu.' C for one believes that their coffee is superior. He makes the trek twice a week, as Wharf Street is a fair way from where he is based, but believes the walk is definitely worth it. Whether it is the Mecca Espresso beans, Synesso machine or Sebastian's technique, C really believes their coffee is some of the best around. Usually a flat white man, on the weekend he decided to try something a little different, a pour over for $4.5.

C liked the pour over but not as much as his usual flat white. He described it as being very smooth and perhaps tasting like a bit more 'teaish' than your usual espresso. Sebastian was really happy to chat to him, make suggestions and explain the processes of pouring over as opposed to the drip method, too bad I wasn't listening or I could have shared it with you! One thing is for certain, Sebastian is really passionate about producing good coffee. I heard him chatting with other customers letting them know that 'as soon as he had the shelves on the walls' he would have the mecca espresso beans for sale for those wanting to try to recreate at home.

C decided to have the Benedict on Brioche with bangalow leg ham, poached eggs and hollandaise (about $16ish from memory). Although the brioche was probably a little 'too much' for my liking (i.e. I don't think brioche goes particularly well with eggs benny), the eggs were perfectly poached and the hollandaise was zesty and fresh. The brioche by itself though, was good, and house made, which is an impressive feat when you see the small kitchen. In fact, they make plenty of baked treats in house and apparently the chocolate brioche is to die for, I'm yet to confirm that claim though.

Fritters always seem to entice me, I don't know why, but I really do love a good fritter for brekky. It was then, a logical choice for the Jamon Serrano on sweet corn blini with poached eggs and slow roast tomato (about $18). Now a blini is not a fritter but it is a pretty similar styled affair. This was a winning combination. The house sliced Jamon was so thin it was silky, the eggs were oozing yolk and the blinis (although a little bland on their own) added a nice base to the dish. The roast tomatos were also beautifully flavoursome and there were cute micro herbs galore just to finish off.

Overcooked poached eggs are a deal breaker for me, so I really get excited when I break through the yolk and find this luscious sight waiting beneath the surface!

I have to say, I was rather impressed by Pourboy. Although it is a simple, little, no frills venue, the food and coffee are done really well. It is nice to see interesting menu options alongside good coffee, with staff that are obviously inspired to educate their customers and provide an all round good eating and drinking experience.  

When to go: For brekky or when they have just baked some fresh brioche.

So readers, tell me, do you work near good eateries?

26 Wharf Street
Brisbane QLD 4000
07 3172 1141
Open Monday - Friday 6am- 4pm
 Saturday -Sunday 7am - 2pm
PourBoy Espresso on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My first Gastronaut's Supper Club

A couple of weekends ago, I was so excited to attend the Gastronaut's Supper Club

"Gastronauts was inspired by Jamie Oliver's visit to a New York supper club in his American Road Trip Show - if it's good enough for New York, it can happen in Brisbane. The general idea is that dinners will be put on at Gastronauts' homes around Brisbane, with the odd special occasion for variety. We'll email out the menu for the next dinner - if you're interested, all you have to do is reply to the email. Diners will then be selected randomly, and you'll be sent the location on the day of the supper club dinner. Gastronauts is an opportunity for foodies to enjoy a fantastic dinner, while at the same time meeting new new people who are equally keen on food." Basically the website sums it up better than I could!

I have been receiving these emails for a while now and have really wanted to go, but unfortunately the date has never suited. When this email popped up, I  was so happy to see a free space in my diary, I RSVP'd immediately. I did have to wait for a couple of days to find out if there was a seat (as they are limited) for C and I, but luckily, my friend and fellow food blogger Food Bling confirmed that we could attend!! So exciting. It's all very mysterious too- we didn't know where the host's house was until the day of the dinner and we knew only the names of the hosts, not other attendees. I was only sure that I knew three people (Food Bling C, and my friend Digella) that would be at the dinner, and although this was a little daunting at first, it was sort of fun too. How exciting: meeting lots of new people (who turned out to be just lovely), and sharing some fabulous food. Our hosts, Kerri and Richard were so welcoming, it almost felt like we were visiting old friends, no awkward silences and just genuinely interesting and fun chatter.

Each person/couple that have attended a couple of supperclub's often then offers to host the next event. So the host is not ridiculously out of pocket, a jar or something similar is passed around at the end of the night for donations which are to cover the cost of ingredients. 
C and I had a fabulous night and are hoping that we can attend the next event (if we manage to snare an invite!!). I'm not going to give too much more about the evening, because you really have to go and discover for yourselves! You know what? If you can't make it to the Gastronaut's Supperclub because of commitments or say, you live in Africa and can't just pop over for a Saturday night dinner, why not start your own club? 

One of my fabulous foodie colleagues Claire, has started her own cooking club where 15 people cook to a theme and bring their dish along to share with friends. Although a little different in concept she has new people wanting to join all the time! If you do decide to start your own club or you already attend something similar- please, let me know!!!

Now I do want to show you some of the AMAZING dishes Richard cooked for the evening. The dishes featured  share plate styled food inspired by the food from Ottolenghi in London.I do not know how Richard managed to coordinate the serving of the food, but he did an amazing job. I do know that he prepped for about 12 hours before we arrived - serious dedication!! Honestly, to get out this amount of food at the same time is an awesome feat- they did have a spacious kitchen and a big oven, but still, pretty sure I'd have serious difficulties pulling this one off! He did most on of this on his own too as he is the main cook in the household, whilst Kerri focussed on charming the guests.

I would be a little bit worried if I had to host a supper club as my apartment is quite small and my kitchen and oven are literally tiny.  I only have one small sink. I think I would have to come up with dishes that could be served at room temperature - I don't even know if that is possible!!

Some olives to start

Most of the dishes had been finished before we arrived, but this amazing looking pork belly was still slow roasting on the BBQ. Richard started it hours earlier and I popped down to have a look. Heavenly.

The dining set-up where the 11 Gastronaut's wined and dined.

A gorgeous pig decoration that Richard and Kerri got from Japan. I did feel a little bad chowing down on his little cousin whilst he was looking!!

Mushrooms with cinnamon and lemon were a delight for the senses- so soft but almost spicy at the same time.

Aubergine wrapped gnocci with sage butter: These were my favourite dish from the evening, the were just delightful and I loved the richness the sage butter added. The aubergine was delightfully silky too (he he he Richard is a pom).

Broccoli with tofu, seasme and coriander: The tofu was tasty and went really well with the broccoli. The vegie dishes were really nice and the two vegetarian diners didn't miss out at all!

Cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt: I think these also had some type of green in there too- forgot to ask. These fritters were absolutely delightful- crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The lime yoghurt was a refreshing touch. These could double as a great brekky if there were any left over (pretty sure there weren't, actually come to think of it, I don't think there was much left over at all!.)

Beef and lamb meatballs served with tahini: I think Richard may have also added chicken in here too and as a result, these meatballs were incredibly moist. The tahini added a nice extra savoury style element to the dish too.

Slow cooked pork belly: Wow wow wow wow wow. The pork belly was AMAZEBALLS. Seriously great. I love pork and this was falling to pieces tender and just the right amount of fatty goodness.

I don't even remember what this red sauce was but it went really nicely with the pork belly.

Green Olive Salsa: This green olive salsa was interesting- big capers and celery were interesting ingredients used. I really liked the freshness of the whole dish - this did accompany the grilled mackerel which I forgot to photograph.
Caramel and macadamia cheesecake: As if the entree and mains weren't enough- Richard whipped out these desserts. The cheesecake was rich but really light aswell and the caramel and macadamia nuts were great too.

Lime meringue pie: The lime meringue pie was tart but the perfect end to a really lovely meal.

Just in case we had any space left over, Richard brought out some cheeses that he had received from the Richmond Hill Larder. I'm thinking of joining as a member despite the whole, I shouldn't eat cheese minor detail thingo. The orange rind cheese STUNK but was seriously creamy. Loved these!

Just a little shot for the crackling.. I did have a couple of pieces... 
All the washing up left at the end of the night- poor Richard and Kerri! I did try and insist on helping wash up but I was sent away without helping- sorry guys!

I'm so happy to have attended my first Gastronaut's Supperclub. I'm even happier to find little movements like this happening around our very own beautiful city. When people say Brisbane is boring, they obviously haven't scratched the surface yet to find groups of passionate people doing such interesting things.  The group that attended the club were really mixed in age, but it was obvious that food was a common denominator. Thank you SO much for the invitation, I had an amazing time and Richard and Kerri were amazing hosts who served really beautiful food. 

Held every couple of months at a secret spot!
Do you know of anything like this going on in Brisbane or your own cities? Let me in on the goss please peeps!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Decent Cuppa - Part 2 - A rant from the Crazy Tea Lady

Today's post is the 2nd part rant from my friend the Crazy Tea Lady. If you missed part 1, check it out here. 

In short, the crazy tea has had enough of being given a second rate cup of tea! I can only concur. Go forth and with your powers for good crazy tea lady- I'm looking forward to going somewhere and ordering a nice pot of black, and being given something other that the Earl Grey and English Breakfast we so despise. No wonder the English are so grumpy, if they are forced to drink English Breakfast of a morning. Just kidding!!  

A Decent Cuppa (Part II)
By the Crazy Tea Lady

GG readers will know that my mission in life is to ensure that tea drinkers of Australia no longer have to remain house-bound for fear of going out in the community and being served up lukewarm, stewed tea.  Imagine the benefits to the Australian economy if we tea drinkers no longer had to indulge our passion behind closed doors, thanks to the inability of the hospitality industry to serve up a decent cuppa.

Last week I had to leave my house to attend a conference on the Gold Coast.  Conferences – the single biggest source of crimes against gastronomy in the known world.  Unfortunately I forgot my emergency pack of drinkable tea bags so I was anticipating the event with dread.  But maybe things wouldn’t be too bad I optimistically surmised.  Since reading Gastronomy Gal surely the global hospitality industry had implemented immediate changes to their tea brewing practices?

Things started off looking promising.  There was some seemingly hot water on the side next to the mass percolated coffee offering (sorry coffee lovers – the campaign against conference coffee will have to wait for another day).  So, hot water and next to it – my second favourite site behind a T2 or Tea Centre display cabinet.  The Twinings of London tea box.  The smooth luxurious wooden box offering the promise of delightful tea treats inside.  Ahhh, the anticipation!  Like opening an unexpected box of expensive chocolates, I peeked inside and did a rapid inventory.  Herbal teas – peppermint, camomile and green tea. Black teas – nothing drinkable.

I’d like to be able to say that I enjoy nothing more than a relaxing cup of camomile tea after my steamed spinach and tofu salad but it would be a lie.  Give me toxins, preferably in the form of caffeine in my black tea.  So why were there no quaffable black teas?  I don’t entirely blame Twinings, makers of my absolute favourite tea bags.  I religiously substitute their “Traditional Afternoon” blend for tea leaves when time is pressing, a delicious combination of African, Assam and Ceylon teas absolutely yummy at any time of the day.  I blame the marketing geniuses who have convinced the world’s hotels that not only are English Breakfast and Earl Grey the most popular tea blends, that they are actually drinkable. 

How this travesty gained such popular acceptance I can’t fathom but the consequences have been far-reaching.  No matter your destination or where you stay, invariably the main selection of black tea is no selection at all.  The bitter tasting English Breakfast, which I refuse to believe actually contains any Kenyan or Assam teas, and the bizarrely orange-flavoured Earl Grey.  Earl Grey is wrong on so many levels and explains why tea-drinking is unpopular in Italy, where the Bergamot oranges used to scent Earl Grey tea are grown.  The Italians are smart enough to realise that oranges may be used for many purposes but scenting black tea should not be one of them.  Apparently Star Trek Enterprise Captain Jean -Luc Picard likes Earl Grey tea but that’s only because he is a fictional character.  As for English Breakfast, suffice to say that a tea that has a fragrance with overtones of honeyed toast should be marketed as for breakfast not with breakfast.

I’m a simple person with simple tastes.  I like a nice uncomplicated black tea.  As a special treat I might indulge in a special blend of Assam, Darjeeling or Ceylon tea mixed with a nice Chinese black tea like Keemun or Dian Hong. But I would rather drink coffee than either English Breakfast or Earl Grey.  For tea lovers these blends are like coffee made for you by someone who never drinks coffee (perish the thought). I imagine these teas are only served because they are chosen by people who don’t drink tea, or perhaps they are the cheapest blends imaginable.

So if these two blends are sufficient to turn a tea aficionado off their drink, what can we do about their pervasive influence?  Apart from carrying your own stock of tea at all times I’ve also started, I admit, to become a bit of a priss in my old age.  Now, when I’m after tea in a restaurant or cafe I don’t wait to be told what teas are on offer, or even read the tea board, I start asking, “So do you have Darjeeling?  What about Ceylon?  Do you have any black teas apart from English Breakfast or Earl Grey?  I would even be happy with Bushells. Actually why not just give me a cup of hot water and I’ll make my tea myself.”  I try to deliver my lecture with a suitably disgruntled expression on my face but I have noticed this having little impact on the underpaid wait staff of Brisbane. 

But to win this battle we need to generate a grassroots campaign against not only the way our tea is served (see Part I) but also the type of tea. In pursuit of a half decent cuppa I’m going to start writing to every establishment indifferent to the needs of the serious tea drinker to demand better service and some drinkable tea. Enough of this black tea blindness, it’s time for the hospitality industry  to open their eyes to the needs of the tea-drinking public.  Watch this space.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Local Taphouse - Darlinghurst

Going to Sydney is always fun, but there is such a large amount to pack into a small time. As I grew up in country NSW, most of my old friends went south to Sydney, whilst I came north to good old Bris Vegas. This means that I have to catch up with my old school friends, my family friends, my family (my sis lives in Syd), and my new friends and attend whatever event it is that brought me to Syd, usually in the space of one weekend. Hectic.

Luckily, recently, I travelled to Sydney two weekends in a row so managed to squeeze in a bit more catching up than usual. Old friends suggested having lunch on a Sunday, which usually suits me just fine. In this case, I was feeling the night before, so probably would have been more fun at dinnertime. Oh the benefit of hindsight.  Anyway, they chose to go The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst which, according to one of my beer aficionado twitter mates, is probably one of the best beer pubs in Australia. Whilst you probably know by now that I have tried to like beer  and just can't, my friends could be the complete opposite. Let's call them beer swillers. They were right at home at the The Local. Unfortunately, I wasn't. I was hungover, tired and not in a positive, 'trying to like things I don't really like' mood. I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I did not drink a beer whilst I was here. Oh shush. I can hear you groaning. I have already been subjected to a barrage of insults from my friends too. But you needn't worry, they tried enough beer for the all of us. 

The reason I wasn't totally annoyed by going to a pub that specialises in beer(ahem, apart from the fact that I am a very tolerant friend!), was because they also have a really good name for their burgers too. Burgers and I are friends, and even better burgers are my ultimate hangover food! We arrived and had to wait outside for a few minutes because the pub only opens at 12 on a Sunday- worth knowing. We were one of the first groups in, but the place started to fill up quickly for people who looked to be lunching and starting their Sunday sessions. The rooftop bar (which I hear is great) was closed due to rain, but we managed to snare a little side room with a tall table and chairs that seated us all. This room is great and I would encourage you to grab a spot in there if you can! The place is quaint and decked out like a local of years gone by, with some really nice modern artsy touches- like floating birdcage lights that stand as a reminder that you are in Darlinghurst. 

According to the beer swillers, their beer range is amazing. They have 20 beers on tap at any one time, and too many bottled beers to count which are both constantly changing. Even their website says 'The menu is no longer available because our menu changes too frequently'. My friends grabbed a couple of pints, which were recommended to them based on a couple of questions the very relaxed and lovely bartender asked them. Little Possum (who you may remember stars as my P.I.E in some previous posts) wasn't totally happy with her outcome, but the others were quite chuffed. It was quite clear that the boys at the bar know their stuff.

Next on the agenda was the food. The main menu wasn't on offer as it was a lunch time, but we were fine to choose from the bar menu which offers 10 inch pizzas, burgers and a few other bar snacks. It was the burgers we were after. Whilst I went with a lemon lime and bitters, the others decided to have the beer that was best matched with their burgers, which were suggested by the bar staff when we ordered. Sorry, didn't write them down, but I'm sure they will be more than happy to help you out if you visit.

I had to have the beef burger, ironically the 3 beer beef burger( I don't know where the third beer comes in?!). Aecht Shlenkerla Rauchbier, gruyere cheese, tomato, rocket w Hofbrau Munich Helles battered onion rings & a parmesan ailoi w rosemary roasted potato wedges for $16.5. Onion rings on a burger? Lemme attem!

C decided that he was in a white meat mood, so went for the chicken burger; thai basil, chilli and lime leaf, rocket, bridge road Chevalier Saison chilli jam & rosemary roasted potato chips w parmesan aioli, also $16.5.

The others ordered the beef and chicken burgers too, and some tapasy time items that they enjoyed but snavelled too quickly for me to photograph. Ok, perhaps I was a little slow.  

Our burgers arrived in very reasonable time, although were served to us by one of the bar stuff who had a little bit of the old attitude going on. Perhaps he had a big 'night before' too. Biting in, I was expecting big things. Onion rings on a burger, plus all the hype should really make for something amazing. Unfortunately my patty was very dry and the onion ring lacked any form of flavour. The aioli was tasty and the rocket fresh, saving the burger from being completely drab. I don't think it was the beer flavour that put me off either because it wasn't a very polarizing taste. It was more the way the burger was cooked. The wedges which also included sweet potato wedges, were good, and very popular among my table mates- they were stolen off my plate before I could blink (what was that I said about being a tolerant friend!?!)

C's burger was better. The patty was moist and the chilli and basil flavours were a nice touch and meant that the chilli jam was quite at home on the burger. Whilst C enjoyed his burger, he wasn't sure it was worthy of the all the hype - our friends were telling us that they had been awarded numerous times with things such as 'best burgers in Sydney' but I couldn't find anything that said exactly which awards they had won. 

After the burgers, we stayed a while whilst my friends sipped on their pints, which they were very pleased with. The atmosphere started to liven up lots and the venue showed off how awesome it is as a spot to come and chill out with friends whilst having a good beer, if that's your kind of thing. Even when it's not my kinda thing, I can see this place has it going on in terms of the beer selection and the atmosphere. The service was snappy and fun (except for captain attitude) and whilst I was a little let down by the food, it was reasonable for a pub feed. 

So tell me readers, do you know anyone who doesn't like beer or am I the odd one out?

When to go: For a Sunday sesh or at night when the rooftop bar is open. There is also another Local Taphouse located at St Kilda if you are down that way and in need of a brew.

The Local Taphouse
122 Flinders Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9360 0088
The Local Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Disappointment when dining

One of the many good things about being a food blogger and being on twitter means that you are pretty likely to be able to find somewhere good to eat. The bad news is, even with all the recommendations, reading and research, it doesn't always work out as planned. 

Lately I've been having a bit of a bad run with restaurants. In fact, in the last month alone, I have been to at least four places that I consider not worthy of blogging. This was all for different reasons, of course,  as there are the distinctly different types of bad. I've listed a couple of them below.

1) Just Plain Bad: I'm not sure how long places like this can exist in a country that is becoming quite food obsessed, but the amount of people dining at these establishments never fails to amaze me. Once word gets around about just how bad they really are, I have faith they will meet their demise. And rightly so. I know I sound cruel, and I know it is somebody's livelihood, but I also know that unacceptable hygiene and dodgy practises should not be allowed. Period. Below is an example of a meal that I partially ate but then stopped myself because it was just too wrong. They are supposed to be tempura vegetables, but instead, were basically the equivalent of a deep fried potato scallop. There was no distinguising flavours. At this place, the service was bad and the atmosphere lacklustre. Those two crimes alone are not enough to make me write off a place completely, but when the food is also bad and I see the staff using dirty equipment and sub standard produce, I will never step foot back into the premises and I will make sure my friends know about it too.

2) Way Overrated: When I travel to a city that is not my own, I usually ask some of my trusted friends for advice. Sometimes they fail me. Damn the hipster friends that go off popular culture recommendations, rather than eating and judging themselves. These type of establishments are usually quite busy and somehow manage to get good reviews but fall desperately short of the mark. A food snob I may be, but I am just not happy eating the below dish, which on the menu was marketed as authentic veal with a light napoli sauce with capers and olives. Aside from the fact that the capers and olives were very notably absent, this was one big cheesy, overcooked mess of a meal. And, might I ask, what is the deal with the bucketload of chips and weird country pub salad on the side? My dining companions basically experienced their own disasters in various forms - fettucine, pizza and salads, so I know it wasn't just my meal that was a total miss. Trendy location, loyal clientele and a good name, but I'm just not sure how. These places often do have good service (as this one did) so can often masquerade themselves as a better restaurant than they actually are, but with food like this on offer, I see no potential and no reason to return. 

3) Having a bad day: Everyone has bad days, and I'm convinced that the meal below is an example of this. From looking at the menu, you can see the restaurant are serious about their food (they don't have to be fine dining, but in this case, it was), have generally good service, a pleasant atmosphere but something is just a little bit off. Perhaps the waiter has just broken up with his girlfriend and is feeling a little surley or the chef might have had a blinder the night before and left what you hoped would be a rare steak on the grill until it was well past medium. Maybe they have run out of almost everything due to an unplanned busy service or something may have gone wrong in the cooking process. Too dry, under seasoned, manky tasting stock, beef cheeks not cooked long enough etc. In these instances when you can tell the place has potential, I'm always sure to go back another time and give them another chance. Fair is fair. Everyone has bad days and I am no exception. I would hate to be judged solely on one meeting especially if I was a little under the weather. If, however, there are problems three times in a row, no matter how good the service, how great the outlook is or how highly my friends rate it on their fave restaurant list, it will take a lot to get me to come back. As they say, three strikes and you are out. 

How do you deal with dining disappointment? I generally don't complain unless something is seriously wrong, but if someone (such as the waitstaff) ask for my feedback, I'm quite honest- unless I know there is no point in being honest. Do restaurants really want to know that you hated every single aspect of your experience? In these instances, I usually vote with my feet and never return. I have never refused to pay- in fact, I have sent a meal back, not eaten more than two bites and then still paid. Perhaps a little bit silly, but for me, I want them to get the message that I am not eating the food because it's really bad.  I don't want them to be able to chalk it down to tight arse diners trying to get a free meal, which believe me, does happen and I have seen some doozy customers in action trying to score a freebie. When dining disappointment strikes, I feel like I want my life back- the hours and the money I spent eating!

So tell me readers, have you had any bad dining experiences lately? What category did they fit into? (I know there are many more catergories of bad, but these are three that I have experienced lately)!!

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