We used the metro a lot in Seoul, and part of the fun is peeking at all the shops inside each station. I can’t quite remember which station we discovered Manoffin at, they do seem to be at a range of metro stops throughout the city. While we were there they had a special range of muffins out for Halloween, which were incredibly eye-catching and creative – there were muffins topped with spider webs, bloodshot eyes, creepy faces and fanged monsters. Obviously I had to have one. I decided to try the ‘blue monster’, which was probably the cutest out of the selection with half an oreo biscuit poking out as its mouth. The muffin itself was a plain vanilla flavour, and it was soft and fluffy, as muffins should be. The icing was a nice thickness, and the monster’s eyes were made of sweet white chocolate buttons. I also went back to try one of their regular muffins, maple flavoured, which was rich and luscious, served with whipped cream and a disk of white chocolate on top. A good value sweet snack when travelling in Seoul, and fun way to celebrate Halloween!
Manoffin, various locations throughout Seoul http://www.manoffin.co.kr/
Canberra is becoming seriously hipster, and if anywhere is the epicentre of this, it’s Braddon. If the epicentre has an epicentre, it has to be Bent Spoke Brewing Co., Canberra’s very own microbrewery. Yes. That’s right. We’re so cool now we don’t need any of that nonsense out of a bottle. On arrival, my friends an I were shown Bent Spoke’s impressive tap, with space for 18 brews. They only had six when we went, but we were promised that more will come. Given it was our first visit, the bartender happily talked us through the different beers on offer, giving us sample glasses of those we were interested in before we ordered. I was lured by Adam’s cider, although the Dick Tracey (described as the closest thing to a golden ale available) was a close second. After making our choices, we ordered a serve of chips, and were excited to hear that the deep frier had just been cleaned, and it showed when the chips came with smoky sauce – they were perfectly soft inside and crispy outside. The decor reflects the bicycle theme, with wheels and spokes along the wall and even as lights – totally hipster.
Bent Spoke Brewing Co., 38 Mort Street Braddon, ACT http://www.bentspokebrewing.com.au/
I was reluctant to eat to Golden Boy. Botanic Bar was one of my favourite places to have cheap pizza and good sangria, and I have many fond memories of hanging out in the right-wing of the bar. When I heard it had been converted into, of all things, a Thai restaurant, my soul died a bit inside. But on my last trip to Adelaide, my friends had already planned dinner there and it was the easiest way to see them all at once. So I relented. Reluctantly, I entered the once-hallowed corridor, to discover that it had been covered in quite a nice palm-leaf wallpaper. So far so good. I was greeted warmly by staff, and shown into the renovated space, which has hand-written scrawl artistically scattered on the walls (somehow it works). We went for the Tuk Tuk banquet, and they just brought courses and courses of fresh, spicy and delicious Thai food. Particular highlights were the satay skewers with the best peanut sauce I’ve ever had, hulled-out cucumber shells full of some kind of melt-in-your-mouth beef and a papaya salad. Only disappointment was the elderflower cocktail, which was watery and tasted like detergent. So I’m pretty much a convert. Anywhere else in town upgrading?
Golden Boy, 309 North Terrace, Adelaide http://goldenboyrestaurant.com/#
Another new Canberra breakfast place – I can’t quite keep up! We went to Eighty Twenty (which is named for the balance of healthy foods vs treats you’re meant to have in your diet… oops!) for a pre-work breakfast. Despite being new on the block, the cafe was buzzing by the time our food came out. Two of us couldn’t go past the sweet potato rosti, with pesto, poached egg and cherry tomatoes (which I wouldn’t recommend sticking your fork into… Lesson learned). It turned out to be a good choice – the rosti is soft (clearly not fried) and the pesto tastes fresh and very basily. The egg was perfectly poached and the portion size was just right for breakfast. I also had the ‘Glow Pro’ smoothie (rejoice, dairy-free smoothies are a thing here!) with raspberry, blueberry, acai and coconut flesh. It was light, refreshing and a great match for the meal. As the weather warms up the outdoor seating is definitely going to be popular. I’ll be back to try the dukkah spiced eggs and possibly the lunch menu… And some more smoothies.
Eighty Twenty, 18 Lonsdale St Braddon, ACT, no website
Ok, so technically I haven’t been to Lux Bite. But a friend accepted my challenge to bring back a sweet from Melbourne that you can’t get in Canberra – this was the result. A quick google reveals that this cake was actually featured on Masterchef too, so must be tough to make! Called the ‘Lolly Bag Cake’, this little slice is full of layers of childhood flavour. The strongest is without a doubt the green layer (spearmint leaf buttercream), but upon deconstruction the other flavours get their moment – redskin, banana and musk. The highlight for me was the layer of freckles (who doesn’t love chocolate freckles?), which gave some crunch, and the ‘banana Joconde’ (sponge). Whilst all the flavours don’t exactly complement each other if you take a mouthful of them all, they don’t exactly clash either, leaving a slightly confused but largely minty taste in your mouth. I found I enjoyed the individual flavours much more after pulling it apart. Now the pressue is on to bring my friend something good back from Adelaide in return. Thoughts?
Lux Bite, 38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra VIC http://www.luxbite.com.au
This story begins with a Living Social voucher, and a group of colleagues who love all you can eat hot pot. Hint: it ends with happy tummies. We headed out to Belco after work to try Up to You Restaurant, and were encouraged by the steam on the windows as a sign that it was warm inside. We’d booked ahead, and were seated at a long table with individual hot pot burners. We were asked for our broth choice (I opted for pork bone, although I later heard that the laksa was a winner), and then moved to the ingredient table to collect things to cook in said broth. Options included tofu, noodles, mushrooms, sweet potato and assorted greens, as well as about six sauces. When we sat back down, the broths came out along with plates of raw meat and seafood to cook – the beef, lamb and pork was paper-thin, so cooked quickly, whereas the seafood was frozen and took much longer. My favourites were the shiitake mushrooms, which were so flavoursome dunked in peanut sauce (mmm), and the beef, also smothered in sauce. Unlimited hot pot? Definitely a happy ending.
Up to You Restaurant, 114 Emu Bank, Belconnen, no website
After enjoying the views from the bar, we moved down a floor to the restaurant, where we had been told the ‘tasting menu’ (degustation) was well worth the price tag. Mikla is known for modern Turkish with an emphasis on local produce, and it showed – not only were the ingredients fresh and flavoursome, but all of the matching wines were local too. We had seven courses, with highlights including the crispy sardines adhered to olive oil bread, the salted and dried beef tenderloin, and the caramelised rice pudding with sour apple sorbet for dessert. Each course had its own distinct flavours, and we felt that the progression from entrees to main to cheese to dessert was well paced over our three hours there. In between courses we oggled the spectacular views as Istanbul put on weekend fireworks and the haunting call to prayer echoed through the city. The staff spoke excellent English and were very accommodating – they happily wrote out a list of all the wines we’d had so I could remember them. I would definitely recommend Mikla as a memorable, modern Istanbul food experience with views to die for.
Mikla, Cafe Marmara Pera, Meşrutiyet Cd No:1, 34430 Beyoğlu, Turkey http://www.miklarestaurant.com/en
When one of my friends suggested going to a burger place for lunch in Cairns, I was a bit hesitant – why eat a burger when there’s such good Japanese and Korean food in town? But he insisted this was no ordinary burger place, and so I found myself at re:hab. The first thing that strikes you is that re:hab could fit in quite easily on Lonsdale St – it’s got chalkboard walls with art on them, wooden floor boards with shipping brands imprinted on them, and an ecclectic mix of chairs and tables. We went for the leather armchairs, and I decided to order the tropical burger (being in Queensland and all). The burger was massive, a thick, well-cooked patty topped with tomato, lettuce, aioli and pineapple on a soft and slightly floured bun. Yum-o. It came with re:hab potatos on the side, a bit heavy in the warmth but very tasty. Finally, as if re:hab hadn’t ticked enough boxes, there was a plate of cronuts sitting on the counter, calling out my name (ok, not really calling, more like whispering). Such a great find, a definitely not your average burger place.
Re:hab, 46 Lake Street, Cairns QLD, no website
Sometimes picking just one thing from the menu is really tricky, and this was definitely the case at The Merchant, which has recently opened on the Kingston foreshore. I was sorely tempted by the chicken liver parfait, the braised lamb papardelle and the lamb skewer, but after much procrastinating – mostly spent admiring the pretty tiles on the back wall – I went for the skewer, because there’s nothing like big chunks of lamb at lunchtime! I was struck by the huge portion size when the plate came out and delighted to see a wedge of lemon to drizzle over the lamb; surely ‘lamb & lemon’ are the ‘apple & cinnamon’ of the savoury world. The salad was tasty and substantial, with large pieces of fetta and pitted olives (hooray!). The lamb was a bit variable – perfectly cooked and soft on the outside, but a bit undercooked and chewy inside each piece. There also could have been a bit more yoghurt for dipping. I was, however, very impressed with the iced tea, which was lovely and sweet, and had fresh orange and lemon juice in it. Mmm. Yes they’re still finding their feet, but The Merchant has a lot of promise.
The Merchant, 3/2 Trevillian Quay, Kingston ACT http://www.themerchant.com.au (under development)
Getting up for breakfast in a Canberra winter is hard. You know it’s sub-zero outside, you know your car is going to be a touch colder than that and you know you won’t be able to feel your fingers by the time you arrive at your breakfast venue. But in this case, totally worth it. Local Press is on the Kingston foreshore, and actually colder than other places, being so close to the water. But the cafe is so light and airy and, the staff so welcoming that you don’t notice the frostbite setting in. The breakfast menu has some exciting points of difference and I couldn’t resist trying the ‘smoothie bowl’ – muesli served with a strawberry smoothie instead of milk or yoghurt – genius! The muesli had whole macadamias and the most beautiful crispy toasted bits, and the smoothie had a strong berry flavour. I ordered the kale, spinach, mint, celery and apple juice (yep, I was feeling adventurous!) and it was lovely – well balanced, with apple and mint being the dominant flavours. Bonus – the waiter told me I could keep the jar it came in (which I now use as a flower vase)! Worth braving the cold for.
Local Press, 128 Trevellian Quay, Kingston ACT http://www.localpresscafe.com.au/