Passionflower is responsible for a running joke I have with a friend of mine. They had a pineapple cake icecream last year which sounded like pretty much the best thing ever – we play the ‘PCIC’ (pineapple cake icecream card) when discovering something amazing. I even have an actual laminated card. Anyway, I was pretty disappointed that the flavour to end all flavours wasn’t on offer when I went back to Passionflower, but another unusual flavour caught my eye – wild lime sorbet. Not quite as catchy, but when I tried a sample I was sold. The sorbet has a sour flavour that is incredibly refreshing and tasted very Australian in the way that lemon myrtle does – there was something native about the flavour that was obvious from the first mouthful (I have since learned that there are native Australian wild limes). The flavour remained strong throughout and whilst not particularly sweet, it was a really lovely dessert. In fact, the sorbet had tiny segments of juice-filled pulp inside, which added texture and intense flavour. This is without a doubt one of the best sorbet flavours I’ve ever tried, – worthy of playing a PCIC, even.
Passionflower, Shop 2, 168 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC http://www.passionflower.com.au/Home
Sometimes you just need a burger. After a matinee at the Opera House, I found myself craving some beef, and remembered the diner-style addition to The Morrison that is Parlour Burger. Having eaten there in a hurry once on a work trip, I decided to pop in without the time pressure to satisfy my craving. Parlour Burger has a simple concept – five different burgers, $10 each – and has something for everyone’s tastes. I picked ‘The Original Morrison’, a beef burger with chipotle mayonnaise and decided not to have a side, despite being sorely tempted by the deep-fried pickles and the duck fat chips. You can choose to have your patty pink or cooked through – the menu recommends the pink option, so that’s what I went with. The burger came out quickly and was hot and fresh – the patty is a bit coarse, so you feel like you’re sinking your teeth into some serious meat. There’s lettuce, tomato and pickles on top, and the chipotle mayonnaise has a good amount of bite to it. Parlour delivers exactly what it promises – a cheap, filling, tasty feed served without fuss.
Parlour Burger, 225 George Street Sydney, NSW http://www.themorrison.com.au
I’m not very adventurous when it comes to Vietnamese food, and when I saw the menu at Bistro Nguyen’s, I was overwhelmed by the choice. Whilst my friends had been there before, I hadn’t, so I chose the rare beef pho and young coconut juice as a safe pick. The juice came out in a huge glass with pieces of coconut flesh floating inside – it was sweet and coconutty and I would happily order it again. We sat outside near the sidewalk and chatted while we waited for our meals. Mine came out last and I had to ask for the accompanying bean sprouts, basil and chilli. The broth was quite pale and the beef flavour was weaker than I was expecting (especially compared to the one at My’s), but at lunchtime that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was pleased that it wasn’t an overly salty broth, but I did feel a bit bloated afterwards. Unfortunately the beef wasn’t rare but it went well dipped in the Hoisin and Sriracha sauces, and the noodles were lovely and soft. Next time I’ll be more adventurous menu-wise – Bistro Nguyen’s is a lovely lunch spot I’ll come back to.
Bistro Nguyen’s, Melbourne Building, 1/80 Alinga Street, Civic ACT http://www.bistronguyens.com.au
My friend and I visited Supernormal for a Friday night dinner and waited for about 45 mins for a table – while we waited we devoured the Supernormal Smash cocktail with gin, tonic and seasonal syrup – it was a perfectly balanced cocktail with the right amount of sweet and bitter. We were told that the dishes are best to share, so started with the sesame cucumber (2 pieces included), which had a lovely pickled flavour and came served on a stick, followed by the raw bar tuna dish. As our lobster rolls arrived we asked the kitchen to slow the service down, as the plates were piling up. The roll was a highlight, with tender strips of lobster meat and a sweet brioche bun. My overall favourite, though, was the duck bao – cooked in Peking duck-style, the meat was cooked to perfection with a thin crispy shell, and served with hot, soft bao. So, so good. We finished off with the miso and pink lady soft serve, which had a fascinating flavour combination that just worked. We added the snack petipas given at the start of the meal on top to make it even better. Five hours later, we left full, happy and wishing we had a second stomach for more!
Supernormal, 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC http://www.supernormal.net.au
Melbourne no longer has a monopoly on laneway culture. There, I said it. Canberra is now able to hold its own on funky, out-of-the-way dining options, if you know where to look. Loading Zone is an open-air laneway cafe, and so isn’t really comfortable to eat at much of the year, given how cold Canberra gets, without seriously rugging up. But even then, when you’re served a steaming hot pan of baked eggs, the cold doesn’t seem so bad. My friends and I popped in to Loading Zone for a pre-flight breakfast on a weekday, and with the stenciled artwork on the walls, changing seasonal menu and low stools to sit on, the vibe is very Melbournesque. I was excited to see an unusual mix of fresh juices on offer – blood orange or mandarin! I picked the mandarin, and was delighted by the tangy freshness of the juice. Being a chilly morning, I ordered the baked eggs, which came out of the kitchen piping hot with crusty toast. The tomato sauce was beautifully spicy and complemented the rich, creamy beans. On a chilly Canberra morning this hit the spot perfectly!
Loading Zone, Odgers Lane, Civic ACT, no website
There is definitely a trend of using liquid nitrogen to make icecream/sorbet, probably because it has such a cool visual effect! I’m not even going to pretend to understand the science behind it, but suffice to say, it’s pretty awesome to watch. Having tried it for the first time in Sydney, I was pretty excited to find Nitrogenie making liquid nitrogen icecream in Brisbane. We went in on a warm evening and I was delighted to see that they had a fruity flavour – mango. Perfect for a tropical night. I ordered a small cup, which when it was ready was disappointingly small, but which turned out to be just the right amount after dinner. The mango flavour was incredibly intense – it really did taste like eating a mango (but colder)! There were even little stringy bits in it, just like a mango. My friend had the salted caramel and from the small mouthful I tried it was superb, although more on the salty side. We took our icecreams down to the river to soak up the night lights and warmth – quite an excellent Brisbane experience.
Nitrogenie, Cnr Ernest St & Stanley St South Bank, QLD http://nitrogenie.com/
After reading a couple of fellow blogger reviews, I was excited to try the bone broth at Elemental. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but being a noodle soup/broth nut, I figured this beverage would be perfect for me. Sadly, on arrival, it was the first thing we were told wasn’t available from the menu. Cue sad face. Instead, I ordered an earl grey tea and the brisket sub, with sweet potato, shaved fennel and lemon aioli. The tea was loose leaf and a bit more fragrant than I like my earl grey, but you could remove the infuser to stop overbrewing. My dish was served on a giant stoneware plate, the fennel and beef piled high atop a roasted half-sweet potato with a rocket and tomato salad on the side. The naked burger and the quesedilla my friends ordered looked a bit dwarfed on the large plates, but they assured me both were filling and delicious. Whilst the brisket wasn’t as tender as others I’ve had, there was a lot of it, and a mouthful with all of the elements (beef, aioli, sweet potato and fennel) was perfection. I guess I’ll just have to come back to try the bone broth!
Elemental, Ori building, 30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT elementalcafe.wix.com/elementalcafe
After exploring the historic Bukchon village, we happened across this hole-in-the-wall place that offered traditional Korean dumplings and noodle dishes. The menu had English names for the food and we were sold. We took our seats in the tiny dine-in part, having watched the ladies serving up huge dumplings from a take-away window outside. We started with a couple of pork and kimchi steamed dumplings – they were incredible, with soft skins and packed full of spicy filling, this was pretty much heaven. I then had the cold noodles, which turned out to be an equally delicious choice. Looking much like soba and served in an ice bath, the noodles were peppered with sesame and topped with pork, cucumber, half an egg and an incredibly spicy red sauce. That was when I discovered the pickles. There was a jar of self-serve yellow pickles on the counter and I must have eaten half of them, a) because they tasted so good and b) because that sauce was hot! The noodles were silky and stuck together, but the contrast between the temperature cool of the noodles and the spicy heat of the sauce was fascinating. Highly recommended for fast, quality local fare.
Bukchon Son Mandu, various locations, Seoul http://www.mandoo.so/
On the way back from the South Coast of NSW, my friends and I decide to stop in at the Braidwood Bakery for a snack to keep us going as we drove back to Canberra. There really is nothing like a good country bakery, and the one in Braidwood carries on this fine tradition of offering reliable, classic bakery food. We stopped in mid-afternoon, so decided to treat ourselves to something sweet. I ordered the small apple pie, which wasn’t actually that small! The pastry was incredible – thick, well baked and sweetened by the dusting of icing sugar on the top, biting into the crumbly pastry was a real treat. There was a good amount of apple inside, and there was plenty of sweet syrup coating it. I always like more fruit, so this pie was a little bit too heavy on the pastry side for my ideal pie, but the flavours were classic and didn’t disappoint. We ate leisurely, taking advantage of the nice weather and the outdoor seating – for a local bakery, it’s actually quite a large store with plenty of seating inside, and outside at the back. Worth a stop for tasty, reliable classics.
Braidwood Bakery, 99 Wallace Street, Braidwood NSW http://trappersbakery.com.au/?post_type=restaurant&p=3630
I met a friend visiting from Sydney for breakfast at The Cupping Room for the first time in a long time – I love eating there at breakfast time when the sunlight is streaming in! Our waitress was very friendly and happily directed me to the fresh juices to start – I chose the strawberry, apple, basil, and lime – when it arrived it looked like summer in a glass, and tasted just as refreshing. There was probably a bit too much ice for my liking, but the flavours were well-balanced and worked really well together. I chose the Heirloom Tomatoes for a lighter breakfast, and my it looked incredible on arrival – shiny, fresh tomatoes on a bed of quinoa, corn, craisins (cranberries crossed with raisins), fetta, and pepitas. The serving was large but everything was quite light and I was full but not bloated by the end. There was a great mix of textures and the craisins added lovely sweet highlights, while the pepitas had the crunch factor. The tomatoes weren’t particularly tasty themselves, but in combination with the other ingredients, including the raw onion (beware those going straight to work afterwards), they contributed to a fresh, light, dish that I would happily order again.
P.S. congratulations to Sasa Sestic for his victory in the World Barista Championships!
The Cupping Room, 1/13 University Ave, Canberra ACT http://www.thecuppingroom.com.au/