31 May 2012

Manchester Press: Coffee, CBD Melbourne (26 May 2012)

8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000

Laneway coffee oasis

A friends recommendation brings me to Manchester Press to try their coffee while in Melbourne for the agIdeas conference. My Cappuccino ($3.50) was impressively good. Being a non-coffee drinker I find it smooth, flavoursome and well-rounded on the palate with hardly any hint of bitterness which allows me to happily drink it without the addition of sugar. Having hidden gems located down dodgy looking laneways seems to be normal for Melbourne. If you didn't know better there's no way you'd find yourself walking past it. I love the see-through menus using old school labels and the use of old stamps and buttons in jars to decorate the toilet area — Melbourne does rustic quirky resourcefulness so well. Staff seemed friendly and helpful and I'm sure the majority of the customers were locals in the know. I'm not sure what the food is like but it seems to offer a good selection of breakfast and lunch options at a reasonable price.

PROS: Coffee was very good, Service was friendly, Interesting decor and quirky details, Menu seems reasonably priced
CONS: Hard to get a seat when busy, Hidden down a dead end laneway so if you didn't know about the place you'll miss it
MUST TRY: Coffee
Cappuccino ($3.50)

I once heard you can tell how good a coffee might be by how well it sticks to the inside of the cup — is this true?

Baristas and service counter

Seating and decor

Entrance and seating

Menu — quirky and old school design

Order number '3'

Sugar, salt and pepper

Table plant

Clean and functional toilet

Old stamps in toilet

Odd buttons in toilet

Something I see very often in Sydney restaurants

Wait list written in chalk on the wall = resourceful

Down the dodgy laneway you'll find a coffee oasis

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30 May 2012

Kate Waterhouse's Lipton Ice Green Tea Party, Ivy Sun Room, CBD Sydney (29 May 2012)

Ivy Sun Room, Level 3, 330 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Green with refreshing envy

“Lipton Ice Green Tea is naturally low in calories, with no preservatives, artificial flavours or sweeteners. Made with real green tea leaves the Lipton Ice Green Tea range includes flavours such as Original, Citrus and Mango.”

Thanks to Rachel Winter and Caroline Bligh from Pulsecom for inviting me to the intimate Lipton Ice Green Tea Party hosted by Kate Waterhouse. Not only was Miss Kate easy-on-the-eye and incredibly slim to perhaps the envy of every women in the room but the three promoted Ice Tea drinks were refreshingly light on the palate without tasting too sweet. These days I personally avoid buying soft drinks and similar beverages which might be high in sugar and boringly opt for plain old tap water or fresh juicers as my preferred thirst quencher, but each to their own. My mind wandered to the potential of making an alcoholic cocktail with these drinks. Perhaps a Long Island Iced Tea using the Original Iced Tea instead of Coca-Cola, Citrus Vodka with the Citrus Iced Tea and Mango Liqueur with the Mango Iced Tea might work a treat? I was assured the unnatural sounding 'Tea Flavonoids' listed on the nutrition label was actually natural and Lipton Ice Tea had no preservatives, artificial colours or sweeteners — thankfully it tasted pretty good too. Impressive canapés were served to match the three kinds of Ice Tea. The Herb crusted salmon ballontine with horseradish and watercress and Alaskan king crab, black pepper and lime pillow sandwiches were my favourites of the day. All the canapés were cleverly designed to be bite sized except for the tasty Crisped zucchini flower in a soft flour tortilla with avocado salsa verde which had the potential to be a dress stainer from the juices if you weren't too careful. 

PROS: Nice venue and interesting canapés served, Lipton Ice Tea has a refreshing taste that's not overly sweet on the palate
CONS: Still contains sugar of around 4.5%, I was the only guest who was a guy (although I didn't mind)
MUST TRY: Finding a cocktail recipe that works with Lipton Ice Tea
Miss Kate Waterhouse — yep, she is that pretty in person
Original Iced Tea
Tuna tartare with cucumber, wasabi, soy and yuzu
Asparagus and fontina cheese tart with shallots and parmesan
Italian prosciutto with savoury ricotta and parmesan on gnocco fritto
Citrus Iced tea
Fennel and orange cured kingfish with white miso, fennel and shiso 
Crostini of fresh tomato, bocconcini and basil
Herb crusted salmon ballontine with horseradish and watercress
Mango Green Tea
Spiced prawns with green mango salad and burnt chilli salsa
Alaskan king crab, black pepper and lime pillow sandwiches
Crisped zucchini flower in a soft flour tortilla with avocado salsa verde
Speech time with Kate Waterhouse and Lipton representative
Guests in the Sun Room — nice venue for an event
Canapés are served
Canapé Menu and Iced Tea matching — excellent catering
Nutrition Information
Welcoming service staff with iced water although a glass of champers would have gone down well as a nice start for a tea party :-)

Official photographer in action — thanks for the flash tips
Goodie bag of Lipton Ice Tea and themed glassware

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28 May 2012

Li'l Darlin: Wine Bar & Tapas, Randwick (17 May 2012)

51 Perouse Road, Randwick NSW 2031

A li'l spot to wine and dine

Just when I thought Alice met Charlie Dessert Factory was on a good thing they mysteriously closed not long after opening and is now replaced by Li'l Darlin. The new tapas wine bar seems to be a welcomed addition for locals although nearby tapas bars The Spanish Fly and El Bulli now have some competition. The Icyee Lychee ($12) is a blend of lychee liqueur, Absolut vodka, lychee, grapefruit and lemon juice (pictured above) which is easy to drink although beware of the brain freeze. House white ($7.50) and red wine ($7.50) was decently quaffable for a casual drink and the Crispy chilli chicken drummers served with chipotle mayo ($9.90) was quite flavoursome although perhaps a couple more for the price would be nice. The Salt and Pepper Calamari served with nahm jim and aioli ($9.90) was tender and quite tasty but the lemon wedge is cut just a bit too thin to squeeze easily. Home-made quesadillas with chorizo and chilli served with guacamole and sour cream ($12.90) was good and easy to eat.

Marinated olives ($7.90) were flavoursome and served cold but these days my preference is when they're served warm. I think a few more could have been topped up in the small bowl and I would have thought this dish could have been quickly served first. The Caprese salad with mixed tomatos, buffalo mozzarella ($11.90) had nice flavours but with perhaps a bit more salt would be more to my liking. If you're ordering a few dishes keep in mind the tables are quite small so it can get a bit awkward fitting all the dishes. The service was quite friendly although seemed to be still finding their feet with our forgotten table water and extra glass of house white ordered. The full restaurant at the time probably put some strain on the kitchen service as we felt it necessary to ask after 20 minutes about how our food order was going — serving up the olives first would have probably distracted us a bit from our hunger. I think the place has a nice buzz which suits The Spot as a cheeky drinking hole and I'm definitely keen to revisit to try their advertised $4.50 pizzas between 5 and 6 pm — sounds like such a bargain too good to refuse.

PROS: Cosy and buzzing atmosphere, Reasonably priced menu, Staff were friendly although seemed a bit run off their feet, Located near the Ritz Cinema
CONS: Can get noisy, Small tables can be a challenge for space, I felt still finding their feet in terms of kitchen turnaround time, Finding parking in the area is generally a nightmare
MUST TRY: Revisiting for the $4.50 pizza special and trying other dishes on the menu
House white ($7.50) and red ($7.50)

Crispy chilli chicken drummers served with chipotle mayo ($9.90)

Salt and Pepper Calamari served with nahm jim and aioli ($9.90)

Home-made quesadillas with chorizo and chilli served with guacamole and sour cream ($12.90)

Marinated olives ($7.90)

Caprese salad with mixed tomatos, buffalo mozzarella, basil tossed in olive oil and balsamic ($11.90)

Small tables can get a bit awkward when trying to fit a few tapas dishes

Bill $88 for two

Pizza menu

Tapas menu

Side, share plates and desserts menu

Free lychee shot if you like them on facebook!

All pizzas $4.50 from 5 - 6 pm — definitely need to come back for this

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