26 June 2013

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen: “It's a canteen not a cafe”, Alexandria (25 June 2013)

21 Fountain Street, Alexandria NSW 2015

The circus is in Alexandria

A rainy day brings me to shelter amongst the warehouse complex that includes Bread & Circus for a brunch with the family. Great to see high chairs available from the outset for the little one and the decor and atmosphere is cosy except for the long bench seating which I find very awkward to get in and out of — they look nice but are so impractical for dining. The menu reads like it's good for you and the environment and it probably is as I spot organic, biodynamic and sustainable. I choose Jude's very particular pancakes ($16) of pre-soaked buckwheat black quinoa coconut-rapapdura wholefood pancakes. These must be healthy for you by the sound of it and they thankfully don't taste like cardboard. Quite tasty and fairly fluffy in texture make them enjoyable and go well with the maple biodynamic yoghurt. The sliced pieces of oranges and apple seem a bit out of place as you're better off using your fingers to eat them. Orange segments without skin and a spiced apple compote would be my preference for easier eating with your cutlery without getting your fingers messy. Also I'm never a fan of eating out of a bowl, even a shallow one, with a knife and fork. It just feels wrong trying to cut things and would much prefer if this was served on a flat plate.

Parmesan not-so-scrambled egg ($18) comes with biodynamic eggs, real truffle oil and a quirky name. Lots of flavour from the truffle and nicely cooked eggs. All the ingredients work well together although the avocado was a bit too firm from being unripe in part making it not as pleasant to enjoy. Be careful not to cut your gums on the thick slices of sourdough which are super crusty. The Skim latte ($4.50) was good except arriving a bit luke warm. I can only suspect there might have been a delay in making it to the table as my Hot chocolate ($5) was at a nice warm temperature with great depth of flavour from the callebaut dark chocolate. A Babyccino ($2) comes at a premium price but is mostly frothy milk as hoped which is easy for the baby to enjoy. If it came with a mini biscuit or marshmallow would make it better value but I guess not as healthy for the little one. The Rainy day toast and Foxy winter porridge sound worthy of a possible revisit to try.

PROS: Interesting and healthy menu, Preference for seasonal, organic and biodynamic, Cosy decor, Friendly service, High chairs available and kid friendly, Free street parking
CONS: Long bench seating is awkward and impractical, Eating with a knife and fork out of a shallow bowl
MUST TRY: Revisiting to try more of the menu although I'd recommend the hot chocolate
VERDICT: Lots of healthy choices on a menu that's updated daily and made with seasonal produce although I'd get rid of the bench seating and rather eat on a plate than a shallow bowl for dishes that require a knife and fork.
Jude's very particular pancakes: Pre-soaked buckwheat black quinoa coconut-rapapdura wholefood pancakes with maple-orange gloss and maple biodynamic yoghurt ($16) — nice pancakes and yoghurt but orange slices seem out of place and would have preferred maybe a spiced apple compote for easier eating with cutlery
Nice fluffy pancakes and differently tasty
Orange pieces with skin on seems a bit out of place in the dish as you have to eat with your fingers unless I'm missing the point of them? Maybe would work better for me if orange segments had skin removed so could be eaten with the cutlery. 
Parmesan not-so-scrambled egg: biodynamic eggs with real truffle oil, under shaved parmesan & served with avocado, tomato, baby spinach, fresh herbs & sourdough ($18) — good truffle flavour although avocado was a bit under ripe
Skim latte ($4.50) — nice coffee but arrived luke warm so not sure if it was delayed
Hot chocolate: callebaut dark chocolate melted into milk ($5) — good flavour 
Babyccino ($2) — mostly froth which is good although pricey

Table setting — everything you need

Good looking produce for the kitchen on display

Bench seating can be very awkward and impractical — one of my pet hates when dining as they can be hard to get in and out of, especially if others are sitting on them.

Outside seating available although not so good when it's raining as it doesn't seem to be covered but they look very comfortable for sipping your healthy fruit juice on a sunny day

Bread & Circus on Urbanspoon

24 June 2013

Saigon Bay Restaurant: Vietnamese, Darlinghurst (21 Dec 2012)

249 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Long standing Vietnamese

Thanks to Jennifer Lam from The Bamboo Garden for inviting me to check out the menu at the long standing Saigon Bay Restaurant. This place has been around for decades it seems and has certainly stood the test of time on Oxford Street where so many restaurants have come and gone. Visiting at lunch time and just before Christmas proved a quiet time for trading and my table was the only one dining. The 'Closed' sign accidently left up upon arrival probably didn't help as well although lunch delivery requests seemed to be a more popular option for them. After an initial confusion about the Head Chef Thai Nguyen expecting us the previous week it was down to business and I left it up to him to decide what we should try. Overall the food was enjoyable but there were a few things I'd tweak in some of the dishes. I only sampled a small number of dishes so hard to get a fair idea of what their best dishes might be. The Vietnamese Crispy Pan Cake ($13.50) was crispy as hoped with a nice filling. Went well with the fresh lettuce cups and mint although the tomato seemed out of place on the dish and would have been better replaced with pickled radish perhaps. Beef in Wild Betal Leaf ($10.90, 4 pieces) had nice flavours and again not sure about the tomato on the side.

The Special Camp Fire Beef ($22.90) cooked on the table added a bit of dining theatre. Watch out for the flame when serving yourself. It was a tasty dish and involved a bit of skill wrapping in a rice paper sheet but successful efforts were rewarded. Vietnamese Spring Rolls ($9.90, 4 pieces) had a very white peppery overtone but decent crisp and would have benefitted from some pickled radish to place in the lettuce cup with the carrot and mint. Papaya salad ($18.90) had a nice crunch although the flavour seemed a tad on the sweet side. Salt and Pepper Calamari ($18.90) was tender as hoped with batter just a touch floury. I would have loved a lemon pepper dipping sauce on the side and some dressing on lettuce underneath. Service was unfortunately a bit non existent due to no extra staff on hand and the only chef needing to cook for us plus lunch deliveries. Decor is quite simple which could do with a bit of a refresh to make the place more warm and friendly but I guess with a few more people dining would make the place more buzzing and filled with atmosphere.

PROS: Extensive menu, Ingredients pretty fresh, House wine is reasonably priced
CONS: Service wasn't really available at the time of dining and the only chef had to manage taking our order, phone orders and cooking which had its challenges and affected the dining experience
MUST TRY: Revisiting to try other dishes although I'd order the Special Camp Fire Beef again which was probably my favourite of the day
VERDICT: A restaurant that's been around for ages so obviously has its local fan base. The decor and setting can seem a little dated and simple so a refresh would probably benefit the dining experience.
Vietnamese Crispy Pan Cake filled with prawn, pork, bean sprout with salad & fish sauce ($13.50) — crispy as hoped, tomato seemed out of place on the dish

Beef in Wild Betal Leaf ($10.90, 4 pieces) — nice flavours although quite small

Special Camp Fire Beef: Beef marinated with onion, tomato, shallots cooked on the table, served with salad fish sauce and rice paper ($22.90) — pretty tasty

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with mince pork, crab meat & vegetables deep fried and served with fish sauce ($9.90, 4 pieces) — very white peppery, decent crisp shell

Papaya salad with shredded papaya, prawn, and herbs with lemon chilli jam sauce ($18.90) — enjoyable crunch, flavour a tad sweet
Salt and Pepper Calamari ($18.90) — tender as hoped, would have loved a dipping sauce
Goundrey Unwooded Chardonnay WA ($26.90) — I love a table bucket
Wine menu 
Unfortunately with no table service around it was hard to get a top up of table water when needed
Quite an extensive menu 
Downstairs dining 

Upstairs available for large groups and private functions
A few bar options 

Table support flat which gets the tick from me for comfort
Clean toilet although could do with a bit of an update 

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Saigon Bay Restaurant in Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon

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