Pablo & Rusty’s, Sydney CBD

I have often worried that as I have gotten older, I have become less social. I have no scheduled dinner parties, no nights out clubbing – in fact very few evening activities at all. As someone who thrives off social activity, it makes me wonder – am I spending too much time alone? Then I realised, no – I’m still a social butterfly, it’s just that the time that I like to socialise has changed. The new prime real estate in my calendar is now the week day breakfast and working in the city as I have for the pass year gives me easy access to some great week day only breakfast spots.

One such place is Pablo & Rusty’s. Located on Castlereagh Street, this place is a little oasis of strong coffee, delicious pastries and friendly service. When the rest of the world appears to still be asleep, this place is buzzing.

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I’ve hit up Pablo’s twice in the last six weeks and both times have been wonderful. Although I was in the door before 7.30am on both occasions, I found myself still having to wait for a table.  It wasn’t terrible though. The staff are on the ball and with the quick breakfast service, within five minutes I was seated and ready to order. While you are at a table, they don’t rush you which is so nice. They seem to have hit that perfect balance between efficiency and courtesy – something that is really hard to do.

And the food is beautiful, pretty as a picture – and I did take a picture. If you can tear yourself away from the drool worth display case of muffins, tarts, croissants and danishes, the menu items are so worth it. From toast piled high with eggs, greens, mushrooms and other goodies to creamy porridge and muesli chock full of nuts and fruit, there is not a disappointing item on the menu.  You won’t experience FOMO no matter what you order – something I often suffer from.

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If you’re in a rush, or feeling greedy, most items are available take away. That way you can have your eggs, and your cake… and eat it too. I’ve never been for lunch but I’ve heard it’s pretty spectacular. If the breakfasts are anything to go by, I can well believe it.

After several happy catch ups here, my friend and I have decided the Pablo’s is now our special place and there is nothing better than basking in the glow of an awesome friendship while filling your tummy with awesome food.

Bill’s, Bondi Beach

Sometimes we Aussies do it best. When it comes to brunch, this is definitely the case. 
Last Sunday my friends and I were down at Bondi Beach, an iconic Aussie location and we landed ourselves a table at one of the most iconic modern Australian cafes of all time – Bill’s.  

The brainchild of Australian chef Bill Granger, Bill’s is super popular, so much so that there are four of them, all serving delicious, shining, ginormous examples of the classic dishes we’ve come to expect from our cafe brunch. No where else in the world does it like we do it and personally I think they are missing out! 


Bill’s Bondi Beach is the newest cafe in the group and despite probably being the largest, it’s wise to get there prior to 9.30am on a weekend if you’d like to avoid the queues. It’s a light and airy open space filled with blond timber tables in several shapes and sizes including some intimate booths – one of which we were lucky to get. 

This visit had been a long time coming. I’d been to the one in Darlinghurst many years before and had been dreaming about their ricotta hotcakes ever since. It was safe to say that I was seriously excited. My expectations were high. Despite this I was still blown away! Though the menu hasn’t significantly changed, it doesn’t need to.


Like a Jackie Chan action comedy, what they do, they do so well that they are famous for it and with relatively simple dishes and classic ingredients, all the focus is on freshness and flavour – which are delivered in spades.

Now I don’t normally talk about a place’s toilets but I felt they were worth noting given that their large sliding doors were a conundrum to my pre-caffeinated brain and it took me about 5 minutes and a questioning of staff to figure out how to open the door to use one. But maybe that wasn’t their fault… Maybe that’s was just me…


Now I know I said I wanted the hotcakes but a girl is allowed to change her mind and when I saw corn fritters I just could resist. 

One of my friends got the hotcakes with banana and she was nice enough to share. The other got the scrambled eggs and they were creamy perfection. 

A classic is a classic for a reason and I hope to never live in a place that doesn’t not have easy access to a Bill’s. 

A birthday breakky 

It was my big sissy’s birthday recently and I love my big sister. She looks out for me, problem solves away my seemingly insurmountable life challenges and tells people no for me when I unwittingly say yes. 

  
To me, nothing says ‘I love you’ better than food and the best food is that which has been made specially for you. With that in mind, say hello to her big birthday Breakky – toasted bagel with avocado, eggs over easy, mushrooms and spinach all topped off with some fresh parsley and accompanied by a large hot chocolate (which I bought because I can’t make one to save myself). Not bad for a Wednesday morning pre work fry up. I won’t tell you what time it was when I started but trust me, only real live could have motivated me to get started at that time.  

  

John Smith Cafe, Waterloo

I eat out a lot. And I mean A LOT! So much so that when people ask me for recommendations, I sometimes find it hard to give one – one meal seems to meld into another and they all become difficult to remember. Every once in a while though, you come across a gem that stands out from the crowd. I found that gem at John Smith Cafe.   
Thanks to Lizzie, a couple of weeks ago we got a ‘do over’ day and the weekend magically became two Saturdays and a Sunday with Monday never to be seen again. After checking via Facebook message that they were indeed open on this mystical of days, my friends and I arranged to meet at 10 am for brunch. 

We picked a good time as John Smith Cafe is anything but a John Doe. In addition to popping up on blogs everywhere at the moment, their Instagram and Facebook feeds have a ton of followers. 

  
And its’ popularity online ensured it was comparably busy in life. Thankfully the very nice waiter (who called me darling :)) assured us it was a two minute wait… And it was!!! In no time we were settled in one of their comfy booths, ordering coffee and left to stare at the display case of delicious cronuts and pastries while we waited for our friends. 

When it came time to order, we did this quick smart. It’s quite short and produce driven so it also changes constantly. No mushrooms I’m afraid (disaster) but what I did have was divine!! Two pieces of seeded sourdough, smothered in avocado salsa, crumbled goats cheese and a chilli jam that was a sauce from heaven – gorgeous and sweet with the mildest punch of heat. I got sides of seasonal greens and a poached egg. My friend who got hard poached eggs on toast admitted to serious food envy although she said hers was nice too. 

  
The other girls got the granola with coconut yoghurt and a nice big block of berry jam/jelly (potayto potarto). Rich but not overly sweet, it was nutty and very enjoyable. 

Two other major positives- they let us linger (which was crazy and very nice given the number of people waiting) and since it’s located just off Botany street, there was parking!

I think a return visit is on the cards. If you eat out a lot – you have to pick great places to make it worth it and John Smith definitely was! 

Glicks, Rose Bay 

Meals can be used to mark happy occasions and they can also be used to mark significant ones. Often the memory of the food and how much you enjoyed it ties in to the whole experience, enhancing the joy and your ability to remember the occasion.

I had such a meal last week. One of my friends is emigrating to Israel and as happy as I am for her, I’m also a little nostalgic. She is one third of a trio that met each other in a life changing after school trip and have never been apart since. Given that this was likely the last time we were going to be together for a while, we had to do it right!

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As my other two thirds are both strictly kosher, we didn’t have a great choice when it came to location. We decided to go to Glicks in Rose Bay where we could be sure to get a table and fill up on some carby goodness.

And fill up we did! Kosher food generally speaking gets a pretty bad rap- accused of being bland, boring and expensive, most people avoid it if they can. But if the above is the general rule, Glicks bagels are the exception. Chewy, warm and toasted to perfection, they are the best way to start your day and eating something that filled me with warmth and contentment was the perfect metaphor for the friendship I have with the girls who ate right along with me.

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My friend Bec and I both had trouble deciding on which bagel we wanted so we decided to go halvsies on a rye and a sultana. I paired mine with a pesto scrambled egg which was truly delicious- light, non greasy and full of flavour. She had hers with a couple of poached eggs that just oozed when cut. Our third third Sharn chose the plain bagel with a mushroom, tomato and cheese omelette that almost overlapped the plate. All dishes came with a side of green salad and were so large we had plate to table ratio problems.

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For dessert (Bessert?) we went three ways on a dark chocolate tart- rich and naughty- just like our humour when we are together.

I’ll miss our catch ups terribly and can’t wait until we are all together again. In the interim, I’ll have wonderful dreams about pesto eggs and fill up on the warmth you can only get from a beautifully made bagel!

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Eathouse Diner, Redfern

I think it was Shakespeare who said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. I wonder if food by any other name would be as tasty? Well for Sunday breakky with my awesome cousins (one of whom used to be a professional chef) I wasn’t going to risk it. I picked Eathouse Diner as the scene of our catch up – it’s purpose is all in the name!

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Located in East Redfern on Chalmers street, this charming venue with stuffed koalas, mint green walls and fairy lights has been open for lunch and dinner for a while now but has only recently opened its doors for breakfast. It’s so new I don’t even know the locals know about it! Getting a table just after 10am was dead easy – we were one of only two groups sitting but as the time crept towards lunch, the place filled up.

The menu is succinct, very well priced and boy is it tasty!! The random box of rubber, bloodied, severed hands that happened to be just lying around couldn’t even put us off.

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One cousin when classic and got scrambled eggs on toast with tomato relish and baby rocket ($12). I’m not a big scramble fan but these looked creamy and were apparently delicious. I also have it on good authority that the relish was top notch. Two others at the table ordered the huevos rancheros ($16) – a spicy concoction of beans, onion and tomato, hidden beneath two large fried eggs and topped with guacamole, coriander and sliced jalapeño. This hotty pattoty was warming and filling and the tortilla it was served with made it fun to eat. Not for the spice allergic!

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I went with the ricotta fritters served in tomato, red pepper salsa, topped with Parmesan ($14). This was quite a surprise. I expected hotcakes – Bill Granger style and ended up with little arancini looking balls of cheesy goodness. I loved that they felt the need to top this dish with more cheese. It was definitely an awesome pick, especially as I’d been considering the Bircher muesli. Golden and crunchy on the outside, smooth an creamy inside, all these needed was a bit of salt.

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In addition to the food, another highlight, and I really don’t say this often (if ever) are the toilets! The decor is just too awesome! Who doesn’t want to pull their hand towel off a French waiter roll holder?

Add some really nice and friendly staff into the mix and the place is a winner

Burnt Orange, Mosman

love getting spoilt, and on my birthday this year, two of my besties spoilt me rotten by taking me to Burnt Orange cafe in Mosman.

Located in the back of Mosman, as far away from Military road as you can get while still on land, making your way down the bush path; intuitively you know something special is waiting at the end.

How people first found out about Burnt Orange and then located it on a map I have no clue, but they definitely did. Looking around at my fellow diners, they’re young, they’re gorgeous, and there are a lot of them. Coming here on this particular Saturday morning; the sun is shining; the view is spectacular, and it’s a full house.

Formerly a residence, the beautiful plantation style house has been transformed into a restaurant/cafe serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea to its hungry guests. A multitude of white washed wooden tables are situated along the large, wrap around, wooden balcony; and the vine patterned cream and green wall paper emphasises the country manor feel. We could be ladies brunching in a bygone era.

We were lucky to secure a table In the sun and with a light breeze. It’s bliss.

All being self-proclaimed foodies, we had all studied the menu online, so ordering with the courteous waiter was a quick affair.

The pancakes with ricotta and strawberries ($16) were a delectable dish. Also coming with a bacon option, they were stacked three fluffy disks high, and they were very generous in size.

The fetta, tomato and mushroom toast ($15) was also delicious. A deceptively simple dish, the mushrooms were perfectly grilled and not at all greasy; and the herb infused feta was it’s star. Served with two massive pieces of sourdough, I was in heaven.

The only disappointment was the breakfast board ($19) – a very small dish, particularly in comparison to the size of the board on which it was served. The majority of the elements present were nice, but they just didn’t seem to go together. Most of this dish was left behind.

After eating, I discovered the fun wasn’t over. The entire two story house interior has been transformed into a boutique shop where one can purchase anything from handmade jewellery, clothing and blankets to decorative items and home wares. Expensive but gorgeous.

It was a great start to the weekend, and an even better start to a new year. Makes me it excited for what’s yet to come!

Rating: 9/10

Where: 1108/1109 Middle Head Road Mosman NSW.
Why: great location, food and shopping.
Cost: $15-$21
When: 7 days from 8.30am

Good for kids: Yes
Take away: No

Raffi’s Cafe, Chatswood

On a beautiful, sunny, autumn Saturday morning, I was in the mood for a girly catch up and a great brekky. I found both at Raffi’s. Down the quiet end of Victoria street in Chatswood and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Raffi’s seems to be an undiscovered gem in the Lower North Shore food scene. With great and unique food options and awesome interior style; located anywhere else, the place would be packed.

I have to say though, it’s not cheap with some of the larger dishes coming in at over $20. Maybe that explains it. The menu is fabulous though. A culinary exploration through the Middle East from the owner’s family perspective, and a lot of the dishes reflect that home cooking, traditional flair that comes from recipes having been in a family for many years, modified so many times that their original form has been forgotten.

The decor also transports you to another place and time. Wrought iron chairs are covered with plush cushions, and their exposed brick walls contain candle nooks from which plumes of smoke stain the walls. Arabian night style light fixtures hang from the ceiling; and an array of glass and copper vessels in all different shapes, colours and sizes hold a riot of plant life. The overall effect is eclectic; it’s a cross between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean – your grandmother’s kitchen and a funky art studio. Basically it’s just a lot of fun.

The staff were lovely. Our waitress was friendly and bubbly, and gave us plenty of time to decide what we wanted. After debating between freshly squeezed juices in giant jars and interesting sounding dishes containing ingredients like homemade labne or figs, we settled on something halfway between the traditional and the unusual.

vegetarian breakfast

We chose the vegetarian breakfast ($21), poached eggs served on a feta and spinach fritter, and the corn fritters with bacon and eggs ($19.50). To drink we had a skim cappuccino ($3.50) and a mint tea ($4.50).

corn fritters with eggs and bacon

The vegetarian breakfast was a great choice. Accompanied by roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant and a hint of babaganush, it was a filling and substantial dish. Although one of my poached eggs had a solid egg yolk (over cooked for me), the other was perfectly runny, and the spinach and feta fritter was particularly tasty. I just loved how different it was to my standard breakfast fare.

My friend liked her corn fritters too. The completely barren state of our plates at the end of our meal, a testament to the quality of the food.

In terms of the drinks, the cappuccino was great. The mint tea on the other hand was nice, but a standard bag tea was a bit disappointing. Given the ethnic flair of the food, I was expecting fresh mint leaves (which they had in stock) or at least loose leaf.

 

All in all it was a great meal. There was a bit of a hitch at the end when we found out that the EFTPOS machine wasn’t working, requiring a trip to an ATM, but the staff were very apologetic about it. Would love to go back for lunch or dinner. Nothing like a delicious feast to pep up the spirits!

Rating: 8/10

Where: 104 Victoria Avenue Chatswood NSW
Why: A real culinary adventure
Cost: $11-$23
When: Brunch – weekends

Good for kids: Ok – not for outdoor seating as this establishment is on a main road.
Take away: Yes

The Moody Chef, St Leonards

You know how Cheers is a bar where everyone knows your name? Well the Moody Chef is a cafe where I definitely wouldn’t mind them knowing my name.

Located in St Leonards on a relatively quiet side street, we joined a number of other lunchtime customers who found this warm and friendly cafe as the perfect place to escape the grotty weather of a wild and windy Saturday.

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<p>A tower of fluffy deliciousness<br /><br />
Mushroom Bruschetta: perfect eggs on top of meaty mushrooms

I must admit that I looked up the menu online before we arrived and I’m glad I did, otherwise it would have taken me forever to order. Despite the great looking lunch menu, I generally find that an all day breakfast section is hard to resist and this time was no exception. In fact, we all decided to have breakfast for lunch.

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<p>A tower of fluffy deliciousness<br /><br />

Poached Eggs with spinach, feta and lentil ragu

I decided to have a very eggy breakfast and with about six different poached egg dishes, I was spoiled for choice. I went half and half on the Mushroom Bruschetta with pesto, parmesan and poached eggs ($16.90) as well as the Poached Eggs with pumpkin, feta and lentil ragu ($16.90). Both meals were delicious. Generous in size, the eggs were the perfect balance between soft and hard. The mushrooms on the bruschetta were the meaty, flat cap variety and they were lovely. Both also came with golden brown sourdough – a great compliment.

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<p>A tower of fluffy deliciousness<br /><br />

Banana and Blueberry Pancakes: a tower of fluffiness

We also ordered two serves of the Blueberry and Banana Pancakes ($16.90). Stacked three to a serve and topped with mascarpone and candied walnuts, these pancakes were light, fresh and seriously tasty. The fresh berries cut through the maple syrup sweetness, and with no heavy batter or floury flavour that often accompanies cafe-made pancakes, this dish was a winner.

Despite being happy with our choices, there were many other menu items I would have liked to try, namely the Nutella Pancakes and the Slow Roasted Lamb Melt. I also spied a delectable looking cinnamon scroll sitting in the dessert display case as we made our way out at the end of the meal and waddled back to our car. With so many more things to try, I’d say there will be many more visits in our future. So Moody Chef, let’s get acquainted. I think you are someone who should definitely know my name!

Rating: 8/10

Where: 1/30 Atchison St, St Leonards NSW 2065
Why: An enjoyable cafe you can book
Cost: $15-$18 a meal
When: Mon—Fri 6am-5pm.
Sat 7am-3pm

Good for kids: no
Take away: yes

The Moody Chef, St Leonards

You know how cheers is a bar where everyone knows your name? The Moody Chef is a café with which I’d be happy to be on a first name basis. Located in St Leonard’s on a relatively quiet side street, we joined lots of other lunchtime customers who found the spacious and friendly interior as the perfect place to escape the grotty weather of a wild and windy Saturday.

mushroom bruschetta: perfect eggs on top of meaty mushrooms

I’ll admit, I looked up the menu online before we arrived and I’m glad I did, otherwise it would have taken me forever to order. Despite the great looking lunch menu, I generally find an all day breakfast section hard to resist and this time was no exception. In fact, we all decided to have breakfast for lunch.

poached eggs with spinach, feta and lentil ragu
For me, it was eggs all the way- with around six different poached egg items to choose from, I went half and half on the mushroom bruschetta with pesto, Parmesan and poached eggs ($16.90) as well as the poached eggs with pumpkin, feta and lentil ragu ($16.90). Both meals were delicious. Generous in size, the eggs were the perfect balance between soft and hard and the mushrooms on the bruschetta were the meaty, flat cap variety and they were lovely. Both dishes came with golden brown sourdough, a great compliment.

banana and blueberry pancakes: a tower of fluffiness

We also ordered two serves of the blueberry and banana pancakes ($16.90). Stacked three to a serve and topped with Mascarpone and candied walnuts, these were light, fresh and seriously tasty. The fresh berries cut through the maple syrup sweetness and with no heavy batter or floury flavour that often accompanies café made pancakes, this dish was a winner.

Despite being happy with our choices, there were many other menu items I’d like to try, namely the Nutella pancakes and the slow roasted lamb melt. I also spied a delectable looking cinnamon scroll sitting in the dessert display case as we made our way out at the end of the meal and waddled back to our car. With so many more things to try, I’d say there will be many more visits in our future. So Moody Chef, let’s get acquainted- I think you are someone who should definitely know my name!

Rating: 8/10

Where: 1/30 Atchison St, St Leonards NSW 2065
Why: an enjoyable cafe you can book
Cost: $15-$18 a meal
When: Mon—Fri 6am-5pm.
Sat 7am-3pm

Good for kids: no
Take away: yes