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.

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The Wolf Wine Bar, Sydney

As I’m sure I have mentioned before, I love a bargain. I have registered to all the local deal sites and I happen to own a copy of the Entertainment Book. Some people might assume that the restaurants, cafes and experiences featured in these sorts of things must be terrible– why otherwise would they have to promote themselves like this? I’m here to tell you that this is not so! Some of them are gems.

I went to one such gem for an early morning, pre-work breakky in the city with a friend who was up from Melbourne. Given that she comes from the land of awesome cafes, I wanted something special and The Wolf Wine Bar on Hunter Street fit the bill. She also happens to love a discount so was instantly sold on sighting my entertainment book voucher.

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It was a lovely experience! On a freezing cold morning, everything was warm – from the cafe atmosphere to the welcome we received. It was enough to thaw my fingers and toes, body parts I haven’t been able to feel since the middle of June.

To top it all off, when I asked for a giant long black, I got a giant long black – served by a lovely lady who sympathised with the state of my extremities and exclaimed that she was also ‘not a penguin’.

This place has everything I love – a feeling of cosiness and warmth, sweet and friendly staff and an extensive menu. It even features an avocado section where you can have your avo on toast in five different ways on a choice of six different types of bread.

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My friend, a smashed avo lover, immediately picked one of the avocado options – goats cheese, harrisa and avocado on Turkish toast which she proclaimed to be spicy and lovely.

My sister, who was suffering from a head cold, went for the quinoa porridge with coconut milk, banana and dates. She found it to be tasty, warming and comforting.

Since I have been craving corn fritters of late, I jumped at the chance to order them and my wait was worth it. They were crispy, sweet, chock full of corn kernels, and super tasty – even without the bacon that they were meant to come with (I wasn’t in the mood).  The side of roast tomatoes were also awesome – smoky and delicious.

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I always love breakfast but on a chilly, work filled Wednesday, it was the highlight of my day! I can’t wait to give The Wolf a go at lunchtime or dinner – and snag another awesome deal!

 

 

 

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! 

Kansai Japanese Restaurant, CBD

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the line ‘omg I know the BEST sushi place’ I’d be a rich woman. The fact is everyone does. I think it’s a testament to our multiculturalism and love of foreign cuisines that we have such an amazing array of options when it comes to sourcing those delicious seaweed wrapped rice logs.

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My BEST place has to be Kansai, located in the hunter street connection in Sydney’s CBD. Taken there for the first time for a ‘reward’ team lunch, I have since become a regular – well as regular as a person who aches to try new places all the time can be.

They do a great variety of food and all of it is fantastic. The hot pot is ginormous, requiring a minimum of two persons to order; the sushi selection is vast and all the varieties are delicious – get a share platter to take full advantage; the sashimi salads are very generous and come with a choice of three dressings and the smaller plates like the octopus (teriyaki or chilli), katsu chicken and smoked eel are perfectly cooked and very very tasty

The sashimi boat

The sashimi boat

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One of the best things to order here though is the mixed sashimi platter. The larger sizes come served atop of a wooden boat which is not only fun (who doesn’t love a theme) but serves to emphasize just how fresh the produce is. Only the best is used and the knife welding chefs standing behind the bar are professionals.

If you can’t pick – get a group of friends together and do an all you can eat special. You’ll get a little bit of everything and it’s ALL you can eat! I know right! The only thing better than sushi is all you can eat sushi. And it’ll come fast too. The only thing a little bit lacking is courtesy from the waiters and customer service skills from the owner but with good friends and good food- it won’t seem important.

Next time you have that fishy feeling, tantalising taste for tuna or hankering for hot pot. Check this place out- you won’t be disappointed.

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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Mama’s Buoi, Surry Hills

The term mama’s boy is generally used as a criticism but one guy proud to call himself one is Bao Hoang, founder and head chef of restaurant chain mama’s boy. And boy, can this mama’s boy cook!

Originally launched in Melbourne, Mama’s Buoi hit the Sydney food scene in late 2014 under chef Tiw Rakarin- first opening a locale in Surry Hills and then a second in Crows Nest – providing locals with a much needed place to get good quality Vietnamese that also has a classy, trendy ambience to socialise and linger in.

When my friend requested a ‘healthy restaurant’ for us to have a midweek group catchup, I suggested Vietnamese and booked Mama’s Boy the moment there was group consensus. And thank goodness I did. There was no way we would have gotten in otherwise. The place was teaming with people. When a few of the group showed up 10 minutes early, they were told to wait outside until the allotted booking time – our table was still occupied and the bar was full.

When we were lead to our table, I told the waiter the was a chance another may be joining our group. The look of horror he gave me suggested that I’d killed his puppy. He promptly informed me that the table we’d been allocated had no room – thank goodness our extra never showed, I think he would have had a heart attack.

What the place lacks in well mannered staff, it definitely makes up for in atmosphere. Diners sit at giant share tables and booths under a giant cloth canopy, strings of light bulbs and hanging plants. A giant slogan on the wall written in Vietnamese translates to one of life’s very important questions – do you love your Mama? The teal and timber colour scheme and the herb displays around the open plan kitchen echo the freshness and lightness of the food.

And the food was great! Two of the girls got vegetable curries and a side of rice to share, one guy got the morning glory stir fry with minced pork which he almost moaned over, the other sticky beef ribs- gone in two minutes flat, and the last two of us had a vermicelli noodle salad with chicken- salty sweet perfection!

The thing we loved most though was the music. Classics from the 90s and 00s swirled around us causing us to break out in to periods of seat dancing. Definitely a unique (odd?) choice but one I heartily approved of!

I’d love to check out its Crows Nest sister to see if space is more freely available and if the staff are nicer but all in all, Mama’s Buoi is a place and a person I heartily approve of. They’re loving, open to being molded and apparently can cook up a storm! What’s not to love? 😉

Devon cafes, Surry Hills and Waterloo

One of my best friends has spent the last year travelling the world with her boyfriend. As much as I was excited for her to go, I was also sad because I knew I’d miss her so badly. When she returned for a brief visit before jetting off again, I found out that despite enjoying her epic adventure, there were things she was missing, ME of course, and …. Brunch!!

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It’s for that reason that when we got our chance to catch up, I chose the most epic, imaginative and truly unique place I could think of – Devon cafe.

Named after the street on which it’s found – Devonshire street, Devon cafe is one very popular place. It’s the only cafe I’ve even been to that on enquiring how long a wait for a table was, I was told not to bother by the wait staff. But for those who like to eat adventurously, the place lives up to the hype.

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Serving food which is a fusion of Australian and Asian, typical brunch options include soft shell crab and Nashi pear salad, green eggs and ham, sakuma’s eggs and Cronuts in many different magical flavours.

My beautiful friend – who is both gluten and dairy intolerant- went for a slightly more traditional meal (as far as these things go at Devon) and picked the smoked eggplant on toast (gluten free bread) with mushroom purée, hazelnuts, crunchy chickpeas and parsley. I’ll admit, It looked a little small to me but she took a long time eating it and, once she was done, she was a very happy Chappy. Her boyfriend – who is also gluten intolerant (a match made in digestive heaven) was so excited by the range of gluten-less breads available that he went no further than the toast with three sides – jam, butter and Vegemite ($7.50). I guess for him bread is an adventure.

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I on the other went a little bit ‘wild’and had the eggs blini ($20)- two 63 degree eggs on a thin bed of pancake deliciousness, topped with thick slices of smoked salmon, asparagus and caviar, smothered in a creamy hollandaise sauce. Despite all the elements it was actually quite light – I didn’t feel stuffed and they all balanced each other out perfectly. It was a great meal with great friends and I couldn’t wait to repeat it.

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I got the chance a few weeks later when I went to visit the sister cafe, Devon on Danks with another friend for a Saturday morning catchup. This time I opted for the naked bruschetta – another light looking meal that was anything but. Three pieces of toasted brioche with roasted pumpkin, egg and Asian mushrooms – all sitting in a swirl of pea and goats curd mash ($14.50). Brought in as part of the summer menu it’s like sunshine on a plate. My friend was feeling a little Sam I Am and had the dr Seuss’s green eggs and ham ($20). She just loved every bite.

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Because I couldn’t go past those yummy Cronuts a second time we decided to order one of those and the daily Muffin (choc banana) to share. The muffin was good- the cronut was out of this world!! We got the raspberry one ($6.50), not usually my favourite flavour being a chocoholic but man, it was life changing. We literally sat there saying oh my g-d for five minutes while we ate this thing. Epic!!!

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All in all this has to be one of my favourite places to eat in Sydney. It’s quirky, it’s delicious and with he menu constantly changing, there is no risk of getting bored. If you’re up for the adventure, dive on in…. I dare you!

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The Spice Room, Circular Quay

You know that mystical, magical stairway to heaven that you always hear about but no one has been so kind as to give you directions to? Well I found it!

Meeting up for a mid week, after work dinner with some of my favourite city girls, I stumbled across the infamous stairway in The Spice Room, a newly opened Indian restaurant in Circular Quay. With each step given the name of a herb or spice used in Indian cooking, basil leaves, fenugreek and peppercorns guide you up to a paradise filled with aromatic and tasty delights – my idea of heaven.

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Opening late last year to rave reviews, The Spice Room provides Sydney siders with authentic, up market Indian food at extremely reasonable prices a stones throw away from one of our city’s busiest tourist hubs. Tucked away in the corner of Arthur street and Phillip street, the place is a hidden gem, just like a precious stone, it’s a little hard to find but pure quality.

Once you walk past the quirky entrance featuring a bicycle and those gorgeous spice stairs, the space opens up and you encounter sheer grandeur. Designed to look like an ancient Indian mansion, dark wooden tables are bathed in golden light and with antiques scattered around the room it’s like Aladdin’s cave – if Aladdin was one classy adult with a penchant for food and entertaining.

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Like all Indian restaurants sharing is the name of the game here. Even if you choose to come alone, the giant share table in the center of the restaurant ensures that you won’t be dining solo.

The menu is divided in to several ‘rooms’.There is the bite room (entrees); the tandoor room; the ocean room featuring seafood delights; the sharing room listing platters of mixed items; the rice room giving the choice of around 6 different types of the White carb; the naan room which astounded me with its variety and finally, the banquet room which gives diners the choice of two different banquets at a per head cost. There is also a mains section that lists the variety of chicken. Lamb, beef and vegetarian dishes available.

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To say your choices are extensive is an understatement. What really excited me though was that in addition to all the classic dishes you know and love (hello butter chicken), there were some dishes that I’d never seen before and they sounded incredible (salmon tikka anyone?)

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Not to go too wild, we played it semi safe and ordered a smorgasbord of items in an attempt to try a bit of everything. We didn’t even come close but we didn’t care, it was all delicious. The black lentil dal ($16.50) was creamy and spicy, soaking perfectly into the rice. The saffron chicken korma ($23.90) was juicy and well balanced with a subtle sweetness. I just adored the lamb with apricots and potato matches ($26.50) – the meat was melt in the mouth and the potatoes provided a great crunch. The king prawn gulmohar flavoured with rose petals and gently cooked in a clay were prawns like nothing I’d ever tasted- tender and beautifully delicate. To accompany it all, the masala spiced mushrooms ($19.50) were a great choice – packed with flavour they made the perfect veggie side.

Despite the awesomeness of the above, I’d have to say my hands down favourite dish was the cheese naan. Fully coated with shiny, greasy tasty tasty cheese, we were all seriously tempted to say yes when the waiter came by offering a second serve. I could have ordered more to take home with me in a doggy bag but I was strong and I didn’t – and I regretted it the moment we left.

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Just like the ambience, the staff were extremely charming and very helpful. They knew the menu like the back of their hand, made wonderful recommendations (saffron chicken yum yum). They have also mastered that great trick of remembering your order without writing anything down. Impressive- especially as we kept changing it.

They say the food served at The Spicd Room is fit for royalty and I’d have to agree. By the time we were done I was fit to burst. I’d had my fill of great food and great conversation – facilitated by the fact that it was pleasantly quiet.

I can’t wait to return. Very soon I will mount that stairway again with the purpose of filling up on tikka salmon, walnut and date samosas and of course cheesy cheesy naan bread Hmmmmmmm….yep, definitely heaven!

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Bridge Street Garage, CBD

Some people like fast cars. Others like fast food. At Bridge Street Garage in the heart of the city, you get both – American diner style!

The brain child of chef Oscar Gorosito, Bridge Street combines a retro, very cool, industrial environment with delicious dishes and efficient if not overly friendly service. The space – having started off life as a real, operational garage – pays homage to its roots not only in name but in decor. Car themed graffiti and pop art adorns the walls along with old gas signs and number plates. Pink neon signage adds to the 1950s USA diner feel.

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When talking about this restaurant, the term fast food can only be used to describe the speed with which the food was delivered- not its quality! And thank heavens my meal was good because the date I was on certainly wasn’t.

More appropriate for a midweek dinner with a large group of friends, the menu is filled with large dishes designed for sharing. the American theme and chef’s Latin origins ensures that meat and fried foods in all their yummy forms feature heavily in the range of dinner options available. All your traditional bar/ diner staples are covered including burgers, buffalo wings and hot chips. Basically it’s western comfort food at its most delicious and gourmet.

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As you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t a place that is conducive to ‘dieting’ (a state of living I don’t feel should exist). In saying that, there are some solid healthy choices including salads and the most amazing fillet of swordfish I have ever eaten ($32).

Lightly grilled and accompanied by a quinoa salad stuffed with dried fruit and nuts, it was one of the nicest and unique seafood dishes I’ve enjoyed and that night’s fish of the day.

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My date chose the double pulled pork sandwich ($19)- an epic tower consisting of four slices of bread and two layers of meat and slaw with addition slaw and thick cut chips on the side. It looked like pure heaven, particularly the chips which were golden, crispy and just glistening with well seasoned oil.

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Other really tempting options included the soft shelled crab salad ($22), the Bridge Street Garage’s Reuben ($18) and under the specialities section, the quail breast ($29) dressed in balsamic syrup with sweet corn salad.

I really should have ordered the American apple pie ($12) for dessert so my date could get some action but tempting as it was, I just couldn’t wait to leave and reminisce on the awesomeness of my meal on the bus ride home….alone! Something to try next time I guess because rest assured, there will be a next time!

The dinner party

Going out for dinner is awesome. Especially in Sydney where you can basically travel the world plate by plate. Sometimes though, having people over for dinner is even better. No need to make a booking, no waiting times, no noisy diners next door and definitely no hefty bill at the end of the night because you got stuck into the margaritas. You can eat at the time you want, what you want, drink till you have passed happy and are well into drunk and not have to worry how you are getting home.

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I recently hosted a dinner party where I got to experience all of the above perks. Every time I have people over, I invite a slightly different mix so that everyone is always meeting new people and making new friends- spreading the love, or at least the like :).

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When it comes to the food, like with the people I always mix it up and I tend to cook a combination of dishes that I’ve never done before. It’s a great opportunity to cross off several items from my recipe wish list and it keeps repeat guests thinking I’m fabulous – which of course I am! 🙂 I do generally stick to a similar format though – a buffet with 3 salads, at least 2 carb dishes and 1 main protein along with a couple of canapé style appetizers to start. I’ve learnt the hard way that making dessert is usually a waste of time and effort and tend to offer ice cream if I have some or the chocolates people bring If they are looking for something sweet.

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It generally takes me a day of cooking and I truly believe the effort is worth it. Hearing people laugh, talk and chat while the food (and wine) just disappears makes my heart sing with happiness.

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Check out my most recent dishes below.

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