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Suburban Gems: West Pymble

Campbell’s Superior Meats of West Pymble came to my attention last year during Porkstar’s bacon awards. The annual competition saw this butcher’s traditional hickory smoked short cut bacon dubbed best in the state, but it was pipped at the post for the Australia-wide title by Canberra’s Pialligo Estate Smokehouse.

Giving it a road test had been on the back of my mind ever since, so when I finally found myself driving North, I took a detour through the leafy, green streets of West Pymble. Owner Rhett Campbell is a third generation butcher, and makes his bacon using an old family recipe and traditional processes: “48 hour brining, true wood-smoke, 8 hour slow cook and no shortcuts.

It’s a truly artisan bacon that can take up to five days to get from boning the carcass to the finished product. As Rhett explains, “a lot of today's mass produced hand and bacon, are brined full of water, salt and water retentive additives and liquid smoke flavouring, then boiled to cook product.” What Rhett’s tried and true method ends up with is a porky, smoky and truly versatile bacon that’s as at home as the star of a Sunday fry-up with scrambled eggs, mushrooms and a tomato, as it is on a fast, mid-week bacon and egg roll.

It helps to start with good raw product, and winning a Porkstar Bacon Award means you can be sure this bacon is made on one hundred percent Australian pork. If you need more convincing, Rhett only stocks free range, sow stall free pork. His beef is all grass fed, and the chicken he sells is hormone, chemical and antibiotic free. “This is certainly an area where people are becoming more concerned about their choices and wanting more information on welfare. Being an independent butcher, this is one advantage I believe we have over the major supermarkets; we source from producers and wholesalers directly.

The other advantage you’ll see when you visit his beautifully laid out meat counter is the extensive ready-to-cook range. With his own young family, Rhett is pretty clued in to the demands on the local area: "We have a lot of young families living in the area, and due to most families having a massive mortgage to live there, this means that both parents are working fulltime, hence they are time poor, and looking for an easy, nutritious and most importantly quick meal for the family.” He sees the ready-to-cook products as a way to get a little creative, and comes up with ideas at home (where he does all the cooking), through modifying cookbook recipes, and at the store during quiet times.

Rhett’s global meal ideas include everything from North African chermoula chicken breasts, to Argentinean chimichurri beef short ribs, to chicken souvlaki made on La Ionica thigh fillets. They’re all clearly labelled with simple, clear cooking instructions.

Despite this not being my usual category of purchase, even I was convinced to take home his chunky Black Angus beef pies – and I was far from disappointed!

You’ll find Rhett's well-appointed store in Philip Mall, a charmingly old-fashioned corridor of shops stocking all the basic necessities of life. While you’re there, stick your nose into Tom’s Cellars – it’s a notch above your average independent bottle shop (the only places you should be buying alcohol if you believe in supporting small business). The proprietor, Tom Mazzei, is friendly and gives great advice, moving me onto D1 London Gin, which has rapidly become my go-to gin martini favourite. He’s also a whisky aficionado and runs tasting events that I've earmarked to attend in the future.

Campbell’s Superior Meats of West Pymble
Shop 4, Philip Mall, Kendall Street, West Pymble
Ph: (02) 9498 5238

Event - Chefs Gallery Parramatta Launch

Fast on the heels of their new Bankstown store, Chefs Gallery have added a Parramatta restaurant to their fledgling empire.

While it’s part of Westfield Parramatta, Chefs Gallery Founder Kaisern Ching has cleverly seen it situated it on the outside edge of the monolith, ensuring you can dine without actually entering the shopping centre.

Chefs Gallery Parramatta joins an already impressive line-up of casual eateries, including Thai Riffic and Sushi Bay as fellow outside neighbours, and Malaysian chain PappaRich situated just within.

Residents and workers in the area touted as Sydney’s second CBD will now have access to the same range modern Chinese dishes us city folk enjoy. The glam new 200-seater store has the same glass walled kitchen, ensuring you can watch your hand-stretched noodles being made. Their trademark green noodles served with king brown mushrooms are coloured using spinach, and a firm favourite at the flagship store.

Two hungry busloads of city slickers arrived en-masse and consumed tray after tray of Macanese-style mini burgers stuffed with pork fillet, pork floss, lettuce and sweet-chilli mayo.

Later we numbed our tongues on tender slices of tataki wagyu beef with Sichuan-style spicy dressing. Baskets of crisp wonton skins and salt and pepper calamari kept us drinking long into the night, before the gun restaurant PR team Cardinal Spin loaded up any stragglers onto luxury coaches for a tipsy ride home.

Chefs Gallery
Westfield Parramatta Ground Floor, Shop 2184, 159-175 Church Street, Parramatta
Ph: (02) 8810 8881

Chefs Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Missy French

Joining Monopole, The Apollo, Cho Cho San and Yellow, Missy French is yet another exemplar of the changing face of Potts Point. The muted, sophisticated room is packed with urbane diners, blithely tucking into Caviar ($89), using mother of pearl spoons to apply it liberally to freshly made (if somewhat thick) blini.

The exposed guts of the building, painted in the same grey as the concrete block walls, melt from view, softened by long, gold-lit curtains and linen banquettes. Patterned floor tiles and little table lamps draw your eyes downward, creating intimacy as well as illuminating menus for the venerable clientele.

Wine recommendations roll easily off our French waiter’s tongue. After declaring ourselves to be Chardonnay aficionados, he steers us away from thematic Chablis toward the 2014 Domaine Naturaliste ‘Artus’ Chardonnay ($85/bottle) from the Margaret River. He’s on the money: it’s elegant with surprising complexity, suiting freshly shucked Oysters ($4/each) with mignonette, or an even better lemon ice, chervil and Joseph olive oil treatment.

The menu sits at the juncture between old and new. The French bistro classics have been updated to reflect contemporary tastes, but they’re still familiar and presented without fuss. Steak Tartare ($22) arrives carb. light, prompting a request (and then a reminder) for bread. It’s mixed at the table, with the flavours well balanced against silky, hand-cut beef.

Sealed with a lovely cognac jelly, a little glass tub of Holmbrae Chicken Liver Parfait ($21) arrives with tart cornichons and an ample sufficiency of toasted brioche.

It’s tasty but not exceptional, bettered by Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads ($21) carefully seasoned and presented on a bed of green peas with hunks of smoked bacon.

My dining companion and I weighted our meal more heavily toward entrees, and when our shared pot of Cassoulet ($38) lands, we’re glad that we did. Made on pork and chicken rather than the usual duck, the white bean casserole is generously proportioned, but this update lacks the soul of the original dish.

Shaved Cabbage Salad ($12) works as a countering side, along with a pricy glass of Frederic Magnien 'Bourgogne' Pinot Noir ($25/glass). Yes, Missy French will let you know come bill time that you’re dining in the restaurant of Josephine Perry, Neil Perry’s daughter; but for your dosh you get solid, modern French bistro eats and great plonk in a ritzy but mostly A-list free space.

Missy French
22 Rockwell Crescent, Potts Point
Ph: (02) 8599 4912

Missy French Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - 360 Bar and Dining

Dining at the top of town has definitely taken a turn for the better with Elton Inglis at the helm. His accessible, fixed price menus - 2-Course ($75/head), 3-Course ($95/head) or the 6-Course Chef’s Menu ($99/head) – appear to have led to the democratisation of a space traditionally reserved for the ruling class.

With the price of your dinner locked in, allow yourself to get waylaid in the cocktail bar to take in the spectacular view with a Tennessee Breakfast ($21). A newcomer from their autumn menu, this cocktail moderates house-made bacon bourbon with orange, honey and pomegranate syrup, cleverly united by thyme.

Arranged in easily explicable categories, the extensive list had me flicking straight to For The Most Adventurous and a Smokey Eye ($21) that tamed Ardbeg Uigeadail with Grand Marnier and maple syrup.

Engaging with their equally strong wine offering should be enough to lure you to your table and get things underway. Company Sommelier Andres Aragon is an excellent ambassador for the weighty list. By listening carefully to diner preferences and imparting vinous back-stories with warmth, emotion and genuine enthusiasm, Aragon intrigued me into drinking my first Slovenian wine – the 2012 Château Belá Riesling ($69/bottle) – before winning me over completely with the 2014 Roux Beauté Roussanne ($140/bottle).

With luscious texture and a taste that reminded me of grilled pineapple, this juicy, biodynamic Roussanne ends quite dry. By teaming it with the menu highlight – an indulgent smoked ham hock and foie gras ballotine, gentled by ginger bread, pickled shimeji and blackberry – Aragon made me into a lifetime fan. The clever dish has become something of a menu signature, heralding the arrival of Head Chef Elton Inglis, and remaining on the menu ever since.

What Inglis does very well here is land beautiful dishes that are also very enjoyable to eat. With lime green peas, sweet watermelon and just a hint of wasabi, Inglis tames kingfish sashimi using bonito flakes into a dish that should please even those who aren't all that keen on raw fish.

Tomato and basil consommé ensures the oyster course equally accessible, especially against the 2014 Joseph Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis ($18/glass); a standout on the well-populated by-the-glass list.

Adding anticipation and drama into your night, Inglis teams roasted quail breast, baby beetroot, goat’s curd and barrel-shaped semolina gnocchi with a quivering soft-centred quail egg. Dispatch it quickly with your knife, and allow nature’s own rich, golden saucing to pool across your plate.

The grill is put to good use on a range of beef from across the Eastern seaboard. Your beef options run from O’Connor in Gippsland, though to Rangers Valley in New England, all the way to Master Kobe in Queensland.  The 230g Master Kobe 9+ striploin is juicy inside, and well charred outside, cooked to the recommended medium, though it does add on a menu surcharge of $45. Equally exciting, and available within the set price, is a beautiful piece of Ōra King salmon from New Zealand - luscious orange flesh lies under crisp skin on a bed of braised celery, with mussels and cherry tomatoes.

There’s a good case for coughing up ten bucks apiece to level up to the 360 dessert platter for two featuring all five of the desserts.

Debating which is the best as the city whirls around you is the perfect way to cap off a great evening. (It’s the Granny Smith green apple, with apple foam, sorbet, pistachio cake and mascarpone...)

360 Bar and Dining
Sydney Tower Dining, Reception Level 4, Sydney Westfield, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8223 3883

360 Bar and Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Wok on Inn

Amie Barbeler comes up with a sure-fire way to beat a hangover at Olympic Park...

The day I dined at Sydney Olympic Park's Wok on Inn, I was in my average state for a Wednesday lunchtime – hungry and hungover – and I couldn't have come to a more appropriate place.

Wok on Inn serves up traditional Asian hawker-style street food. It's vibrant, spicy, inexpensive and much more exciting than a packed lunch.

After my (much perkier than me) lunch-date and I snagged a table in the sun, we started with the Chilli Squid ($5.50) and sriracha Mayonnaise, which we decided we could easily eat fifty of in one sitting.

Tender, spicy and addictive; it definitely outshone the Lemongrass Chicken Cakes ($4.95).

However it was Uncle's Drunken Noodles ($13.95) with beef that really soothed my post-booze belly. The combination of homemade chilli paste tossed with flat rice noodles, beef, basil and egg was exactly what I needed.

While I recounted last night's actions, I picked at my date's delicious Pad Thai ($12.95) with chicken and vowed never to drink again for at least three days.

Wok on Inn
Tenancy 6, corner Dawn Fraser Ave & Olympic Boulevard
Sydney Olympic Park
Ph: (02) 9763 5500

Wok on Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Event - A Place At The Table

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Youth (CPAC Youth) were tasked with creating an event that “would interest young people, and of course themselves, and represent the diversity of Western Sydney," coordinator Jax Hornjik explains. Her pride in her young team is palpable as she introduces their resulting event, A Place At The Table.

The collaborative process between Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and local youth allows young people to feel involved with their local arts centre while at the same time as gaining valuable skills in performance, marketing and event production. As Jax explains, each month CPAC Youth come up with new work, “and we just go: we'll write the risk assessment for you."

Aimed at young people aged between 12 and 25, A Place at the Table brought together many of the cultures present in the wider Liverpool Council catchment. For a minimal spend of $20, guests were treated to a ten-course degustation celebrating ten different cultures, with the dishes supplied by local businesses. Beginning with fat pockets of crab meat inari from Sushi Hub, Casula and ending with a quartet of desserts from Italy, Uruguay, Poland and Cambodia, the shared meal was created with the assistance of Taste Food Tours.

Each course was accompanied by a short cultural performance designed and performed by CPAC Youth members. None were more poignant than An Le’s My Story; her own narrative of being a first generation Vietnamese-Australian. While guests tucked into chicken spring rolls from VN Noodle House, Liverpool, An told us that "life growing up here in Liverpool was mostly a really positive experience."

As a teenager An rebelled against the Vietnamese language classes her Mother sent her to, but in later years she came to recognise the importance of knowing her cultural heritage. Amidst a flurry of tears, An related a conversation with her Mother where she asked why she wasn’t mad when her daughter rejected her culture. An said her Mother told her she immigrated because she wanted her kids to be happy, and have choices, because “hers were so limited at my age.

Chilean empanadas, supplied by popular Carramar bakery, Lion D’Or, were a lucky dip of flavours; but guests were able to choose their favourite type of Serbian burek.

Opting for meat, I was particularly excited by the airy ripples of flaky pastry in the offerings sourced from Royalty Bakery in Liverpool. (I've even noted down their address at the end of this post, so I can visit it at a future date.)

A short break in proceedings afforded guests the opportunity to wander the grounds of the art centre; experiencing the cacophony of sound generated by the river’s extraordinary bird life, and take in the art.

The large oil and water tanks, remnants from the venue’s time as an electrical substation, are one of the few legal art walls available to street artists in Sydney.

You’ll also find pieces like a poured concrete ‘old skool’ boom box if you keep your eyes peeled.

"Zionists invaded our land, which they were promised, but we were not warned," reads Renee. She’s wrapped in a Palestinian keffiyeh and illuminating us on the plight of the Palestinians as we resume our meal, tucking into falafel and hummus from Yum Yum Bakery in Guildford.

We also hear about the struggles of the Khmer in Cambodia while eating coconut jelly from Mrs Op’s Shop in Bonnyrigg. Both performances neatly put paid to the lie that young people are politically disengaged.

Leichhardt? Don’t go there for Nonna’s cooking, it’s rubbish,” volunteers the vivacious Amelia Morgano. She’s summoning her Italian Nonna for a cannoli demonstration that co-opts a few audience volunteers. We’re kept from getting too envious with our own vanilla, chocolate and ricotta cannoli from Divine Sweets in Casula; licking our fingers to a bubbling monologue seemingly streamed direct from the lips of her Italian Nonna.

We start to hit maximum sugar overload when trays of Uruguayan cakes from Lion D’Or bakery are circulated, fast on the heels of glazed, plum jam-filled Polish doughnuts from Copernicus Café and Restaurant in Liverpool.

It's hard not to leave impressed about the positive impact this metropolitan arts centre is having on the young people of South West Sydney. By engaging youth in the process of producing art-based events, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre ensures it has a youth-relevant programme while simultaneously equipping the area's young artists and event producers with hands on experience that will flesh out their creative portfolios - a win-win situation!

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
1 Powerhouse Road, Casula
Ph: (02) 9824 1121

Royalty Bakery
162 Macquarie Street, Liverpool
Ph: (0435) 014 710

Royalty Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - D'Munchies

Alex Harmon celebrated cannabis being approved for medical use in Victoria with this review...

With all the stoner dude food joints in Sydney that have cropped up (yes that’s two blazing puns) it’s about time someone created a café that gets straight to the point. D’Munchies, as you can guess, is a haven for hungry stoners; and from the Snoop Dogg playlist to the marijuana mural on the wall, owner and head chef David Pyne knows his clientele.

Ok, so what do these Mallrats like to eat? Well, the Pepperoni Pizza Pretzel Hotdog ($14) pretty much sums up the ethos of the place, it's a pretzel bun with a German bratwurst topped with cheese, pepperoni and olives. It's rich, indulgent, and unnecessary, but you know what? It works.

Crispy Pumpkin Ravioli Nachos ($14) are a hot mess of sweet and savoury flavours - the stoner's holy grail.

While the J-Rizzler Chicken'n'Cheetos Burger ($14) talks the talk with fried buttermilk chicken, bacon, hash brown, and Cheetos cheese sauce on a milk bun, but doesn't really sing for me. I couldn't taste the cheese - which is probably asking for a lot since it’s derived from a bag of American chips - but the chicken is damn good.

Panko Crumbed Onion Rings ($4) have a great flavour and texture, because weed smokers want to stimulate all the senses! And the Ice Cream Blaze ($4) actually made me feel stoned with its hallucinogenic mix of Oreos, Fruit Loops and pretzels.

This is Pyne's first venture after doing his time at Flying Fish, Bistro Moncur ("back when it was good") and various restaurants in London. He says things you’d never hear a stoner say like, “I’m a bit concerned about the seasoning of the ravioli,” meaning he takes this ridiculous menu very seriously.

You don’t have to be a pothead to enjoy this place because the food is actually very good, but it pays to have an appetite and a sense of adventure.

170 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 8542 0030

D"Munchies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Yasaka Ramen

Chef Takeshi Sekigawa is experienced at making ramen, even by Japanese standards. After four years at the famed Gumshara, he opened his own store, Yasaka Ramen. Here you’ll find Chef Takeshi not just reproducing ramen recipes, but also creating his own.

Worship at the altar of the giant pressure cooker where the master broth is made by pulling up a stool downstairs. The pressure cooker cuts down the time it takes to make broth out of slow cooked pork bones. The bones release collagen and fat, leading to a thick, creamy tonkotsu ramen.

Those seated at the bench will slurp soup while watching Chef Takeshi drain basket after basket of handmade noodles.

His resulting Grilled Chashu Ramen ($16.80) with miso flavouring is thick and clings to the handmade noodles, ensuring each and every bite is rich and flavoursome. It’s topped with a golden, runny soft egg and a generous amount of chashu. The four pork slices have a lovely charred flavour from a light searing.

Venturing up the stairs the narrow space expands into a more relaxed dining room. It’s full, even on a Tuesday evening, and they’re all eating ramen.

So while you can start with soft, fluffy Takoyaki ($6/4 pieces) octopus balls topped with creamy mayo. and spring onions, or Osaka’s squid pancake: Ikayaki ($6) topped the same way, they’re pretty much distractions from the main event.

Not so with the perfectly matched combination of my favourite Japanese rice beer, Koshihikari Echigo ($15/500ml), and a Karaage Set ($22.50); though you might need to come with friends to get through all eighteen pieces of fried chicken. It's served up three different ways, the best being with spicy sauce.

For a completely different take on ramen, try Tori Paitan ($16). It’s basically tonkotsu’s cousin, but instead of being made on pork bones, it’s made on chicken, using a two-phase cook. In the first phase, flavour is extracted from the chicken, before vegetables and aromatics are added in the second phase. You’ll find it lighter, but no less creamy and satisfying.

And if the thinner noodles, soft-boiled eggs, chicken meatballs, house-made chicken loaf, bamboo shoots, shallots and seaweed aren’t enough to keep your palate interested, you can load up on additional toppings right there in the dining room. Sesame seeds and chilli oil both added interesting twists to this remarkably soothing ramen.

NOTE: If you love Japanese cuisine as much as I do, become a member of Washoku Lovers (for free) and receive half price noodle refills or soft boiled egg when you dine: http://www.washokulovers.com/

Yasaka Ramen

126 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9262 9027

Yasaka Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Barista and Cook

Conceived on a beach in Spain, Barista and Cook is former international DJ Alan Thompson’s second foray into Sydney’s café scene. After selling the popular Surry Hills hot spot, Bang Bang Café, back in May 2015, Alan took some much-needed time to refresh and reset. What emerged from this period of self-renewal is a next generation café.

It’s light and airy, with Scandinavian inspired décor, and leafy green hanging ferns drawing your eye upwards. The excellent sound system kicks out Thompson’s carefully crafted chilled beat selections at precisely the right volume – creating atmosphere without making anyone shout.

Thompson explains Green Square is set to become “the most densely populated suburb in all of Australia.” Meaning locals will likely view this high-ceilinged cafe as extended living space, and frequent the outdoor tables with their canine companions. Visitors to the area should also find the location, on the Bourke Street edge of these new housing developments, quite easy to access.

Sinking into over-stuffed cushions in a booth overhung with staghorn ferns manages to feel intimate, despite the large space. Cradled by the comfortingly fluffy cushion, I tuck into a bowl of Steel Cut Oats ($14.50), balanced by tart coconut yoghurt and a pretty fan of spiced quince.

Gypsy Espresso coffee scrubs up very smoothly in their likeable 12-hour infused Cold Drip ($6). Beet It ($8.50) will scratch your freshly squeezed juice itch with a pleasant combination of pineapple, beetroot and apple. However if you’re in the mood for something decadent, the Mango & Passionfruit Splice ($9) takes honey, vanilla ice cream and coconut water and turns them into a thick, icy treat.

The tight but sufficiently interesting breakfast menu offers up both naughty and nice dishes, so you can order according to where you are at with any clean eating aspirations. Cheat days will be much improved by the generously proportioned Grilled Mac’n’Cheese Toastie ($12.50), elevated by the use of quality Cheddar. The tiny pot of house relish should assist when you hit peak cheese saturation.

On the nicer side of the menu is the Smoked Trout Kedgeree ($19.50); it’s also the only real nod on the menu to Thompson’s British heritage. If you’re still scratching your head, it’s a combination of smoky fish, hardboiled eggs and gently spiced rice, created during the time of the British Raj. Thompson explains he's given it “a bit a modern Australian twist” with puffed black rice, house-smoked trout and citrus yoghurt set off by the gently Indian flavours.

The menu's showstopper is the perfectly Char Grilled Pork Belly ($19) slab, tucked under two fried eggs and a healthy mound of green peas, crushed edamame and puffed black rice. It’s the perfect combination of naughty and nice, and bound to draw me back again.

Barista and Cook
834 Bourke Street, Waterloo
Ph: (02) 8399 1234

Barista & Cook Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Boss Lady Food & Co

Alex Harmon is back with a cafe you might enjoy...

In the backstreets of residential Camperdown, within earshot from Deus ex Machina, and nestled amongst a brothel and a trendy hairdressing salon, is this hidden gem of a café.

We thought about opening up in Newtown or Marrickville but those areas are kind of saturated right now,” says co-owner Sue Bebawy. Together with Helen Munday, these two boss ladies found the perfect spot to open their first café three months ago – and the fact that it’s hard to find only adds to the street cred of the place.

The Arabic and Egyptian inspired menu items pay homage to the ‘boss ladies’ in their lives, like the cold ploughman’s plate - The Helen ($14.50) - named after the “cold and angry Helen who was rather partial to a longneck or two”.

I don’t know who Suzanne ($15.50) is but I reckon we would get along great, she’s a slow-cooked pulled beef rib burger with caramelised onions, creamy slaw, a sugar-free coffee BBQ sauce in a milk bun. A real knockout, I actually can’t stop thinking about her.

With breakfast and lunch available at any time, the choices seem endless and even a little confusing at first, so ask the ladies your questions. This led us to the Basturma Folded Eggs ($13) – air-dried beef diced over creamy eggs on sourdough with a colourful side salad. It’s a faultless dish, with all the right elements working so well together, but we couldn’t help but add a Chrissy's Cuts Pork and Maple Sausage ($4) on the side.

Throw in a Dirty Banana ($8), an espresso laced banana smoothie, and you’ve got yourself a party. Put this little café into your Google Maps, it’s definitely worth it.

Boss Lady Food & Co
1/18-22 Purkis Street, Camperdown
Ph: (0404) 683 744

Boss Lady Food & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato