Sitting among the turf farms and cabbage plots of Windsor, about an hour’s drive north west of Sydney, you’ll find M & A Butchery. It’s housed in a renovated cottage-style building that dates back to 1889, and sits in front of a working abattoir. It’s a second-generation, family-run butcher with old-fashioned values. Being attached to an abattoir, their business model cuts out middlemen; meaning pricing here is particularly keen. For inner city types like me, that means even if you take into account the petrol used on the fifty kilometre drive out there (and back), you’ll STILL save on Sydney meat prices.
On a bustling Saturday morning there are seven or eight butchers manning the counter. They’re framed by an impressive collection of ribbons they’ve gained from the Hawkesbury and Sydney Royal Easter shows. Despite the crowds, and true to the old-fashioned values of this store, the butchers are always happy to take the time to cut something to order, offer cooking tips, or engage in a bit of friendly banter.
You can get an eye for what they do well by starting your visit in their well-stocked, self-service cool room. M & A Butchery cleverly prepare packs for all sorts of families, starting at the big end with Whole Rumps ($13.99/kg) and Sides of Lamb ($9.50/kg), and working their way down to single-serve steaks.
Four well-trimmed meaty Pork Cutlets ($16.99/kg) set us back around twenty bucks; while a 580 gram Yearling T-Bone Steak ($17.99/kg) that we shared between two people, came in around ten bucks. We turned a trio of meaty Pork Spare Ribs ($12.99) into Korean barbeque at home, feeding two people for under five bucks. Free-range Chicken Breast Fillets ($12.99/kilo) are generously proportioned, with a pack of four weighing in at around a kilo. Everything delivers on both texture and flavour, though none are quite so tasty as their lamb neck, which we tried across chops and in a mini lamb rosette roast.
Clear labelling of products, like free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, allow you to make appropriate ethical decisions for your family. Use-by dates are also clearly labelled, and across four or five visits, the combination of rapid turnover and the brothers’ attention to detail, means I’ve never seen anything on the shelves that is past the use-by-date.
I make my own monthly pilgrimage out to M & A Butchery, teaming my visit with a trip to Sciberras Fresh Fruit & Vegetables (which I will tell you more about in a future post). Following the M & A Butchery Facebook page will ensure you're across any weekly specials, where even greater value for your spend can be achieved.
M & A Butchery
62 King Road, Wilberforce
Ph: (02) 4575 1233
Despite having a lot of empty tables, this restaurant was flustered by us arriving eighteen minutes before our scheduled booking time. Rather than seating us at another table and revising their seating plan, they left our party of three hovering awkwardly in the doorway. When eventually we were seated, our drink order of two cocktails and a juice required reconfirming. It was a shaky beginning...
Things improved when I saw a Corpse Reviver Number 2 ($15) on the menu. It’s rare - even on Sydney cocktail lists - but makes a perfect palate cleanser. The combination of gin, Lillet blanc, Cointreau, lemon juice and an absinthe wash really help to wash away the taste of the day. A slightly too heavy hand with the absinthe throws it out of balance here, meaning we're left preferring the Lucifer’s Old Fashioned ($15) made on Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey.
Rather than a Spanish tapas menu, the dishes on this menu seem to be loosely united by them all having tapas-style presentation. They run from Asian-style sticky pork belly, to Tex-Mex chimichangas, to something called Killer Fried Chicken ($14). The latter presents crunchy chicken strips on a sauce duo they claim is house-made barbeque on aioli – though it bears strong resemblance to tomato sauce. Perhaps it's just one to please the kids?
Trio Perfecto ($16.50) dumps a sloppy mix of squid, scallop, prawns and fennel cooked in a sweet sherry sauce onto undressed rocket leaves. It’s muddy and lacks the textural interest you’d expect from fresh seafood.
Mexican Chorizo Sliders ($16/2) take chorizo, turn it into patties with a blend of Mexican spices, then teams them with garlic prawns on sweet buns. It’s rounded out with cheese, slices of tomato and paprika mayo. It’s an unusual but tasty blend of ingredients I’ve not seen presented this way before.
Tempura Mushrooms ($8) lose button mushrooms inside acres of dense batter, and present them with a soy dipping sauce that lacks subtlety.
Despite following the suggestion of wait staff to order four tapas style plates for three people, we end the meal hungry. That's even with us throwing in an additional Rocket Salad ($10) that takes apple, shaved Parmesan and a mountain of rocket, and treats it in olive oil and lemon juice. However with nothing on the menu inclining us to stay any longer, we supplement this meal with a pizza at Bella Bellissimo next door.
4/58 Wharf Street, Forster
Ph: (02) 6557 2702
In the nineties when Suminoya first began, a CBD alleyway like Hosking Place, would have been unlikely to even have residents. Over the ensuing years, what began as a Japanese restaurant doing traditional charcoal barbeque cooking inside the kitchen, expanded to include charcoal barbeques at every table. At the same time, Sydney moved from being a place where we came to work, to a place where many people also began to live. The surrounding City of Sydney area saw a thirty percent increase in residents in the decade between 2005 and 2015.
Today there are now residents living a mere six metres away from where the exhaust from this busy Japanese restaurant exits, ten levels above the street. The ensuing years have also seen a number of coroners' cases where people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after bringing their charcoal barbeques indoors for heat. This double-edged sword of health risks (particularly for staff) and resident complaints, have built a case for City of Sydney to decide that individual charcoal barbequing might not be possible in the big smoke (if you pardon the pun) - well at least without a state of the art exhaust system pumping out 10,000 litres per second. Though Council staff were quick to admit they came to this decision reluctantly, because “the flavour is fantastic.”
So expect to find gas barbeques and a whole lot of industrial hardware hovering over your table when you now come for yakiniku at this longstanding Japanese restaurant. And while there is a cost to the intrigue and aroma that once emanated from this CBD alleyway, the obvious advantage is you can now nip back to the office after a long lunch without your hair and clothes reeking with the tell-tale aroma of barbeque.
Beer goes hand in hand with barbeque, and Japanese barbeque is no exception. My favourite is the Koshihikari Echigo Beer ($15/500ml) made from Niigata Koshihikari rice – the finest rice grown in Japan.
A Three Choice BBQ Set ($26.90) here comes with salad, rice and miso soup, offering up a full and balanced meal.
It’s further improved by clever collective ordering that - even between two people - allows you to load up your barbeque with a diverse and interesting feast.
Seeing the Joto Seafood truck unloading supplies in the alleyway inclined us towards including some seafood in our grilled meat adventure. Three salt-topped prawns in the shell, wagyu rib fingers and a fan of pork rib slices made up my personal selection.
My dining companion opted for scallops, duck and thin slices of beef tongue.
Each table is also charged a buck for a disposable mesh barbeque cover, courtesy of another new health regulation. However the increase in rules and regulations are quickly forgotten when you get to the fun part of cooking your own lunch.
With Japanese barbeque there's less marination (a few items are sauced) and very simple dipping sauces in comparison to the big flavours of Korean barbecue. This centralises the quality of the ingredients, and of the ones we chose, it is the wagyu rib fingers that shine most brightly.
With a good firing on the grill, they dissolve in your mouth with a big hit of rich, beefy flavour.
Beef tongue is another winner - and every time I try this cut, regardless of cuisine, I wonder why we leave such a good and tasty part of the cow out of our day-to-day beef eating at home? When the opportunity cost is so low - even an extra plate will only set you back $9.90 - I hope you consider giving this tasty secondary cut a go!
NOTE: If you love Japanese cuisine as much as I do, become a member of Washoku Lovers (for free) and receive free ice cream when you dine: http://www.washokulovers.com/
1 Hosking Place, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9231 2177
“This is the first premium dog-friendly building in Sydney,” says owner Peter Georges, with a nod to the vibrant mural of a pizza-eating Boston Terrier adorning one wall of his otherwise minimalist, modern space.
The mural - the work of Melbourne artist Dan Wenn from 90 Degrees - perfectly reflects both the changing face of Waterloo, and this premium gourmet pizza joint that’s opened to service it.
We sit down at one of the communal tables, watching the post-work dog owners parading by through the open, sash-less windows.
They let plenty of air and fading late afternoon light into this well-designed space. We’re joined – even on their first week of operation - by a wide cross-section of this urban community. Most are local residents in this rapidly expanding medium density suburb, but some are old Utopia Coffee customers, here to experience the love project of Peter and Nicole Georges.
Well known for their ability to produce a consistent, quality coffee at high volume, and for their excellent customer service, this coffee-focused pair have now turned their hand to pizza.
They’re bringing over the same attention to detail: from good systems, to top of the line equipment - including a shiny Double Stack Middleby Marshall oven - to high quality ingredients, all prepared with care in the open-plan kitchen.
Their Szechuan Chilli Prawn Pizza ($21/large) impresses on quality and price, with good quality prawns rolled in an (almost too-liberal) amount of the volatile peppercorns. The numbing spices are gentled by a sweet chilli base and a scattering of super-fresh mint and coriander. The pizza’s crust is uniformly golden brown, and each slice holds up well in two fingers.
The Beef Cheek Pizza ($20) takes all your home-cooked dinner needs and lays them onto a pizza, with slow-cooked beef cheek, caramelised onion and mozzarella laid onto a cauliflower puree topped base. Greens are taken care of with a scattering of gremolata, and it’s rounded out with a dash of truffle oil. It’s a definite winner; and even with this dense and filling topping, the base holds up to the two finger test.
We round out our meal with a Rocket and Parmesan Salad ($7) and some Sparkling Water ($4.50/700ml) as their liquor license is still being processed by Mike Baird's bumbling bureaucrats.
Joining the skate park up the road and the hip urban green, it’s clear this space is set to become another community hub where Waterloo locals can gather over a shared love of pizza.
Shop 1, 356 George Street, Waterloo
Ph: (02) 8381 3333
Toowoomba feels like a town right on the cusp of having all the food options a big city can offer. A recent dining boom has ensured that in the last six (or so) months, a vibrant, lowbrow dining scene has emerged. Burgers, fried chook, desserts, modern Asian – you can find them all in laneway locations, boasting funky fit-outs and a steady stream of patrons.
Toowoomba has also seen movement at the highbrow end - five months ago Zev’s Bistro opened up right on Ruthven Street. Sadly over the course of two visits, it didn’t seem to be attracting the same levels of popularity - a shame because, from the perspective of a Sydney diner, it’s terrific.
The look and feel of the place is very contemporary. Sydney is done with long meals and stuffy white tablecloths. We’re mad about Japanese tableware, menus offering three key ingredients, and share plates that allow us to dabble in more dishes. And that's exactly what owner/chef Kyle Zevenbergen has created here.
Arriving in a beautifully imperfect piece of Japanese tableware (imported by Melbourne’s Made in Japan) a lunch special of Roasted Whiting ($35) comes with a quality glass of German Riesling that would set you back fifteen bucks in Sydney. The soupy mix of golden fish fillets, explosive pickled tomatoes, salted cucumbers and funky buttermilk is wet and cooling on a scorching hot Toowoomba day. It’s accentuated by an intriguing charry element created by burnt sourdough, making it unlike any fish dish I’ve had before.
By contrast, Chicken, Sweet Potato, Raisin, Curried Greens ($26) has a more comforting, sweet British familiarity – tweaked for a hotter climate - even if it’s not as picturesque on the plate.
The dish represents exactly what Zevenbergen does well: taking familiar things – carrots, beetroot, asparagus – and letting you see them in a new light. Beets, Anise Yoghurt, Hazelnut ($17) gives you a medley of treatments of the humble beetroot. It’s cooked sous vide (inside a bag in a water bath), roasted, dried, dehydrated, pickled and then toasted, making it into a leathery beetroot jerky you soften on your tongue. Arranged in a magenta garden on another of these beautiful Japanese earthenware dishes, it’s a wonderful way to explore a humble vegetable that you should already know very well.
It’s also a brilliant companion to Kangaroo ($28), cooked with sour berries, and presented wonderfully pink on a creamy bed of wattle spuds, adorned with crisp fennel chips.
Carrot, Hay Whey, Black Garlic ($17) works the same familiar turf – and shows off this chef’s comfort with burnt charry flavours.
Throw in Asparagus, Fermented Lime, Yolk ($17) sitting on parsley pesto, and you’ve covered all your vegetable needs, with some clever puffed rice taking care of your grains too.
You’ll also find quality oysters (market price), house-made Wattle Bread ($9) with honey butter and smoked salt, and a short but creative cocktail collection.
Dr. Feelgood ($19) takes Espolon tequila somewhere left of centre with a smidgen too much Midori, earl grey tea and Zev’s syrup, but a Juicy Gin-ger ($19) hits the spot with Noble Cut Gin, El Dorado white rum, cumquat, ginger syrup, lime and soda. Wines are also a strong suit, with the short list boasting many favourites. The 2015 Giant Steps Chardonnay ($69) is an excellent drinker, and comes without the usual Sydney price tag.
Yep, Toowoomba, this one is a keeper!
517 Ruthven Street, Toowoomba
Ph: (07) 4564 8636
Tucked in amidst the hardware stores, smash repairers and storage unit companies of Brookvale, Originals Burger Co. gave me the first compelling reason to put this suburb my foodie map. Chef Josh Franco – who you might know from his time in the Aqua Dining kitchen – draws upon his experience to put out surprisingly well-balanced burgers at a very reasonable price.
Arriving wrapped so they don’t drip all over you, Josh’s American-style burgers don’t take on the towering burger behemoths (though he does have a special you can order…). Rather they supply a well-sized burger that makes for easy (and excellent) eating.
The Originals Burger ($10.99) starts with grass fed beef with the right amount of fat (for flavour) and fashions it into patties. They're presented in singular form on a burger accentuated by good mustard, tomato sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomato and white onion (I appreciated this detail) and the requisite gooey, golden American cheese. There’s a smear of house dressing - pickled mayo – that helps make it taste (refreshingly) like what burgers used to be like before a double serve of deep fried everything got jammed inside super-sweet brioche buns.
I’m a big fan of the Chicken Burger ($13.99) teaming buttermilk-fried chook, bacon, oozing American cheese and smoky barbeque sauce then balancing it with creamy OG’s blue cheese sauce. It’s presented in a house-made milk bun that isn’t over-sweet. It’s a pleasure to hold this pillowy soft burger in your hands, and stuff it into your mouth. The flavour combination – sweet, smoky, tangy, creamy - is surprisingly bold, with each of the ingredients speaking in turn. Nailing simplicity, it’s easily one of the best tasting chicken burgers I’ve tried.
You’ll also find Josh’s well-balanced blue cheese sauce cooling down the OG’s Hot Wings ($4.99/4). The free-range chicken wings are so well cooked; they fall apart at the slightest prodding under their liberal dosing with house-made hot sauce. Made using Carolina reapers (the hottest chillies in the world), jalapenos, bird’s eye chillies and banana chillis, this is one tasty hot sauce that you can also take home for twenty bucks (you need it). It’s got no preservatives, and comes with an “extremely hot” heat warning. The wings themselves have a good amount of heat, punctuate them by blue cheese dipped celery stick and a swig of Cascade Spicy Ginger Beer ($3.60).
Loaded Originals Fries ($6.99) with shallots, gravy, cheese, bacon bits and more tangy house dressing are another add-on, but became a too much of a soggy swamp for me, so next time I’d just stick to the wings.
A conveniently placed washing up sink at the front door makes eating messy hot wings all the better in a setting that leaves those fast-food joints for dead.
You'll also find hipster bulbs, exposed rafters, steam punk door handles and they’ve even given the corrugated iron roof a rustic brown paint job.
Finally, to cater to those early morning types, Josh has also brought over the cheeseburger jaffle he made famous at Neighbourhood, Bondi in a short but interesting breakfast menu. Later risers like me would do well to make his 'after eleven' “burgy burgs” a permanent pit stop on the way to the Northern Beaches.
Originals Burger Co.
34 Winbourne Road, Brookvale
Ph: (02) 9939 6817
Long before fast casual was even a thing, Australia’s burger, chook and salad needs were taken care of by neighbourhood chippies. Often run by Greek families, these stores generally did a great line in traditional Aussie burgers, battered fish (flake) and would happily wrap up two bucks worth of takeaway hot chips for you in paper. Summoning their spirit, Inferno Grill in Maroubra is one small business that deserves to win your business back from the flashy-looking fast casual chains.
“We’re just a chicken shop but we make it with a bit of flair,” laughs owner Anthony Parzakonis. He’s downplaying his menu, which runs the gamut from BBQ chooks and salads, to standout burgers, fish, including healthy grilled options, all the way to slow cooked beef that's sold by weight.
Consume the latter on one of Anthony’s own inventions – Greek Nachos ($15). Designed as a clever way of eliminating stale corn chip waste, this clever dish employs crisp pita chips they make in-house, a mound of Greek style salsa, Bulgarian feta and a blob of tzatziki – though the hero of the dish is the hidden strands of slow-cooked beef.
Kicking back with a Young Henry’s Beer ($5) drinking in amber liquid and golden afternoon sun on an al fresco table, I muse the only problem that you're likely to encounter here is deciding what to order. After all, the extensive chalkboard menu boasts six different kinds of chicken burger alone!
Luckily, the lure of juicy pineapple makes the Pig Kahuna ($16) stand out. Inspired by a Hawaiian trip, this burger boasts a double serve of Southern fried chicken, sticky maple bacon, American cheddar, chilli mayo. and acres of fresh coleslaw, all sandwiched inside a not-too-sweet bun. I appreciate the little touches, like the non-greasy chook, the house-made glazed maple bacon (a nod to Anthony’s Canadian wife), and them taking the time to grill the pineapple and gently toast the bun.
The most expensive burger on the menu, the Fatty Burger ($16), is another ode to that Facebook group of burger lovers known as The Fatties Burger Appreciation Society. With four protruding rashers of maple bacon gleaming in the sunlight, glued together with goodly amount of oozing American cheese that cleverly separates the two half brisket, half chuck steak patties, all amped up by two crisp onion rings and a deep fried pickle garnish, this burger looks spectacular. It's rounded out with mayo. and just enough Greek salsa to say you've eaten vegetables. It's a solid burger offering.
For an across the board look – pardon the pun - at what Inferno Grill does well, go for the Greek Tasting Plate ($22). This well-stacked wooden paddle shows off a juicy lamb skewers and grilled haloumi wedges against the expected range of salads, bread and tzatziki, then throws in a little bit of fried. The fat-cut chips and crumbed calamari rings are cooked with a degree of expertise - great as nobody likes rubbery calamari.
Using the experience he gained in high volume corporate cafes including Chicane in the CBD, and Altitude Espresso in Mascot, Anthony has put together a smart menu that makes the most out of a short but high quality ingredient list. He’s even taking on the gelato chains by filling his chest freezer with his own heaped ice cream creations. They’re made by mixing vanilla ice cream with a range of well-known ingredients – from Arnotts’ Tim Tams to Cadbury Crunchies – using a giant dough mixer. Quality Monin syrups help to intensify the flavour of these wonderfully textural dessert creations – I was sad only to have room for a little taste.
House-made, people-pleasing innovations like these remind me of why I prefer supporting the little guy who’s not contractually obliged to reproduce a chain menu. This freedom gives Inferno Grill the ability to rapidly morph and change, ensuring they always represent just what their customers want.
Inferno Grill & Cafe
3/944 Anzac Parade, Maroubra
Ph: (02) 9349 1821
Toowoomba is the home to a large number of cafes, and choosing between them can be difficult for an outsider. Housed in an old ball bearing factory, Ortem exudes the feeling of a likeable community hub.
With games like spot the LEGO figurine played out across the café walls and fixtures, it’s clear they’re not prioritising being trendy over more simple fun. Throw in options to share ($1.50) a meal, or have a mini portion for two-thirds of normal price, and you have a café that seems squarely aimed at pleasing the locals. It’s a pleasant change from simply documenting the most ridiculous excesses for an Instagram feed designed to woo in the tourist trade.
My dining companion likes variety, so he was delighted to order the mini Big Breakfast ($22 full-size, $14.70 mini), which sounds like an oxymoron, but actually worked very well! He got to pick his way through a moderate amount of smoked bacon, free-range scrambled eggs, mushrooms, a single pork and fennel sausage, half a roasted tomato, a hash cake, and a single slice of toasted cape seed Vienna bread.
Fritters ($17.80 full-size, $11.75 mini) reduced the triple stack of zucchini and corn fritters by one. The resulting dish still looked impressive, with two substantial fritters sitting under a poached egg and a garnish of baby spinach leaves, bacon jam, and Persian fetta, scattered crunchy sweet potato crisps.
The Bruno Rossi Coffee got a bit lost in my milky Latte ($3.90), so if I returned again, I’d definitely ask for strong. And just like the food menu, your beverage is fully customisable by size – enjoy it by mega, mug or, in my case, simple cup.
15 Railway Street, Toowoomba
Ph: (07) 4632 0090
Capriccio Osteria & Bar is a restaurant in transition. After making his mark with cotechino sliders and mortadella cannoli, Chef Bryan Gerlini has made the natural progression to his own restaurant, taking his standout dishes with him.
However with years of family experience in the restaurant game, owners Michael Rispoli and Matteo Galletto (son of Lucio Galletto), haven’t wasted any time in securing a new chef. They’re excited to present Uruguayan Chef Gabriel Valenti, who gained his experience at Maido in Lima, Peru. Maido, currently ranked #13 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, puts out Peruvian-Japanese fusion, so in coming months, expect to see some Japanese techniques applied to the Italian cooking that this spot has become famous for. If you're scratching your head as to how that might work, Matteo explains both cuisines like to "take the best produce, and do as little to it as possible."
What hasn’t changed about this sunny, Amalfi Coast inspired spot is the opportunity to kick back with an Aperol Spritz ($13) and watch the world go by on their raised alfresco seating. On the quiet end of Norton Street, this is a wonderful place to see in the sunset with loud, fast-moving flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets screeching overhead.
Throw in a plate of Stacciatella ($14) – the creamy heart of burrata cheese - topped with dried porcini and hazelnuts, scooped onto their house-made Rosemary Focaccia ($4) and you’ve got your aperitivo sorted.
As for the wider menu, the new Capriccio team are easing us into the change with some minor menu tweaks. Start with Capesante al Forno ($9/2) – wood-fired scallops served on the shell - with a Parmesan gratin, a tangle of green shallots and lime wedges passed separately.
Insalata di Polipo ($18) pushes on the warm summer vibes with thin slices of octopus topped with black and green olives, charred corn and a shaved iceberg lettuce salad. It’s a visually interesting dish, but came up short in the flavour department.
Risotto ai Asparagi ($25) – asparagus risotto with crisp Parmesan chips – remains as a menu stalwart, but didn’t quite sing for me on the night I dined. I was more taken with a vividly green plate of Malfatti ($19). The colour on this plate of pillowy spinach and ricotta dumplings comes from rocket pesto, which intersects well with a hidden layer of lamb ragù.
The dumplings go down nicely with Capriccio Rosso ($22/500ml carafe) – the house red – an approachable blend of Carignano and Monica grapes from Sardinia. It’s a likeable quaffer, that isn’t too big to extend to a Spatchcock Involtino ($32). You’ll find these juicy spatchcock rounds stuffed with black olives and rosemary, and rolled in layers of crisp pastry, easy to share; with their richness cut by a meandering line of green olive dressing.
Chocolate desserts aren’t generally my preference, though after the Gianduia Semifreddo ($10) I'm starting to suspect that might be because nobody had thought to introduce me to airy chocolate meringue. These crazy-good shards of Milo-like joy are scattered all over a chocolate and hazelnut semifreddo, with the intensity further curbed by a scattering of orange crumb.
Despite straddling two very different cooking ideas, there was enough in this meal to intrigue me. It will be an interesting restaurant to keep an eye on over coming months, to see what this chef is capable of, when he launches his own full menu.
NOTE: You can see an earlier review of this venue back HERE.
Capriccio Osteria & Bar
159 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9572 7607
When it comes to deciding whether a market is good, I look at how close it allows me to get to actual producers. In this regard, Newcastle City Farmers Market was one of the best markets I’ve visited, with very clear labeling of stalls that identified the ones that were run by genuine growers.
I’m also keen when I’m in a regional area to buy locally produced fruit and vegetables, so I particularly appreciated labeling that showed me either with words, or maps, where things came from.
While the market normally takes place in Newcastle Showground, I was lucky enough to visit on a Sunday when an event at the showgrounds kicked the market to the beautiful waterfront surrounds of Speers Point Park.
For city slickers like myself, I cannot overstate the importance of being able to walk on grass under the shade of beautiful old trees and vividly blue skies whilst selecting our greens. The whole experience helps us reconnect to the land, and inclines us to better understand the passage our food takes to get to our table.
Talking to farmers like John Lee, is another way to reconnect to how food is produced. Using chemical-free methods, John grows a wide range of vegetables on his farm in Upper Chichester, including greens you won’t find in a supermarket. He’s also a wealth of information on how you best use them. We followed his instructions and are now big fans of tatsoi (a Chinese cabbage, sometimes called spoon mustard or rosette bok choy) that’s nutty with a mineral finish. We also picked up beautiful cos lettuce, black radishes and rappi (rapini), relishing the opportunity to diversify our diet.
I always keep my eye peeled for locally grown garlic - not only does it avoid the bleaching process, it's usually much less aggressive. Eggs are another category I'm always exploring - I'm keen to understand the relationship that freshness, diet and farming techniques play on making the perfect egg.
If you arrive hungry, you'll find plenty of ready-to-eat options, running from bacon and egg rolls, to more exotic goulash pies.
Your inner child will be kept entertained with everything from corn on the cob to decorated maple-bacon doughnuts, great for eating one fisted as you weigh up organic meat options for dinner (there's great variety to be found here).
I also like to look for small producers – ideally ones too small to have a physical store. My favourite finds on this market visit all came via an Iranian couple, who were making a Persian liteh pickle (pickled eggplant, vegetables and herbs), and some excellent jams. I’ve been using their saffron apple jam, and their carrot, orange peel and almond jam as cheese condiments, as well as on Shepherd’s Artisan Bakehouse toast that I conveniently picked up at the market as well.
Put Newcastle City Farmers Market in your diary for the next time you're on the way back to Sydney from somewhere North - it's on every Sunday.
Newcastle City Farmers Market
Griffiths Road, Banksmeadow
Ph: (02) 4934 3013