Preoccupied Press

Ode to Coffee

(and flowers in jars)

flowers

Yes, I am a coffee fiend; proud of it too! And speaking of this heavenly beverage, I’ll plug the other blog site I’ve written a few pieces for. “The Wee Coffee Bible” is run by some lovely local folk and you can find my articles along with some interesting coffee facts and history on their site.

Here are the ones by yours truly:

2kf, Mona Vale

http://theweecoffeebible.com/cafe-spotlight-2kf/

Flamingos and Dingos, Newport

http://theweecoffeebible.com/cafes-uncovered/

Harvest, Newport

http://theweecoffeebible.com/harvest-newport/

Alfresco Emporium, Collaroy

http://theweecoffeebible.com/cafe-spotlight-the-cafe-at-alfresco-emporium/

alfrescoemporium

I realise the picture of the beautiful orange roses is slightly unnecessary, but getting preoccupied is a thing that I do. Aren’t they pretty? I suggest everyone else hop onto the ‘jar obsessed’ bandwagon I am currently riding, it started on Pinterest and has ventured into my everyday life. More to come on my Pinterest addiction…

Le Bal: Paris

You can’t beat Parisian charm, good coffee and plates with bacon on the side

 le bal scene

I very much apologise (quite insincerely) for galavanting around Europe to see and experience all things good in a land of food. I must start with Paris and I must start with Breakfast, however I see these two topics becoming a trend over the next few articles.

You have been warned.

Paris is one of those eternal cities that is going to be charming regardless of the sun. Le Bal, a cosy cafe on the edge of an art gallery, is certainly not exempt from the ‘Parisian charm,’ especially on a cold morning. If you can’t handle another croissant breakfast (…impossible…?) or are craving a little outing, Le Bal is an excellent spot to join the locals for a bite and a seriously good cappuccino. Although reputation shadows France in a blanket of coffee doubt, I promise this is a good drop, and that Paris is now host to many options for those missing a silky coffee.

le bal break

The eggs and bacon come with a bread basket containing a scone and the optional sausage (saucisse) is worth the extra euros. Le Bal is a bit of a brunch spot, seeing as ‘breakfast’ is still an emerging concept in Paris, however as pictured, they’re catching on. With white gridded shelves and low hanging lights, the cafe has a modern, artistic design that contrasts with the greenery outside.

Note that this place opens at 11am, not that this was a problem for us lazy tourists, but the early risers may have to suffer (you poor, poor things) a croissant to tide you over before brunch. Le Bal is a one minute walk from the metro station ‘Place de Clichy’ and is definitely worth a try for a cosy breakfast in Paris.

lebalcoffee

Flamingos and Dingos

A Fleetwood Mac vinyl spins in the corner and a glass cabinet displays fresh strawberry tarts. Is the coffee up to scratch through the window on Robertson Lane?

image-6

Any place that has ‘fine coffee haunt’ registered as part of their business name is worth a try. Either they are indeed a place of fine coffee and deserve to be haunted, or they are asking for some raised eyebrows.

Flamingos and Dingos is a hole in the wall on the cafe- ridden Robertson Lane, Newport. If you remember The Sugarmill; a surf shop in Narrabeen with a coffee window, then Flamingos and Dingos is what eventuated after The Sugarmill called it quits. With hanging copper lamps, a vinyl record player and fresh pastries sought from my favourite bakery in Avalon, F&D is off to a terribly good start.

Their clipboard menu is understandably limited (being a coffee haunt after all), but they have perfected their selection. Avocado on sourdough is taken to a whole new level and their toasted muesli is very nice too. For what you get, the pricing is incredibly reasonable and I must admit it’s my weekend go- to for a healthy breakfast and a rich cuppa.

I must say, the coffee is spot on. It’s different and a strong drop, perfect for serious coffee drinkers looking for a variation in the taste of their caffeine. They also have a text message and ‘phone ahead’ system that is amazing if you’re on the run. If you manage to score the desired indoor seat; a romantic bench with large folding windows, it’s a cosy meeting spot with a difference.

The young staff are lovely and the atmosphere isn’t trying too hard to be laid back and funky. If I had any hats to speak of I would take them off to these guys, who have managed to turn a shoebox into an excellent coffee site and a showcase of clever interior design.

When You Can’t Decide

Don’t bother flipping a coin.

Barbuto has all but tacos on their menu and is stylish, without the price tag.

Barbutonarrabeen
Barbuto
5/16 Ocean St  Narrabeen NSW 2101
(02) 8911 1760
http://barbutorestaurant.com.au
 

If you can’t think of anywhere that can please all parties, give Barbuto a go. It’s located one minutes’ walk from the local pub and has somehow managed to cater to almost every category of diners (except the dear old elderly folk). Barbuto is especially great at lunchtime or late afternoon for drinks and tapas style eating. The dinner is also scrumptious, however the restaurant holds two seatings at 6pm and 8pm, so working around that can prove difficult. The place is buzzing this summer and booking ahead is unfortunately a must – but their website now offers online bookings that are instant and guaranteed (because the times, they are a changing).

If you like a bit of spiciness, I strongly recommend their chorizo starter (6.0), keeping in mind that it is a small portion and should be ordered with other bits and pieces. One of these may be the baked camembert with tomato chutney and honey (19.0), a top choice for sharing and an excellent accompaniment to Barbuto’s White Sangria. Note that the sangria comes with its own fruit salad and is extra sweet at $8 a pop.

Barbuto’s menu has a lot to offer, from pizzas and pastas to ribs, steak and fish. The ribs come with a bib and all, with your own choice of glaze. The steaks are also decent and, to be quite random, I must say that the dressing they splash on the side salad is a favourite.

The food is not to die for but it is very, very good. The atmosphere, location and staff lift the restaurant as a whole, making Barbuto’s perfect for a summer afternoon and a fussy-person-safe meeting spot for any occasion.*

*Currently, Barbuto is also open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

7.9/10

Stella Has A Sweet Tooth

Ice mountains, grey chicken and a possibly poisonous dessert.

See how Stella fares.

image-3

Stella Blu
18 The Strand, Dee Why Beach, Sydney
www.stellablu.com.au
9982 7931

It’s the time of year where we all sigh in delight over the balmy summer nights. Our recent visit to Stella Blu was one of those; the sun stayed up past its bedtime, the beach across from the restaurant was packed and a saxophone player covered chilled renditions of the top 40.

We ordered a remarkably generous antipasti platter (33), worth its price especially for the hot frittata and zucchini flowers. There was such an abundant array of choice piled on this platter it would be pointless detailing every single one. As for the beverages, the ‘Frosty Fruit’ is a favourite of mine, the Caprioska’s are also very good and come with a mountain of shaved ice (ooh la la).

image-2

Unfortunately, the Spatchcock I ordered (28.5) did not live up to the flavours suggested in the menu. The meat was also a little tough… and looked a little grey. Don’t give up on Stella Blu though, go for the 6hr slow roasted lamb, now that dish is to die for!

Veal scaloppini (29.9) hit the spot with a little more kick. The green beans were perfect with the dish and it was a hearty, flavoursome choice (proscuitto is always a winner with me though).

We did not order dessert this time around (I know, sacrilege). But, after trialling the flourless chocolate cake with fudge and pistachio praline (13.9) for poison on too many occasions, I can recommend it highly!

Overall my tips for Stella Blu are:

- Request a seat outdoors in the summer

- Order the antipasti platter!

- Try at least one cocktail

- Make sure you don’t skip out on dessert.

Many diners decide to stroll to the ice cream bar down the road. It’s an option and cute for a date… but the flourless chocolate cake is seriously good. I trust your judgement.

Stella Blu is a great restaurant for both winter and summer seasons, suitable for romantic or group nights. Dare I say that a well-made cocktail always goes down nicely, regardless of the weather?

image

More Bacon, Honey?

The little cafe Revolver serves up a decadent big brekkie

 
Revolver Big Breakfast
 
Revolver
291 Annandale Street, Annandale
Sydney
http://revolver.com.au

Type “Sydney’s best breakfast spots” into Google and you have a whole lot to choose from.

We were staying on York Street and in need of a good coffee, discovering that Surrey Hills was most likely our best bet. But then, a photo of the big breakfast at Revolver caught our eye. Catching a cab to Annandale, we found that Revolver is settled on the corner of a highly residential area. The exterior is colonial and the interior is a warm, vintage themed room with gorgeous crockery and nik- naks.

Our tea came with a miniature hourglass to time the brew and the breakfast was bundled into a cast iron pan. At 16.50, the breakfast is well worth the portion and the travel, the coffee is lovely too.

Tea at Revolver

Notably, the bacon is cured with honey, giving the whole dish a hint of sweet and smokey that harmonize something special. The toast came with homemade relish that is tart, herby and not what you expect.

The owner (presumably) went above and beyond to ensure we had a table and even ordered us a cab for the trip home.

I highly recommend Revolver, at a 9.5/10.

(0.5 is due to the sausage being mediocre and the location, but nothing to really sneer at)

Afternoon Drinky Poos in Manly: Part I

Insitu Pimms

Excuse my tipsy-ness but we have just ‘forced’ jug fulls of pimms and sangria down our throats (for the sake of research people!)

Afternoon drinks are the best. You can enjoy the sun, you’re not exhausted and the bars aren’t yet flooded with teenagers and out-of-towners.

There are so many options for lazy weekend drinks in Sydney, here are a few suggestions from over the bridge in Manly.

Insitu

Cute little bar for the vintage hipster. Insitu has a gorgeous courtyard seating area, tapas, cocktails and jugs. This bar is great to slip into after wandering the markets on a Saturday. It’s on a laneway off the corso, and there’s a cafe next door that is decent for fresh juices and a larger food menu.

Insitu

We ordered stuffed zucchini flowers which were flavoursome and definitely the best tapas we tried, we also got the warm ciabatta with balsamic and dukkha (an indian powder of spices that was a bit odd and unnecessary). The lamb skewers with minted yoghurt were flavourless and dry. Basically, you go to Insitu for the refreshments.

zucchini flowers

On that note, my favourite cocktail is the ‘Apple Crumble Martini’ where the martini glass is rimmed in cinnamon sugar and topped in a thin layer of cold cream. It is however, surprisingly tart and not overwhelmingly creamy.

Their ‘Soviet Kiss’ is also lovely; a champagne cocktail with raspberry puree. My only critique of this drop is that it’s small and light on alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic, but for roughly $20 it’s one of those impulse buys based on a love of fresh raspberries. If it’s purely the taste you’re after, I recommend this one.

 pimms

As for jugs, we had the Pimms and a white sangria and both were great. The Pimms was a little sweeter and came adorned with a fruit salad. Mint, strawberries, orange, lemon and lime floated in the iced summery goodness.

The white sangria had passionfruit, lemon and strawberries pressed against the glass. Another great summer pick, and lovely for afternoon drinks in Manly.

New Brighton Hotel

The second and third levels of this place smell of a public toilet. It had to be said. That aside, the newly renovated ‘shark bar’ has a small rooftop bar that is relaxing and a top spot for small groups in the afternoon. We managed to slip into one of the two cane domes that gave us some privacy and still let the sun through. With scattered pillows on the round leather cushion, the domes could fit three to four people, or there are sun chairs and tables.

courtesy of NBHIf your sweet tooth is hankering for a fix, the New Brighton Hotel serve Rekorderlig Ciders, which are sweet but worth a try! (Especially the pear and apple ones). The rooftop bar have Monteith’s on tap and do spirits, but cocktails are not served on the roof. The bar also has a little view of the water so it’s nice to be reminded that you’re by the sea while you bask in the sun above the corso.

Swap your late night out for afternoon drinks in the sun this week and try something a little different.

Thank god for summer!

Little Blue House

The french fusion restaurant gets a mixed review

La Grillade crows nest

La Grillade

118 Alexander Street  Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9439 3707
lagrillade.com.au

Firstly, I do not have photos because I was absolutely consumed in the meal, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to look like a tourist.

La Grillade in Crows Nest was new to me. Most people I spoke to about it said something along the lines of

“Oh, that place has been around/good for years!… they’re under new management now though so…”

So. I don’t know what it was like before, but what I ordered was something incredible.

Hold up for a second though, I’m not a 10/10 crazy lady who likes any food put in front of her. There were a few little points worth mentioning that weren’t splendiferous.

The gorgeous little building itself resembles a house with a blue front. They have a sweet garden area out the back (unfortunately it was raining when we visited, so we opted for indoors).

The staff were lovely, but disorganised; we had to ask to see the menus and for the bill between gaps of uneasy confusion. Our runners seemed flustered, and although very friendly they were not on top of everything. However, not a night-ruiner by a long shot.

Bread came out for free (win) and we were given samples of cauliflower soup with brioche crumble to try (double win) which was amazing- I’d order it next time. We had the herb stuffed calamari with risotto and pork crackling (19.50) for a shared entree. It tasted lovely, however it was minuscule and by no means worth its price. Two tiny pieces of calamari and a shard of crispy fat, (with the risotto we had two mouthfuls each). Don’t get me wrong, very well executed and a flavour sensation with the herb mix, but ridiculously priced and definitely not one to share.

Michael ordered the 7+ Wagyu flat iron with frites and cafe de paris butter (37.5) which was very nice, yet quite heavy and limited in flavour variety. The dish lacked some crispy greens or some vegetables. Even so, a fairly classic french dish which was done well, but without the expected contemporary flair of La Grillade’s fusion cuisine.

I had the rolled lamb breast (34.00) and I’m almost lost for words. Get it.

The pureed jerusalem artichokes, dauphinoise and sauce were absolutely perfect. It was a rich meal (like most french dishes) but the lamb itself fell apart and you are constantly attempting to mash as many of the flavours onto your fork as possible.

My advice for both dishes would be to order a side salad, to break up the richness.

Speaking of richness, how chocolatey can a chocolate torte get? La Grillade nailed it (17.00). One of the best chocolate tortes I have ever tried, accompanied by completely uneccessary (and untouched) double cream and a small scoop of cherry sorbet. This dish is big enough and rich enough to share, which is rare advice coming from me; the crazed chocoholic who awaits dessert at every outing.

All in all, a very enjoyable night. I think your experience will largely depend on your ordering so choose wisely! And accompany the meal with some french champagne.

Bon Apetite!

La Grillade gets a 7/10

How Much is that Pasta in the Window?

With a line and a waiting list 30 people deep, is Jamie’s worth the wait?

 jamie_hero

Jamie’s Italian Kitchen

107 Pitt Street  Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 8240 9000
Web: www.jamieoliver.com/au/italian/
 

“It’ll be about a two and a half hour wait guys.” A young girl balanced a wooden plank of prosciutto, olives and bread, shuffling from person to person. The line of people outside Jamie’s Italian Kitchen was unbelievable at 5.30 in the afternoon and although it moved seemingly quick, the wait for a table grew longer.

It’s the one with the boxes of handmade pasta in the window, where the shopfront is almost missable, but extends vertically to seat 200 people. It’s easier to find if you scan Pitt street for a queue enjoying olives on the house.  I’m glad we waited. As it turns out, the caprioska’s were decent and you can order most entrees to the bar while you wait. Plus, some people must have given up so we only waited 45 mins.

Here’s the verdict:

BREAD (free)- A little gift from Mr. Oliver himself, a basket of herbed bread with European style olive oil and balsamic. If it were up to me, all restaurants would offer this for free. It’s just polite. Cudos.

ITALIAN NACHOS ($7.00)- A small portion of fried ravioli parcels filled with cheese.  The dip is the important bit: a little heat but a fairly basic, flavorsome, tomato base.

CRISPY SQUID ($12.00)- Beautiful and crispy; tossed with chilli. Also a small portion, but at the price of the entrees it’s worth trying more than one. Maybe I’m being selfish and just wanted the squid to myself (likely).

BUCATINI CARBONARA ($14.00/$23.00) – I got the tagliatelle pasta and it was sensational. Very creamy and on the salty side, which is to be expected. The pancetta makes this dish incredible, but being on the heavy side, I’d order an entree size next time.

TAGLIATELLE BOLOGNESE ($12.50/$19.00)- The winner of the night. Made traditionally with beef & pork, the flavours are unbelievable. What makes this dish so special is the crunchy, herbed breadcrumbs that hide within the pile of saucy pasta. They change- up the texture and keep the meal interesting.  Image

The most noteworthy of notes regarding Jamie’s Italian has to be the well-trained, freindly staff. Despite being a full house (with a line 2.5 hours long outside) they were awesome. I’m not a suck up I swear.

Basically it’s worth the wait. The prices are amazing for the quality, so I suggest tasting as many dishes as you can muster.

Goodluck!

Jamie gets a 9/10

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers

%d bloggers like this: