Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Le Grand Cafe - A touch of Paris in Sydney (Nov 09)

Want to experience the French culture, but can't afford the plane ticket  to Paris? Well.. lunch at the Le Grand Cafe on Clarence Street near Town Hall (in Sydney) could be the answer for you.

Artwork in Le Grand Cafe
Finding a decent, relatively relaxing and cheap(ish) lunch in the Sydney CBD (near Town Hall) on a Saturday is difficult. There are a prolific number of food courts in the CBD area, but they are usually filled with lots of non-inspiring sandwich bars and greasy stuff.  However on this Saturday, Mr FBC and I find ourselves at Le Grand Cafe, a French cafe, on Clarence Street. It's opposite Becasse and Plan B (which has been blogged a lot by other foodbloggers) and is owned and run by the same people. The Cafe is located on the ground floor of the Alliance Francaise building which was designed by the late Harry Seidler. 

Artisanal Charcuterie Plate ($12)
The Cafe is really a nice and quiet place to hang out for a leisurely Saturday lunch. It wasn't particularly busy when Mr FBC and I were there on a Saturday and the service is relatively quick. To add to the French ambience and authenticity of the place, the waitstaff are all French speaking. I assume there are even kids French classes occuring on Saturday as there is a table of kids with their teacher having their morning break in the Cafe area. It's cute watching a bunch of 6/7 year olds speaking French (albeit broken French for some!) and drinking hot chocolate - how very French (I assume?!).
We ordered two dishes, the Artisanal Charcuterie Plate and the Beof Bourguignon (the Plat du Jour).  The Charcuterie Plate was a substantial meat-fest with lovely flavoursome salamis and proscuitto, accompanied by slices on soft white bread drizzled with olive oil.

Plate Du Jour - Beef Bourguignon ($12)
The Beef Bourguignon was absolutely delicious. There was an abundance of meat, which was very tender and the sauce had a rich red wine flavour.  This dish was also accompanied by white soft bread which Mr FBC and I used to wipe up the last remnants of the lovely sauce. The prices for both dishes were very affordable - especially considering the quality of the food.  To accompany our lunch, we had a glass of rose ($7) and some perrier ($3).

Despite being full from lunch, neither Mr FBC or I could say no to dessert. To compromise, we decided to share a dessert and opted for a pot of Honeycomb and chocolate mousse. It was a small dessert but it was more than enough to satisfy our sweet tooths with its rich decadent chocolate flavour and crunchy honeycomb. Yummo!

Petit Pot au Chocolate - Honeycomb Mousse and Caramel ($8)
I don't think there are many cafes in the Sydney CBD area where you can enjoy a quiet lunch, with good food and wine, and still be well priced. Tres Bien - we will be back!

Rustic French Cuisine in the Heart of Sydney
Alliance Francaise
257 Clarence St, Sydney
Telephone: 02 9264 7164
Opening Times
Weekdays 9am-3pm, Sat 8:30am-2pm

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Merry Eating! Merry Xmas!

Merry Xmas to you all :)
Don't you just love Xmas time?  To Mr FBC and I, Xmas is basically a three day binge eating marathon (we're not particularly religious so it's about two things for us - Family and FOOD!). First there's Xmas Eve dinner with my family followed by an Xmas Day breakfast. Xmas day is spent with Mr FBC's family and then Boxing day comprises a day of nibbling/snacking on leftovers.

Here are some highlights from my family's Xmas Eve dinner. It was a bit of a 'fusion' xmas dinner - a bit of ye olde English, some Chinese and a touch of Spanish (!).  

'Fusion' Xmas Eve Dinner

A view of the other end of the table
For dinner, we had the traditional turkey and roast vegetables, steamed broccolini and beans (sprinkled with some butter & garlic breadcrumbs), a mixture of salads (including pumpkin & cous cous, market salad and marinated vegetable), a huge seafood paella (made by Mr FBC), and Chinese style Lobster with ginger, shallots & noodles.

I had already decided back in November that I wanted my family to experience Adriano Zumbo's Macarons for Xmas. I think I was inspired by Adriano Zumbo's Macaron Day (as blogged by numerous people in the foodie blogosphere including: Grab Your Fork, Chocolatesuze & A Table For Two). So, on the morning of Xmas Eve I made the trek to Balmain to get my hands on 40 macarons. They were a bit pricey at $2 a pop - but well.. it's Xmas!

A colourful array of macarons for Dessert
I made sure I got a mixture of all the macaron flavours available at the Adriano Zumbo Patisserie shop. I'm not 100% sure of all the flavours but I think it included: Banana and Cherry, Black Sesame; Sticky Rice and Jasmine;Blood Orange; Fig and something? (p.s I wrote them down.. but I've lost the list - will need to update this blog if I find that piece of paper).

All the flavours were interesting... but I think I liked the Banana and Cherry flavour the most with Sticky Rice coming a close second. Unfortunately, my family weren't as excited by the macarons as Mr FBC and I. Perhaps because they hadn't really heard of Adriano Zumbo (of Masterchef Croquembouche fame!). I think my little macarons were gazumped by my sister's pavlovas. Ah well. 

The Dessert Spread (including mini pavlovas, fruit platters and cute macarons on a tier)
So that was Xmas for another year. Hoping you are all having a wonderful and well earned Xmas break :)

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie
296 Darling St
Balmain NSW 2041
(02) 9810 7318

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Boon Chocolates, Darlinghurst

Where do you rest for a quick break from urban hiking around Darlinghurst? The answer for Mr FBC and I this fine sunny Saturday afternoon was Boon Chocolates, located on Victoria Road in Darlinghurst. Ok.. so the key attraction to the place is the chocolates. However, we were just looking for a quick cup of coffee and tea.

Upstairs Cafe area of Boon Chocolates

Latte with Chocolate Mousse and Praline $7.00
We ordered tea and coffee... but were pleasantly suprised that they both came with a chocolate mousse and praline. The mousse was light and extremely chocolately. At a perfect portion size, it really hit the spot. The little praline chocolate was cute and a nice finish to the tea/coffee. It's definitely the most extravagant coffee and tea that we have ever ordered. I understand that Boon Chocolates also does an afternoon tea for $40. Mr FBC and I would be tempted to try that next time we're here.

Tea with Chocolate Mousse and Praline $8.50

Close up of the Chocolate Mousse
After finishing our tea and coffee, we went back downstairs to the shopfront area where we gawked at all the chocolate. They are all so delicate looking. We were having friends over the following evening so we bought a dozen mixed chocolates. The full description of the Boon Chocolate collection can be found on their website.

Boon Chocolate Display

More Chocolate Displays
A highlight of the chocolate display is definitely the handmade chocolate handbag. So delicate and intricate.

Chocolate Handbag
There seems to be an array of chocolate shops appearing all over Sydney. However, I think Boon Chocolates are different and unique.

Boon Shopfront
Boon - The Chocolate Experience
251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst 
ph 02-9356 8876
Opening Hours

Sunday - Wednesday 12 noon - 7:00pm

Thursday - Saturday  12 noon - 10:30pm
Monday  Closed

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Famous Berry Donut Van

The 'Famous Berry Donut Van' sign and a bag of donuts
In the words of Homer J.Simpson, "Hmmm.... Donuts!".
I recently read about the 'Famous' Berry Donut Van on the twothousand website. So, during recent trip to the South Coast, Mr FBC and I (along with our friends Flora and Mr Hippie) stopped at quaint little Berry for a donut (or six! hmmm... donuts). Mr FBC and I have previously driven past it a number of times, but wrote it off as being a dodgy little fastfood van.
The word 'Famous' is included in the large sign that you see when approaching the Donut Van, which is located at the end of Queen Street. Not sure of the global extent of the Donut Van's fame to warrant the word 'Famous' in its signage, but it sure looks like a bit of a local institution. A quick google search did reveal that there is even a "I love Berry Donut Van" facebook group with 603 members.

Piping Hot Donut... who could refuse?

The van is manned by two ladies who cook the donuts to order. You can get them plain or with cinnamon and they are delivered piping hot in a paper bag. Fresh hot donuts taste the best and the printing on the front of the donut bag that contains your special little doughy donuts even explains why "these donuts are the best you've ever tasted". According to the inscription on the packaging, the Donut Van claim that they have "never sold a cold donut and have never reheated one".
Why these donuts are the best you've ever tasted
These donuts were light, fluffy and very more-ish. Mr FBC and I, along with our friends Flora and Mr Hippie, agreed these donuts tasted better than the ones you get from The Donut King shops... which are denser and obviously not made to order.

Hmmm... Donuts
At $5 for a bag of 5 donuts, who could really refuse. They also sell other things, like 'Oak Milk' and hot dogs, but during this trip we only got the donuts.  You can grab your donuts and choose to sit at the benches provided near by or eat them while strolling down the main street of Berry.

A road trip down the South Coast will forever more require a dutiful pitstop at the 'The Famous Berry Donut Van' to grab some delicious hot piping donuts. Hmmm... donuts...yum!

The Donut Van

The Counter
The Famous Berry Donut Van
end of Queen Street, Berry
Open 7 days

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Berkelouw Book Cafe, Newtown

Latte @ Berkelouw Books
We think we've found our new favourite cafe. It's a big call for Mr FBC and I, but we're gonna to make it. It's...the Berkelouw Book Cafe in Newtown!
The cafe is located on the 2nd floor of the relatively new Berkelouw Books store in O'Connell Street, Newtown (look for T2 Tea shop off the main drag of King Street).
Sometimes you need a small cafe where you can get away from it all and unwind with a nice coffee and I think you really get this at Berkelouw. Mr FBC and I are not fans of the busy noisy cafes you find along King Street and are always on the look out for cafes that are quiet but quirky.
This place has three key things to make it a success:
1. Good Coffee - very important
2. Good food - also important
3. Great relaxing atmosphere - the place is rustic (being a refurbishment of a old warehouse) and the walls are lined with lots of old second hand books. Mr FBC and my favourite table is by the window.

Berkelouw Book Cafe - our favourite table is by the window
I've been to this place on many occasions, but only now had the chance to blog about it. This is a foodblog... so onto the important FOOD. I've collated a few photos from the numerous times that Mr FBC and I frequented the place. We've been there mostly on the weekends either for breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack. We've yet to try the place for dinner. 
Coffee - I think they use Fairtrade coffee... and it's good.
If you're after something light for breakfast then I'd recommend the simple multigrain toast.

Multigrain Toast with Jam and Butter

For lunch on another visit, Mr FBC and I tried the 'Antipasto Plate for Two' which is a generous serving filled with many tidbits and comes with a large plate of toasted sourdough bread with lashings of butter. The antipasto plate had some proscuitto, salami, smoked salmon, a wedge of camembert cheese, roasted vegetables and a berry compote.

Antipasto Plate for Two $18.50
The toasted sourdough bread was crunchy and there was plenty of it to go with the cheese, salmon and proscuitto.

Toasted Sourdough bread
We even dipped the bread in the Berry Compote - and it worked nicely! The compote was a nice sweet contrast to the rest of the savoury items on the plate.

Berry Compote

Lovely Proscuitto
On other occasions , I've tried the BLT Focaccia. It's simple, but it hits the spot.

So, this is our new favourite cafe in our inner west stomping ground. Hope you like it too!

Berkelouw Book Cafe (Lvl 2 of Berkelouw Books)
6-8 O'Connell Street

Sunday, 8 November 2009

SIFF Outing No. 3 - High Tea @ The Ivy, Sydney

'The Den' @ The Ivy
"I'm off to have High Tea at the Ivy ", I said as I flittered off for another Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF) outing with 3 friends from work. This time it was 'High Tea with an Asian Twist' @ the Den at The Ivy on George Street in the Sydney CBD.

The Den is an intimate 'art deco' inspired cocktail lounge area located to the side of the Teppanyaki Restauarant on Level 2 of The Ivy. It's very swanky and opulent, making the hectic chaos at work become a distant memory.
But onto the food.  'High Tea with an Asian Twist' as part of the October SIFF Food costs $45 per person and comprised a savoury 'Teppan Tasting Plate for Two', 'Dessert Platter', a glass of champagne and a choice of teas.
Teppan Tasting Plate for Two

There were lots of little delectable morsels of food on the tasting plate including: crab leaves, prawn and pork gyoza, oysters, balmain bug wontons, mini wagyu burgers and chicken skewers. Every single bite was delicious and flavoursome. Unfortunately, you only got to taste one item each. It would have been great to have a bit more food on the plate. However, perhaps High Tea is more about being dainty and elegant with you food... as opposed to 'stuffing your face'.
 Chicken skewers 

I question the 'Asian -ness' of mini Wagu beef burgers but they were sure tasty. There were a bit tiny and it would have been wonderful if they could have provided two burgers each.

Cute Mini Wagyu Burgers - one bite was not enough :(
The dessert platter was well presented and had a slice of green tea cheesecake, banana tempura with chocolate sake fondue and fruit. The cheesecake was light and fluffy and I loveed the subtley of the green tea flavour. The banana fritters were lacking on good chunks of banana, but were nonetheless yummy (especially when coated in the chocolate 'fondue' sauce). The dessert was rounded off with a cleansing Green Tea served in a gorgous Asian tea set.

Dessert Platter for two

Green tea to end the High Tea experience
The verdict? The setting was decadent and the food was dainty... but perhaps too dainty such that you still sort of felt hungry after forking over $45. The experience was interesting. However, if you are after a decadent High Tea experience, it is probably best to stick with High Tea in it's true form - large scones with cream and jam, cucumber finger sandwiches, and delicate sweets (such as The Victoria Room @ Darlinghurst or The QVB Tearooms etc).

Silk ottoman couches in the Den

The Den @ The Ivy
330 George Street, Sydney

Monday, 2 November 2009

Deus Cafe, Camperdown, Sydney

Latte ($3)
When Deus Ex Machina first opened up I loved the place. What wasn’t there to love with the custom motorbikes, cool clothes and cappuccinos. Mrs FBC and I were regular customers in the early days before Deus became mainstream and decided to turn the small café next to the bike shop into a café with a small bike shop. It was during this transition that we had a very bad dining experience at Deus one morning that put us off this place for a long time ( let’s just say there was very bad burnt coffee involved and no one likes a dodgy coffee - ever!).

main entrance to the cafe and the stylish interior

However, for some time now I’ve had a hankering to go back and give Deus another try. If not for the coffee, then at least for the super cool motorbikes. And I’m happy to say the Deus café is now better than ever.

Mrs FBC and I went there for a quick lunch and as the photos show this place has lost none of its cool. But, more importantly, the food and the coffee (!) were great.

baristas hard at work (l); smoked trout salad with poached egg, kipfler potatoes & hollandaise ($16) (r)
Sharing a communal table, Mrs FBC happily dined on the smoked trout salad with kipfler potatoes, hollandaise sauce and a poached egg ($16), while I had the roast pork roll with tomato relish and pumpkin ($14). The pork was a beautifully tender and thick with just the right amount of fat on it and was well matched with the sweetness of the chutney. To top it off, it came with a side of home made potato crisps which were crunchy and lightly seasoned.

Roast pork roll ($14), there's more to Deus than food!

What’s the verdict? Well I’m happy to say that Deus will now be returning to our regular list, which will give me a lot more opportunity to eye off those bikes and pretend that I may one day buy one of them. Oh, and there’s also a lot more of the menu for us to try our way through. We hear that the Deus Cafe is also now open for dinner Wed - Sat so will definitely be back to give the dinner menu a try too.
Deus Cafe
98-104 Parramatta Road
Camperdown, Sydney
ph: 85942800

Sunday, 1 November 2009

SIFF Outing No. 2 - Sugar Hit at the Swissotel, Sydney

Sugar Hit Dessert at Swissotel with Sparkling Wine or Cocktail ($20 - bargain!)

I've never been to a 'Sugar Hit' event before. I just don't have a sweet tooth so I'm never too fussed. I know - what is wrong with me? However, to celebrate finishing another uni assignment (1 more to go!), Mr FBC and I decided to hit the streets for a 'Sugar Hit' one balmy Friday night in October.

I originally wanted to go to the Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki @ Regent Street after reading and drooling about the amazing 'East Meets West Dessert Tasting Plate' described by Helen @ Grab Your Fork . However, I was too late and it was already booked out :(
Fortunately, Azuma has extended their Sugar Hits through the month of November. It's the same dessert.... 9-11pm ....Monday to Thursday. Book in soon if you missed out in October!

On the dessert place was a white chocolate and raspberry layered mousse cake. The cake was light and fluffly... but sort of reminded me of the cakes you might get in a Chinese Bakery (of which I'm not a fan). Also on the plate was a small pyramid of dark chocolate ganache, plus and a white chocolate and cherry mousse (this was my favourite). The mousse was rich and creamy. And, for a bit of a suprise after devouring the delectable mousse, little sweet, juicy cherries were found at the bottom of the cup.

Hennessy Mule Cocktail
To accompany the dessert we were offered a choice of either a glass of Brown Brothers Sparkling Wine or a Hennessy Cognac Cocktail (I think it was called the 'Hennessy Mule' and contained cognac muddled with fresh lime, a dash of bitters and topped with ginger beer served over ice). Not being a fan of 'old man' liquor, I opted for the sparkling wine... but Mr FBC had a mule and loved it.
The SIFF Sugar Hits are over for another year but will be back again in October 2010. Next time, I'm going to remember to book in EARLY!
Swissôtel Sydney
68 Market Street Sydney NSW
ph: 02 9238 7082

SIFF Outing No.1 - Let's Do Lunch @ Becasse

Complimentary appetizers (olive crostini with cream cheese)

It's been awhile between posts. I blame two things. WORK and UNI ASSIGNMENTS :(

Despite being swamped for past few months, Mr FBC and I managed to do a few 'Sydney International Food Festival' (SIFF) things (formerly 'Good Food Month').
The SIFF's 'Let's Do Lunch' events are a great way of tasting food at fantastic restuarants in Sydney without having to pay a fortune. My technique is the pick the restuarants with one or two 'chefs hat's' - it just feels like it's more value for money :P
One Friday in October, Mr FBC and I had a lazy 'Let's do Lunch' lunch at Becasse. For $35, you get a main course and a glass of Browns Brothers Wine.

Lunch at Becasse was great as you got a few little extras!
A little canape to start comprising olive crostini with a dollop of cheesy cream. Sorry - I'm trying to remember to bring a notebook with me to write down the descriptions :(
We also got a complimentary 'Amuse Bouche' in a cute little cup comprising a creamy flavoursome mushroom soup.

Amuse Bouche - mini mushroom soup

We also ordered some yummy breads (this costs a bit extra). I hear they bake the breads on the premises. The nicest one was the pumpkin bread.... which actually had pieces of pumpkin inside.

Fresh bread

Mr FBC order an extra Entree. I think it was 'Cured Wagu beef' accompanied with what Mr FBC described as little morsels of brains!?

Cured Wagu Beef

And finally, the 'main course' - the linguine of Kinkawooka mussels provencale. The pasta is lovely and light with smatterings of fresh mussels, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and breadcrumbs. A beautiful combination.

Linguine of Kinkawooka mussels provencale

I love the 'Let's to Lunch' events. It's a great excuse for long laaaazy lunches. I say bring back the long decadent lunches from the 80's :)

204 Clarence Street
Sydney, NSW
(02) 9283 3440