Author: Lily & Ouk Eat Food

CBD Dumpling House, Canberra

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CBD Dumpling House has been open for absolutely ages now, its only a stones drop (literally) from work yet I’ve never dined in until now. I’ve had their chow mein take away one or two times and let me say, I was honestly shocked to say it’s actually my favourite in Canberra now, slightly beating the previous winner Happy’s. It might be obvious, but I only really get chow mein when I’m at work. The best part about it is CBD Dumpling House give you two boxes! One for the pan fried noodles and another with the chow mein sauce and meats so it’s pretty good value. Since I don’t eat dumplings all the time, I didn’t really have a go to place like most people do, so I figured, time to try out something new and head over to CBD Dumpling House.

I was a little nervous at first, Canberra folk sure love their Shanghai dumplings so the line for CBD Dumpling House is always out the door and along the side. Plus it was Saturday, no way was I getting a seat. Regardless, I tried my luck and head over just after 5.30PM and somehow they had seating! It seems like it gets super busy area the core dining times, I would say, unless you have a booking (if they take bookings) steer clear of this place between 6.30 – 8PM. It is not so bad if you have a small group of two to four people, they seem to have ample tables for that. Anything more and you’ll probably be waiting for ages.

Anyways, thats enough chit chat, time for Shanghai dumplings!

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First up, the Xiao long bao ($9.80). These were actually really nice! The meat, the soup, the skin, it was all quite good here, and I honestly wasn’t expecting too much. The skin was nice and soft from the steaming that the xiao long baos underwent, they didn’t over do it leaving the skin soggy and gooey or leave them out long before serving it, which I find makes the skin go quite hard and unenjoyable. As you bite into the lovely soft but bitey skin, the hot soupy broth comes pouring out. Each bao had plenty of strong soup broth goodness in it. Inside the bao was a generous amount of minced pork mixture that was flavourful and warm. Each element of the bao was done right and the end result was some super tasty xiao long baos.

As a side note, we actually had half or so of the dumplings as really really good, and half as quite poor, with thick, dry skin and a small amount of meat inside. All in all I enjoyed it, but consistency is definitely something to consider when ordering this dish. Though, I still recommend it, as it was my favourite set of dumplings here!

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Here is a shot of the xiao long bao with all its brothy goodness on the outside. For this shot, I bit a small hole in it before placing it into the bowl. As you can see, the broth is extremely dark in colour for soup, it looks and tastes more like a pure pork stock. I really enjoyed this soup, and it was one of the more stronger ones Ive ever had. Outside of how it tasted, it also helped to keep the pork mince on the inside from drying out. It’s like eating an Asian style super meaty spaghetti bolognese sauce!

Obviously you probably don’t want to eat your xiao long baos like this. With the soup all out in the bowl. Personally I normally pick up my xiao long baos and place it on a big soup spoon, I then take a small bite on the side and soup sip up the soup. Once I’ve had enough to ensure that the soup won’t pour everywhere when I move the spoon around, I’ll pop the whole xiao long bao in my mouth. This way, I don’t end up spilling and wasting any of the delicious soup and when you have the bao, there still should be just enough soup to still fully ensure your xiao long bao is delicious and moist.

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We decided to grab some steamed and fried dumplings as well, first up the Tomato and egg steamed dumpling (14) ($9.80). These were actually pretty nice, even though the ingredients don’t seem like they’d make the best dumpling, I’ve never really seen anyone serve tomato and egg as a combination. Most dumpling places serve chives and eggs or mixed veggies for their vegetarian offerings. Here at CBD Dumpling House you get tomato and egg which is pretty cool. I guess it’s a bit like an omelette minus all the other stuff that you normally put into it. Nevertheless it was really tasty. The tomatoes were steamed to be quite soft. There was a bit of egg through each dumpling which seemed to be a cross between an omelette and scrambled egg but at the end of the day it didn’t really matter that much. There wasn’t much egg flavour to the dumplings but luckily the tomato wasn’t too sour or overwhelming, so all in all the egg and tomato worked together pretty well.

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Here is an inside shot of the Tomato and egg steamed dumpling, as you can see there is a lot more tomato than egg. Surprising that here it worked really well since when I first saw it, I was actually a bit disappointed. The tomato had a slight tanginess to each with just enough to bring that lovely tomato flavour without overwhelming the whole dumpling. I know it sounds like a really weird combination but its totally worth a try if you’re one of those poor souls that don’t eat meat.

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Onwards to something fried, Prawn and pumpkin pan fried dumplings ($11.80). Even though my heart tells me to enjoy steamed dumplings, my stomach usually wins out and pan fried dumplings always seem to find their way in front of me. Surely I’m not alone in this?! Anyway, these were really nice and had a surprising amount of prawn chunks in it, which gave some great seafood flavour. The pumpkin was mashed together and gave the dumplings a lovely sweetness to it, which kind of fit the seafood profile anyway, which is usually quite sweet as far as savoury goes. I enjoyed this and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who loves seafood and dumplings. To be honest, I think seafood tastes a bit better when it’s steamed, not pan fried, so if I had my time again, outside of doing a copious amount of sport bets, I’d have ordered this steamed.

 

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Now for the classic, and my favourite, Pork pan fried dumplings ($10.80)! If you’ve never had pan fried pork before, then you probably don’t even need to read this and just need to rush out and get some. Something about pan frying and meat just goes together so damn well! These were easily my favourite of the day, and what can I say? I love the classics, just moist firm pork mince in a crispy dumpling shell, with a bit of chives for flavour. Really delicious and entirely savoury/salty. There’s a chance that these could’ve got a bit much if we didn’t have quite so much sweeter/vegetarian dishes to go with it, but sadly I guess I’m never going to find out.

All in all, I loved these.

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Lastly, something that isn’t a dumpling, the Combination chow mein ($13.90). I’ve been to CBD dumpling house a few times now for just random lunches and the one thing that shocked me was quite how good the chow mein was here, it is, in my opinion, the best chow mein you can get in civic! One thing I love about this place is that if you get a chow mein, they actually give you one, it’s not one of those silly places where you have to pay extra to get actual egg noodles instead of that bag of “noodle chips” that so many other places seem to think passes for egg noodle these days. Outside of that, if you get takeaway (which I do all the time) they give you two containers, one full of sauce and meat and the other full of noodle. This keeps the noodle nice and crispy for the walk back to the office and is just amazing value!

Outside of all that money stuff, this is a really nice chow mein with all the flavours that you’d expect. Only slight issue I have is that I wish the sauce was a bit thicker, but all in all it’s a really minor quibble. You can see from the picture above that they’re really quite generous, and that’s all you can really ask for isn’t it?

CBD Dumpling House

Scotts Crossing, Canberra Civic

Opening hours:

Lunch:

Monday – Sunday

11:30am to 3:00pm

Dinner:

Monday – Sunday

5:00pm – 10:00pm

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Courgette, Canberra

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Nestled between an old building and another possibly even older building, up at the beginning of Marcus Clark Street in Acton, you’ll find a little restaurant. It’s not super fancy looking, nor is it awfully active on social media. You won’t find this place doing crazy and creative degustations or the hottest thing off the press in Paris or New York. Yet this is my favourite restaurant in Canberra.

This restaurant is Courgette.

Courgette has always been a favourite for many Canberrans. However, in recent years it hasn’t quite received the same love, at least outwards love that I can see. With all the new fine dining restaurants popping up, international rankings not quite giving Courgette it’s due as well as the activities of its more innovative rivals, Courgette has kind of been forgotten in my opinion; but for me, there isn’t another restaurant in Canberra that quite compares to Courgette. I’ve been to Courgette a couple of times now, and each and every time it has always been consistent, delicious and simply amazing. You won’t find any crazy ingredients, dishes or cooking methods here. Just simple, rustic great food done well.

So, after many years of dining at Courgette, I’m very excited to finally write up my most recent food adventure at Courgette.

Last week, whilst visiting Canberra and as a kind of last toast to this quaint city, I decided to relive one of my first fine dining experiences in Canberra. During all my previous visits to Courgette, I went for dinner. This time I decided to try their lunch menu. For $66 per person, you get one entree, main and dessert. The lunch menu itself is quite similar to the dinner menu, with the option to add some sides like Paris mash or leafy greens for $10. We decided to go for the thee course menu plus a bottle of wine. Not because we now understand wine or anything but rather because we didn’t drive and this was a wonderful opportunity to appear cultured. There doesn’t seem to be wine matching at Courgette. However, I’m sure if you ask they’ll be able to provide some recommendations. We were too scared to, obviously.

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As expected from any good fine dining restaurant, we were greeted with warm bread and butter prior to our lunch coming out. However, this wasn’t quite your standard dinner roll. This is going to sound pretty trivial and I do tend to get really excited about all things related to food. However, this bread roll from Courgette was easily the best bread roll from a fancy place I’ve ever had. This bread roll was fluffy with just that right amount of crisp on the outside. But what stood out was it’s flavour. The bread roll had this distinct tart sourdough like taste to it. However, the texture was anything but sourdough like, instead it was fluffy almost like a croissant, which was really enjoyable to eat. The matching whipped butter also lived up to its fantastic bread counterpart. The butter was whipped like you would expect from most of these places but it was probably the smoothest I’ve ever had. It felt as smooth as whipped cream or mousse, and spreading it was an absolute joy. As someone who is exceptionally lazy, I really appreciated how smooth it was.

Another great thing for any hardcore bread fans out there, this delicious warm bread comes in unlimited supply! Okay, I’m not sure about unlimited but you can definitely get more than one. Promptly after we finished ours, we were offered a second one and we didn’t even need to ask! We loved the gesture but sadly had to turn it down in fear of getting too full. Hey, it happens.

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Our first entree from Courgette was the Chicken liver parfait with brioche, quince onion jam, sultanas and wild flowers. This was a hard decision to make. Of the four entrees available, all of them sounded absolutely amazing, even the vegetarian option caught my eye. It wasn’t just your standard vegetarian pasta, instead for all our tree hugging friends out there, (it’s okay, according to that, I must really like… hugging whales or something) there was a Mediterranean inspired dish with ‘goats cheese cloud’. I don’t know what that is but it sounds pretty awesome to me.

Of course for me, it was a massive battle between the prawn, scallops and pate option. Should I go for the light and summery scallops, the rich and flavoursome pate or the Italian hillside prawn cannelloni?! After much contemplation, I settled for the pate. An unusual choice for myself, normally I tend to opt for prawns but today I wanted something rich and indulgent.

This little dish you see here, is as tasty as it is pretty. My initial regret after ordering the pate vanished with my first taste of it. It was the perfect combination of rich creamy flavours with fruity and sweet elements, which surprisingly actually cut through the richness instead of contributing to it.

There was no sharp and harsh chicken flavour or that horrible grainy texture that leaves you flicking your tongue for the next two courses. Instead the pate was silky smooth, but also surprisingly fluffy and light. There was also this really creamy and slightly sweet layer that coated the rim of the pate. I thought this added quite an interesting and contrasting flavour. Finally, there were the condiments which really just added to the pate instead of taking away or dwarfing it, the richness of the brioche, the sweet almost teriyaki like flavours from the burnt sultana sauce and the caramelised onion jam. It was just the perfect combination of savoury, richness and sweetness.

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Our second winning entree was the Seared scallops, smoked cauliflower puree, fennel crunch and fermented black garlic. This was absolutely delicious, and whilst the scallops are clearly the main event here, I feel like it’s only fair to talk about the supporting cast first. The fermented garlic was a beautiful addition and there was only a tiny amount on each scallop, but each dab just oozed of flavour! It was strong, quite sweet, and really earthy with a flavour that kind of reminded me of vegemite, except I hate vegemite and I loved this. The cauliflower puree which was splotched in amongst the flowers was an amazing smoky and mild sauce that just grounded the whole dish together. A fantastic addition, especially for me, someone who loves savoury sauces.

Now to the scallops themselves. These were amongst some of the best I’ve ever had, though it was for a reason I wasn’t expecting. These scallops were seared really nicely but on touching them, they were oddly quite firm, so much so that my first thought was that they were overcooked. Then with each bite I took, I actually grew to love how the firm texture of the scallop played off the smooth cauliflower puree and fermented garlic. At that point, I realised I just couldn’t imagined this dish with softer scallops. They were easily some of the best scallops I’ve ever had, and whilst it doesn’t make me go back and think all the scallops I’ve had in the past were undercooked, it definitely opened my eyes a bit to the possibilities of the humble scallop!

Oh I almost forgot, the fennel crunch! It might not be visible in the picture, but this whole dish was served on a bed of  fennel crunch ‘crumbs’. As you can imagine, it was extremely crumbly, like biscuit, but once it was in your mouth it just melted away, it was a great feeling. There was also a slight aniseed taste to the crumbs and honestly it reminded me a bit of a ginger snap.

Really loved this dish, and was my favourite of the two entrees!

 

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Promptly after we finished our entrees, in rolled our mains. As with the entrees, we had four choices. Your two meats, lamb and veal. Your vegetarian dish, featuring a ‘cauliflower steak’ , at first I actually thought there was a steak dish on the menu and got really excited. Imagine my disappointment when I finally noticed ‘cauliflower’. Finally there was the fish option which came with two types of fish.

While we struggled to pick between the entrees, the mains were given. My first choice, which required no contemplation at all was the Cobia fillet, smoked salmon with avruga caviar, courgette blossom, charred baby leeks and a pea puree. I love fish but I just find it so boring and completely hit and miss at most places. It’s either really dry, littered with bones or a boring salmon fillet. But the one place where I’m always keen to get fish is at high end restaurants. It’s always perfectly cooked, carefully inspected to ensure I don’t end up attempting to shallow rice for the next 8hrs and done in the most interesting and intriguing ways. Plus, they always go out of their way to use weird cuts and species that I’ve never heard of. I guess as a chef, they probably like the challenge of making something plain, amazing.

This dish was no different. There were so many different elements, all done differently and all with a different purpose but together they made one he’ll of a bite that would make you go hmm. Whenever I get a dish with multiple elements, I always try to try each component separately to see if I can identify the ingredients and flavours separately. Only after I’ve done that will I try all the elements together. With this fish dish at Courgette I followed my usual routine, with a little bit of disappointment. The fish was quite salty and the complimenting elements were quite bland. At that point, I was getting a little nervous. Was this fish dish going to fail me?! Alas it was meant to be.

The rather salty but extremely tender fish worked perfectly with the strange vegetarian caviar, apparently avruga is a fruit, which is weird because it tasted quite fish and salmon like but lacked that saltiness you would normally expect from caviar. Other normally salty elements, like the smoked salmon was also rather mild but instead full of smokey flavour. It truly was a strange mix of elements. Finally there were a number of other components that contrasted the saltiness and balanced out the fish like the extremely sweet, light and flavourful mashed peas and the crispy and airy deep fried courgettes stuffed with minced salmon. There was also a super crispy and light squid ink rice cracker which added a nice amount of texture to the dish which wasn’t already really present. Surprisingly, the squid ink rice crisp actually had this mild intriguing flavour to it as well, which was cool because to me squid ink is historically more visual than flavourful for me.

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Our second main from Courgette was the White rocks veal with parsnip, baby spinach, red cabbage gel, artichokes and a thyme and port jus. While I thought everything at Courgette was extremely pretty, so much so that I just wanted to googly eye them instead of actually eating them, this dish was by far the best looking. It literally looks like spring on a plate. The vibrant colours of the red cabbage gel, the greens from the baby spinach and aspargus and then there was the deep red from the very fine and raw veal.

Funnily enough, it also kind of tasted like spring, with so many strong and contrasting flavours. There was saltiness, sweetness and even a little bit of earthiness and sourness.

Again, a wonderful dish with so many elements that it would take me ages to attempt to go through them all, so forgive me if I forget anything. First, lets start with some of the smaller elements, like the red cabbage puree. This puree was actually really really sweet, so I appreciated that they just gave you a few little drops all around the plate, it honestly tasted like it could’ve been a grape puree, it was that sweet! Still, the contrast in flavour was pleasant and really got me thinking about all the crazy things people can do with food. The parsnip puree on the other hand, formed most of the ‘base’ for this dish, it was really smooth with a slight taste of white wine and I used it heavily to coat each bite of the delicious veal.

The mushrooms were just kind of thrown over the plate in a haphazard way, but come on, I think we all know plates like these are never just ‘chucked’ on. Flavourwise, they were quite mild and not overly salty, this worked really well to   break up the meaty flavours of the veal. The artichokes on the other hand were really flavourful, and served fresh, instead of pickled like we are use to. I honestly wasn’t too sure on the distinction, but Lily swore by it!

Now onto the veal itself! To be honest, the veal was not my favourite part of this dish, which is a bit sad. It was really quite pink, which really excited me, but felt extremely firm and dense, a bit too tough for me sadly. This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I actually think that the time that I used to capture this picturesque veal led the veal to cool off a bit too much, leading to this not so great texture. If that was the case, that was silly of me.

Still I really did enjoy this dish, and it was one of the few dishes in my life where the main attraction in the dish let me down, and yet the supporting cast and composition of the dish itself won me over despite it all. Really good, and I’m sure that the toughness of the veal was a once off.

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Last but most importantly, dessert! Besides the cheese option, which included four cheeses, which I found super impressive for a cheese finisher, there were three other choices for dessert. Two were light and fruity, while the third one was rich, chocolatey and decadent. We decided to go for the two light options, mainly because the chocolate option came with bananas and I wasn’t feeling particularly banana-y that day.

This here is the Japanese citrus panna cotta with cinnamon crumb and mandarin gel in a lemon and ginger consumme. I’m not 100% sure which Japanese citrus fruits have been included in this panna cotta but I kind of just assumed it would have yuzu. I mean, how many other unique citrus fruits can Japan have? With this baseless assumption firmly in my mind, I naturally opted for it because I absolutely adore yuzu and I might have a tiny obsession with it. Secretly I really hope yuzu doesn’t become the next matcha, which is slowly also happening to my other favourite Asian flavour, pandan. Matcha, pandan and yuzu are my absolute favourite flavours, more than red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Prior to the great matcha surge of 2015, these flavours were honestly ‘underground’ and I don’t really want to be all hipster about it, but it really was better for me that way. Only those who loved them sought them out and were able to enjoy their goodness. This had the initial effect of making me feel so cool and cultured, typical hipster behaviour, but also had a side bonus, that these ingredients were way cheaper! But now, there is matcha and now pandan everywhere and every man and his dog is eating at Cafe Cre Asion and Blaq Piq. Now I just feel like every other photographing trend following Asian person with a camera. Which honestly is something I never really wanted to be. Also, my wallet is lighter than it normally is.

I think the point of that whole rant was, I love yuzu and I’m glad it hasn’t quite hit mainstream yet. Now that I’ve gotten that out, I should probably mention something about how this dish tasted. Well, if you can ignore the probable bias, I really enjoyed this. The panna cotta itself was silky smooth with a strong and fragrant orange blossom flavour to it. It was quite dense with a really light after taste. It didn’t really leave a sticky film or anything in your mouth. Instead every spoonful was full of flavour which lingered for a short while and allowed you to savour it.

In addition to this, there were also lovely crunches of orange rind and dehydrated strawberries throughout the panna cotta which added bursts of flavour. Surprisingly, there was very little to no sourness or bitterness to these additions. To further supplement those textures, there was a cinnamon crumble which added this lovely gingerbread flavour to the panna cotta. I’m actually really surprised how well hearty Christmas spices like ginger and cinnamon work with citrus flavours. I must note that for my upcoming Christmas baking needs, and maybe I’ll make citrus gingerbread men this year!

Finally there was the ginger and lemon consomme which was extremely mild and added just that little bit of sweetness and moisture. My favourite part of this dish, of course was the yuzu meringue which had a lot of sourness and kick to it, plenty of airy texture and crispiness and that lovely fruity and citrus flavour to contrast all the other richer flavours and textures.

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At this point, we were suitably full from our foolish bread decisions earlier. But despite that, it was time for our second dessert, the Seasonal berries, shortbread, toasted Italian meringue and mango sorbet with coconut curd and silvered pistachio nuts. This dish was a great showcase of everything that I believe Courgette stands for in a restaurant and was something I really enjoyed. The dish came out and while it had some fantastic flourishes, like the little dollop of lime goo in the corner, it was really a basic idea just done incredibly well. Whilst a lot of other places out there today will try to wow people with cool ways of using standard ingredients, or some sort of gasto combination, Courgette will always ensure that the flavours on the dish are paramount, and they are not afraid to keep things simple if necessary.

This dish had a ton of little elements, but what I need to start with was the amazing, amazing meringue! It was the softest meringue I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, with a consistency that reminded me of burnt marshmallow more than anything, it was absolutely decadent and a great base for this dish. The coconut curd was just slivered all over the dish as a white cream that added springy freshness to whatever bite it found its way into, and was a really cool addition.

Then there was the mango sorbet, which contrasted everything else with its really strong mango flavour and slight sourness. Though to be honest, most mango sorbets I have are pretty amazing, even store bought ones, so I’m probably a fairly poor judge of mango flavoured foods.

Last but not least, was the fantastic assortment of fresh berries. To be honest, if you’ve never had a berry before, then I doubt you’d be clamouring for this dish, despite what I say here. So lets just say these were just as good any other berries I’ve ever had. And as berries should, they added a light sourness to contrast the overwhelming sweetness from the meringue.

So that’s it then! Our trip to Courgette. I’ve been here a few times now and each time I failed to adequately take pictures, until now! And finally, I’ve gotten the chance to write about my favourite food place in Canberra. I’m so glad that I finally managed to get this off my chest. Everything here at Courgette is imaginative, colourful, but most importantly, delicious.

Courgette

54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra Civic

Website: courgette.com.au

Facebook: facebook.com/courgette

Opening hours:

Lunch:

Monday to Saturday

12:00pm to 3:00pm

Dinner:

Monday to Saturday

6:30pm to 11:00pm

Courgette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Passiontree Velvet, Macquarie Park

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Now that I’m back in Sydney, I’m retracing all the places I’ve missed since I left, all the new restaurants, cafes and shops. Finally getting a chance to sample all the food that inspired those drool worthy pictures that covered my Instagram feed over the years.

One place that has been showing up again and again is Macquarie Park. Back when I was in university, no one wanted to go to Macquarie University. It was out of the way and everything around it kind of sucked. There was nothing nearby to do or eat. It was just you, your university buildings and lots and lots of trees. Nothing against trees, but you know, you can’t eat em.

Well after a few short years, it looks like that has all changed. It seems like all the new hotness is opening up in Macquarie Park. The latest brands, exclusive stores and amazing restaurants. Because of that, naturally during my first week back in Sydney, I decided to pay Macquarie Park a visit. I was actually keen to try out KIN by us, which is just around the corner from the shopping centre. However, as it was a public holiday they were closed. I probably should have checked that before hand but as per usual, I didn’t. Luckily for me, there was still plenty of goodness on offer, and in particular Passiontree Velvet.

I wasn’t really looking out for this place. I kind of just stumbled on it while lost in Macquarie Centre. This is the first shopping centre that I’ve been to that has half floors. And the difference between a half floor and a full floor is five steps or a small ramp so needless to say, navigating this place sucks. So while I was wandering around looking for Aqua S, somewhere near the Aldi and the Coles, I stumbled across an island that happened to be Passiontree Velvet. To be honest, at the time I wasn’t really looking for it, but I was definitely happy to see it!

Passiontree Velvet is another fantastic export from Brisbane. Now all we need is MOS Burger to finally get exported! This modern looking cafe serves coffees, tea, light lunch meals and cakes. It’s not your typical cafe like The Coffee Club or the like, instead here, you’ll find croque monsieurs, baguettes and macarons, so it’s decidedly French. You can even settle here for a simple high tea with scones and Devonshire cream or the full deal with petit fours and ribbon sandwiches; in hindsight maybe Euro is more appropriate as opposed to French.

But what took my fancy were the cakes. Passiontree Velvet’s cabinets are filled with multiple scrumptious looking cakes, pastries and eclairs. Everything from your classics to more modern and fancy one.

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Instead of lunch, I decided to do the smart thing, and let cake be my lunch! For once, I decided to opt for some of the classics, instead of going for one of the crazy looking ones, like the log which looked like a forest with grass and green moss. Instead, here I went for the Pistachio and berry log ($7.50).

This was a simple treat but a tasty one. An airy and light eclair shell which had a really nice and strong eggy flavour to it, filled with a creamy but rather mild pistachio and nutty almond flavoured custard like fulling. This crispy but doughy like treat was covered in a pistachio and white chocolate which reinforced the nutty flavour of the pistachio and added that much needed sweetness that wasn’t really present in the custard filling. Finally there were a couple of strawberries and blueberries which added that contrasting sourness and really brought this whole pastry together.

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Every time I go to a patisserie, I always try to get a Lemon tart ($7.50). 1) because it’s one of my favourite pastries and 2) because it’s an absolute classic and any place that can’t do a solid lemon tart worries me. That is, I’ll think twice before trying something else there.

Luckily, that was not the case here. This lemon tart from Passiontree Velvet hit the spot perfectly. A perfectly smooth lemon curd with that strong citrus tang and that contrasting sweetness which cut right through it. This was paired with a rich and buttery tart and a sweet and fluffy meringue. This was the perfect balance between sweet, acidic tang and rich pastry.

There wasn’t anything special about this lemon tart but as a classic, its still the perfect treat after a long day with a strong cup of tea, not that I had a cup of tea or a long day, I guess. I mean, I was just shopping, which most people consider leisure or entertainment. But for me, thats a big day!

I’m a little disappointed I only sampled two desserts from Passiontree Velvet. Everything in their dessert cabinet, from the cakes to the macarons, looked so scrumptious. After sampling these two for myself, I think I might be dropping by again in the future for another cake or two!

Passiontree Velvet

Macquarie Centre, North Ryde

Website: passiontreevelvet.com

Facebook: facebook.com/passiontreevelvet/

Instagram: @PassiontreeVelvet

Opening hours:

Monday to Wednesday and Friday

9:30am to 6:00pm

Thursday

9:30am to 9:00pm

Saturday

9:00am to 6:00pm

Sunday

10:00am to 6:00pm

Passiontree Velvet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Night Noodle Market 2015, Sydney

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Another year, another Night Noodle Market, another chance for me to empty my wallet on various Asian street foods.

The annual Night Noodle Market kick started last (last) week, lighting up (or fogging up with all the furious meat sizzling) Hyde Park once again from Thursday 8 October to Sunday 25 October. As a part of Good Food Month, Sydney, the Night Noodle Market brings together Asian restaurants from all over Sydney and Australia to bring us an experience that we sorely lack in Australia, night markets.

The joys of late night food runs, where you’re not just stuck with fast food chains or kebabs (don’t get me wrong, I adore kebabs), where you can wonder down the streets at 11pm on a weeknight and it’s bustling with people sizzling skewers, ladies scooping piping hot soup noodles or icy cold sweet treats into plastic throw away containers while lights, sounds and amazing smells waft from every corner. That to me, as someone who loves food a bit too much and midnight snacking, is what dreams are made of! It is also probably the main reason why I want to live in Hong Kong for a year, instead of doing London, like a normal person does when they get that overseas working holiday urge.

The Night Noodle Market tries to recreate that exact experience, but in our own backyard, where there’s even a little bit of greenery to go with it!

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I must say, in the last few years the Night Noodle Market has come a long way from its humble beginnings. I admit, I wasn’t a massive fan after experiencing the Night Noodle Market in its first year. To me, it was just a poor attempt at gouging at people’s pockets and charging festival pricing for meals that could be easily obtained just five to ten minutes down the road. In the first year, Good Food Month, just brought together a bunch of restaurants from around the CBD. These restaurants seemed to just serve their standard dishes in smaller quantities and at massively over inflated prices and don’t forget the 30 minute or more wait for anything even remotely good and the lack of seating because it was so darn popular. I wasn’t going to pay that much and wait that long for something I could get down the street. So during the first Night Noodle Market, instead of waiting at the Mamak’s stall, I decided to just go to Mamak, at their actual store in Chinatown instead. In hindsight it was a pretty good night.

Ever since then, I haven’t been super keen on the Night Noodle Market. That, and me now being a three hour drive away probably contributed, instead of a stop over after uni. Flash forward thee years and it looks like things have changed! I now have to walk past the wafting smells of barbecued meats and other fantastic goodies each night to get home. So naturally, instead of eating dinner at home, I’ve been dropping by and getting a different treat each night.

The Night Noodle Market has definitely gotten a lot cooler over the years. There are now fantastic eateries from around Sydney and even some interstate and festival only stalls showing up as well! Plus, you’ve got eateries doing goodies that you can’t really get at their standard store, like Messina and Wonderbao, N2 and Black Star Pastry and Miss Dipity and Mr Bao doing awesome collaborations. Then there’s One Tea Lounge offering miso caramel and Everyone Loves Ramen’s ramen tacos. Pretty awesome right?!

So what caught my eye at the Night Noodle Market? This is the bit where I post pictures of things.

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Well, who can go past the dessert lovers dream? Messina meets Wonderbao with the David Bao-wy ($12), deep fried bao with salted coconut sorbet dipped in white chocolate mango ganache and rolled in crashed cashews. This tasted a lot better than it looked. Actually, it looks quite nice in real life, we just take horrific photos. So don’t let this put you off, just check it out on Instagram.

If I had to describe this bao in one word, it would be ‘rich’ but not necessarily in a bad way, especially if you like decadent desserts, then this is going to be right up your alley. But it’s definitely not for the faint hearted or I guess anyone with heart problems to be honest. This bao brings together a super fluffy while crisp deep fried bao with creamy sorbet and a splash of ganache to top it all off cos it wasn’t already flavourful and sweet enough.

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Although I wasn’t able to finish this whole bao myself, purely because it got too much, I actually enjoyed the bites that I did have. The bao was probably my favourite part. It was super fluffy, airy and light, as you would expect from the amazing people at Wonderbao. Thanks to the deep frying, the bao had a lovely crisp shell which contrasted the fluffy interior. Inside the bao, there was a lovely and smooth coconut sorbet. Finally there was the white chocolate and mango ganache which I thought brought the majority of flavour to this little bao. Finally cashews because no one ever said no to cashews right?

After having this David Bao-wy, I definitely think I’ll be dropping by Messina again to try the Great Balls of Fryer. Not a massive fan of peanut butter ice cream but fried ice-cream, I’m all there.

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After having the super sweet David Bao-wy from Messina on my first night, I was back but this time for something savoury and who can go past Ramen tacos ($18 for 3) from Everyone Loves Ramen. With the set, you get a miso beef with iceberg lettuce taco, a terriyaki chicken with spring onions and baby radish taco, and a pork belly with coriander and Sriracha mayo slaw taco. I’m not sure if you can buy these separately, I didn’t really notice an option for it on Everyone Loves Ramen’s menu but if it’s your first time trying these ramen tacos, all three are worth it, each are quite different in flavour and taste.

I really didn’t do these ramen tacos justice with my ‘amazing’ photography skills (this seems to be a running theme so far. I swear, I’ll improve). Nevertheless, they were tasty. It’s a simple concept, deep fried egg noodles with flavoursome meats and some veggies for garnish. The ramen taco shells tasted exactly like what you get in a chow mein but a lot crunchier, you also get that mildly eggy flavour and that deep fried flavour that I know I’ve described so well. I know that sounds totally gross but if you like fries, fried chicken or the baos from Messina than you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Although tasty, I must say like anything made out of ramen noodles that isn’t actually soupy ramen, where it be a ramen burger or these ramen tacos, the structural integrity just isn’t there. Expect meat, iceberg lettuce and pieces of red cabbage everywhere.

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As for which combination I liked best, it was definitely between the chicken and the pork. The beef just didn’t stand up to the others at all. Too stringy and combined with the iceberg lettuce it was just all a bit too boring. Now the chicken and the pork, those were just packed with flavours. For me, I would have to say the pork. Awesome fatty and crispy cubes of pork coupled with creamy and flavourful red cabbage slaw. The perfect combination of big flavours and contrasting textures. The pork is what I’m going back for next time. If you can buy them separately. Which I’m not sure I can.

Well, thats it for now. Stick around, I promise there will be more. Well I’ve already got the pictures, now I’ve just got to write them up before the event ends this Sunday. If you haven’t been already, head over soon.

In the meantime, feel free to read our post from the Enlightened Night Noodle Markets in Canberra, 2015. I notice a few of the stalls that we ate at and wrote up are the same like Hoy Pinoy, Daniel San, Roti Road, Teppayaki Noodles, Span Thai and etc.

 

Saigon Fresh, Gungahlin

I absolutely love pork rolls (Saigon rolls, banh mi tit or whatever you want to call them). They’re definitely on my list of top 10 foods of all time. These little unassuming bread rolls have got everything going for them. They’re super tasty, somewhat healthy(ish), really filling and extremely affordable as well! The combination of fresh vegetables with delicious Vietnamese hams along with creamy, fatty and delicious pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise, all inside a Vietnamese baguette. Who knew just a few ingredients could bring so much joy. Yes, I did realise how often I said Vietnamese just then.

I must say, my love for pork rolls has definitely grown since coming to Canberra. I guess I have never really fully appreciated how good I had it in Sydney. In Sydney, you don’t really have to go too far to get a good and reasonably priced pork roll. Wondering around Cabramatta, Bankstown or the CBD, you’ll find bread stores that sell pork rolls at every turn, particularly in Cabramatta. If you ask ten different people what their favourite pork roll store is, you’ll probably get at least eight different answers, and I can see why. Like yeah, everyone loves the Marrickville Pork Roll store but really, that store down the street that sells it for $3.50 with no lines is probably just as decent. Plus, its pretty easy to know if a pork roll will be tasty. If you’re looking through the window, and the Vietnamese mayonnaise and pate looks correct, then chances are you’ll be in for a good time. After that, it all comes down to how generous they are because that totally makes or breaks your pork roll as well.

Here in Canberra, we don’t quite have the same luxuries, as I’ve sadly come to realise. Good pork rolls are actually rare and finding a decently priced one is almost impossible. I completely understand that it can’t be as cheap as it is in Sydney. As from my understanding no one in Canberra makes the various Vietnamese hams that go into pork rolls, hence everything in imported from Sydney. Plus, there definitely isn’t a great deal of competition in Canberra either. Having said that, $8 for a pork roll is ridiculous and it frustrates me even more when my Canberran mates harp on about how amazing, affordable and what a bargain a $8 pork roll is for lunch. IT IS NOT!

I know that some people think that we talk about price too much, but, well I don’t know about you, but eating out is a massive hit to my wallet, so sadly, value is fairly important to me. With that in mind, I’m used to $3.50 pork rolls!

After all that complaining, I think I’ve found the solution. I think I’ve located a pork roll store in Canberra that does it right and for a reasonable price and I’m super excited to write about it.

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Here it is, the Pork roll ($6) from Saigon Fresh in Gungahlin. There are four things I look at when I compare pork rolls, I do this all mentally and within seconds by the way, I’m sure others probably do the same too! So don’t think I’m crazy or anything. I look at the mayonnaise or butter, pate, the vegetables and the meats. Price also factors in. I know a lot of people also talk about the bread but I have never really cared for the bread too much. If it’s not bad, it’s good. By that, I mean not horribly chewy or stale, but I’ve never seen any place get it that terribly wrong.

Here at Saigon Fresh, all four elements were pretty spot on or close enough for me to consider it a decent if not pretty damn fine pork roll. So the four elements that I really care about are as follows:

1. Vietnamese pate

2. Vietnamese butter/mayo

3. Pickled carrots, radish and other condiments

4. Meats

You might think it’s weird that I have two whole points dedicated to sauces but to me, the mayo and pate are the two most important elements in a pork roll! These make or break pork rolls and if you’re not having both, you’re not experiencing a true pork roll! Of the two, the pate is the most important. It should be really strong and rich, with a slightly smoky underbelly. While the butter needs to be light and creamy, with a soft, smooth texture like mayonnaise but with a rich and slightly sweet flavour to it. The veggies and meats aren’t too important for me, as long as they’re the right type and generous, its all good and I’ve yet to see anyone use the wrong meat yet. There are three meats, the pink one, the white one, and the white one with the red edge (my detailed technical knowledge must be very impressive to you all). I need a whole layer of each meat, that’s all I ask, no half pieces business please!

So now that you know what I’m looking for in a pork roll, it’s probably time to talk about the rolls here at Saigon Fresh. Well, how did it stack up? Pretty darn well. The pork roll at Saigon Fresh was well balanced, everything you’d expect to find in Sydney. A good amount of meat and other bits, carrots were crunchy and pickled nicely. Bread was fresh and crispy as well which I really enjoyed.

The pate was really good and tasted spot on, unfortunately they weren’t overly generous with it so the flavours were not as strong as I would have liked, but I guess some people would call it ‘subtle’. There was a good amount of soy sauce, enough for flavour but it didn’t soak the bread or leak through either. No shallots here at Saigon Fresh, instead they used purple onions, which was a bit weird, but fit the roll quite well. The coriander was shredded up instead of being long stalks placed on top, allowing it to mix really well throughout the roll and you got bits of flavour everywhere instead of a huge chunk on one end and none elsewhere. The cucumber was cut differently, here they used oval slices instead of long lengthways strips. You might think its weird of me to point that out but surprisingly it gave the pork roll a pretty different texture. It made the pork roll slightly less crunchy due to more of the ‘centre’ of the cucumber being present.

Nevertheless, for $6 is not a bad price for Canberra, if not a bargain! Especially as the pork roll is actually pretty darn tasty and every element was pretty spot on. Regardless of my nitpicking, this is my place to go for a pork roll in Canberra, hands down, every time.

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I know it was just one dish, but I mean, you go to a pork roll joint, what else would you get? This shouldn’t surprise anyone. This was really nice and if I didn’t live so far from Gunghalin, I’d honestly come and grab this roll way more often, it’s that good. This has got to be up there in both price and taste for pork rolls in Canberra, so if you’re at all someone who is interested in these little Vietnamese delights, then you can’t go past Saigon Fresh in Gunghalin!

Saigon Fresh

Gunghalin Village, Hibberson Street, Gunghalin

Website: saigonfresh.blogspot.com.au/

Opening hours: 

Monday to Thursday

9:00am to 5:00pm

Friday

9:00am to 7:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

9:00am to 4:00pm

Saigon Fresh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ivy and the Fox, Acton

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Over the long weekend (woo right?!) we decided to pop over and try the somewhat newly opened Ivy and the Fox, situated in the extremely beautiful and picturesque Old Canberra House in the ANU. Ivy and the Fox is the newest cafe from the brains behind the absolutely delicious (and my current favourite cafe in Canberra) Fox and Bow down in Farrer. So when I heard that this was opening up I actually got more excited than I normally do when I hear about a new place opening.

The first thing that struck me about Ivy and the Fox was its amazing location. Maybe it’s the emergence of spring but the place surrounding Ivy and the Fox is just so great to look at. Tall leafy trees overlooking the lake in the distance with beautiful grass and shrubs everywhere. It makes you forget for just a moment that you’re literally a 5 minute drive from Canberra’s CBD. It’s one of the perks of this place that’s easy to overlook, the ability to get so close to a really natural setting whilst still being essentially ‘in the city’ is something I’m starting to appreciate more and more as I spend more time in Canberra.

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Ivy and the Fox seems to understand how beautiful its surrounding is, with huge open windows and copious amounts of outdoor seating to let you soak it all in. In addition, I was shown this little crate full of picnic rugs that were available for use as well, so you can sit outside and soak in the sun while dining on delicious goodness from Ivy and the Fox.

The menu here at Ivy and the Fox is quite similar to that at Fox and Bow though with a few key differences to cater for the slight differences in expected clientele. Where Fox and Bow is bombastic and creative, Ivy and the Fox takes a more subtle, nuanced approach, taking much loved classics and giving them a slight twist, which I felt fit perfectly with the surrounds.

As always, enough about things that aren’t food, time for some food talk!

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I was exceptionally hungry that morning, having breakfast at roughly 1pm so I opted for the big boy, the king of the hill, the…well you know. Anyway, this is the Mr. Fox ($19.9), eggs (mine were fried), chorizo, bacon, tomato, avocado, hash brown, toast and morcilla. I’ve mentioned countless times in the past about my love of morcilla and/or black pudding, so it must be no surprise to anyone that as soon as I saw morcilla as part of this dish, everything else just fell away, and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

This is essentially the big breakfast here at Ivy and the Fox and it definitely lives up to it! This was a mountain of food and me, in my hungry 1pm state was eager to devour the whole thing. The best part about this dish was simply the fact that it was simple and a classic. I know, weird thing to appreciate but there’s just something comforting about seeing great ingredients being cooked up and just having the quality of the produce do most of the talking. The bacon in particular was incredibly smokey and quite thick cut, so you could tell it wasn’t just the same bacon you get at the supermarket. Another thing I want to draw attention to was the delightful hash brown, which was shredded strands of potato, jammed together and deep fried. The contrast in texture between the crunchy heavily fried edges and the soft inners was just awesome.

All in all, this was essentially a big breakfast, so it’s pretty hard for me not to love something like this, it’s classic and simple, with each piece coming together on the plate bringing its own strong flavour to compliment each other. Did I also mention that morcilla was here? Because morcilla is freaking delicious, especially this one at Ivy and the Fox.

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Here’s our second meal from Ivy and the Fox, the Senorita Fox ($19.9). This is (at least from the name) the sister dish to the above Mr. Fox and shares some similarities, but where Mr. Fox is classic and simple, the Senorita Fox is presented quite artfully and definitely has a lot more creativity around its ingredient choices and plating. When this dish came out, what hit me first was the fantastic presentation. I know how easy it is to get sauce swirls and all that but still!

This comes with two poached eggs, ocean trout, avocado and grilled haloumi, all served on top of a thick piece of toast. This was much lighter and dare I say, more health conscious than the Mr. Fox, with a lot of the flavour coming from a lovely earthy pesto spread around the dish. Something I particularly enjoyed was the addition of the grilled haloumi. I love cheese, pretty much all cheeses, so if you can figure out a way to add cheese to a dish, and keep it classy, then I’m all over it.

Who am I kidding, I don’t really need things to be kept classy, we just need more cheese on everything.

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As always, whenever we order a serve of poached eggs, we play poached or pwned! As you can see in the picture above, (apologies in advance for how destroyed it looks) these came out poached! There was a thin layer of overcookedness to it, but overall a pass with flying colours and one of the better ones I’ve had here in Canberra. Plus, I prefer it like this than outright uncooked. So I’m not complaining.

Overall I enjoyed this dish and it was a great little counter to the heaviness of the Mr. Fox, and it was far better looking too! Which of course is all that matters, right?

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We also needed something tropical to usher in Spring and ended up with the El Macho ($7), which had pineapple, pear among other things (sadly I can’t find the menu online and I’m terrible with these things, so the price might also be wrong). I usually don’t expect much from juices, which is honestly a bit strange since I’ve had so many good ones since I started dining at cafes in Canberra, but this one was, again, a pleasant surprise.

One thing I loved was the presentation, a fantastic juice is one thing, but to give me a cute little umbrella to go with it? That’s impressive! Seriously though, I really liked this. As soon as I ordered it, I already had a few regrets despite the waitress calling this the ‘best juice in the world’ because I thought that perhaps the pineapple was going to be a bit too sour for me. I am happy to report that I was wrong on this, and that this juice was a fantastic way to feel summery even though we’re only in Spring. It was light, refreshing and definitely tropical. I recommend this.

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In what was an extremely pleasant surprise, we were also given complimentary Babycinos to finish off our meals. Earlier in the meal, the owner Alex came by and mentioned that he remembered us from when we had brunch over at his first place, Fox and Bow down in Farrer. At the end of our meal we were told this was to thank us for the continued support which was a fantastic gesture, since who’s going to turn down a free coffee!

First of all, I should mention that I don’t really know coffee, so my take on the quality of this coffee should be taken with a grain of salt, but I thought this was about as good as any coffee I’ve ever had, and I’ve had them from perennial fan favourites like The Cupping Room, Penny University, Lonsdale Street Roasters and many more. One thing that I can comment on is the fantastic little smiley ginger cookie that was included with the babycino! The ginger cookies were fantastic, we ended up chucking ours into the coffee and letting it soak up all that coffee goodness before munching into it. Not sure if that’s the way to do it, but well, we liked it.

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So that’s everything we had here at Ivy and the Fox. I must say, Fox and Bow did something fairly spectacular when it crept up on me and became my favourite cafe in Canberra. With that said, I expected pretty big things when Ivy and the Fox was announced and I’m pleased to say it fully lived up to those expectations. I had a great time here, the food is delicious, the location is beautiful and the service, charming. This is a place that I’d love to go back to, and since I was told they have live music on Sundays, I might have to make that the day for my next journey down here!

Ivy and the Fox

Old Canberra House, Acton

Facebook: facebook.com/Ivyfoxfood

Opening hours: 

Monday to Thursday

8:00am to 4:30pm

Friday

8:00am to 7:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:30am to 4:00pm

Ivy and the Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Churros King, Braddon

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I love this place. Ever since I first sampled the goodness from this rather unassuming food truck (well, I guess its more of a cart but whatever) many many months ago, I’ve been keen to share this hidden churro gem with anyone who is willing to listen. Outside of this blog, there aren’t many, so I figure it is time to write up this post and try and spread the love for the Churros King!

The Churros King is located in The Hamlet, right to the side of the entrance as you walk in. It’s a simple set up with nothing more than a frier, two dipping bowls and a dough squeezing machine. On most nights, there’s just the owner, pumping out freshly made churros to order and on busier nights, you’ll find another person helping out. I’m not 100% sure when the Churros King is open, it kind of seems dependant on the weather but over a good weekend, you’ll find the Churros King open from Thursday to Sunday, from about after work hours till pretty late at night, but not any later than anything else at The Hamlet. On rainy and super cold weekends, sometimes the Churros King decides not to turn up at all, which is fair enough. He is kind of just out there in the cold all by himself, with no cover and next to no customers anyway since no one seems to go out when the weather is terrible. But with spring just starting, I’m sure we will see more of the Churros King.

The offer at the Churros King is simple. There is only one thing on the menu, churros. You can either get one for $2 or 6 for $10. For a little bit of variety, you can pick between a dark chocolate or caramel sauce dipping. You won’t find anything else here at the Churros King, no drinks, snacks or anything else, just plenty of glorious golden sticks of fried goodness. Normally, I would want some water and what not but here it’s not too problematic, you can always grab what you need at one of the other awesome food trucks at The Hamlet, like BrodDogs, the Spit Shack, Mr Papa etc.

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So what makes these Churros (6 for $10, half dark chocolate, half caramel sauce) at the Churros King so good? Absolutely everything! I’ve never had a churros this good, either in Canberra or in Sydney. Okay, I haven’t been to Spain but these are the best you’re going to get around here and in my infinite geographical naïveté, I reckon they could give Spain a ran for their money too. Nevertheless, forget San Churro, forget Guzman y Gomez or any other place that offers churros, if you want some of that deep fried goodness coated in cinnamon sugar, this is the place to be.

The churros at the Churros King are super light and extremely airy. They’re fried to the sweet spot, where the churros snaps in half with a crackle as you bend it but aren’t too crunchy where it takes away from the fluffiness. You won’t find a heavy, dense and rubbery churro that leaves you disappointed and chewing like no tomorrow. At the Churros King, instead you’ll just find the perfect combination of fried dough and sweetness from the cinnamon sugar and dipping sauce.

Outside of the perfectly cooked churro, you can choose to dip your churros into a dark chocolate or caramel sauce. Personally, I like the dark chocolate as I find it adds a nice bitter contrast to the sweetness of the cinnamon sugar. If you’re a fan of caramel and a massive sweet tooth, I’m sure the caramel sauce will hit the spot for you. Both sauces are high quality and extremely well made, you’ll find no cheap substitutes here. My only qualm about these churros and its a pretty minor one, is the amount of dipping sauce you get. The crew at the Churros King, dunk the churros into the dipping sauce of your choice. Unfortunately, you only end up with about a quarter of your churros smothered in chocolate or caramel sauce and honestly, I want more!

Finally, my favourite part about these churros and what makes it stand out from all the rest? The flavour. I couldn’t work it out at first but after many many ‘tests’, I think there’s a hint of citrus to the churros. After every bite, you get this uplifting citrus note at the end. To me, this is what defines the churros at the Churros King. It takes it from a heavy and dense dessert to something light and almost snack like that you can eat hundreds of. Well, I can.

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Here is an action shot of a churros in the making. Pretty cool right?! Everything made right in front of you and served to you super warm. I’m normally not a fan of places that call themselves ‘the best x ever’ or ‘winners of x award’, they never quite meet expectations but these churros, they deserve the title of king for me.

Its a simple set up, with a simple product and with just a few ingredients and tools, the crew at the Churros Kings gives you something absolutely amazing. The perfect snack on the way home after a filling dinner in the city or Braddon. The perfect snack to end the night.

If you haven’t had the churros at Churros King and you’re a fan of churros or just desserts, these are a must. I know these pictures aren’t amazing but these definitely taste better than they look. There are a couple of things in the world of food that will never really photograph well, one being anything in a roll, like a kebab, another one is these churros wrapped in some baking paper. That and my horrible photography and composition skills. Don’t let my descriptions, writing or pictures put you off. You’ve got to try these.

Churros King

16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Opening hours:

Thursday to Sunday

6:00pm to 11:00pm

Churros King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lil’ Orbits, Jindabyne

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I love food and where ever I go, I try to check out the different restaurants, cafes and eateries to see what awesome food options are available, whether it’s a big city or a small country town. When I headed up to Jindabyne for the first time this season, I dragged my camera up with all my gear and snow clothes and had every intention to check out some of the restaurants. I had heard some pretty bad things about the food options around Jindabyne, everything from it’s simply bad, to it being totally overpriced, but as always, I wanted to try it for myself. However, during my first trip to Jindabyne, I didn’t get a single chance to eat out. Instead, after a long day on the slopes, all I wanted to do was sizzle up some sausages, munch on some rolls and head to bed, for another big day the next morning.

On my recent trip to the snows, I wasn’t expecting much different but out of habit, I hauled my camera into the car and figured whatever. Well, two hours into my first day on the slopes, I crashed in an awkward way and ended up spraining my ankle. Sad for me but hey silver lining, I got to check out a couple of eateries around Jindabyne, starting with Lil’ Orbits.

You’ll find Lil’ Orbits in the Skitube terminal, down on the actual platform in Perisher Valley. Its pretty hard to miss, its the only shop down in the Skitube terminal and it’s glowing red. I should mention, these donuts were actually recommended to me by a friend who goes skiing often, and after trying a random set of donuts in Thredbo and being completely blown away, I was pretty keen to sample and compare those donuts to these ones at Perisher. Said friend actually said she preferred these ones from Lil’ Orbits so I was quite excited!

The choices at Lil’ Orbit are simple, they offer a range of cafe goodies including coffees, hot chocolates, slushies, cordials, other cold drinks and of course their signature product, freshly made mini donuts or ‘orbits’ because they look like the rings of Saturn. Much like normal donuts do but…well whatever I guess.

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With the donuts, there are a couple of different choices, from straight cinnamon sugar coated donuts, to iced ones and even some cool little fancy iced ones, yes they’re actually called ‘fancy iced’. You can also get a couple of different sizes from a six pack to a bigger twelve size serving. Of course, you can also mix it up and get a combination of cinnamon donuts with some iced donuts or fancy iced donuts, so there’s tons of options.

We went a few times, and before my injury, I got a mix of eight cinnamon donuts and six iced donuts for $8 but didn’t really get any pictures of it, since we were so keen on the actual snowing. This time however, I got a mix of six fancy iced donuts and eight cinnamon donuts ($8.50). I figured, hey an extra 50c for some cool extra gummies and lollies, why not? I’d already spent the majority of my trip sitting in Perisher Valley watching kids learning to use the t-bar, I might as well reward myself.

I’ve never been a massive fan of most donuts but I actually really enjoyed these. They were either really really good or perhaps after a day on the slopes, everything tastes good. I’m going to go with the former, because even after a lazy day sitting in Perisher Valley, these were still as good as when I had them after a big day on the slopes.

The iced fancy donuts were simple, some fluffy house made bite sized donuts dipped in a chocolate, strawberry or caramel glazed, followed by a sprinkling of 100s and 1000s, rainbow or chocolate funfetti and finally, topped with a lolly. These were pretty nice but to be honest, I preferred the straight iced (not pictured here) donuts over these fancy ones. The gummies added an extra gummy and chewy texture that just went against the soft, airy and fluffy donuts. But, I’m sure these would be great for kids who would love the gimmick factor. Oh also, the iced donuts (including these fancy iced donuts) are not made fresh in front of you, they’re made and stored in the front window. I’m sure they’re probably made daily but its much cooler to see the donuts floating in oil and then two seconds later given to you to munch on.

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Here is the second half of our donuts, the six fancy iced donuts and eight cinnamon donuts ($8.50). While the fancy iced donuts are pretty awesome, these are so much better in my opinion. Who can say no to warm donuts that are made fresh when you order them?! Plus, you can see the whole thing unfold in front of you, from the dough being squeezed out, to the frying and finally, the very generous dusting of cinnamon sugar. Nothing overly complex, just simple, awesomely scrumptious, fluffy donuts.

My favourite part about these Lil’ Orbit donuts was the size. I’ve never been a massive fan of donuts (unless they’re Krispy Kreme donuts) as they’re typically really dense, heavy and can get boring real quick. However, as these are about the size of a 50c coin, super fluffy, really airy and light, they go down an absolute treat. Plus, you can have a whole bag of six or even twelve of these and not feel stuffed.

Overall, these donuts were tasty and I absolutely loved the texture. However, the cinnamon donuts out front at Thredbo are the winners for me, they just blew me away with how good they were. Although there was a cinnamon flavour to these donuts from Lil’ Orbits, the sugar dusting was definitely stronger, almost to the point where you couldn’t really tasty the cinnamon anymore. Even having had that said, I would still get these every time I’m heading back from Perisher.

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Finally, a Snickers hot chocolate ($3.50). This may just look like an inconspicuous take away coffee cup but the content inside this little cup was anything but unremarkable.

Its actually a little strange. Both Perisher and Thredbo seem to really push flavoured hot chocolates, but not just the boring ones you see at your typical cafe or coffee shop like, vanilla, hazelnut or what not. Instead, on the slopes, they seem to like chocolate bar themed hot chocolates. Here at Lil’ Orbits, they had this Snickers flavour while at Thredbo they had Snickers, Mars, Chocolate Mint and other cool things like that.

With this Snickers hot chocolate, you get a shot of hazelnut and caramel flavouring. It doesn’t sound like much but the addition of these two flavours really does take a plain old boring hot chocolate into something really tasty, and this is coming from someone who loves plain old boring hot chocolates! Plus, when your butt, wrist and every part of your body is sore and cold, this is the perfect way to end the night.

Well, that’s all. Some awesome donuts and a tasty flavoured hot chocolate. Not bad for a place that’s meant to be super bad for food and overpriced. I’ll definitely be back next season and I’ll definitely be getting more donuts from Lil’ Orbits. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to grab some photos of the donuts at Thredbo and do a write up about that too!

Lil’ Orbits 

Skitube Terminal, 2 Kosciusko Road, Perisher Valley

Lil' Orbit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Grazing, Gundaroo

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After living in Canberra for almost three years, I have finally decided to do some exploring. Ever since I got here, I’d been hearing some pretty amazing things about the small towns around Canberra like Yass, Murrumbateman, Braidwood and the like. Outside of the quaint houses, stores and cafes, many of these small towns also house nice restaurants as well as some fantastic wineries.

As a part of this push to explore the areas around Canberra, a couple of weekends back I headed to Gundaroo to check out Grazing. I’ve seen some pretty drool worthy pictures of Grazing on Instagram over the years and figured it was time for me to check it out for myself.

Heading thirty minutes north out of Canberra along the Federal Highway coupled with some country driving, you eventually come to a little town with a number of small and rustic looking cafes, pubs and even a gallery. Right in the centre of all this you’ll find a fairly large historical house where inside you’ll find Grazing. Grazing has kept the interior almost identical to what I imagine the original house would have looked like, with cosy fireplaces and multiple dining areas in the different rooms throughout the house. It was weird having to navigate through multiple areas and rooms to get round to our table in the far end of the house, but it really pushed the intimate, relaxed and homely feeling that I feel Grazing were going for. In addition, I can see this set up being awesome for groups, where you can have your own private dining areas in each of the respective rooms.

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Out back you’ll also find Capital Wine and a small cafe which offers cheese plates, baked goodies and even wine matchings. Which I guess is good if you ever decide to come to Grazing without a reservation and they’re full, you can always head back to Capital Wines and fill your belly with delicious local goods and wines.

We were a little more organised this time round and landed ourselves a table in the back which overlooked the garden and reception area.

Oh before I jump into the different dishes that we got here, I should quickly talk about this picture of bread that I decided to include. Nothing too special, just come crusty fresh house made bread which comes with local olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One serving gives you one round bread the size of your palm (assuming you have a average size hand) and cost $2.50. No complimentary bread here but it was tasty enough to make me to consider getting it again when I return to Grazing.

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We decided to go for a bit of a weird mix of entrees, mains and desserts but the crew at Grazing were more than accommodating. We ended up with three entrees, one main and two desserts. The second entree was served entree size. Grazing did offer to make it into a main portion for us but we opted for the small entree size because I constantly get full before dessert at places like this. Not this time though!

Our first entree from Grazing was the Olive oil poached Yellowfin tuna ($17) with crisp octopus, chorizo and cauliflower. This was one of those dishes from Grazing that I saw on Instagram all the time, when I saw it on the menu I knew it was time for me to sample what made everyone’s bellies so happy.

A lot of times, photogenic dishes don’t always quite live up to taste expectations and I’ve had my fair share of amazing looking dishes that tasted pretty average. Luckily here at Grazing this dish lived up to what my belly was hoping for. It was a simple dish but a scrumptious one.

The tuna was fresh, quite soft but had just the right amount of firmness to it. I don’t really recall tasting any olive oil but the texture of the tuna was quite similar to sashimi style tuna so I guess that’s where the poached olive oil must have come from. The mild and softish tuna was complimented with the crispness and strong savoury flavours of the fried octopus and chorizo. Finally there was some raw grated and pureed cauliflower which rounded everything off and brought everything together. There was nothing crazy going on here, it was just a tasty and light dish to start our meal off at Grazing.

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Our second entree for the day was the Quail with black pudding ($17), roasted pear and parsley root puree. While the tuna was light and almost summer like, this quail with black pudding was a lot more hearty and perfect for the wintery weather.

I’m surprised I didn’t see this dish on Instagram, look at that amazing swirl in the pool of black pudding puree! Amazing. We of course opted for this as there was black pudding present and we have yet to let a dish with black pudding in it pass us by. The black pudding here at Grazing was not as strong as I am used to, but this made sense when eating the whole dish. I also really enjoyed it as a puree, it’s something I haven’t had before and since there was no texture to it, it acted more as a sauce which added to the flavour of the quail as opposed to being another separate meat element that could have competed with the quail meat for dish superiority.

The quail was of course cooked perfectly ensuring that the meat was super moist and full of juicy flavours. All this savouries from the quail and black pudding was balanced out with a little bit of sweetness and crunch from the roasted pear. There was also a parsnip puree on the plate but after the juicy quail and amazing black pudding puree that was just white noise. I’m sure it helped ensure the dish didn’t get too overwhelming but I’m just going to continue reminiscing about the black pudding puree!

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Instead of going for a main here, we opted for a third entrée, the Smoked rainbow trout croquette ($17) with artichoke, burnt leek and parsley picada. I think I went for this as none of the seafood or vegetarian mains really screamed out at me. Looking back at the menu now, I think a couple of the options have changed since Grazing’s menu changes seasonally as ingredients are available.

This rainbow trout croquette was quite interesting. I’ve never really seen a fish or seafood croquette before so when I saw it on Grazing’s menu, I really did want to try it. But faced up against tuna, I was always going to opt for tuna. Luckily, I managed to get both. The rainbow trout croquette was nice with a light and crumbly coating coupled with a mince like fish filling. I found the croquette itself on the blander side with not a lot of fish flavour to it. This was fine however, as it was coupled with the burnt leek and parsley picada and I thought this added all the difference. These two elements brought both flavour as well as moisture to the croquette, which was a little on the drier side.

Although the croquette was fine, I really did prefer the olive oil poached tuna and deboned quail and black pudding over the croquette. The other two dishes were just extremely well made and super tasty. Something about this croquette didn’t give it the same amount of sophistication as anything else we had at Grazing. Maybe it’s just a personal thing about deep fried food at fancy places.

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We did get one main from Grazing’s menu, the Ox cheek ($33) in Pedro Ximenez with heritage carrots, horseradish and parsnip. Easily the least photogenic dish from our meal at Grazing but really I don’t think anyone plates up cheek particularly well so this is still pretty awesome in its own right.

One really cool thing about this dish was the multicoloured carrots! Yes, trust me to get all giddy about something that I imagine is extremely easy to do, but multicoloured carrots really impressed me. In case anyone was curious, they were extremely carroty. They were firm, crunchy and added a nice baseline flavour to counter the rich parsnip mash and ox cheek itself.

The meat was so tender that I could just push my fork at it and it would kind of peel apart as if it was thick chunks of ox mashed together and then cooked, like some meat hash brown. Even with this tenderness however, the meat was surprisingly crunchy as well, with a firm charred crust that must’ve come from a quick fry up after a low and slow cook to get the insides as tender as it was. The result of this was a piece of meat that had a really interesting soft and crunchy texture to it.

This dish in one word would be ‘rich’. It was extremely rich. The beef jus, parsnip mash and even the cheek itself was just an extremely rich beef flavour, with a slight tang of sweetness at the end, kind of like a red wine beef stock.

I’m not a huge fan of horseradish so I ended up not using too much of it. I am pretty sure that the strong flavour of the horseradish would’ve cut through the richness of the dish just fine, but to be fair I actually liked how rich it was.

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Onwards to dessert, the Mascarpone panna cotta ($16) with white chocolate ice cream, strawberries, goat’s cheese and rhubarb and white balsamic jellies. I noticed that this panna cotta dessert is no longer on Grazing’s menu and is one of the few dishes that have been completely removed from the winter menu. It’s a bit of a shame because I really liked it.

I absolutely love panna cotta. For me, a panna cotta is the perfect way to end a meal. They’re sweet but never too rich or sickening and really after a big meal, you don’t want something that will make you regret the last few tasty and gluttonous hours of your night.  This panna cotta at Grazing was no different. It had the perfect amount of sweetness, lots of creaminess from the mascarpone, white chocolate ice cream and goats cheese. In addition, there was just the right amount of citrus and sourness from the strawberry and rhubarb to balance everything out.

Not only did this dessert have a variety of different flavours, there were also a number of different textures which played off each other. From the smooth and silky panna cotta to the jellies which gave you just the right amount of bite and resistance. Then there’s the soft and milky ice cream as well as the goat’s cheese which was slightly firm but melted in your mouth. All these combined, made this panna cotta one super tasty and interesting dessert.

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Finally, our last dish from Grazing, the Flourless orange cake ($16) with fennel and coffee dukkah, orange butter and marmalade ice cream. While the panna cotta is no longer on the menu at Grazing, if you like how this flourless orange cake looks and sounds, you can still definitely get it. Though be warned, we’ve just hit Spring, I wouldn’t be surprise if Grazing is currently in the process of changing their menu to something lighter, more uplifting and vibrant. As opposed to more hearty and homely winter dishes like this cake.

I love panna cottas and the mascarpone panna cotta at Grazing really did hit the spot but this flourless orange cake definitely gave the panna cotta a run for its money. That’s pretty impressive because I don’t even enjoy orange that much. This flourless orange cake was really rich and full of strong citrus flavours to the point where you could smell it as the crew at Grazing placed this dish in front of you. But at the same time, it wasn’t overly sweet, I guess all the sweetness from the flourless cake, marmalade ice cream and and orange butter were completely dwarfed by the strong citrus flavours. In addition, I also really enjoyed the coffee and fennel dukkah, which added a completely different flavour and texture to the samesame citrus and orange flavours that were present in all the other elements.

There you have it, our meal at Grazing. No drinks this time and to be honest, if I had to write about a set of matching wines, this post probably would have taken another couple of weeks. On a side note, even though Capital Wines is Grazing’s winery, you can actually find an extensive list of local, national and international wines on Grazing’s wine menu. Plus, Grazing also recommends a range of different wines to match with their dishes, not just their own wines. That’s pretty awesome to see a lack of favouritism.

It’s probably obvious by now, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t visit Grazing until my third year in Canberra. The food at Grazing was delicious and the atmosphere was really rustic and intimate. I love a good fine dining meal in the city, but when you’re out in the country air, it really does feel different and Canberra is one of the few places where you can drive only about 30mins and experience this. I look forwards to Grazing’s spring menu and will definitely be back.

Grazing

Cork Street, Gundaroo

Website: grazing.com.au/

Opening hours:

Thursday

6:00pm to 10:00pm

Friday to Saturday

11:30am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Sunday

11:30am to 3:00pm
Grazing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barrio Collective Coffee, Braddon

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Another week, another post about a new cafe opening up in the perennial cafe launching pad that is Braddon! It has kind of gotten to a point where I’m looking for reasons to check out and write about places other than Braddon where possible, but I guess it is unavoidable at times. So after over two months, I finally headed over to Lonsdale Street to try out Barrio.

Normally, I’m not overly upset about waiting around to try new places. Places tend to need a bit of time bedding in their processes and to be honest, I just hate living up to the stereotype of a food blogger, where I’m that person just rushing out to try the new place BECAUSE ITS NEW MAN. But every now and then, there will be a place that makes me want to kick myself for not checking it out earlier. Barrio sadly, is one of those places.

Tucked away at the top of Lonsdale Street in a small little store, not measuring more than three by five is Barrio. Barrio is a quaint little place that offers a small menu of breakfast and light lunch options that don’t require a massive cook up. The kitchen is nothing more than a toastie machine and couple of other simple kitchen gadgets from what I can see unless they have a Harry Potter style invisiwall going on somewhere. There is also a long list of different coffee beans, teas and drinks. Barrio Collective Coffee as the name suggests, specialises in coffee but as a coffee newbie, I was primarily interested in the food.

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When we started browsing the menu at Barrio, this dish jumped out at us. Once I saw marrow butter, it was locked in. Sourdough with marrow butter, shallots and a fried egg ($16). As you may know, I love all things meaty, whether its bone broth, blood sausage or bone marrow. If I see one of these things on a menu, everything else becomes white noise.

Of late, these things seem to be so in. Look at any new and hip restaurant or eatery menu and you’ll see either blood sausage, bone marrow or bone broth. As a big fan of all these things, I’m very excited to see this turn of events in the food game. However, after eating many many dishes with these meaty goodies in them, I’ve been left greatly disappointed, especially when it comes to bone marrow. Most places seem to be jumping onto the bandwagon without truly making the most out of the amazing, rich and deep flavour of bone marrow. Instead, it just seems to be chucked on top as some sort of alternate gravy.

Here at Barrio, its a completely different story. The bone marrow is simply amazing and just so strong. It is one of the most meaty, tasty and rich marrows I’ve ever had, and this is in spread form! I’m not sure my words and hopeless descriptions are really doing this bone marrow justice, but this is about as close as you can get to literally sucking the marrow out of the bone. When compared to some of the ‘bone marrow jus’ that a lot of places are doing, this marrow butter at Barrio completely puts them to shame. If you like meat, you’ve got to give this dish a try. The fried shallots, dried onions and fried eggs were a nice addition, adding lovely eggy flavour, crispiness and extra earthiness but to be honest, they’re all just add ons. The star of this dish is the marrow butter and the delicious bread.

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Our second dish from Barrio was the Snowy Mountains trout with pickles and creme fraiche ($14). Although this didn’t have a stand out element like the sourdough and marrow butter dish did, it was still a fantastic allrounder. For some weird reason, while I was eating this, I felt like a fisherman from a small port side town, eating some of my home smoked ocean trout with my homemade pickles on a slab of stone that I picked up outside my cottage.

Everything about this dish felt so rustic. From the presentation to the actual food. There I was sitting in one of the most hipster cafes in Canberra, where the shop owners were wearing flannel with overgrown woodchopper beards but there was no kale, superfood or any of those other hipster buzz items to be seen. This was real. When a bunch of young people with a passion open up a store, this is what you get. Not some preppy rich kids whose parents give them money and they jump onto whatever bandwagon is available. Just a bunch of guys with a love for food and coffee. I might be a tad overzealous about the potential beginning of Barrio, but you know what I mean right?

As for the dish itself? Fantastic! Melt in your mouth ocean trout with a really rich smokey flavoured, couple with a variety of pickled vegetables includes onions, carrots and capers which perfectly cut through the richness and the fattiness of the trout and creme fraiche. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything else this good in Canberra. Simple but delicious.

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Of course, we couldn’t come to a place called Barrio ‘Coffee’ Collective and not get a drink so heres the Gypsy tea ($5) smoked black tea with burnt quince jam and milk. I know its not coffee but hey it’s the next best thing! I also decided to add a stroopwafel ($3) after seeing all these amazing comments by Tales of a Confectionist about stroopwafel, I had to see what this little biscuit had to offer.

But firstly, the tea! I’ve been impressed by everything that I’ve had so far at Barrio and this was no different. Originally I was going to get the chai which came with nut milk, which is Barrio’s homemade version of soy milk but sadly when we were there, they had ran out of nut milk so we opted for this interesting concoction instead. Something about smoked black tea jumped out at me and who can say no to burnt quince jam?

I had no idea what I was in for when I ordered this but on first sip, I was impressed. This tea was different to anything else I have ever had. It had this deep smokiness to it coupled with this berry like sweetness from the burnt quince jam. While I was drinking it, I swear it reminded me or something but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But that night it hit me, it was maple bacon! This smoked tea tasted like a mild maple bacon shake, just warm and delicious.

As for the stroopwafel, it was a pretty cool add. It was like a really thin and crispy waffle with this gooey layer of sweet and delicious caramel sauce in the middle. I don’t know if I was meant to but I ended up dipping the stroopwafel into my smoked tea, this made the caramel all gooey and awesome, but it didn’t end up like a Tim Tam slam or anything. I’d say that dipping is entirely optional.

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Finally, House made blood orange soda ($4) or atleast I think it was, theres also a fresh pressed blood orange on Barrio’s menu for $4 and this was blood orange but I swear the crew at Barrio said this was the house made soda, plus this was fizzy. I guess we will never know.

After having the sweet maple bacon like smoked tea with quince jam we decided to go for something refreshing and this house made blood orange soda hit the spot perfectly. It was the perfect combination of sweet and citrus goodness, coupled with just the right amount of fizz. There wasn’t much and when I finished it I was definitely left wanting more but hey for $4 its not bad at all.

On a side note and completely unrelated to food, so I have no idea what its doing on this post but the cups were really weird so I can’t help but mention it. Barrio uses ergonomic cups! Thats right, you can get an ergonomic cup that fits into your hand perfectly. Each cup comes with a little dint where your thumb can sit perfectly!

So that was my trip to Barrio. I only had two dishes and two drinks but from that tiny sample of Barrio’s menu, I was totally blown away. I’ve yet to be more impressed by another cafe in all of Canberra. This meal even competes with some of the fantastic fine dinning and degustations that I’ve had in Canberra. It was that good. I can’t vouch for the coffee here but I can say hands down best cafe in Canberra for food. This meal took me to another place, I felt like a fisherman in a sleepy town and it was nostalgic, not that I’ve ever been a fisherman living in a small sleepy port town but it just made me feel that way.

If you haven’t been to Barrio and you love good food, this is an absolute must! When I first saw Barrio opening up, I didn’t care to check it out, I thought it would be another hipster dive but one meal in and I’ve absolutely fallen in love. You can too! Ask me how! (Monkey Island fans…no? ok.)

Barrio Coffee Collective

Ori Building, 28 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: barriocc.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/barriocc

Opening hours:

Monday to Friday

7:00am to 3:00pm

Saturday to Sunday

8:00am to 3:00pm

Barrio Collective Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato