Saturday, 31 August 2013

MooBerry, Newtown - 16 August 2013

Sydney seems to have been struck by froyo fever and it seems like there are more and more froyo chains showing up to cash in on this latest trend (Noogi, Moochi, Yogurberry, Yoghurtland just to name a few). I can’t say that I have been caught up in this craze though. Frozen yogurt just doesn’t satisfy my craving for something cold, creamy and sugary like ice cream and gelato do. But MooBerry (160 King St, Newtown) is different. First of all, MooBerry is not a chain and independently run. And secondly, MooBerry uses actual youghurt and real ingredients i.e. not that powdered stuff, which produces something that is watery and artificial tasting. Instead the froyo at MooBerry is soft, smooth, creamy and actually tastes like what they are supposed to be.

John X, the owner of MooBerry, kindly invited me and my wife to sample the menu. John and I go back a long way as we were in the same grade in high school, so I was more than happy to drop by and do a write-up of his store. But I was too full from dinner at Osteria di Russo & Russo beforehand (see review), so I could only sample the four froyo flavours on offer this visit (being original, watermelon, tiramisu and coconut). MooBerry also have other dessert offerings such as Belgian waffles, churros and chocolate soufflé. These do sound enticing, but they will need to wait for another day.

Coconut affogato (minus the coconut shavings)
For me, the best froyo flavour by a long way was the coconut flavour, which I had as a coconut affogato, a MooBerry signature. The coconut affogato is the perfect winter treat with a shot of warm espresso poured over coconut froyo. The wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee will draw most people in, and for me the bitter flavour of coffee is a great match with the smooth, creamy texture of the froyo and its sweet, refreshing coconut flavours.

Tiramisu froyo with strawberries and shot of honey
Original froyo & watermelon froyo
We thought MooBerry has a good dessert offering, with more variety than your usual froyos and toppings at the chains. It is definitely a breath of fresh air to see a non-franchise froyo store do its thing and use real ingredients. Next time I drop by, I will need to make sure I have more stomach room so I can actually try more of the menu.

I sampled these items as a guest of John X and MooBerry. 

AstroTurf wall with some funky pictures
Cranking out the froyo
"I (heart) MooBerry" spoons. How cute.

Some enticing, comforting options for the winter chill
A frame of the wall
Don't mind if I do
The other half of the menu, if anyone wants the prices
MooBerry - Real Froyo and Smoothies on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lochiel House, Kurrajong Heights - 24 August 2013

My wife and I decided to take a day trip out of Sydney and headed out to the Blue Mountains for lunch at Lochiel House (1259 Bells Line of Rd, Kurrajong Heights NSW 2758). We came armed with a Travel Zoo voucher, which gave us a choice of $100 value from the a la carte menu for just $49. Lochiel House is located in Kurrajong Heights, which is slightly off the main tourist track around Katoomba. So it is a nice quiet, scenic drive to the restaurant that only takes around an hour from our place.

The current owners of Lochiel House are Wayne Jenkins and Jessica Quagliata, who took over the restaurant just over a year ago. You may have heard that the previous incarnation of Lochiel House was a fine dining culinary destination that was awarded 2-chef hats by the SMH Good Food Guide. Lochiel House is now offering a more casual, bistro type menu. This does not bother us one bit, as we have been on the lookout for places that are more laidback and cook high quality food without breaking the bank.

The weather was just beautiful today and practically perfect, so we immediately took up the offer to be seated at one of the tables outside overlooking the kitchen’s garden. The air is so fresh out in the Mountains (a welcome change from the Big Smoke of Sydney) and we absolutely loved this relaxing outdoor setting. As it was winter approaching spring, there was not a lot growing in the garden beds at this time. Our waitress explained to us that they grow a lot of their own herbs and vegetables. A tomato tree has been planted in anticipation of using the tomatoes to serve gazpacho on their summer menu. That sounds delicious! After we placed our order, we wandered around the garden as we waited for our meals to be prepared.

What a glorious day!

Just one chilli growing on this plant
Artichoke growing in one of the garden beds

Butternut soup, chestnut butter, bush pepper crème fraiche, capsicum puree
My wife’s entrée was a butternut soup and this was an enjoyable and comforting soup for winter, although it was a lovely day in the Mountains. The combination of pepper and the garlic croutons were a welcome addition and gave the flavour of the soup some extra kick to complement the sweet, creamy butternut pumpkin flavours. 

Confit salmon, anchovy mayonnaise, quail egg, pea, lemon
I ordered the confit salmon and was I happy that I decided on this entrée! I was blown away by this dish and it was easily my favourite course of the day. It was on a whole different level compared to the other dishes and if I was served this dish at a fine dining restaurant, I would be a happy customer. First of all, I loved the presentation of this dish. Everything has been assembled onto the plate so beautifully.

The salmon was cooked to perfection with a lovely moist, pink centre. The flesh just melts in the mouth. And then there all sorts of condiments to enjoy the salmon with, almost too many to choose from. However you choose to combine them, it all tastes wonderful. In terms of sauces there were squid ink and anchovy mayonnaise, apple gel, and pea puree. The dish also came with a quail egg, which had a nice and gooey yolk and salmon roe, which provided pleasant bursts of flavour. So overall, a dish that I was most impressed with and would definitely order again.             


Gnocchi, chestnut puree, swiss brown, enoki, oyster, pine mushrooms, egg yolk, cashews
My wife’s gnocchi was a good classic gnocchi dish, nothing special. The gnocchi were soft, fluffy pillows of potato however they did get quite rich and creamy after a while. This dish contains three of my wife’s food loves: potatoes, mushrooms and warm, gooey egg yolk, so there were definitely no complaints from her with this dish.

Nose to tail pork belly
I decided to go the whole hog and ordered the nose to tail pork belly, Lochiel House’s signature dish. This dish is a pig lover’s dream. What I enjoyed about this dish is that there were so many different things to try – essentially it was a pork tasting plate!

The pig elements were, moving clockwise from the top-left there were trotter croquette, pork tail and potato hash, chicharron (pork cracker), pork belly, and thinly sliced ballotine of pig’s head (or tete de cochon). These were all enjoyable but my favourite element was the trotter croquette, which had a crunchy golden crust and some delicious, gelatinous pig’s trotters that come oozing out as you cut the croquette in half. However, I do think the crackling of the pork belly could be crispier and is a bit blonde-looking. The meat of the pork belly could also have been more moist and tender.        

Of course pig is best enjoyed with apple and in this dish it comes as an apple puree. If there weren’t already enough different ways of doing pork in this dish, the carrots here are done 4 ways: carrot puree, roasted baby carrots (incl. purple carrot) and pickled carrots.  The pickled carrots were certainly welcome in this dish as it does cut through the richness of the dish a bit. I couldn’t count 4 ways as stated in the menu unless you count the roasted purple carrot as one of the 4 ways, as separate from the other carrots. 

Kipfler potato chips, parmesan & truffle
We also decided to order some kipfler potato chips on the side. These were great! These were fried with the skins, which provided great flavour. The chips were very crunchy and on the inside there was steaming-hot fluffy potato.     


Lemon & meringue; cheesecake, lemon curd, kaffir ice cream
This was a deconstructed lemon cheesecake, with quenelles of lemon curd, cheesecake filling and a scoop of kaffir lime ice cream. The lemon curd and cheesecake elements were enjoyable however my favourite elements of this dish were the refreshing lime ice cream and the tangy pearls of finger limes to cut through the richness of the lemon curd and the cheesecake. Through no fault of the restaurant, we just aren’t fans of meringue. To me there just isn’t much to them and nothing more than just sugar and egg whites. 

Pecan, banana, caramel & peanut butter ice cream
This was our favourite out of the 2 desserts. The pecan pie and the peanut butter ice cream were to die for! I loved how the pecan pie was served warm, with a delightfully gooey pecan filling and a crust of pecans on top. And we all know that ice cream is perfect with a warm pie :9       

We left Lochiel House satisfied with the meal we just had and continued our scenic drive along the Bells Line of Road. To see what we got up to on our daytrip to the mountains, scroll down to the next post or click on the following link: .  

Highlight: The confit salmon was a stellar dish that I would be more than happy to have again!
Lowlight: Lochiel House is quite a drive from my place, so I don’t think I can visit this wonderful destination too often. 
Overall: Lochiel House is not the 2-hatted restaurant that it used to be, but it doesn’t matter because the current owners delivers with a seasonal menu that contains lots of great, interesting options. Lochiel House is situated in a beautiful and quiet location, making it perfect for a weekend getaway. The food here is certainly worth making the journey for. 7/10 (Great) 

Lochiel House on Urbanspoon

Day Out at the Blue Mountains - 24 August 2013

Last Saturday, my wife and I decided to take a daytrip to the Blue Mountains after we had booked lunch at Lochiel House in Kurrajong Heights. Believe it or not, in my 20+ years in Sydney, I have not once been to the Blue Mountains or seen the Three Sisters. I know this is rather poor, seeing as Blue Mountains is only juts an hour away by car. I don’t know how I have neglected this beautiful area for so long!

Castle Hill Farmers and Fine Food Market
Honey and port cured bacon and egg roll ($6.50)
We decided to take a detour before taking the Great Western towards the Blue Mountains and headed for the Castle Hill Farmers and Fine Food Market as my wife has a fondness for open air markets. These markets are open on the second and forth Saturdays of each month. I did have a great time wandering around and browsing all the different stalls and seeing all the fresh produce.  I also grabbed breakfast too. I had this honey and port cured bacon and egg roll. This was easily the most popular breakfast item in the market and I had to line up for at least 10 minutes to get this. There was a lot of crispy bacon here. That’s my greasy fry-up fix taken care of!  

Address: Castle Hill Showground, enter via Carrington Road

The location is a bit weird, feels more like an industrial area
Next stop was Zokoko Chocolates at the foot of the mountains. Zokoko Chocolates is a place that I have wanted to check out for a long time but haven’t had a chance until now. The chocolates at Zokoko have won many awards and quite a few restaurants use Zokoko chocolates in their desserts. I recall that Justin North, formerly at Becasse, was big fan of Zokoko and used their chocolates.
Chocolate milkshake (and someone's game of Candy Crush)

Hot chocolate
We decided to order a hot chocolate and a chocolate milkshake.  Both were very good but our favourite was easily the chocolate milkshake. The chocolate syrup that they use in this milkshake is seriously awesome! We ordered the little kids size and it was anything but that. It felt like the never ending glass of chocolate milkshake, but who are we to complain when it tasted so delicious!
Alto Beni 68% Cacao

We also bought a block of chocolate and a honey chocolate bear for the road. The chocolate block was Alto Beni 68% (85g). Weighing in at a premium price tag of $10, this certainly does not come cheap. But it is this price for a reason. Judging by the number of gold stamps and awards this has won, it is a pretty awesome block of dark chocolate with a complex flavour profile (the packaging says that it has a delicate citrus and honey profile, although I couldn’t detect it). The beans used in this chocolate are grown in the Alto Beni region of Bolivia.

Chocolates on display. Yum! I want them all!
Honey chocolate bear ($3.50)
The honey chocolate bear ($3.50) was amazing and stole my heart! It was almost too cute to eat, but once I bit into it, I was blown away. There was a really nice gooey caramel in the centre.   

With our cravings for chocolate satisfied, we were off to lunch at Lochiel House in Kurrajong Heights.

Address: 3/84-90 Old Bathurst Rd, Emu Heights

Zokoko on Urbanspoon

Lochiel House

Lochiel House is situated off the main tourist track, so it was a nice, peaceful drive. Lochiel House is located in a beautiful spot and the food is great too so it is definitely worth driving out for. To see my write up for Lochiel House, click on the following link:    

Address: 1259 Bells Line Of Rd, Kurrajong Heights

Pie in the Sky

Whilst we were driving along Bells Line of Road, for some reason despite being quite full from lunch, we decided to stop at Pie in the Sky around Bilpin, which is famous for their apples. I think we were drawn by their big sign that said they make homemade pies. And of course all the pies on display looked tempting and were calling out to us.

Apple and rhubarb pie
We couldn’t resist any further and got the apple and rhubarb pie ($4.50). The top was wonderfully buttery and flaky. The apple and rhubarb filling was great too. But because we were so full, that’s all we could eat, so we didn’t have any of the pie base.           

Address: 1858 Bells Line Of Rd, Kurrajong Heights

Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Our next stop was the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah. It was an absolutely glorious day today and perfect for getting closer to nature. Plus it is FREE. As it was approaching early spring, the gardens were starting to look quite beautiful as all kinds of flowers were starting to bloom. The daffodils were particularly stunning and it was like a yellow carpet had started to cover the garden. This was a fantastic way to spend an hour leisurely strolling around to burn off the kilojoules from lunch!

Address: Bells Line of Road via Bilpin, Mount Tomah

Three Sisters

Obligatory shot with the Three Sisters
And of course no trip to the Blue Mountains is complete without making a stop at the Three Sisters in Katoomba. After fighting with the other scores of tourists for the best vantage point of the Three Sisters, I got my picture with the famous rock formation, so my trip to the Mountains was complete.

We had an awesome day in the Blue Mountains and I can’t believe it took us this long to make the trip. Guess this shows that a couple of Asians are willing to drive anywhere for a bargain (as we had a Travel Zoo voucher for lunch at Lochiel House)!   

Address: 23-31 Echo Point Rd, Katoomba NSW