Sunday, 27 April 2014

High St Bistro, Willoughby - 26 April 2014

Woof woof parking - convenient spot to park your pooch hehe
Readers of my blog may have noticed that I am a big fan of the food at Ormeggio (for further details see here, here and here). So it goes without saying that I was excited to hear the news that Alessandro Pavoni, executive chef at Ormeggio, Alex Keene, sous chef at Ormeggio and Bill Drakopoulos of Aqua Dining Group had just bought local favourite High St Bistro in Willoughby. And since I was in the neighbourhood this weekend, my wife and I decided to pay High St Bistro a visit for lunch. Plus we got 25% off the meal since they're in the Entertainment Book Sydney and Sydney North 2014/15 edition.      

The Ormeggio crew have now moved into High Street Bistro and Alex Keene is running the kitchen as head chef. The existing French influenced bistro style menu has been retained til around late June, when the restaurant will be relaunched as a Northern Italian casual eatery, Via Alta. But it seems that the transition to Via Alta has already started with a number of Italian favourites such as mushroom risotto, tiramisu, among others, already featuring on the menu.

We arrived at around midday so High St Bistro was relatively quiet. The service was friendly and attentive at the start but the restaurant became more busy and less attentive as the dining room filled up. We opted for a main each, a side of sauteed potatoes and two desserts to share today. The main came out quickly but there was a bit of a wait for the dessert to arrive. And the side of potatoes never came. We were about halfway through our main when we enquired about the potatoes and since this order had been forgotten about, we decided to cancel the order. I could not help but think that more than three waitstaff was needed for a busy weekend lunchtime service.

Any way, onto more important things, the food. And here's what I thought of the food.    

Ormeggio Bakery organic sourdough, homemade ricotta, extra virgin olive oil ($7)
To start the meal, we ordered sourdough bread baked in the Ormeggio kitchen. Ormeggio serves one of the best breads in a Sydney restaurant, in my opinion, so I think it is worth paying the money for. The bread is sliced extra- thick, which makes the best part of bread, the crust, taste even better! The bread is served with a smooth, creamy homemade ricotta and a top-notch extra virgin olive oil for dipping.     

Carnaroli risotto, wild mushroom, aged truffle percorino ($31)
My wife's main was Carnaroli risotto with wild mushrooms. We both love mushrooms and we both love a good risotto, so this dish was obviously a winner. The wild mushrooms were packed with flavour and this dish was noticeably earthy. The risotto was just cooked through and delightfully al dente. This was a rich, creamy risotto and comforting to eat. This was probably not the most generous of portions, but given the richness of this dish, you probably don't want to be eating a mountain of it.   

Slow cooked lamb rump, wilted silverbeet, sweet potato mash ($34)
My main was the slow cooked lamb rump.This was a simple plate of food with a few elements, but it was sure tasty. The lamb rump was well cooked and had a lovely pink centre.The lamb jus was deliciously concentrated lamby goodness. The lamb was served with wilted silverbeet and a moreish sweet potato mash.

'Barbajada' - 70% Amedei chocolate and coffee mousse, textures of hazelnut, caramel gelato ($16)
Barbajada is a popular Milanese sweet frothy drink made up of chocolate, milk and coffee. High St Bistro's 'Barbajada' is a contemporary take of this drink, a sort of deconstructed dessert version of it. Out of all the dishes that we tried today, this one would have to be the one I enjoyed the most.The flavours of chocolate and coffee in the mousse were amazing and well balanced. The mousse was so smooth, rich and decadent. I did wish the caramel gelato had a bit more caramel flavour, but a scoop of smooth, creamy gelato is just what was needed to go with the mousse.

Vanilla pannacotta, raspberry, homemade honeycomb ($13)
Unfortunately the other dessert we ordered, the vanilla pannacotta, surprisingly contained a number of flaws. The gelatin separated from the cream, creating separate layers. Although the flavour of the vanilla pannacotta was nice, the cream layer was quite rich, dense and grainy. The pannacotta came with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis and a very good homemade honeycomb, which was the highlight of this dessert but I wished there was a bit more of it.

Overall, we had a mostly enjoyable meal at High St Bistro. The food was simple, tasty and used fresh, quality ingredients. The service was friendly to start but slowed considerably as the restaurant got busier. I think High St Bistro is certainly worth a visit before it is relaunched as Via Alta, especially if you have the 2014/15 Entertainment Book (since I'm not sure if the Gold Card will be accepted once the restaurant is renamed Via Alta).

This meal did give me a taste of what's to come with Via Alta. We both loved the 'Barbajada', and if Via Alta menu is going to feature dishes like this,  there's a lot to be excited about. I can't wait for the launch of Via Alta and I will do my best to be first in line when it opens!

High St Bistro

Address: 197 High St, Willoughby NSW 2068
Contact no: 02 9958 1110 

High St. Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tyler's Pantry, Mogo - 11 April 2014

I was looking for a dinner venue near Batemans Bay on the first night of my wife's birthday getaway. As Batemans Bay is not widely known for food, I wasn't even sure if could find something nice to celebrate the occasion. So the SMH Good food Guide was consulted and a quick flick through pointed me to a restaurant called Tyler's Pantry in the little town of Mogo, 10 kilometres south of Batemans Bay and 4 hours south of Sydney. The Good Food Guide awarded this place a chef hat, that's good enough for me!

The chef and owner of Tyler's Pantry is Josh Tyler, a local South Coast product. It's surprising that more hasn't been written about Josh Tyler and his restaurant, because this man has some serious skills in the kitchen, as I was about to find out. His resume includes stints at Celsius in Sydney working for Peter Doyle, at various kitchens overseas, and 2 years as the head chef at the Benchmark in Canberra before moving back home to the South Coast to open Tyler's Kitchen in Malua Bay (now closed) and Tyler's Pantry.

Once you get a chance to speak with Josh you will quickly realise he is passionate about this region. The produce that he uses in the restaurant is sourced almost exclusively from the South Coast. In addition to the flowers, herbs and vegetables that he grows in his garden, seafood is from local fishermen, and meat and vegetables are from local farms and suppliers. Tyler also forages the coastline for native plants such as samphire, beach spinach, salt bush and pig face.

Tyler's Pantry is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Monday and Tuesday offering cafe style options. But it is dinner where the kitchen flexes their muscles and shows their real talent. On Friday and Saturday nights (bookings essential), Tyler turns his Pantry into a fine dining establishment offering more technical and innovative dishes.

The dinner menu is a concise offering of 5 savoury courses, 2 sides and 3 desserts. The menu changes weekly depending on what produce is available. You can choose between three courses ($50), four course ($65) or 5 courses ($78). And the sides are $9 each. We opted for 4 courses (3 savoury courses and 1 dessert). There was only one vegetarian option listed on the menu, and as we had informed the restaurant beforehand of my wife's vegetarian diet, the restaurant was able to create 2 other savoury courses for my wife.

The service at Tyler's were friendly and attentive, but the dining experience was made even more special and personalized as Josh brought out most of our courses and gave a highly detailed explanation of each dish along with the techniques used. These explanations made me appreciate even more the effort and the skill required to put up each plate of food.

Bread, butter, sea salt
To start the meal, we were served sourdough bread, butter and sea salt. The sourdough bread was baked in-house and the butter was also churned in-house using local milk. The bread was crusty and had a nice, robust flavour. The butter was great too: creamy with a little sourness. But what intrigued me the most was that the salt. Tyler explained to us that he collects drums of sea water and evaporates the water down til it turns into salt crystals, a process that takes about a week to complete. This was described as a bit of a novelty, but I applaud the innovation as I have yet to see a restaurant do this.

First course
Kingfish, cucumber, sea succulents
The kingfish was my first course. This was quite simply, a spectacular dish. Not only was it light and fresh, it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into selecting the different components in this dish. The kingfish was served raw and was super fresh as the kingfish was brought in by Ulladulla fisherman that afternoon. The kingfish was served with a variety of fresh and pickled sea succulents and cucumber with squid ink mixed through it. I loved the addition of squid ink for that extra bit of saltiness to the and flavour of the sea sans the fishiness. And interestingly, the dish was given a nice kick of spice from dried chilli powder, which I thought gave the dish a bit of character and subtle enough to work well with the fresh elements.

Ashed potato, egg yolk, soured milk
This was my wife's first course. The combination of potato, egg and cream is always a winner and this was no exception. The flavour combinations were interesting too. The potato was covered in ash, giving it a slight smoky flavour. There was also onion cooked in whey, which were beautifully sautéed down. The egg yolk was lightly cured and was wonderfully gooey. The soured milk was created from the by-product of the house churned butter. This was a surprisingly light, yet satisfying course with the flavours from each component being well balanced. We thought this was an excellent introduction to the meal.

Second course
Pork, eggplant, salted toffee, garlic milk
My second course was the pork belly. The pork belly was slowly cooked for 48 hours and was the most tender, melt in your mouth piece of meat that I have eaten in a while. Beautifully rich and so amazing! The pork belly was glazed with salted toffee, which provided a delightful mix of sweet and savoury that really complemented the richness of the pork belly. To the side of the pork belly was a purée of eggplant and miso. I go nuts for nasu dengaku, so I was happy to see it here, in purée form.

Blanketing the pork belly was a thin sheet of garlic milk. It was the garlic milk, listed quite simply in the menu that piqued my interest initially. The garlic milk was made by cooking milk with garlic and lifting off the film off the top of milk as it boils. It is much like yuba in Japanese cooking and adds an interesting texture and flavour to the dish, not too dissimilar to that of a delicate tofu skin.

Beetroot, radish, lime
My wife's second course was a salad of beetroot, radish and lime. She enjoyed this course, a lot! This dish could have easily been swapped with the first vegetarian course given it was that light and refreshing. All the components in this dish were grown in Tyler's garden. There were ruby, golden and Chioggia beetroots in this dish, done in 3 different ways: pickled, roasted and puréed. French breakfast radishes were served pickled or fresh as thin slices. And little pearls of finger lime rounded out the dish, providing juicy bursts of citrus and acidity.

Third course
Beef and yeast, cabbage, walnut, zucchini
The beef was my last savoury course. Poached fillets of beef were flavoursome, cooked beautifully rare and melted in the mouth. Yeast extract, veal stock and a 'truck load' of butter were used to create a rich, delicious and concentrated sauce to glaze the beef. The beef fillets were served on crisp leaf of cabbage, a wonderful walnut cream and strips of zucchini.

Mushroom, corn, onion, zucchini
The last savoury course for my wife was mushrooms cooked in onion broth, served with grilled corn, zucchini, amaranth and corn custard. This dish had an enjoyable combination of flavours from the clean onion broth, the sweetness of the corn, the nuttiness of the amaranth and the smooth, velvety corn custard.

Paris mash ($9)
My wife loves potato and insisted on ordering the Paris mash as a side. The mash was incredibly smooth, buttery, rich and satisfying. What I liked was that there wasn't a huge slick of oil floating at the top, so I didn't feel as guilty eating this. And this was a generous portion and because my wife doesn't like to waste food (so Asian!), we somehow managed to devour the entire bowl, which left the both of us in a food coma.

Complimentary dessert
Pumpkin, fennel, milk, honey
We each received a complimentary dessert, which I thought was very nice of the restaurant to do for us. This was the dessert item on the menu that we didn't order. This turned out to be the dessert of the night, so I was glad that I didn't miss out on trying it. A brilliant honey ice cream was covered with fennel seeds, pumpkin crisps and thin shards of dehydrated milk. The pumpkin crisps were a joy to eat even if they reminded me of cornflakes and made me think I was having “Breakfast at Tyler's”. A viscous syrup was also poured over the dessert, but we were made to guess what the ingredients in the syrup were. This was a guessing game that my wife ended up winning as she correctly guessed that it was pumpkin. The pumpkin syrup had a distinct savoury flavour that went well with the sweeter elements of the dish.

Fourth course
Eucalyptus, fig, meringue
The eucalyptus granita was pleasantly refreshing and tasted distinctly eucalyptus yet not overpowering. The fig ice cream was the highlight of this dessert. It was smooth, creamy and had that delicious flavour of fig that I have come to love. There were also some slightly chewy pieces of meringue scattered over the top.

Raspberry, white chocolate and shiso
This dessert was a simpler offering of raspberry sorbet and white chocolate ice cream. The raspberry sorbet was my favourite of the two and had a nice amount of tartness. The sorbet and ice cream was served over a white chocolate powder, with some minty shiso leaves and a slick of licorice sauce.

Posing for a pic with chef/owner, Josh Tyler
After our meal, we had a chance to speak further with Josh Tyler and thanked him for a fantastic meal to kick off my wife's birthday celebrations. I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable this meal turned out to be. Who would have thought little Mogo would have a restaurant that stacks up pretty well to places in Sydney. Tyler's Pantry may well have put Eurobodalla dining on the map, so if you happen to be in Mogo, I suggest you go!

Highlight: The melt in the mouth pork belly with delicious sweet and salty toffee glaze and garlic milk skin.
Lowlight: A restaurant with food this good deserves to be much busier than it is outside holiday periods.
Overall: Tyler's Pantry is a true local gem and a fantastic restaurant that uses regional produce to create exciting, innovative plates of food. The chef hat is thoroughly deserved; I highly recommend the dinner menu to anyone looking for a nice meal and night out in the South Coast. 8/10 (Excellent)

Tyler's Pantry
Address: 34-36 Sydney St (Princes Highway), Mogo NSW 2536
Contact no: (02) 4474 5572

Tyler's Pantry on Urbanspoon

Other wife birthday posts:

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Berry Nice Day Out - 11 April 2014

Last weekend was my wife's birthday so I decided to treat her to a long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. The picturesque town of Berry (2 hours south of Sydney) would be our first stop of our weekend getaway. Berry is a place that both my wife and I have wanted to visit for a very long time, mostly because of our love for food.  Berry is a foodie's paradise, filled with specialty retailers selling artisan products, wineries, farms and produce gardens.     

Oregano Bakery
Address: 56 Connells Point Rd, South Hurstville NSW 2221

Before we hit the Princes Highway, we decided to drop by Oregano Bakery for morning tea. Started by husband and wife team, Sonia and Tony Jabour, as a Lebanese pizzeria in 2010, Oregano Bakery's success is due to their signature cinnamon scroll. These things sell like hotcakes (according to Broadsheet, 35,000 are sold in a month!).       

Cinnamon scroll and honey & walnut scroll;cross section of cinnamon scroll 

We ordered one of the original cinnamon scrolls and one honey and walnut scroll. The original cinnamon scroll was definitely our favourite of the two. Just look at those swirls! The scroll was just really delicious: soft, moist, full of cinnamon and had a good amount of sweetness (any sweeter would have been too sweet for me). The scroll was covered in powdered sugar, and as I am not really a fan of powdered sugar, I brushed most of it off to the side.

The honey and walnut resembled a baklava, which I found a bit too sweet for my liking. It was drowned in honey and filled with crunchy walnuts within.

With our sugar craving satisfied, we headed for Berry.

Oregano Bakery on Urbanspoon        

The Berry Tea Shop
Address: 1/66 Albert St, Berry NSW 2535

Our first stop in Berry was the Berry Tea Shop. The Berry Tea Shop opened its doors in June 2010 and was created by husband and wife team, Cliff and Paulina Collier. The specialise in high-grade loose leaf teas, which are brought in directly from their countries of origin and blended by hand in store. They do not do 'flavoured' teas, thank god!

We absolutely loved the space!  It was a spacious, relaxing setting, perfect for a nice pot of tea with a slice of cake or a scone. There were also all kinds of kettles, tea pots, cups and saucers on display, which we were fascinated by. Who doesn't want a rooster kettle or a Winnie the Pooh tea pot?   

My wife may be a tea-lover, but she is also a self-confessed tea snob. This is the person that will use a timer to ensure that her tea has brewed for the "right amount of time". And at home she boils water to a certain temperature depending on the tea leaf used. She definitely knows how to make a good cup of tea so I usually trust her judgement when it comes to picking a good tea!

I ordered the good morning, which was a blend of Ceylon, Assam and Yuuan tea, and my wife opted for darjeeling. Both teas were fantastic! The good morning was a strong, full bodied tea, with a great depth of flavour. The darjeeling was a lighter cup of tea with fresh, floral, woody and muscatel notes. We enjoyed these teas so much that we decided to buy some for home.

The Berry Tea Shop on Urbanspoon

Pompadour's Chocolate House
Address: 113 Queen St, Berry NSW 2535

Next stop was Pompadour's Chocolate House, which was just a short walk from the Berry Tea House across the car park.  Pompadour's offers a wide range of handmade premium chocolate creations. It was the Royal Easter Show awards on display that caught our attention; it's obvious that these guys are serious about making good chocolate!

Milk chocolate bunny and chocolate penguin

It was just a brief visit at Pompadour's for us. We decided to buy a packet of Belgian dark chocolate thins (53% coco solids), a milk chocolate bunny filled with strawberry cream and a penguin (which was made with a combination of milk and white chocolate and also filled with strawberry cream).  Both the bunny and penguin were almost too cute to devour, but the allure of smooth Belgian chocolate was impossible to resist. I highly recommend a stop at Pompadour's to all chocolate lovers out there.

South Coast Providores
Address: 89 Queen St, Berry NSW 2535

A short walk up Queen street takes me to South Coast Providores. This is the place to go for mouth watering conserves, chutneys, sauces, jellies and relishes made from locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables. All the marmalades sounded fantastic and we were looking for something tasty that we could spread on our toast during the frantic morning rush for work. We finally decided on ruby grapefruit and Campari and lemon, lime and bitters marmalades, which were suggested to us by Ian Gray, one of the owners of South Coast Providores.

The Famous Berry Donut Van
Address: 73 Queen St, Berry NSW 2535

The Berry famous donut ($1.50 each), geddit?

Walking further up to the outskirts of Berry takes one to The Famous Berry Donut Van next to Shell petrol station. Stopping by this donut van to have one of their famous donuts has been a ritual for thousands of motorists driving down the South Coast for over 60 years.

So what's the big deal with these donuts? They are fried to order, so they come piping hot, soft and fluffy on the inside and are served with just cinnamon and sugar (thank goodness for that since I have a dislike for the sickly sweet donut icings). They're quite enjoyable but if you're not into donuts (like my wife), they're not likely to convert you. But having these donuts is something that every visitor to Berry has to do at least once.

Famous Berry Donut Van on Urbanspoon  

Il Locale Gelato
Address: 114 Queen St, Berry NSW 2535

Hazelnut and honey & macadamia gelato ($5)

Our walk back up Queen street takes us to Il Locale Gelato. This was not one of the places that I had on my list, but the words gelato and fresh led us into the store. The gelato is freshly churned by The Pines Gelato in Kiama using fresh milk from their farm. For $5 for 2 flavours, we decided to try hazelnut and honey & macadamia flavours.  We enjoyed both flavours but the winner was definitely the hazelnut flavour. The gelato had a nice fresh creamy texture and lovely smooth finish.

Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery
Address: 23 Prince Alfred St, Berry NSW 2535

It was passed 2pm, so it was well and truly lunchtime. We had always planned to drop by Berry Sourdough Bakery and Cafe, which is just off the main street of Berry.  There is also a smaller, more conveniently store located on the main street, Milk Wood Bakery, that sells similar things to the bakery. 

The cafe is a very popular stop for hungry south coast motorists and quickly gets packed, especially on weekends. But luckily for us, we came on a Friday, so there were plenty of tables. We were craving for savoury food at this point (almost desperate for it), so after our waitress explained what the specials were, we quickly put in our order for the sourdough pizza and the salad of the day.

Sourdough pizza ($19)

The sourdough pizza ($19) had spinach, red onion, tomato, and house made herbed ricotta. The sourdough pizza base was just amazing. It was a pan style base, rather than the thin bases that I usually have a preference for. It had a nice robust flavour from the sourdough, fluffy and not dense at all for a pan base. The best part of the pizza was definitely the crust, which was quite crispy.

Salad of the day ($17)

A plate of salad ($17) was definitely needed in order after what I had consumed today. This was a fresh, enjoyable salad of carrot, haloumi, sunflower seeds and a caraway vinaigrette. Both my wife and I love the saltiness and meatiness of haloumi. And I thought the addition of aniseed flavour from caraway in the vinaigrette worked well with its acidity.

We had no space left for the delectable tarts in the pantry, so we decided to go for a leisurely walk to our stop, The Treat Factory. We will have to try these during our next visit to Berry.

Berry Sourdough Cafe on Urbanspoon 

The Treat Factory

Address: LOT 1 Old Creamery Ln, Berry NSW 2535

The Treat Factory is the largest gourmet food outlet on the South Coast of New South Wales. They handcraft hundreds of varieties of chocolates, confectionaries, jams and sauces. There are two retail stores in the historic Old Central Creamery, where you can buy a range of award winning products direct from the producer as well hard to find gourmet foods.

Mushroom and truffle oil pasta sauce ($6)

As soon as you walk into the Treat Factory, the first thing you will notice is the wonderful aroma of different spices wafting through the air from large vats bubbling away. After a quick browse, we decided to buy a bottle of mushroom and truffle oil pasta sauce. I am a sucker for all things truffle and just love its pungent aroma.

The freight train that we almost got run over by on our way back to our car from the Treat Factory - we were on the tracks as the gates were about to close!

We spent a good three hours in Berry and thoroughly enjoyed every moment in this beautiful little town. There is more than enough here to keep any food lover interested. We enjoyed talking to all the locals and store owners, and of course sampling all the amazing food, produce and artisan products that this town has to offer. And since it is only 2 hours away from Sydney, Berry is definitely a place that will see me coming back to for many years to come.

Other wife birthday posts:
Biota Dining, Bowral
Tyler's Pantry, Mogo