Sydney: Surry Hills

September 8, 2014

Recently I travelled up to Sydney with two girlfriends from undergrad, J and T, to visit another friend, R, who has since moved up to Sydney for work. It was a trip well overdue, let me tell you, and from the departures lounge at Tullamarine till the very last coffee, there were chats a plenty. This is a bit of a gastronomic tour of our weekend – so make yourself a tea and settle in!

Bourke Street Bakery

633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

First stop once we’d landed and dropped our bags off at our apartment was the Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills. We were staying in the area, so it was a perfect little promenade to stretch out legs (and have something yummy to eat!)

I couldn’t go past one of their famous sausage rolls, and though the lamb, almond and harissa was very tempting, I thought the classic pork and fennel was a wise decision. Beautifully flakey pastry and a crumbly filling that was heavy on the fennel, just as I like it.

They also offer a series of hot pies, quiches, and little pizettes which they warm up for you.

The bakery also boasts a small but excellent range of sweet treats, and once I’d begun photographing them it was only a small but dangerous step to buying a few for later!

In our goodie box, from bottom left: ginger brûlée tart, rhubarb and almond tart, brandied prune and custard flan, strawberry meringue tart, and lemon curd tart. My favourites were the brandied prune (how can that ever be a bad thing?), the lemon curd and the strawberry meringue. I found the rhubarb a tad dry, and the ginger, while interesting, didn’t really do it for me.

In a rare spot of sunshine (it rained nearly the entire weekend), Sydney-siders flocked to outdoor tables, still rugged up in their wet weather gear. For a city with a reputation for better weather than Melbourne, I have to say Sydney didn’t really perform. Fortunately for us, most of our weekend was spent indoors drinking and eating, so I’m willing to forgive the weather.

Kawa

348 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Later in the day we stopped by Kawa for a quick coffee. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here, and it seems like a reasonably popular cafe, one of those green-juice types, but I did find the staff a touch rude. It took us a long time to get someone’s attention and when we asked for coffees, they didn’t seem particularly happy about it.

Having said that, their coffee was pretty good. Perhaps we just got one cranky staff member.

The Winery

285A Crown Street, Surry Hills

On Friday night, we had cocktails and wine and enjoyed steaks at The Winery, also on Crown street. Part restaurant, part wine bar, part swanky beer garden. All that needs to be said is that it’s a nice place, their steaks were pretty good, it had a great eclectic vibe, and is well worth a visit.

Reuben Hills

61 Albion Street, Surrey Hills

Saturday was the day I was most anticipating – I had the whole day organised food-wise, and I wasn’t about to let queues or rain deter me! First up, brunch at Reuben Hills. Sure, the queue had us waiting for 40 minutes, and we waited in the drizzle, but that feeling as you’re ushered in to a table, with other queue-ees glaring knives into your back? That’s a goooood feeling, my friends! Coffees were great, I really enjoyed my flat white, and the reggae-style music had us bopping along in our seats. Suddenly we were ready to face the day!

R ordered the Dirty Bird (ironic because she’s the un-dirtiest bird I’ve ever met), spiced grilled chicken, tomatillo salsa, cheese, pickles, and chipotle aioli on brioche. I didn’t have to try this to know it’d taste amazing.

J went for my second-best option, the Achiote pork n’ beans, with a soft fried egg, corn chips and chimmichurri. ‘Well that looks awesome’, I thought, as it arrived. ‘That looks seriously awesome’.

As my comparatively modest plate of baked eggs was set in front of me, I have to say I was initially a touch annoyed I hadn’t ordered the pork n’ beans. But one mouthful of that tomato sauce and I was a goner. Served with chorizo, spinach, ranchero and rye, this was probably the best baked eggs I’ve ever had, on the basis of that spicy, flavoursome tomato sauce alone. Sensationally good.

T also had baked eggs with goats curd replacing the chorizo. It went really well spread over the rye bread and then dunked into the sauce. That’s another thing about Sydney. Rye. They are nuts for rye bread at the moment. They’re all about the rye. I guess it just feels so rye. See what I did there?

Predictably, Reuben Hills was a great spot for brunch, and I would happily return here several times to try more of their menu. If I came back I would definitely aim to try:

  • Really fucking great fried chicken, with chilli in a basket (with a name like that, how can I not try it!)
  • The NOT Reuben: wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, manchego and horseradish cream on rye (the rye, I tell you, the RYE)
  • Epasote poached pear, with yoghurt, kiwi coulis and dates (because I want to know was epasote is)

Porteno

358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

Finally, Saturday evening had arrived: Porteno, the motherload. Unfortunately by this stage my little camera was blinking its red battery light at me desperately, so I’ve only got a few photos of the food. But please don’t let this deter you from visiting – this was a beautiful meal and well worth a visit, despite the reek of hipsters coming from the kitchen.

The food is very similar to San Telmo in Melbourne: Argentinean, with a focus on grilled and slow cooked meats, and flavoursome salsas. If I had to weigh up the two, I’d say my vote comes out in favour of San Telmo, because I think the vibe of the place is nicer. Though the food is spectacular at both, and the service very attentive, I do think the booking policy at Porteno is somewhat punitive and may indicate something of a superiority complex.

Source: instagram

At Porteno, you can only book for tables of five or more, and if some of party don’t show up on the night, you’ll be charged $60 a head per missing person. I understand a restaurant like the Fat Duck or Prix Fixe doing this, because they’ve organised for a set menu per diner, but Portno had a queue out the door all night, people were still sitting down to eat at 10:30pm, so it’s no skin off their back if one person in your party can’t make it. Anyway, rant over.

At our late sitting, we settled in with cocktails in hand (my pisco sour was delicious but you really have to try the Pan American Clipper, with Applejack, lime, Grenadine and Absinthe. J had one and I was seriously envious). To begin, we shared a couple of small dishes. The empanadas de carne with beef were delicious, especially served with their chimmichurri, a garlicky, parsley heavy salsa. Sadly not pictured (but delicious) was a serve of the house made chorizo, which didn’t suffer from an overpowering hit of paprika like chorizo sometimes can.

A culinary revelation arrived in the form of the canelones de mama con trufas, ‘Mama’s cannelloni’ crepes filled with creamed zucchini, Meredith goats cheese and NSW truffles. The earthy smell of truffles was heavy as the dish arrived at the table, and it’s no wonder why, given the generous shavings topping the dish. It was beautiful: soft and sweet and creamy, with that woody hit from the truffles.

We also had some fabulous calamares asados con tres pepino – grilled South Australian calamari with three styles of cucumber. I could pick out the fresh and pickled cucumber, but had trouble working out the third. Nonetheless, another great dish, I particularly loved the charred tentacles. Also, how cute is the Spanish word for cucumber – pepino! I love it!

In line with the sharing style of the menu, we ordered a few dishes for our mains. A standout was the cordero a la cruz, 8 hour wood fired lamb, sweet and fatty and succulent, it was beautiful. Also in the ‘delicious and meaty’ category was the bife de chorizo, a sirloin strip steak (incidentally the same cut we enjoyed at San Telmo), which was fantastic.

To accompany our meats we ordered a fantastic little dish of morons y berenjenar – grilled eggplant with red peppers, ricotta and a pistachio dressing. I’m a big fan of the humble eggplant, and I will certainly be recreating this dish at home. We also had the broccoli asado salsa de anchoas, grilled broccoli with anchovy, chilli garlic sauce and amontillado dressing (not pictured), which was slightly less impressive.

Too full for dessert, we finished our wine (2010 Alma Negra Misterios Malbec Blend from Rivadavia Mendoza, if you must know, and yes it was delicious), and headed off. It may have been raining torrentially when we got outside, and I may have ruined my shoes while trying to hail a cab, but like any good gastronome, I didn’t mind a bit.

Bills

359 Crown Street, Surry Hills

On Sunday morning I met up with family friends, the sassiest mother-daughter duo north of Melbourne, Misses A and J. They decided to take me to the ever-trendy, ever-fabulous Bill Granger’s cafe, conveniently located a block from my apartment and next door to Billy Kwong’s (by the way you guys I saw KYLIE KWONG. Ahh, butterflies, or maybe crickets in my stomach!)

Ok look, so I think they’re a little bit snobby there, a little bit Sydney, a little bit ‘this is the way we do things around here and you darn well better not suggest anything different’. BUT I cannot fault his food. The coffee, admittedly, could be improved, but the food was great, classic brunch fare. The menu is arranged into rather odd sections: ‘fruits, grains, cereals’; ‘toasts, spreads’; ‘classics’; and ‘plates’. I thought the sections were cute, but still don’t understand why a dish of gravlax, shaved radish, dill, cream cheese and sourdough crostini belongs in the ‘toasts, spreads’ section. But who am I to question the great Bill! The man does, after all, have six eateries in his international portfolio.

From the ‘fruits, grains, cereals’ section, A decided on a pretty plate of bill’s granola, greek yoghurt and rhubarb. It looked delicious, especially those wine-red batons of rhubarb.

Miss J enjoyed a rather interesting dish of broken eggs, ricotta, spinach and pine nuts, which seemed like a sort of loose omelette.

I went for what I affectionately dubbed my ‘lebo breakfast’ (and yes I can say that because my best friend is Lebanese, don’t you know), zucchini fritters, deep fried egg, haloumi, tahini yoghurt, pickles, fresh cucumber and parsley salad. The fritters were excellent, very light and went well with the yoghurt. The fried egg felt like an afterthought and I would have been happy if it had been left off. The haloumi, in contrast, was awesome, because haloumi is always awesome.

And that’s it folks! My girls weekend in Sydney was a whole lot of fun, despite the rain, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating and drinking myself stupid. Comment with your favourite places to visit in Sydney!

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon Kawa on Urbanspoon The Winery on Urbanspoon Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon Porteño on Urbanspoon Bills on Urbanspoon


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