the eat week that was

Adjusting to my LOL (lady of leisure) lifestyle with BIT (baby in tow) addition whilst omitting the breastfeeding, nappy changes, nap time and tummy time; one still needs to eat! And looking back at the week that was there have been quite a few lunchtime highlights and with the weekend just one sleep away, I urge you to go, stop by and feast.

Monday; first stop ~ Piato on Blues Point Road, McMahons Point situated amongst the row of shops with the black and white striped awning. Feasting with Lizzy and BIT and roasting in the gorgeous midday sunshine, we were both famished and admittedly coming off the back of dining at a new but oh-so-nasty-n0-go cafe the weekend before (another post altogether about when you know you will never go back somewhere when you leave feeling like you have been ripped off and taken for granted as a customer) and so in other words, we were eager to eat. By 1pm, most of the sidewalk tables laden with sunshine had been taken bar one which we quickly swooped on and with no time to waste with Lizzy in “lunch hour”, orders were placed.

After a short exchange of gossip and a peep and ooh at a sleeping baby, our lunch was ready and laid before us. I had ordered the Saffron Pappardelle and Lizzy had ordered the Homemade Cannelloni. Immediately I was impressed with the generous serving of saffron-tinged pappardelle ribbons accompanied by bite sized chunks of chicken, olives, chorizo and capsicum. The plate was alive with colour and texture and after a sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper, I began to devour it. Meanwhile, Lizzy’s cannelloni had every essence of “homemade” injected in her lunch. Cheese was oozing and bubbling on top and the cannelloni tubes were trying to burst out from underneath the blanket of mozzarella – visibly filled to the brim with a steaming bolognese sauce. Conversation halted and silence emerged between the two of us as lunch was undoubtedly enjoyed and we made a pact to go back!

Wednesday; second stop ~ Bonds Corner Fine Food Cafe on Sailors Bay Road, Northbridge situated just past the golf course. The sunshine was out again under cloudless blue skies, but the wind was more fresh on the skin. With most diners already been and gone by 1.45pm and with their soup and lasagna sold out, I ordered crispy skin salmon on a bed of pea and lemon risotto. Taking a moment to sip my hot cappuccino and loving the shaved chocolate flakes resting on top of the foam, the cafe’s position is bathed in sunlight and warmed my back, making winter not that bad! The salmon arrived shortly after and the plate again was alive before me with the skin golden and crisp to bite into and the risotto was creamy with lemon zest bursts and a smattering of peas. For a cafe slightly off the beaten track and away from the hustle and bustle of the plaza, I loved the personal touch and evident passion for food from this cafe and am bound to be back soon.

Tomorrow I leave for the snow with Mr ELG and BIT and in frosty 2 degree weather, I look forward to apres-ski moments of mugs of hot chocolate, toasted marshmallows, buttered popcorn and having bowls of my freshly made batch of chocolate and hazelnut toasted muesli (see prior post for recipe). I look back on this eat-week-that-was with fond memories and am already thinking about when I can get back to these two hot spots to enjoy, eat and devour more!

Piato @ 123 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point NSW 2060

Bonds Corner Fine Food Cafe @ 2/395 Sailors Bay Road, Northbridge NSW 2067

I love my dumplings fresh with a part vinegar and soy sauce on the side

It was during a hurried Tuesday lunch special that I tried the two-week old Bamboo on Reservoir Street, Surry Hills. Notified by my friend Maz to try it out given it is literally a local and I do walk past it everyday on my way to work, it seemed a no brainer. And then there is my number one love of dumplings which gets me everytime. I love my dumplings steaming hot, fresh and not gluggy. A tell-tale sign of their prior steaming is when they arrive in a steamed round box and when the lid is taken off, it’s such a lovely surprise. I love to dip my dumpling lightly into a combination of soy sauce and vinegar so it’s not doused but enriched by the salt and tartiness of the sauces. More often than not, I usually then burn the insides of my mouth in a rush to eat my dumpling due to the spurting soup trapped inside. But it is so worth it.

Back to Bamboo; tucked away at the back of a corner pub it is decorated in a rustic old-Beijing fashion with different coloured wooden bird cages hanging from the ceiling and a lone push bike. Signs inform the eater that Bamboo believes “everyone has nice dumplings” and there is an assortment of shared tables pre-set with plates and chopsticks and local workers are starting to crowd the place as more people swing by to try the new kid on the block.

Bamboo is not a no-Go but only go there if you need a quick bite and dumplings don’t rate high on your list of food loves. Unfortunately for me, it was borderline gweilo, the Northern Chinese (where xiaolongbao dumplings hail from) flavours were not distinct enough and I think the sauce that the dumplings and grilled salmon came with was simply soy. And when you’re stacking this place up against Din Tai Fung which is a ten minute walk away, it doesn’t come close even in the price factor. I think I could have done better to go to Ho’s Dim Sim Kitchen on Pitt Street, buy my own dumplings, heat them up and eat them. It was worth trying but next…?

Bamboo @ Corner of Commonwealth and Reservoir Streets, Surry Hills Sydney 2010

Ho’s Dim Sim Kitchen @ 429A Pitt Street, Sydney 2000

no-Go #1

I would hate to be a Travel Agent. Sure, you would get good perks with discounted flights and accommodation but having to sell travel when the internet has become the best friend of most would be a hard-sell. However despite the advanced growth of the internet over the last five years, an element of risk still remains when you book online. Photos can make a bedroom look huge and taken at the correct angle and in the right light, can make a dark room seem bright. Some hotels now have video links and they are better but there will always be a percentage that is the unknown factor.

For my recent honeymoon, I completely booked its entirety solely online. The hire car was booked through vroomvroomvroom, flights done through QANTAS and all accommodation was thoroughly researched, compared and booked online through their specific websites. Sites like Trip Advisor help somewhat to guide your decision but ultimately biting the bullet is a solo activity.

no-Go # 1 is the Piermont Retreat, Tasman Hwy. Swansea TAS. 7190

With the route decided that my man and I would fly into Hobart, spend some time exploring the capital before heading up the East coast and Freycinet peninsular and finally inland and flying home out of Launceston, I searched for a “special” place for the mid component of the honeymoon. Piermont met the requirements for its highly rated restaurant which I noted we would need to eat at and I liked the sound of “ecologically sustainable luxury” as per the website description of the overall retreat which was situated steps away from the Freycinet coast. There were enough photos to match the descriptive language and they even had a “honeymoon spa” package. Booked and paid for. In the comments section on the online reservation I recall writing that the reason for our Tasmanian trip was due to our honeymoon and we look forward to the experience ahead at Piermont Retreat.

Service or more to the point; Customer Service is an important factor to me. Whether you are on a weekend-away, staying at a backpackers, in a 2-star or 5-star – customer service is an essential for me. On our honeymoon, my man and I were already on cloud 9 and any extras we received were icing on the cake.

Arriving into reception at Piermont Retreat, I was met by a man who I assumed was one of the owners. No hello, no welcome to Piermont, no “how’s your honeymoon been so far?”. I appreciate everyone has bad days but this first impression was gruff, rude and inappropriate. After a mini-dispute over how many nights were booked and paid for, despite by print-out in hand, I was given a set of keys, a site map for the retreat and sent on my less-than-merry way.

I have a good photographic memory and considering how much time I spent researching and comparing places to stay in Tasmania; the room I saw after I turned the key and opened the door was not the photo I remembered. Bare minimum was reality.

Changing our initial plans, we left Piermont Retreat after only the one night to leave behind the only disappointment on our honeymoon. Rude service or rather a lack of, coupled with not getting what we paid for or what was advertised online left my man and I with a bad taste in our mouths.

Thank god for Hotel Islington and Red Feather Inn to make up for it in the Tasmanian accommodation stakes as overall, our honeymoon is an amazing memory, not to be discoloured by one night.