Enlighten Noodle Market 2017

I went to the Enlighten Noodle Markets last Friday and Monday evening, and plan to go agin this Friday and potentially Saturday… Can you tell I loved it? It’s just the perfect opportunity to sit in the sun and enjoy great food while watching the sun set over Canberra. I went to the Markets last year too, so if you’d like to read that one, click here! Canberra is becoming such a foodie city, I friggen love it!

Korean Tacos from Poklol

Poklol do a ‘three tacos for $20’ deal, similar to Bao stop’s trifecta. You have the option to choose which filling, so we went for one of each – beef, pork and chicken. I really enjoyed the tacos (the pork one being my favourite), but the meat was a little dry. The carrots were slightly pickled which gave a nice tang, the cabbage was crunchy and the cucumber was refreshing. I liked the sauce too, but would have liked more of it.

Kimchi and beef fries from Poklol

This dish ($15) was one of our favourites of the night. The chips were insanely crunchy on the outside, and fluffy and soft on the inside. The beef was flavoursome (you get to choose your meat), there was a decent amount of cheese and a healthy topping of kimchi. I would have liked the kimchi to be a little spicier, but this didn’t detract from the dish at all. I’d definitely recommend this dish if you’re sharing with friends.

Hand-pulled noodles with char sui, beef brisket and five spice-broth from Taiwan Noodle House

This was my sister’s pick as she’d heard great reviews. The noodles ($18) were awesome – they were thick and luscious, and had a great chewy texture. The broth had a deep savoury flavour, and the guys at the Taiwan Noodle House were generous with the meat! We got a big piece of peppered beef brisket which was  unfortunately a little dry but super flavoursome, and a lot of tender char sui. I really enjoyed this dish!

Chicken Yakisoba from Teppanyaki Noodles

This chicken yakisoba ($14) might be my favourite of the night… The noodles were chewy and covered in sauce, the chicken was tender and there was a self-serve sauce station (?!?!). I love kewpie mayo (you can tell from the photo, hey). If you’re a noodle lover, I’d highly recommend the yakisoba from Teppanyaki Noodles.

Pavin’ it Large from Gelato Messina

Coconut and pandan sorbet, pandan custard, raspberry marshmallow and lychee meringue. The ball of sorbet was not only giant but delicious – coconutty with a hint of pandan. The lychee meringue was sat underneath the sorbet, so by the time we ate it, it had gone kind of soggy. I still liked the flavour though. I loved the firm but soft raspberry marshmallow and the creamy pandan custard. For $10, this is a well-priced dessert!

Lychee, apple and green tea bubble tea with apple liqueur from Naughtea

This was my sister’s pick and she was a little disappointed, only because it was really overpriced ($13.50 with alcohol) and wasn’t super special. The apple liqueur pearls burst in your mouth which was fun, but the tea itself was fairly watery (maybe too much ice was added) and we couldn’t taste any alcohol apart from the pearls.

We got to the markets just after 5pm which turned out to be the perfect time to go. It wasn’t busy, lines weren’t long and there was no stress! By 6:30pm it started to fill up and by 7 it was packed!

We had a little wander around the lake after dinner while we waited for the light exhibitions to start. It’s times like these when I realise how beautiful Canberra is.

The light exhibitions were beautiful, especially the butterflies. 


If you’ve not been, the markets are on for a few more nights! Definitely check it out, and if you’ve got time, take a wander through the light exhibitions.

Details for the Enlighten Noodle Market:

Dates and times

Friday 3 March – Sunday 12 march

Sunday to Thursday – 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Friday and Saturday – 5:00pm – midnight

Address

Reconciliation Place

 

 

My Food Fix in London, England: Borough Market

During my short visit to London, I knew I had to check out the famous Borough Market before I left. Let’s just say that if I lived in London and was extremely wealthy, I’d totally go to there every day (but maybe skip on weekends because it gets incredibly busy). I went on a Saturday morning which tends to be their busiest day, and I can confirm: it was indeed busy. Business aside, I still had a great time meandering through the different food stalls. Stalls range from not only fresh fruit and veg, meat, poultry, cheese (er my gawd the cheese), baked  goods, cured meats, and desserts and sweets, but also a variety of street food vendors.

As soon as I walked in, I was met by these amazing chunks of 24-30 month aged parmesan.

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I think I saw a cheese vendor around ever corner.
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Piles and piles of colourful turkish delight.

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And plenty of sweet baked goods too.
IMG_3528London in general can put a dent in your wallet (an all day tube pass cost me $24AUD!), and the Borough market is no exception. That said, you can totally get away with just trying free samples and feeling fairly satisfied. Most vendors offer free samples to lure in potential customers. Overall, I tried a few different types of sausage, burger meat, paella, so much cheese, salami and turkish delight all for free. Because of this, I ended up only needing to buy one dish. So, although it can get quite expensive, you can work your way around by being aggressive and pushing people out of the way when the food vendors bring out free tasters.

There was an amazing variety of different foods. If I had an extra day in London, I would totally come back to try a salt beef sandwich.

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There were plenty of Indian options too. Pictured below are vegetable fritters and samosas. IMG_3522

These mini coconut pancakes looked really interesting too. I think they were Thai kanom krok. They kind of look like Asian-Dutch pancakes, hey.IMG_3518

I recently went to Spain (after I visited the Borough market), so I have a particular soft spot for the moreish, carb-loaded dish and am currently drooling as I write this.
IMG_3500When I was walking around, I spotted quite a number of people chowing down on a delicious looking, giant bread roll filled with some sort of meat. From their expressions, I knew I had to find this beauty and after circling the market twice, I finally found it.

Hog roast roll

Succulent cubes of roasted hog meat served with fresh rocket and topped with a small handful of crispy crackling. The pork was really tender and well seasoned, and the rocket was a nice accompaniment to cut through the rich, fatty pork. Also, the soft sourdough bread acted as the perfect vehicle to soak up the pork juices (mmm pork juices). I thought some aioli and/or mustard would have been nice to add some tanginess, but overall it was really tasty. It was giant too, so it was extremely filling and well worth the £6.

Hog roast roll

It turns out I only took a photo of the whole hog on my phone, so I apologise for the camera quality. That said, the photo of the roll above is also from my phone and I think it looks amazing (not to toot my own phone or anything).

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Normally the market is open every Monday to Saturday, but in December, it’s open every day until Christmas eve. If you make it to London, I’d definitely recommend a stroll through Borough market, even if it is just to try the free samples!

Details for Borough Market

Opening hours:

Monday – Thursday

10:00am – 5:00pm

Friday

10:00am – 6:00pm

Saturday

8:00am – 5:00pm

Sunday

Closed

Address:

8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, UK

Dinner at Lilotang

I recently dined at Lilotang, the Chairman group’s latest addition, with a few of my good friends. I had only heard positive reviews before trying them out, but this Barton restaurant surpassed all my expectations when it came to good, traditional Japanese cuisine.

We strategically dined at Lilotang on a Tuesday evening so we could enjoy a relaxed and leisurely-paced dinner. Our waiter was extremely attentive and was willing to answer all our questions about the food.

Lilotang has a very cool and eclectic vibe with a mix of traditional and modern Japanese décor. The dimmed lighting gives the restaurant an intimate feel, which is completely contrasted with a large wall-length window that invites you to get lost in the outside world.

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Edamame

Lilotang’s edamame is possibly the best I’ve ever had, including the edamame I had in Japan. Often, restaurants serve the moreish soybeans steamed or boiled, but here the edamame are charred slightly, which gives it a distinct smokey flavour, and then tossed through shichimi salt. Shichimi salt is basically Japan’s answer to China’s five spice powder. Japan’s version however, consists of 7 different, and perhaps more subtle, spices which works well in this dish as the main flavour you want to taste is the smokiness from the char.

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Poached ocean trout

When this dish came to the table, I was surprised to see what was essentially a salad as it didn’t read on the menu. I didn’t mind though, because I absolutely loved it. It came with perfectly poached ocean trout, grapefruit segmets, radicchio and a sweet pepper soy dressing and wasabi marscarpone. I barely had to apply any force to my knife as I cut through my piece of ocean trout. It was so beautifully soft and tender that it seemed almost raw still. The wasabi cut through the creaminess of marscarpone, and I thought the bitterness of the grapefruit and radicchio was complimented by the sweet pepper soy glaze.

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Japanese curry croquette

Japanese croquettes, and Japanese curry were two of my favourite foods when I went to Japan (my number one will forever be ramen). So what do you get when you combine the two? A delicious crispy morsel made of potato, stuffed with oozy gruyere cheese and little chunks of curried meat a top and mustard miso aioli. The mustard really shone through which went perfectly with the cheese. In all seriousness though, can you really go wrong with deep-fried potato and cheese?

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Robata skewers

I only had yakitori a couple of times during my visit to Japan, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for this dish. Maybe it was because of that that I loved this dish so much. The robata skewers consisted of two chicken skewers with a sweet and smokey soy glaze, and two pork belly skewers with yuzu miso. The chicken was so tender they were like little pillows, and I absolutely loved the miso yuzu sauce on the pork belly. My only critique is that there wasn’t enough!

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Lamb backstrap

Tender lamb backstrap with sweet eggplant and wasabi vinaigrette. Although the main component of this dish was the lamb, the eggplant completely won me over. Don’t get me wrong, the lamb was delicious and incredibly tender, but I think eggplant and miso is one of my favourite flavour combinations. The eggplant itself was soft, but still had some bite to it and was doused in a delicious, savoury miso sauce. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night.

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Chargrilled scotch fillet

The chargrilled scotch fillet was served with a handful of cabbage and paired with two contrasting sauces – salty herb miso and sweet and spicy dried plum. In Japan, green cabbage was virtually served as a side dish to every meal, so I felt a little nostalgic as I ate this dish. The scotch fillet itself was perfectly cooked and had an intentional burnt crust which gave it an amazingly intense, smokey flavour. Although a bold statement, I think Lilotang’s scotch fillet is up there in my list of top steaks. If I wasn’t subtle enough, I loved it…

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Duck breast sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is Japan’s humble hotpot, generally served bubbling away in a communal pot in the middle of the table where friends and family would just dig in. Needless to say, I was interested to see a fine-dining restaurant’s take on this homely dish. Although Lilotang’s version doesn’t come in a communal pot, it does come with beautifully cooked duck breast, a tempura egg, shitake mushrooms and chrysanthemum leaves in a sweet, mushroomy broth. I appreciate that duck pairs really well with sweet accompaniments, but I thought the broth was a bit too sweet especially because there was so much of it. Because of that, it felt unbalanced. Having said this, I couldn’t fault any of the other components. The duck was blushing, the egg had a runny yolk, the mushrooms gave an intense flavour that complimented the duck and the chrysanthemum leaves offered some bitterness to counteract the sweet broth.

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Lilotang offers a wide range of traditional Japanese flavours that I haven’t yet found anywhere else in Canberra. We had such a relaxing night filled with warm vibes and delicious food, there is nothing bad I could say about my experience. I suppose if I was really digging for a negative, the only thing I regret from that night was that we didn’t go with more people so we could try more dishes! This however, can be easily fixed… I guess I will be visiting Lilotang again soon!

Details for Lilotang:

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Friday

10:00am – 10:30pm

Saturday

6:00pm – 10:30pm

Monday and Sunday

Closed

Address:

1 Burbury Close, Barton

Lunch at Sage

I dined at Sage a few weekends ago to celebrate both my sister’s birthday and mine with my family, and it turned out to be an amazing experience. I’ve been to the fine-dining restaurant on various other occasions, but this time the food felt simpler with less frills and there wasn’t that pretentious vibe you often feel at higher end restaurants.

As soon as you walk through the Mint garden bar (the bar attached to Sage which re-opened last Friday) to get to the restaurant, you can feel the relaxed vibe with round wooden tables and stools made of recycled beer kegs. The restaurant itself has an intimate yet open feel as we sat by the windows overlooking the bar. One of the reasons why I wanted to go for lunch was because I knew it would be less busy than if we went for dinner. I’m so glad we did because that only added to our amazing experience—it was as though we had the whole restaurant to ourselves considering there was only one other table occupied. There’s this weird expectation that dinners are reserved for special occasions, but my favourite meal to celebrate is lunch especially with this nicer weather. We also had an extremely attentive and informative waiter who very patiently answered all my questions.

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As we were on our way out, I was lucky enough to be approached by the executive chef, Johnon MacDonald, to come back to Sage to talk about their produce, farm, food and restaurant. Obviously I couldn’t turn down this opportunity, so we met the following Saturday for a casual chat at the restaurant.

If I had to describe Johnon in three words, I would say he is passionate, unpretentious and genuine. With extensive experience from some of the best restaurants in Australia (Rockpool, Gingerboy, Nobu and Attica to name a few), he brings a wealth of knowledge to Australia’s capital. He is the executive chef at not only Sage, but its sister restaurant Akiba as well. On top of this, he will also be the exec chef at a new Mexican inspired restaurant which will open early next year.

As Johnon sipped on his latte he told me about his plans to go to the Sage farm after our meeting. With the recent change in company structure, the farm is currently undergoing a restoration and needs some tender loving care. He told me he makes three or four trips to the farm each week to do what he can to bring it back to life. One day the restaurant hopes to source all their fresh produce solely from their farm, but for now, farmer’s markets and secret restaurant suppliers will have to do.

The restaurant has plans to re-vamp the interior to create a less formal and more relaxed and interactive atmosphere. The plan is to give the restaurant a more modern feel with wooden tables and open spaces. For the moment, floral, cushion-lined booths against the white panels and crisp white lined tablecloths create a feminine and intimate feel.

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We all opted for the 5 for $75 degustation, and added the 3 ‘bites’ that would come sporadically throughout our meal for an additional $15. I also chose the non-alcoholic soft pairings for $25 because I’m greedy… Our degustation was different from the others I’d looked up online. This is because Sage constantly change their menu to suit not only the season, but also the best produce available. We started with fresh white sourdough served with soft butter and black salt made from volcanic ash.

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Fennel

The first of the ‘bites’ was a chunk of tender but crunchy fennel with smoked almond purée and apple and ginger purée. It had a slightly sweet, licorice flavour, which was contrasted by the savoury smoked almond purée. The dish was served cold which was refreshing and prepared our palette for the degustation to come.

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Smoked salmon parfait

The second of the ‘bites’ was a smoked salmon parfait with preserved lemon curd, dehydrated olives, salmon roe and a cracked pepper tuile. The parfait was so creamy and smooth with a subtle smokey flavour. The preserved lemon curd was not overly sweet and perfectly cut through the creaminess of the parfait. I also loved the saltiness of the dehydrated olives and salmon roe which I thought went really well with the sweet lemon curd. The tuile had a slight pepper flavour and added a nice crunchy element to the smooth parfait.

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Sugar cured salmon

This sugar cured salmon dish with whipped tahini, walnut tarator (a walnut, red onion, coriander, lemon and chilli salsa) and dehydrated lemon was one of my favourite dishes of the entire degustation. The salmon itself was so tender it melted in my mouth. The whipped tahini was thick and creamy, and the walnut tarator was light and added a fresh element.

At his trial for the executive position at Sage, Johnon cooked a dish very similar to this one. Rather than salmon, he used ocean trout but used the same technique of curing. So, this salmon dish pays homage to his career at Sage.
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Cranberry surprise

This was a great pairing with the sugar cured salmon as it wasn’t too sweet. Rather, it was tart and fresh.

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Textures of carrot

This dish is actually Johnon’s favourite because of its simple flavours. It comes with hommus, bread and carrot purée, black charred carrot, ribbons of dehydrated then rehydrated carrot, the spiced juice used to rehydrate the carrot and fried curry leaves. Both the hommus and purée were smooth and creamy which contrasted well with the almost leathery (in a good way, like the texture of pickles but with more bite) ribbons of rehydrated carrot. I loved the crispy fried curry leaves and the spiced carrot juice too. The only criticism was that we all wanted a spoon to use to slurp up the delicious carrot juice. On a side note, look at that colour!

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Citrus cobbler

This was my favourite soft pairing because of its intense lemony flavour. It was sour, sweet, tart and refreshing all at the same time, and went perfectly with the carrot dish.

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Tea-smoked duck

This was my sister’s favourite dish of the day. The dish consisted of tea-smoked duck breast, stinging nettle purée, charred spring onion, ginger oil and rhubarb juice with a pepita, chili, ginger and nettle salsa. The nettle purée was so different from anything I’d tasted before—it was creamy, sweet, salty with deep earthy notes. The duck was really tender and wasn’t overly smokey (one of my pet peeves is over-smoked meats). The rhubarb juice was sweeter than I expected, but I actually really liked it with the duck and bitter charred spring onion.

At my meeting with Johnon he told me that some dishes come together more quickly than others, and this dish was one of them. He was out one day picking stinging nettle for the kitchen and a badling of ducks waddled passed. He went straight to the kitchen and whipped this dish up with his team.

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Grapefruit and rosemary virgin mojito

The duck was paired with a grapefruit and rosemary virgin mojito. I thought this rosy drink had a good balance of bitterness and sweetness from the grapefruit and savouriness from the rosemary.  The earthiness of the rosemary went also went well with the earthiness of the nettle.

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Lamb

Coffee-rubbed lamb rump served with a walnut purée, fermented celeriac and a beetroot béarnaise. This was both my dad’s favourite dish (he is a coffee fiend), and my mum’s (who doesn’t drink coffee). That is, the coffee rub didn’t have a strong coffee flavour, rather it imparted a subtle but sweet earthiness to the lamb. The lamb itself was so tender we barely needed to chew. The beetroot béarnaise was tart and helped cut through the creamy, earthy walnut puree. The combination of the tender lamb, earthy coffee and walnut and sweet but tart beetroot was just amazing.

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Apple pie

The lamb was paired with an apple pie inspired mock-tail made with fresh apple juice and cinnamon infused syrup. It wasn’t overly sweet and I loved the strong kick of cinnamon.

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French goats’ cheese

The final of our ‘bites’ was a small morsel of ash rind goats’ cheese with dollops of blood plum vinegar, local honey, macadamias and house made lavosh. I’ve never had lavosh before, but I loved it. Sage sprinkle fennel seeds on top of theirs before they bake it, so it gives a slight aniseed flavour which went perfectly with the creamy cheese and plum vinegar.

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Lemon posset

Oh. My. Goodness. This was possibly one of the most beautiful and dainty desserts I’ve eaten in a long time, but not only did it look amazing, it was delicious too. This dish came with a punchy lemon custard, meringue, berries, stewed rhubarb and crumbly citrus shortbread. The lemon custard was both sweet and sour and absolutely delicious. The citrus shortbread was buttery and had beautiful flecks of green and yellow from the lime and lemon zest. The other individual components were simple, yet refined and went perfectly with the lemon custard.

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Turkish delight

The last of the pairings was essentially an iced earl grey tea with notes of rose and strawberry. One of my favourite combos is lemon and rose, so I thought it went really well with the lemon posset and wasn’t too over powering.

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Surprise carrot and hazelnut cake

At the end of our meal, we were surprised with two little complimentary birthday cakes from the kitchen! Although we were completely stuffed, we managed to eat the plate clean. How cute are they!

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This lunch at Sage was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a really long time. The quality and execution of their food is an absolute given, but the relaxed atmosphere and friendly service just topped it off. If you haven’t yet tried Sage, or it’s been a while since you last visited, book a table for your next lunch date!

Details for Sage:

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Saturday

Lunch: 12:00pm – 2:00pm

Dinner: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Address:

Gorman House Arts Centre, Batman Street, Braddon

Lunch at the Cupping Room

It had been a while since I visited the celebrated cafe, mainly because it’s so popular the wait queues are ridiculously long on the weekends. Luckily for me, I had a Thursday off work so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit the cafe during less busy times. Unfortunately I went a couple weeks before they launched their Spring menu, so a few of the items below are no longer available (the salted caramel and popcorn milkshake and fruit toast still are!)… but you can still ogle at the photos!

Salted Caramel and Popcorn Milkshake

Salted caramel has probably become one of the most popular dessert flavours over the past few years, and I can totally see why.  It’s that combination of sugar and salt that makes it so moorish. Surprisingly, I took a while to drink the entire milkshake as I was preoccupied by the amount of food we’d ordered, but as it sat there waiting to be drunk, the popcorn itself soaked up the liquid while the caramel coating remained crunchy. Each popcorn sort of turned into some crunchy explosion of salted popcorn milkshake. The milkshake itself was really thick too, so it remained cold until the end. It is very sweet, but what else can you expect from a salted caramel milkshake?

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Red Velvet Milkshake

Basically a decadent chocolate milkshake accompanied by a classic red cherry on top, this was absolutely delicious. My friend ordered this one and as soon as I had a sip, I was instantly jealous—this was definitely my favourite between the two milkshakes. It wasn’t overly sweet and there were little chunks of chocolate in amongst the smooth and slightly tangy milkshake—I believe it had a bit of sour cream in it. Unfortunately this isn’t available in their Spring menu, but maybe we can petition to get it back?

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Charshu Pork

A thirty six hour sous-vide pork belly dish that came with garlic puree, half a soy boiled egg, dollops of kewpie mayo, crunchy charred cabbage and a salmon rice cake. The pork was relatively tender but there was a bit too much fat that hadn’t cooked away or rendered down—I’m pretty easy when it comes to pork belly but I do prefer crispy or rendered skin over solid fat. Apart from this, I couldn’t fault any of the other elements. The cabbage was still crunchy and had a good savoury flavour. The egg was slightly over runny (which I prefer), but my favourite component was the salmon rice cake. It had a crunchy exterior and a soft and flavoursome interior which went really well with the creamy kewpie.

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Baked Eggs

The Cupping Room’s baked eggs came with mushroom, silver-beet, leek and double brie, and olive tapenade and toasted sourdough on the side. The baked eggs itself had a super intense mushroomy, savoury, salty flavour, so I thought the olive tapenade was unnecessary as a side dish. The brie helped cut through the intensity of the mushrooms and was a nice addition. I was expecting the dish to come with more sauce to mop up with the freshly toasted bread, but it was actually quite dry. Despite this, it was still a really tasty dish.

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Pumpkin

This was the one dish I came to the Cupping Room for after seeing a post on Instagram (I swear I don’t spend THAT much time on the gram…). This dish consisted of herb-crusted roasted pumpkin, lentils, quinoa, cottage cheese, pickled heirloom radish, orange segments, roasted pepitas and lemon and tahini vinaigrette. With three huge wedges of tender roasted pumpkin, it was more substantial than I initially anticipated. The cottage cheese didn’t add much in terms of taste, and because the other elements weren’t inherently salty I would have preferred some feta or pan-fried halloumi to lift it’s flavour profile. I thought the pickled radishes and orange segments were a really nice addition as they added level of sweet tanginess to the dish.

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Hotcakes

I’m not a huge fan of sweet breakfasts, but my friends insisted on ordering this dish. The dish came with two thick hotcakes, apple and rhubarb jam, a dollop of orange marscarpone, granola and Canadian maple syrup. The hotcakes themselves were fluffy and the granola had a nice spiced flavour but it had bits of dried fruit that were potentially over-dried during the toasting of the granola—rather than soft, chewy pieces of fruit, they were hard and tough. I couldn’t see or taste any rhubarb in the apple and rhubarb jam, but it wasn’t overly sweet and still had a nice mellow flavour. I thought there was way too much maple syrup in the dish, but the orange marscarpone was a nice addition to help cut through that.

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Fruit Toast

On top of everything, we also ordered the Three Mills fruit toast with cottage cheese, banana and honey. Unfortunately, the banana was a bit overpowering so I couldn’t taste the cottage cheese or the fruit toast itself. I do love banana, so it was still enjoyable to eat but for the sake of the toast I would have left the banana out or put it on the side. I think they now serve their fruit toast with strawberries, ricotta, honey and almond instead, which I think is a good move—it sounds amazing!

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience at The Cupping Room. They not only produce tasty food, but are consistent, innovative and seasonally change their menu. If you haven’t tried them out (although I doubt you haven’t), give them ago!

Details for the Cupping Room:

Opening hours:

Weekdays

7:00am – 4:00pm

Weekends and public holidays

8:00am – 3:00pm

Address:

1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra

Lunch at Soi Noodle Bar

A few weeks ago I was invited to a foodie lunch at Soi Noodle Bar in the city by a fellow foodie friend. Luckily for us we had full reign of the menu, so what you’re about to see is not a normal amount of food considering there was only 5 of us. We ordered about 15 dishes, and managed to almost clean up all the plates – a pretty good effort I think! Soi all
We started with a round of slushies! Cos you know, who doesn’t love a slushy? They offer three different types; lychee with lime and mint, coconut and mango, and watermelon with lime and mint. I got the watermelon one and it was really refreshing.

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Edamame

Who goes to a Japanese restaurant and doesn’t order edamame? I feel like a Japanese feast isn’t complete without these little green gems.

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Spicy tofu

This was my absolute favourite dish of the day. Mainly because we ordered it on a whim and didn’t really expect much of it. Oh boy, am I glad we ordered it. Crispy mouthfuls of flavoursome tofu, topped with a salty miso, chilli and eggplant chutney. I’m salivating just thinking about it… As a starter it comes with 6 bite-sized pieces, so I’d definitely recommend ordering this dish to work up your appetite for the main.

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Soft-shell crab buns

Such a bargain considering how ‘hip’ and overpriced buns can be these days. You get 3 buns for $15, and they’re decently sized too. The soft-shell crab itself was crispy and salty which went well with the wasabi mayo. I would have liked more wasabi in the mayo though, but that’s just a small detail.

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Spanner crab buns

These weren’t as good as the soft-shell crab buns, but they were still yummy. The buns consisted of sweet spanner crab flesh mixed with mayonnaise, pickled red onion and salmon roe. The pickles helped cut through the rich, creamy crab filling and the salmon roe added pops of saltiness.

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Seafood Pancake

Basically a miniature okonomiyaki, hot plate and all! It came topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayo and dancing bonito flakes. Although I couldn’t quite figure out what kind of seafood it came with, it was still really tasty, and totally brought me back to Japan.

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Takoyaki

I’ve been on the hunt for good takoyaki in Canberra ever since I came back from Japan, and I think I’ve found it. They were gooey on the inside and crispy outside. One serve will get you 7 takoyaki.

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Seafood gyoza

I don’t think I’ve ever met a dumpling I didn’t like, especially when they’ve been panfried to create a deliciously crunchy bottom. These ones were moist and full of flavour. The dish comes with 5 plump dumplings served on a little hotplate.

Soi gyoza

Chicken green Thai curry

Unfortunately I didn’t get a good snap of the green curry, but it was by far my favourite main, and second favourite dish overall. Again, it might be because I didn’t have high expectations of any dish that didn’t comprise noodles (considering it is a noodle bar). It was creamy, the veges were crisp, the chicken was moist and there was even a bit of spice to it. I find most places numb the chilli levels to cater to the majority, but not here at Soi. It wasn’t overly spicy, there was just a nice hum of chilli.

Pad Thai

The Pad Thai was probably the most generous in terms of portion size, so this is the dish  to order if you are absolutely ravenous (or just order 3 portions of the spicy tofu). The dish itself was pretty good but was a bit dry. I would have liked more sauce or some lemon to squeeze on top. On the visual side though, it comes in an amazing, vibrant blue bowl.Soi Pad Thai

Laksa

Sadly, I didn’t like the laksa at all. The soup was oddly sweet and on the thin side. I was also surprised to find thin rice paper noodles instead of vermicelli, and no Hokkein noodles! A laksa without Hokkein noodles is blasphemy if you ask me. Having said that, I am partial to the laksa from the Dickson Noodle House, so I might be a tad biased. Sorry, all the individual photos I took of the laksa were dreadful, but it is pictured on the feature image above (top left corner).

Shoyu ramen with chicken

Not going to lie, this wasn’t the best ramen I’ve had. I find that soy sauce based ramen can be a bit flavourless, and generally go for miso or pork based broths. The chicken was moist though, and I liked the soft boiled egg.

Soi ramen

Soi chicken breast katsu

The dish comes with crispy strips of panko-crumbed chicken breast, served on a bed of steamed black rice. I thought it was a little overpriced ($24) considering it was just chicken and rice, but I have to say it was a very generous portion. The chicken was cooked well, and I thought the black rice was a cool and different addition. Soi katsu

It turns out that Soi Noodle Bar do some really great non-noodle dishes! So next time you go there, try something different. My top recommendations are the Spicy Tofu, Soft-shell Crab Buns, Seafood Pancake, Takoyaki and Green Thai Curry.

Details for Soi Noodle Bar:

Opening hours:

Everyday

11:00am – 10:00pm

Address:

Canberra Centre Shopping Centre, Shop EG08, Bunda Street, Canberra

Breakfast at The Grounds of Alexandria

I have a confession… this post has been sitting in my drafts folder since March… I was debating on whether or not to post it considering I came here so long ago, but I took so many photos it would have been a waste if I didn’t. So, here you go! (Five months later…)

I visited the cafe at The Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney earlier this year when I picked my boyfriend up from the airport. It was the perfect breakfast stop before the 3 hour drive back to Canberra, and oh my, was I amazed. I didn’t realise how huge the establishment was! I believe the area used to be an industrial car park which the owners transformed into something really special. Not only is there the cafe but a restaurant, called The Potting Shed, as well. They also bake bread and pastries in-house and roast their own coffee beans.

As you walk in you are welcomed by a vibrant green walkway.

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There is a carnival-like atmosphere as you make your way through to the cafe passing carts filled with colourful desserts. Although not pictured, there was even a doughnut vendor cranking out fresh, doughy balls of fried, sugary goodness.

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I had to resist all the desserts on offer since we were about to eat breakfast but I definitely need to try some next time I visit! Kinda regretting that I didn’t get some to-go… ah food regrets.

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They even had a homemade lemonade cart right outside the cafe.

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Our Signature Avocado

I ordered the Ground’s signature avocado dish which came with avocado two ways; smashed and sliced, heirloom tomato, two poached eggs, a huge slab of feta, pomegranate seeds, a sprinkling of za’atar and mint on house baked bread. Yes. I love it when cafes add cheese to their avocado dishes. Cheese makes everything better. I liked the pops of sweetness from the pomegranate, and the za’atar gave it a nice tang.

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Breakfast burger

My boyfriend ordered the breakfast burger. It’s hard to go wrong with bacon, eggs, avo, lettuce, cheese, tomato relish and smokey mayo on a brioche bun. Let’s just say he was pretty satisfied and demolished it in about five bites (although not before I stole a sneaky nibble). The smokey mayo was pretty damn good and worked really well with the tomato relish. To make the dish even better, we got a side of crispy polenta chips with the burger. Unfortunately all the photos I took of them were horrible, but trust me they looked good!
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How could I not order a coffee at a coffee roastery?

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While we waited for our breakfast, I wandered over to the front counter and found this marvellous array of bread. Mmm carbs…

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I loved the homely feel of the cafe with rusty signs, brick walls and wooden surfaces.

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Oh and I forgot to mention, there is a florist right next door too! IMG_1066IMG_1078

The Grounds of Alexandria is really something. I’ve never experienced breakfast quite like it and I’d totally recommend a visit if you’re ever in Sydney.

Details for the cafe at The Grounds of Alexandria:

Opening hours:

Weekdays

7:00am to 4:00pm

Weekends

7:30am to 4:00pm

Address:

Building 7a, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria NSW

 

Lunch at Muse

I love truffle, and after seeing an Instagram post from Muse about their Truffle carbonara special I knew I had to try it. So, last Sunday a few friends and I ventured out into Kingston to enjoy a relaxing lunch.

Located at the East Hotel and attached to a bookshop, Muse promotes good food, good wine and good books. The restaurant itself gives off a very modern and minimalist vibe with books piled high, cushion-lined booths and a grand piano in the corner.

Table

Chair

Things are done a bit differently here at Muse. You choose either a big or little plate of a main course. The little option gives you a choice of one side salad, and that of the big gives you two choices.

Smoked duck breast

My sister ordered a big plate of the duck breast to which I stole a few bites of… that’s what sisters are for, right? The duck breast itself was absolutely delicious. I’m generally not a huge fan of smoked meats because often I find them too overpowering, but this duck had a subtle but present deep smokey flavour. It came with a carrot purée which unfortunately didn’t have a distinct flavour, but it added a nice vibrancy to the dish’s visual appeal. My sister chose the Asian broccoli, broccolini and green bean and roasted pumpkin and quinoa side salads to accompany her duck. Both salads were served cold which kept the dish fresh, but considering that it’s winter we thought warmed salads would have complimented the dish more.

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Truffle carbonara

Both my friend and I ordered the truffle special which was a fettuccine carbonara with mushrooms, pancetta, basil, a generous sprinkling of parmesan and truffle shavings. Yum. We’ve come to the conclusion however, that we are both greedy truffle fiends, so naturally we wanted more truffle. Maybe a bit of truffle oil would have reinforced the truffle aroma considering it is a truffle special. That said, it was a solid pasta dish with well cooked pasta and yummy crispy bits of pancetta.

Pasta

Orange and rhubarb mille feuille

My sister and I shared a towering orange and rhubarb mille feuille spiced with star anise. The rhubarb was deliciously tart which contrasted with the sweet and juicy orange segments. The pastry tasted bit stale but the mascarpone was a really nice creamy addition that cut through the fruit compote.

Mille Feuille

Sticky date cheesecake

My friend ordered the sticky date cheesecake which came with caramalised banana, vanilla bean ice-cream and dulce de leche. She absolutely loved it and I was extremely jealous that I didn’t order it. She really enjoyed the crunch of the caramalised banana and the creaminess of the sticky date cheesecake.

Cheesecake dessert

They do really good coffee too according to my friend.

Coffee

 

Overall, there was a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere which I really enjoyed. The food was good and if you go, I’d recommend the smoked duck breast!

Details for Muse:

Opening hours:

Weekdays

6:30am to 10:00pm

Saturday
7:00am to 10:00pm
Sunday

7:00am to 5:00pm

Address:

69 Canberra Ave, Kingston ACT 2602

Brunch at Coffee Lab

I had heard so many great things from Coffee Lab in the city, so I was really excited to try them out last week. My good friend was down from Queensland, it was relatively early in the morning (11 is early right?) and we were in need of some caffeine and good food – it was the perfect opportunity to hit up one of Canberra’s up-and-coming cafes.

As soon as you walk through the doors you can feel the über-hip-Canberra-cafe-vibe. From the warm wooden panelling scaling the wall, vibrant hanging green foliage to a large communal coffee table with newspapers and magazines strewn across the surface, the cafe just invites you in to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.

We started with a round of tea and coffee. I’m generally a flat white drinker but was mistakenly given a latte. It was really no big deal seeing as though I don’t see a big difference between the two. I guess one plus is that lattes look better in photos! The latte was smooth and definitely hit the spot.

Coffee

The First Frost

I love mushrooms, and after hearing good reviews about this dish from my sister I had to try it. The dish came with mushrooms two ways; roasted and sautéed. They were nicely cooked with a subtle garlicky and herb flavour which wasn’t too overpowering. I was really happy to see some enoki mushrooms thrown in amongst the toppling mountain which is different from a lot of other cafes – big thumbs up for that. It also came with zucchini ribbons, alfalfa sprouts and lemon, all of which added a crisp freshness to the dish. The marinated feta was a little surprise underneath the mound of mushrooms as I had missed that detail when reading the menu. All I can say is that cheese makes everything better – one of the only philosophies I stand by in life. The portion was incredibly generous, and so it is decently priced at $16.00. I also added two poached eggs for $4.00, but had I known how big the serving was I would have been fine without them!

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No Ragrets

My friend ordered the No Ragrets which I found out later is one of their best sellers. It comes with a cornmeal hash brown, smoked Piallago bacon, sautéed kale, poached eggs and a generous drizzle of James Brown sauce. My friend described it as a “fancy eggs benny” and loved it. She said she doesn’t normally like kale due to its bitterness, but actually enjoyed it in this dish because it was quite subtle (and perhaps drowning in delicious hollandaise-style sauce). Priced at $17.00 I will definitely try this next time I come in.
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Look at that yolk-porn…
No Ragrets

Dillon You Son of a…

My other friend wasn’t too hungry and so she went for a lighter option of your classic avo on toast. Coffee Lab’s version comes with avocado rolled in black and white sesame seeds, marinated feta, chilli flakes, alfalfa sprouts and lime served on sourdough toast. She thoroughly enjoyed the addition of feta and chilli, so at $15.50, it was a hit. 

Avocado

I really enjoyed the food and coffee at Coffee Lab and am keen to try more of their menu. If you haven’t already tried them out, lock them in for your next brunch date!

Details for Coffee Lab:

Opening hours:

Weekdays

7:00am to 4:00pm

Weekends

8:00am to 3:30pm

Address:

26 Narellan Pl, Canberra

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Brunch at Ivy and the Fox

I had been meaning to try Ivy and the Fox after thoroughly enjoying a delicious lunch at its sister cafe, Fox and Bow, in Farrer last year. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lovely outdoor seating area that looks out over a field of bright green grass and towering eucalyptus trees -the perfect atmosphere for some brunch lovin’. I had just walked a decent 30 minutes from Hancock library to the café and so I was absolutely famished. Despite it nearing lunch time, I was craving something breakfast-y. I think I associate that feeling of being ravenous with waking up in the morning and desperately needing to fuel my stomach. Luckily for me, Ivy and the Fox do all day breakfast.

Mr Fox

The ‘Mr Fox’ completely cured my hunger. Pretty much a ‘big breakfast’ that you get at your stock-standard café but with a Spanish flair. It came with two fried eggs, mushies, roasted tomatoes, bacon, a giant crispy hashbrown, perfectly charred chorizo and morcilla- a Spanish style blood sausage. This was actually the first time I’d ever tried blood sausage, and I bloody loved it. It tasted like an awesome pork sausage with an extra depth of meatiness. To be fair, it wasn’t my first experience with animal blood in dishes. Growing up with a Vietnamese background exposes you to some really cool but somewhat strange foods.

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Señorita Fox

My friend ordered the ‘Señorita Fox’ and it looked so beautiful I had to take a photo. It came with a thick slice of toasted sourdough, a wedge of avocado coated in black and white sesame seeds, two poached eggs, Tasmanian smoked salmon, asparagus and a decent chunk of grilled haloumi. My friend was incredibly generous and cut off a bit of the avocado for me to try, and I have to say, the sesame seeds really added another dimension to the avocado. It was toasty and didn’t need any salt, which is generally unheard of with avo! Definitely will order this dish next time.

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Kiss Me Katut

My friend ordered this mango, pineapple and coconut smoothie that came with a giant scoop of passionfruit gelato. Sweet, tangy, refreshing and basically a meal in itself.

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Green smoothie of some description

I actually ordered a pear, kiwi, cucumber and kale juice however I received this green smoothie (unless it was just a really, really thick juice). I can’t actually figure out which smoothie this is from looking at the menu, so the more I think about it, it was probably what I ordered but maybe their juicer was broken and they had to use a blender? I tasted a lot of banana (maybe residue from the blender? Totally just making things up now…) which was a bit over powering but it was cold, refreshing and really filling.

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Salted Caramel Cronut

Oh yes. Not much to say but that it was flakey, crispy, sugary and had an oozy custard filling. The perfect way to end a meal.

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Ivy and the Fox may be a bit out of the way, but it’s definitely worth it! Give them a go.

Details for Ivy and the Fox:

Opening hours:

Weekdays

8am to 4:30pm

Weekends

8:30am to 3pm

Address:

Old Canberra House, 73 Lennox Crossing, Acton