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The new Korean-Mexican bar has quietly appeared on the northern side of Surry Hills. The lofty facade hides a small cafe-style space serving a punchy hit list of K-Mex classics with a side of fruity soju.

Ko and Co Entrance

Apple Soju
Apple Soju $9

Kimchi Quesadilla
Kimchi Quesadilla $10

Shortrib and Porbelly Tacos
Shortrib and Porbelly Tacos $6 each

3Spicy Edamame
Spicy Edamame $5

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders
Korean Fried Chicken Sliders with Red Pepper Sauce and Pickles $10 for 2

Ko and Co Wrap Up

The Experience
Ko and Co Experience

Ko&Co
a. 6 Hunt Street, Sydney
t. 0468 311 131
w. www.koandco.com.au

Ko & Co Soju Bar on Urbanspoon

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It’s always sunny in Sydney, or at least that’s what the tourists are being sold before arriving to find they’ve been scammed by the weather gods in a good ol’ bait’n’switch. The incessant rain seems to have turned the world upside down and we’ve now all mastered the ability to look out at the horizon with our best “I smell something bad” expression.

Saturday morning brunch saw Aidan and I powering through another downpour and side stepping puddle-traps to reach the newly launched foodstore by the Chris Starke (ex Marque and the infamous Banc) who also runs Youeni Providores around the corner. The new cafe/eatery is cleverly positioned into the apex of number 8, enlivening a previously spartan space into a buzz of diners sharing blankets and table space.

We’re greeted by the crew and start off with a pot of soy chai and a bulging coffee (Ky’s description, not mine). Since the upside of bad weather is being able to dig in to hearty winter fare, we commit ourselves to the seasonal soup and the slow cooked beef cheeks.


Seasonal soup, toast, olive oil $10

The soup that afternoon was a combination of butter potatoes, kale, spinach and a giant pepper hit, finished off with a bit of olive oil, caramelised onions and a side of Sonoma toast. I felt I had OD’ed on pepper by the end but I noticed my body temperature had risen a few notches too.


Beef cheek, blacked caramalised onions, pomme puree, green salad $14

The beef cheeks were exclamation worthy – which explained why they were recommended with a satisfied grin. A soft smear and scoop of the fork produced a warming mouthful of beef and potato puree whilst a side of pea tendrils, blacked caramelised onions and cottage cheese gave the overall dish a nice crisp balance.

Far from a lack of ingenuity I felt the repeat use of key ingredients such as the pea tendrils and caralised onions served to only highlight a smart kitchen working with what’s in season and what they have at hand. And although the food was warming, it never veered into the “heavy” category.


Citrus curd tart $5

Pausing slightly after out meal, I eyed the baked treats paraded on the counter and eeny meeny miny mo-ed my way to a final citrus curd tart (we reasoned it must be easier to digest than the salted caramel chocolate option) with admirably short pastry.

Despite the slight mumble of chaos on their launch day, the passion the crew felt for food was tangible. They’re also keeping everything in the family and will have launched their own coffee blend by now, roasted by their friends down in Wollongong. They’re also planning to start baking their own bread and once licences and such are processed – open for dinner with a set menu focusing on the best produce of the moment.

As we waved goodbye, we shook hands with the crew and promised to see each other soon. Sometimes good things can happen in the rain.

4

The Verdict
Youeni Foodstore really works as a complimentary outfit to the providore – pushing their core belief in local organic produce and promoting food knowledge. The short menu provides enough variance to keep everyone intrigued whilst focusing on maximising in-season ingredients. If you make it in time for the breakfast hours then treat yourself to some slow cooked scrambled eggs or perhaps a caramalised ham and stewed apple sandwich for lunch and pop a tart in your pocket for later.

Youeni Foodstore
a. Shop 3, 8 Hill St, Surry Hills
t. 9380 7575
w. youeni.com + surryhills.youeni.com/

Youeni Foodstore on Urbanspoon

For years Pompei’s was considered the place to grab an authentic gelati in Sydney. Whilst a plethora of new guns have popped up in Bondi: notably an on-rush of speakeasys, beach-side bars and a new Miss Chu canteen, Pompei’s is still as busy as ever.


Spritz: Aperol, prosecco and soda $11

We’ve made a booking and arrived at this North Italian restaurant to be ushered to our table. It’s a cramped spot even for three girls and we awkwardly mid-sit side-step into the cranny (lots of table and chair shuffling were required) and mini-hop our chairs right up to the table edge. Our contortion activity for the day now over, we turn to the menu: a traditional mix of pizzas, pastas and vegetables with a curt page of veal and beef for the hard core carnivores.


Schiacciata Rustica: homade rustic bread with garlic and fresh herbs $7.50 + Flat white $4

We go for the Schiacciata Rustica, a light disc of warm bread studded with herbs and garlic. It’s pleasing but a little under-seasoned. The ravioli is delectable, large crescents of spinach and cheese sliding through a rich butter sauce. We were given a choice of tomato or butter but the waitress tells us the butter is easily her favourite so we go with her recommendation and offset it with an order of steamed organic vegetables which turned out to be rather pedestrian.


Ravioli di Magro alla Tirolese: handmade ravioli filled with baby spinach, parmigiano, ricotta and nutmeg in butter sauce (tomato sauce alternative available) $17.50

Lastly was the smoked proscuitto and mushroom pizza on a airy crisp base: a classic combination has been given an element of uniqueness with the use of smoked proscuitto and earthy sauteed porcini.


Verdure Biologiche: steamed organic vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper $12.90
Speck e funghi trifolati: smoked proscuito scented with juniper berries and herbs, mixed sauteed mushrooms including porcini, fior di latte mozzarella, tomato sauce $24

Although we’ve been looking forward to digging into the gelati, we’re stuffed and already running late for a gig. We promise to return afterwards but as the gelati window closes at 11, we managed to miss this too.

As stalwarts go, Pompei will easily be around for us next year or next decade, so there’s no hurry for when we return for that promised scoop.

The Verdict
I didn’t realise until writing up this post that Pompei’s was meant to be a North Italian restaurant, and in reflection I didn’t spot a heavy featuring of meat, polenta or ravioli in the menu. Perhaps it’s a little at odds to be serving such hearty fare to a tanned beach-going, health conscious clientele. Regardless, at the end of the day Pompei’s serves simple Italian food done well. There’s not much more to enduring success then that.

Pompei’s 
a. 126-130 Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach
t. 9365 1233
w. www.pompeis.com.au

Pompei's on Urbanspoon

As a long time food blog reader I often felt the slow burn of food-envy – induced by scrolling through photos of new restaurants, degustation dinners and opening parties – strike me at every turn. The drool inducing pixels of the events don’t betray the endless nights curled up in your jammies in front of the computer, methodically sorting and editing digitalised piles of photo albums and madly googling that pork dish because you forgot to take a photo of the menu again (hands up guilty bloggers).

The upside though is that sometimes lovely ladies invite you to kick back and enjoy a cocktail breakfast next to the water, complete with a long brunch of bar food favourites.

Helm bar is situated snugly next to the foot bridge at Darling Harbour and Sydney Aquarium so those without children or a fondness for visiting underwater friends may have missed it. The nautical themed bar is a down-to-earth spot with a mix of open lounge areas and an area for punters to place a bet or watch the footy.

We’re introduced to Matt, the head bartender who graciously endured being papped for the morning.

Since this is still the AM, we ease into the drinking with a shot of coffee. The Espresso Martini is a banter between bitter and sweet with a lingering sharpness of Smirnoff.

Espresso Martini: Espresso shot, Vodka, Tuaca, Kahlua (normally $17)

Helm’s take on the American classic is a bit more glam with the addition of Elderflower liqueur and natural sweetness of agave nectar to really double that Agave action.

Senorita Margarita: Jose Cuervo Traditional & St Germain Elderflower Liqueur shaken with lemons, limes & a dash of agave nectar (normally $16)

After the classic duo, Matt decides to take us to foreign territory and breaks out the big guns. A bottle of secret chilli mix is shaken with elderflower liqueur with a dash of lemon and honey. It’s an Asian infusion of sweet and sour followed with a late arriving punch of heat. It’s surprisingly addictive but might not be for the feint hearted.

Sexy Saint: St Germain Elderflower liquor, chilli mix, lemon juice & honey (normally $18)

Sonia’s face breaks out into a wide grin as a bottle of Hendricks appeared. Our notably favourite gin is thankfully muddled with cucumber and lime before a shot of the Italian Aperitif trickles through the ice and changing the drink into a sunset blush. It’s beautifully refreshing, and one of our favourites of the day.

Ginny Hendricks: Hendricks gin & Aperol muddled with cucumber, lime juice & sugar syrup, strained & topped with ruby red grapefruit juice. (normally $18)

Oriental Sweet Tart – A unique & delicate cocktail. Plymouth Gin, lychee & pear liqueur with a balanced serving of lemon juice and orgeat syrup, shaken & served low (normally $17)

If you like your drinks sweet then the Oriental Sweet Tart’s lychee and pear flavours should win you over.


Name this drink: passionfruit, lime, Disaronno and Smirnoff citrus

Our last drink is another new concoction, so new that they’ve yet to give it a name. It’s another sweet mix but with the crowd pleasing punch of passionfruit and citrus notes, it’s easily a drink we would come back to.


[clockwise from top left] Peking duck pancakes & Antipasto Plate with Lavosh, Double Smoked Ham off the Bone, Spicy Salami, Tasmanian Brie Cornichons & Salsa Verde; Salt and Pepper squid; Wedges with sour cream; Chicken Chimichanga

After swilling that much alcohol it’s time for the food to arrive: a generous mix of bar food staples along with some posher surprises.


Smoked salmon with crushed Kipfler potato, with fennel, olive, tomato and chilli salsa

The chicken chimichanga and salmon both seemed a little awkward, like turning up to the footy in a floor length gown. The smoked salmon was surprisingly refreshing and balanced against some herby potatoes but could have done without such precarious presentation.


Black Angus Sirloin Steak: Chargrilled w/ Hand Cut Fat Chips and Café de Paris Butter

The crowd favourite was the juicy steak oozing in the Cafe de Paris butter, it’s so good Simon goes back for seconds. It’s a nice twist to a pub favourite and it’s where Helm bar finds its feet.

The Verdict
A pleasing and unpretentious spot next to water where diners can sip a few cocktails at most hours. It’s an easy going sort of place with a surprisingly varied menu and some nice meal options. Helm Bar seems to be attempting to straddle two worlds: by retaining its existing clientele and also trying to target a more food savvy audience. Both goals dovetail when the kitchen focuses on revamping bar-food classics without alienating those who just want a steak with their arvo beer.

Food in hand dined as a guest of Helm Bar.
Helm Bar are also running a competition to Name this Drink. Just enter via their facebook competition page and you’ll receive a free cocktail with any food purchase.

Helm Bar
a. Aquarium Wharf Wheat Road, Darling Harbour
t. 9290 1570
w. helmbar.com.au

Helm Bar on Urbanspoon

I love big circus tents. Maybe this fondness stems from an early love of playing “parachutes” during primary school: pulling the swath of fabric up and letting go before screaming and running underneath the silky dredges, hoping to emerge on the other-side before it nets you, flapping about on the lawn.


Whilst there’s no risk of the decorative fabric ceiling of Xanthi collapsing on our heads anytime soon,the sumptuous golden waves and red Ottoman carpet interior manages to exude a warmth and intimacy in stark contrast to the steel and glass behemoth where the restaurant resides.

Xanthi is named after a city from Thrace in northern Greece, which has seen its fair share of struggle in the past: conquered by the Ottomans and overtaken by the Bulgarians, their cuisine has absorbed various foreign influences over time. And although Greek cuisine feels under-represented in Sydney’s fine dining arena, perhaps we’re finally seeing a resurgence of the Mediterranean fare in modern form.


Complimentary sourdough: served with olive oil and sea salt

We arrive fairly hungry and greedily eye the share dishes, mains and the spit with lip-biting indecision. The Potato Princess has been here before and recommended the fried school prawns.


Fried School Prawns: tossed in a honey, fish sauce, sesame seed & flaked almond dressing $10

School prawns are my favourite, the natural sweetness of the young prawns and delicious golden crunch are enhanced by a thoughtful drizzle of honey and scattering of almond flakes. I’d happily have a dish of these with a cold beer every day!


Pork Belly Baklava: Sliced pork belly with a date and pistachio filling served with a date & mastic sauce and crackling $21

I’ve had Pork Belly Baklava on my mind since seeing Helen’s post last year. Whilst it’s not as large and multi-layered as I envisioned the fatty shredded pork meat and layers of crackling disappear in a heart beat.


Fried Veal Sweetbreads


Gigantes: Braised spiced tomato and onion butter beans with crumbled fetta $8

I always have a culinary soft spot for sweetbreads and these do not disappoint: crumbed and deliciously creamy they’re served up on a bed of yoghurt and lettuce. We also order the gigantes to offset the amount of meat we’re devouring. The braised butter beans are lovely and soft, a comforting mouthful of tomato, spice and the sharp savoury punch of toasted fetta.


From the Spit: 250g Lamb $38

The hero of our meal arrives just as it dawns on us we’ve unfailingly over-ordered once again. Our dish of lamb from the spit takes me back to my first tasting of Tsirekas’ 6 hour roast lamb from last year’s Crave Food Festival. The flesh is tender but still firm, hiding under a large crisp tile of herb rubbed crackling.


Olive Oil ice cream: Scoops of Elea Creta Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused, pistachio & dried fig ice cream $9

The desserts offered range from simplicity to the refined. The olive oil ice cream arrives rather spartan: three scoops in a bowl with a swift dusting of icing sugar; the oil gives the ice cream an almost floral essence and added smoothness, oft interrupted by nuggets of pistachio and fig. Although I found this rather intriguing not everyone at the table was convinced.


Mango and passionfruit Bougatsa: Semolina milk custard wrapped in hand rolled filo pastry, served with Mastiha ice cream $15

On our way in we spotted a young chef working away at the filo dough and were keen to give the hand made rendition a try. The bougatsa is the house specialty: smooth, thick custard encased within perfectly thin filo offers a comforting shatter as we dig our spoons in. I felt the sauce itself was too gaudy for something so rustic but the others were enjoying their sugar hit.


David Tsirekas in action

The bill arrived and we hesitated for a moment, dreading coughing up a small fortune for the feast we’ve ordered. Surprisingly the sum was a pittance, the food itself barely edging past $20 each! The sweetest ending of all.

4

The Verdict
A well considered offering nestled amongst a few food favourites and food royalty. They menu is varied and offers more than just the Greek cliches with small share dishes, mains and meat from the spit to cater for an after work snack, express lunch or a long meal with friends. For a severely underpresented cuisine there’s a lot to discover in David Tsirekas’ menu or if nothing else, come for the Ouzo trolly or a thoroughly Grecian grape tipple. Opa!

Xanthi
a. Level 6, Westfield Pitt Street, Sydney CBD 2000
t. 9232 8538
e. manager(at)xanthi.com.au
w. www.xanthi.com.au

I’ve kept this hidden for a few months now, but I think it’s time to air out my secret and come clean. I think I’ve found the best sausage roll in Sydney. Sure, it’s a big claim and I’m being rather brash, swinging it out there and all that but I’m convinced the butchers of La Macelleria have managed to perfect this Aussie icon.

Now I know that fans of Bourke Street Bakery might protest and I do love their beautiful rendition with aromatic fennel and who can turn down a lamb shank pie from Black Star or a vegetable quiche from La Banette? But for me, the Bondi butchers currently hold residence on the first-place dais.


Clockwise: Yellow Berkel slicers, Panini, Glasseye Creek Wild Meat Sauce, Salumin and Cheese menu board

This up market Italian butchery opened late last year under the care of Maurice Terzini and Robert Marchetti: if these two seem familiar it’s because they’re the guys behind the Bondi institution Icebergs, North Bondi Italian Food and the new Nield Avenue. Never ones to fall short of a dazzling fit out, La Marcelleria’s a lovely clash of traditional (black and white tiles and chalkboards) with the urban (neon type), populated by organic, locally sourced meat and home made salumi. Everything is lovingly shown off, dangling in glass cabinets or artfully arranged in bowls and baskets. If you’re interested they have a rotisserie with organic chickens and stuffed spatchcocks, meat drippings and thick gravy as well as a panini bar, or perhaps you can ask one of the staff in spotless white smocks to shave you some salumi or freshly mince a cut of meat for you to take home and prepare yourself.


Footlong Berkshire Pork sausage roll $12.95

We were merely peckish and thought to give the Berkshire foot-long sausage roll a try. Jen and I sat by Bondi beach to halve the gleaming sesame and poppy seed speckled log; the pork was fresh and intensely meaty with little moments of flaky pastry breaking through each mouthful. I have to admit we initially broke the roll into three but seeing as the third person was running late and it was just too good we shared the third person’s portion and hope she’d never find out what she missed out on.


Sauced up: the money shot

Only the promise of immediate dinner stayed our hand from reaching into our wallets to buy another. Yes it was that good!

The Verdict
A thoughtful Italian upmarket butcher situated next to Bondi beach means a perfect place to stock up your wicker basket and stroll down the beach for a picnic. The staff are well informed and can give you detailed information about where your meat was grown or processed as well as the origins and styles of the products in their salumi bar. Whilst the prices may seem a bit steep this is organic, sustainable meat at its best. Get your 12 inches of heaven right here ladies.

Let me know if you have a ‘best of’ recommendation.

La Marcelleria
t. 9300 6388
a. Shop 14, The Beach House, 178 Campbell Parade Bondi Beach
e. info(at)italianbutcherbondi.com
w. http://www.italianbutcherbondi.com

La Marcelleria on Urbanspoon

I remember the first time I spotted Caffé Sicilia and it’s not what you think.

I was flicking through a fashion editorial when I spotted the models leaning against the most beautiful black and white marbled bar, laden with fruit and rows of gold rim glasses whilst a couple of wisened chefs bustled in the background. It seemed intoxicatingly Italian with all the classic European stylings you’d expect: gold window lettering, black and white tiles, crisp white linen, marbled table tops, pressed steel ceilings, hanging lights and wooden wall paneling.


Complimentary marinated olives

Even in real life I’m entirely enamored with the fit out and as we sit down in the alfreso area and nibble on the complimentary olives, my eyes kept darting between the locals power walking past and the bakery station & bar area within.

Complimentary bread rolls + Warm 3 milks cheese: warm parcel of “3 milks” cheese dressed with truffle honey & walnuts (Normally $22)

A basket of round dinner rolls appeared, tucked snugly within the folds of a napkin; they were baked on site and surprisingly delightful, a nice change from the sourdough infatuation Sydney restaurants seem to have. The cheese parcel turned out to be one large wheel and whilst it was quite moreish, we struggled to finish.

Crudo of Tuna: yellow fin tuna dressed with lemon segments, Sicilian caper berries
& extra virgin olive oil (Normally $15)

‘Crudo’ is a simple Italian dish of raw fish, oil, salt and citrus, inspired by the fresh seafood caught from the Mediterranean.

Homemade Gnocchi Bug Meat:cooked with fresh Balmain bug meat, cherry tomato &
balanced with a hint of chilli & garlic (Normally $15)

Cathy’s entrée was light and simple so it was with great surprise when I was presented with mine. I had been looking forward to trying the new gnocchi and bug meat dish; I had envisaged it to be quite small and light so I was shocked when presented with a plated mound of red, white and green (how apt). This turned out to be my favourite dish of the night: the bite sized portions of Balmain bug and tumble of pillowy soft gnocchi stirred through with tomato and chilli was comfort on a plate and an entirely satisfying meal in itself.

Sweet & Sour Sicilian Rabbit slow cooked farmed rabbit poached with pine nuts and sultanas in a white wine & vinaigrette sauce (Normally $24)

Whilst the prospect of rabbit was intriguing I found this rustic dish to be too Wintry an affair for Summer dining.

Snapper “Acqua Pazza” with mussels, vongole & king prawns poached in a white wine, cherry tomato & parsley reduction (Normally $27)

Reverse meal size envy struck again when this time I was presented with my Snapper “Acqua Pazza”. The classic dish of fish in broth was presented on a mammoth platter with a generous wreath of shellfish surrounding the Snapper fillet.

Curiously, the menu at Caffe Sicilia stops at second course and despite being full I was lamenting not being able to finish off our meal on a sweet note. I needn’t have worried though, as we were soon presented with two small glasses of strawberry and pistachio Sicilian granita.


Complimentary Sicilian granita + Complimentary take away pastries

The texture of these little gems were more akin to gelati which was probably tailored to suite Sydney-siders’ tastes since Sicilians – the original inventors of granita – would protest that the ice should be much coarser though no one on our table was complaining (too busy scraping the glasses clean).

I saw a few tables gifted small parcels as they left and when we received ours we tore open a corner to peek inside and find two house made pastries awaiting to be devoured the next morning.

As I surely felt my stomach starting to high-five the bottom of my lung our waiter approached once again, this time with a cannoli and a moment later returned with a cheeky smile and an additional surprise: a bottle of home-made orange limoncello.


Ricotta Cannoli

Perhaps rather ironically I underestimated the generosity of the Sicilians and was quite surprised at how liberal the servings turned out to be. In truth I was a little saddened that all the waiters had lost their beautifully tailored white dinner jackets in favour of a more relaxed look, but luckily none had lost that cheeky Italian humour.

The Verdict
CafféSicilia prevails in many ways to become a little slice of the old world planted anew on Crown street. The menu features a lot of traditional dishes as well as classic Sicilian fare, although the kitchen may still be trying to find its Sydney connection. The pastry station here produces some fantastic baked treats so if you’ve ever rushed past, take a moment to sit down for an espresso and ricotta baked doughnut or do as the Sicilians do and have an almond granita to go with your morning brioche.

Food in hand dined as a guest of Caffe Sicilia.

Caffé Sicilia
a. 628 Crown Street Surry Hills
t. 9699 8787
e. info@caffesicilia.com.au
w. http://www.caffesicilia.com.au

Caffe Sicilia on Urbanspoon