Marrickville Ritz Hotel, Marrickville

Guest blogger edition

Having taken inspiration from grabyourfork's blog post on the recently renovated Marrickville Ritz hotel and being a regular of the restaurants of Marrickville (but mainly the Vietnamese ones), I took this opportunity to check out the Ritz myself.

The Ritz truly has had a glizty makeover and the place looks a lot more inviting that it used to be, within open shop front where people can sit and eat and inside it nicely renovated with chairs, stools and tables in a large wide dining area. The place looked very suitable for families to bring their kids to eat, and there were a few families eating there whilst we were there.

We ordered at the bar poured ourselves some water and sat down at a table towards the front and awaited our meals.

 Prawn and Chorizo Linguine ($18)

Chicken Parmigiana ($17.50)

Overall I'd say the food is better than your usual pub grub, with decent side servings too. There were numerous prawns in the linguine and the ingredients tasted fresh. The chicken parma was moist and tender inside (the worse parmas are when the meat is tough and dry on the inside).

Slightly more expensive than I'd imagine but pretty tasty dishes. Would go again but not all the time given the slightly dear prices, although they do have daily specials which might suit us budget conscious people a bit more.

Marrickville Ritz Hotel on Urbanspoon

PJ Gallaghers, Criterion Hotel, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

PJ Gallaghers is located inside the inconspicuous Criterion hotel in the city on the corner of Pitt street and Park street. The hotel itself is pretty dark and dingy, the clientele are mainly older gentlemen having beers and watching sports on the tvs - not somewhere I'd frequent very often. However, armed with a entertainment book BOGOF coupon we ventured in.

We ordered at the bar and it took some time for them to process the coupon (as they had to wait for the manager) but other than that it was all good. There's not much seating upstairs other than some bar stools and tables which were already taken, so we ventured downstairs where there were more tables and a few people eating. Given the dingi-ness of the pub and the lack of eating patrons, I was not expecting much from the food. But to my surprise, the food was delicious!! Flavoursome and cooked really well! Next time I definitely want to try the Guiness Pie (maybe at a different PJ Gallaghers).

Lamb Shanks 'PJ's signature dish' - braised 10 hour lamb shanks with chat potatoes, vine ripened tomato and Paddy's Crusty Irish Soda bread ($26). The lamb was literally fall off the bone (not gamey at all), the sauce very tasty and the bread crunchy and perfect for soaking the sauce. Portion was very generous as well.

Steak of the day - Sirloin with peppercorn sauce, fries and salad ($29) - really nicely cooked steak, with a bit of rendered fat that added just the right amount of fatty flavour. The chips were hot and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside - I normally don't like to eat too much chips, but I couldn't stop!

Overall the food I think is much more deserving of a nicer environment to be served in. Great food - poor surroundings.

Corner Coffee House and Pandesal Bakehouse, Beverly Hills

Guest blogger edition

I'm a big fan of local small businesses that can actually add value and character to a neighbourhood. Whilst there's nothing wrong with big business either (Coles and Woolies are so convenient), nothing beats having a local bakery filling the air with the smell of fresh bread, a local florist to brighten up the footpaths, a green grocer who knows your name and of course what neighbourhood can be without a local cafe/coffee shop.

Thus whenever I get the opportunity to visit and support such places, I do so. In this instance, I was invited to try out a few new-ish places in Beverly Hills (Toronga Terrace), Corner Coffee House (CCH) and Pandesal Bakehouse.

Both are located on the stretch of road next to the train station where the IGA is situated. Along that same strip, there is also a pharmacy, a barber, a hairdresser, another cafe and a chinese restaurant. A neat combination of shops for the locals (if only someone would take over the ugly abandoned piano shop!).

Anyways, it was a nice sunny Saturday and we decided to try out CCH for their coffee and also their signature egg waffles. The egg waffles made me feel nostalgic about my days in Hong Kong where they were a staple street food for everyone. In Sydney however, I have yet to see these made (the exception being the Friday night markets in Chinatown, but they weren't very good). Inside the cafe They also serve other breakfast items and stationary and other random knick knacks

Coffee ~$3.50

Egg waffle $5 - warm, soft, fluffy and delicious with a slightly crunchy shell

Next stop is the Pandesal Bakehouse. This bakery is run by a Filipino family and their specialty is Pandesal, a slightly sweet bread roll. They also serve a variety of other other Filipino bakery items, snack foods as well as some more traditional bakery items (e.g. custard tarts etc). On this occasion, we tried the coconut bun, a pork empanada and an iced gulaman drink.

Pork empanada ~$2 - soft pastry filled with mince pork and veggies - yummmm

Ice Gulaman $3.50 - hard to describe, kind of like a very sweet jelly drink tasting of palm sugar and rose water maybe? Could't quite put my finger on it, but I think it might be an acquired taste.

Other miscellaneous items on sale

As we left the small bakery, there was a steady trickle of customers coming in to purchase the baked goods - seems like the community is supporting this local bakery quite well!


Roman Tapas & Grill, Caledonian Road

I love the thrill of discovering a good restaurant that is hidden away from the main hustle and bustle.   That is exactly what Roman Tapas did for me - as soon as I walked in, it sent a little frisson of excitement through me.

It is located on a random side street near Caledonian Road and Highbury & Islington tube stops and hidden amongst a fairly residential corner.  Not too far from the hustle of Upper Street but far enough to seem like a hidden gem.

There were charming flowers on each table and a handwritten specials menu.  Complimentary olives were offered once I sat down.

We ordered some old tapas favourites.

gambas al ajillo £5.50 (prawns baked with garlic)
paella £4.20
The size of the paella was very small, about the size of my palm.  I would have loved to have more but didn't see a bigger size option on the menu.

patatas bravas £4.40 (fried potatoes with spicy tomato & aioli)
albóndigas £4.50 (meat balls with a rich sauce)

You can never go wrong with patatas bravas, a Spanish version of fries. This was my second favourite dish after the paella.
pincho de cerdo £5.60 (pork skewers with carmelized apple)

The pork was the biggest disappointment - it was dry and tough.

I had just enough stomach space to order a small dessert, the espresso ice cream.
Espresso ice cream

Service was very friendly but a bit slow at times. They forgot one of our wine orders and we had to remind them.  I would still come back though!

Roman Tapas & Grill on Urbanspoon

House of Crabs, Redfern

Guest blogger edition

Having seen the numerous blog posts about the only recently opened House of Crabs restaurant located above the Norfolk Hotel in Redfern/Surry Hills, when some friends suggested that we have our pre-comedy show dinner there, I was in!

We arrived there at 6pm - perfect timing as the restaurant was just opening (and there were already people waiting!).  Stomping up the stairs, we entered the restaurant which was decked out to be like an American shellfish restaurant straight from Louisiana.  

Upon getting our table, we were given a complimentary box of freshly popped popcorn which was flavoured with some Cajun spices to get us started - they were surprisingly addictive and we polished them off long before our food arrived.

The way the restaurant works is that you order the crabs/prawns/mussels/clams etc from the menu in 500g bags, then choose from a variety of 4 spices which vary in levels of heat. From most to least spicy there was: Cajun, Mexican, Oriental and Lemon Pepper. We opted for the safer option and chose Mexican and Oriental. Mexican reminds me of chilli and mexican spices, whilst oriental reminded me of a green curry sauce.

Luckily, we were provided with ample instruments to attack the crabs, including the usual crab crushers, thin spiny metal things to dig meat out of the legs (no idea the real name of this) as well we scissors (probably the most handy of them all), as well as some rubber gloves for those that don't like to get their hands dirty.

Between the four of us, we ordered 2 x bags of crab (Snow and King) 1 x bag of prawns, 1 x lobster fries, 1 x blackened fish, 1 x creole corn and 2 x ice cream waffle sandwich (1 x jug of coke as a drink also). Total damage? Approx $200 bucks.

  Creole corn -$8 (w/ Dorito & Jerky salt)

Lobster fries - $12 (w/ lobster gravy, bacon and corn)

Snow Crab with Oriental sauce - $36

King Crab with Mexican sauce - $45

Complimentary bread to mop up all that delicious crabby sauce

Blackened fish $22 (w/ pineapple & black bean salsa)

Waffle ice cream sandwich - $12 (Raspberry, almonds & chocolate)

Overall, a fantastic way of having a fun night demolishing some crabs and getting our hands dirty digging out the tiny morsels of meats out of those bony shells. All that was left was the clean up.

House of Crabs on Urbanspoon

Jones the Grocer, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition 

When you take the express escalators on Pitt St mall up to Level 5 of the CBD Westfields, you will find Jones the Grocer.  

It is an interesting concept with one section of the restaurant being a gourmet grocery store and the rest is a refined dining environment. 

Having visited the restaurant a few months earlier, we had the opportunity to try it out again (see initial observations here)

We arrived at the restaurant at 6.30pm on a Tuesday night.  The place was mostly empty (what you would expect at most eateries during the mid week) but there were a few tables filling up later in the night. Perhaps they hadn’t expected patrons so early, but there was no one at the front counter to greet us when we arrived even though the restaurant was mostly empty. After standing around for a few minutes like lost puppies, someone eventually noticed us and sat us down at our tables.

We were fortunate to be seated next to the window which gave us a great view of the pedestrian traffic along Pitt St mall.  We could also see across the mall into the Virgin gym where people more motivated than myself were punishing their bodies whilst I was stuffing mine. I felt a tiny bit guilty but not for very long :P

The menu for Jones the Grocer was relatively short but the options that were there sounded quite appealing. I was informed by the waiter that they are in the process of updating their menu for the summer season which would introduce some new items to the menu. 

We ordered the Australian Spring water and some organic sparkling juices as drinks to start off with.

We started with entrees, ordering crab pasta and the BBQ quail. 

The servings of these entrees were huge! The pasta dish in particular probably could have passed for a main given the proportions! The ingredients used tasted fresh but unfortunately I thought they lacked seasoning (the waiter offered salt and pepper, but I like to think that generally the dish should have decent flavour without having to add salt + pepper).

Complimentary olives and sourdough (very nice olives)

Angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab, chili, rocket, garlic & Padano ($19)

Barbequed free-range quail with spinach & apple salad & bois boudran sauce ($21)

For mains, we had the roast barramundi and the slow cooked beef short rib. 

Roast wild barramundi with crushed potato & sauce antiboise ($32)

The barramundi was very nice – super crispy skin and well seasoned. The potatoes were also nicely roasted and crispy and delicious. Unlike the prior visit, the sauce was on the bottom of the plate and did not sit on top of the crispy skin (which made it soggy). They have tweaked the dish for the better since the last visit and it definitely shows! 

Slow-cooked beef short rib with roast eye fillet, mushrooms  & wed wine sauce ($35)

Unfortunately I felt that the beef ribs suffered from the same comment made on a previous dish from the last visit – not enough sauce! 

The menu says ‘red wine sauce’ however the droplets you see in the photo was the only sauce on the plate.  This detracted somewhat from the dish, but the components themselves where really nicely cooked.  There was a lining of fat to the ribs that had been slow cooked to perfection and the mushrooms were also delicious.  Definitely a comfort food which I would love to eat on a cold winters night.

Although we were already pretty stuffed at this stage, we finished the night off with a lemon tart and a coconut rice pudding. Both were amazing and again, huge portions. 

Young coconut rice pudding with mango & almond crunch ($12)

The coconut rice pudding was sooo fragrant and delicious with the mango adding another level of flavour and the almond crunch adding just the right amount of texture. A very nice dessert and something that is not your run of the mill chocolate fondants or crème brulees.

Glazed lemon tart with confit citrus & crème fraiche ($12)

In summary, Jones the Grocer is a great concept, combining gourmet groceries with a menu of fresh items including those which are available for purchase in the grocery section. 

The dishes have definitely improved since last time, with the standouts being the Barramundi and Rice {udding dessert. I am looking forward to their new menu to see what other ideas they have in mind! 

The Food Book dined as a guest of Jones the Grocer and Cav Con

Jones the Grocer on Urbanspoon

Sedap, Sydney CBD

Guest blogger edition

It seems Malaysian restaurants never go out of fashion with another one joining the ranks at the Lumiere building in the Sydney CBD. Sedap is located in the block of shops inside the Lumiere building (KFC corner) which also houses the Japanese Izakaya restaurant, Miss Chus and Chonoma Cafe.

The decor tries to bring the feel of Malaysian hawker style street dining to life, with rows of lightbulb lighting and a huge picture of the eat street of Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur on one side. (one of the most well known street food places in KL). The restaurant itself is relatively compact but appears to be bigger than it actually is with mirrors on both sides at the back giving the illusion of more tables.

Arriving at around 630 on a Friday night, the restaurant had patrons but was not yet full, however the restaurant quickly filled up and people began waiting for tables.

We ordered two dishes and 1 drink which was plenty for two people as the dishes were quite generous.

Char Kway Teow (~$12)

Mee Hoon Goreng Kampong (~$12)

My favorite of the two dishes would have had to be the Char Kway Teow as it was really nicely cooked and had Chinese sausage in it which I hadn't had in years! The Mee Hoon was OK but I found it a bit bland in comparison.

Overall, generous servings, decent price and good flavours- would come back again to try other dishes.

Sedap on Urbanspoon

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