Orto Trading Co., Surry Hills

Orto Trading Co. is a bit tucked away on Waterloo Street, yet really close to Central Station.  Mobblees and I had decided to go there for brunch after a recommendation from a colleague.

One of the reasons why it is a good brunch option - their menu has those magical words 'brunch all day'.  Perfect for people like me who don't like to wake up early on weekends!

We sat outside on a bright sunny Saturday and there was a steady stream of people entering and going. I liked the little plants in glass jars that were placed on each table.


The service was sporadic despite there being many staff milling around.  Most of the staff seemed to linger inside without servicing the outside tables as often as the tables inside.

Flat white ($3)



Apple and mixed berry juice ($6.50)


Although it was lunchtime, we both ordered off the brunch selection - that's the beauty of all day brunch.

Potato rosti stuffed with fetta, served with wild mushrooms and sautéed spinach, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise ($18)


I really enjoyed the selection of mushrooms on the plate, much more than just your everyday button mushrooms.

 Breakfast platter with soft-boiled egg, soldiers, muesli, baked ricotta and poached fruits ($14)

The breakfast platter was visually appealing but Mobblees admitted that she liked my selection better.  I could see why she would say that - the platter was filled with lots of little bits and pieces that you had to be in the mood to nibble and peck at and arguably it looked better than it tasted.  

It was a nice way to laze away a Saturday morning and I would definitely come back to try more of their offerings, they are open for dinner too.

Orto Trading Co. on Urbanspoon
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Irish Tea Cosy, The Rocks

Last year, my colleague bought a voucher for a deluxe basket for two with tea at the Irish Tea Cosy in the Rocks.  

The Irish Tea Cosy is known for its fresh scones baked daily and Irish themed interiors.

We ended up having to reschedule the booking several times due to our own conflicting schedules and they were very patient with the numerous rebookings.

Fireplace inside the cafe


They have tables both inside and outside.  Since it was a nice sunny day, we chose to sit outside in a narrow side alley.  Most of the tables were filled and we could see it was a popular spot!

The deal was for a basket of scones to share and a choice of tea each.  True to the name, the teax arrived each in a teapot wrapped in a knitted tea cosy.  To be honest, I don't really like them.  (side thought - I wonder how often they are washed?)



The waitress accidentally brought a different plate of scones to our table and I snapped a pic before they realised the error and took the plate away.


I was disappointed because I liked the look of those scones. We had previously discussed what was actually going to be included in our basket and I argued that surely it would include two of each flavour because otherwise we would have to cut each scone in half.


The two tiers - scones with cream and jam



It turned out that was exactly what we would have to do because there was one of each flavour.  One plain, one with raisins, one apple cinnamon and one cheese.



Although the scones appear high, they were quite dense and veering towards crumbly.  I prefer lighter scones but ate my allotted share nevertheless.  On the other hand, my colleague hated them, whinged and refused to eat more than a few bites (I thought that was a bit wasteful!)


The Tea Cosy on Urbanspoon
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Aria, Circular Quay

Aria has always been in the back of my mind as a restaurant that I have heard a lot about but never really had the occasion to visit.  Early this week I was browsing the listings for Sydney Fast Festival Feasts 2013 and Aria caught my eye - you can check out the list here (link).

Aria's offer:  Matt Moran has designed a special menu of your choice of entrée and main and a glass of wine for $55 per person. Side dishes and additional beverages will be charged on consumption.  The offer will be valid for lunch from the 7th of January Monday to Friday and for pre-theatre each night between 5:30 and 7PM.

I made a booking that day for the upcoming Friday pre-theatre sitting.  For those who are wondering, the pre-theatre option is also available on the weekends.  Booking on the phone was a breeze and the staff were very friendly as I checked availability and that there was a vegetarian option available (for my friend).

Even though it was 5.30pm, summer in Sydney meant that the view outside was probably the same as you would have at lunchtime - bright, sunny and lots of people bustling along the promenade outside.
 
For meat eaters, you get a choice of two options for each of the entree and main.  Vegetarians have a set menu.

Here are the Fast Festival Feast menus - vegetarian on the right and wine options below.

(Click to enlarge)
 

Complimentary bread was offered with a choice of sourdough or caraway seed with rye.  The waiter later made a second round with the bread basket for a refill so I tried both, my preference was the rye.

Entrees came out fairly quickly and they looked delicious.

Cow's milk burrata with charred baby artichokes, golden beetroots, sourdough toast and shaved white truffle (Vegetarian entree)


My friend said that it was really good.  I took her word for it, fantastic presentation on the plate and I loved the look of the thin slices of white truffle resting on the plump ball of burrata.

I didn't have any trouble picking my entree.  As soon as I read the description for the consomme, I didn't even look at the other option.

Peking duck consomme with duck dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms


It didn't disappoint, every mouthful of the consomme was a delight to drink.  The three silky soft dumplings were small but expertly made and filled. I would happily order this again and I especially liked the subtle slices of abalone hidden in the broth.

 Baked onion with chickepeas, baba ganoush, warrigal greens and a tahini dressing (Vegetarian main)


It is a little hard to see in the above photo but that is a whole onion intact on the plate, cleverly sliced and opened so that it looked like a flower unfurling.  We were baffled by the technique that would have been involved in making it look like that!

My friend said that this dish was also delicious.

Char grilled sirloin with summer vegetables, bone marrow and salsa verde


That is one good-looking sirloin!  My first bite melted in my mouth, the meat was cooked so well.  The little ball of deep fried bone marrow was a treat to be savoured - unfortunately it disappeared all too quickly into my stomach.  The salsa verde was different to the usual creamy sauces that I have tried with steak and I loved the tangy contrast it provided.  I was so full after eating this.

We also ordered a side of beans (charged separately from the festival feast offer)

Steamed roman beans with lemon oil ($15)


Lastly we were offered a complimentary tray of petit fours - my favourite was the chocolate truffle ball on the far left, it tasted like a high end version of a jaffa ball.


I was very impressed with my Aria experience.  The staff were so friendly and welcoming, it was a perfect early summer dinner.

If you want to try it for yourself, the Sydney Festival runs until the end of January.  Let me know if you have tried one of the other offers this year?

Aria on Urbanspoon

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Cafe Sydney, Sydney CBD

Another Entertainment Card post!  Cafe Sydney is in the Entertainment Card book with an offer of 25% off your total bill.

It was a balmy summer night in December and we had an early dinner reservation for 6.30pm.  Given it was the busy period of December, we had a bit of trouble making a booking and the girl on the phone struggled to find an availability.  When we arrived there, we could see why - it was filled with tourists and corporate types eager to enjoy the view and atmosphere.

Is the view fantastic? Well, for the best view, ask for a table outside because the inside tables have their view blocked by columns (and other patrons).  I have to admit that I am a bit spoiled in terms of harbour views because I work in a very high office building at Circular Quay that has spectacular views over most of Sydney so I did not appreciate the Cafe Sydney view as much as others.  (Also if you are looking for a similar view without the price tag (maybe to enjoy a meal with a visiting tourist?), may I suggest the new-ish outdoor cafe at the MCA for a lovely view of the Opera House and harbour.)

My first impression of the restaurant was that it was not as plush or swanky as I had thought it would be.  The plain wooden tables and hard backed chairs that we were sitting at caused my friend to comment that it felt more like a cafe. 

We started off with mocktails that scored high marks on presentation but low marks on flavour.

On the right:  Cabana - mango, pineapple, lychee and raspberry ($11)
On the left: My Cherie - cherry, mint, guava nectar, raspberry and sparkling orange juice ($11)


Cafe Sydney is well known for its naan bread so I made sure that we ordered some to try for a starter.

Goat cheese and spinach naan ($3.50)


The naan was the highlight of the meal.  It was piping hot, crisp on the edges yet soft on the inside with delightful pockets of oozy cheese.  Very yummy.

The appetisers came out quickly after the naan.

Baby beetroot and goat cheese tart, caramelised onion, walnut, watercress, cabernet vinegar ($26)


Moreton Bay bugs, prawn, avocado, truss tomato, cos lettuce, ocean trout roe ($27)


I had the bugs as my entree.  The flavours on the dish were very clean and crisp, but at the same time a bit bland.  Most of the flavour on the plate came from the salty balls of roe. 

We both ordered fish as our mains - my friend ordered off the specials menu while I chose the barramundi from the normal menu.  After I tasted both dishes, I had to admit that they tasted very similar.  Essentially they were both well cooked pieces of fish with a bit of cheese, cubed vegetables and slice of lemon.  Both dishes had a real 'winter' feel to them due to the choice of vegetables and I later regretted my choice of main based on my mood for something more summery to suit the wonderful summer night.

Roasted mulloway, goat cheese ravioli, butternut pumpkin, pine nut, muscatel, brown butter ($40)
(Specials menu)


Cone Bay barramundi, fetta cigar, eggplant, red pepper, pine nut, anchovy butter ($39)


We decided to share a dessert and by this stage, we were also starting to run out of time as we had been advised that our seating would finish at 8.15pm.  We ordered the pannacotta off the specials list figuring that it wouldn't take long to plate up.

Mango pannacotta, poached strawberry, strawberry ice cream ($19)
(Specials menu)


When the pannacotta came out,  I looked at the gelatinous mound and hoped that it would not taste just like the mango pudding served at yum cha.  I was keen for a twist - maybe some vanilla bean flavours present - something, anything to make it worth the $19.

Unfortunately it tasted just like an ordinary mango pudding and the plain strawberry syrup that it was resting in did not help.

If anyone is curious, the meal came to about $70 each after the Entertainment Card discount. 

I left Cafe Sydney feeling disappointed with the meal but it might have been because my tastebuds had been expecting something different from the usual.  Instead they received an ordinary meal, but in a nice location. 

Café Sydney on Urbanspoon
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Berry Sourdough Cafe, Berry

I recently passed through Berry on a road trip down the South Coast of New South Wales.  Before making the trip, I scanned the blogging world for any pit stops worthwhile along the way  and there were plenty of good reviews for the Berry Sourdough Cafe.

It was clearly a popular spot judging from the constant line at the door and after stopping there for a long lunch, I think its popularity is well deserved. 

The cafe itself is in a cute cottage like building off the main street of Berry.  There is both outdoor seating on the verandah and indoor seating in the spacious interiors.  We were happy with our seats outside on the cool summer day. I was feeling a bit lazy and didn't take many pictures - here are just two photos of our mains.

Seared scallops with a pancetta vinaigrette


Delicious corn, avocado and kefalograviera on grilled sourdough


We also had the lemon thyme and honey panna cotta served with local rhubarb and pine nut praline for dessert, washed down with coffee.

By the time we finished eating and wandered inside for a peek at the bakery counters, we were disappointed to discover that pretty much all of their baked pastries and cakes had sold out for the morning.  As it turns out, they have a sister bakery located on the main street of Berry ("Milkwood Bakery") which we also popped into and there were many baked goods available there.

The Berry Sourdough Cafe was a fantastic find and I am so grateful to the internet and other bloggers for leading me there!

Berry Sourdough Cafe on Urbanspoon

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