Allpress Espresso, Shoreditch (London)

I like how there are several cafes and bars in London which remind me of the ones back home.  My friend suggested that we meet for a sneaky Monday brunch at Allpress Espresso in trendy Shoreditch.  I did a quick google and turns out they are a NZ based with a location in Zetland as well!

As soon as I walked into the cafe, I liked the feel of it.  It was light, airy, spacious and several people were scattered about, leisurely reading the newspaper or typing away on laptops.


We commandeered a comfy bench seat in the corner and went to order at the counter. The menu was fairly short and I decided to go for a coffee and sandwich. The food came out really quickly and the service was friendly too.

Smoked salmon and celeriac remoulade sandwich (£6.00)


Large flat white (£3.10)


I don't know if I'm in the minority, but I really like celeriac! I like it pureed, cubed, shredded.  That taste of celery without the crunch of celery is just yum! Although I like celery stalks too. 

The sandwich was normal sized (not big, not too small) and the bread had been toasted to a crunch.  The coffee was good coffee.

Quinoa cakes, chickpea and pistachio dukkar (£7.00)


 

My friend ordered the quinoa cakes.  She said that they were tasty and she looked like she was having a lot of fun assembling the wraps.

I can't wait until I have some Sydney visitors and I can bring them to this cafe for a feel of home!

Allpress Espresso
58 Redchurch Street 
Shoreditch  E2 7DP


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Barrafina, Soho (London)

The Food Book has moved to London!

Yes that's right, The Food Book decided to join the flocks of Australians taking a working holiday in the UK and the next chapter of this food blog will be set in London. I hope you enjoy reading about these new food adventures!

It seems like there is good food around every corner of London.  It almost makes it too hard to decide where to eat.   Luckily I had done some online browsing and also received good recommendations for Barrafina, a tapas bar located in trendy Soho.

Barrafina opens at 12pm and does not take bookings.  Not wanting to risk having to queue, I arrived at 11.50am and the doors were open but the friendly guy behind the counter told me I was a bit too early.  So I just hung around outside until they were officially open!  The other thing to note is that they don't allow you to hold seats for friends.  My friend was running about 25 minutes late and I was starting to get nervous as the bar quickly filled up and there is limited seating.  Luckily she arrived just in the nick of time before her seat was taken.

There is a regular menu and also a small specials blackboard.  The staff are incredibly friendly and happy to describe the dishes in detail.  Because everyone sits at the counter, you can also ogle what other people are ordering.

I ordered the razor clams off the specials board and they were delicious.  Fresh and chewy with a meaty texture. 


 Next up was some beautiful salmon with corn maize and a green puree. 


Tuna tartar (£9.50)


 The tuna tartar was my favourite - it looked deceptively small but we struggled to finish it! The tuna was glistening with freshness and coated in a light dressing with sesame seeds.

The next dish was ordered spontaneously by my friend after seeing it on the counter for another diner.

Baby gem salad with anchovies and smoked pancetta (£7)

 
I wasn't overly enamoured with the baby gem salad.  It was still nice but had simpler flavours of onion, pancetta and anchovies - nothing mind blowing.  

We were pretty full by this stage but I really wanted to try one of their desserts.

Chocolate tart (£4.70)


 The tart was dense, warm and very chocolately.  In one word - amazing.  

It seems like the accolades and reviews proved true - I really enjoyed lunch at Barrafina and it was worth getting there early to avoid queuing!

 Barrafina on Urbanspoon
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The Barber Shop, Sydney CBD

The Barber Shop is yet another small bar on York Street in the Sydney CBD. Unlike a few of the other small bars, this one isn't hidden. You just have to walk through a barber shop and up the stairs at the back to enter into the bar.

I visited The Barber Shop last week for the first time to have a peek at the Australian finals of the Global Bartender Competition sponsored by Beefeater 24 Gin.


There were 12 finalists competing in the Australian finals and each of them had to create a classic cocktail using Beefeater Dry and then add a modern twist using Beefeater 24.  It was interesting to see what the bartenders came up with and to hear about how they created the cocktails. The prize was a trip to London for the chance to compete in the global final.  The global winner then gets an all expenses paid trip to Japan!  Not too shabby at all.


In between rounds, I had a taste of the nibblies on offer.

Jamon serrano, baguettes, mixed olives, mixed cheeses


There was a selection of hams and cheeses which appeared to be straight from The Barber Shop's regular nibbles menu and served on cute boards with sliced bread in buckets.  I ate a lot of cheese that night!

Is it just me, or are there more small bars along York Street than anywhere else in Sydney?  I'm not complaining, I really like small bars, especially if they are full of character like this one. 

The Food Book attended the Global Bartender Competition as a guest of Cav Con. and The Barber Shop.

 The Barber Shop on Urbanspoon
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Hartsyard, Newtown

Hartsyard is a hot spot right now and this is made evident by their online booking system which shows nights filled a week or two in advance! I was after an impromptu visit and they were booked out but encouraged me to try for a seat at the bar upon arrival.

It was 7.30pm on a Tuesday night when we arrived and the bar was also full so we put our name and number down. Off we trotted to the Midnight Special bar down Enmore Road while we waited for the phone call.  About half an hour later, we received the call saying there was a spot free at the bar.  Yay!

They recommend sharing the dishes and we ordered a few to have between the two of us.  The menu is divided into 'Seed' being the smaller dishes and 'Feed' being the more substantial plates.

 School prawn popcorn ($15)
Espelette pepper, sour cream, lemon



From the 'Seed' part of the menu, we selected the school prawn popcorn.  The concept was very cute and there was great novelty in dipping your hand into the paper bag for a handful of goodies.  We ended up tearing the paper bag apart and emptied the contents onto a plate for better access to the popcorn and prawns.


Pulled pork, maple bacon, yoghurt and apple ($29)


The pulled pork was a dense little cube that came apart with a few fork prods. I found this dish to be quite filling and enjoyed the sweet bits of apple on the plate.

Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuit, low country sausage gravy ($28)


I REALLY wanted to try the fried chicken here and it did not disappoint.  I had a large piece of chicken breast and it was crunchy on the outside yet the meat remained moist and flavorful!  I also liked the comforting side of biscuit and sausage gravy. 

Peanut butter and banana sundae with pretzel ice cream, banana donut and salted fudge ($17)

Last but not least, a typical American style sundae for dessert.  It was a monster of a sundae and we both delighted in digging around the bowl finding morsels of crunch, banana, fudge and ice cream!

We left feeling absolutely stuffed.  I can see why it's so popular and would like to come again to try more of their menu!

 Hartsyard on Urbanspoon
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CoCa Chu, Hamilton Island

I took a short trip to Hamilton Island for the first time and was blown away by how wonderful the little island was.  The flight from Sydney to Hamilton Island airport was only 2 hours yet I felt like we were in a different country altogether, somewhere really tropical!

The weather was really beautiful and we made sure to fit in equal time slots of lazing around, watersports, snorkelling and cruising.

We stayed in one of the newly renovated Palm Bungalows and it was perfect.  Just a short walk to the Marina, the beach, the resort pools and buffet breakfast.  The bungalow had a little kitchenette and although we brought snacks (which I was glad that we brought, after seeing that the going price on the island for a 250g packet of chips was $7.20!), we had planned on eating out for dinner each night.

Buffet breakfast was included in our stay and we could choose from three places - Sails, the Pool Terrace or Wildlife Park.  We tried each one and out of the three, I thought Sails had the best breakfast offerings but watch out for the seagulls - they were ruthless in stealing food from people's plates!

On the first night of our trip, we wandered around the Marina to check out the menus at a handful of restaurants. We were a bit shocked at how high the prices were! Of course, this is a tourist destination but I was not expecting these very causal eateries which were serving pizza, steak etc to be charging $40+ for very average mains.  On our first night, we ended up at the Marina Tavern which served pub style food for a reasonable price.  I had a chicken burger and my friend had nachos, both plates were okay and at least the food didn't burn a huge hole in our wallets.  On our second night, we went to Sails which was priced higher abelit still in a casual dining setting and the meal was disappointing.  The menu reminded me of RSL club-style offerings and I ended up ordering steak which tasted overcooked.

For the final night, we went to CoCa Chu which had good reviews online.  It was the only place that we ate at which felt like a proper restaurant - and where we felt like the cost of the meal matched the food and service.  It is very popular so I recommend booking in advance if you want to visit!

CoCa Chu has a south-east Asian themed menu.  Our waiter was friendly and talkative in describing different dishes and the spices used in each.

We started off with some cocktails to toast our holiday.

Zen Budda ($18) and Gogo Girl ($18)


The restaurant was full and our drinks didn't arrive until after our starters. There was also a large gap of about 20 minutes between the first and second starter arriving at our table which wasn't ideal.  Our waiter apologised for the delay and said it was due to the pork ribs being cooked to order.

Betel Leaves - vegetarian option ($19)


Sweet and sour pork ribs with toasted sesame seeds and spring onion ($18)


The plate of pork ribs looked deceptively small.  There was a lot of meat on the plate and I am ashamed to confess that I could not finish it all.  The ribs were served on bone and they were soft enough to be cut with a fork and spoon.

Yellow curry of roasted butternut pumpkin with eschalots and pickled ginger ($26)


Brown rice ($4 pp)



The plate of curry was big enough to feed three people! It was an incredibly generous serve and went well with the brown rice.  The curry was mild and the pumpkin was soft enough that the thin layer of skin left on the slices wasn't a bother.

Chicken and crab salad with peanuts, thai basil, coriander and green nahm jim ($25)


The chicken and crab salad was also of a generous serving size with bits of shredded chicken and crab meat strewn throughout.  Unfortunately I did not think to request for the salad to be served without chilli and there were thin pieces of chilli throughout the entire salad that I ended up picking out.  Still, it was a light and refreshing salad - exactly what I needed after the meaty pork ribs served for a starter.

Five spiced donut with passionfruit curd ($13)


I was really full by this stage but could not resist ordering this dessert. Our waiter had casually mentioned that this special dessert of the day was almost sold out for the night and he would have to check with the kitchen if there were any serves remaining.  Tossing up between a Sticky Rice dessert or the Donuts, I asked him to please check with the kitchen.  Upon his return, he confirmed that there was only ONE serve left.  I decided it was fate and ordered the donuts.

It was cute how they were served in the half shell of the coconut. I found the five spice to be very subtle (some might say invisible) but it is hard to critique freshly deep fried donuts that are piping hot in your mouth.

In conclusion, CoCa Chu is the only place that we ate at in Hamilton Island which I would actually recommend visiting. Having said that, there were a few more restaurants on the island which we did not get to try - maybe next time!

 CoCa Chu on Urbanspoon
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