Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This blog is dead. D. E. D.

It is with a fond farewell that I close this blog. I've been writing this thing for over three years, but very sporadically, so I decided to open a new blog where I talk about more than just restaurant reviews (but still do restaurant reviews). The new blog can be found here: http://www.mouthlessmutters.net

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Beach Burrito Company

Holy guacamole, do I love Mexican food! I have long lamented the lack of decent Mexican food in Canberra - and while we still have yet to get a proper Mexican restaurant (Elk & Pea is probably the closest, although it is quite ambiguous about what type of cuisine it serves), the past couple of years has seen the rise of a Mexican fast food tidal wave.

So, upon returning to Canberra after a sojourn around South America, I was excited to hear that a new Mexicana restaurant had opened up in Garema Place, The Beach Burrito Company. Originally from Bondi, Sydney the chain has since sprouted a few franchises around the place.

My brother and I decided to hit up Beach Burrito Company one Wednesday evening before a movie at Dendy. We arrived about 5:15pm to a deserted restaurant. The interior of Beach Burrito is florescent, bold and interesting. There are a lot of sugar skulls, including an awesome chandelier made with skull skateboard. Despite the odd bright light, the space is dimly lit (hence the crappy photos). I actually really liked it, but it might be a bit too “lary” for some of the more laid back people I know. The music, crappy techno, is also up really loud.

We had to change seats because their booths are made for skinny peoples, which I am not. I actually saw a few parties move out of the booths to the normal tables for the same reason – uncool.

The menu is large and comprehensive, although not as adventurous as I was hoping. You take a seat and order at the counter, where you’re given a table number. We ordered Jalapeno Poppers for entrée and a mix of Tacos for mains. We ordered the tacos as two of the 3 x Tacos for (can’t remember) special, but we ended up deciding on the same fillings.

The Jalapeno Poppers come in a plastic basket, and they’re big and there’s a few of them – good for sharing. Sadly they are practically tasteless, with not even a hint of heat. It’s pretty much just a tasteless jalapeno that’s been cleaned out, stuffed with sour cream and then coated in bread crumbs. It’s served with a sour cream/tomato concoction which gives it a little more flavour, but still no heat. Booo. I like my chillies hot, mamasita!

The tacos came out in three separate baskets –two tacos of the same filling to a basket. We ordered the Pibli Pork (Pibli pork with frijoles, shredded cabbage, chipotle mayonnaise, chilli salt and coriander), Chipotle Chicken (Char grilled Chicken, frijoles, pico de gallo, blended cheese, smokey salsa, guacamole, sour cream, chilli salt and coriander) and the Pulled Seasoned Beef (slow roasted beef, frijoles, lettuce, blended cheese, green onion, smokey salsa, guacamole, sour cream, chilli salt). As you can see, the tacos are pretty hard to share, especially when they don’t give you plates or anything other than the baskets. Even harder to share when the tacos go so soggy they break apart at the bottom and half the ingredients fall back in to the basket. I ended up with food all over me.

I gotta say, I was not impressed with these tacos. The tortillas were floury (despite being gluten free) and had no taste. And not only were they so full that you couldn’t fit them in your mouth (and so full they fell apart) - I don’t understand how something with so many ingredients can taste so boring and bland. In hindsight, I should have put some of the habanero sauce provided on the table, on all of them…but you shouldn’t have to do that… The beef taco just tasted like lettuce and soggy beef (with no spices or flavour), and I couldn’t even tell which one was chicken and which one was pork – the flavours were not strong enough. The chicken one did have some pico de gallo on it, which meant it had a little bit more flavour than the other two, but I was still missing any kind of heat (isn’t pico supposed to have chilli in it?).

We were going to get Churros for dessert, because I am a churro fiend – but we were so disappointed with our meals that we just walked out.

There’s no service to speak of at Beach Burrito, you order at the bar and they bring you your food with no fuss. It’s not bad service, it’s more of a “what it says on the box” type service.

Verdict: If you like your Mexican food bland and unspicy – then you’ll probably like this place. I, however, wish we’d gone to Guzman y Gomez.

Beach Burrito Company on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jamie's Italian

Jamie’s Italian opened in the Canberra Centre while I was overseas on holidays. Upon my return 6/10 people asked me whether I’d tried Jamie’s new restaurant…and not about my 2 month trip around South America. Priorities, people!

I did visit Jamie’s Italian a week after my return, as a friend (who used to live in Canberra) was in town and wanted to try something new. I suggested that we rock up to Civic and try and find somewhere that could fit us in, where ever we ended up, that’s where we were supposed to be.

Jamie’s Italian is situated on the corner entrance of the Canberra Centre’s North Quarter, opposite Babars and underneath Dendy cinemas. It’s the newest edition to the ‘eat street’ which includes Koko Black, Waggamama, Sammy’s and Cream – if you can’t find something to eat here, you’re pretty bloody picky. We turned up at 7pm, and – unsurprisingly – the place was packed. Oh, Canberrans. You do go mental for anything trendy and new.

We enquired about a table for two with the hostess, who informed us it would be an hour wait. Now, thankfully I’d done my research – normally I would have been all “f*ck that!”…but I’d heard some people had been told 2 hours, and then called back after 40 minutes. I indicated to J that we should take our chances, maybe go and get a quick drink while we waited…and low and behold another server turned up and said that, actually, there was a table available. Hey presto, right place right time! Turns out someone hadn’t come back for their table, so it was ours. Sucks to be the couple who walked in just before us, who were also told it would be an hour. If you’re planning on going to Jamie’s without a booking (which seems to be impossible to do for parties under 9 people) – you’ve really got to be lucky.

We were sat near the window, at a wooden table with funky pink metal seat (seriously, I want them!). The décor at Jamie’s Italian is modern, fresh and not too pretentious – it’s quite cool. You can almost feel Jamie Oliver’s influence in the setting, lots of wood and clean lines…and wow, would you look at that, Jamie Oliver merchandise scattered throughout the store. Subtle. The doors to the restaurant are open, but it’s a 33 degree day and there doesn’t seem to be any air-conditioning (it’s faint if it’s there at all). The room is crowded, frantic servers run all over the place nearly crashing in to each other. The space is loud and, even though large, feels a little claustrophobic – a table outside might be your best bet on a busy hot summer night.

The menu has a good variety of options, no matter what you like. There are starter/sharing platters, pastas, and a good mix of main options – with quite a few good options for vegetarians.

We ordered the “Crispy Squid” to share as an entrée and it was…tiny. So tiny. And hard to share, even though they gave us separate plates I ended up dropping aioli all over the table. The squid was light but a little removed of flavour. There were chillies and fried garlic in the basket, but the squid itself could have used something more in the batter.

For mains, J ordered the Mortadella and Ricotta Panzerotti (pasta filled with mortadella and chicken, coated in a blue cheese sauce – topped with toasted, spiced nuts and an apple, lemon and parsley salad).

This was the “large serve”. Laaaarge. I can’t even imagine how ridiculous the smaller server must have been. J said it was nice, although the blue cheese sauce was faint and quite creamy.

I decided to order the Truffled Turkey Milanese (Turkey stuffed with fontina and prosciutto, topped with a fried-free range egg and truffles) with a side of Apple slaw.

In contrast to J’s meal – mine was HUGE! I gotta say, I was whelmed by my meal – not over whelmed, not under whelmed. The egg was well cooked, oozing out yummy yellow yolk. The couple of truffle shavings gave the egg a subtle earthy flavour that worked well with the turkey and cheese – but that only covered a small area of the massive lump of meat, that meant that the rest of the piece of turkey was thin and not overly flavourful, despite being covered in cheese. I’m pretty sure there was no prosciutto on the plate anywhere. The apple slaw was really tasty though, really fresh and tangy – perfect for a warm summer’s eve.

We saw the dessert menu when we first sat down and had already made up our minds that we would be having dessert, no matter how full we were at the end of our mains. I was full but unsatisfied, and J was still hungry – so we ordered desserts. Dessert turned out to be the best part of the whole night. J ordered the Tutti Fruitti Lemon Meringue Pie.

The pie was deeeeeelicious. A strong, tart, lemon base with gooey meringue on top = perfection. I decided on the trifle.

The trifle was creamy and sweet, but got quite rich after a while – I couldn’t finish it. The itlian meringue on top left a delightful after taste and fruitiness of the jam worked wonders with the custard. Beautiful. I’ll be back for dessert for sure.

The service at Jamie's Italian was friendly and fast - I cannot fault it. We were close to the kitchen though, so there was a lot of movement, lots of servers rushing back and forth...they certainly don't slack off!

Verdict: Try Jamie’s Italian, if only to say you have. The food is on the better side of average, but certainly not mind blowing. The atmosphere might not be for everyone, certainly not those looking for an intimate dinner for two – but if you’re after a fun, laid back space then this place is great. Try Jamie’s Italian, and then next time you feel like Italian go to Italian and Sons, Mezalira or one of the many fantastic places in Kingston.

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 23, 2013

5 Senses

Name: 5 Senses
Type: Café
Location: Tuggeranong Hyperdome
Meal: Lunch
Food et: Roast Lamb Panini

A friend and I decided to check out the Hyperdome’s newest café, 5 Senses, for a work-day catch up lunch (thing).

The café opened only a week ago and when we arrived early, it was already pumping with shoppers and public servants (it is in close in proximity to a few different Tuggeranong based departments). The layout is open, situated in to a newer corner of the Hyperdome shopping centre, under Big W and adjacent to The Reject Shop. The décor is simple and unobtrusive – you can sit at a table or at one of the strategically placed arm chairs. We were shown a few seating options and decided to take a table for two near the kitchen, out of the way from the main seating area.

The menu consists of a decent looking breakfast menu (mental note for the weekends, when it’s all day breakfast) and a lunch menu that incorporates a few different cuisines. The menu is a nice change from the basic “coffee club” style menu that a lot of café’s adopt. Some interesting dishes include: spatchcock marinated with soy, sesame oil and lime juice with spiced green lentils and crunchy leeks; duck confit with roasted root vegetables, potato puree and a balsamic vinegar reduction; and a Wild Mushroom Pappadelle. However, if you’re after a lighter lunch – as we were – they also have a menu for sandwiches and burgers.

My friend K ordered the steak sandwich (Eye fillet, lettuce, tomato relish, mushroom, beetroot, swiss cheese and caramelised onions) – which she enjoyed and said it was “yummy”. She said she especially enjoyed that the beetroot was fresh – not the canned stuff – and that the meat was tender. She also liked the mushrooms, as a nice touch and something a little different.

I ordered the roast lamb Panini which came with baby rocket, kalamata olives and fresh olives.

Although the olives were an interesting and flavoursome touch, I felt as though this Panini was missing something…something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I think it was that the roast lamb wasn’t seasoned, it was plain old roast lamb – not hot, but not cold either. The Panini bread was really nice, really fresh and soft. Both meals came with lightly seasoned chips, which were crunchy and pretty fantastic (and free, cos it doesn’t say anything about chips on the menu – Best. Surprise. Ever.). I said I wasn’t going to eat them all. I ate them all.

The service was a little all over the shop – literally. After we’d finished we watched staff run around, but no one came to get our plates for a long while and then when we finally got up and went to the counter on our own accord, no one seemed quite sure who should put the order through. That is to be expected in the first few weeks of business. The service we did receive was friendly and welcoming. There seemed to a be a lot of the staff’s family visiting, which was nice. I got the impression that it is a locally run operation, the owner/manager was on site, and I believe in supporting that type of establishment – you can keep your Nandos, thank you very much. I’m sorry, Nanados, I didn’t mean it – I love you.

I think I’ll definitely be back to try 5 Senses more extensive menu, perhaps on a weekend when a big lunch is more appealing (and I’m not at risk of falling asleep on my desk). The cakes also look pretty fantastic, so this would be a nice place to catch up, or a welcome break from shopping.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Me and Mrs Jones

Name: Me & Mrs Jones
Type: Café/Restaurant
Location: Kingston shops
Meal: Late breakfast/early lunch
Food et: Steak burger

My sister and I decided to hit up Me & Mrs Jones for breakfast one Sunday morning. Apparently my sister knows friends of friends of the owners or something and wanted to try it out so she could report back that she had been there or something…I dunno, I was tired hungry and just went where I was led. This may have had something to do with the night before and because of said night before; we actually ended up getting to the joint at about midday, closer to lunch than breakfast.

The indoor seating area was packed, which was a shame because it’s a pretty cool space. It reminded me of a London train station, or somewhere in old America (Boston maybe?), with brick lined walls and industrial furniture. However, despite the industrial feel, it’s quite a warm and welcoming space. It reminded me of something you would find in a trendy Melbourne suburb, a welcome change to a somewhat stiff Kingston. The atmosphere inside was buzzing, with everyone seemingly happy to be there.

We ended up yoinking the last table available in their small outdoor seating area, which is enclosed (thankfully) and a little away from the main restaurant, to allow for street traffic in between.

I ordered a decaf flat white and a Cirtus Crush frappe – both of which came out promptly. The flat white was really tasty – something that is hard to achieve when decaf is involved (I’m allergic to caffeine, leave me alone coffee snobs!). The frappe was cold and refreshing, giving me the vitamin hit I sorely needed.

As it was nearer to lunch time and I decided that I needed something with salty, greasy chips, I ordered the steak sandwich. The steak sandwich includes steak (duh!), blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and aoli. Served with chips – huzzah!

Gotta say, this wasn’t the greatest steak sandwich of all time. The bread was crunchy, the meat was tender and the blue cheese wasn’t too strong (which can overpower dishes easily) – but there just wasn’t a whole lot of flavour. I think a tomato chutney or chilli jam would have really capped it off. The chips were crunchy and salty and everything I wanted, although they were a little bit oilier than I would have liked. (edit: I just checked the menu online and it said it has a “pinot noir jam” – but I don’t remember it, so it wasn’t a lot or it wasn’t very strong). The cute little jar of aoli for dipping was a nice touch, and the chips were delicious dunked in.

But then, mid bite in to my burger, I found this amongst the layers:

It was rolled up originally, so we figured it was a piece of glad wrap that had been covering salad leaves and had accidentally fallen in to the mix. Thankfully I found it before it went in my mouth, because that would have been an especially chewy mouthful. I informed the waitress about it and she was extremely apologetic and ran off to let the kitchen know to look out for any further pieces that may have escaped to green leafy freedom.

Apart from the plastic and the general lack of flavour, in the end I was full and happy – and wanted a nap.

K ordered the Smashing Avocado, which consisted of smashed avocado, Persian fetta, pine nuts and poached eggs on a soy and linseed bread.

As soon as this was put down in front of K, I automatically wished I’d ordered it too. It’s a simple idea that looks fantastic, is a perfect size and is a healthy but tasty option. K said that it was awesome and that she wanted to try her own variations at home.

The service at Me & Mrs Jones was great. The waitress who was running the outdoor area was polite, friendly and attentive. It took us a while to get glasses for the water on our table, but that was the only issue (and I’d ordered other drinks so I wasn’t desperate). All the staff I spoke to where really remorseful and concerned about the plastic I’d found and handled the situation well (short of comping my meal – but that would have made me feel guilty anyway).

Verdict: I really enjoyed my experience at Me & Mrs Jones. It’s a cool place, trendy but welcoming. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is pleasant and the food is interesting but dependable. I've been back for dinner twice since I wrote this review and it's been great - try the Brulee. Try. The. Brulee.

My only gripe about this place is the price. It's quite pricey for a "everyday meal", and I think it's quite pricey for what you get - you pay for the trendiness. I would consider this place good for people who like food and are willing to spend a few extra dollars, but might be more suited to a date night or a special occasion for most.

Rating: 4 /*****

Me & Mrs Jones on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Silo Bakery

Decided to hit up Silo Bakery in Kingston, since I was in the neighborhood and I've always wanted to try it. Every time I've tried it's been packed or closed. Today it was busy and all the tables taken, but the service was fast and we were out of there in no time.

My sister and I shared a giant slice (two in one) of the Chocolate mousse tart with apple and berries, while sitting outside in the sun.

All I have to say is: GREAT GOGGALLYMOOGALLY!!!

I can't continue to blog due to my happiness induced sugar coma. Drool.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maple + Clove

Name: Maple + Clove
Type: Café/Restaurant
Location: Hotel Realm, Barton
Meal: Breakfast
Food et: Avocado, Tomato and Basil $15

Like most Canberrans, I love me a Sunday breakfast. I’m always trying to find new places to try for breakfast, keeping my eye out for places that do more than the usual bacon and eggs, eggs benny and the standard big breakfast. When researching places for a friend and I to catch up for breakfast, I found Maple + Clove.

Maple + Clove ticked all the right Canberra breakfast boxes – nice area, interesting looking food, and it seemed just a little bit trendy. My friend, P, rang up and secured us a table for a late Sunday morning.

When we arrived we found that we were given a table outside, which I think would have been lovely – surrounded by the open and green park area, within the Hotel Realm - if it wasn’t such a miserable day! We were sat for about two minutes before the skies opened up and the umbrellas above the table could do little to protect us from the down poor. Thankfully there were a few seats left inside for us and the other poor outside schmucks, so we all shuffled inside.

Maple + Clove is decked out with a trendy, almost industrial feel. There’s cerement and dark colours in abundance. The area is open, with large doors opening out to the patio, where we had previously been sitting. Most of the cafe is taken up with tables, on the side is a breakfast bar and a place for coffees or take away (they do take away meals – including currys and tagines!!). The kitchen is up the back of the room, and it looks busy!

There were a lot of people there on this Sunday morning, which I thought was odd considering I’d never heard of the place. I suspect that their main customers are from the hotel, but also the niche clientele, that they have tapped in to with their organic approach, who make the trek to the weekend-quite part of Barton.

The menu consists of a lot of healthy alternatives and natural organic produce, some of which I had to Google. The bread is made with spelt flour, which meant Buckley’s to me until I found out that it is a healthier alternative to white flour. I even got a hypo-colour juice which had some vegetables in it. Look at me being all fancy and healthy. For once.

I ordered the Avocado, Tomato and Basil which was exactly what it says on the box, but with spelt flour sourdough and a cashew hummus.

I actually enjoyed this dish quite a lot…after I scrapped half the ingredients off. Too much tomato and (I never thought I’d actually say this), too much avocado – it was too overpowering and I got sick of the taste of both before I was even half way through the meal. Once I halved the vegies, it was a nice fresh dish and hit the spot. The cashew hummus was particularly tasty – I wish they’d had more of it! Sadly the bread wasn’t toasted enough and went quite soggy, which I’m not overly keen on.

P ordered the Wholemeal Spelt Fig + Walnut Toast, which was served with butter and a berry compote.

P confided that what was put in front of her was very different to what she was expecting. The loaf is cut in to two fat pieces and the butter and compote are put in to small jars on the side. The butter was ice cold and near impossible to spread, I’d nearly finished my dish before P had finished buttering! Po did say that she was quite let down by the berry compote, as she was expecting something a little less dense – to me it looked like it was stewed without sugar to break it down. Overall, P did like her meal, though. She said the loaf was tasty, and not as sweet or as dense as it looked.

The service at Maple + Clove was really good. They were very helpful moving us about outside to avoid the rain, and then again when we gave up and move inside. They were attentive and informative, and very friendly. Have no bad words to say.

Verdict: I think Maple +Clove is cool. It’s trying to do something different and I respect that angle. The place is well set out, in a great location, perfect for lazy guilt free breakfasts!

Maple & Clove - Burbury Hotel on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Name: Peppercress

Type Restaurant

Location: Southern Cross Club, Tuggeranong

Meal: Dinner

Food et: Slow roasted pork belly, Balinese style duck, Turkish and rose water mousse.

Let me start off by saying, my Dad is from the country. He lived there growing up, and moved back there last year. Dad’s idea of dinner out is a chicken schnitzel at the Peak Hill Bowling Club, of which he is a board member. Peak Hill is situated on the Bogan River – need I say more?

So, when Dad suggested that he wanted to go to the Southern Cross Club in Tuggeranong for his birthday dinner, I wasn’t surprised.

The Tuggeranong Southern Cross Club has a bistro downstairs, and I think that is what everyone pictures when they think of sports clubs and the like. Steak and chips, cutlets and vegies – that sort of thing. However, Peppercress is different.

We arrived on a Thursday night at 7pm, to find the restaurant, located on the top floor of the club, deserted. For the entire two hours we were there, only two other tables were filled. The waiter did say that they were busy the night before, and I hope for their sake it’s true. The space is large and elegantly decorated with lots of lush fabrics. The tables are spaced quite a distance away from each other, which is a marvellous idea for intimate dinners.

In edition to the décor not being what you expect, the food is an even bigger surprise. Modern, imaginative and so, so, different from your usual club fair of bangers and mash! Since it was Dad’s birthday, and since Dad was paying, we decided to go all out and get ridiculous amounts of wine to compliment our ridiculous amounts of food. The wine menu was a little more expensive than I would have liked, if I was paying myself. But I’m a cheap drunk. Literally. $5 for a bottle and I’m set.

The food however, is really well priced for what you get.

For entrée I got the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Chardonnay poached apple, seeded mustard vinaigrette, herb salad – minus the mustard vinaigrette, because I am allergic to vinegar.

This was awesome. Really salty and a little fatty, just how I like my pork belly. I was extremely happy with this dish. It was the perfect size, so as to not fill you up for the main. Everyone else in my family was on the same wave length and ordered the Calamari and Chorizo salad, with pan-fried haloumi, and an orange dressing. They all loved it, and my Dad, who had never tried haloumi before, is now obsessed with squeaky cheese.

For the main course I ordered the Balinese Style Duck Breast with peanut and potato hash, and orange and chilli glaze (on the side).

The dish was good, but not amazing. I feel like there could have been, should have been, more flavour. The duck was cooked perfectly and had a light coating, but there was a bit too much fat for my liking. The potato and peanut hash was awesome and tasted fantastic with the orange and chilli glaze drizzled over it. All in all I enjoyed it, but felt it was missing something.

My brother, A, and his boyfriend, C, both got the Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu and Ricotta, which consisted of thick ribbon pasta, tossed with lamb ragu, Sicilian olives, fresh mint and ricotta cheese. I tried it, and it was deliciously rich and smooth and the olives gave it a salt hit that was just fantastic. The mint was great edition too, giving the dish a fresh taste. I preferred this over my own dish, actually.

My sister K, got the Couscous Strudel, which was a filo pasty parcel filled with couscous (obviously), chick peas, fetta, bell peppers and eggplant. This was a great dish, lots of flavour and character - and it’s a good vegetarian alternative to the usual ‘pasty’ type meal.

Dad got the Moroccan Lamb Rump, which was slow cooked and served with rosemary rosti, madeira jus and some vegetables. They call this one the ‘house specialty’ and I can see why. This was a perfect dish. The lamb was cooked to perfection, tender and coated in a mild spice that really complimented the flavours of the meat. One thing I would add, is some kind of yoghurt mint/cucumber sauce, as I always feel that goes well with spiced lamb.

For dessert, I couldn’t go past the Turkish and Rose Water flavoured mousse, which came with Persian floss and strawberries.

This was phenomenal. The mousse was creamy and smooth, the flavours really shining through but not over powering. The floss was a fun edition and was oh so pretty and tasty.

A got the house speciality of Soft centred warm Chocolate Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream rolled in crushed pistachio. The pudding was rich and chocolaty, a bit much for myself but my brother liked it. The stand out of the dish, though, was the ice cream. The crushed pistachio casing really gave a new dimension to the ice cream and just really worked.

K ordered the Apple and Rhubarb crumble, served with vanilla bean ice cream. This was a pretty standard, but tasty, crumble. The topping, which I always fail tremendously when I try to make myself, was crunchy and sweet. The filling was sweet without being sickly – it all came together for a hearty, soul cheering dessert.

The service at Peppercress was top notch, more what you would expect from some of Canberra’s fine dining institutions, than ‘the club’. We were shown to our table by a really nice waiter, who stayed with us most of the night and was just brilliant. Dad had been drinking and the waiter handled him perfectly, giving as good as he got – I think Dad thought they were best mates by the end of the night. And I think the waiter was glad to be entertained on a quiet night.

Verdict: It makes me sad that this place was deserted. It was brilliant. As soon as I left I said that I would write this blog post in the hope of boosting their attendance, because they deserve it. And Tuggeranong deserves a fine dining option, damn it!. Take your partner here on a date, go there with a group of friends, or take the whole family for a special celebration. Just do it!

Peppercress Restaurant And Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 25, 2013

Halal Pide House

Name: Halal Pide House
Type: Café, take-away
Location: Yarralumla Shops
Meal: Take-away lunch
Food et: Lamb kebab

My flatmate used to travel from Tuggeranong to Yarralumla to get a kebab from the Halal Pide House. Now, that probably doesn’t sound very far, but when you consider that there are at least 9 places in between Tuggeranong and Yarralumla where he could have gotten a kebab – it means that he travelled the 20 minutes by choice.

But, he’s not the only one. I’ve heard many a tales about the fabled “Yarralumla shops kebab”, about how it’s the best kebab in Canberra and nothing comes close. “But it is twenty minutes away, and there’s an Ali Baba at Erindale”, I would say. Oh for shame. Now I see the light.

I finished work at lunch time on a Saturday and had some time to kill, so I decided to make the trek over to Yarralumla shops to get this mystical kebab, to see what all the fuss was about. I drove up to the shops and found a park on the other side of the shops, near Bees & Co. I was a little confused because the whole place seemed deserted, but there were so many cars parked down side streets and around the back.

Seems everyone in Yarralumla was at the Halal Pide House.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the café/take-away is about four times the size of what I’d envisioned. There is ample seating, both inside and out, and the main area and counter is cleared for take-away orders. You can order at the counter and take a seat, which a lot of people seemed to be doing. It has a café atmosphere, with a Turkish twist. They serve all the usual Turkish fare including entrees (borek, falafel etc), bread and dips, Sis Kebab (and Tavuk and other spiced meats) and, as the name would suggest, Pides.

I wandered in and was greeted merrily by one of the many men behind the counter. I ordered a lamb kebab with hummus, tabouli, lettuce and tomato. One guy behind the counter does the salads, passes it on to a guy to do the meat and then the final sauce (garlic yoghurt for me) and next thing you know I’m paying and walking out the door. It costs only $9.50, takes 30 seconds to make and is the biggest kebab I’ve ever seen.

Service is great, the guys behind the counter are all lovely – I think I got more “loves” and “darlings” than any of my ex-boyfriends ever bestowed upon me, and all in the two minutes I was there.

I got home and tucked in to the kebab.

The bread is fresh and soft - made on site, I would think. It is divine. The meat is tender with a mild spice, putting the dry oily stuff at Ali Baba to shame.

The hummus is really good, and the garlic yoghurt is a great addition – it’s a much better idea than the usual garlic mayo, which doesn’t have the same authentic taste. And because they put the yoghurt on AFTER the meat, it covers the meat nicely.

My dog sat at my feet and watched, with hope, for some meat to fall out. To be honest there was so much meat, that I did end up giving him a bit. I actually only got about 2/3rds through the kebab, before I opened it up, took out the insides and just ate the bread. Seriously, that bread.

Verdict: I’ve been to Turkey twice, and this is the best kebab I’ve ever had (to be fair, kebabs in Turkey are nothing like they are over here). I will be making the trek whenever I get a kebab hankering, for sure.

Rating: 5/5 kebabs!

Yarralumla Turkish Halal Pide House on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 22, 2013


Name: Cream Café and Bar
Type: Restaurant, café, bar
Location: Civic
Meal: Before-hours dinner
Food et: Calamari (tapas) and steak sandwich

My brother (A) and I decided to hit up Cream for a quick bite to eat before an early movie session. Seriously, who starts a movie at 6pm – that’s too early for dinner, and then it’s too late for dinner afterwards (or if you’re like me, you’ve eaten every piece of popcorn in the vicinity and are too full for dinner).

There doesn’t seem to be many quick pre-dinner dinner options around the area, Babars is open with a limited menu (pizza) and Kingsley’s Steakhouse is not the kind of place you go to scoff a meal down. Usually Sammy’s or Wagamama’s would have sufficed, but we’d both OD’d on Asian food in recent times and wanted to try something tasty, but a bit more laid back.

Cream is nestled on the corner of Bunda and Genge streets, pretty much directly under the Dendy wing of the Canberra Centre. The café is modern in it’s lay out, with bar like benches and stools mixed in with the more traditional café setting. There is a coffee bar in the middle, underneath a beautiful feature light. The space is bright and trendy, but not too pompous.

Cream does good coffee and drinks, but I am partial to their cold drinks – specifically their fruit frappes. Tonight I decided on the “Passion Paradise” which is a blend of lychees, pineapple, passion fruit and lychee juice. I liked it, it’s really cold and refreshing, but it was a little sweet for my usual tastes.

Cream does a limited menu before 6pm, consisting of tapas and burgers. I’ve previously come here before an early movie, and a friend and I had shared the tapas tasting plate – something I highly recommend – but tonight A and I decided to get the burgers.

I ordered the steak sandwich, which has a tender sirloin, lettuce, tomato, free range egg, aioli, caramelised onions and is served with shoestring fries – however I opted to omit the egg. Seriously, Australia …

I used the word ‘tasty’ a lot when we were there and I’ll continue that trend in this post – this sandwich is tasty! The steak was tender and not too tough, which you see a lot on steak based burger/sandwiches. The onion was caramelised well, nice and soft, and had a nice flavour. The salad was crisp and plentiful – I hate it when you get one piece of lettuce! The bread holding the whole thing together was toasted Turkish bread that was fresh and hot, soaking up the juices from the flavoursome insides.

Shoe string fries are my very most favourite type of fries, so I was pretty much in chippy heaven! They were done perfectly - crispy, but not burnt, and with the perfect amount of saltiness. One thing my brother did suggest, and I agree, is that the chips be served with an aioli or some kind of dipping sauce – there are a whole lot of chips on that plate, and eating them plain can get a bit tiresome.

A ordered the Chicken Burger which has a free range breast with lettuce, tomato, bacon, pineapple relish, paprika aioli and is also served with shoestring fries.

A was really happy with his burger, and said “there was the right amount of sauces on the burger and it wasn’t too sloppy”.

We decided to get the calamari as a side, because when I’d had it in on the tasting plate previously, it stayed with me and I wanted to try it again. The calamari is dusted in spices and served with a mango lime relish.

The calamari was well cooked (not too rubbery) and the spices really gave it another dimension. The mango lime relish is a fantastic accompaniment to the dish, and is tangy and sweet. It can be quite strong, so don’t dunk your whole calamari piece in it. I think it would have worked better as an aioli than a relish/chutney.

The service at Cream is good, but not great. The staff are young and always seem to be busy, but after they seat you and take your order, that’s the last you’ll see of them - you pay at a counter and you’re on your way. The food was served quickly and, in fact, our entire meal took a total of 30 minutes from sitting down to walking out the door. Perfect for the pre-movie rush!

Verdict: I was really happy with our visit to Cream, the food was tasty and fresh, the menu was hip and inventive, and the place has a trendy, but welcoming atmosphere. I’ve heard some people call Cream “pretentious”, but I’ve never encountered an ounce of that. Hell, I was wearing thongs and I felt at home!

Rating: 3/*****

Cream on Urbanspoon