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I partake in High Tea because I’m a Lady! June 30, 2009

Filed under: Food,Food review — Dobsessed @ 5:41 pm
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I decided to be a lady last Saturday and went and had high tea at Tea and Niceties with one of my girlfriends.  This isn’t the first time I’ve ventured into the world of civility, I’m actually quite fond of high teas.  It’s even got me writing like some stuffy, old lady!  The two places I’ve previously been to are High Societea (nice play on words but nothing else) and Joseph Alexanders.

High Societea

High Societea in Clayfield is totally overrated and I would NOT recommend that anyone go there.  I’ve given them two chances and both times I’ve gone, the staff has been rude, abrupt and they are very stingy with their offerings.

The first time I went there, we were a group of 6.  I had my gluten free option and there were 5 normal ones.  I was extremely disappointed with mine, I had to pay the same as a Royal Ascot High Tea ($45), but theirs included Pimms, mine didn’t. I got a few – $1 a packet – rice crackers and a few leaves of salad, no real attempt at any savoury offerings other than a wedge of cheese and some smoked salmon.  The sweets weren’t memorable either.  There were 5 regular high teas and two tiers came and the tier for two people had four cakes and the tier for three people also had four! So my friends ended up having to cut up pastries so that each could have some!  EACH of them paid $45! Totally unacceptable in my opinion.

When we asked for our teas (this is thirty minutes after the tiers have arrived), we were met with, “Oh, do you want your tea now?” as if you don’t have tea with your sandwiches!  The second time I went, they forgot our Pimms despite us asking for it – twice, and at the end of the meal, we suggested they give us a discount as they never ended up delivering the Pimms, we were told that that wasn’t possible!  I guess the food weren’t bad, but let’s not kid ourselves, the food weren’t great either – certainly not good enough to justify the bad service and standards, which left a really sour taste in my mouth.

Joseph Alexanders

Joseph Alexanders were pretty good, I’ve been there a few times, and they do a great high tea, I get sandwiches each time and because I don’t get as many pastries, I always get a mini serve of their very tasty crème brulee.  All the sweet offerings are fine dining restaurant quality too. The service is impeccable, and you usually get a good seat that looks out onto the river.  The setting isn’t pink, floral or pretty, but the food, the bottomless pots of tea (I change my tea selection each time – they have a good range) more than makes up for it.

Tea and Niceties

Anyways, I digress, last Saturday, my friend and I made the drive to Mt Tamborine to Tea and Niceties.  The outside was completely unremarkable but the inside is extremely pink and pretty with plaster – real looking – roses everywhere.  The table is set with flowers, white table cloths, pink napkins, floral dishes and silverware.  Water glasses have their own rose petal and a sliver of orange, sugar cubes were topped with sugared flowers, even the sugar in the sugar bowls were pink!

The service was homely and friendly and we were seated and served quickly.  My friend ordered the elegant high tea with vanilla black tea, and me the gluten free option with Sydney special tea which is a combination of different types of teas and flowers (both $35).  The gluten free option was very similar to the elegant high tea, I didn’t get some of the savoury items that my friend had, but I got instead, an extra savoury muffin.  The number of food items were definitely the most generous compared to any other high tea places I’ve been to – there must’ve been at least 15 – 17 pieces of food items each.

The savouries were delicious; sandwich fillings of Salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, ham and pickles, curried egg and chicken and celery.  I got gluten free scones which looked like mini cauliflower heads – very cute with fresh cream and jam, a very special treat because I never usually get scones.  The scones were delicious, but I did notice it did seem to coat my mouth a bit, like corn flour would.  The sweets had a very homemade quality, not quite as high a standard as I would expect and were all very sweet, not overly imaginative, the mini pana cotta tasted like jellied sweetened condensed milk.

The ladies (owners) were welcoming and attentive, together with the pink décor (definitely one for ladies) made for a lovely, civilised outing.  Was it worth the drive? Let’s just say the drive back was hard given that I was in a sugar-induced coma.

Tea and Niceties | Shop 1, 21 Southport Ave, Eagle Heights, Mt Tamborine | 07 5545 3645 | Bookings essential

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Salon – OK, Rained out on Friday night June 27, 2009

Filed under: Food,Food review — Dobsessed @ 10:12 am
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I’d hazard a guess  that opening a restaurant, cafe, bistro, bar etc would be difficult in New Farm.  Prime location, but how do you predict what people want in an area that is close to the city – easily accessible to night life meccas including the Valley and West End. Do you…open a bar and hope that people drop by for a drink or three before they head out? Or perhaps a restaurant for people to dine before calling it a night, or a cafe so people can drop by for some coffee? Or maybe the plan is to be a potentially prime breakfast venue? To me, it seems like Salon is having an identity crisis in an attempt to achieve all of the above.

Salon – European Dining is a little restaurant with a few tables inside and some covered outdoor seating outside (with gas heaters) has a breakfast menu (I’ve yet to try this), their summer menu which features tapas/entrees, mains, desserts, offers their venue for functions and even does a degustation, their cocktail list is impressive too (but they couldn’t make my friend’s request of Pina Colada – Fail).

The restaurant had a pretty good atmosphere, the music was loud enough to be noticeable not too loud that you had to raise your voice in conversation.  Banquette seating lined one wall – wallpapered in textured red flock, with sheer white curtain separating each table.  It was sort of nice as it made it feel like we were secluded, but it also obstructed my view to the rest of the restaurant and bar.  Ceiling to floor shelving lined the opposite wall as part of the bar. I especially liked the red glow of candles in the shelving and the ladder that they had propped up on the side.  The overall colour scheme was red, and I felt like it had a bit of a ‘study’ feel with their low tables and leather seating.

The menu had only about 4 or 5 mains with about twice as many tapas/entrees.  The meals were really reasonably priced with their tapas ranging from about $10 – $15 and their mains, no more than $19.50.  To start I ordered king prawns cooked with garlic butter and chilli with a herb salad (they should’ve put petit herb salad because there were barely 5 tiny leaves on my plate), my friends ordered zucchini fries with lemon aioli and crumbed brie with pears.

Salon tapas

My prawns were cooked well, but as it sat in its own buttery broth, I wondered how one would share it?  I wasn’t overly excited by my dish, instead of the taste sensation I expected, all I got was spice – which I usually like.  The garlic was raw – not very palatable and none of the aromas came through, it wasn’t bad…it was OK (personally, I would be really upset if my cooking was described as only OK).  The Zucchini fries weren’t really fries, they looked crispy and golden but they were all soft and soggy…it tasted nice though, but would serve better…in a vegetable stack or something.  The brie was…it was brie (you can’t really hurt a fried brie could you?).

When we were done, the waitress (who must’ve been having one of those nights) collected all our plates, including our napkins and dropped us our menus.  We were all left thinking…um, what about our mains?  We had to tell her this when she asked us if we wanted dessert.  The mains arrived quickly (probably because it wasn’t very busy – the restaurant didn’t have a ‘bustling’ vibe) I ordered a petit eye fillet with sweet potato mash and caramelised onion with red wine jus, my friend ordered mushroom risotto.  The meal portions were all pretty small, my friend’s risotto look like the size of a tennis ball, or maybe a cricket ball.  She thought it was pretty nice, the rice wasn’t mushy and still had a bit of a bite. Can’t say I was terribly enthused by the taste – wasn’t bad…it was…OK.  My steak was cooked perfectly – medium rare, as I requested, so it was soft and tender, I did have to struggle through it as…the restaurant didn’t have steak knives.  Seemed odd to me, but maybe that’s how Europeans do it?  The sauce was unremarkable, the sweet potato was sweet but was pureed to an absolute pulp so I felt like I was eating baby food, the caramelised onion was…OK.

For dessert, (it was one of those places you could fit three courses in) I ordered creme brulee with almond biscotti (there weren’t many wheat free options), and my friend ordered churros with lindt chocolate.  Oh…the waitress put down knives and forks for our desserts before realising that a spoon would probably be more helpful.  My friend’s churros smelt great, you could really smell the cinnamon and she said it had a nice tang.  My creme brulee was probably the most basic creme brulee you could find, I couldn’t even see vanilla bean flecks.  The sugary top was nice, but I was totally bored by the custard, the almond biscotti tasted a bit stale too.

Overall, the meals were…OK.  The meals were pretty cheap, helped along by our Entertainment card.  I doubt I’d go back again (unless I  had an Entertainment card) but the restaurant would probably serve better as a bar with tapas rather than attempting to be an actual restaurant – maybe a bar is hard in that type of inner city location?  Despite all the little service quirks, the waitress was nice, didn’t have a snotty attitude and was attentive to some extent, she did, at one point, stop mid sentence and run off before returning.  The menu definitely needs to be injected with some creativity…I have to say that I found the food incredibly boring and uninspiring.  I liked the wall paper though.

Salon – European Dining | Shop 5A Cnr Florence, 110 Macquarie St, Teneriffe, Brisbane | 07 3252 3911

 

Peking Duck at Pine and Bamboo June 19, 2009

Apparently, the place to have Peking Duck in Brisbane is at Pine and Bamboo, Wynnum Road, Cannon Hill.  I’m sure most of us has been to places where ‘Peking Duck’ pancakes are on the menus, I’ve even seen Peking Duck sushi rolls (yeah, sushi rolls)…but REAL Peking duck is where the Duck is Roasted (I don’t believe it’s fried) until the skin is brown, golden and absolutely crispy.  I’ve been told and I don’t know if this is true that they actually pump air under the skin so that it lifts from meat.  The Duck is then expertly ‘carved’ (the real experts use a cleaver) so that only the skin is removed (with no white, pallid fat attached) and the crispy skin is than wrapped in a thin pancake with cucumber, spring onion (cut into batons) and ‘special’ hoisin sauce’.  Done properly, it’s absolutely delicious and worry about your arteries next week.

A few years ago, I had a 9 course Peking (Beijing) Duck banquet in, I was told, one of the most famous Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing. I think it might be Quanjude, my memories are sketchy, I remember a local selling me hamburgers writing the restaurant for me on a piece of paper and us getting there by showing a cab driver the piece of paper.  Anyways, from what I remember, it was great, one of the few places where you got great service (the waitress even teaching my friend how to ‘wrap’ the pancakes properly) and we got a certificate thing at the end saying we were the number 83,456 or something diners at that place.  Everything in the banquet contained duck, including steamed webbed feet which I didn’t like the look of, but still ate…but anyways, I digress…my point is that the Pine and Bamboo ducks were just as good as the ones from China, except our chef in China was able to cut a ridiculous number of pieces of duck skin from the duck so I remembered eating heaps of them.  Actually, I remembered that the duck in China were oily, and the ones I had at Pine and Bamboo weren’t…so it’s actually a bonus!

Along with the delicious pancakes, we also got duck San Choy Bow which are fresh lettuce cups that they’ve cut into shallow ‘bowls’ and then filled with savoury duck, ours were cooked with celery (which I usually hate) and onions.  It was tasty, not oily and the duck didn’t have congealed bits you can’t chew through – nice.  As we’re hungry, greedy folks, we also ordered salt and pepper white fish bait, steamed egg white ‘custard’ with seafood and some rice.  The salt and pepper fish bait was light and crispy, not oily and had a nice spicy bite to it.  Don’t you hate ordering salt and pepper dishes and it’s usually just a big mass of gobular batter? This wasn’t it, thankfully.  The steamed egg custard balanced the fatty dinner well as it was light, the custard was smooth yet the whole thing had some nice flavour – the sauce was probably the stock standard of oyster sauce with a bit of stock and corn flour.

We got a few weird looks when the duck was wheeled out…which I thought was really strange – Pine and Bamboo are KNOWN for their Peking duck, aren’t they?  Or maybe it’s the fact that there are many people who refuse to eat meat off the bone and seeing the head of your meat is such a no no…but in this instance, it might’ve been food envy.

The restaurant itself is a bit worn and could do with a major refurbishment, but it was bustling, busy and from what our neighbouring table ordered, you can get a range of…what I like to call, ‘fake’ Chinese dishes (Mongolian Lamb – comes predictably in a ‘sizzling plate’ – y’all know the deal) and some real Chinese dishes like whole steamed fish with ginger etc. Peking duck is definitely not an everyday dish although,  I could easily eat ten and not even realise it (kinda like Krispy Kremes).  I probably have to go to the gym for 4 hours tomorrow (I most probably won‘t) but tonight, it was well worth it…and I’m going to bed quite content.

A duck yeilding about 20 skins, two courses (including the San Choy Bow) cost about $60 – this is with extra pancakes.  Other dishes were about $18 – $30, fresh seafood POA. Desserts weren’t very exciting featuring the usual deep fried ice-creams and toffee bananas found at ‘fake’ Chinese Restaurants.

Pine and Bamboo | 968 Wynnum Rd | Cannon Hill | t   07 3399 9095

 

Breakfast at Mondo Organics

Not too far from the strip of busy, cheap eateries of Hardgrave Street, you’ll find Mondo Organics.  Quite a contrast to the bustling atmosphere of some of the Vietnamese restaurants in the area, Mondo Organics is a surprise find in its inner city location.

Mondo Organics, as the name suggests, use organic produce, free range meat and their seafood is sourced from ecological, sustainable fisheries.  They also claim to serve wild line-caught fish which gives me a great image of someone in rubber overalls fishing all day just to feed hungry city people.

I enjoy going to Mondo because it more than caters for people with wheat/gluten intolerance.  At other restaurants, I’m usually left with a choice of the mushroom risotto or one dessert  choice but at Mondo, I have lots to choose from.

The atmosphere is great, they are ‘fine dining’ with crisp white tablecloths but wihtout the poncy service from people in ankle length aprons.  They have a covered ‘outdoors’ area which is heated in winter and the restaurant continues inside where you can see glimpses of the kitchen.

They only serve breakfast on Saturdays and it was nice to be ‘allowed’ to make a booking – many restaurants don’t allow weekend breakfast bookings which can be really annoying.  I only ever want to leave the house on an empty stomach if I can be guaranteed of a substantial breakfast by 11.

For Saturday breakfast, I was tossed between the Breakfast Tart with poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, goat’s chevre (cheese) and pistou (garlic pesto oil) – a wheat free option made it a breakfast stack ($16.50) and a Cassoulet of pork fennel sausages and tomato baked beans with spelt sourdough toast ($17.50).  I ended up going for the Cassoulet because I love sausages.  My friend ordered Tea smoked trout on sautéed green leaves, lemon butter and spelt sourdough soldiers ($18).  We also ordered some crunchy potato squares with aioli ($8.50) to share.

Service was prompt and polite, water came without being asked (I think it should be a standard across all eateries…but usually, it’s just a nice surprise when it happens).  I also ordered a Green Fix juice made with apple, celery and ginger – very refreshing.  My baked bean breakfast came and I was quite disappointed as I only got a sliver of sausage (which was very flavourful) but the rest of the cassoulet was a bit bland and boring, it was tomato based and quite watery and the beans were soft but bland in flavour.  My toast was unbuttered and I really felt I had to salt everything, I was starving though, so gobbled up everything.  The crunchy potato squares (think potato cubes) had a great texture, and very crunchy on the outside  and softly textured on the inside, though also lacked in flavour and tasted better with some salt (good thing they leave dish of it on every table).  My friend’s tea smoked trout was delicious, flaked to the fork but pink and cooked to perfection (as in, not completely done in the middle), it also came with beautifully poached eggs which oozed its yolk perfectly when you cut into it.

After noon, more people start to come in, many with prams and it seems a good place for friends to catch up because it’s different to some of the other ‘trendy’ places for breakfast like Gunshop (when will they change their menus???).  Service isn’t pretentious either and the staff aren’t a bunch of suffering artists who barely crack a smile (Anouk).  There are no queues either (Little Larder) which helps.  There is nothing worse on a Sunday morning than being really hungry and watching other people eat steaming plates of eggs while they’re slowly reading their paper and thinking, HURRY UP, I WANT A TABLE!

Despite my slightly disappointing breakfast, I really want to go back to Mondo, just so I can try other stuff on their breakfast menus.  It’s definitely not just eggs Benedict and scrambled eggs which is a nice change from the norm.

 

Food Therapy June 13, 2009

Filed under: Casual Eats,Food,Food review — Dobsessed @ 9:47 am
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I have always said that I’m not one of those people who drown my sorrows in alcohol…I’m more likely to bury my sorrows in food.

Friday night was one of those nights. Not that I had a major binge or anything like that…was feeling low so my friend decided I needed to be cheered up with food. If you mention food, I’m usually easily pleased.

We went to Verve in Edward Street in Brisbane. It’s underground, and has a great atmosphere usually (although the fact that it is underground usually means that it’s very noisy and any hope of eves dropping at the next table is out of the question). The cafe/bistro (I see bistro EVERYWHERE these days – I just checked Wiki and they say, Bistro – Bistrot, its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve.  Slow-cooked foods like braised meats are typical. Bistro patrons do not necessarily expect professional service or printed menus. I guess Bistro describes Verve to some extent, small restaurant, the food isn’t expensive…not a lot of slow-cooked foods though. Pizza, pastas and some ‘plated’ meals feature on the menu.

I’ve been there numerous times, usually alternating between gnocchi, pasta or pizza and love the fact that it’s pretty casual and the food is good and the prices are really reasonable. Oh yeah, they also do gluten free pasta and pizza…important for me. I was quite disappointed last night because the WHOLE point of it was to cheer me up!! My friend and I shared beer battered chips drizzled with balsamic syrup served with aioli (teeny portion) and tomato chutney thing. It was good…then the pizza came. I’d ordered a chicken and caramelised onion pizza on gluten free base. I’ve had it before, and usually it’s good.

Gluten free pizzas are hit and miss…but that should be another blog another day.

Anyways, the pizza arrived but not overly hot. You know when the cheese still has that crumbly texture rather than meltiness and the chicken was still a bit hard. So I asked the sullen, ‘I’m such an artist, too cool to smile’ scarf wearing waitress to heat it (as in – run it through the oven again) and it came back hot, chees oozing and melting, base…SOGGY.

WHY WOULD YOU MICROWAVE IT???? So disappointed that I left half of the pizza uneaten! (My friend was shocked….so was I to be honest).

Anyways…so it didn’t go quite as I intended…so now I’m about to tuck into some tried and tested food therapy remedies. Quick, surefire and totally delicious for the 80cents per pack. Mi Goreng – with fried egg. I’m likely to go to bed with a serious stomach ache and wake up with rashes on my face, hands and feet…but at least I know it won’t be soggy. I feel better just thinking about it.