Sunday, 22 June 2014

Review: Jones the Grocer, High Tea Masterclass, Westfield Sydney

As part of winning the Lime&Tonic Mother's Day competition, I had the pleasure of attending a high tea masterclass at Jones the Grocer. Located on level 5 of Westfield Sydney, this gourmet food-store/cafe holds regular masterclasses, ranging from interactive hands-on cooking workshops, to technical demonstrations run by the Executive chef. They even hold kiddie cooking classes - how cute would that be!! All classes end on a high, where you get to eat all the food made during the session!! Here's a link to their schedule of classes:

Our jam-packed 2-hour lesson began with glasses of champagne, receiving our recipe booklets and donning our Jones the Grocer aprons. Working in pairs, we:

• made chocolate brownies and potato scones from scratch (ingredients were supplied pre-measured, just like on a TV cooking show).

• kneaded proved dough into baguettes. 

• piped passionfruit chocolate and caramel ganache onto macaron and sweet pastry shells. Trade secret: to get the perfect caramel ganache, boil a whole unopened can of condensed milk in a pot of water for 6 hours then open the can and voila. Sprinkle black salt onto the caramel after piping to bring out the sweetness - it has a touch of smokiness and is milder than regular white salt, so the saltiness isn't overpowering.

• made open canapé sandwiches with pre-made fillings - cucumber, egg and mayo, ham and mustard, smoked salmon, chicken and raisin. Delicious!!

We were then free to fill up the 3-tier stands with our creations as well as profiteroles, opera cake, caramel cheesecake and chocolate raspberry slice made by the chefs, to enjoy with cups of tea in the dining room. 

A great afternoon!! I hadn't had this much fun since Year 11 Food Tech. The perfect event for mother-daughter bonding, hens' groups, couples or first dates!!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: Chiswick, Woollahra

Matt Moran's Chiswick Restaurant is ah-mazing!! And I am kicking myself that I have only just dined there - almost two years after it first opened. Many celebrities have been spotted at Chiswick and the prospect of bumping into into one, in particular Miranda Kerr, only added to the excitement of our food adventure. Unfortunately, there was no celebrity spotting for us, or maybe we were too distracted by the delicious food. Being in a Master Chef's restaurant, Chiswick has the class of fine dining but with the shared-style menu, mismatched chairs and friendly waiters, it had all the warmth of home cooking. No pretentious under-sized over-priced meals here, so no need for drive through Maccas on the way home ;-p. It's not just the food that is aesthetically pleasing either. White French doors looking out onto manicured hedges - it's my dream home!!

We arrived right on 12pm, opening time and were greeted by not one, but five smiling faces. Our reservation required us to vacate by 2pm, but the place was running like a well-oiled machine, I had no doubt of our ability to meet this deadline.

Being Chiswick's signature dish, with produce sourced directly from the Moran family farm and the fact that it was Australia Day, we couldn't go passed the wood roasted Moran family lamb, which is brined and then slow cooked for four hours in a wood-fire oven. Since this dish comes with chickpeas and is designed to feed 3-4 people, we decided to skip entrees and just go for sides of hand cut chips with lemon thyme aioli and steamed greens with lemon and olive oil. I have got to say, the lamb exceeded all expectations. I don't think I can ever eat lamb again unless I go back to Chiswick. Although the dish comes with a carving knife, a knife is not required at all. The meat is so tender, it just falls off the bone. I was so glad that Mr MA was my plus one on this occasion, because if I'd gone with anyone else, I would've embarrassed myself by asking for a doggy bag. With Mr MA there, we managed to polish off every single morsel of food - even the waiter congratulated us on our efforts. I noticed a table over from us, two ladies ordering the lamb and they raised the white flag quite early, not even finishing half the lamb. I could have cried at the wasted food.

For dessert, we had to order the mango passionfruit pavlova for Australia Day and the Chiswick signature hazelnut rocher, which was a mousse-like dessert with a crunchy praline base topped with hazelnuts served with a quenelle of ice cream. It tasted exactly like a Ferrero Rocher!! Both desserts were light, sweet, but balanced enough that I could've just kept eating them forever. I was so sad when the meal ended, because everything was perfect, I couldn't fault any of it. I cannot wait to go back!!

Chiswick Restaurant
65 Ocean Road
Woollahra NSW 2025

Book online:

Disclaimer: All information correct as at date of dining. All items were paid for by the reviewer and Chiswick wasn't aware that this review was going to be written.

Chiswick on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: Oliver Brown, Cherrybrook

Sorry, Max, there's a new chocolate man in town and his name is Oliver, who I would describe as being more sophisticated and refined. We dropped by for afternoon tea and ordered:
  • An affogato with hazelnut gelato. One of the best flavour combinations ever!! From memory, Max Brenner only had chocolate or vanilla ice-cream, so to see hazelnut gelato being offered was a nice surprise. This came with little chocolate drops on the teaspoon - 1 white, 1 milk and 1 dark.
  • A fondue for two, which came with 1 pot of milk chocolate, 1 pot of dark chocolate, marshmallows, strawberries, banana, banana bread and bread sticks. They also came with funky eating utensils that had a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. Looking at the quantity of food, compared to Max Brenner, this was probably a fondue for 1, but the quality of ingredients was better than Max.
  • Churros for 1 with milk chocolate. These are cooked to order, so came a bit a bit later than the rest of our order. Dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, I found the churros a bit doughy and light (in texture and flavour) compared to San Churros, so wasn't a big fan.

Oliver Brown

Disclaimer: All information correct as at date of dining. All items were paid for by the reviewer and Oliver Brown wasn't aware that this review was going to be written.

High Tea Review: Wild Pear Cafe, Dural


Oh I am wild about Wild Pear Cafe!! This cafe has been on my hit-list for quite a while now and I was not disappointed. A mum from mothers group posted a picture of her yummy dessert on FB and I knew I had to try it out for myself. We stopped by on Melbourne Cup morning and the waitresses had fascinators on, ready for the festivities to begin. I was hoping to order the high tea, but as it was a last-minute outing (high tea requires 24 hours notice), we had brunch instead. 

As soon as I looked at the menu, I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore. Not just your average big breakfasts here - just fresh local gourmet food. With items such as baked spanish eggs, I had no idea what to order because everything sounded delicious.

We ended up choosing:
* Bacon and avocado on toasted sourdough bread with ricotta, grilled tomato, drizzled with caramelised balsamic vinegar and a side of chilli jam. Oh heaven!! Hint: They also sell jars of the chilli jam, so don't go home without one!!
* Hash brown, less McDonald's hash brown and more fancy potato rosti.
* Scones with homemade strawberry jam and fresh thick cream.
* Kid's chocolate milkshake, which was served in a funky vintage milk bottle.
* Iced chocolate, which includes a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

High Tea:

I couldn't choose whether I wanted a coffee or tea and was delighted when the lovely waitress, Angela, said that I could have both and that tea was unlimited!!  I had to double-check to make sure that I heard her correctly!! Some places charge extra if you want a coffee instead of tea and most certainly wouldn't let you have both, so this was a great start!! My husband pushed his luck by asking if he could get an iced chocolate instead of any tea/coffee and the waitress happily obliged. Yes, I might as well have brought my 3yo with me :-). Just kidding!! I'm actually glad he came along because, ladies, you'll need to bring your husbands with you to finish off any leftovers. Although this high tea was designed for 2, it could probably have fed 4 ladies. You will not go home hungry!!

Sandwiches: When I made the booking, I asked what type of sandwiches they had on offer. The waitress said that I could pre-select two from the following: chicken, smoked salmon and falafel. I went with chicken and smoked salmon. 

When the three tier stand came out, I was gobsmacked when I saw how big the sandwiches were!! Forget about finger sandwiches, these are two-whole-hands sandwiches, because that's what you'll need to hold them. The first was filled with chicken, avocado, parmesan, rocket and aioli. The second was filled with smoked salmon, onion, cucumber, capers and ricotta. All sandwiches were served on sourdough bread. Omg, these sandwiches were good!! I know that by eating all of my share of the sandwiches, there was a chance I'd peak too early and not be able to finish off the scones/desserts, but it was worth every last bite!!

Scones: We got two kinds of scones - plain; and date and orange scones. Again, the first thing I noticed was that these scones were massive!! They came served with homemade strawberry jam (I could still see the vanilla pods in the jam) and fresh thick cream. The scones were soft and pillowy; and the condiments full of flavour.

Finally, the dessert tier (desserts change on a daily basis) held:

Orange cake with blueberries and fresh cream. On appearance, this looked like a heavy cake, which I didn't want, especially after having sandwiches and scones; but this was surprisingly light and moist. I'm not usually a fan of fruit-based desserts, but I quite liked this one.

Chocolate torte with orange syrup topped with fresh strawberries. I'm guessing orange is in season because this is the third item on the menu that contained orange. The chocolate torte, although nice, probably wasn't my favourite, as I was expecting a rich chocolate ganache-like taste and texture, but this was more like pudding.

Croccantini with passionfruit. This was another dessert where the taste definitely outweighed the look. A nice way to finish off the high tea as it tasted like a mini pavlova - light and sweet.


Fri: 7am-5pm6pm-10pm

High tea is $36.90 per person.

Information as at dates of dining 5/11/2013 and 23/11/2013.

Disclaimer: All items pictured were eaten and paid for by the reviewer. Wild Pear Cafe was not aware that this review would be written.

Wildpear Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 31 October 2013

High Tea Review: Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel, Mascot

If you ever find yourself waiting for a flight at Sydney Airport and need to kill some time, why not try some high tea at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel. Or even if you're not in the area, this one is worth travelling for!!

High tea at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel was won as part of a competition through the High Tea Society website. You had to write 30 words or less why you wanted high tea at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel. Here was my winning entry:

"A stylish "stopover" while we wait;
Before heading to the boarding gate.
A decadent afternoon us ladies deserve.
So please Stamford Plaza, kindly reserve:
Five seats for scones and preserve."

High tea is served in the elegant lobby bar, which is spacious enough to fit prams alongside tables, if need be.

They serve two menus of high tea, served with a choice of Dilmah tea or coffee:

• Traditional English afternoon tea $28
• Traditional English afternoon tea deluxe $36

What's the main difference between the two? The deluxe menu had twice as many sandwiches (6 vs. 3) and an extra dessert. Suffering from FOMO, I was delighted to hear that we would be getting the deluxe menu.

This high tea experience is up there as one of my favourites. Yes, that entire tower of food is for one person.

They have a yummy range of sandwiches (a whopping 6 different fillings per person). Normally the plain Jane of high tea sandwiches, the egg sandwich was a crowd pleaser and stand-out of the bunch. For the high tea purist in me, I did notice that some crust was left on the sandwiches. However, the pregnant lady in me (at the time) was silently cheering for extra food. 

Two types of scones per person - plain and raisin, accompanied by strawberry preserve and clotted cream. Yes, clotted cream (as opposed to whipped cream from a can) - big tick!!

Lastly, a sophisticated selection of delectable desserts. You can tell that these little morsels were not store-bought and have been made in-house with love. In order of sweetness:
• Strawberry bavarois. A cream-based dessert that I would describe as being heavier than a mousse or pannacotta but lighter than a cheesecake; topped with a strawberry jelly.
• Creme brûlée. Creamy and melt-in-your-mouth with the compulsory crispy shell.
• Ginger chocolate mousse. This was probably more of a cake with cream than a mousse. I wasn't a big fan - I think it's because I associate ginger with Asian savoury dishes rather than desserts. Everyone else at the table seemed to like it though.
• Lemon meringue tart. I love a good lemon meringue tart and this was a good one!! Enough lemon flavour, but not too sweet and not too tart.

Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel
Cnr O'Riordan & Robey Streets
Mascot 2020

Free street parking available on Robey Street (east-side of O'Riordan Street).

High tea is served Monday-Sunday, 3-6pm. Bookings essential.

Prices correct as at date of dining December 2012.

Disclaimer: This high tea was courtesy of the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Hotel via a competition on the High Tea Society website. They were not aware that this review would be written.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Review: Granata's, Pemulwuy

Granata's, the little sister of Via Leoni Five Dock, is quite the gem at Pemulwuy (near Greystanes) in Sydney's west. Not exactly in my neighbourhood (a 30-minute drive), but when I saw pictures of the pastry cabinet, I knew I had to go there.

We booked a table of 10 for Sunday brunch and I'm glad we did because there was not an empty seat in the house. There was actually a line of people out the door. 

There was a bit of a wait for the food to come out - understandable as we had such a large table and all the food came out at the same time. It was great that the cafe is right next to a little park (no play equipment but enough space for littlies to run around).

By coincidence, I think our table managed to order every item on the breakfast menu. Like Natalie Imbruglia, I was torn between the avo avo (two poached eggs, sliced avocado, rocket and feta on sourdough) and the sweet ricotta pancakes with berry compote, but went with the avo avo. Luckily my dad ordered the ricotta pancakes because he was so kind to let me have a taste. It was bittersweet, as I had a bad case of meal envy and wished I had ordered that. Not that the avo avo was bad (it was delicious), but those ricotta pancakes were to die for!!

Don't forget some takeaway on your way out!! We couldn't leave without some cannoli - one of each flavour, of course :-).

Granata's Pemulwuy
30 Watkin Tench Parade
Pemulwuy 2145

Fri: 7am-5pm6pm-10pm

Information as at date of dining 22/9/2013.

Disclaimer: All items pictured were eaten and paid for by the reviewer. Granata's was not aware that this review would be written.

Granata's on Urbanspoon

Review: Biviano's Italian Restaurant, Dural

I had the pleasure of having lunch at Biviano's Italian Restaurant at Dural (not to be confused with the one at Windsor - no connection). I was very impressed to see such an elegant restaurant without having to travel all the way into the city. We were seated at the window and had full view of the beautiful vineyard (or orchard) across the road. Not sure what they were growing, but it reminded me of the Hunter Valley. I asked the waitress and she didn't know either. The decor is quite snazzy, yet warm and welcoming, which makes it the perfect venue for a romantic date, family meal or catch up with the girls. They also have a function room (separated from the main section by glass), which seems to be very popular with christenings.

The menu is classy without bring pretentious; and the staff were friendly and attentive. However, I did notice that I was given the dinner menu instead of the lunch menu. The mains menu had a great range of options that would cater for even the pickiest eaters: meat, poultry, fish, pasta, risotto and pizza. There were some terms on the menu that did require us to use google, but if you don't have your smartphone with you, the staff are more than happy to decipher it for you. The menu is not complicated, it was more of a check, just in case, eg. Panko crumbed chicken schnitzel. You're pretty sure that you're going to get a chicken schnitzel, but we wanted to check what Panko was - it's a Japanese-style breadcrumb made from crustless bread, yielding a crisper airier coating (thank you Wikipedia). Oh how uncultured of me not to know this :-p. They also have a kids menu and I did see some families with young children being well accommodated for.

Between Mr MA and I, we had:

• Double cooked pork belly with fennel puree and celeriac salad. So tender and just melted in your mouth.
• Scallops with cauliflower purée, florets and crispy pancetta. Although at high risk of being rubbery, the scallops were cooked perfectly.
• Rib eye fillet with Café de Paris butter served with potato purée. A delicious piece of juicy steak.
• Panko crumbed chicken schnitzel with chips. 
• Belgian Chocolate Mousse. A nice, refreshing dessert topped with what seemed to be whipped cream from a can.
• Selection of Gelato. We selected 3 flavours - pistachio, strawberry and mango.

The food was beautifully cooked and I tried so hard to eat slowly so that I could devour every mouthful. The entrees and mains were decent serving sizes, so we went light on the desserts. I'll definitely be coming back to Biviano's and I can't wait to try the high tea!!

Biviano's Italian Restaurant

Breakfast: Wed - Sun 
Lunch & Dinner: 7 days

Information as at date of dining 6/10/2013.

Disclaimer: All items pictured were eaten and paid for by the reviewer. Biviano's was not aware that this review would be written.

Biviano's Dural on Urbanspoon