Friday, 18 April 2014

First look @ Local Press Cafe

I've been keeping an eye out on Local Press Cafe at the Kingston Foreshore ever since I spotted its sign back in January. The sign immediately conveyed a natural and raw vibe.
It finally opened its doors last weekend but I didn't get a chance to try it out until today. Excited that something was open on Easter Friday, I headed there with some friends after a lovely bike ride around the lake. The original sign seems to be gone and replaced with another version.
It's good to see another cafe in Canberra focusing on a healthy diet with wholefoods.
This is another hipster looking cafe and I was right about the 'raw' vibe with raw features such as exposed brickwork, unfinished paint on the walls, exposed beams along the top, and light bulbs intertwined with ropes and pulleys hanging down. A long communal bench lies in the middle of the cafe with tables on either side of it. An eclectic mix of mismatched wooden furniture - benches, tables and stools, ties everything in.
Platters filled with fruit are placed on the long communal bench. I'm assuming these can be taken by diners (they are just sitting there out in the open). I'm betting the cafe uses them in its cooking too. The platters of fruit gives me a homey feel - like a family dining table setting.
The wooden sailboat is one of the first things I noticed when walking in. Along with an old Singer sewing machine which must be trending since I noticed these are also used as decor at Farmers Daughter in Canberra Centre.
I love the feminine touch with cushions placed on benches along the wall and on seats outdoors.
The front counter is tiled and there are small crates of fresh fruit and vegetables stacked underneath. There's a partial open kitchen where you can peep in and watch people chopping and cooking.
We picked up one of several signs from the long communal table with 'Table Taken' written on it to reserve our table before ordering. Cute.
A waiter told us that lunch works differently at Local Press. It's basically 'Subway' style where you queue up, pick what food you want from the counter which is placed on a plate and then you pay for the meal. The 'menu' is written up on the glass panel which I found a little hard to read with the light reflecting off of it. Most items were $7.50. I counted 5 items we could choose from - makes it easy if you can never decide on what to eat. A sweets menu is also written up on the glass panel, stating sweets are from A. Baker and Sweet Bones Bakery. Items include muffins, brownies, croissants, hot cross buns and banana bread.
I chose the smoked salmon with capers, dill and red onion ($7.50) which was served on a slice of wholegrain bread. You can't go wrong with this combination and I really enjoyed the bread. But I thought $7.50 for just one slice was a little steep. I also had the roast pumpkin with toasted seeds, spiced yoghurt and a balsamic pomegranate reduction ($7.50). I couldn't taste any spice to the yoghurt, however, I did like the contrast in textures of the crunchy toasted seeds and soft roasted pumpkin. The pumpkin was slightly caramelised on the edges too. Again, I thought this was expensive for just one slice of pumpkin. The apple and radish slaw with pomegranate, fennel and wombok ($7.50) was fresh and delicious. I love apples in salads! They give a beautiful and healthy sweetness as well as some crunch. I just wish I'd been given a larger serving than what I got.
I had to try one of Local Press' cold pressed juices. The juice of the day was kale, spinach, mint, celery, coconut and apple juice. Small juices are $7 and large juices $10. These come in Local Press' personally branded glass bottles. Very cute and it tasted like apple juice.

My partner had the roast pumpkin, as well as the broccoli, cranberry, lentil and almond salad ($7.50). He enjoyed this but was also not impressed with the price.
A friend had the beef burger with tomatoes and spinach ($12). This was a small snack size version (not a full burger). The beef looked pink and fantastic. 
Another friend arrived a little later when the cafe had run out of the roasted pumpkin. Another salad had been put together consisting of beetroot, pumpkin, cucumber, eggplant and tomatoes.
 Food porn of some items from the sweets menu
Croissant ($6.50)

Brownie ($6.50)
Outdoors, there are timber planter crates filled with plants on either side of the outdoor area. I'm assuming these are fruit and vegetable plants but didn't have a chance to look closely. I do love the complete clash in furniture and brightly coloured seat cushions. It just works.
I noticed the cafe had provided a small water bowl for the numerous dogs that walk by. How thoughtful :)
Is it just me or are several cafes/restaurants in Canberra designing fit outs to include exposed brickwork, raw timber and a rustic look? They're popping up everywhere. Nevertheless, I like it. Local Press Cafe has a great casual vibe and I love how they've tried to make the cafe cosy, as if you are entering someone's home. The cushions to make diners more comfortable, fruit on the table for anyone to grab, and a water bowl for dogs are all very thoughtful ideas. I found staff are friendly and attentive. It didn't take long for coffees to come out either. Everyone at the table were pleased with their meals. I honestly couldn't fault anything that I ate. The only downside to lunch is the price. $7.50 for a small serving of each item is pretty expensive. My whole plate cost $22.50. Including my juice, the total cost was $29.50 and I wasn't full. I think I'd prefer to go elsewhere for lunch. In saying that, I'm still eager to try breakfast/brunch here.
the view of the lake
So overall, awesome fit out and personal touches, great atmosphere, healthy and tasty food, and good service. It's just a little expensive for the portions you are served.

Check out their Facebook for updates.

Foodgasm 7/10

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lunch @ Gozleme Cafe

After raving about my first time breakfasting at Gozleme Cafe to work mates a couple of weeks ago, we organised to have lunch there one weekday. A selection of gozleme and borek were ordered to share between the four of us. Forks and knives were provided by the wait staff, however no plates were given, so we weren't sure how to proceed with eating. Hands it is! All gozleme are served on thin wooden chopping boards. The mince meat gozleme ($8) was served still steaming. Filled with a thin scattering of herbed beef mince, onion, parsley, pepper and sprinkled with lemon juice, this was a great start to lunch. The gozleme skin is so soft to bite in to. I would have preferred some more mince in my greediness, but the flavours were all there.
The chicken gourmet gozleme ($8) is filled with free range roasted chicken, red roasted capsicum, mushrooms, Kalamata olives and mozzarella. I usually avoid olives (I'm the type that picks them off my pizza) but this ended up being my favourite gozleme of the day. All ingredients are finely chopped and there was just a brilliant blend of all ingredients. I must admit that the olives provided a nice tanginess too.
Next was the cheese and spinach gozleme ($8) which was a close second favourite. Fresh warm fetta that had melted and mixed into the spinach. I find squeezing lemon juice on top makes this taste even better. A classic combination and fresh ingredients made this a winning meal.
The chilli baked potato borek ($5) was next which I had as a take away item the previous time I was here. It has a spicy kick to it but I had a glass of water at the ready.
We also ordered the cheese and spinach borek ($5) but it didn't taste as nice as the gozleme. Perhaps because it wasn't as finely chopped or as soft as the gozleme. I found it was a little dry too.
Turkish apple tea ($2.50) was ordered by all and came served on a beautiful silver tray that our waitress held while placing down our individual tea cups. This was an extremely sweet Turkish apple tea - much sweeter than how I make it. There must have been a lot of sugar/tisane in the small cup. I poured a little more water from my glass into it to thin out the tea's sweetness. I do love Turkish apple tea.
What I'd been looking forward to the most was the chocolate gozleme ($8). This looked so appetising with melted chocolate piped on top. It's filled with finely crushed walnuts and more melted chocolate. I thought the gozleme was a little saltier and crispier than the non-dessert versions, providing some crunch, and a wonderful balance between sweet and savoury. Shared between the four of us, this was a great dessert - not too heavy and at the same time providing me with my chocolate fix. If you're like me and use your hands to eat this, be prepared to lick the gooey chocolate from your fingers.
The bill came out served on a gorgeous covered dish.
This place was packed during lunch. There aren't many tables so it's not too noisy inside but there are many people coming in and out to order take away as well. Gozleme Cafe offers simple tasty food at cheap prices for both breakfast and lunch. Worth checking out!

Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Monday, 14 April 2014

Lunch @ Grill and Sizzle Fusion

I noticed the new Grill and Sizzle Fusion restaurant in Dickson a few months ago. There used to be a sign advertising it was Asian/Japanese fine-dining but noticed this was taken down. On a Sunday afternoon, I headed in for lunch with a friend to check it out. We were greeted by our waitress and, being the first ones there for lunch, chose a table near the windows. The main menu and specials menu were provided, followed promptly with a bottle of tap water and glasses.

I had a craving for raw fish so the small sashimi platter ($36.80) was my lunch choice. This was beautifully presented on a large deep square bowl filled with packed ice.
Four types of fish are included in the small platter - tuna, salmon, Kingfish and Yellowtail. Then there's some octopus, scallops and a dollop of caviar. I thought the fish was fresh and of great quality. The salmon, tuna and Kingfish were silky smooth and went down well with a touch of wasabi and soy sauce. The Yellowtail was more rubbery than the other three which meant I was chewing on it for a little longer. But only a little and I did enjoy it. I was actually expecting some rubbery octopus but this was not the case. Instead, I found it a little tough at first but easy to break down and chew. I thought it had a very a neutral flavour so much soy sauce was added. The two large blobs of wasabi were far too much for my tastebuds and I only managed to scratch the top of one.
The scallops were unbelievably soft and juicy. The pairing with caviar and avocado helped lift the otherwise bland scallops. I'd like to mention that the caviar pearls themselves were bursting with juiciness.
My friend ordered the lunch special Oyako Don set ($16.80) consisting of crumbed and battered chicken pieces cooked with egg on rice.
The restaurant itself is huge. The decor is modern and metallic with a shiny black (tiled?) ceiling, bronze metallic chairs and silvery tiled floors. Light bulbs hang down to provide some warmth to the room. There is a large window to one side allowing diners to peek into the kitchen and watch the chefs at work.
On the other side of the room lies a black padded banquette running across the whole wall with similar style chairs. What I'd call an artsy patchwork of mirrors were hung up against the wall. The space inside the restaurant is impressive.
I'm informed that the large sashimi platter ($42.80) has 7 kinds of fish included while the deluxe sashimi platter has 12 kinds! I wouldn't mind going back with some keen sashimi lovers to try the deluxe sashimi platter. Sizing doesn't seem to include medium, just small, large and deluxe.

I should point out the 'fusion' part of the restaurant menu. There are your typical Japanese foods such as edamame ($5.80), takoyaki ($11.80), various tempura, udon noodles, sashimi and sushi rolls (under $10). Then you have some Western Japanese foods such as Wagyu eye fillet steak ($36.60), grilled BBQ skewers that come with 2 in a serve - chicken cartilage skewers, ox tongue skewers and bacon wrapped with oyster meat skewers are some of the stranger examples. Don't worry there are also your normal options such as pork belly, chicken wing, beef satay skewers and more. Then oddly enough, there's an Italian influence with items such as squid ink pasta with seafood ($21.80) and angel hair spaghetti with king prawns and white wine sauce ($18.80). Very much a mish-mash of items.

Some shots of the menu below
The front page of the Lunch Menu - slightly cheaper
Service was attentive, though that is to be expected as we were the only people in the restaurant for a while. There were only two other tables of diners inside by the time we left. I do like the fact that our waiter placed soy sauce dispensers and small dipping bowls in front of you before your food arrives, then pours a little bit of soy sauce into it after placing down your meals.
Grill and Sizzle Fusion is located on the main strip on Woolley Street in Dickson and offers a unique style of Japanese dining. I am definitely going back for more sashimi and will need to try out some of the fusion items.

Foodgasm 7.5/10
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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hot cross buns @ Danny's Bakery

A few years ago, one of my work colleagues told me she had found the best sourdough hot cross buns in Canberra at Danny's Bakery in Narrabundah. I always remembered this, Easter after Easter, but never managed to get down there to try some. She reminded me about it again last week so I made it my mission to finally try it this weekend. At 8.30am this morning, I arrived at the Narrabundah shops. Danny's Bakery is next door to the IGA. A sign out the front shows me I'm at the right place - sourdough Easter buns $8.70 for six, or $2.50 each.
This is no hipster bakery cafe where you can sit down and have a meal. It is your typical no-fuss bakery selling loaves of bread, croissants, apple turnovers, iced raisin snails and more.
You can see a variety of baked breads along the back shelves.
I only saw two hot cross buns left on the back shelf, but luckily enough they had more at the back. Out came a bag of six that were still warm! These smelled fantastic.
I like big buns and I can not lie ;)
These hot cross buns were HUGE! I've tried to show how big they are by measuring against my hands (I have rather long fingers too).
Definitely the biggest hot cross buns I've ever seen.
They were so soft, fresh and delicious. I really like how there's a different spin on the traditional hot cross buns by using sourdough. It doesn't taste too sour as the sweet raisins still provide a juicy sweet hit. There are a few dried apricots scattered inside too. I love freshly baked goods!
My partner decided to put some under the grill for a few minutes, giving a crispiness to the outside but remaining soft on the inside. So yummy!
I think this is a really great find and couldn't wait to tell everyone about it. These hot cross buns are highly popular and do sell out quickly in the morning. If you like them, you can buy up a couple more, slice them in half and freeze them to enjoy later :)

Danny's Bakery is open 7 days a week. They'll be open next Saturday but will be shut over the Easter break. Checking out its Facebook page, the hot cross buns are baked from February onwards, so if you miss out this year make sure you go next year.

Foodgasm 8/10
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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sri Lankan dinner @ Camellia Restaurant

A friend organised dinner at Camellia Restaurant, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Manuka. I've heard and read good things about this place and was eager to try it out on a Friday night. The menu is relatively short with one page of entrees, one page of mains and a third of a page of dessert. But that doesn't mean there aren't a variety of delicious sounding items.

I decided on the 'string hoppers' ($26.90) as my main, having no idea what it would be like. The menu states these are fine rice flour strings squeezed through a sieve, curled to a cane mat and steamed. Interesting! Diners have a choice of chicken/fish/beef/vegetarian curry (I chose the fish) with accompaniments. My face lit up with delight when this dish came out on one huge platter.
A spare bowl sits under the bamboo steamer of string hoppers. This was a little messy to eat as there were no spoons provided, so I had to tip the string hoppers into the spare bowl using a fork, then tip some of the curries into it leaving a sauce trail dripping down the bowl. The string hoppers are a skinny alternative version of rice which came in two colours - white and purply-brown (hiding underneath), but there was no difference in taste.
The fish curry was delicious - beautiful soft fish that had soaked up the creamy mild curry. A bowl of lentil curry, similar to the Indian dahl/daal, was provided as an accompaniment. The curry was packed with flavour and a variety of spices. It was a little salty but I loved it. I'm the type of person that can happily eat dahl and rice, and nothing else. The second accompaniment was a coconut sambal - usually made up of a mix of ground coconut, peppers and dried fish. This was lovely sprinkled on top, providing some crunch and flavour. A boiled egg cut in half sits next to the sambal which I thought added some extra goodness to the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, with its many textures and flavours, and will be ordering it again.
My friends at the table were also pleased with their dishes below.
Biriyani with tender lamb, two way cooked egg (which was missing until it was asked for), mint coconut sambol, pappadum and yoghurt cucumber salad ($27.70)
Pan grilled salmon, wild lime chilli ginger glaze, savoury rice and buttered greens ($27.90)
Katagesma - crisp chicken  with red ripe tomato, purple onion and capsicum in exotic devilled sauce with savoury rice and tropic salad ($25.90)
For dessert, I ordered steamed coconut wandu ($9.90) - a steamed treacle cake with coconut ice cream. If you like coconut cake or slices, you'll like this warm dessert. It's very sweet with lots of coconut and syrupy treacle that is beautifully paired with the coconut ice cream. I couldn't finish this as I was too full from devouring my main.
The dark truffle cake ($9.90 with berry compote looked pretty good too (apologies for the blurriness but it's the only shot I've got).
The restaurant is located next to the Capitol Theatre on Franklin Street. Inside lies simple elegant decor with white tablecloths and comfy black faux leather chairs. A selection of wine, beer and other beverages are available from the small bar at the front. As it is next door to the cinemas, you can smell popcorn from the restaurant's bathrooms enticing you to see a movie afterwards.
Dishes are slightly on the expensive side for an Asian restaurant but not unreasonable. I would happily go back and pay $26.90 for my meal again. Service is good - we were checked upon regularly for any assistance with the menu or drinks. One small hiccup was that our waitress forgot to advise whether a dessert was gluten-free after checking with the kitchen stafff, and only remembered when the desserts arrived for everyone but my gluten-intolerant friend. What gave this place extra credit was that the chef came out to speak with everyone at the end of the night, table by table, gaining feedback on the food and having a general chat. That doesn't happen often in Canberra and made us feel rather special.

I highly recommend checking this place out. I will definitely be returning for more.

Foodgasm 8/10

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