Monday, June 30, 2014

Big Tree House Cafe, Rydalmere

Sometimes if you want something bad enough it may just happen! In my case I'm desperate for more cafes to open locally that are willing to serve me brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  Parramatta has one such place, Castle Hill has three (1, 2 and 3), Baulkham Hills has one...but that's pretty much it as far as weekend brunch options go in my neck of the woods (if you know of more, please let me know). Until now...

I recently became aware (thanks to Instagram) of a cafe in Rydalmere that is open ALL weekend.  Hello to Big Tree House Cafe! The photos on Instagram looked pretty great so Dave and I swung by there a few weekends ago for a take-a-away coffee. This place is CUTE and the food coming out of the kitchen looked so tasty.

Normally I'd wait for the weekend to try out a new local cafe with Dave, BUT I had the very next day off work so I hopped in the car and drove the 4kms to Big Tree House and had myself some lunch.

Whilst they serve breakfast all day I was really in the mood for lunch-type food and the Rachel Sandwich ($15.00) sounded pretty great to me! The Rachel is packed with pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and pickles and comes served on a board with a bundle of hot chips. I have to say this was one very good sandwich. It smelt incredible which made taking the time to snap a couple of photos nigh on torture. And, two thumbs up for FAT CHIPS!

They also do freshly squeezed Apple or Orange Juice ($6.00) served in a jam jar...because Rydalmere is hip too you know! The juice is great, very refreshing.

The coffee served at Big Tree House is Campos and the chef's wife (and owner) tells me that the staff have undergone training with Campos on how to make a great coffee and I think this is a very good cuppa.

A few days later I'm back with Dave to try the breakfast offerings. The cafe is busy, but not packed and we get a table straight away which is nice. There's also plenty of parking in the area as the cafe is on a quiet, residential street. Win win!

Dave, as predictable as always, orders the Big Tree House Breakfast ($16.00). His plate is heaving with poached eggs, bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, roast tomato and two generously sized pieces of sourdough toast. My eyes hone right on in to the super crispy bacon and I manage to score myself a piece. So good! The chef has done time working in fine dining restaurants, namely with Peter Doyle, and this man sure knows how to turn bacon into perfection!

Everything on the breakfast menu looks so appealing, eventually I settle on the Chorizo and Scrambled Eggs ($12.00). There's not a lot to say about this dish other than it was really delicious. Chorizo for breakfast = winning!

Big Tree House is a great local cafe. The food is delicious, service is efficient, everything on the menu is tempting and the decor is really sweet. In warmer weather it would be lovely to sit out the back under the big old Magnolia Tree that gives the cafe its name. Well done Rydalmere, who knew you were harbouring such a hidden gem!

Big Tree House Cafe is at 88 Calder Rd, Rydalmere. Phone them on 8626 9007.

Opening Hours: 8 am ~ 4 pm and closed on Tuesdays.

Big Tree House on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dos Senoritas, Gladesville

Dos Senoritas is a colourful looking Mexican restaurant on busy Victoria Road in Gladesville.  The menu claims to serve up "authentic street style Mexican food we all crave". I've never had "proper Mexican food" before but I do know that I've been craving something cheesey that involves corn chips and Dos Senoritas delivers.

I'm quite taken with the Jamaican ($5), a non-alcoholic drink (cos I'm a wowzer) that is a traditional sweet Mexican infusion of hibiscus flower. My friend has a Corona as she's a proper grown-up.

A basket of crispy, salty corn chips comes free to every table - which is dangerous as it's hard not to scoff the whole lot within minutes of taking our seat.  The salsa is great, it's really substantial with lots of tomatoes and spices which gives it a nice, smokey flavour.

In a (failed) effort to be healthy I order the Taco salad ($24) mainly has it has iceberg lettuce tossed in ranch dressing (I love Ranch dressing SO much). The salad is topped with seasoned steak, jack and cheddar cheese, pico, black beans, guacamole and sour cream. The whole lot comes in a crispy tortilla shell that serves as a bowl. By the end of the meal there is nothing left on plate at all - not even the tortilla bowl the salad came in. 

My buddy orders the Chipotle Chopped Salad ($24) which looks the same as my salad but I swear it's not! Her tortilla bowl is filled with grilled chicken breast (I had steak), iceberg lettuce, jack and cheddar cheese, pico, black beans and avocado. Plus its tossed with chipotle ranch and tortilla chips - so double crunchiness eschews.

For the prices and the size of the meals I'd say that Dos Senoritas is really really good value. You definitely won't leave here hungry. The menu says that this food is not Tex Mex - but I do wonder if food it eaten out of tortilla bowls in Mexico (are they, can someone fill me in please)?

Dos Senoritas  is at 265D Victoria Road, Gladesville. Phone them on 9817 3737 (they get pretty busy, even on a Sunday night so bookings are recommended).

Dos Senoritas on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 16, 2014

Langkawi (Malyasia)

During the Easter/Anzac Day break this year Dave and I jetted off to spend six nights on Langkawi, a small island in Malaysia.


Unlike other places I've visited in South East Asia Langkawi was SO laid back. There's a notable absence of touts trying to sell you everything and anything as you headed out for a walk. This made window shopping for fabric (and other goodies) an absolute pleasure!. During an entire stay we only had "taxi" shouted at us twice (and one lot of taxi drivers told us they couldn't take us right now as they were it. It's always makan {eating} time in Malaysia)! 

We stayed in a quiet area on Langkawi, Pantai Tengah, that is a short walk from the main beach (and most developed area of the island, Pantai Cenang). We stayed in a lovely, and very small villa which means we had to head out for lunch each day (breakfast was provided and they had two restaurants for dinner...but at lunch you're on your own). Sounds simple right? Wrong! On our first day we walked for 1km in the stifling heat and humidity and hardly anywhere was open. It was so bizarre and so unlike anywhere else we'd been to in South East Asia! I think many visitors stay in large resorts here, which they never leave hence they have no issue getting themselves fed.

Never fear...we didn't starve. We did find a nice, open-air, place for some "proper Malaysian food" (at tourist prices) not far from our digs...

Speaking of breakfast, our villa offered a selection of cooked Western Style or Malaysian style fuel to get you going for the day. Any guesses what I went with each day?

Our villa was home to about 6 kitty cats and it was always a highlight if they came to visit us during breakfast!

Malaysia is pretty famous (to me anyway) for it's Ayam Goreng (fried chicken)...and we made quick work of sampling every piece of it we came across.  Newsflash: in Langkawi your KFC is served on a PLATE! Mind. Blown.

Whilst we're on the "junk food" side of things shall we have a look at what's on offer in the local 7-11s (yes I like chips...a lot)!

We found a very good restaurant one night that was in a villa not far from where we were staying. The restaurant, Fat Cupid, served a small collection of super delish Nonya-style Malaysian food. I think the highlight of the meal though was watching a herd of water buffalo stampede through the field not too far from our table!

Isn't it always the way that you discover the best thing on your last night. For us it was this great bar right on the beach...just 500m from our villa! We headed down to the beach for a sunset walk and saw this place buzzing. We sat, had some nibbles (Ikan Bilis for me and and satay for Dave) and a drink whilst we watched the sunset along with a myriad of parasailers take off and land on the beach.

Oh, and here's a tip for young players. That coconut you buy to drink on the beach whilst admiring the view. It's probably warm!

Langkawi has an excellent night market which I'm going to write about in a separate stayed tuned! I think we've all had enough to eat for now.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Gelato Messina, Parramatta (!!!!)

When we first moved out to Parramatta we would often joke that our Westie life would be complete when Gelato Messina opened up shop in our suburb.  In the meantime we often found ourselves making the 30km drive back to my old stomping ground in Darlinghurst for a scoop...or two. Yes, we love it THAT much.

Fast forward (slowly) a mere three and half years down the track and it seems that our silly dream has come true (I'm now joke wishing that Miss Chu and Menya Mappen would open in Parramatta...HINT HINT). I never actually thought they'd open up out here so I'm still in shock!

We swung by on their first night of business (to collect a box of gelato they were gifting to local bloggers) and it was insanely crowded...which to me is a VERY good thing as it indicates they'll be successful and stick around.

Never fear though! When we popped back in the next day after lunch the lines were much more tame. We also did a drive-by yesterday at about 6pm and things weren't at the scary line stage...yet!

I probably don't need to rave too much about the amazing gelato flavours here, but for the record Dave ordered a scoop of the Oreogasm (a special flavour) and I went for a dairy-less Salted Coconut and Mango sorbet. And yes, they were FREAKING amazing!

I hope the arrival of a super-successful Eastern Suburbs food venture will make other restaurants and cafes finally take notice of Parramatta. I get really disheartened when I see cafe after cafe open in the same suburbs. I mean how many weekend brunch spots does Surry Hills really need? We have TWO...and we need more.  The people of Western Sydney GET good food and they love it...we just need more great places out here....especially for weekend brunch. So who's next?

Gelato Messina is at 279 Church Street, Parramatta.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Ramen Ikkyu, Chinatown

Although this epiphany has been a long time brewing, I came to the final conclusion in Tokyo (after some particularly porky ramen soup) that Ramen doesn't quite agree with me. I'm often left feeling a bit gurgley in the stomach, which sucks as I really love eating ramen.

This is probably not the end for moi and ramen though, don't you worry!  Of course, I'm willing to suffer for my food blog as I just had to try Ramen Ikkyu which opened in Chinatown last year to much fanfare (and long queues).

As with most places in Sydney if you wait long enough the queues will die down and this food stall, which is tucked away in the corner of the Sussux Centre Food Court in Chinatown was blissfully not crowded when I arrived for an early after work dinner.

There are so many different types of ramen broth that I find it really really really confusing - salt, soy, miso, chicken, pork, chicken AND pork, chicken and pork with seafood. Wikipedia has been no help so I have NFI what's going on. I *think* that ramen broth/stock is some varation of chicken/pork/whatever and then that broth is flavoured with salt, soy or miso. If I'm wrong let me know...and if you know the deal again, PLEASE let me know.

Ooooh, touch screen ordering! Fun!

The base stock here is a mixture of pork and chicken (aka Paitan) and is described as having quite a "rich mouth feel". This should've been a warning to me that I was going to get "the gurgles" but I went ahead anyway (I'll give you 10 guesses at how this meal ended for me *gurgle*). It looks SO good though, doesn't it?

I ordered the "Chef's Special" ($13.50) which comes with black garlic oil and chilli. I just LOVE the slightly burnt, smokey flavour that the black garlic oil gives the broth. It's quite addictive.

The ramen here is HUGE and comes loaded with egg, bamboo shoots, pork belly, seaweed, shallots, bean sprouts etc etc. As soon as I saw the bowl I instantly knew it was a mistake to order an extra serve of pork on the side but for $3.00 it's hard to resist all the little extras you can buy to top up your bowl.

Needless to say I couldn't finish my meal...even with the extra serve of pork it was WAY too big. Lord knows then how anyone takes up the free offer of "kaedama" - an extra serve of noodles to go with any leftover broth you have left. Gurgle.

Ramen Ikkyu is at Shop F1A - Sussex Centre, 401 Sussex Street, Haymarket. Call them on 9281 0998.

Ramen Ikkyu on Urbanspoon

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