Monday, April 27, 2015

Trio Cafe, Bondi

Brunch is one of my absolute favorite meals.  And one of the best things about Sydney is the amazing cafe and brunch culture.  Such a perfect fit for me!

When we woke up on a sunny Saturday morning, I had only one destination in mind: Trio Cafe, in Bondi.  What is better than brunch, right near the beach?  We could feast, then soak in the rays while in food coma, and eventually, we could walk along the coast to recover a bit.  Sounded like a great Saturday plan to me!

Trio Cafe is located right across from the main beach.  The location is great, but it is priced accordingly, easily about $10 more for every dish than I expected.  But hey, beachfront location.

While I was interested in the beach, the real draw for me was the menu.  Trio offers classic brunch and lunch dishes, all slightly middle eastern or Mediterranean inspired, including multiple types of french toast, pancakes with incredible toppings, and of course, my Sydney staple: muesli.  I wanted all of these things, but Trio does one better than that.  They have a breakfast tasting platter of all of their greatest hits.  For someone like me who loves ALL BRUNCH FOOD and struggles with making up her mind, this was totally perfect.

I had to go to Trio.
Indoor Seating.
Most seating is inside, with only a few small tables outside on the sidewalk in front, unfortunate given the location!  The tables are wooden, with white cloth table clothes.  As we were seated, a jug of water with fresh mint inside was brought over, so we could replenish our drinks throughout, necessary given the hot day.  Also on the table was a jar of their green shakshouka, which I think you can purchase to take home.  It was a bit odd to have it on the table, as it was sealed up, clearly not meant for use right then.

The kitchen is in the back, fairly open.  All drinks are made at the large bar area, which makes not only cocktails and espresso drinks, but also an impressive line up of fresh juices, smoothies, and milkshakes.

Service was fine, and I appreciated that the hostess and server both checked in about my watermelon allergy, a note I had made in my online booking.
Decaf Long Black, Iced. $4.50.
Since it was so hot out, I wanted an iced coffee, but they only had iced coffee available in regular, and I wanted decaf.  I decided to risk it and try ordering an iced long black.  Just like at Devon Cafe, this was a bit of a disaster, just a long black with a token ice cube floating in it.  I asked for a separate glass of ice, it was quickly provided, so I poured it in, and everything was fine.

I didn't catch the name of the roaster, but it was organic and fair trade.  The coffee was fine, not remarkable.

$4.50 was a bit high for a simple long black, although decaf was an extra $0.50.
Nutella & Banana Milkshake.  $8.50.
One of my dining companions went all out and got the nutella and banana milkshake.  It looked so epic that we of course all demanded to try it.

It was actually really nicely done, perfectly balanced.  The banana was not too strong, which is a big pet peeve I have when banana is used in smoothies and shakes, as banana often overwhelms.  The nutella was subtle, and came through just on the finish.  It was perfectly mixed and a thick consistency.  Really well done, and served in a glass jar (in fact, the same type jar as the shakshouka).

Definitely good, but again, price a bit high at $8.50.
Hot Chocolate. $4.50.
Ojan opted for a hot chocolate.  Now THIS was impressive!  Yes, it said "trio", in cocoa powder, on top.  The chocolate was Belgian chocolate, all sitting in the bottom of the glass.  On top was perfectly frothy, silky milk.  It was clearly designed to be stirred and mixed up by you, and I liked how it was served in a clear glass so you could see the layering.  Gorgeous presentation.

Ojan was worried about having too much caffeine, so only drank half.  I gladly finished the rest.  It was rich, it was chocolatey, and certainly one of the better hot chocolates I've ever had.  The $4.50 price wasn't unreasonable for a drink made from real chocolate rather than powder, and such amazing presentation.  It totally made up for the crappy hot chocolate from Pie Tin a few days earlier.

Other drinks consumed by my dining companions were a "country style lemonade" and a mix of fresh squeezed juices.  There were about 15 different juices to choose from, and they could be mixed and matched as you pleased.  Since there was watermelon, I stayed far away from anything that came from the juice bar.
Breakfast Sundae. $14.
"Strawberries, banana & toasted muesli swirled with honey yoghurt".

And now, moving into the food.  Speaking of presentation!

One of my dining companions decided to go for a light, healthy option: the breakfast sundae.  I don't say that as a joke, it really was one of the healthiest choices on the menu.

A stunning creation of yoghurt, muesli, and fruit, layered together in a martini glass.  He enjoyed it, and said it was far larger and more filling than it looked like it should be.  It also was a really fun way to have the healthy item, and he said it really did feel more decadent served this way.
Nutella French Toast. $19.
"Made on brioche with caramelised bananas & hazelnut crumble."

Another diner went in the opposite direction. Why get a healthy breakfast, when there is nutella stuffed french toast on the menu?

Two large slabs of french toast, stuffed with nutella, and surrounded by caramelized bananas, drizzled in more nutella.

He got a bit phased by this partway through, but managed to persevere and make it through the whole thing, although he said he wasn't going to eat for several days afterward.
Trio Breakfast Tasting Plate, Part 1, savory: corn fritter, green shakshouka with fried egg, hummus, turkish bread.
Now, you may have noticed that I haven't mentioning trying bites of everyone else's food.  This is highly unusual for me.  But there was good reason.  I had so much food in front of me that I couldn't possibly consider trying anything else.

Why?  Because I obviously went for the tasting plate.  Except, it was not "a plate" as the menu described.  It was a platter.  Oh, but not just one platter, two platters.  ZOMG.  I knew it was going to be a tasting plate of their 6 most popular items, but I did not anticipate platters of this size.  ZOMG.

Ok, starting with the savory platter.

The first item was a corn fritter, served with warm smoky tomato chutney, bacon, goat cheese, & roquette.  The corn fritter was crispy, loaded with chunks of corn, and decent, but really not my thing.  The smoky tomato chutney was a bit too flavorful for me, which I know is a strange thing to say.  The bacon was Australian-style, not crispy like I like.  And I don't like goat cheese.  I did really like the spicy arugula on top.

The fritter was fine, but it really wasn't my thing, and I wouldn't have ordered it individually.  It was my overall 3rd pick of the tasting platter, and my favorite of the savories.  I was glad to try it though, as it is one of their most popular items.  As a regular size entree, it is $22, I'm not sure how many corn fritters come in a regular order, but mine had one full size fritter, and all the garnishes that normally come with it, so it was a complete representation of the regular dish.

The next savory offering was shakshouka, their real signature dish.  I had the choice of red or green, and went for green, since it sounded slightly more interesting: "a ragout of green tomatoes, green capsicum, spinach & chilli".  This is another dish I would have never ordered, but I was glad to try, although it turned out to be even less my thing.  I just didn't care at all for the flavors in the sauce, although the egg was nicely cooked, and I appreciated the adorable pan as a serving vessel.  I also liked that I got the choice of red or green.

The shakshouka is served with two slices of grilled turkish bread and a generous pile of hummus.  The hummus was creamy, but I never like hummus, so I gave this away to the nutella french toast guy, who needed something savory to cleanse his palette after his sweet overload.  The hummus was topped with something quite spicy, which was interesting for sure, but still, it was hummus.

A regular serving of the shakshouka is two eggs rather than one, plus more bread and hummus, for $21.  Again I was impressed that they replicated the entire dish in a smaller size for this platter.  It was my least favorite item on the platter, just due to personal preference.

So I didn't love any of the savory dishes, but I didn't necessarily expect to.  I'm all about the sweets, but it was good for me to have some savory too.  That said, this was an insane amount of food.  One platter in, and I already had a full corn cake, an egg with sauce, bread, and tons of hummus.  One platter could easily be a meal.  But, there was another platter to go!
Trio Breakfast Tasting Plate: Part 2, sweets: bircher muesli, french toast, pancake. $29.50.
Ah yes, the second platter: sweets!

Both platters were delivered simultaneously, which was rather overwhelming.  I was torn: I wanted to start with the savory and move to the sweet, but I also knew I'd like the sweet more, and that those items would get cold as I ate the savory.  What to do!  (Protip: in the future, I'd actually just ask for them to come staggered?).

On the far left is the bircher muesli.  On my first visit to Australia, I fell in love with bircher muesli.  But for some reason, on this trip, I didn't love it quite as much.  I didn't like it on the plane , in the Westin hotel breakfast buffet, or in the Sheraton hotel breakfast.  I was still hopeful that perhaps those just weren't good versions, and that this would be better.

The muesli was absolutely loaded up with just about everything imaginable: goji berries, seeds, nuts, coconut, cranberries, raisins, and probably a slew of other things I couldn't pick out.  The bircher muesli itself was a bit too yoghurty for my taste though, which was furthered by the fact that it was topped with additional honey yoghurt.  It was flanked by slices of red apple, green apple, a chunk of banana, a kiwi, and a single berry.  The reason I didn't need to try the breakfast parfait is that I had all of those components here in my dish!

But, as I said, I didn't really like it, making it my 4th pick of the platter.  Too much yoghurt, and the fruit wasn't great.  Amusingly, Ojan, who doesn't normally like muesli, said that he liked this more than most muesli.  I did appreciate that even something simple like this was nicely presented in mini-form.  A regular serving is $17.50.

Now, moving on to the good stuff: french toast!  If I had been forced to pick just one item to order, this is what I would have ordered.  As I mentioned, Trio had another french toast on the menu, the nutella one my dining companion went for, but then they also have cinnamon and vanilla scented french toast with raspberry & apple compote, available on its own, or, here in the platter.  Interestingly, I wasn't given a choice in french toast style as I was with the shakshouka.

Like the nutella version, the french toast was brioche, a decently thick slice cut into two triangles, well battered, not too eggy.   I didn't necessarily taste cinnamon nor vanilla in it though.  It was sadly kinda cold when I finally got to it, which was really unfortunate, as it was, predictably, my favorite item.  I didn't actually like the raspberry compote on top of one slice, I'm not quite sure why, it was just too sweet.  Which is odd, because I gladly slathered the remaining slice in maple syrup (which, to note, they provided a whole glass bottle of real Canadian syrup, no fake pancake syrup, no tiny little side serving of it.  I was free to use as much as I wanted!).  Finally, there was a few slices of cooked cinnamon apples, which I did really like, perfectly soft.

Anyway, as I said, my favorite item, but I could have done without the raspberry compote, and just enjoyed it as classic french toast with syrup.  It wasn't particularly noteworthy though.  A regular order is $19, just like the nutella version.

And finally, pancakes!  Mango and lime buttermilk pancakes to be exact, served with a strawberry on top, and a jar of lemon curd topped with double cream.  

The pancake was fairly unique, very dense, not fluffy.  Crispy on the outside.  I didn't actually taste mango, nor lime, nor buttermilk.  That isn't to say it was bad, but the flavors were really quite subtle.  On its own, the pancake wasn't awesome, but, with toppings, it was perfectly satisfying.

I tried it with the lemon curd and double cream.  I felt really mixed about the curd and cream.  So, I don't like lemon curd.  And I love double cream, but double cream on pancakes is not really something I've had before.  I felt like these toppings belonged more with scones than pancakes.  After a few bites of pancake with the curd/cream, I switched to just using the maple syrup, and enjoyed it more that way.  But then I had a pot of curd and cream left behind, and you know me, I can't leave sweets unfinished.  So I ate that separately, with a spoon, like it was pudding, and somehow really liked it.  The tartness was a good end to my meal.  The pancake + toppings were my second pick of the platter.

A regular serving of pancakes is $20, and again, I appreciated how they replicated the entire dish in mini form.

Overall, I'm glad I tried the sampler.  It was really fun to try all of these dishes, which is what I always want to do, but normally can't.  But ... wow this was a lot of food.  There is no way one person could ever eat this entire platter.  The price was higher than most other main dishes, at $29.50, but it was considerably more food.  I wouldn't get it again, and would just go for the french toast, unless I had a friend who wanted just the savories, and then we could split.

I didn't love anything on the platter, but I do wonder if some of that was just the fact that I was overwhelmed by the insanity of it all, and frantically trying to eat before it cooled down.  Major points for the presentation, and replication of the full size dishes though, I really felt like I got a full experience.
Grilled Haloumi, side.  $6.
And because I needed MORE food, I also ordered a side of grilled haloumi.  It amazes me how rare haloumi is in the US, when it is everywhere in Australia.

Obviously, if I had any idea how huge my plate-platers were going to be, I wouldn't have ordered this, but I'm glad I did.

A side order was 3 slices, all nicely seared.  Served with a lemon wedge, which actually was really awesome to drizzle over the haloumi, not something I had done before.  The acidity really amped up the flavor.  Ojan thought the haloumi was too salty, but I quite enjoyed it, and didn't think it was too much, particularly with the lemon drizzled over it.

I liked the haloumi more than any of my savory dishes from my platter, and would order this again.
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