Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Breakfast Buffet at Mosiac Restaurant, Westin Sydney

As you mostly likely know by now, given my slew of Sydney restaurant reviews, I visited in Sydney for two weeks in May.  On this visit, I stayed at the Westin (where I had also spent a week in January).  In January, I had executive club access, where I had breakfast every morning.  It was nice to have breakfast right there at the hotel, but it was never that great.  The the yogurt and bircher muesli jars were pretty much the only things that were halfway decent.

So in May, when I knew I was staying for two weeks, and thought that just eating yogurt and muesli would get old very fast, I opted for a rate with full breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Mosiac, instead.

The space is nice: the entire hotel is located within the GPO (General Post Office), a historic building.  The restaurant itself is in an interior atrium, with a glass ceiling, and plenty of sunshine.

The included breakfast was the buffet, normally $42 per person, which, honestly, is just a bit crazy.

Overall, it was certainly an upgrade from the executive lounge, as there were plenty more options, but it really was just a superset of what the lounge had to offer.  The baked goods, hot foods, fruit, meats, and cheeses were all still pretty lackluster.  The made-to-order egg station is a nice addition to just a buffet, but it was highly inconsistent.  I still prefer the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge's breakfast spread, which is really quite impressive.

Drinks

Some buffets offer table service for drinks, but here all drinks are self-serve, both hot and cold, located in the buffet area. This includes water, so you needed to get up to refill your own water glass.  I didn't mind, but for the price point, I'd expect water glasses, and perhaps coffee cups, to be refilled at the tables.
Water, Apple Juice, Orange Juice.
Basic juices seemed like they were from concentrate.
Cranberry Juice, Grapefruit Juice.
The cranberry and grapefruit were a bit better, but, I am still guessing none of it was fresh squeezed.
Fancy Juices/Smoothies.
Each day there was also always a fancier juice and smoothie, in pitchers.  Presumably these were fresh.

The After Eight, made from kiwi, pear, mint, and apple was super sweet, a bit thick though.  

The Mixed Berry Energizer,  made from berries, honey, yogurt, skim milk was far too yogurty for me, I didn't really taste the fruit at all.

I didn't really care for these, but I appreciated that they made the effort to have healthy juices in addition to the standard ones.
Tea.
Hot drinks were also self serve.  Tea was in a basket, with a urn of hot water.  The selection was decent, and included English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Yellow Gold Oolong, Lychee Black Tea, Jasmine Pearls, Chai, Jade Sword Green Tea, and Peppermint.
Coffee Maker.
Coffee came from a robot machine that could make espresso, americanos, and milk based beverages (whole milk).  The beans were ground fresh for each cup, which I appreciated, particularly for decaf.  Many places just use instant for decaf.

The coffee was fine, not particularly notable.

Breads, Cereals

I'm not one for basic breads and cereals generally, but I was there for long enough that I finally checked these areas out.  All were basic and standard, nothing notable.
Gluten-free Station. 
The country of Australia does a really, really good job with gluten-free.  I'm not gluten sensitive, but I'm always shocked by how gluten-conscious everywhere is there.  Every restaurant has either a dedicated gluten-free menu, or clearly labels items.  Airline lounges, hotel buffets, etc all have separate stations.  It really is quite impressive.

The gluten-free area had its own bread and bagels, packaged cereals, and even muffins.  I tried the chocolate muffin, but it wasn't very good, very dry.
Toast.
For the gluten-eaters, a decent selection of sliced bread and english muffins were available, with a standard conveyor belt toaster.

The english muffins were just standard english muffins, nothing special, but nice to use to make egg and cheese sandwiches, with fried eggs from the egg station.
Raisin Toast.
One morning, fairly late into my stay, I decided to give toast a try.  I was kinda out of other options, and the raisin toast looked decent.  It came as very thick slices, loaded up with raisins.  I slathered it with butter, and I think with some cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top it might have been decent enough.  But, it was just raisin toast.
Jams, Spreads.
To go along with the toast was a station with little bots of Hank's jams, in assorted flavors.  They didn't seem like the highest quality jams.

There was also Beerenberg honey, Kraft smooth peanut butter, butter, margarine, Nutella, and of course, vegemite.  I give them credit for the Nutella, even though it isn't something I really go for.
Cereal.
The cereal line up was standard Kellogg's choices, just like in the lounge.  Granola Oat Clusters, Natural Muesli, NutriGrain, Special K, Cornflakes Sultana Bran, Coco Pops.

I tried the granola and muesli, but I didn't like either.  Untoasted, not very flavorful.

These dispensers were also infuriating.  They were jammed more often than not, and when you'd finally get some cereal, it usually came pouring out.  They also crushed the cereal.  I don't understand how these dispensers are so popular, when they just fail to do their basic job!
Nuts, Seeds, Milk.
Next to the cereal were walnuts, hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds, to jazz up your breakfast, plus milk for the cereal.

Continental Selection

The center of the buffet housed the continental selection, none of which was interesting.
Salad Station.
The salad area had mixed leaf salad, cucumbers, olives, cherry tomatoes, peppers.

The olives were fine, unremarkable.

There was no dressing.  I didn't ever see anyone take salad.  Do people eat salad for breakfast?
Smoked Salmon and Accompaniments.
The smoked salmon station always looked good, the platter always kept full full.  Alongside were cubes of cream cheese, thinly sliced red onion, capers, and lemon wedges.

Since the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge had such good smoked salmon, I decided to try this one day, when the rest of my breakfast consisted of piles of baked goods, and I knew I should have some protein.

It wasn't good.  Chewy and stringy, flavorless, not smoky.  This must be why it was always full?  No one ate it?  I at least liked the capers.
Meat and Cheese.
These mostly seemed the same as offered in the lounge in the evening.

The meats were all just sliced deli meat: salami, turkey, and ham.  They never looked tempting.

The sliced cheeses were equally boring, swiss and "low fat cheese".

The "real" cheeses were slightly better, the cheddar had a decent sharpness to it, but the brie was pretty flavorless.
Dried Superfruits.
Next to the cheeses was a "dried superfruits" station with apricots, apples, and cubes of mixed tropical fruit.

Most days I finished my meal with a handful of the sweet cubed tropical fruit. None of it was awesome, but, it was sweet and good enough.

Fruit and Yogurt

The other side of the main area was a mecca of fruit and yogurt.   Like in the lounge, this tended to be the best of the options.
Stewed Fruit, Fresh Fruit.
The fruit section started with stewed fruit (pears, plums, apricots, and prunes), along with fresh fruit (mixed fruit salad, watermelon, grapes, and rockmelon).

The fruit salad sometimes had persimmon, strawberries, and star fruit, which I got excited for every time I saw them, but none were particularly good.

The stewed fruits were my best bet for adding a little fruit sweetness to my yogurts, but, they were just super sweet.
Fresh Fruit, Packaged Yogurt.
The fresh fruit continued with passionfruit, orange segments, kiwi, and pineapple chunks.

I was always excited for the passionfruit and kiwi.

The passionfruit was actually quite good.  Maybe this was just novelty to me, as I don't get it frequently in the US, but I loved sweet and tart flavor.

The kiwi was the best of the fruit, most days it was pretty good.

For packaged yogurt, there was Chobani greek yogurt in fat free or regular and Nestle Ski De Light brand low fat yogurts in assorted flavors.  I tried several of the yogurts (passionfruit mango and blueberry).  They were just standard light yogurt, runny and not creamy, very fake fruit tasting.  They did have little bits of fruit in them though.
Potted Yogurt, Bircher Muesli, Juice Shots.
The final items were the same as we had in the lounge, potted yogurts, muesli, and juice shots.

The yogurts were natural unsweetened yoghurt with granola and berry compote added.  The yogurt was way too tangy for my taste, and the granola on top was always incredibly soggy.  This is so sad, because I do love Australian yogurt, just not this yogurt.
The bircher muesli quickly became my favorite item.  Mixed with shredded apple, the right amount of yogurt to make it pleasantly creamy, but not too tart.  I even liked the scattering of dried fruit and seeds on top, but I always added more, either more dried fruit, or stewed fruit from the fruit bar, or even fresh passionfruit.  My favorite was just drizzling more of the fruit syrup from one of the compotes on top.

On my final day, the muesli was actually different.  It had a lot more random fruit inside (bits of stewed prunes, apricots) and was garnished with a strawberry and seeds rather than the dried fruit.  It wasn't as sweet, and was thicker.  Sadness.  But the other days, this was a real winner.

The final item here was little juice shots, dubbed Carrot Ginger Zingers.  I tried it one day, and, well, yes, that was zinggy!  The ginger was crazy strong.

Hot Foods

The hot food selection never changed from day to day.  This was disappointing, as I was hoping to see some variety here, even if the rest of the buffet never changed.  Even the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge breakfast buffet changed out their hot foods, but alas, nothing ever changed here.

In particular, I'd love to see the simple pancakes alternated with other selections, like french toast, waffles, or even flavored pancakes.  Or some hot porridge?  The Westin executive lounge hot food buffet always included a subset of these items, and it did rotate somewhat, since it featured fewer items every day.

The hots foods here were just as unappealing as up in the executive lounge, although there were always more options.
Swiss Pork Veal Sausages, Bacon.

The first station of breakfast meats never looked worth trying.  Flabby bacon, and "Swiss Pork Veal Sausages".  I love breakfast sausage, but not this style.
Turkey Sausage, Turkey Bacon.
So, I don't like poultry.  Certainly not chicken, not roast turkey.  But ... turkey bacon I can sometimes really like.  I can't explain it.  So, again, several days into the buffet, I finally decided to try these things.

The sausage I really didn't like.  It was seared on the outside nicely, but, well, it tasted like turkey.  My own fault I guess.

The turkey bacon I had decent hopes for, given that, uh, I even like the turkey bacon at Starbucks (shh, don't judge!)  This I didn't like.  It was just kinda flappy, moist from being inside the steam tray, and not crispy.  Meh.
Poached Eggs, Scrambled Eggs.
Since the scrambled eggs in the executive lounge were so so strange, and these looked the same, I skipped them here too.

The poached eggs were decent, well poached with nice runny center, but I always found they weren't quite warm enough.  They did replenish this station frequently, so it was easy to watch and get one fresh (or, likely, fresh out of the water bath where they were being held).
Boiled Eggs.
And, more eggs.  Hard boiled.  I never tried these.

Pancakes with Maple Syrup.
Sure, buffet pancakes aren't generally very good, but, at the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge buffet they sometimes did a decent job.  Not here.

These were just gummy and flavorless.  And like most of the hot foods, strangely moist from being held in a steam tray.

I did appreciate the pot of maple syrup on the side, as I added it to most of my other food.  I know, I have a sugar problem, but, hash browns, bacon, eggs, etc are all just so much better with syrup!
Hash Browns, Roasted Potatoes.
The hash browns and roasted potatoes never looked good, but I saw Ojan take the hash browns several times, so I finally tried one.

Triangle style, shredded potato style.  It was not good.  Not really hot, and very, very oily.  Even slathered with maple syrup, I wasn't able to enjoy it, since all I tasted was oil.
Mushrooms, Roasted Tomatoes.
I never tried either of the first veggie selections, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes.
Green Beans, Baked Beans.
The next veggie station was ... beans, green and baked.

I never tried the green beans, since they really just don't seem like breakfast to me.

I did eventually try the baked beans.  There were several varieties of beans, they were not too mushy, and not too hard.  Decently cooked, but alas, I didn't care for the flavor of the sauce.
Soy Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce.
The buffet also featured soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

I love adding sauces to my food.  But ... I really couldn't ever find a use for soy sauce or sweet chili sauce on my breakfast items.  These seems like strange accompaniments, and I never saw anyone use them.

I did try the sweet chili sauce at once point, and it was exactly the kind I like - sweet, gooey.  But honestly, what was I supposed to use it with?

Made to Order Eggs

The buffet had a nice addition of a made to order egg station on the side, offering up omelets and eggs cooked however you wanted.

The quality of what you got however was highly inconsistent.  I tried an omelet one day, and it was really overcooked, super dry, and only had a tiny sprinkle of cheese.  Meh.
Egg Over Medium.
I'm not generally an egg eater, but I do like a good egg and cheese on english muffin.  So, one day, I threw an english muffin in the toaster, got some of the decent cheddar, and ordered an egg over medium to throw on it.

It certainly wasn't medium, the yolk was fully cooked.  The whites were really tough.  It was totally unseasoned, and just not very good at all.  The chef didn't even look to be paying attention while preparing it.

I tried again a few days later, with a different chefs.  I ordered two eggs over medium.  This time they were perfectly cooked, and I really should have taken a photo.  Stunning.  The whites were perfect, the yolk still a bit runny.  Since I knew the egg chef had the makings for omelets, I also asked for some spinach on top, and she took such care in sautéing up some spinach on the side, in a separate pan, and then laying it on top.  Really nicely done!
Egg Over Medium, topped with spinach, onion, mushroom.
Given the success of my second attempt, I tried a third time, again with toppings, but alas, this did not work.  The egg yolks were fully cooked, the whites rubbery, and the veggies drenched in oil.

Sorry I never got a photo of the decent eggs!

Pastry Station

I was excited to see an extensive baked goods area, since baked goods are always my favorite part of breakfast.  Sadly, the pastries looked exactly like the same ones I had encountered in the executive lounge, and they were truly dreadful.  And indeed, they were the same.  And they were again almost all dreadful.  Ugh.
Danishes, Croissants.
A sign on the side listed the varieties of pastry available, but wasn't really accurate.

Not listed anywhere was the item on the far left, jelly donuts!  I remembered these from the lounge  as perhaps the only baked good that wasn't horrible.  I had one again on my first day at this buffet.  Just like before, the donut itself was kinda stale tasting and fried, but, I liked the crispy outside (not that that is normally a feature of a donut) and the jam inside.  It, like before, was almost good.

Then I had one a few days later, and it was gross.  It tasted oily and old, and even all the sugar on the exterior couldn't save it.  The jelly inside was indeed good though.
Plain Croissant.
The croissant varieties listed on the signage were linseed, almond, ham and cheese, or mini plain.  I never saw the ham and cheese ones however, and there were also chocolate filled ones coated in powdered sugar and large plain ones that were not listed.

I started with the almond.  It was not flaky and not moist.  It was oily and not buttery.  It was chewy even.  Really, a gross croissant base, and this was consistent across all their croissants.  It had a dried out almond paste and sliced almonds on top.  Not a winner.

The long croissant with powdered sugar on top turned out to be chocolate, which wasn't listed on the menu as a croissant.  The croissant dough was again not flaky nor buttery, and inside was just a stick of chocolate.  Unremarkable.

Next I tried the other long one, assuming it would be the listed ham and cheese, since the other long one clearly had seeds in it, and must be the linseed.  But ... it didn't have any ham nor cheese in it, and seemed to just be plain.  It also turned out to be my favorite of the baked goods, and I was sad I didn't try it until my second to last day.  Perhaps I just lucked out, but the exterior was actually a bit flaky.  Inside was doughy.  No, it wasn't a perfect specimen of a flaky, buttery croissant.  But, for a buffet croissant, I actually really quite enjoyed it.  It had a pleasant sweetness and savoriness to it.  Good with jam, dunked in the yolk from a poached egg, or honestly, even just on its own.

The final day, I went back for the plain large croissant, and, it was again good!  I even enjoyed it plain, which is a testament, I normally slather my plain croissants in all sorts of toppings.  I really wish I had discovered these sooner, and it makes no sense to me that all the others were so awful, yet the plain were fine.

The mini plain croissant was not as good, and matched the other croissants - dry, stale, not flaky, not buttery, rather gross.

The linseed was just like the others, dry, not flaky, studded with seeds.
Guava Danish. Diamond Custard.
The danishes listed on the sign were: Apple Turnovers, Guava, Diamond Custard, Chocolate, Mixed Berry, Raisin Scroll, Chocolate Custard.

I never discovered the chocolate custard danish, and I'm guessing the chocolate croissant was what they were considering a chocolate danish?

I tried what must have been the guava danish.  This is the mystery danish that I wasn't able to identify when I had it in the Westin executive lounge.  I said it had a "a center filled with a reddish paste (jam?)".  I thought it might be quince.  It turned out to be guava I guess.

The pastry was again crappy, but I liked the sweet filling, so I extracted it and added it to my muesli.

The Diamond Custard had a custard filling that was really bad.  Warm custard is not a good thing.  And of course, the pastry base was gross.

The Mixed Berry danish again had the poor pastry base and some mediocre mixed berry jam/paste inside, with a lattice and drizzle of icing on top.  Not good.

The apple turnover however was the worst.  The pastry itself wasn't any worse than the others, and perhaps was even a bit flaky, but the filling was just a big pile of mush.  I really did not like it.
Muffins: Chocolate, Blueberry, Raspberry, Cinnamon Roll.
The sign didn't mention cinnamon rolls, but they were there every day.

I of course tried one, since, well, cinnamon rolls.  It was totally dried out.  Burnt even.  And it didn't have any cinnamon flavor.

Moving on to the muffins.  I knew that I hated the blueberry and raspberry muffins in the lounge, so this time I tried the chocolate.   It was not the worst thing ever, but was basically a chocolate cupcake or brownie.  Really not a breakfast item.  I liked the little chocolate chips strewn on top.  It was also strangely moist on top ... which works for a chocolately item.  It was  not a good muffin, but not the worst thing on offer.  I particularly liked it if I slathered it with peanut butter.  Because, well, chocolate and peanut butter.  I never said I was a healthy breakfast eater!

Of course, I tried the chocolate one again a few days later, and, it was drier, staler, and had a strange bitter funk to it.  I'm wondering if perhaps they actually only bake these off every couple days, and it depends how fresh you get them?  Next time, I'll have to collate my experiences with day of the week ...

I also tried a raspberry almond muffin in a fit of desperation (er, curiosity).  It was just as bad as I recalled: really strange base flavor, only one raspberry in the whole muffin, gross, gross.
Breads.
The quickbread menu listed banana and carrot, but there was a third variety.  I tried it, and it was loaded up with nuts, seeds, and fruit.  I can't even list all the things I found in it, but it definitely contained dried apple, dried apricot, macadamias, and a bunch of seeds.  Perhaps I'd call it a muesli loaf?  It was ok but nothing special.

The banana bread was dry and not very tasty.

Not listed on a sign anywhere were some rolls in a basket next to the breads (not in this photo).  I thought that they would be sweet, perhaps the chocolate custard filled item I couldn't find before?  Nope.  They turned out to be ... a sundried tomato savory rolls.  Given that I thought it was going to be sweet chocolate, this was quite the surprise.  And, like everything, it was dry and totally stale tasting.  Sigh.
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