Thursday, March 23, 2023

Wellington Cake Shop, Bondi

Regular readers of my blog are likely well aware that I adore baked goods, and love to seek out new bakeries wherever I am.  My recent trip to Sydney included such an adventure, although, unintentionally.
Store Front.
It just so happened to be a celebration at my office for a co-worker, and to feed us hungry masses, the organizer arranged to get baked goods from his favorite bakery in the area: Wellington Cake Shop, in Bondi.  I later ventured there myself to check it out, and it really is a cute little bakery, very local neighborhood vibe to it. I got to enjoy an array of items.
"Where ordinary end sensation begins."
Wellington Cake Shop is small bakery specializing in Austro-Hungarian cakes and tortes, with a rather cute slogan.  For me, Hungarian items are not ordinary at all, so, this was fitting.  I'm largely unfamiliar with these specialties.  But locals, besides just the guest of honor, rave about this place, and it has been in operation for quite a while, so, clearly, they are doing something right.
"No pre-mixes, no funny numbers, just the pure of the pure: butter, chocolate and more butter."

They take pride in creating everything from scratch, and I think the "something right" is exactly what they say: "more butter".  These items are decadent and delicious, and most certainly not healthy.  In addition to a number of Hungarian items, they are also known for their bagels and ice cream, although I did not get to try either of those. 

Since we had such an assortment of items, I did try small pieces of a few items that I didn't get photos of, such as a savory cheese crisp pastry that my co-workers really liked, but I wasn't really in the mood for (eh, savory, would be good paired with a salad at lunch, but not what I wanted at 2:30pm), and the apple strudel that I enjoyed all the remnants of (great flaky pastry, cinnamon and sugar, yes!), and settled on 3 full size items to really enjoy.

Chocolate Kuglouf.
"The Kuglouf is the undisputed King of its Class, all others pale into insignificance."

The kuglouf is the signature item of Wellington Cake Shop, and was the one that drew all our attention when we saw it, not even knowing this fact.  So lofty, and, zomg, look at all that chocolate!!!  It was sliced into massive hunks, and no one seemed to mind the hefty portion sizes.

That said, I didn't love it, but I think this was just me not loving this general type of dessert.  This was my first kuglouf.  It was not moist, and it sorta looked like it should be flaky, but wasn't, both of which threw me off a bit.  I suspect that it might be much better warmed up (and with vanilla ice cream?).  I also didn't find that chocolate as pronounced as I'd expect given how visible it was.  So, dense, not moist, not flaky, and not particularly chocolately ... but people love this.

So for me, this was just ok, not great, and not something I wanted more of. **+.
Walnut Danish.
"Our Danish’s and Snails use the traditional Austro-Hungarian recipes and we make our own fillings – lush and moist."

I moved on to try another item, and I'm glad I did.  This was fabulous!  The pastry itself was top notch.  So ridiculously flaky and buttery.  Messy, and perfect.  The folds inside were nicely moist.

I still am not sure what the filling was (walnut and cinnamon?).  The filling was a slightly savory slightly sweet paste, with a subtle nuttiness to it.  I liked it.

I wish I knew what this is, but what I do know is that I truly enjoyed it.  ****.
Cheese Pocket.
I took one more item, again not knowing what it was.  I was drawn in by the generous dusting of powdered sugar on top.

This turned out to be delicious too, and I was rewarded with another slightly sweet, slightly savory filling, this one I think was cheesecake-like: sweetened ricotta, hint of citrus.  The pastry was again incredible, super flaky, super messy.  

Slightly better than the walnut danish, but I'd gladly have either again. ****+.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Butter, Sydney

Butter is a fried chicken restaurant in Sydney.  A well regarded fried chicken restaurant.  The menu, as you may have guessed, is mostly, well, chicken.  Wings, tenders, sandwiches.  Fried chicken can also come on top a salad if you are attempting to be a touch healthy, or served with a hot donut, their signature combo.  They have a lineup of fries, loaded with things like chili, or poutine, or Japanese mayo, sauce, and bonito, or, um, even Nutella.

But none of those things drew me in.  I was drawn in by the other side dishes, mostly all vegetables.  Mashed potatoes and gravy.  Slaw.  Fried halloumi fingers.  Interestingly topped Asian greens.  Corn on the cob.  Let's just say, that after nearly a month in Australia, I was really craving some vegetables.  I had plenty of great food while there, but, my vegetable intake was quite low.  

So one night, when I had leftover proteins and carbs left to finish off at my hotel, I ordered just some sides to go with, in an attempt to have at least a few token vegetables in my day.  I ordered on DoorDash, and my order was quickly confirmed, and it was delivered in a reasonable time frame, well sealed, and moderately still warm.

Side note: Stuck doing a lot of takeout and delivery these days? Want to try some free food and new pickup or delivery services?  Here are some codes for free money!

  • Nextdish: ($10 off your first order) [ Delivery only ]
  • Door Dash ($15 off, $5 each of your first 3 orders) [ Delivery or pickup ]
  • Caviar ($20 off, $10 off your first 2 orders) [ Delivery or pickup ]
  • Ritual ($6 off) [ Pickup only ]
  • ($10 off) [ Delivery or pickup ]
  • Grub Hub ($10 off) [ Delivery or pickup ]
  • Seamless ($10 off) [ Delivery or pickup ]
  • Allset ($5 off) [ Pickup only ]
  • Nextdish: ($10 off your first order) [ Delivery only ]
  • Uber Eats ($20 off - use code eats-lejw5 at checkout) [ Pickup or delivery ]
Miso Corny. $5.
"Corn on the cob, miso butter."

I started with the amusingly named "miso corny".  I have no idea if corn was in season, as it was the end of summer there (March) but corn on the cob sounded fabulous, and I do love miso and butter.

I had to laugh when I opened my takeout bag to find my corn in a little foil lined bag on its own, and, well, it was a single piece, just half a cob.  Uh ... the portion is *half* a cob?  That said, the corn was ripe, it was well cooked (no shrivled bits, not too tough, etc), and it was nicely smothered in butter.  I didn't taste any miso however, it just tasted like buttered corn, and badly called out for some salt or pepper.

So, well cooked, but a letdown in terms of flavor and portion size.  If you order direct, this is $4, on Doordash it was $5, which definitely seems high for half a cob.  ***.
Asian Greens. $11.
"Steamed and chilled Chinese broccoli with peanut dressing, togarashi and wasabi peas."

Next I moved on to the more interesting sounding dish, the Asian greens.

This dish I was excited for for both the Chinese broccoli itself (vegetables!  Green vegetables!) and the toppings.  I was pleased to see it was loaded up with the goodies on top.

The Chinese broccoli was fine.  Bite size pieces of stem, some bite sized pieces of greens.  A good base I guess.  The peanut dressing I expected to like, but wasn't really into.  It tasted more strongly like tahini than peanut to me.  There was tons of it, so impossible to get a bite of just greens to have something lighter and more vegetable forward.  The togarashi added interesting spice, but it seemed like it clashed a bit with the dressing.  Green onion was nice garnish for further Asian flair.  The crushed wasabi peas were great fun, crunchy and had a bit of kick.  Unique garnish, and one that worked.

Overall though, this felt a bit muddled, and wasn't really what I wanted at the time.

The portion of this was fairly small too, less than a small size deli container, definitely less than I was expecting. If you order direct, this is only $9, it was $11 on DoorDash, which again felt high.  ***.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Singapore Airlines Lounge, Sydney Airport

Update Review, March 2023 Visit

Another flight out of Sydney, another chance to swing through the Singapore Airlines lounge (after a visit to the Air New Zealand lounge next door of course).  I always stop at Air New Zealand first as I adore their breakfast yogurts, and they switch over from breakfast to mid-morning food choices at 10:30am on the dot.

Singapore Airlines very slowly switches over from breakfast to lunch, over the course of about an hour once their 12pm-ish flight takes off, whereas Air New Zealand does it in an instant (which, is pretty impressive, really).  This meant I was able to sample a few of the breakfast items, a few of the lunch items, and watch just how slooooooowly they do the change.  I left at 12:10pm, but they still hadn't brought out desserts.
Yogurt, Bircher Muesli, Granola.
I discovered the Singapore Airlines bircher muesli last time I was in the Sydney airport, and I'll admit, I was pretty thrilled to get a chance to have it again.  Yes, Air New Zealand has some great yogurt in the lounge next door, which I did get first, but, the Singapore bircher was so memorable.

I had high expectations going into this, and, well, they were met.  Truly just some of the best bircher muesli I've had.  My hotel had some in both the lounge and restaurant, but I find theirs a bit too acidic and tart (from both citrus and apple), and the Air New Zealand version was too spiced.  This was just right.  Yes, soft and mushy, but, that works for bircher muesli.  Nicely creamy, spiced but not too spiced, just, well, right.  It made me wish I was more hungry, but, I did have breakfast at the hotel,  and far too much yogurt parfaits next door at Air New Zealand, so I could only really do a small portion.  ****+, and worth a visit to the lounge, just for this.
Nasi Lamak Toppings.
I was pleased to see the toppings for the nasi lemak, with cucumber, egg omelet shreds, peanuts, fried anchovies, and sambal.  <3 fried anchovies and sambal.  It had been ages since I had decent sambal.  The fried anchovies were standard but good, nicely crispy, super savory.
Congee Toppings.
More great toppings were available for the congee, including fried shallots, sliced chiles, and fresh green onion, along with bbq and tomato sauce for the scrambled eggs.

Again I was pleased with the condiments, Singapore Airlines really does this well.
Yum Cha: Pork Sui mai, Scallop Dumplings.
The yum cha basket was empty the first two times I went through, but eventually was refilled.  Note that this goes away when they switch over to lunch, it is a breakfast only option.

The lineup was the same as before, pork sui mai and seafood dumplings.  They didn't look great, weren't very good my last visit, and honestly my hotel had pretty great dim sum items at both breakfast and evening canapes, but I still tried.  I was in the mood, but also, I think because the basket was empty the first two times, it made me have a sense of missing out, and thus, I wanted it even more.

The seafood dumplings were labelled "scallop" but they were certainly not scallop, rather, they were filled with pieces of cut up shrimp.  I think these were exactly the same as last time.  Again I found the filling pretty succulent and decent, and the wrappers just thick, gummy, and a bit odd, something just off about the texture, and they seemed ready to crack.  But the filling was nice.

The pork sui mai had actually great wrappers, a complete contrast to the dumplings, just like last time.  I really liked the flavor and texture of these wrappers.  The pork ball inside was fine.

On the side was soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and hot sauce.

This not very good dim sum actually really did satisfy me.  ***.
The pastry lineup was just small croissants, pecan plaits, and banana bread.  After resisting these my last visit, I decided to try a pecan plait.  After all, some hotel breakfast buffets can do these reasonably well.

The pecan plait was slightly above average good enough hotel buffet quality, if that makes sense.   The kind of item you enjoy, and might even take again if you stay a few days, but wouldn't rave about or go out of your way for.  The pastry was crispy and lightly buttery, the filling sweet and gooey, small bits of pecan.  I suspect it would be glorious warmed up and topped with ice cream. ***+.
Lunch: Salads, Dips.
I eagerly awaited the lunch salad bar switchover, as I had loved the dips before.

Also in this area was a mixed greens salad, potato salad, squash salad, olives, and assorted pickles.

I tried a bite of the squash salad, it was nicely cooked.  I also tried the potato salad, which had peas, but that worked for me.  ***. 
The dip lineup was a bit different from my last visit, no vibrant pink beetroot one, but still had the orange one I liked before, along with an eggplant dip and yogurt based dip.

The dips were again all good.  The orange was my favorite, super creamy and smooth, I think red pepper based?  It made me want something yummy to dip into it, either veggies, interesting crackers, or chips.  The eggplant one was fairly standard babaganoush style, soft, decent smoky flavor.  The yogurt one was fine, good to pair with the others.

The dips made me happy.  ***+.
Chicken Curry.
I was in the lounge through 12:10pm, but most of the hot dishes were sloooooowly being switched from breakfast to lunch still.  Most were either empty or vacant entirely, but one, a chicken curry, was brought out.  I didn't try it.

Update Review, August 2022 Visit

After 2.5 years away, I finally got to return to Sydney!  While I was sad to leave, that of course meant I got to check out the airline lounges as I departed, to see what had changed (answer: not much, really). 

I started in the Air New Zealand lounge (update review here), but checked out the Singapore lounge as well.  I was able to see both the breakfast lineup (served until about 11am, later than the Air New Zealand lounge) and the lunchtime switchover (which was still happening around 11:15am.).

Breakfast (Pre-11:15am)

Congee & Toppings.
Kudos to Singapore Airlines for having great toppings.  I didn't have the congee, but was excited by the chiles and crispy onion to add to other things.
Scrambled Eggs & Sauce.
To go with scrambled eggs they had both tomato and bbq sauce, not something I've seen before.  Sometime, I must try bbq on my eggs ...
Baked Beans.
I didn't try the baked beans either.
Dim Sum.
The dim sum selection was not labelled, but there were two kinds, I guessed a prawn dumpling and a pork sui mai?

I lurked around hoping for a fresh basket, but no more were ever brought out in the 40 minutes I was there.  The dim sum is only available in the breakfast lineup, sadly.  I finally tried one of these clearly kinda old items.

The prawn dumpling had decent filling, juicy shrimp/prawn, but, the wrapper was pretty awful.  It was quite thick, and gloopy.  *** filling, but, ** overall.

The pork sui mai fared better - the wrapper was fine, and the filling was ... different.  It basically reminded me of a very dense sausage ball.  The seasoning didn't seem particularly asian.  But it wasn't bad. ***.
The sauce lineup here was great: sweet chili, soy, hot.  I again give them credit for having good accompaniments! 
Cheese / Charcuterie.
The breakfast cheese and charcuterie line was a rather sad selection.  A better cheese board comes out at lunch time.
Yogurt / Bircher Muesli / Fruit Salad.
I'm so glad I tried the bircher muesli!  I love bircher muesli, and this trip had been wrought with bircher muesli disappointment.  My hotel, which usually has decent bircher, had very lackluster muesli in both the executive lounge and restaurant.  The Air New Zealand lounge, which usually has good bircher muesli, did not that morning.

But Singapore Airlines delivered.  Last day, last stop in town, and I got my good bircher muesli.  It was creamy, slightly sweet, and just good flavor and texture all around.  Raisins in it for a bit of chew.  I went back for seconds.  I'd gladly have more of this.  ****.    
The pastries looked very low grade, so I did not try.
Bacon / Sausage.
I also didn't try the token breakfast meats.


Drinks are all self-serve, other than espresso beverages, which are served by a staffed cart.
Wine Selection.
Not the time of day for it, but, for completeness, here is the self-serve wine lineup.
Juices / Beer.
The juices looked reasonably fancy.
Soft Drinks.
No soft drink machine, individual cans here.

Lunchtime (After 11:15am)

The buffet switches over to lunch mode I think right after the Singapore flight takes off.  It seems intentionally timed to be after the lounge basically empties out, somewhere around 11:15am.  They also switch over much more slowly than the Air New Zealand lounge (which is quite impressive in that htey somehow do it in just moments).

The lunchtime lineup is mostly a hot buffet, with curries and stir fries.  They also bring out a soup.

All Spices Beef Ragu with corn chips.
This was a bit fascinating looking, but, I wasn't ready for savory food like that, as I was still enjoying my bircher muesli high.
Yang Chow Fried Rice.
I'm not one for rice, so they quasi-fried rice also did not call out.
Butter Chicken.

I did try the butter chicken, as I had great butter chicken the day before, and really was excited for more.  This however was not great butter chicken.  It was sweet and tasted like tomato.  So much tomato.  Not good at all.  *.

Fish Curry.

If I wanted lunch, I certainly would have gone for the fish curry, but since I wasn't ready for lunch, I just tried the sauce.  It wasn't very good either, no spicing.  **.

Salads, Dips.

The salad station had a basic mixed green salad, a cous cous salad, and roasted beetroot one with walnuts and feta.  There was also a bunch of not labelled dips, but one was hummus, one looked like sundried tomatoes, and two others were salad dressings I think.

I tried the beetroot dip, and it was decent, although I don't love cooked beets.  The other dip, the orange one, I quite liked, but again, not quite sure what it was.  Sour cream or mayo based, definitely creamy, maybe red pepper?  I liked it on some crackers, but wished they had veggies to dunk too. ***.


Next to the barista, a dessert selection appeared.   Four options: dry looking nut brownies, red velvet cake, and two other cakes.  Again, nothing labelled, so hard to know exactly.  I tried the other two cakes.

The green cake I hoped would be pandan perhaps, layered with cream?  It turned out to be matcha, which was still a nice surprise.  Fairly moist cake, creamy filling, light matcha flavor.  Not bad. ***+.

The other cake I hoped was cheesecake, perhaps with a mango topping?  It was indeed cheesecake, thick, well set consistency, decent cream cheese flavor.  It was rich in the right ways.  The topping though I'm not quite sure what it was - it tasted vaguely like pears, but I think it really was supposed to be a mango gel?  Decent cheesecake.  ***+.

Original Review, 2020

When I visit the Sydney airport, I always head straight to the Air New Zealand lounge, as, well, I love it.  But my visits are always around 10:15am or so, and it is the Air New Zealand breakfast offerings, followed by the mid-morning tea time (switchover is at 10:30am), that I really adore.

This time, I was flying a different route, and my lounge time started at 12:30pm, well after morning tea and breakfast.  Or so I thought ...

I decided to start at the Singapore Airlines Silverkris lounge instead of the Air New Zealand lounge (I had access to both, and they are side by side), as I thought it would have better lunch food - which everyone backs up in online reviews.

However, when I arrived at 12:30pm, it was still ... mostly breakfast?  Lunch offerings were brought out around 12:45pm, and it was still being transitioned over when I left at 1pm.  The timing was ... odd.

Anyway, I tried a few hot food items from the lunch buffet, and really didn't care for anything.  I didn't get a chance to check out any sweets though, they hadn't been brought out yet by the time I departed

I was generally underwhelmed and still greatly prefer the Air New Zealand lounge.
The lounge isn't very large, mostly arm chair seating as you see here, along with a few dining tables, and a bar along the window where I set up.
Coffee Machine.
Self-serve coffee (with to go cups, thank you!) came from a machine, although they also had a barista (new addition, people do recommend).
T2 Tea!
Major kudos for my favorite Australian tea: T2.
Bread & Toaster.
I saw this section out of the corner of my eye, and had no interest in it.  It was getting replaced around 1pm when I left, perhaps with snacks or desserts?  I wasn't able to stay to find out.
Yogurt, Muesli, Fruit.
The first thing I saw at the buffet was ... a yogurt station? I was so confused.  12:45pm and ... breakfast?

The lineup had granola, berry yogurt, lychees (!), mango puree, and bircher muesli, along with a mostly empty fruit platter.  

I applauded the lychees and mango puree, and couldn't resist trying the bircher muesli, as I adore bircher muesli, and didn't have any good muesli on my trip.

The bircher muesli was definitely good, creamy, not too sweet, not too sour, not too much apple, just, well balanced.  It had some nuts and fruit in it too. ***+.

I adored the mango puree.  ****.
Cheese, Fruit, Crackers.
The yogurt station turned into cheese and crackers at lunchtime.
The pastry lineup stayed for both morning and lunch service, and had a few danishes, twists, and sliced bread.

One danish looked like a kouign amann, so I eagerly grabbed one, but it turned out to just be ... a danish.  No caramelized crispy edges.  Not very fresh.  Filling was indeterminable.  Did not like. **.
Salad Bar-ish.
The salad bar was pretty meager, and I think might have changed out at the transition point to something else.  At 12:30pm however it had a rice noodle salad (?), shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, and peppers ... no greens for a base though, so not really "salad".  No dressing, but two unlabeled dips.

I actually really like the dips - the orange one seemed to be a roasted red pepper one perhaps, and the other ... I have no idea, just creamy.  Both were tasty, but what was I supposed to dip in them?  Olives?  I found myself dunking anything I could find in them just because I liked the dips so much. ***+.
Bacon, Sausage.
I was (originally) confused to find bacon and sausage at 12:30pm, and wasn't interested in them anyway.
Sauteed Mushroom with Spinach.
The veggie breakfast side also didn't look interesting.
Shakshouka with Bread.
Same with the egg entree, shakshouka, but I give points for not just powdered buffet scrambled eggs.
Yum Cha.
I was most excited for the yum cha (dim sum).

Sure, it is lounge quality, but, I know Singapore Airlines does a nice job with this in other lounges.  This is available in morning and afternoon.

The first two times I checked however, there was only one variety, even though the sign listed two kinds.  Finally I asked someone, and fresh items were brought out, both kinds. 
Yum Cha: Veggie Dumplings and Pork Shumai.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good.

The pork shumai were fairly dried out, and just hard balls of pork inside.  The veggie ones were worse, hard and slimy wrappers, mushy filling. **.

Soy sauce and sweet chili on the side didn't save them. 
Beehoon Noodles with Sliced Omelet.
The noodles were available when I arrived, and stayed through the transition to lunch.  I didn't try them, but many people seemed to be excited for them.
Macaroni & Cheese with Caramelized Onion & Crispy Bacon.
The mac and cheese was brought out right at 12:45pm, and I was excited.  It looked creamy and rich.  Plus, it promised caramelized onion and bacon!

Unfortunately, it was pretty blah.  It was creamy, and the pasta wasn't total mush, but, it also wasn't flavorful at all, I didn't taste any caramelized onion or bacon.

Kinda ... generic and not great mac and cheese.  (Side note: The Air New Zealand lounge had *fabulous* cheesy pasta - update review on that coming soon!). **+.
Basa Fish Fillets with Tangy Chili Sauce.
I was really happy to see a fish offering, particularly when it was put out fresh when I arrived, although, I should have known better.  I thought it was topped with crab or something, and eagerly took a big mouthful of what looked like shredded crab.

It was ... uh, fish mush?  I tried a more solid fillet as well, but it too was mushy.  

I appreciated the lemon slices, but, yeah, mushy and not good. **.
Hainanese Style Chicken Rice: Chicken.
 I know people love the classic chicken rice, but I didn't try it as I don't care for chicken.
Chicken Rice: Rice.
And I don't care for rice either.  So alas, this traditional dish was lost on me.