Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bill's, Darlinghurst

Brunch, brunch, glorious brunch.  One of my absolute favorite meals, and I love that brunch is such a thing in Sydney.

On my first trip to Sydney, I was brought to Bill's by a local, and fell in love with their most famous dish: ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter.  OMG.  Subsequently, I made a point to visit Bill's at least once during every visit.

Bill's is rather famous, and Bill Granger, the executive Chef, has capitalized on the success well.  He has several cookbooks, tv shows, and there are now Bill's restaurants all over the world, including in London and Tokyo, and even Honolulu and Seoul, along with three locations in Sydney.

On this visit, we choose to go to the original Darlinghurst location, because on our last trip to Bill's we went to the larger, newer Surry Hills location, and were disappointed.

It turns out, the location is really not the problem.  I think Bill's has just gone downhill as the empire has expanded.

The experience at Bill's started off just as I remembered: queueing up on the sidewalk to wait.  This was actually a good sign, it means people still like Bills, right?  But things went downhill fast.  The service was horrible.  Our water was never refilled, and only 3 water glasses were brought for our party of 5. Likewise, only 4 plates were provided (technically, they brought 5, but one was dirty and so they took it away, and never replaced it).  4 people ordered lemonade, only 3 received it.  It literally took 45 minutes just to receive my cup of coffee, 35 minutes for the others to get their lemonade, and 20 minutes to get sparkling water.  There is no way the beverage station was THAT backed up.  The staff really just seemed to not care at all

We ordered a selection of Bill's greatest hits, and opted to share everything, and sadly, didn't like a single dish.  It is isn't like the problem was that we just ordered one dish and it happened to be a bad choice, or ordered experimental things, these were all Bill's most famous classics.  The food itself took well over an hour to arrive, was delivered lukewarm, and was totally mediocre.  Also, everything was pricier than anywhere else we went for brunch.

I'm sorry Bill's, but this was not a good showing.  Given this, and our last experience at the Surry Hills location, I think I'm done with Bill's.  There are far, far too many excellent cafes in Sydney (like Pinbone, seriously one of the best brunches I've had in my entire life!) to waste time queueing up, waiting forever for food and drinks, and paying too much for mediocre food.
Large Communal Table.
There are a few small tables on one side of the room, but the majority of patrons are seated around a large, square communal table in the middle.  It is littered with Bill's cookbooks, newspapers, and assorted magazines.  There are also displays of cookies and other desserts, to tempt you while you wait .... and wait.

We were seated in this area, and it wasn't very comfortable.  Hard wooden chairs, very noisy with everyone so close together, but it does create a nice communal atmosphere.  You aren't alone while you wait!
Sparkling Water. $4. Salt & Pepper.
Sparkling water is available for $4/pp, house sparkled.  I appreciate this, as I love sparkling water, but I do think it is crazy to drink so much bottled water, imported from far away places.  It was supposed to be "bottomless" per person, but our jug was never refilled.  Nor were the tap water glasses of those who opted not for still water.  Sigh, the service.

On the table was also a cute little pepper mill and a jar of sea salt with a spoon, a cute touch.
Bill's Homemade Lemonade. $7. 
"Iced oolong lime tea, rosehip and mint punch, lemon lime bitters".

It was a hot day, so the others all ordered the lemonade at the recommendation of the server.  None of them liked it.  The lemonade took about 35 minutes to arrive.

Certainly not worth $7 each.
Decaf Long Black. $4.40.
Bill's uses Single Origin Roasters, my absolute favorite roastery in Sydney.  So I was eager for my coffee to arrive.  It took 45 minutes from the time I ordered it.  No exaggeration.

And, it wasn't very good.  I saw it sitting up at the barista area getting cold for probably close to 5 minutes before anyone bothered to bring it to me.  I was tempted to go grab it myself.  But, the lukewarm temperature was not the real issue; it just wasn't good.  It had a strange sweet funk to it.

I had decaf from Single Origin from other places during my trip, like Dough Collective, so I know it isn't just that they don't make a good decaf.  A shame.  Perhaps it was old?  I'm not sure how a barista would otherwise screw up a simple long black, as there is no milk to burn or incorrectly steam or anything.  Plus, she had 45 minutes to make it!

$4.40 was pricer than anywhere else for coffee as well, even if you subtract the extra $0.50 for decaf.
Scrambled Organic Eggs and Sourdough Toast .$14.50.
Bill's is famous for their scrambled eggs, made with excessive amounts of cream.  I'm not really an egg eater, but I tried a bite, just to see how amazing eggs could possibly be.

They were .. scrambled eggs.  Fluffy and rich, but still, really not special.  Everyone else agreed.  The garnish was whole leaves of basil, just kinda thrown on top.

The toast on the side wasn't warm, and the giant pat of hard butter served alongside was impossible to spread on cold toast.  No one even bothered to eat the bread.

$14.50 for some scrambled eggs is certainly a bit pricey.
Sweet Corn Fritters, Roast Tomato, Spinach and Bacon. $21.50. 
Ok, one classic dish down, antoher to go.  The other savory Bill's classic dish is corn fritters.  Again, not something I normally go for, but someone else wanted to get this, and I tried some of course.

The fritters were the surprise of the day, certainly the best item we received.  They were super crispy on the outside, filled with sweet corn inside, and well salted.  Probably too much salt for many, but I appreciate aggressive salting.

The bacon was Australian-style, floppy and flabby, so I didn't try it.  The arugula was literally just arugula thrown on top, undressed.

For corn fritters, these were nice enough, and far better than the ones I had from Trio Cafe a few days prior, but I wouldn't return for this dish.

And again, the price.  Two corn fritters, with a small portion of bacon and a tomato, for $21.50?  A bit high.
Ricotta Hotcakes, Banana and Honeycomb Butter. $20.00.
And finally, the reason we were there.  The famous ricotta hotcakes!

The hotcakes come with three large hotcakes and two slices of honeycomb butter, plus sliced bananas.  A small pitcher of syrup was provided on the side.

To say they let us down is an understatement.

First, they uh, weren't "hot" hotcakes.  They weren't even warmcakes.  The butter couldn't melt into them.  One reason these hotcakes are usually so amazing is the way the honeycomb butter melts into them, infusing them with buttery, sweet goodness.  Alas, no melting here.  We could kinda spread it thin and it would melt a little, but you certainly did not wind up with butter infused hotcakes.  Strike one, temperature.

The hotcakes themselves were ok, large and fluffy, and did have pockets of moist ricotta in them, but without the melted honeycomb butter, they just weren't magical.

The butter was good, but it didn't have nearly as much honeycomb as I remembered and wanted.  Not quite enough sweetness to it, and, we ran out before finishing the hotcakes.  Strikes two and three, not enough honeycomb, not enough butter.

And finally, the bananas.   I swear there were probably two whole bananas on the plate.  They were literally just halves of bananas, sliced and put on the plate.  Thank you for removing the peel at least?  They were ripe, sure, but, just bananas.  I swear they used to caramelize them.

I'm pretty sure there are plenty of cafes in Sydney at this point that serve much, much better hotcakes.  Bill's may have started the trend, but they have certainly been surpassed.  And $20 for cold pancakes?  I'll pass.
See review on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sailor's Thai Restaurant, Sydney

As I've mentioned several times now, during our time in Sydney, we were determined to eat as much Thai food as possible since Thai food in San Francisco is mediocre at best, and Thai food in Sydney is fantastic.

A few nights prior, we went to Sailor's Thai Canteen, a casual Thai restaurant that we have visited many times throughout the past few years, and always our favorite.  But Sailor's Thai also has a formal restaurant in the lower floor of the same building.  We were eager to finally make it to the restaurant, and finally got our act together to make a booking (rather essential).

Overall, yes, it was a very different dining experience than the casual Canteen.  The food was more refined, the flavors more developed, and I did prefer it, but the service was really quite poor, and the prices were far too high for what it was.

I'd return, but I did have a number of complaints.  Ojan still liked the Canteen far better.
When I read about Sailor's Thai Restaurant, I imagined that it was far more formal, particularly when I saw the menu prices.  Yes, this is obviously more formal than the Canteen, since it has regular tables rather than a single communal table, proper table service, and more refined menu.

But the decor wasn't *that* formal.  There were white cloth tablecloths, but they were covered by pieces of brown paper.  The walls were green.  There wasn't anything to add ambiance, no flowers, no artwork, not candles.  We were eating in the basement, and it felt like it.  I wonder why they didn't put the casual canteen down here, and the more formal restaurant upstairs for natural light?

The service was quite poor.  Our server was disinterested and fairly neglectful.  He provided no more information than absolutely necessary, a contrast to the other server in the room who would warn groups when they ordered an item that had say 3 pieces for a group of 4.  When my wine glass ran empty, and another diner finished his cocktail, no offer of a next drink was offered (until the other server noticed and took care of us!)  Our water glasses ran empty as well.  It took a very long time to get his attention to ask for the bill, and even once we did, it took at least 15 minutes for him to finally bring it to us.

Dishes were brought out by another staff member, who just delivered them without description.  My main dish, which was actually a starter from the menu, arrived almost 10 minutes after everyone else's, with no apology or notice given.

These things would matter less if it wasn't for the price.  They charged the prices of fine dining, but absolutely did not deliver the experience.
2012 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France. $16.
I was ordering primarily light dishes, so I opted for a white wine.  The wine list was fairly extensive for a restaurant this size, and in particular, there were quite a few choices by the glass.

I enjoyed the chablis quite a bit, but the pour was a bit on the small side - this was my full glass.  For my second glass, I asked for a recommendation from the other server, and was given a chardonnay that I did not like as much.

One dining companion ordered a delightful cocktail to start, a glass of whiskey halfway through, and a fabulous port with dessert, and he was quite happy with his choices.  I tried a sip of the port, and I must admit, it was wonderful.
Appetizer: Chor Muang. $18.
"Steamed dumplings of sweet radish and caramelised peanuts."

The menu is broken up into appetizers, starters, mains, sides, and desserts.  I wasn't really sure what the difference between an "appetizer" and "starter" was.  In my mind, they are synonyms.  I think we determined that appetizers are small individual bites, and starters are just small plates?

Given that description, you can guess that this was an appetizer.  We had no real idea what to expect with this dish, but I assure you, it was still radically different from anything I anticipated.

The presentation was quite stunning.  The dumplings were a vibrant purple!  And they were very elaborate, shaped like flowers, perched atop a lettuce leaf each, sprinkled with peanuts.

The wrapper had a nice chew, wasn't slimy, and was much better than the dumpling wrappers we had at Home Thai.  The filling was chopped peanuts, super crunchy, a bit hearty.  I didn't actually taste radish, but the flavor was complex enough that I'm not certain I would have been able to make it out.  It was sweeter than I expected, but also a bit spicy.

I appreciated this bite for the interesting textures, including the chew of the wrapper and the crunch of the filling, and the layers of complexity I experienced in savoring the flavor.  A really unique dish, and I'm glad I tried it.  It was the favorite appetizer of one diner.  Ojan wasn't impressed though, the only positive thing he had to say was "well, at least it was pretty".

$18 for 4 vegetarian dumplings did seem a bit high however.
Appetizer: Ma Hor. $12.
"Queensland pineapple with candied minced pork, prawn and peanuts."

Next, another appetizer.

I'll admit, I picked this only because it said "candied minced pork", and at Sailor's Thai Canteen {LINK}, the delicious dishes things were the candied pork alongside the papaya salad and the candied pork belly.  Mmm, candied pork!

Again, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and again, the dish that showed up is not at all what I was imagining.  First, it was a cold dish, which I really didn't expect.

The pineapple was cut like a little scoop, another intricate presentation.  On top was a tiny little ball ... of candied minced pork, prawn, and peanut.  It was beyond fascinating.

The pineapple was too sweet, and the proportion was wrong, as it totally overwhelmed the bite.  This was so unfortunate, because the pork/prawn/peanut ball was downright delicious.  It had a sweetness from the "candied" element, a slight fishiness from the prawn, and a crunch from the peanuts.  I would have gladly eaten a skewer full of these just as cocktail meatballs.

Mine and one other's favorite of the appetizers.  I really liked the little balls!

Other appetizers that we skipped included grilled scallops served in their shells, betel leaves, and some crazy looking crispy vermicelli noodles topped with prawns.  Other tables nearby ordered all of these items, and they all looked quite tempting.

We also skipped all the starters, which included fish cakes, scampi, grilled barramundi, and a banana leaf salad.  Interestingly, I didn't see any of these make their way towards other tables either.
Main: Pad Krapow Nua. $32.
"Wagyu beef stir fried with holy basil and chilli."

One diner went for the beef stir fry.  I didn't try it, but it looked like tender beef strips.  Ojan tried a bite, and said it was fairly salty.  It was topped with a mound of crispy basil.
Main: Massaman Nua. $35.
"Wagyu beef in a southern style massaman curry with potatoes and onion."

Another went for the other beef choice, massaman curry, again featuring wagyu.  I don't generally like massaman curry, and I had the wagyu stew meat a few days earlier in the green curry upstairs, so I mostly skipped this dish, only trying a bite of tender onion, and a few spoonfuls of sauce.  It was really well spiced, and the depth of flavor was evident, just not my style.  Just like in the green curry, the beef was easily fork separable, quite tender.

Like the starters, I thought the $35 price tag was a touch high, although the wagyu curry in the canteen was $29.
Main: Pla Snapper Sam Rod. $48.
"Whole New Zealand snapper flash fried with our three-flavour sour, sweet and spicy sauce."

Ojan went for the whole fried snapper, another stunning presentation.  The pieces of fried fish were placed back inside the curved fried body.

I tried a piece while I waited for my choice.  The fish was delivered hot and fresh.  The exterior was crispy, skin on, still moist inside.  The sauce reminded me of sweet chili sauce.  Like the stir fried beef dish, it was topped with crispy basil, that I thought looked great, but just tasted like oil.

This was an ok dish, but it didn't wow me.  Ojan said it was his favorite of the dishes (he is the only one who tried everything).  And it was impressive looking, but at $48 it was really quite pricey.

The other mains we skipped were a chicken red curry, stir fried duck and eggplant, tom yum soup, and caramelized pork hock.
Starter: Yum Pla Muk Mamuang Sod. $28.
"Sashimi grade squid, grilled and served with chilli, lime and a green mango salad."

My choice was the squid salad, listed as a starter (ok, so I lied when I said we skipped all the starters).  Even though it was a salad, and a cold dish, it somehow took much longer than everyone else's main dishes.  It arrived at least 10 minutes, perhaps 15, after everyone else's food.  I was convinced that it had been forgotten, or mistaken, since I was ordering a non-main as a main.  I would have asked about it, except, that would have required our server to pay any attention whatsover.

Anyway, it finally arrived.  It caught my eye because I was really into squid on this trip, having had it the night before as salt and pepper calamari in the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge and as BBQ calamari at Ms. G's.

The squid was nicely grilled, with a bit of smokiness to it.  Some pieces were a bit slimy however.

The salad was shredded green mango, a bit tart, plus mint and cilantro, garnished with what I'm guessing were trout roe.

I wanted to like this, as it was all things I like, and I was in the mood for a light, refreshing meal.  But ... I thought it was way overdressed and way too sweet.  All I could taste was sweetness.  Interestingly, I complained about this, and my dining companions totally disagreed, saying it wasn't too sweet, and that it was spicy.  I didn't detect any spice!

I really don't understand why my tastebuds seemed so different from the others.  It really was overwhelmingly sweet to me, and I didn't like it at all.  I ate some squid just to make sure I had enough protein to move on to dessert, but I didn't want it, and $28 for a starter again is high.
Dessert: Ka Nom Hua Lan. $14.
"Caramelised coconut dumplings in pandanus pastry with cream ."

And speaking of dessert.  You know me and dessert.  I was looking forward to this part of the meal, particularly as I had read so many reviews raving about the dessert dumplings.  People said this was WHY they come to Sailor's Thai, and, the best I can tell, this dish has been on the menu for ages (and was on the menu at the other Sailor's Thai restaurants that have since closed).

I really liked the pandan wrappers.  They were a pretty green color, and the flavor was nice.  I also thought the texture of the wrapper was just perfect, a bit glutinous, but that is what I wanted.

However, I didn't like the filling of caramelized coconut.  Like my salad, I found it way too sweet.  And of course, everyone else didn't think it was too sweet.  What was wrong with me?

The dumplings were served in a thick coconut milk cream, that was also quite sweet (everyone agreed on this point), that I liked more than the coconut milk creams from desserts at Chat Thai.

The filling ruined these for me, but I gladly ate all the remaining wrappers dunked in the cream, and just discarded the filling.  And then ... I used a spoon to drink all the coconut cream.

I managed to really enjoyed this, but it would have been much better if I actually liked the filling.
Dessert: Kong Wan. $21.
"Baked mung bean and coconut pudding with crispy eschallots, white sticky rice with custard apple, durian ice cream."

We also ordered the dessert sampler platter.  The other items on the dessert menu were mango and sticky rice, which we almost got but decided against because we wanted to be more interesting, and a mung bean pudding, which we almost got just because it sounded fascinating, but then we realized that the sampler platter had that, plus two other items, so we could hedge our bets if the mung bean thing was too weird, and try two other desserts.  Plus, after our first brush with durian a few days prior at Chat Thai, we wanted to try it again.

The server warned us that the platter would have some of the dumplings on it.  We were a little stumped, because the description said it was the mung bean pudding, the rice with apple custard, and the durian ice cream, no mention of dumplings, but we assumed it must be a 4th item, not listed for some reason, as he didn't say the dumplings were replacing something else.

And then this arrived.

Where was the sticky rice and apple custard?  There was sticky rice, but ... with mango.  Not that we were upset by this, since we wanted to order the mango and sticky rice anyway, but ... uh, he could have told us this.

And ... where was the durian ice cream?  No where.  In its place was the dumplings.  Again, he told us there would be dumplings, but he neglected to tell us that the durian ice cream would not exist.  Sigh.  The service.

Anyway, the dumplings were the same as our full size order, and the reason we had so many (and extra sauce!).  They were the first pick of one diner for favorite dessert.

The mung bean and coconut pudding was just as strange as we imagined.  It was a bit pasty and cake-like, served cold.  And yes, there were shallots on top.  I'm all for mixing savory and sweet, salty and desserts, etc, but this totally didn't work for me.  I liked nothing about this.  Mine, and everyone else's, least favorite.

The mango and sticky rice was just classic mango and sticky rice, but the mango was very ripe and fresh, the sticky rice perfectly sticky, and the coconut cream just as tasty with in the dumplings.  It was much, much better than the mango and sticky rice at Home Thai and we easily polished this off.  The favorite dessert for myself, Ojan, and one other diner.
Sailors Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

American Airlines Admiral's Club + Flagship Lounge, LAX

The American Airlines Admiral's Club in Terminal 4 is broken into two sections.  The first is the regular Admiral's Club, accessible to anyone who has Admiral's Club access.  The second is the Flagship Lounge, only for those flying international First Class, or who are OneWorld Emerald.  The Flagship Lounge is adjacent, but behind a second set of doors, from the regular space.  To access this area, you are given a special card when you enter the main lounge, so you can get in and out of it at will.

Since I had plenty of time to kill in LAX, and low expectations of the Admiral's Club, I spent most of my time in the Qantas Business and First Class lounges in the international terminal, and only walked over to Terminal 4 when I needed to.  What follows is mostly a photo tour, since I didn't dine much there (not that they really have much to offer).

Admiral's Club

I started with the basic Admiral's Club.  It was pretty much like any other Admiral's Club, with very limited offerings, but was large, and the seating areas varied.
Spa Water.
You are greeted with spa water options, which were refreshing.
General Seating.
Several types of seating are available, in a bright, light filled space.
Bar and Dining.
Adjacent to the first seating section is a bar where you can purchase premium drinks (I believe there are some basic red and white wine and beer available complimentary), along with for-purchase cafe style items.  I'm not sure why anyone would eat in here rather than purchasing food at the slightly better establishments in the main terminal though.

Adjacent to the bar is an area designed for eating, with tables and chairs.
Snacks and Corner Seating.
Around the corner is a snack station, with the same trio of snacks that show up in most Admiral's Clubs: two types of snack mix and pretzels.  Since I've reviewed the snacks before, I'll leave you to read all about my thoughts on those in my previous review of the club in SFO and my review of the club in Boston.
Quite Zone.
Around the other side isa "Cell-free zone", a quite, calm environment.  It felt like a library!
Snack Station.
The main snack station has the same snack mixes as usual, plus two types of cookies, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip.  They are large, soft style cookies, nice enough.  If they were kept under a heat lamp, they'd be actually really quite good!

As I mentioned in my review of the same cookies in Boston, I think they are Otis Spunkmeyer brand.

Apples and oranges round out the food options.  This is really not where you come to get any substantial snacks!
Drink Station.
The drink station has pre-brewed coffee (decaf or regular), plus a Nescafe machine to make espresso drinks. I really appreciate that they have togo cups, so I was able to grab a cup of coffee on my way out the door.  The coffee was unmemorable.

Flagship Lounge

Next, I moved into the Flagship Lounge.  This was my first time inside a Flagship Lounge, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  It is certainly nicer than the regular Admiral's Club, with some real food options and self-serve liquor, but, still not a very premium lounge.
Comfortable Seat.
Like the regular area, I appreciated how light filled it was, with views of the planes coming and going.  The chairs were crazy comfortable.  I don't recall any seating more comfortable than this in any airport anywhere, including premium international lounges.  Major points for the chairs, and, for having power outlets around.  And free wifi, no password needed.
Dining Area.
Adjacent to the food station is a dining area, which I didn't use.
Soft Drinks, Juices, Water.
There is a selection of bottled soft drinks, juices, and both still and sparkling water.  This was notable only because the regular Admiral's Club didn't have basic things like sparkling water, apparently a premium item.
Buffet: Salad, cheese, sandwiches, desserts.
And ... the food options.

While much better than the regular Admiral's Club (recall: snack mix, cookies, fruit), there wasn't much to write home about here.

Mixed greens and dressing, dry pasta salad, and a tomato and cucumber salad.  Some kind of pre-made sandwiches.  Slices of basic cheese.  Fruit salad.  Brownies.

Of course, I had to try SOMETHING, so I went for a caramel and nut topped brownie.  It was dry and flavorless, not rich at all.  The cookies from the other side were better.
And some basic snacks.

Stacy's Pita chips and Miss Vickie's potato chips, neither of which are awesome.  Crackers to go with the cheese.  A few types of granola bars.  Pepperidge farm cookies.  I actually think the cookies from the regular lounge were better!
Soup ... Empty Hot Food.
For hot options, there was soup.  And a serving dish that was supposed to have hot food, but never did in the hour I was there.  Maybe it has something at dinner time?
Wine, Etc.
Self-serve wines, and basic liquor.
Decently Stocked Bar.
The bar was actually decently stocked, for a domestic lounge.
Of course, cold beer for those who prefer it.
And tea, an assortment of Twinnings, with basically every choice of sweetener you could want, including honey.

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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