Friday, July 24, 2015

Walkers Biscuits, UK

Last year, when I visited my London office, I got a chance to try a bunch of snacks from the office microkitchen (in addition to racking up a few more Michelin stars at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon of course).  Some snacks were more successful than others.  There were horrible ones, like the bars from Nakd.  Slightly better were oat and fruit bars from Braw or cereal bars from Alpen Light.

Once I grew tired of the bars, it was time to move on to biscuits, or, as I know them, cookies.  I'm not really a fan of cookies, and packaged cookies in particular, but, well, sometimes I can't resist just trying everything.  I saw Walkers products everywhere, not just only in our office, but they had them in the airline lounge and on my British Airways flight.  So I figured they must be legit.

It turns out, Walkers is actually originally a Scottish company.  They've been around since 1898, baking their famous shortbread.  Things have grown since then, and they now produce a slew of products and ship worldwide.  They care about the quality of their products, even as they have grown.  Everything is non-GMO, no artificial colors or preservatives, they use only milk and butter from free range grass fed cows, eggs from free range chickens, etc.

Since this style of product just isn't for me in general, you probably shouldn't trust my opinion much.  I found them all quite boring, sorry!


The shortbreads are Walkers signature product, and the first item they ever produced.  They pride themselves on the fact that they are made with only 4 ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and salt.  They claim to make the largest selection of shortbreads in the world, available in a slew of sizes and varieties.

The basic shortbreads come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from "fingers" to triangles to rounds to animal shapes.  You can get them with chocolate chips.  Or packaged into a slew of fancy tins.  Or gluten-free of course.
Pure Butter Shortbread.
"Pure creamery butter shortbread baked in the Highland village of Aberlour in Speyside to an original family recipe, first perfected by Joseph Walker in 1898."

I tried the most basic shortbread of all, the classic pure butter shortbread.  I believe these were the fingers.

I had read their marketing about how they don't use preservatives, no artificial this or that, but, I was still shocked to see the ingredient list.  Most likely the shortest of any packaged product I've ever encountered: flour, butter, sugar, salt.  Literally.

Impressive.  That said, they were just shortbreads.

Decently crumbly, a bit buttery, but, just a plain shortbread.  Not something I'll ever get excited about.


The oatcakes are a savory offering, known as "Scottish Biscuits for Cheese" in the US. Again, available in assorted shapes and sizes.
Highland Oatcakes
"A perfect accompaniment to soup, meat and fish dishes, cheese and preserves."  "The perfect accompaniment to any cheeseboard".

Whoops, I thought these were cookies!

Instead, they are dry, oat cakes.  Even with cheese, I really didn't care for them.  They tasted like sawdust!


Biscuits are what you know as cookies.  They make a few different varieties, but all hard style.
Oat 'n Honey.
"Delicious crunchy oat and honey biscuits."

These were very, very boring biscuits.  They tasted sorta like graham crackers, but were shaped like a cookie.  Since they looked like cookies, I expected more flavor from them.  My least favorite.
Stem Ginger.
"Walkers Stem Ginger Cookies are baked to perfection to a traditional recipe with generous pieces of whole Buderim stem ginger. The candied ginger bits in the cookies are a plus."

For packaged, hard-style cookies, these really weren't bad.  Yes, they were crispy and I don't tend to care for crispy cookies.  But they were just the right level of sweet, buttery, and I liked the very strong ginger flavor.

I certainly wouldn't ever purchase these, but I was pleasantly surprised.

[ No Photo ]
White Chocolate & Raspberry Biscuits. 

"Raspberries and white chocolate chips are packed into Walkers’ famous biscuit recipe."

I found these to be incredibly boring.  I thought raspberries and white chocolate would be tasty, but alas, not much going on here.  Just kinda dry, packaged cookies.  Never anything I'd like.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bar Snacks & Drinks at Prospect

Prospect is the restaurant and bar located across the street from my offices.  It is one of Emil's favorite places.  Let's just say, I've visited many times.

The following is a collection of reviews over assorted visits throughout 2014 - 2015.  I was going to combine into one master post with my previous posts, but that would get far too long, so I left separate.  I'll leave all of the general descriptions out, since, you've read it all before many times.

Let me know if you have thoughts on how to best format update reviews.  Add to the original? Keep separate?  What works for you, dear readers?

Previous posts:


Domino Effect. $11.50.
"Vodka, Autumn Spice Syrup, Habañero Shrub Lemon, Apple Cider".

This was really sweet an unbalanced.  Surprising, since they normally have really well designed cocktails.

So I moved on to the Manhattan Project: Silver Oat Whiskey, Dolin Blanc Rhum Agricole, Orange Bitters ($12).  It was much better than the Domino Effect, more balanced, but still pretty alcoholic tasting.  I did really liked the cherry in it.  Not quite my thing, but a good drink.
Prospector. $12.
"Scotch, Madeira, Benedictine, Prospect Bitters, Flamed Orange."

Best drink of the night.  A really nicely balanced, signature drink for a reason.

I’d certainly consider this one again.  Goes particularly well with spiced nuts (more on that below!).
I didn't get the name of this on, but it had rum and “autumn syrup”.

It was the best drink I ever had at Prospect.  I loved the spice from the syrup.  I had one made by one bartender that was really amazing, sooo much spicing.  And then I had another made by a different bartender with much less spicing.  It also tasted more alcoholic, not nearly as balanced.  Still good, but not as mind blowing.

If it makes a return to the menu next fall, I'd certainly try it again.
Garden Variety: $12.
"Gin, Grapefruit, Radish, Lemon, Creole Bitters, Cava"

This was ... ok.  Fairly refreshing.  Good bitterness from the grapefruit.  But, just not a lot going on.  I wouldn't get it again.

I also tried the "Discovery of the New World: Reposado Tequila, Manzanilla Sherry, Cara Cara Syrup," and it failed to impress.  A bit too bitter for me.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for cocktails?

Bar Snacks

Warm Nuts. $4. 
When you are at a bar, you need to munch on something, right?  We started with the most basic bar snack: nuts.

They were nicely spiced (with rosemary I think?).   Served warm is always a nice touch.  The mix was pecans, cashews, and peanuts, a decent selection.   I particularly liked the pecans.

Not particularly amazing, but, good for what they were, and if I just wanted something to munch at the bar, I'd get them again.
Kabocha Squash Hummus / Olive Oil Crackers. $7.
Someone I was with ordered the hummus and crackers.  

I don't like hummus, but still tried a bite, since I love kabocha squash and hoped that would dominate the flavor.  It didn't.  Still hummus, so not for me, but the garnish of seasonally appropriate pomegranate seeds was a nice touch.

The olive oil crackers on the side were quite tasty though, I just wanted something different to dip them into.
Fries with Aioli. $6.
Whenever I visit Prospect, I'm always jealous of the fries.  They always look amazing, and so many groups seem to order them.  So I finally tried them, after many years of visiting and just drooling from a distance.

Look at these things!  Serious fries.  Thick cut.  Delivered piping hot and fresh.  Very soft and mashed potato-y inside, but crispy outside.

But ... I didn't love them.  I think it was the aioli that killed it for me.  I usually love aioli, and this was just ... mayo, really.  It had no real flavor.  It didn't add anything to the fries.  I found myself wanting ketchup (which never happens!).

On another visit, I tried the fries again when they had a special: salt and vinegar fries!  They were again thick cut, served warm.  The salt and vinegar flavor was quite successful.  But ... the aioli flavorless and not good.

Maybe I'll try them again, but sadly, this is one dish that looks much better than it has tasted.
Caesar’d Deviled Eggs with Garlic Bread Crumbs. $7.
Ok, now we are getting somewhere!  Deviled eggs!

I'm very particular about my deviled eggs.  I love deviled eggs.  When I was in college, I made them, in the dining hall, all the time.  The salad bar had whole hard boiled eggs, the sandwich bar had mayo, mustard, relish, etc, and I could always find other fun things to mix in.  So whenever I wasn't into what the dining hall was serving, I had a fallback that I adored.  Sure, my friends thought I was crazy, cracking the eggs, pulling out the yolk, mixing up my magic mix of filling, and stuffing it back in, but I didn't care.  They always made me so happy.

Anyway, I like trying interesting spins on deviled eggs, and Prospect always has some kind of deviled egg.

On this visit it was a play on a ceasar salad.  The filling was creamy, and perfectly salty, but the "caesar" nature of it wasn't too strong.  The garnish of lettuce to mimic the salad was cute though.

Fine, but I prefer my deviled eggs to be spicy, or just have something a bit more going on.
Spring Garlic Deviled Eggs: Bacon, Pickled Serrano. $7.
I tried several other variations on the deviled eggs at Prospect, and they just never really met my particular style.  I didn't order these, or even want them, but Emil did, and demanded that I try one.  He loves Prospect, and is always sad that I never find the food quite as good as he does.
The filling in these was green, which you can't really tell from this photo.  Unfortunately, I didn't taste any spring garlic.  The filling was creamy, but, just not interesting to me.  The egg was cooked fine.  The pickled serrano did give a nice pop of heat, and who doesn't love a tiny bit of bacon, but, they were just deviled eggs.  Not flavorful enough.
Duck Liver Mousse: Dates, Pickled Shallots, Brioche Soldiers.  $9
I've had mixed success with the duck liver mousse at Prospect over the years.  But, after a conversation involving foie gras, it seemed fitting to at least order the mousse (this visit was clearly during the foie gras ban).

The mousse itself was decent, creamy, not too liver-y, with a sprinkle of salt on top.  A bit more salt, perhaps on the plate for us at add on as desired, would have been appreciated, but otherwise, the mousse was fine.

The brioche soldiers sounded like a nice vessel for the mousse ... except they weren't warm.  They had been toasted at some point, but had lost their heat long before reaching us.

I love shallots and pickled things, so I liked the pickled shallots, but they didn't quite go with the mousse.  They would have been better mixed into the deviled eggs!

The only other component on the plate was two dates, cut in half.  They provided some necessary sweetness, but there were only two, and, dates don't really spread. This dish was seriously lacking some sort of fruit compote.

Overall, one of the less successful versions of this dish, but again, the mousse itself was fine, it was just everything served with it that didn't add up.
Spiced Foie Gras Torchon: Orange Marmalade, Sparkling Gelée, Chocolate Brioche. $15.
Ah, foie gras.  This review was clearly written once the ban had been taken back.

This was a decent offering.

Two types of toast, one regular brioche, one chocolate, both thick and nicely toasted.  Served warm this time.  A good foundation for the foie.

The torchon was good, quite creamy, with good strong foie flavor.

The "sparkling gelée" didn't have much flavor, but was a fun component.  The marmalade was similar, good enough, nice to have fruit and sweetness, but, not remarkable.

Overall, solid, well executed, but not particularly memorable.
Click to add a blog post for Prospect on Zomato

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gantry Bar and Lounge, Sydney

Last week, you read about how I visited the recently opened Gantry Restaurant in Sydney.  We had a great meal featuring fresh seafood and interesting cocktails.  I added Gantry to my list of places that I'd gladly return to, expecting that to mean on a next visit to Sydney, since I still had many other places I wanted to visit on this trip.

But, a few nights later, we had a VERY large group (at least 15, I think 20?) that wanted food, and, more importantly, drinks.  I racked my brain.  Where on earth could we seat 20 people, with no reservation, that would have decent food and drinks?

Then I remembered the lounge and bar area leading to The Gantry Restaurant.  I knew it used the same kitchen as the restaurant, but served more casual bar food.  And we found the cocktail menu really intriguing when we went for dinner, so I knew the drinkers would be happy.  And, it didn't seem that crowded when we were there before, so I hoped that possibly we'd be able to walk in with our swarm of people and be accommodated.
The Bar ... before we showed up!
We sent Emil ahead of the large group to scope it out and prepare the staff for our arrival, which he happily did.  When we arrived, it was just as we hoped: the entire bar was open, as were many of the adjacent casual seating areas.  Emil had a drink in hand, and vouched for its deliciousness.  Things looked good.

However, the staff were clearly not pleased with our huge group.  They were really were not happy that we wanted food in addition to drinks.  I wouldn't say that they were impolite exactly, but, they certainly didn't make us feel welcome.

The quality from the bartenders varied widely.  One bartender put a lot of care and attention into his drinks, such precision, and came out with great creations.  The other seemed to care less that we were there, and was quite sloppy.

After everyone ordered their drinks at the bar, we moved off into the casual seating space so as not to take over the entire bar.

Casual Seating.
The other seating areas were in pods of a few chairs around little cocktail tables, with assorted types of seating.  We broke up into several groups and were intending to order food for each set of people, based on what those individuals wanted.  However, they required that we do a single food order, so I just ordered for the group.

The service wasn't very good, probably due to our group size.

As the food came out of the kitchen, it got randomly distributed amongst our groups.  Even if we had 3 orders of the same dish, they just brought them all to one table ,and then brought nothing to the next table.  We had to distribute the dishes ourselves.

They also only brought out perhaps 3 sets of cutlery for our group of 17.  We asked for more cutlery, and they eventually brought a couple more, but not enough for everyone.  We were provided no share plates.   When we asked for share plates, again, just a few were brought.

Again, they did accommodate us, but, were clearly annoyed.  Our large group of jeans and t-shirt clad engineers was not the right demographic for their swanky hotel bar, and I don't really recommend you follow my lead here.  A small group of well dressed folks would fit in much better.

The food was fine, but not nearly as good as the meal we had in the full restaurant.  It was better than standard bar food, but it was also quite pricey compared to regular bar food.  I wouldn't return to teh bar and lounge for food, but perhaps if I just wanted a drink I'd swing by, as the cocktails were all interesting and tasty.


The drinks were certainly the highlight of the evening.  All were unique and decently made (if you got the right bartender).
El Gantry. $19.
"Altos Blanco tequila swizzled with blueberry and native herbs."

I started with El Gantry.  Like the cocktail I had in the restaurant, it had a ton of crushed ice, but unlike the one at the restaurant, it was nicely balanced from the start.  I didn't really pick up much blueberry nor tequila though, and wanted to taste at least one of those elements more, hence the reason I picked the drink.

The garnish of some sort of fresh native herb was interesting, and added a strong whiff of herbs with every sip, not what I'm accustomed to while consuming a cocktail.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but was ready to move on.

So I moved on to a drink that Emil ordered, and quickly discarded.  Why?  It was sweet, and if you recall, Emil simply doesn't do sweet.  I'm amused that he even ordered it.  I don't understand.  It was The Grape Escape, described as "Hennessy VS and fresh grape juice shaken with orgeat and rhubarb bitters."  I guess he thought the Hennessy and bitters would counteract the grape juice?

I thought it was pretty good, although obviously quite sweet. The best part was the whole grapes submerged inside that soaked up all the booze, and were quite fun to eat at the end.  It was a drink that just kept on giving!

Throughout the night, everyone ordered a slew of cocktails, all interesting sounding and looking, and they all seemed to enjoy them.  On the cocktail front, we achieved success.
Port. ??
To end the night, I needed dessert, obviously.  The Gantry does serve desserts from the restaurant in the lounge, but that seemed too complicated with our group, so I opted for "liquid" dessert instead.

I opted for the port.  It was fine, but, just port.

Bar Snacks

As I mentioned, the bar and lounge menu is entirely different from the restaurant menu, which makes sense, given the space.  You can't eat beautifully composed plated seafood entrees while sitting in a low chair with only a side cocktail table, so the menu is adapted to the space.

The bar menu is broken up into two sections, dubbed "bar snacks" and "substantials", but all are designed to be share plates enjoyed at the bar or in the lounge.

To start, we ordered several of each and every bar snack.
 Beetroot Homefries / Dill Aioli. $9.
We started with the beetroot homefries that we had a the restaurant a few days earlier.  I skipped them this time around since I didn't really care for them at the restaurant, but everyone else gobbled them up, again a crowd pleaser.

We also got the chicken wings with tamarind glaze ($16), which, given my dislike of chicken, I obviously skipped (and missed a photo of entirely, amidst all the drama of food randomly showing up at tables, whoops!).  These went unfinished, which I'll use as an indication that they weren't great.

We also had the parmesan fries with Gantry's signature seasoning ($9), served in a huge pot.  I really thought I got a photo of this dish, but, alas, I didn't.  As I said, it was chaos, and it was quite hard to capture even the shots I did.

The fries were super thin, really crispy, nicely seasoned.  They weren't served with any dipping sauce, but since basically every other dish we ordered came with a pot of aioli, I was easily able to find some to dip them in.  They were good, but not particularly notable.
Szechuan Salt & Pepper Squid / Tartare Sauce.  $16.
Next was a serving of the s&p squid, always a fun bar classic, and the one I was most looking forward to.  The squid was decently crispy on the outside, not chewy nor rubbery, not too oily.  I appreciated the lemon wedge on the side, but with a huge group, we weren't really able to share the lemon.  Did I want other people's dirty hands on the lemon that was touching my food?  And were we supposed to pass it around?

Of course I liked the tartare sauce, but it seemed identical to the dill aioli with the beetroot homefries.

My favorite of the bar snacks.
Cumberland Sausage Rolls / Housemade Smoked Ketchup. $16.
The final "bar snack" were mini sausage rolls.  The pastry on the outside had a lovely gloss to it, but, wasn't really interesting, not very flaky or buttery.  Inside was very moist sausage, decent enough.

The housemade smoked ketchup was my favorite element, super flavorful and tasty.  I used it with the fries as well, it even trumped the aioli, which, as someone who loves aioli, you realize is quite the testament.

Prices were high though, $16 for three mini sausage rolls?


Next we moved on to the "substantials" portion of the menu, larger dishes, but not really entree style.
Australian Cheeses / Muscatels / Quince / Local Honeycomb / Crackers. $28.
First up was a cheese platter.  It had a few pieces of fruit, including not very ripe strawberries and figs that one diner dubbed the only thing she didn't like that night.  I tried one and agreed, it was strangely bitter.  Dried apricots and a smear of some kind of jam were the final accompaniments.

But where was the cheese?  Most of the cheeses were hidden under the crackers, a strange plating.  All of the cheeses were pretty unremarkable.  Not a single cheese stood out, but that was common in Sydney.  No wonder they all just eat "Tasty Cheese" in Australia.  I don't think cheese culture has really caught on.  The crackers were just thin crispy crackers.

We also got the meat platter: "Selection of Cured Meats / Housemade Pickles / Warm Housemade Foccacia", also $28.  Again, no standouts, although the meats were all thinly sliced and tasty enough.
Tiger Flathead / Murray's Brewing Beer Batter / Chips / Tartare. $26.
Since Gantry excels in seafood, for the more main-dish like items we skipped the meats, and moved right on to seafood.

First up was the fish and chips, a dish I eyed in the restaurant all night long, as it passed by to other diners on that visit..

Like the s&p squid, it was served with a lemon wedge and the same tartare sauce on the side.

The fish was fine, moist inside.  The batter was thick and tasty.  The pieces were a bit too oily however.

The chips were not the same as the thin parmesan fries we had earlier, instead, they were thick cut wedges, I think they may have also been lightly battered in the same way as the beetroot homefries.

The final dish we got was also the most pricy, at $39: "Bucket of King Prawns / Marie Rose Sauce / Housemade Focaccia".

The bread was grilled, and basically just all butter.  I liked the strong smoky level of the grill, but wow, this was literally just butter.

I didn't have the prawns after several people said they weren't good, and, indeed, the expensive bucket of prawns went unfinished.  People chose to order additional food instead of finishing them, they were that bad.  I believe they were just cooked and then served chilled on ice, nothing special.

But, the sauce that came with them ... now THAT was special.  Marie Rose sauce is basically cocktail sauce mixed with mayo.  Yup, more mayo based sauce.  This was the winner of the sauces, creamy and spicy and flavorful.  Once I discovered this sauce, I dunked absolutely everything else into it.  Including leftover crackers.  Just so I could eat more sauce.  But, overall, since no one liked the prawns, obviously not a winning dish.

So yeah, basically, my night was spent dunking fried potatoes and seafood of various types into pots of aioli.  I can't say this was was a healthy evening, but, it was bar food after all, and, when in Rome, right?
Click to add a blog post for The Gantry Restaurant & Bar on Zomato

Monday, July 20, 2015

Snag Stand, Sydney

Update Review, May 2015 Visit

If you didn't read my original Snag Stand post, I suggest you start there, and then return to this update, since I'm skipping the background on Snag Stand this time around.  See "Original Review, February 2015 visit" below.

Our recent trip to Sydney started with a very long travel day to Sydney aboard Air New Zealand, from SFO to Auckland, and then Auckland to Sydney.  We checked into our hotel, took quick showers at the gym since our room wasn't ready, and headed to the office.  Many, many hours later it was finally 5pm, and we were ready to crash.  But somehow still at the office.  The subject of dinner came up.  I was so exhausted that I honestly didn't care about food (yes, this CAN happen to me!).  I wasn't hungry.  I literally had 4 breakfasts that "day" (as you read about on flight #1, then more at the Air New Zealand lounge, then another on flight #2, and finally at the Westin hotel executive lounge while we waited).  And then I had lunch at the office, plus we swung by Messina for gelato in the afternoon.  Oh, and then we had a company-wide TGIF party with snacks at 4pm.  I had no idea what time it was, what meal I should be eating, or if I even needed more food.  I just wanted to get to the hotel to unpack and unwind.

But ... I was with a big group of co-workers who did want dinner, and hey, we were in Sydney after all, how could I waste one precious night there?  But I needed something simple and easy.  Ojan suggested Snag Stand, since we'd been before, and that seemed like a great idea to me.  Super casual, everyone could get what they wanted since there are lots of options in the food court, and I could probably even sneak in a Chat Thai dessert too.

So, to the mall we headed.  I was basically sleepwalking at this point, but the memory of the amazing fries from Snag Stand kept me going.
Chicago Dog. $8.90.
"Grilled frankfurter topped with mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickle spear, sport peppers & celery salt on a poppy seed roll."

One co-worker ordered the Chicago Dog.  I was sad it didn't have any bright green relish, but otherwise, it looked fairly legit.  He seemed happy enough.
Spicy Cheese Kransky. $9.90.
"Freshly grilled with semi sun-dried tomatoes, sriracha mayo, and cheddar cheese on a toasted brioche roll."

Ojan and I were both entirely indecisive.  But one coworker (who wasn't with us on this visit), told us over and over again to get the Spicy Cheese Kransky, so, we did.  I was too tired to think straight, otherwise I probably would have realized that this wasn't going to be something I would like.

When I picked up the dog, I immediately realized my failure.  Remember how we didn't like the "Australian Fare" sausage that Ojan ordered last time?  In part because it just had a bunch of unmelted cheese on top?  Um, yeah.  Same thing here, tons of white cheddar cheese, just sitting there on top.  I really don't see the appeal!  Why dearest Australians, do you want unmelted cheese on your dogs?  I was picturing something slathered in a cheese sauce, more like a Philly cheesesteak.

I also don't ever really care for sun-dried tomatoes.  Not that I dislike them, but, they just are not a flavor I am crazy about.

And Kransky?  I didn't even really know what that was, but, it is polish sausage.  It was nicely grilled, a decent char on the outside, juicy and moist.  But certainly not my style of sausage.

The toasted brioche bun I did love, fluffy, light, and toasted to order.

I didn't care for this at all, but, I think I just totally ordered the wrong thing.  It was one of the priciest selections at $9.90.
Snack Size Chips. $2.90.
The sausage didn't matter anyway.  I was there for the chips (yes, fries to you Americans).  I loved them so much last time.  I didn't expect them to live up to my memory exactly, but I figured they would still be good.

They weren't.  They clearly weren't as fresh.  Served lukewarm at best.  The exterior wasn't as crispy as I recalled, the inside not as soft and fluffy.  They weren't bad exactly, but just basic thick fries, barely warm.  Sadness.

Last time, we ordered the larger size and I devoured them.  This time, we didn't even finish our small "snack" size serving, even though Ojan and I are the only ones at the table who ordered fries.  No one else wanted more than one either.
Herb Aioli. $1.
 Of course, half the magic of the fries last time was the dipping sauces.  I knew I didn't want the bbq or the gravy.   Ojan doesn't like truffle, so the truffle aioli was out.  I don't tend to love chipotle, so the chipotle mayo was out.  That left the sriracha mayo, which I had last time and did enjoy, and the herb aioli.  I decided to go for the herb aioli, just to try something new.

It was ... basic, creamy aioli, with herbs.  Not much more to say about it.  Just pretty basic, good enough, but the sriracha mayo was definitely a more flavorful and interesting choice.  I wouldn't go for herb aioli again.

Original Review, February 2015 visit

Snag Stand is a "haute dog" shop located in the Westfield Mall in Sydney.  And yes, I went there.  And no, it wasn't because they serve amazing dessert (like the other hot dog place we visited, Chanoma Cafe, that I most certainly went to just for the matcha ice cream).

Partially the reason was simple: laziness.  We were staying close by the Westfield, and the food court made for a very easy meal, which we took advantage of many times, including going to Din Tai Fung for dumplings, Chatime for bubble tea, Bécasse Bakery for cronuts, and Chat Thai for lots of desserts.

Our visit to Snag Stand was also inspired by how easy the food court makes it for everyone to get different things from different vendors, and then just meet to sit in the communal dining together.  But, I'm obviously still an opinionated food snob, and just convenience will never get me to visit somewhere.  The food has to be good!

I researched everywhere in the food court in advance, and I was intrigued by Snag Stand.  Snag Stand has several locations throughout Australia, just this one in Sydney.  They are a hot dog shop obviously, but they take pride in the quality of the products.  They list the names of the butchers they work with, boast the fact that the dogs are all made in small batches, they use natural casings, and don't gunk everything up with artificial additives.

The menu revolves around the dogs, dubbed "haute dogs", each named creations.  They use all different bases (wagyu sausage, chorizo, German bratwurst, or frankfurters), several types of bun (poppy seed, rustic, or brioche), plus tons of crazy toppings (garlic mashed potatoes, coleslaw, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes), veggies (baby rocket, sautéed onions, pickles, sports peppers, sauerkraut, rosemary mushrooms), and are finished with sauces (smokey bbq, truffle aioli, herb aioli, sweet relish, beetroot relish, sraracha mayo, herbed gravy).  The menu does not imply that you can create your own, or even omit an ingredient in a pre-defined creation, although it may be possible?

All dogs can be made vegetarian, and gluten-free rolls are also available.  Snag Stand also offers a few types of burgers (beef or chicken), plus only two sides: fries and onion rings.  If you are looking for something besides a burger, hotdog, or fries, then, go elsewhere, which is easy, since it is a food court after all.  But if you want the best fries ever, look no further!
Snag Stand Ordering Counter.
The shop is a classic food court setup, order at a register, get a number and wait, eventually out comes a plastic tray with your food on it.
Regular Size Chips. $3.90. Smokey BBQ, Sriaracha Mayo. $1 each.
"100% Tasmanian russet potatoes cooked in cholesterol free oil and seasoned with natural sea salt".

I read a lot of rave reviews about the chips (fries), which is the only reason I wanted to try them.  We ate a lot of fried food in our time in Australia, and a lot of potato products, including really disappointing fries the day before at Watson Bay Beach Club, and fried prawn toasts the day before that at Ms. G's, after which Ojan and I both declared we weren't eating more fried food for a while.  But if the chips were THAT good, maybe we needed to try them?

Best. Decision. Ever. The chips had a super crispy exterior, yet were soft and fluffy inside.  Yes, they were oily, but not in a gross way.  They really were some of the best fries I've ever had.  The thickness was particularly notable, not quite as thick as a wedge or a steak fry, but much thicker than standard fries.  They did something magic with these fries, and I'm not sure what it was exactly.  Also, they were piping hot.  Even as I tried to slow down and stop devouring them, they stayed perfectly hot.

There were six dipping sauces to choose from: house gravy, smokey bbq, fresh herb aoli, truffle aioli, chipotle mayo, or sriaracha mayo, all used on the dogs too.  I had Ojan pick the sauces, and he went for the bbq and sriaracha mayo.  I probably would have picked either of the aiolis, but any creamy mayo generally works for me (also, why did they have both aioli and mayo?  Were they really different bases?)

The bbq I didn't like, it was just too sweet for me, and I didn't really taste the promised smokiness.

The sriaracha mayo however was great, just enough heat to it to be interesting, and it definitely jazzed up the fries.

I told Ojan to just order the smaller snack size, and he got the larger one, and uh, I'm glad he did.  Let's just say I had no problem polishing these off, no matter how much I'd sworn off more fried food.  Fried potato dipped in mayo can be a thing of glory, and Snag Stand does it right.

The other choices for sides are onion rings and chili cheese fries.  I'm now tempted to try the onion rings!

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"Australia Fare". $8.90.

Of course, Snag Stand is known for their "haute dogs", not the fries, right?  They were unfortunately sold out of many of the dogs that day, for reasons I don't really understand.  It was only lunchtime when we were there.  I didn't go for a dog and opted for other food from another stand, but, Ojan was there for a hotdog!

Feeling inspired by our location, he went for the "Australia Fare", described as "grilled wagyu sausage on a toasted brioche roll with sautéed onions, cheddar cheese, & smokey BBQ sauce."

Once he received it, he realized it wasn't really what he wanted at all, and he was just feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, and picked it without really reading the description.  I unfortunately did not get a photo, as I was a bit too busy devouring the fries.  This should give you some idea of how good those fries were, as I rarely get distracted enough to forget to get a photo!

While I agree that this was certainly not the dog I would have ever picked, I think there is hope for Snag Stand.  The flavor of the wagyu beef was really good, although it reminded me more of a hamburger, just a hotdog shaped one.  The onions were generously applied and nicely cooked.  But since I really disliked the bbq sauce, the fact that the whole thing was smothered in the sauce really ruined it for me.  The cheddar cheese was just shredded cheese, totally unmelted, which I didn't care for at all.  The bun didn't seem all that "brioche-y" to me, but, it was soft and slightly sweet, and I thought was pretty nice.

Overall, there was quality here, even if neither of us liked this particular dog.  It was also huge, and ridiculously messy, but they wisely include silverware with it.  The price might be a bit high for "just a hotdog", but, it really was a complete meal.
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