Tucked in an arcade near Rockdale’s train station is a cafe I would’ve completely missed were it not for the recommendation from a former colleague (now paediatric colleague) CK during a chance encounter at Brothers’ Kebab in Banksia one night.
I visited on a morning in January 2021, a few hours after reassuring a well young man who had been hit in the eye by a low velocity empty plastic water bottle in ED Fast Track.
I had the Gangster Benedict ($21), an eggs benedict gangstered up by the addition of five spice pork belly, served on Pepe Saya’s crumpets. While I think the benedict components of the meal – the Hollandaise sauce and particularly the poached eggs were solid, if I’m being honest I didn’t really feel that the five spiced pork belly really added a great deal. As a person of Chinese descent I have made, eaten, and loved a great deal of five spiced pork belly in my day, and compared to these historical porks the one at Angry Gnome didn’t quite cut the mustard. Despite this, a quite positive mention should be made to the texture and composition of the crumpets, which felt quite complex and premium.
I don’t know if these crumpets were made by Pepe or rather just made with his butter, but they are almost worth ordering on their own.
Doggo outside the restaurant.
The Angry Gnome Espresso Bar 495 Princes Hwy, Rockdale NSW 2216, Australia 0413 131 040
As huge fans of Kurumac, my partner and I have been looking for an excuse to eat at Cool Mac for some time. We finally found ourselves on the fancy side of the bridge during our annual leave, and stopped at Cool Mac on the way to the zoo for a quick breakfast.
Service at Cool Mac was not as good or friendly as at its younger brother. Perhaps we didn’t fit in with the suited up business and government types that frequent Cool Mac, but we didn’t really feel like we were paid much attention. There was not really much table service. There was a menu printed outside the restaurant, and ordering was at the counter. This made it difficult as my working short term memory is apparently very poor. Payment was expected at time of ordering.
The Crumbed whiting, miso salmon, egg, pickles, cod roe, rice ($18) was the better dish of the two we had. I really enjoyed the crumbed whiting and egg, and thought that they went well with the preserved vegetables and rice. I did think, however, that the salmon was too overcooked and dry, and let the bowl down as a whole.
I had mixed but ultimately negative feelings about the pork belly, seaweed, coriander, soy broth, dry ramen ($17). While I enjoyed the flavour, the huge amount of coriander, and the noodles mixed in with the small quantity of soup, the headlining element – the pork belly – was a massive letdown. Similar to the salmon above, the pork was dry and tough.
The barley tea with huge ice cube ($4) was good, as was the large cappuccino ($4.80).
I’m ultimately quite disappointed by cool mac. We went in having high hopes after absolutely enjoying our time at Kurumac, but our none of the food we had at cool mac was very good.
My partner will freely volunteer that I don’t usually pay much attention to my surroundings, both whilst eating, and also in general. Henry Lee’s was a bit of an exception – I thought it was a cool use of an old factory space – very Melbourne-esque – , with a nice sunny internal courtyard that we ate in.
My partner picked The Purple Fields ($18) (braised broccoli, sweet corn, garlic & parsley puree, scrambled eggs, prosciutto dust, crispy fried kale, marinated feta served on sourdough) with an additional soft shelled crab ($5). I was nervous about the choice as it was one of the least appealing items on the menu for me, but I did not speak out. I did not enjoy this dish outside of the scrambled eggs and soft shelled crab. I did not enjoy the taste of the braised broccoli, and I could not identify the prosciutto dust (from a marketing perspective, why not just omit this unidentifiable meat component and just mark it as vegetarian?). The sourdough also got quite soggy with the scrambled eggs sitting on it. The only saving grace was that we spent an additional $5 on a soft shelled crab, which was fried nicely but I felt had a bit of a bitter taste (my partner did not share this concern.) Overall a $23 that I would rather not have spent.
The Benny Munro ($21) (Five spice braised pork belly, purple slaw, turmeric pickled zucchini and crispy prosciutto with poached eggs & chipotle hollandaise, served on sweet corn & cauliflower croquettes) I enjoyed significantly more. The chipotle hollandaise, poached eggs, and slaw were a good combination. I did enjoy the single pickled zucchini that was allocated to me. One of the things I will mention is that when you order a dish with pork belly as the first ingredient listed you would assume that it would be a main component of the show. Instead what we got was two very small, somewhat dry pieces of pork belly, one under each egg. Having had a really good pork belly at The Cupping Room in Canberra in 2017, a dish that uses pork belly to its full potential, I expected much different and much better.
Hot beverages are one of the places where Henry Lee’s shines. I had the Tea Latte (left -$5), which was a lavender infused earl grey latte. It was my first tea latte (excluding the million chais), and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed both the taste as well as the flower petal presentation. My partner had the Aztec Chili Hot Chocolate (right – $7) and it even came with a real chili! I was not sold on it but she enjoyed it a lot.
I went to Henry Lee’s today in search of Asian fusion brunch food, but ended up leaving disappointed. In retrospect I should’ve delved further rather than take the name at face value – it’s a reference to a Nick Cave song – and realised that while the menu had some Asian fusion elements these were more of an afterthought.
Rumour has it that Cafe Rumah is one of the top Malaysian-fusion cafes in all of Sydney. To be fair, there aren’t really that many. My partner and I ventured into the inner west one sunny Friday morning for a bit of Asian cuisine.
Mama Yang’s Pork Belly Rice Bowl ($18) was delicious. The pork belly was cooked well, with a great melt in your mouth feel to the fat and skin components. The fatty pork to lean pork ratio was just right, and neither components overpowered the other. The fresh herbs and pickles added an additional level of flavour to the soy-braised pork belly and rice, and gave it a new spin compared to the usual pork belly fare that we normally get from Chinese restaurants around the city. I can definitely recommend this dish.
While Mama Yang prevailed in her dish’s light deliciousness, the Tom Yum Chicken Congee ($16) faltered. I found the tom yum congee to be far too tasty. The tom yum and flavours were too strong, and took away from this congee’s ability to be a wholesome and warming meal. In their defense, the congee had all of the requisite ingredients, including what seemed like $5 of ginger alone, but it is perhaps this generosity that led to its defeat. Too tasty, not wholesome.
The Milo Dino ($6.50) was a surprise hit. Six dollars is a lot to pay for a glass of milo, but the taste was nice and I didn’t choke on the powdery stuff on top.
Overall I think Cafe Rumah tends towards stronger flavours, and is perhaps a miss if you are someone who has a softer palate. Personally I would still like to come back and try their roti john, so I guess it’s a recommend with caveats.
Cafe Rumah (02) 9280 2289 71-73 Campbell St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Schnitzel Shop is a recently opened takeaway joint in Banksmeadow/Botany, located quite close to Croquembouche Patisserie. They offer a simple diner menu of rolls and burgers, with salad ingredients prepared by a young woman and the meats freshly cooked on the grill by a man who appears to be the owner.
I had the pork belly roll ($8.50). Service was quick, and the roll was jam packed with juicy fresh salad components. The pork belly was not what I expected (I don’t know why I would expect a Caucasian man and a south-Asian lady to make me a Vietnamese banh mi) but was good in its own way.
I also had a chicken schnitzel roll, however I was only able to have it after ten hours in the fridge, and then a minute in the microwave. It wasn’t as good as the pork belly roll, but I can’t say if it was due to the travel time.
While I can recommend Schnitzel Shop I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend actively going out of your way to go there. It’s more of a local spot.