After hearing many a story told by my colleagues of Sweet Belem’s Portuguese tarts I decided I absolutely had to try. Unfortunately for my wallet and my HbA1c, I was sidetracked into getting quite a bit more than just a few tarts.
First things first. The Portuguese Tart. Sweet Belem’s Portuguese tart is not quite the tart that I grew up with. One of my best friends throughout high school (co-incidentally the one I ate at Din Tai Fung with eight years ago) was a little bit fancy, and would often get Portuguese tarts at the school canteen, never settling for a mere custard tart. On the odd occasion where he and I would partake in such opulent pleasures together I would find a soft, multilayered puff pastry crust around an eggy, custardy filling. For the longest time this is what I thought a Portuguese Tart was meant to be.
Sweet Belem changed my mind. As the benchmark for Portuguese Tarts, what Sweet Belem delivered was much different to my youthful experiences. The crust was flaky, hard, and crispy, made up of layers upon layers of pastry. The filling, caked in cinnamon, had a sweeter but also more complex flavour than any tart I had in high school or in the many years since. This is something you’ll definitely want to try for yourself.
And now for a brief description of some of the other baked goods I had. These are not labelled but I think you can figure it out.
Pineapple cake ($5.50) – NOT your Chinese style pineapple cake. Literally a pineapple slice on top. Soaked in sweet syrup. I didn’t like it
Baked chocolate tart ($4)- Enjoyed by my partner. Not too sweet.
Almond tart – Pretty good!
Egg and almond croissant ($4) – I actually really liked this, especially the parts with the eggy custard filling. A recommendation.
I liked Sweet Belem’s Portuguese tarts, and I think that if you’re in the local area they’re definitely worth a visit. Their other baked goods (even the excellent almond and egg croissant) range from middling to good but aren’t worth making a separate trip.
Nineteen43 is a Lebanese cafe in Rockdale, only a few minutes drive from my work. I visited for a quick breakfast after a night shift, and a takeaway meal to bring home to my partner.
The Hummus & Lamb ($18), with 12 hour slow cooked lamb shawarma shoulder served w/ Smokey paprika, burnt butter & pickled chillies with a side of fresh baked flat bread looked and sounded like it would be good.
The beautiful plating of lamb floating on a bed of red-sprinkled hummus was really quite appealing – it’s just unfortunate that the taste did not live up to what the eyes predicted. I found the meat to be way too overmarinated and oversalted. It was just too tasty. I had hoped that the hummus would provide some sort of reprieve from the oral salt bath that was the meat, however it itself was also quite tasty. The flat bread was fresh and actually quite delicious, but given the amount of salt in the meal the quantity of bread was just plainly inadequate.
The Portuguese Tart was OK if you’re a fan of the big floppy ones. The filling was quite floppy inside, however I thought that the pastry was actually quite good.
This is the takeaway version of the Breakfast Pan ($23), with two poached eggs, grilled haloumi, sujoq, garlic mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, crumbled feta, avocado and toasted sourdough.
I wonder if the dining-in version really is served in a pan, or merely a plate. I also wonder if the name indicates that all the ingredients were cooked in the same pan, but find that unlikely given that the eggs are poached. My partner quite enjoyed this. She liked basically all of the key components of the meal, barring the feta which she thought was a bit too baa for her. I also indulged in a few choice bites, and can safely say that this dish does not suffer from the sodium load issues of the hummus and lamb. I can recommend this one – a bit like a big breakfast.
I didn’t think I would go back to Nineteen43 after the eat-in dishes above, but given the buzz around their toasties/kaaks I thought I would give it a try. I’m glad I did. The Smoked Wagyu Kaak ($19, chips included) is actual wow. The thin slice of Jack’s Creek smoked wagyu was all that was needed to give the kaak a strong and delicious umami flavour. The pickles, slaw, and harissa mayonnaise added a great tanginess to the smoked wagyu kaak, one that I can still imagine on my tongue now. The chips that came with the smoked wagyu kaak were fresh shoestring fries, however I wonder if it can be ordered without them as the kaak stands well on its own without any need for additional carbs. I can definitely recommend this.
The Sujoq & Egg Kaak ($11, $14 pictured) with cream cheese, Sujoq (Middle Eastern Chorizo), Fetta shallots, & two fried eggs and the addition of halloumi ($3) was good but didn’t quite live up to the standard set by the Smoked Wagyu Kaak. I liked the taste of their sujoq, which I often don’t, and I thought that the addition of two eggs in this toastie was quite generous. The flavours were salty and eggy, just as a bacon and egg or chorizo and egg roll should be, however I found myself missing the zesty taste of the Wagyu Kaak’s pickles and slaw. I’d still recommend this – just not quite what I was looking for at the time.
The Four Cheese Kaak with Pastrami and Tomato ($14.50) was pretty good, but again not as good as the smoked wagyu kaak. I’ve never been a fan of cheese by itself, and I think that the tomato and pastrami were essential addons to the base four cheese. I would rate this above the egg and sujuk kaak just thanks to the freshness afforded by the addition of tomato. I wish I could add some smoked wagyu onto this so that I could have their smoked wagyu kaak for breakfast.
The Lebanese chicken Foldover ($17) with Marinated free range chicken, slaw, Lebanese pickles, harissa mayonnaise dressing served w/ a side of French fries is a weaker offering than Nineteen43’s kaaks. While the kaaks offered a crispiness in the dough, this was not achieved by the bread wrapped around this foldover. The flavours erred towards the slightly-too-tasty side of things and reminded me of the first bad meal I had at Nineteen43, however thankfully this was tempered by the freshness of the Lebanese pickles. The chips in this dish were seasoned with a bit of spicy seasoning, as opposed to coming plain salted as they did with the wagyu kaak. Ultimately not a bad dish but not as good as the others on offer.
Would I come to Nineteen43 again? Yes- it is close enough to my work with enough unlimited parking in the council railway carkpark around the clock (there’s all day parking which was still available around 11:30AM, and also 15 minute parking suitable for takeaway). I would definitely warn any friends and colleagues away from the lamb and hummus (unless you’re on oral salt replacement – in which case eat away), but recommend the kaaks wholeheartedly.
Café 959 has sprung up from the ashes of the recently defunct Concrete Jungle, on prime real estate on the corner of Gray St and Queens Avenue near St George Hospital.
Cafe 959 plays it safe, featuring roughly the same menu items as its predecessor, including old favourites the warm chicken poke and ricotta pancake. The cafe was jam packed at 2PM on a Saturday, obviously benefiting from its prime location and Concrete Jungle‘s old regulars.
I had a very reasonably priced bacon and egg roll and coffee ($10 – takeaway only price). Service was brisk, and they have introduced innovative new seats next to their takeaway service window for waiting in. While the bacon and egg roll isn’t going to make any top ten lists, it’s definitely adequate with filling adequately moistened by barbeque sauce. A very reasonably quick lunch or breakfast for the weekend shift-worker.
The Portuguese tart looked like it would be good but it was not. The pastry looked like it would be flaky but it was rather doughy and sticky. The filling was too sweet for my tastes. A tie with Culture Bean‘s equally disappointing but actually much different offering.
The Chicken Sandwich was actually quite good. There is a lot of mayonnaise and cheese inside, which makes it feel a bit heavier than the sandwiches offered next door at Culture Bean. The bread was the standout component, a light Turkish bread which was actually very good when toasted. A winner.
I hope that as Cafe 959 finds its own they will introduce more of their own items onto the menu.