We spent Saturday lunch at the local lawn bowls club in Wollongong with a number of my partner’s colleagues just before the holiday season. It was my first time lawn bowling in a few years, the first being during my first week of internship in a similarly-vibed orientation event.
The salt and pepper squid ($13) was a nice, reasonably priced dish with a light batter, served with a side salad of “young leaves” and a plentiful pot of aioli which found more purpose with some hot chips than the squid they came with.
The half rack of pork ribs with chips and salad ($24) featured the return of the young leaf salad, which remained fresh from its first outing with the squid. The pork ribs were unfortunately a bit dry and underwhelming, and not improved in my opinion by the pot of BBQ sauce. I enjoyed these fresh chips, and even more so with the aioli pictured above.
The roasted cauliflower salad ($17) with chicken ($5) was actually very good. A number of my partner’s colleagues ordered it just by itself, but I for one could not resist the addition of some juicy meat to bite into. The roasted cauliflower was sweet, with a texture that avoided mushiness. Tahini, hummus and roasted cauliflower are a synergistic trio that ticks all the right boxes every time they’re together, and this salad was no exception. Cauliflower aside I enjoyed the fresh and tangy addition of pomegranate arils and the juicy cherry tomatoes, though I was less impressed by the rest of the salad being essentially the same side salad that gets served the Porterhouse Bistro’s other dishes.
COMMENTS The food at Wiseman Park is not what it’s is famous for, but honestly you could do much worse. I wouldn’t take a bus to Wollongong just for this meal, but if you’re there enjoying a quick game of bowls why not?
We were excited to eat at Fish Butchery after reading some pretty glowing reviews online and glowing feedback from our friends about related restaurants Saint Peter and Charcoal Fish. Despite such expectations our moderately-long drive to Waterloo was sadly not met with as much joy as we had hoped.
While I’m not usually one to complain loudly about service, preferring to focus on the food, I think that the ultra-premium prices paid at Fish Butchery does invite greater reflection into what exactly one is paying for. The first red flag of our visit, apart from the prices of the familiar raw fish (Murray cod and Clhinook salmon) in the fishmonger’s display that were easily 50-100% greater than what you’d expect to pay from your favourite internet-based fish market delivery service, was that the staff seemed to be too busy to wipe the crumbs off the tables between customers until the new customer’s food was ready to be served. This meant that we sat with crumbs in front of us, not really seeing a staff member venture outside for about half an hour as we waited to be served.
Though Fish Butchery styles itself as a takeaway joint the reality of it is that it’s a restaurant, complete with both indoor and outdoor seating. There are just normal expectations around the cleanliness of tables when you’re spending $80 between two for lunch, and these weren’t fulfilled.
The Al Pastor Swordfish Tacos (2 pieces for $24) were not what I was looking for. Though grilled, they were not as grilled as I had hoped, and arrived to us lukewarm at best. The internal fish meat was on the raw to rare spectrum, which is not what I was expecting but did not cause any physical bodily harm. The flavours of this taco were highly mild, though the sweetness and juiciness of the grilled pineapple was a very welcome addition to what was otherwise a barren and expensive half moon.
The fish sausage roll ($22 with chips and a Strange Love soda) was the highlight of the situation. The sausage roll, filled with a mixture of Murray Cod, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, and cured Murry Cod fat had a very good depth of flavour and fatty moistness inside. The pastry was a crust above your average sausage roll, but to be expected given the asking price. The potato chips were unfortunately actually not very good, and even my potato fiend partner was unable and unwilling to finish them. The tomato sauce was rich and good. Unlike the rest of the things we had at Fish Butchery I could actually give a positive recommendation for this sausage roll, though by itself ($14) rather than with the chips.
I didn’t love this hyped up Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger Double ($20). I don’t think there was anything special about it apart from the use of fish over mammal, and I don’t think the flavour or texture really lived up to a burger made of methane-producing cow. The inside of these tuna patties was a bit rare, but I think that’s probably OK because we literally eat sashimi and these guys are the fish experts.
The regular salad ($14), half cauliflower and half eggplant was actually pretty good, if oily. A non-fish product that was not weighed down by fishy expectations.
I really wanted to like Fish Butchery, but outside of the single sausage roll nothing else that I had really wowed me, especially at its price point but even if they were more reasonably priced. I expected better from a guy who charges $150 for a piece of stainless steel specifically to weigh down cooking fish.
We visited A Man and His Monkey on an extra-ordinary windy and cold day in June. Though allegedly outside of the peak COVID-19 season now two and a half years down the track, I made the decision to forgo the warmth of the claustrophobically packed café interior and sit us al fresco next to a non-functional gas heater instead. Some would later call this a mistake, but I would argue that the real mistake was that same person not bringing her own jacket and taking mine instead.
I really enjoyed this grilled salmon salad ($18.50), which truly exceeded all expectations and was exactly what my mouth needed at the time. The salad was a symphony of freshness, primarily composed of the flavourful herby green plants mint, parsley, coriander, spring onion, and a small amount of dill. There was no boring, garden-variety iceberg lettuce in sight, and as such each single leaf provided its own unique flavour. The grilled salmon was able to retain its presence despite being pulled into flakes, with just enough spread out throughout the greenery to exert a umami and fatty mouthfeel. The dried cranberries, another master stroke, provided a textural as well sweet tasting reprieve from the green in just enough quantity, and just when you thought the freshness might get too overbearing the bed of crème fraîche would swoop in with a save.
The poached egg, a $3 addon which I didn’t realise wasn’t part of the salad until re-reading the menu just now, was also excellent.
The men and monkeys of this café are masters of ratio, and all elements of this dish were in the right amounts in perfect harmony. There’s literally nothing that I could imagine that could have made this salad better, except maybe if I had had my jacket back.
Though I loved the salmon salad I didn’t really like the hummushuka with slow cooked lamb ($28). Not being the biggest fan of of shaks to begin with, this particular shakshuka appealed to me even less than normal, with a tomato sauce that was sweeter than usual, a very standard bread, and unfortunately quite unconvincing lamb for the $8 supplement atop the $20 base price. The one redeeming factor of this shakshuka were the again excellent eggs. Having said this, my partner, who chose this item from the menu, did enjoy this dish.
A soy cap for $4.40 is refreshingly reasonably priced these days!
COMMENTS I don’t think I’ve ever stanned for a salad this much in my life. Make sure to make your partner bring her Eastern Suburbs standard-issue North Face down jacket or pay the price.
We counted three visits to Circa Espresso in the 2018-19 period, with further visits in 2021 and more to come.
I’m not usually one to go for vegetarian dishes, but Circa’s Ottoman Eggs ($22) are in a league of their own. The eggs themselves are perfectly poached, served on a mattress of fried, crumbed eggplant, itself lying on a cloud of garlic labneh. The interplay of textures – the runny egg yolk, the crispy eggplant, the creamy labneh, and the housemade bread – is superb, as is the combination of tangy, spicy, and umami flavours. A really good dish that is a must-try.
The humpty doo saltwater barramundi en papillote ($26) was the most expensive thing on the menu, and also quite bad. The barramundi was very overcooked, with the skin soft and wilted rather than crispy. The salad of parsley and cucumber was hard and difficult to eat, and as such wasn’t really able to be eaten in conjunction with the fish. The flavours were overall mild and bland, and after the huge success of the Ottoman eggs these parcel baked fish bits were quite disappointing.
The wild ferment whole wheat pancake ($22) was a beautiful sweet dish. The thick but light wheat pancake was glazed in maple syrup, producing a hard, crispy skin and two separate textures per bite. The fresh, tangy peach provided a good foil to the sweet maple syrup glaze and the white chocolate creme fraiche, and the crunchy cocoa nibs and pistachios added a third texture to the meal. I don’t normally go for sweet dishes, but I could absolutely see myself ordering this again.
This lamb cutlet focaccia sandwich ($15)from the specials menu of Monday the 15th of March 2021 was really good. The meat was delicious, the bread was delicious, and the kaleslaw was fresh and crunchy.
An extra normal iced chocolate ($7). I could not stop my partner from ordering what was essentially chocolate milk with ice cubes.
Sujuk ($7) was served with a small amount of bread. Again quite expensive.
The dressed avocado ($18) is an interesting name for a dish where avocado is equal firsts in precedence with a number of other ingredients. The avocado headliner was in fact not more special than any other cut in half and pitted avocado, while its colleagues the cherry tomatoes were delightfully and unexpectedly bright and full of flavour. The avocado-cup of oil and aged balsamic vinegar and bed of soft white bean hummus added a depth of umami to balance the otherwise extreme freshness of this meal. A perfect low carb option, it’s just a shame that I had to ruin it with a deep fried eggplant.
The side of crumbed eggplant ($6?) was ordered as I wanted only the best part of the Ottoman Eggs while not committing to the full deal. Whilst the eggplant was as good as I remembered, it didn’t quite go with the freshness of the avocado dish, and having it alone really just highlighted how well the Ottoman Eggs works as a cohesive dish.
Another year at the largest healthcare campus in the Southern Hemisphere, another year of post-nights breakfast at local legend Circa. Though I’ve never been a mad shakshuka fan, I decided to step out of my comfort zone for these baked eggs with beef sujuk ($26), spending Valentine’s day breakfast with my colleagues rather than my partner. Though I easily could’ve ordered the old, trustworthy Ottoman eggs, I was inspired by my junior colleague TJB to try something new. These baked eggs turned out to be extraordinary, with a richness of flavour not easily matched elsewhere. The roma tomatoes, harissa gravy, and chilli flakes really brought out a rare depth of flavour, and paired with the runny eggs and feta made for the perfect topping and dip for Circa’s top tier focaccia.
A further visit in a further month gave me the opportunity to try this zaatar chicken salad ($26), an extremely healthful bowl which was a mixture of quinoa, seed mix, sumac, broccolini, pickled radish, cabbage, and (cold temperature) smoked chicken over a bed of baba ganoush. Though the flavour wasn’t amazing compared to all of the other delicious foods featured above, it was obviously very healthy and there is a value to that too.
$5.50 for a cold brew coffee with a giant ice cube is too much.
Another season, another menu, and more foods to review. The cuttlefish & chorizo salad ($28) was the first thing I tried on Circa’s Winter 2022 menu, and if I’m being honest it was quite a disappointment. Many of the components of this warm salad were fantastic – the roasted greens, the sourdough crumb (great texturally), the chickpea and roasted garlic hummus, but the combination of these, together with the extremely salty cuttlefish and chorizo made a bowl that I could not finish. Though I am a big Circa Stan and like most of the things they put out, the saltiness of this particular salad just didn’t do it for me.
I didn’t drink this shrub ($7 or something) but I do love the crockery. My colleague CSPH enjoyed it. It did come with a shrub.
I spent 3 months away from Western Sydney working on the South Coast, but came back in time to enjoy this crispy confit duck ($27) on their Spring 2022 menu. I shamelessly tucked into this very lunchy breakfast whilst four of my five other colleagues had their reliably good Ottoman eggs. Their all-day menu is, after all, part of why we keep coming back time and time again. I loved the colour and the crispiness of the duck, with its skin and fat and tender meat. The vegetables and lentils were mild but still delicious, with quite a tangy taste from the red current jus. I can recommend this dish, and it was truly much better than the similar confit poultry at Melbourne’s Hardware Société.
Two fortnights in a row is too frequently to visit Circa, in my opinion, but it gave me the opportunity to give this crab fettucine ($28) a go. I had misremembered, while ordering this, the somewhat disappointing Squid Thai Pasta from Lil Miss Collins next door as a Circa creation, and was quite glad when this crab fettucine came that it was much different, and much better. The noodles, house made, were quite al dente but not overly so, with a strong sense of egginess. The chilli marinated crab wasn’t particularly plentiful, but present enough to not warrant a complaint, and the herbed sourdough crumbs did add a nice bit of texture to the meal. Though this wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever eaten at Circa, it was still on a good spectrum of nood. Sorry to the expert platers on Wentworth St for cropping out the large plate surrounding the reasonably sized food. One day I’ll have the Ottoman Eggs again.
VERDICT Eggs good. Many other things quite good. Some other things not good, quite expensive. My favourite café in Parramatta.
It’s been about a year since I first tasted LP’s class-defining mortadella, and about a year that I’ve been dreaming about dining at their Chippendale smokehouse and restaurant. After a couple of setbacks and false starts we finally found the opportunity to go last night, taking advantage of the tables left free by those spending Good Friday at home with family.
We chose the $65 tasting menu with the addition of a serving of smoked chicken. Whilst the serving sizes are in general fine, certain fixed serving sizes, for example for the pork loin, are not adjusted for odd numbers of diners, meaning that it is better value to go in a group of four rather than the five that we had.
The first item on our menu was the malted sourdough & butter. There was nothing really special here. The bread was crusty on the outside and a bit gooey on the inside, possibly reflecting its malted nature. The ratio of butter to bread was adequate.
The oysters with mignonette dressing were fresh and delicious, though not differentiable from any other inner city oyster. When ordered a la carte, these oysters are $5 each, which is quite expensive.
While I can’t remember the name of this off-menu metal dish of vegetables, it is probably LP’s rendition of giardiniera, a classic Italian salad. It is essentially a vinegar-marinated combinastion of cauliflower, capsicum, carrot and onion. Quite the tangy palate cleanser, paired with the salumi.
LP’s salumi plate, featuring fully in-house smoked and prepared (though not husbanded) mortadella, salami cotto, and saucisson was a treat. You’ve heard me wax lyrical about LP’s mortadella more than once now – this soft, mild smoked pork sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted. The salami cotto and sauisson were also good, both ssavoiding being too salty or overflavoured, as salumi often is. Whilst LP’s cold and cured meats are also available for sale from their in-house deli, the price of their mortadella at $77/kg was no cheaper than when I had bought it from Woollahra luxury butcher Victor Churchill, and I chose not to further indulge.
LP’s grilled beef tongue with smoked beef fat vinaigrette is one of their signature dishes, and for good reason. Unlike most renditions of beef or ox tongue, LPs slices theirs longitudinally rather than transversely, the end result being a visually arresting, tongue shaped tongue meal. The tongue is extremely tender, falling apart with minimal fork-based instrumentation, which is actually fully different to the hard and chewy mess that I get every time I try and cook it at Korean BBQ. Each mouthful is an umami bomb, thanks to the smoked beef fat, though perfectly tempered and matched by the tanginess of the salsa verde and vinaigrette components. This is a truly next level dish that I can recommend as a must try.
I’m not normally the biggest fan of mussels, but these steamed mussels in nduja were actually very good. There was none of the feared grittiness present in most low-tier mussel dishes, and the sauce was both umami and lightly spicy. This dish would’ve been even better with some bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
The pickled beetroot salad was very tangy. Not the most enjoyed dish around the table, but then again it’s LP’s Quality Meats, not LP’s Quality Beets.
The 800 gram pork chop with mustard sauce and grilled onions was pretty good, but not something I’d necessarily mention in a letter home. The meat was cooked well, the sauce was inoffensive, but apart from the size and spectacle of an entire giant pork chop cut and rearranged into shape there was nothing truly special about it. It’s sad that with 5 people we did not get a 1000 gram pork chop.
This mesclun salad, mixed herbs, palm sugar vinaigrette was pretty unexciting, and definitely not as exciting as the name.
This smoked half chicken in sauce pearà ($31 supplement) was an add on from the a la carte menu. I had heard a lot about the chicken at LP’s, and this dish certainly did not disappoint. The skin of the chicken was crispy, whilst the meat of the chicken was soft. The smoked flavour, mixed with the creamy flavour of the sauce pearà made for a mouth-watering, umami-filled dish. This chicken was well received around the table, and would be my other must-have at LP’s.
This dish of ember roasted pumpkin, chard, and anchovy did nothing for me. I thought that the flavours were too strong, with the pumpkin being particularly oversalted.
The chocolate tart with chantilly cream was made of very dark, semi-sweet chocolate. I liked it, and I think my girlfriend would have enjoyed this too, but she didn’t go so we will never know. It was a divisive dish, as a few of our friends did not like the bitterness.
The savarin au rhum, essentially wet sponge cake, was also just fine. The cream in both of the desserts was quite good, described aptly by my colleague GL as tasting of a melted vanilla ice cream.
VERDICT Thank you for reading my pegfeed. The chicken and beef tongue were truly standout dishes that I would recommend a visit to LP’s for, whilst some of the other dishes – salads, mostly – did nothing for me. I had a good time, but would’ve had just as good a time ordering the big hitters off the a la carte menu.