Another day, another bakery – this one just a stone’s throw away from my partner’s GP, who has a particular interest in promoting long-term behavioural change where it comes to modifiable risk factors for non-communicable disease.
Tuga Pastries is perhaps best known for their Pastel de Nata (Portuguese Tart – $4.50), often being mentioned in the same breath as Sweet Belem when it comes to Sydney’s pastry tier lists. Though I’ve had Tuga’s Portuguese tarts at other cafes like Ashbury’s 3 Tomatoes, the experience was far better eating it fresh from the source. The filling on this tart was extremely gooey and creamy, with a fresh-out-of-the-oven warmth that coated and curled around the tongue. The pastry was similarly warm, fresh, buttery, and flaky, though if I had one complaint about this pastel de nata overall would be that it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Despite this, I would rate this above Sweet Belem‘s based on textural factors.
This great big slab is the Pork, Lamb and Harrisa Sausage Roll ($9), an attempt to fancy up the humble Australian classic that I feel met quite limited success. It features quite a thick block of finely minced meat wrapped in puff pastry, served with an extremely stock standard tomato sauce that for some reason we couldn’t get enough of. I personally found this sausage roll a bit lamby for my liking, and would’ve liked a coarser texture than what was offered here. Wouldn’t get it again.
I had no love for this 3 Cheese Toastie ($13), which I found quite dry, especially with all its seeds. I think the only way to make it better would be to add some kind of moist vegetable or meat to it, which would ruin the concept of it being a cheese only toastie. Maybe I just don’t like cheese-only toasties, but my partner, who chose this item, did not like it either.
This pear danish ($6) was really quite good. I enjoyed the flaky, buttery pastry, but more suprisingly I enjoyed the pear, which looked sweeter than it actually tasted. It was, in fact, not too sweet.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by how dense and ricotta-y this blueberry ricotta tart ($6.50) was. Didn’t love it.
OVERALL THOUGHTS Though much of what we had at Tuga was a bit hit and miss, there’s no denying the high quality of their pastel de natas. These are probably my favourite Portuguese tarts in Sydney right now, and for that reason alone I’m looking forward to the next time I have to take my partner to the doctor to hear about why we shouldn’t be eating so much.
Some restaurants deserve a wholeheartedly lukewarm response, and in my opinion Block145, a cafe we drove half an hour to eat at, is one of them.
We were tempted by the Salmon Okonomiyaki ($20) and a desire to relive some good meals we had overseas. Unfortunately the gap between expectation and reality was quite large in this dish. While the grilled salmon was well cooked with a crispy skin, that was the first and last superlative of the meal. The okonomiyaki itself I found disappointing, with a high flour content. It was sadly not what I was looking for.
After a recent success at Cafe Mckenzie in Randwick we decided to go for yet another Toastie with truffle oil, honey, and parmesan ($14). Sadly this particular toastie was far less exciting than the benchmark set by its competitor, with no great feeling of substance to it. It was quite small, and I would have much rathered more toastie than a salad I didn’t ask for.
These crispy smashed potatoes ($10) continued our breakfasts’ trend of being completely unsatisfying. I don’t really see what made them crispy or smashed. They really were essentially regular roast potatoes with a sprinkling of salt.
Pictured above, a photo of a bloody mary that I did not have. My partner did.
THOUGHTS I’m sad about my trip to Bloc145. Their menu has so many wonderful looking items I am left wondering if I simply chose the wrong things, or if my experience would have been like this regardless of what I chose. I wouldn’t go back.
Just a stone’s throw away from Slurp! Slurp! (our favourite Eastern suburbs dumpling restaurant to date) is Haven Specialty Coffee, a coffee roaster and cafe specialising in that all important Asian fusion brunch cuisine. We paid them a visit the morning after a particularly difficult ICU night shift for my partner – her first run ever without a more senior colleague on site.
I arrived early as my partner trudged through a prolonged Monday morning handover and enjoyed myself a standard large soy latte ($5.70). The price was significant, even for coffee that is presumably roasted on site. Not being much of a coffee connoisseur I thought that perhaps the first sip had a hint of prawn flavour, but subsequent sips were pretty uncontroversial.
The jackfruit ragu toastie with bacon ($20) was an expensive but loaded sandwich. I always forget what jackfruit is, so I ordered this sandwich expecting a guava-like sweetness which I thought would match well with a bit of salty bacon. It turns out that jackfruit, despite looking kind of tropical, is nothing like guava, not really sweet at all, but with an thicker, chewier, almost mushroom like chew and texture. The majority of the flavour of this toastie was thus a result of the hummus, which also donated a degree of stickiness to the mixture, and definitely added to by the bacon, which was thick cut and unusually expensive (a $5 supplement on top of the $15 base toastie). It would’ve been too mild without it, but ultimately well balanced.
Our other choice was the grilled broccolini salad with a piece of fried chicken ($25). It was actually not that dissimilar from the jackfruit toastie, it too being quite based in hummus and chickpea. At this point I’m not really sure why they’re billed as Asian fusion, as we certainly didn’t have much hummus at my house when I was growing up. This dish was ordered as it was felt to be a bit more wholesome than some of the other options on the menu, and indeed the broccolini, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and random greenery were both tasty and likely relatively healthy. The $7 addition for a piece of fried chicken probably tipped the health-rating of this meal back into a state of badness, but further into the realm of goodness in terms of taste. The chicken freshly fried, juicy on the inside with a crispy batter on the outside. It was seasoned minimally but seasoned well, and really added a nice degree of substance and warmth to this otherwise vegan dish.
I begged my partner not to, but she grabbed a nutella choc chip cookie ($6) on the way out. It didn’t amaze or enthral. Not the best cookie going around, but I’ve essentially been spoiled by the S-tier cookies at Cafe Cre Asion and nothing has really done it for me since.
THOUGHTS We had a pretty good meal at Haven, even if we did manage to ruin their only two vegan dishes through the addition of meat. I’d like to come back at some point for their mini French toast with earl grey custard, which looks great.
Hector’s Deli, possibly named after a character from a 2009 poem by Marshall Mathers III, (there does not appear to be a Hector on their staff, this seems to be the only plausible explanation), has grown quickly since its opening to somewhat national renown. Such was the online buzz surrounding this small sandwich joint that I was drawn to it from across the border, spending one of my few lunches waiting in the rain and scoffing down a super expensive toastie.
A few things that I had higher up on my list were unavailable, and I ended up with this $15 HCT, a sourdough toastie of mortadella, scamorza, provolone, and tomato chutney. Like walking into a random construction site with a hardhat and clipboard, it takes some nerve to charge $15 for a toasted sandwich without really any frills and not even blink. This was a fine sandwich to my mouth, but not fine as you would use it to describe a fine wine, or fine dining. Merely fine. I strongly suspect that some of their other offerings might be a bit more special, like for example their beef & pickle sandwich, but such is life. After this HCT I don’t think I’ll ever put myself in a position to know.
The Hectic Sauce, a $2 addition, was in my view more special and more reasonably priced than the sandwich itself. It is a creamy yellow sauce with a good mixture of spiciness and sweetness, that did enhance the edges of bread crust from the sandwich (though I must admit that the sandwich’s fillings were well edged to begin with).
The open kitchen is quite nice. Here you can see them with a few heads of lettuce, which wasn’t such a hot commodity when I visited back in April, but is today.
The handwashing station is also a point of interest, bringing a kind of VALVE game feeling to the joint.
Overall though? If you’re going to charge $15 for a ham cheese tomato toastie it had better be truly out of this world.
This little cafe just opened up in the Hyper Hyper space in Nowra and I’m here for it. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, good vibes, really artisan food, and good tunes.
I had their Lemon Citrus and Strawberry Tart ($6) on my first visit, with a coffee from next door after a night shift and before my drive back to Sydney. It was really pretty good. Eggy, like a portuguese tart, with a good buttery pastry and a lightly tart component from the strawberry. The best part of all was that it was not too sweet, just the right amount of sweet and sour for a little treat.
This is only an initial impression – more to come as I go back and back. They’re only in their first days now, but I think they’re on their way to becoming a Nowra institution.
The Maple Bacon Tart ($8) with tomato, caramelised onion, bab spinach, parmesan, and egg was delicious. It was extremely quiche like but with a puff pastry rather than shortcrust, with a deliciously umami mixture of fillings, as well as a great and highly complex, mildly sweet optional chutney on top. At $8 this was quite well sized and punched above its pricing in terms of flavour and fulfillment. I later brought one of these to my friend and colleague DTC. He appeared to enjoy it.
The Drifter Toastie ($12) with roast beef, potato rosti,beetroot relish, horseradish mayo, Jarlsberg, cheddar, baby spinach and caramelised onion was also a treat. One of the best sandwiches, toasted or untoasted, that I’ve had in a while, each bite of Punch the Ploughman’s drifter was full of flavour and texture. The meat had a tinge of smoke and charcoal grill flavour to it, and the serving of Jarlsberg was very generous. My eating (and romantic) partner especially loved the texture and flavour added by the potato rosti, and yet again this sandwich is a star showing of Nowra’s finest.
Baked on site, this Rhubarb Tart ($6) was not very different to the strawberry tart above, though I think a little sweeter and less tarty given the different fruit.
The Handkerchief Treat ($4), also baked on site, is a delicious mix between a cookie and a cupcake, with a slightly crispy exterior crust and a richly buttery interior. Flavoured with spiced pear syrup, this little treat is not too sweet, reminiscent of nothing in particular from Cafe Cre Asion expect for maybe in its high quality.
The Blueberry Danish, another in-house creation (they get some of their other stuff from Brickfields, but I guess it’s really only worth writing about the stuff they bake on site), was not bad, but probably not as good as some of their other offerings. The pastry of this was quite dense and bready, and I found the filling of lemon curd and blueberry to be a bit sweeter than I’d like.
I’m not usually one for smashed avocado ($12) as I feel like there are often more interesting options available, but after ripping through most of Punch the Ploughman’s menu in our first few visits there was not much left uneaten. I shouldn’t have discounted their avo offering so easily – this particular smashed avo was quite delightful, with a bed of crispy grilled sourdough and a sprinkling of hemp seeds, tomato salsa and pomegranate. This dish, in two easily shareable pieces, exhibited an extremely high degree of freshness and would easily sell for 50% more at any Sydney cafe.
The Brekky Burrito ($15) with mildly-local South Coast Tilba Jersey milk haloumi (though to be honest, Tilba is further from Nowra than Nowra is from Sydney), dukkah scrambled eggs, tomato salsa, avocado, percorino and sriracha had amazing and unexpected kebab energy. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good kebab, and the overall Middle-Easternness of this burrito (wrapped in a pita, not tortilla) elevated this above every other brekky burrito I’ve had to date.
A rare misstep for Punch the Ploughman is their Brekky Burger ($14), with bacon, scrambled egg, aioli and chilli jam, and avocado on Turkish bread. Though I’m a big fan of the brekky burrito, I had two areas of complaint for this burger, which appears intermittently on their specials board. The first is the bacon, which was in my opinion a bit harder than I would’ve liked. There is always a fine line between crispy and hard, and I didn’t feel like they walked on the right side of that tightrope. My second point of criticism would be about the chilli jam. I understand that it’s trying to be different from all the other bacon and egg offerings in town, but it was a flavour combination that personally did not tickle my pickle. Get the burrito instead. Maybe you can ask them to add bacon to it. I don’t know. I’d be too shy to.
Another item off the specials menu, another item I was less keen on is the Quiche of the Day with salad ($14). You can tell that by this point I’ve already eaten everything I actually want from them. Starting with the positives, the salad was quite good, with the surprise showing of a little bit of smashed avocado and feta. The quiche, however, did not live up to my expectations. It’s vegetarianess wasn’t stated on the specials board, and although I didn’t ask I don’t think that’s necessarily a given for all quiches. It was very pumpkin forward, and whilst I did like the egg and feta I felt that overall it was lesser than their much better maple bacon tart, which is extremely quiche-like in and of itself. I also felt that the special sauce from the maple bacon tart would’ve gone a long way to adding some more flavour to this, but I say that at risk of sounding like I should’ve just ordered the tart from the start. This quiche might be good for someone who is prohibited from having meat or bacon and who wouldn’t miss that extra dimension of umami that a good cured meat provides, but for the non-dietarily-restricted out there there’s definitely a better option already on the menu.
The Journeyman Toastie ($12), the second of their three toasties (the other is vegetarian and I have no plans to try it given my other experiences with their vegetarian food), both in order of me trying it as well as in my enjoyment. This particular toastie consisted of ham, tomato apple chutney, Jarslberg, cheddar, and a whole load of baby spinach. Though it was lesser than the Drifter, I found myself enjoying the synergy between the saltiness of the deceptively thick ham, the sourness of the pickle, and the BBQ-sauce-like tomato apple chutney. The intermingling of flavours was different and new, but also not crazy like that of the brekky burger. A very safe and good choice, though when I brought my colleague DTC a surprise toastie for lunch I got him the Drifter instead.
This vanilla custard tart ($5), baked in-house, was pretty good. It was substantially sized, with a soft and creamy and not-too-sweet filling with the occasional black dot of goodness. The pastry was also soft (sadly), which I did not like as much as the Portuguese tart at Hyper Hyper and supplied by The Portuguese Corner. It came room-temperature, and though I wanted to take it home and heat it up in the oven to see if it would make it any better, it did not survive the 850 metre drive home before it was eaten. There was a red traffic light along the way to blame for that.
This is an in-house raspberry muffin ($5), which was pretty good, with softness, sweetness, and some white custard-cream like substance baked in.
The 14th item I tried at Punch the Ploughman was this chocolate chai cake with strawberries, vanilla cream, and walnuts. My partner had actually saved me some of hers from her previous trip down to Nowra, but sadly one of our cats got to it before me. This cake was not too sweet, with an interesting chai presence and extreme moistness owing to the mountain of cream. The cake pieces were chocolately with a brownie like consistency, which was different. Not bad, but too much for one human.
I finally managed to try the steak and ale pie ($8) at Punch the Ploughman on my final morning in Nowra, after being in town for the last three months. Perhaps the pie was better as a concept rather than a reality, and perhaps I had hyped it up in my mind too much before finally getting to eat it, but sadly it did not hit the spot, flavour-wise. The topping of their house chutney rather than the standard tomato sauce was a good move, but the flavour of mirepox, beef, and ale was exactly as it should have been, but I’m afraid just didn’t hit the salty spot that I was looking for that day. Despite this, I can say with certainty that the consistency and ingredient-packed nature of the filling was far superior to local pie-based competitor Earnest Arthur, whose pies I have found too strong in gravy and too low in solids (but more to my preference in terms of flavours).
This lumberjack hummingbird cake ($6), made by a customer, was not bad. Relatively moist, with a good apple-like flavour and interesting textural differences between the top layer and the body of the cake. I don’t know if it will be a regular thing.
OVERALL I’ve eaten most of their menu, and all but one item that I actually want to eat from Punch the Ploughman. Most of their stuff is great, though their meat pies elude me, as they come on at around 10:30 (after I get home from a night shift) and disappear a few hours after that (before I wake up after my final night shift and drive back to Sydney). What can you do?
(EDIT: See above, finally got the pie)
Both their sweet stuff and their savoury stuff is good, but I would avoid their vegetarian stuff in favour of their meated stuff for the non-vegetarians out there.