Some things just go together naturally. Cheese and wine. A cup and saucer. Summer and thongs. Whisky and…tailored shirts?
Ok, so maybe those two things don’t naturally go together, but that’s the concept behind Shirt Bar, a new-ish whisky bar/coffee shop/shirt shop on Sussex Lane in the Sydney CBD. Right by Balcony Bar and Small bar, it feels a lot larger than your usual Sydney small bar.
The décor is all exposed brick, concrete floors, leather, warm wood and coffee sack covered stools. The staff are smartly kitted out in – you guessed it – tailored shirts. Instead of regular bottles, they serve drinking water from crystal decanters. It was a weekday so the crowd was mostly business-types having meetings or taking a coffee break. I didn’t see anyone having a whisky break, but who knows.
Of course I’m there for coffee. Shirt Bar have their very own blend, FAT Coffee (For All Things Coffee) roasted by Shirt Bar co-owner Adam Hofbauer, who says, and I have to quote this sentence it’s just so damn quoteable, that his ‘introduction to the raunchiness of the naked porta filter’ cemented his obsession with coffee.
My macch was good, well balanced, but unfortunately forgotten until my friend and I did some eyeballing and they realised we were still waiting. Nothing was said, they brought us our coffees and they were good so all was forgiven. And they came with a tiny cookie each, which I appreciated ‘cause I got to eat both.
I don’t know what percentage of Shirt Bar’s business is made up of selling shirts, perhaps their purely decorative, maybe it’s a novelty thing, but if café/bookstores and café/bike stores are all the rage, why not a shirts/coffee/whisky combo? I don’t know why it works, but it does.
Be warned – like many a small bar there isn’t a beer tap in sight and they’ll only do certain cocktails. They do serve food but they’re not a restaurant. They are three things at once though, and they seem to do them all well. And I say that knowing nothing of either tailored shirts or whisky.
(02) 8068 8222
7 Sussex Lane (behind Erskine Street, nearest cross street is Kent)
Last week I talked about reliving travel through food. Taste is a powerful memory trigger and that almost explains why, about a week after my return from Argentina/Brasil I found myself showing up for drinks at a friend’s place in Newtown not with a 6-pack of beer but rather, sipping a pineapple filled with rum.
I’m not in any way implying that people in Northern Brasil show up to people’s houses with a pineapple dangling from their chops, far from it (and also, if they did, they’d use cachaça, not rum). But I couldn’t really get my head around not drinking a caipirinha and drinking it out of a pineapple, although touristy and tacky, was my favourite way to do it. This explains why Senhor R and I found ourselves hacking away at a pineapple one Sunday night to make a cup for our rum caipirinha. Sticky.
What follows is a recipe of sorts for how to turn a pineapple into a drinkable, alcoholic treat.
Caipirinha no Abacaxi
3-4 dessert spoons of caster sugar
6 ice cubes
2 limes, quartered
Cachaça, or, failing that, rum
A couple of toothpicks
If the leaves of the pineapple are still attached, remove them. Chop the top off the pineapple and save it for a lid. With a long, sharp knife, cut around the inside of the pineapple almost to the bottom, leaving about a half inch border. Then cut a cross through the centre of the flesh that you hope to remove. Hack away at this with knives and spoons until you win.
In a glass or shaker, smash the hell out of the ice, sugar and limes, either with something blunt or by shaking the shaker until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into the pineapple and cover with cachaça, stir and taste. Add more sugar if needed.
Whack in a straw. Attach the lid with a couple of toothpicks. If you’re drinking your caipirinha on the beach, no worries but if you’re somewhere you don’t wanna get too sticky and your pineapple is quite ripe, you might want to put it on a plate or cling wrap it.
There was no doubt, NO DOUBT in my mind what my first (and second and third) stops would be after touching down in Sydney. They were, in no particular order, coffee, coffee and COFFEE. Senhor R couldn’t agree with me more as, although it was relatively easy to hunt out decent coffee in Brasil, coffee in Argentina, which was where we spent the bulk of our trip, left something to be desired.
Actually, if I’m honest, coffee was my first stop before we even got to Sydney. We were salivating for Allpress Espresso at Auckland airport, having solemnly downed out ‘last real coffee’ there on our way to South America. When we got to Auckland, I downed my mach and could not stop grinning, in spite of the 14 hour, Aerolineas Argentinas hell I had just endured. Real. Coffee.
The second stop after dropping off our bags in Sydney was Don Campos nearby. The next morning, we were already on the hunt for somewhere new to try. After catching up on my blogroll I saw John over at He Needs Food had some good things to say about Belljar Espresso in Newtown, so we set off for Alice street.
On our way we couldn’t resist making our third coffee stop at The Kick Inside, Erskineville which was in the process of renovating so they were only doing takeaways. Senhor R was super happy with his piccolo and, suitably refuelled we continued on our coffee safari. Having wandered through Newtown a while, we arrived at Belljar coffee. It has a similar aesthetic to places like Miss Petty Cash and the aforementioned Kick Inside – knick knacks, bric-a-brac and retro furniture, classic espresso-coloured crockery offset by vintage teaspoons. It’s an all too familiar template, yet one I never tire of.
Hipster aesthetic aside, how was the coffee? Pretty good. They use Little Marrionette, which I think is overhyped, but so be it, coffee is coffee. It’s a cool place to kick back, they play vinyl from your parents’ collection, and the breakky menu looks good. I’ve been back once since and will most likely return.
(02) 8096 4090
2/104 Alice Street
I don’t know about you, but travel for me is mostly about food. When I eat the thing from the place in the actual place of the thing, well, that’s not a very articulate way of putting it, but in the words of Maeve O’Meara, it’s a revelation. And there’s no better way to attempt to relive your travel than to eat the thing that you ate in the place of the thing, but this time, eat it at YOUR place.
I found myself at a bit of a loose end this week, so I decided to make Pão de Queijo (Cheese Puffs), a typical Brazilian snack/breakfast food which I don’t even particularly like, but I wish I was in Brasil right now and what better way to celebrate that than to bake. The main ingredients are manioc/tapioca starch, cheese, eggs, liquid and fat.
When baked, they look a lot like profiteroles but, although the method is similar, it is a hell of a lot more difficult as the starch makes the dough sticky and you have to knead rather than just stir it. I found this virtually impossible so I would recommend using a food processor. Pão de Queijo has a wonderfully squishy texture and these puffs are yummy straight from the oven or reheated in the microwave.
A quick tip: all the recipes I’ve read say not to let the dough sit (it doesn’t need to rise or anything); either bake it immediately or form it into balls and freeze because if you let it sit, it will magically re-liquidise!
2 cups full cream milk
½ cup melted butter
450g tapioca/manioc starch (often called tapioca flour, make sure you get one that has the texture of cornflour rather than the one with the texture of polenta),
Excess tapioca/manioc starch for shaping the dough into balls (you can also use oil or water)
2 cups grated cheese (traditionally queijo de minas, but I used a combination of Colby and Romano, mostly Romano)
Preheat the oven to 200°c.
In a medium pan, bring the milk and butter to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately.
Either take your chances and gradually pour the manioc flour into the pan, stirring constantly or put the manioc flour in the food processor and on a slow speed gradually pour in the hot liquid.
Allow to cool; the dough should be cool enough to knead.
Next, knead the dough or turn the food processor on to a medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before the next egg is added. The dough should be smooth and elastic but still very soft and sticky. Add the cheese and knead well until completely incorporated.
You now have 3 choices – flour your hands with tapioca flour, oil them or dampen them. Then roll the dough into even, 2-3cm balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicone mat.
Bake for about 20 minutes, checking after ten minutes to make sure they are not over browning. They are done when they sound hollow when tapped, as they cool they will soften. Freeze or store in an airtight container, best served warm or reheated for 10 seconds in the microwave.
Makes about 30.
What foods from your travels do you love to cook?
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.