For me, the holy grail of westie food, elusive and delicious, has always been La Paula. I had heard nothing but good things and it had been on my wishlist for aaaaaaaaaages. I’d even visited their nearby branch in Kingsford with their more pared-back menu and had some delicious alfajores and empanadas, but I knew it wasn’t the full experience. So I’ve been licking my lips in anticipation of Chilean sweets and fast food for some time now. A month ago, a group of us finally stopped in for a veritable feast of sweets, softly ensconced sandwiches and dulce de leche delights. No one left disappointed. Or hungry.
Someone ordered Mote con Huesillo while we ummed and aahhed over the menu. Mote con Huesillo is a chilean summertime drink consisting of dried peach, which is stewed with sugar and cinnamon, and then wheat (cooked and husked) is added. It had a pleasant cordial-like peachy taste which was not overly sweet. I can see why many Chilenos find it so addictive.
The Chacarero y Palta was calling my name. A softer-than-clouds bun housing tender beef strips, mayo, palta (avocado), tomato and pickled beans (go with it, it works). I never heard avocado referred to as ‘palta’ before, only ‘aguacate’, which is where the word ‘avocado’ originates (‘aguacate’, if you’re interested, is from the Nahuatl word for testicle). Never mind that, was it delicious? Fuck yes. Sorry chums, but there is not more appropriate word for the delicousness of soft bread, rich mayo, fresh tomato, generous dollop of avocado and tender grilled beef strips that I practically inhaled. That’s my excuse for the awful photo above; I just couldn’t wait to chow down.
Lucky I was sharing with my man, because he ordered the Lomito Completo y Palta, a similar sambo, but with pork instead of beef as well as the addition of saurkraut. The saurkraut gave the lomito a nice vinegarry hit and the pork was even more tender than the beef. Interesting that a ‘lomito’ in Argentina was a massive steak sandwich, whereas at La Paula it was pork all the way. I’d love someone to shed some light on that. Let’s go with the same excuse for my crappy photography for this shot.
The Completo Especial Palta Mayo was delicious. The completo (hot dog) is an iconic Chilean junk/street food, although it is popular all over South America, and by all accounts, this one was no slouch. Avocado and mayo go great with the soft bun, as our first two dishes proved. But, you know, third time’s a charm. Or something.
Another tasty treat was the Milanesa al Plato. Milanesa refers to breaded meat, in other words, schnitzel, and is usually beef. This one came with two fried eggs and the expected boring salad complete with white onion. We also tried a (baked) empanada de pino (boiled egg, spiced mince and olives) and an empanada de carne y queso (fried, top image) which was amazing, and the Barros Luco, a steak and cheese sandwich (below).
Oh, the sweets. My favourite, but I didn’t get a shot of it because I took it home and scoffed it with my beau, was the pastel de tres leches (triple milk cake). It’s a soft sponge with a skerrick of dulce de leche in the middle, soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. This one was iced with meringue and was a *to die for* light-as-air sponge with just the right amount of sweetness, not soggy at all. Helen over at Grab Your Fork took a great picture of it for her Timeout Sydney writeup.
I keep saying dulce de leche, but I think I should be saying cajeta (ka-het-uh), it is a Chilean bakery after all, not Argentinian or Uruguayan. Whatever the name, it’s highly addictive, and we ate it every which way. The pastry horn (below) filled to the brim is the stuff of legend, and the churro relleno (filled churro, above), still hot from the fryer, was scored with a knife and the groove filled with delicious cajeta. It’s well worth the 45 minute train ride.
9 Barbara Street
Fairfield NSW 2165
02 9726 2379
Open 7:00am to 5:00pm, 7 days
When I was 12, I picked out our new house. Well, that’s how it felt to me anyway. Yes, I know it was really my mum who made the decision and handed over the cash. But the second I entered the place, with its rambling, north facing garden, wooden floors and loads of light, I felt at home. Looking back, I think it was that discovery of home that made my adolescence a time of relative sanity. It was also that feeling of having a home that made it so easy, 7 years later, to strike out with no real plan and very little money, enrol myself in art school, and force myself into a place where I would do something productive and wind my way to my own true home. I’m still looking for that home, both metaphorically and literally.
15 Years later and the house is to be sold, at a time when the so-south-other-Canberrans-barely-know-them-suburbs nearby are just starting to furnish themselves with the hip cafés I so cherish so in my new home, inner-city Sydney. It would be trite to say I’m sad to see my home soon go to strangers because now there’s finally somewhere to get a decent macch, but it does add insult to injury. Tuggeranong (or thereabouts), you finally have something to recommend you to those who don’t call you home. Great timing.
Bread Nerds is so new it’s on a street that doesn’t exist on google maps yet. Run by Shane and Sharon Peart of ‘That Bagel Place’ fame, the retail/cafe space is compact, with an industrial-chic aesthetic. They serve sandwiches, pastries, bagels, pizza slices, pies, sausage rolls and coffee and of course, they sell bread. Unfortunately for anyone who doesn’t live in the area, they’re only open Monday to Friday, but they also sell their bread and bagels at farmer’s markets and supply restaurants and cafes.
I can’t go past the Italian dougnut. It’s a delicious, solid morsel and I split it with my mum. Dougnuts never have enough cinnamon in my opinion but this one does. I dunk it in my (weirdly enormous) macchiatto- the smallest cup size they seem to do here is about 250ml. I should’ve taken note of the barista’s slightly puzzled expression when I ordered a macch, a picollo and a cap. Senhor R fares even worse with his picollo, which is basically a slightly strong flat white. He has better luck with his poppyseed bagel with smoked salmon though. I reeeeaaaallly want a sausage roll, but I contain myself. The pies look great too.
There’s a lot of blue-collar business for a Monday morning in an industrial wasteland, and the quality is obviously right up there. I’d love to come back and grab a loaf of bread or a sausage roll to take away, and the cafe is industrial but small enough to be considered cute and cosy – I feel right at home. The price seems right, the staff are friendly, my only criticism is the size of the coffee cups.
What kind of things make you feel at home?
4/92 Sawmill Circuit
Hume ACT 2620
02 6260 2062
7:00am – 3:00pm
Senhor R and I headed to Brasserie Bread one Saturday not so long ago after breakfast at Sonoma HQ in hopes of a quick coffee. We arrived during the breakky-to-lunch changeover. It was pretty damn busy in the light, bright café, with its communal tables, concrete floors and huge sheet glass windows. As you walk through the doors, the bakery counter is directly in front of you if you want to buy breads, pastries and cakes to go. To our left was the baking class room, which is visible from both he café and outside. To the right, beyond all the seating, was their order-and-pay-at-the-counter set –up of breakfast, pastries, sandwiches and Allpress coffee.
The two of us ordered and sat down, at the only obviously available table, an empty table of 10. Suddenly, the man in charge of the floor rushed over and said ‘How many of you are there?” and we said ‘2.’ He said ‘Can you move to another table?’ and gestured to a hemmed in table for two where a couple were just leaving. We said, ‘Sure, no worries.’ but then decided to sit at the bench which looks out onto the road as it was less cramped. He asked if we’d already ordered and we said we had, then he rushed off, leaving it to us to let the staff know our new table number. As we sat staring through the large windows onto Botany road, a group of 3 then sat down where we had just been. He seemed to have no problem with that.
At that point, I would have chalked this all up to one stressed-out guy on a busy Saturday, but I can’t say we felt the chilled Saturday arvo vibe they were probably aiming for. When Senhor R went to ask the same guy for the key to the bathroom, he was busy chatting and ignored him as he stood there waiting. When Senhor R returned (the bathroom was outside) he was standing in the entryway, completely blocking the way of anyone coming in or out of the cafe, for quite some time. We drank our Allpress coffee (it was fine) and our massive, too-good-too-be-true-sized bottle of sparkling mineral water. It was all ok, but something felt a little flat. At that point we decided to head off.
The next day, I received an email from Brasserie Bread, reminding me to pop in and grab my free loaf (we’d all received vouchers at Eat. Drink. Blog. as Brasserie was one of the major sponsors, providing breakfast, morning tea and a sourdough class). I replied to the email saying I’d just dropped by the other day and explaining what had happened. Sarah from Brasserie was super understanding, even going so far as to speak to the cafe manager, who told me to pop in for a free coffee any time. I declined, but appreciate the offer.
It wasn’t an awful experience by any means, but it did get me thinking. This is just one example of how one member of an organisation can tarnish their already precarious reputation. Cafes are about more than just coffee, and one stressed-out waiter can easily turn an ok experience into an uncomfortable one.
It’s also a lesson in the possible pitfalls of social media, something Brasserie Bread is heavily engaged in, and with great success. When their Melbourne store opened not long ago, they had a massive launch, which was well-attended by bloggers. They themselves have a blog, they invite bloggers to attend free baking classes (I was lucky enough to be one of these bloggers). They also have a strong twitter presence. All this builds their brand in a very grass-roots way. But by engaging in social media, you start a conversation. And unfortunately, this can leave you open to criticism. One guy has a bad day and suddenly you’re reading a moderately critical review in a minor Sydney food blog that will probably be read by…100 people? Ok, so maybe it’s not that big a deal then.
Even so, it made me reflect on my relationship with an organisation. If Sarah hadn’t emailed me, what are the chances I would have passed on my criticism? Pretty low. What are the chances I would have returned? Pretty high, but maybe only to grab my free loaf of bread. If I was a ‘normal’ customer, and this was my first visit, what then? I’d never come back again, and what’s more, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I know this because I got to see first-hand Senhor R’s first experience of the organisation, and he was less than impressed.
When I sat own to write this, I knew I had four choices; One: I could tell the truth, full disclosure. Two: I could lie by omission – pretend the whole thing never happened because I can’t be impartial so just write about the food, what the café looks like, where it is, etc. Three: Play up what happened for dramatic effect and never set foot in the place again. Or Four; not write the review at all. The only choices I could see as viable were one and four. I chose option one, it felt more honest.
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeadow NSW 2019
1300 966 845
Monday to Friday – 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8:00am – 2:00pm
I’m not much for standing in queues. Then again, I’m assuming it’s something not many of us look forward to. Let me rephrase that – if I have to line up and wait for a table at a restaurant or café, I won’t. The line turns me off. The hype turns me off. The way I see it, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. And some of those fish might even be salt encrusted Portuguese sardines cooked on hot coals. But I digress.
So it will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m not the least bit interested in checking out the Bourke Street Bakery that is actually on Bourke Street- that line around the block is way too Porteño for me (Haha. Clever double entendre there). Until recently I had been to all their other branches, including their now defunct Broadway branch and their offshoot Central Baking Depot.
But I hadn’t been to their Marrickville store, and I vowed to before they open another branch. Oh wait, they just did. It’s in Potts Point and apparently even bigger. Anyway, I finally went to check out a couple of weeks ago, in what shall be known as ‘Lau and Senhor R’s weekend of bakery madness’, where we checked out Bourke Street Bakery Marrickville, Brasserie Bread in Banksmeadow and Sonoma Alexandria (twice). And when I say ‘checked out’ you of course understand that I mean ‘drank coffee and ate pastries at every single bakery.’
The reason Bourke Street Bakery Marrickville has been on my to-visit list forever is that I heard rumours there’s actually room to sit down. And guess what? The rumours are true. The interior, although hardly spacious, does have sufficient seating and there’s also a clump of tables outside. The large windows give lots of light, which bounces off the chrome industrial-looking stools. There’s a big rack of bread at one end of the shop, a mesmerising fridge of cakes and pastries in the middle and a large communal table at the end. I order two macchiatos and a chocolate croissant and we grab a seat.
Let me make this clear for those of you who don’t know: people RAVE about these guys. Their cookbook is a best seller. Their bread sells out every day. Customers wait with bated breath for the first batch of their legendary pork and fennel sausage rolls (a reliable source tells me this happens around 10:30am). Freaking hell, even David Lebovits loves the place, claiming their bread ‘rivalled anything (he) could get back home in Paris.’
So what did we think? Well, the pain au chocolat, although I’m no David Lebovits, was amazing – the pastry crisp and golden on the outside, puffed and layered in the middle and buttery all the way through. The coffee was lovely as well and I managed to (mostly) resist dunking the pastry in it. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear what I think of their sourdough, but I’ll give you a hint – we’ve bought three loaves in the last couple of weeks.
What about you? Do lines outside restaurants turn you on or turn you off?
Bourke Street Bakery, Marrickville
2 Mitchell Street
Marrickville NSW 2204
Weekend breakky used to be one of my favourite rituals. I had my places, I had my fave orders. But lately, it’s kind of fallen off the radar. So a couple of weeks ago, Senhor R and I jumped in the car and went to one of our all-time best breakky haunts, only to be greeted by sad, overpriced food and lacklustre service. We vowed never again to set out on a breakfast quest without a place in mind.
Having heard good things about Sonoma Bakery Café, the relatively new Sonoma HQ, we decided to head southwards for something new. We were greeted by a huge warehouse space, Allpress-like in its interior. An order-and-pay-at-counter affair, said counter was laden with delicious looking sandwiches and pastry. As we stood surveying the offerings, a barista offered us the breakky menu. Easy to see it was out first visit.
Obviously there wouldn’t be much point in ordering a Sonoma breakky if it didn’t include toast. I went for the kind of thing I usually choose – toast and poached eggs with a side of avocado. I noticed, weirdly that the blackboard menu worked out a couple of dollars cheaper than the paper menu, who knows, may have been a glitch. Senhor R ordered the Turkish eggs, described as eggs with ricotta, olives, tomato, dukkah and toast.
We help ourselves to water from a handy tap imbedded in the bench and grab some salt and pepper shakers as well. Our coffees arrived, soon followed by our breakfasts. I could tell straight away that my eggs were near-perfect, the butter on the side, which I appreciated, especially as I ordered avo. I’m a bit surprised they’ve mashed the avo though, since its texture is kind of the point. I spread my sourdough (I think it’s rye spelt) with butter and avo, whack and egg on top and pierce the yolk. Perfect. Liquid. Centre. Senhor R’s breakky is very salty, luckily he loves salt. It’s not quite what we expected – a mash of soft boiled egg, ricotta, chopped olives, fresh tomato and dukkah spread on double thick toast. I’m not sure what we imagined, definitely whole (rather than slightly mashed) eggs, something more akin to baked eggs I guess (that’s also on their menu). Senhor R admits he didn’t really read the description properly.
Sonoma has their own blend roasted by Surry Hills hipsters Single Origin Roasters, I’m not a huge fan, nor am I a huge detractor. The coffee was smooth, chocolatey and well made. The staff were all really friendly, so much so that when the barista cleared away our coffee cups, he asked if we’d like another round ‘On the house, I’m pretty bored.’ Maybe it was me snapping away, maybe he really was bored, either way, can’t say no to a free coffee.
Overall, we were very impressed with Sonoma, so much so that we returned the following day for coffee and to share a sandwich (Moroccan Chicken – amazing). I loved the space – high ceilings, plenty of tables, polished concrete floors, bare light bulbs. It’s kind of hard to find, but definitely worth the trek.
Sonoma Bakery Café
32-44 Birmingham Street
Alexandria NSW 2015
02 8338 1051
7:00 am – 4:00 pm
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein. 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.