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Sunday, July 22, 2018

All you can eat hotpot at Hotpot City, Bankstown

Star Wars sauce station May the Sauce Be with You at Hotpot City in Bankstown

Winter time is hotpot time. If you've never had hotpot, you've not had the pleasure of huddling around a cavernous bowl of steaming soup. It's this soup that is used to cook an endless assortment of meats, fish balls, vegetables, noodles and more.

Most hotpot places are a la carte but Hotpot City in Bankstown lets you eat as much as you can from a buffet selection for $35 (only $19 for lunch Monday to Friday).

Hotpot buffet selection at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Hotpot buffet

Everyone gets their own hotpot which means no need to fight over the last fish ball. Choose from 11 soup bases, running from tom yum to kimchi to oxtail with herbs. Don't worry. They have a classic chicken soup too. Everyone gets their own ceramic hot plate so you can keep your soup at just the right temperature for you.

Lamb, pork and beef slices at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Lamb, pork and beef slices

The hotpot buffet range is extensive. Choose from thinly sliced meats, fish balls, all kind of seafood (prawns, mussels, calamari and more) and plenty of tofu and bean curd variants.

Prawn flavoured balls with fish roe at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Prawn flavoured balls with fish roe 

Pile up on fresh vegetables and noodles. There's even an offal section that includes chicken hearts, pigs blood and tendon. Yum.

And they have fresh watermelon and oranges that will do you nicely for dessert too.

Taro fish balls at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Taro fish balls

Lotus root slices at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Lotus root slices

Self-serve sauce station at Hotpot City in Bankstown
DIY sauce station

Don't forget the DIY sauce station. It's a myriad of choice, coupled with coolest sign ever - "May the Sauce be with You".

DIY dipping sauces at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Chilli powder, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame sauce, fresh coriander and more

Go simple or go for broke with your own crazy concoction. Feel the sauce, Luke.

Fish balls, tofu, pigs blood, chicken hearts, beef tendon and more at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Fish balls, tofu, pigs blood, chicken hearts, beef tendon and more

Here's my first plate of goodies from the buffet. It was the first of, um, many.

Individual hotpots at Hotpot City in Bankstown
Individual hot pots

Cook as you please, chat with your mates and keep on going back for more until your belly is about to burst. If there's one good thing about winter, it's that you can eat more. And at an all-you-can-eat buffet, that can only be a good thing!

Entrance to Hotpot City in Bankstown


Hotpot City Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotpot City
Little Saigon Plaza
Ground floor Shop 22-25
462 Chapel Road, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8764 8112

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 11.30-3pm and 5pm-10pm
Saturday and Sunday 11.30am-10pm
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/22/2018 06:39:00 pm


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ester, Chippendale

Twice cooked quail at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney

Still sexy. It's been almost five years since Ester first flung open its doors in Chippendale. That's a long time in Sydney restaurant years. Last week it took out 2nd place (behind Brae) in the AFR's peer-voted listed of Australia's Top 100 Restaurants for 2018.

But it's not hard to see why Ester has remained a firm favourite with diners. There's an understated simplicity to the menu. Most dishes showcase just one or two core components. Forget fancy plating and tricked up ingredients. Ester is all about celebrating the freshest produce, majestic vegetables and the smoky roar of a wood-fired oven.

Potato bread with kefir cream, dashi jelly and trout roe at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato bread, kefir cream, dashi jelly, trout roe $22

The menu has enough breadth to pique the interest of even the fussiest diner (usually six snacks and ten shareable dishes) without feeling overwhelming. And while some dishes have earned multi-seasonal runs (the blood sausage sanga has been a menu stalwart since day one), there's always a few changes to maintain the intrigue of regulars.

Potato bread with kefir cream is a long-running menu favourite, and with good reason. The puffy and blistered potato bread bun, dusted with sea salt and singed at the very edges, is reason enough to celebrate. It's splitting open the bread, watching the steam escape, and then slathering on as much kefir cream, dashi jelly and trout roe as you can. There's the soft bun, the cool hit of umami, a slight tang to the kefir cream and then those little pops of brine.

Buffalo curd pie at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Buffalo curd pie with fermented hot sauce $16

Buffalo curd pie is the ultimate hand pie, bubbled across the surface like an Italian woodfired pizza and filled with oozing cheese.

Calamari, lardo and squid ink skewers at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Calamari, lardo and squid ink $16 per skewer

I've had the calamari and lardo skewer several times over subsequent visits. It's not a combination that immediately comes to mind but it all makes sense with that initial mouthful. The lardo softens for an added richness to the ribbons of tender calamari, doused in its own ink.

Eschalot tarte tatin at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Eschalot tarte tatin 

Recently we managed to score one of the last off-menu specials of the eschalot tarte tatin. I'm so glad we did. The buttery pastry base is flaky perfection but it's the caramelised eschalots that bring new meaning to vegetal sweetness, so toffee-like this dish veers deliciously between savoury and dessert.

Potato pasta with potato dashi at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato pasta, potato dashi and pepper leaf $18

Potato pasta has taken on a few renditions. The latest version we encounter is subtler still, a silky sheet of potato pasta set atop mashed potato in a lake of potato dashi stock.

King prawns with fermented shrimp butter and capers at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
King prawns, fermented shrimp butter and capers $39

Half the joy of ordering the king prawns is watching every other table's noses twitch as their intoxicating aroma follows its pathway through the dining room. These prawns are gargantuan in size, but more importantly, they're firm, plump and sweet. The fermented shrimp butter is so good, some members of our dining party have been known to ask for a container to take the leftover puddle home (not me, this time).

The best part is undoubtedly the head. You earn more respect in my books by using your fingers to get into every nook and cranny of this crustacean.

Woodfired cauliflower, almond and mint at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Cauliflower, almond and mint $25

Wood-roasted cauliflower is another Ester staple, crisp and smoky. Its nutty richness is set off cleverly against the almond sauce (almond meal, extra virgin olive oil and egg yolks) as well as the crunch of toasted almonds and the freshness of whole mint.

Sugar loaf cabbage with sesame and sesame sambal at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Sugar loaf cabbage, sesame and sesame sambal $18

Sugar loaf cabbage is a sight to behold, like a coral reef filled with schools of sesame seeds.

Pumpkin with pumpkin seeds and kombu oil at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and kombu oil $18

The humble pumpkin is elevated too. We revel in a wreath of grilled and salted pumpkin curls surrounding a pile of pumpkin seeds braised in kombu oil. The pool of pumpkin butter is almost drinkable.

O'Connor grass fed, dry aged steak on the bone at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
O'Connor grass fed, dry aged steak on the bone $140

The O'Connor grass fed dry aged steak on the bone is best attempted in a large group, and not just to share the cost. It's a hefty hunk of protein that goes further than you think, each slice concentrated in beefiness and capped with a protective layer of fat.

Potato galette with smoked whey sauce at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Potato galette with smoked whey sauce $24

The potato galette is so pretty it's almost a shame to destroy its intricate layering. Smoked whey sauce is an ingenious addition, enhancing the caramelised char from the oven-roasted potato. The edges are definitely worth fighting for.

Twice cooked quail with desert oak and burnt honey at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Twice cooked quail, desert oak and burnt honey $36

Everybody chortles at the sight of the twice cooked quail but there's nothing but silence at first bite. The burnt honey works harmoniously with the woodfired smokiness. It's cooked masterfully with crisp skin and just-cooked pink in the middle.

Lemon meringue burnt pav at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Lemon meringue burnt pav $16

Desserts? You bet we did. The burnt pav is always a winner, its latest riff marrying chewy crusted meringue with a zingy lemon curd.

Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake $15

Roasted cocoa Portuguese sponge cake is one of the newer additions I've had, aromatic and almost savoury in flavour profile.

Pear, custard and caramel at Ester in Chippendale, Sydney
Pear, custard and caramel $16
and left over sourdough ice cream $6

A wobble of custard is nuanced with pear and dots of caramel but I only have eyes for the malty left over sourdough ice cream strewn with crisp sourdough crumbs and black sesame seeds. It's another Ester signature, and one I suspect will never - fingers crossed - leave the menu.

Entrance to Ester in Chippendale, Sydney


Ester Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ester Restaurant
46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 8279

Opening hours
Lunch Saturday and Sunday 12pm-4.30pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-11pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts
Chippendale - Ester (Nov 2013)
Chippendale - A1 Canteen
Chippendale - Kensington Street Social
Chippendale - LP's Quality Meats
4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/11/2018 12:36:00 am


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Gure Txoko Basque Club, Sydney

Salmorejo chilled tomato soup at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney

Knock on the green wooden door and wait. It’ll slowly swing open with a creak, granting you entry into Gure Txoko Basque Club. Gure Txoko, which means “our corner” in Basque, began as a male-only social club in 1966. These days everyone is welcome to join their Sunday lunch, a three-course meal prepared by member volunteers that costs just $25. Bargain. And the grog is cheap too, with glasses of wine at $4, beer for $5 and bottles of wine starting at $15.

Basque Club dining room paraphernalia at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Basque Club dining room paraphernalia

There’s still a blokey feel to the place – its wood-panelled walls are covered in trophies, portraits and sports memorabilia. Lunch isn’t served until 2pm on Sundays but as long as you’ve made a booking*, you can arrive anytime from noon for drinks.

Locals dining at the Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Locals dining at the Basque Club

Hang with the Basque locals – a mix of friends, families and wizened old timers – but do make sure you check out the pelota court at the back, a traditional handball game that uses curved baskets to hurl a rubber ball at breakneck speed.

Pelota court at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Pelota court

Salmorejo chilled tomato soup at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Salmorejo chilled tomato soup

The menu changes from week to week but expect rustic home-style cooking served on mismatched vintage crockery. On our visit we start with salmorejo, a chilled tomato soup laced with garlic and paprika, garnished with shredded Serrano ham, chopped hard-boiled eggs and croutons.



Marmitako Basque fish stew at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Marmitako Basque fish stew

Main course is marmitako, a Basque fish stew that translates as “from the pot”. It’s a hearty serve of tuna, carrots and potatoes simmered into a rich seafood stock.

Baked cheesecake at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Baked cheesecake

Dessert is a massive wedge of baked cheesecake.

Volunteer chef in the kitchen at the Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Behind the scenes in the kitchen

Everything comes out of a tiny kitchen, manned not by the nonnas you’d expect, but a brigade of young and chirpy volunteers. There might be a gap between courses but no-one’s in a hurry. Sit back, relax, and Basque in the last lazy hours of your weekend.

*Sunday lunch seats must be pre-booked by 5pm of the Friday beforehand

Estrella Damm lager at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Estrella Damm lager beer brewed in Barcelona $5

Entry instructions at Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney
Basque Club entry instructions

Entry to Gure Txoko Basque Club in Sydney


Gure Txoko Basque Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gure Txoko Basque Club
344 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 5612

Opening hours:
Sundays 12.00pm - 6pm
Special events may finish later
Lunch always served at 2pm

This article first appeared in Time Out Sydney. Read this article online or read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews.
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/04/2018 07:42:00 am


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A1 Canteen, Chippendale

DSCF3562-1806

Sydney's new favourite eatery? It might well be A1 Canteen, the much anticipated venture from Automata's Clayton Wells. Initially slated to open in February 2018, A1 Canteen finally threw open its doors last Wednesday. It's a more casual offering for punters, open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner including a takeaway window.

Dining room at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
A1 Canteen dining room

A1 Canteen has taken up residence on the ground floor of the Old Rum Store, virtually across the lane from Automata. Soaring windows mean the dining space is bathed in natural light during the day. The interior design by Matt Darwon is cool - but not cold - in tone, with a colour palette of blacks, greys, dark brown and white. There's a calmness about the space, manned by staff who are attentive and quietly efficient.

Head chef Clayton Wells in the kitchen at A1 Canteen in Chippendale Sydney
Head chef and owner Clayton Wells in the kitchen

Fried eggplant sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone $12

At lunchtime it's hard to go past the fried eggplant sandwich with its thick disc of panko crumbed eggplant. The use of tank loaf bread may be easily missed, but it's a nostalgic throwback to soft white bread.

Melted provolone in the fried eggplant sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Melted provolone 

Our sandwich has been buttered and pressed, resulting in oozing strands of provolone once it's cut open. It eats brilliantly, with the warm and buttery eggplant boosted by the sweetness of the romesco and the subtle smokiness of the provolone cheese. There's no oiliness to the eggplant either, and the panko crumbs retain their crunch.

Muffuletta pressed sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Muffuletta $14

The other lunch favourite you'll notice doing the rounds on Instagram is the muffuletta, a pressed sandwich that's an excuse to eat all your antipasto favourites in one bite. Wells' take on this New Orleans classic includes a strata formation of mortadella, salami, grilled peppers, marinated artichokes, fresh spinach leaves and olives.

Grilled kingfish with freekeh and bitter leaf and herb salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Grilled kingfish with green sauce and capers $22
with bitter leaf and herb salad
and freekeh salad 

For a step up in fanciness, you can mix-and-match mains (roasted lamb shoulder, grilled kingfish, smoked chicken breast or baked celeriac) with two of four salads.

Our grilled kingfish is cooked to a flaky succulency. Freekeh (green wheat) has a satisfying chew, dressed with fermented pumpkin and citrus and interspersed with pepitas. Contrast in flavours and textures come through in the bitter leaf and herb salad too, with the smoky sweetness of blistered grape played off against radicchio and rocket.

Roasted lamb shoulder with broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower and baby gem lettuce salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Roasted lamb shoulder with za'atar and tahini yoghurt $22
with broccolini and green cauliflower salad
and baby gem lettuce and egg salad

Roasted lamb shoulder yields a pile of fork tender meat, its heaviness tempered by a splodge of tahini yoghurt. We pick the remaining two salads: broccolini with green cauliflower and the baby gem lettuce and egg salad with curry vinaigrette.

Broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Broccolini and green cauliflower salad

There's an elegant sophistication to the combination of crisp gem lettuce with creamy curried eggs, but the geometric patterning of the romanesco green cauliflower is even cooler.

Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone $12

The next day - oh yes - I return for lunch again, this time with a different dining companion. And even though there are other untried items I could have ordered, my yearning to reunite with the fried eggplant sandwich is even stronger.

Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone sandwich cross-section at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone cross-section 

Unlike the previous day, our sandwich appears toasted but not pressed, or perhaps not as pressed for long. It makes for a lighter sandwich but it also means the provolone cheese hasn't really melted either. It's not quite as good as my first encounter, but it's still an impressive combo.

Roasted lamb shoulder with freekah and broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Roasted lamb shoulder with za'atar and tahini yoghurt $22
with freekeh salad 
and broccolini and green cauliflower salad

The roasted lamb shoulder also earns an encore appearance. It's just as good as the day prior.

Breakfast at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Breakfast crowd

Three visits in three days? You bet I did. The breakfast menu looks too intriguing to resist.

Coffee at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Strong flat white coffee $4.50

But first can we admire the beautiful saucers that accompany their coffee cups? It's a stupendous marriage of form and function.

Curried scrambled eggs, LP's sausage and English muffin at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Curried scrambled eggs, LP's sausage and English muffin $17

We start with what looks to be an A1 Canteen classic, curried scrambled eggs with sausages from LP's. Curry powder with scrambled eggs sounds like an odd match but it works. The eggs, cooked to a velvety butteriness, have just enough curry powder to make its presence known without feeling overwhelming.

The star on the plate, however, has to be the sausage. They're noticeably meaty with a springy bite.

Grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich $12
with fermented chilli and fried shallots

The grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich is comforting in every way, from the softness of the milk bun to the finely shaved mortadella to the gooey yolks of two sunny side up eggs. Fermented chilli and fried shallots add zing and crunch. This would work brilliantly as breakfast on the run and yes, it's available takeaway.

Open omelette at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Open omelette with shallots, confit garlic and bonito $16

The open omelette arrives at our table in an ordering error. We point this out but staff say we can keep it anyway. It's a visual spectacle, with bonito flakes dancing furiously. This is a simple dish but one done well, an eiderdown of softly cooked egg scattered with shallots and the gentle fishiness of bonito.

Eggs benedict, blood cake, leg ham and hollandaise at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Eggs benedict, blood cake, leg ham and hollandaise $19

There's definitely an eggy bent to the breakfast menu, featured in five out of nine options. The eggs benedict is right up my alley. We pierce the poached egg to release a river of golden yolk, cascading over a mountain of leg ham, fried blood cake and English muffin.

The blood cake is a highlight, fried so the edges are crisp. And we relish the zingy and silky hollandaise.

Bacon sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Bacon sandwich with cheddar, fermented cucumber and Branston pickle $17

For real grunt-worthy satisfaction, my money is on the bacon sandwich. The bacon is crisp but not dry, bolstered by English-leaning additions of cheddar and its best friend, Branston pickle. It's a ripper of a bacon sarnie.

Doughnut with calamansi yuzu curd and creme fraiche at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Doughnut with calamansi yuzu curd and creme fraiche $8 ($6 takeaway)

Desserts? Of course we did. The doughnut isn't as spherical as you'd expect but it's soft and fluffy, piped with calamansi and yuzu curd and creme fraiche. 

Mixed berry tart at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Mixed berry tart $12

And if you see the mixed berry tart on the counter, get it. You'll be rewarded with a buttery base topped with frangipane and berries that teeter terrifically between tart and sweet.

Coffee and dessert at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Coffee and sweets

Next stop: dinner. There's a lamb tartare on the menu with my name all over it.

A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells on Kensington Street in Chippendale Sydney


A1 Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A1 Canteen
Ground floor, 2-10 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9280 3285

Opening hours
Sunday and Monday 8am-3pm
Tuesday to Saturday 8am-3pm and 6pm-10pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts
Chippendale - Automata (three-course express lunch)
Chippendale - Automata (five-course tasting menu)
Chippendale - Kensington Street Social
Chippendale - LP's Quality Meats
4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/26/2018 02:30:00 am



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