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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Not Bread Alone, Crows Nest

seafood chowder
Seafood chowder

How do you decide if a restaurant is good?

Eating out is a subjective affair that depends on the mood of the diner and what they appreciate that evening. Sometimes my stomach is won over by the food. Other times it's the head that cheers on value for money. Few manage to win the heart.

Not Bread Alone manages to tug the heart strings on a cold, wet and rainy night. I'm half an hour early, but the staff sweep me inside with a smile. "Come in, come in" they say, their hospitality genuine, their welcome full of warmth.

The rain is unrelentless outside, gusts of wind shriek with bitter vengeance. The enclosed terrace area is like a insulated glasshouse though, heaters overhead on full blast make it toastily warm and cosy.

antipasto platter
Antipasto plate $16.50
with smoked salmon, leg ham, roast pumpkin,
roasted eggplant, curry dip, feta cheese, sundried tomatoes,
olives, rocket salad and turkish bread

I share a seafood chowder with M for entrees. We ask for an extra bowl but the chef amiably splits the portion into two small servings. The soup is creamy but not as thick or potatoey as we'd expected. There's plenty of seafood. We each uncover a prawn, a mussel in shell, a giant scallop with roe attached, and plenty of baby clams in the bottom.

Six others share two antipasto plates: smoked salmon, leg ham, roasted vegetables, an intriguing curry dip and sundried tomatoes. The feta cheese strikes me as a little bland but there's plenty of nibble on and go around.

lamb shanks
Lamb shanks $20.90
with creamy mashed potato, chef’s greens and jus

Our mains arrive in quick succession. My lamb shanks are meltingly tender, easily falling off the bone. They're not as salty as I'd expect but the mash is thick and creamy, and the beans are a vibrant crunchy green.

Chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto $20.50

Pasta of the day $18.90
with prawns, zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes
tossed in a creamy dill sauce

The pasta is apparently in need of seasoning and the seafood risotto isn't quite traditional in presentation, but M says it tastes great, and there's plenty of seafood in the rich sauce to keep him happy.

seafood risotto
Seafood risotto $24.90
a selection of seafood in a rich tomato sauce

Eye fillet steak $25.90
with mashed potato, chef’s greens and a mushroom jus

I've been eyeing the dessert blackboard all night. All their desserts are made by the restaurant, a welcome change for the usual trucked-in factory-made fare (twang!, goes another heart string). They even roast their own coffee (twang! twang!).

creme brulee
Vanilla bean creme brulee with tuille and strawberries $10.50

Blueberry bread and butter pudding $10.50
with butterscotch sauce and ice cream

I end up with the blueberry bread and butter pudding, thick cubes of sugar dusted bread resting on a bed of baked custard. The butterscotch sauce is drizzled over generously by my photography assistant. It matches well with the mild sweetness of the purple stained blueberries.

chocolate cake
Flourless chocolate cake with ice cream $10.50

I'm not sure why I'm so sentimental about this place. The food isn't spectacular, the prices aren't dirt cheap and it's only my first ever visit.

But then the menu is approachable, this is the North Shore, and somehow I feel like a long-time local.

It's the last point that gets my heart, I think. Everything's homemade, fresh and served with honesty. It's like the comfort of home without the peril of dishes.

And who doesn't want to feel loved every now and then?

sticky date pudding
Sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce and ice cream $10.50

Not Bread Alone
Shop 2, 376 Pacific Highway (entrance on Hume Street)
Crows Nest, Sydney

Tel: +61 (02) 9966 9788

Breakfast: 7 days 7.30am - 5.00pm
Lunch: 7 days 11.00am - 5.00pm
Dinner: 6 days 5.00pm - 10.30pm
12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/13/2007 11:56:00 pm


  • At 6/14/2007 7:49 am, Blogger pilgrimchick said…

    Wow, those meals look absolutely fantasic. You can't beat what appears to be a good deal along with great hospitality and amazing food. What a great place--too bad you are on the other side of the world...

  • At 6/14/2007 10:53 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    This is one of our local neighborhood brunch spots, and some people really seem to hate it on Eatability, but I think they don't appreciate the fact that everything is homemade. How can you argue with their fantastic homemade has hash browns or the rhubarb compote that accompanies their French toast? It is by no means the best restaurant around, nor even the best in Crows Nest, but there is something incredibly comforting about it.

  • At 6/14/2007 11:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a lovely review, Helen. It's great that you don't just cover the Becasses or Rockpools of Sydney (although you do!). It's often more interesting to read about local feeding places and this one looks inviting. Love your style of restaurant review too, never haughty or pretentious/lofty 'this reviewer thinks the silver needs polishing' style. Thanks a bunch!

  • At 6/15/2007 6:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Deconstructed risotto. That'll stir the purists' pot!

  • At 6/15/2007 9:14 am, Blogger Nora B. said…

    I know what you mean about the heart strings vs value for money. It's good that the service was good there because bad service can really spoil my night.
    p/s: Since I started making my own lamb shanks, I don't order it at restaurants anymore. It's so easy and tastes so much better. I'll post it on my blog soon.

  • At 6/15/2007 5:32 pm, Blogger Vintage Wine said…

    Sounds like a very nice place!
    Sometimes our favorite places doesn't have to be the ones with the best food or cheapest prices ;-)

  • At 6/16/2007 12:19 am, Blogger obachan said…

    "The comfort of home without the peril of dishes." I love that.

  • At 6/17/2007 6:01 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Slskenyon - I agree, service can be a huge drawcard :)

    Hi Amanda - Good to hear you share my sentiments. An all-homemade menu is a very rare thing these days, and that extra special comfort factor is even more elusive.

    Hi R - There are lots of great restaurants all over Sydney, and I think the hidden local gems are often the most rewarding :)

    Hi gobsmack'd - It threw us all a little on first sight, but apparently it tasted the business so relief all 'round!

    Hi Nora B - I know what you mean about not ordering the dishes you can pull off at home. I hardly ever order BBQ octopus anymore :)

    Hi Vintage Wine - Absolutely :)

    Hi Obachan - lol. Isn't that the best thing about eating out?

  • At 6/17/2007 8:49 pm, Blogger Hungry Hamster said…

    the pictures are soooo beautiful!

  • At 6/17/2007 11:52 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hungry Hamster - Thank you :)

  • At 6/18/2007 1:00 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    If you're ever in the Crows Nest area again, try Waqu. They're fantastic!! We've been there a few times, but my in-laws were in town this past weekend, and we took them there, and they were very impressed! You cannot beat their $39 tasting menu on weeknights

  • At 6/19/2007 5:09 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Amanda - Thanks for the tip It sounds delicious :)


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