Monday, 22 September 2014

New coffee roasters @ Highgate Lane (Kingston)

Today was Highgate Lane's official opening. Located inside the Cusack Centre (entrance next to Bittersweet) in Kingston's Green Square, Highgate Lane is the latest coffee roasters and cafe to open in Canberra.
An impressive looking motorbike is on display by the front ready to be admired by motorcycling enthusiasts (e.g my partner).
The warehouse look suits this small space with raw walls simply covered with chalkboard signage, black and red exposed piping, hessian sacks filled with coffee beans, a coffee roasting machine and a few tables and chairs. Minimal but sleek decor where the focus is all about the coffee.
The trio of owners all work at Bittersweet and were previously using the space that is Highgate Lane for other purposes. A decision was made to create something special and with a passion for good coffee, Highgate Lane was born.
Coffee beans are sourced from countries such as Papua New Guinea, India, Ethiopia and more - all are fair trade. The boys roast on site using their 15kg capacity roasting machine and will be churning out about 60kg of coffee a week. 
The massive coffee roaster
There is expected to be 5 main blends available and 5 single origin blends that will change regularly. Coffee beans will be available to purchase for you home roasters. The boys emphasise that prices will be reasonable and cheaper than buying online.
I ordered a soy mocha ($4, I don't quite remember if there was an extra charge for soy milk) and was happy to see a food menu for 'breakfast rolls'. It was a salmon kind of morning, so the salmon, egg, rocket and hollandaise ($11.50) was my choice.
My big cup of coffee is velvety smooth. Exactly what I needed on a Monday!
The Bittersweet kitchen is utilised to make breakfast. The portion size was much bigger than expected. Absolutely delicious and cheap.
The boys are currently working on an app where customers can pre-order their coffee before popping down to collect it. This is expected to be available in roughly a month's time. Great coffee and speedy service is a key focus. The boys are also thinking about introducing roasting and cupping sessions taking customers through the roasting process and tasting the differences in their coffee blends. Good for coffee noobs like me! This is still in the works but sounds like it will be very popular.
Highgate Lane will be open Monday to Friday from 6am to roughly 3pm (hours are still being trialled at this stage). The space will be open for Bittersweet patrons on weekends to allow for the overflow of diners.

Foodgasm 8/10
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Sunday, 21 September 2014

All you can eat yumcha @ XY Dim Sim Dumpling House - Forrest

The XY Dim Sim Dumpling House which used to be in Deakin has relocated to the Italo Club in Forrest. All you can eat yum cha is $20.80 per person on the weekend. I organised weekend yum cha here with a group of friends (six of us in total). You have to be a member of the club to go upstairs to yum cha but it's not too expensive for an annual membership (I think about $6?)
It's a slightly smaller space than the restaurant in Deakin. I'd recommend booking ahead as the place was packed by 12.30pm. We started off with a round of various steamed dumplings - prawn and chive, and vegetable dumplings.
The chive dumplings were flavourful as were the har gow (prawn dumplings) but were slightly over steamed. (I kind of like the Costco ones better).
 The crispy fried squid was a disappointment and tasted better with the fried skin off the squid.
 The siu mai were huge but not as flavoursome. Not the best I've had.
We accepted the fried rice that was coming around the tables as we were all starving and needed to fill our bellies. We were noticing that the wait staff weren't coming in our direction and it was getting difficult grabbing someone's attention.
 Some sticky rice came our way (just one). This was tasty but small with hardly any filling.
A second serve of spring rolls came around and we happily gobbled this up. At this stage, we were going to take whatever we could get.
On multiple occasions we'd asked for more dumplings. One batch eventually came our way, but they only brought out one bamboo steamer filled with four dumplings. And there were six of us. No more dumplings came our way after that and it felt like wait staff were ignoring us. When the desserts came out, we were lucky to have a choice of mango pudding and coconut jelly. The majority chose the mango pudding.
A couple of people had the coconut jelly.
Overall, I don't think I'd go back here in a large group. Even though I'd made a booking for our group of six beforehand, the servings weren't enough to satisfy all of us. We would often receive one steamer containing either three or four pieces, to share amongst the six of us. And when we asked for another steamer since there were six of us, let's just say this wasn't met with happiness. We then noticed our group was avoided completely when freshly made food came out. Yum cha is all about prime position, you don't want to be stuck in a corner (which we were) but often you can't help where you sit. It may be easier in a group of two or three as you won't need to fight over who gets what. The food itself is nothing special. I'd prefer going to The Scholar and paying more for better quality food.

I won't be rushing back to this place any time soon.

Foodgasm 5/10
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Thursday, 18 September 2014

High tea @ The Cortile Sydney

I was in Sydney one weekend for a friend’s hens night. We were on our way to high tea at The Cortile in the Intercontinental Hotel Sydney. High tea is $60 per person and includes a glass of champagne (or juice if you don’t drink).
The hotel is built around the historic Treasury Building of 1851 and has one of the oldest operating elevators in the southern hemisphere. The small archways along each floor are gorgeous. Tables for the high tea service are scattered across multiple areas and nooks in the main foyer.
A printed menu is provided to each guest with the day's delicacies centred around Malfroy's honey made in the Blue Mountains.
High tea is served buffet style with plenty of options to tempt you.
Traditional finger sandwiches and small wraps can be found displayed on one end of the buffet.
I was excited about lifting the lids off of each warm item such as the scones which were huge and delicious. I wanted to go back for a second scone but with so many other things to try, I restrained myself and just ate one. The crepes next to the scones looked pretty good too.
Mini creme brulees, macarons, tarts and chocolate waffle balls sit in the middle buffet table.
The honey theme is emphasised with this honeycomb rack allowing guests to taste some very fresh honey.
Plate 1 consisted of the chicken pesto sandwich, smoked salmon and cucumber wrap, mini beef wellington, chocolate and pistachio macarons, and the scone with jam and cream. I found the chicken pesto sandwich a bit too salty. Everything else on the plate was delicious. Loved the scone and perfectly made large macarons (I tried every flavour!).
This mini honey milkshake was too cute to pass up. This was the perfect portion for the amount of sweetness in it.
Plate 2 consisted of chicken and leek pie, honey and cardomom creme brulee, a crepe with cream and chocolate sauce, an 'opera' slice and macarons. There's nothing I didn't like.
I was absolutely stuffed after all of that and was glad for the walk back down George Street. Overall, I had a really good time at The Cortile. There were plenty of treats to choose from and it's just not physically possible to get through all of them! I loved the live music in the middle of the room which made the afternoon that much more special.

Since I'm not from Sydney, I'm not sure what the average price for high tea is, but I thought $60 was a tad expensive. For a special occasion, you can let staff at The Cortile serve you champagne, tea or coffee, while you head to the buffet to fill up on sweet and savoury treats..however many times you want!

High tea is served between 2.30-5pm.

Foodgasm 7/10
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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Brunch series @ Penny University Coffee Roasters

Penny University in Kingston is one of my favourite spots for brunch so I decided to write a compilation of my brunches since the beginning of the year. 

Let's start with the blueberry and ricotta hotcakes ($16). This was impressive - more like one hotcake but it was one massive THICK hotcake. I was really impressed that it was cooked through perfectly without getting burnt on the outside. The hot cake is floating in a sea of maple syrup. The spiced maple infused strawberries and pears were delicious. I loved the crunchy seeds that gave some extra texture and the addition of basil gave this a unique fresh flavour.
The fruit melange ($6) is one of Penny University's own blended iced teas. It comes served on a wooden board with a pot of tea, small glass of syrup and a tall glass with ice cubes in it. I poured everything into the glass and slowly added the syrup to taste. A sweet berrylicious tea and sweet presentation. I'd like to try out more of their iced teas next time.
The croissant french toast ($14) looks amazing. Crispy pastry outside, egg-dipped fried goodness on the other side topped with rosewater mascarpone and strawberries and all drizzled with maple syrup. This tasted just as good as it looked. So bad but so good!
I was happy to find slices of banana in between the croissant.
I always enjoy a soy mocha here. Plenty of melted chocolate at the bottom of the glass.
The Health Board ($18) was on the summer menu so I'm sure it will be back when the weather warms up again. Presentation was cute with a glass bottle of soy milk, a bottle of freshly squeezed 'green juice', seasonal fruits, stewed rhubarb and honey-infused yoghurt panna cotta style and a bowl of muesli. There wasn't enough milk provided resulting in the muesli turning to sludge. I added the yoghurt in for extra moisture which helped. I should have just asked for more milk. I remember the 'green juice' being quite sour and it was more of a shot than something you can slowly sip on. I did enjoy the stewed rhubarb which was warm and sweet. This isn't something I'd order again only because it's so simple and easy to make at home. The muesli wasn't anything special and for $18, I'd rather spend it on a fancier breakfast.
This vegetarian plate of mushroom, asparagus and fetta was worth a mention.
You can't go past the cazuela ($16) - perfect runny eggs and baked beans. See my original post about it here.
I've noticed that weekend breakfast specials have recently been introduced - there are usually two specials that staff will inform you of. One of the breakfast specials was the salmon gravlax bagel ($19) with a poached egg. I certainly wasn't expecting something as big as this! It was stuffed full with salad, lentils and this slightly sweet (caramelised?) onion, capsicum and mushroom relish. Lots of textures in this dish and it tasted fantastic. I think there was a hint of wasabi in the cream cheese that was spread over the bagel providing a very subtle spiciness. The salmon gravlax is from Sydney and has won multiple awards. A very filling and healthy breakfast.
The mixed berry yoghurt and honey roasted pistachio smoothie ($8) is smooth and thick. Very satisfying.
Another weekend breakfast special was the blueberry and apple ricotta rotolo in a ginger strawberry tea with peanut praline ($19). This is a new twist to your sweet breakfast of pancakes and French toast. A rotolo is like a sheet of pasta rolled up with filling inside. The rotolo was soft and crepe-like and stuffed with creamy warm ricotta that was mixed with blueberries and diced apple. I was expecting this to be quite rich but found the ricotta wasn't too sweet and was very light. The ginger strawberry tea was served slightly warm. The ginger in the tea was very subtle but provided an added zest to the dish. The sweet peanut brittle was wonderful and gave the dish a crunchy element. Surprisingly, I found this was a light brekky and wasn't too full after finishing it.
And another weekend breakfast special was the peanut butter brioche French toast with sliced banana, salted caramel and peanut brittle ($18). What an indulgence! A great balance of sweet from the caramelised banana and French toast, and salty from the peanut butter and salted caramel. The final decadent touch is a large dollop of double cream on top. Oh yes.
I tried out the earl grey iced tea with elderflower ($6) which again came out a separate glass filled with a bit of elderflower cordial to sweeten my tea.
The cronuts are a must try. Last time I was there, they had maple and thyme, orange and chai, and blueberry, lavender and honey cronuts. Yummy! Cronuts are apparently now being made Thursdays through to Sundays.
I always get friendly warm service at Penny University. I love the introduction of weekend specials (two to three) that change every weekend. I haven't made it here for lunch yet but it's on my list.

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Foodgasm 8/10
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