Est - March into Merivale, Sydney CBD

March into Merivale is a great opportunity to sample the Merivale restaurants without having to break your budget. I imagine that Est is one of the most popular choices during the March into Merivale promotion since it is a three hat restaurant.

A year ago, I went to Est during their Fast Festival Feast promotion and it was great.  So I was more than happy to go to Est again this time around.

March into Merivale is on from 16 February - 5 April 2012, lunch (12pm - 8pm) or dinner (6pm - 8pm), Monday to Fridays.  You can see the menus online, most of the restaurants offer one course and a glass of wine for $33.

When we made our booking at Est, we were told that we would have to vacate the table at 8pm.  This was fine for us, it would be more than enough time to enjoy our main and glass of wine.  However when they called to confirm the booking, we were told that we would have to leave the table at 7.30pm.  I was slightly concerned because this left us with just an hour but I figured that they would bring out the food out quickly.

Much to my relief, there was nothing to worry about because the service was impeccable and our meal was not rushed at all.  In fact, we ended up lingering until 8.15pm before we asked for the bill.

If you have not been to Est before, it is located on the first floor of the building where Establishment is.  The lift opens into a hushed restaurant with elegant decor.  Tall columns are dotted throughout the space, giving it a slightly Grecian feel.   

We were given our March into Merivale menus and I was surprised to see that you could choose between having two courses for $55 or one course for $33, plus a glass of wine.  The online menu only showed the one course option.

We both decided to indulge in the two courses and chose the same entree.

Salad of spanner crab, heart of palm, avocado, pink grapefruit, mint and lemon

The salad was tiny and devoured in a few bites but I enjoyed the clean flavour of grapefruit and lemon.  I like any dish where crab has been hand picked for me out of the shell! For those who are curious, the other option for entree was fresh italian buffalo mozzarella with fresh peach, “iberico de bellota” jamon, golden endive.

For the main, you had a choice of pork, veal or mulloway.
Ginger glazed pork neck, compressed cucumber, pickled Chinese cabbage

I tasted the pork neck and it was delicious!!! The ginger glaze was subtle and the pork came apart easily.  It also had a very, very slight charred flavour which I loved.

Prosciutto wrapped fillet of veal, polenta panisse, tomato, tomato, black olive, caper salsa

When I ordered the veal for my main, the waiter informed me that it comes out very pink.  I assured him that this was no problem but I wondered whether there would be blood running over my plate.  Turned out that the warning was for nought - although it was pink, there was not any 'blood' flavour and indeed, the veal melted in my mouth, it was that soft.

I am not usually a fan of polenta but the two polenta chips were so yummy!  For all appearances, they looked like two firm potato chips and had the same crunchy coating but the soft polenta inside made all the difference.

There is still a lot of time to check out the March into Merivale promotion.  Readers - have you been to any yet?  Which one do you recommend trying?   

Est. on Urbanspoon

Clipper Cafe, Glebe

I always knew Clipper Cafe would be a good place for brunch. Don't ask me how I knew, I just knew. Whenever I was on a bus zooming along Glebe Point Road, I would see this cute little cafe and make a mental note to come back to try it.

So when the Chief and I made plans to have brunch at Cafe Giulia in Chippendale - only to be foiled upon arrival with a notice posted that it was closed for that one week - I jumped at the suggestion of Clipper Cafe.
The inside of the cafe was just as cute as I had imagined. Filled with little knick knacks placed high on shelves, a ceiling fan and even a bike pinned to the side of the wall. A long communal table with bench seats spanned along one side while the other side was taken up by more private high tables.  We took a high table which was surprisingly comfortable to perch on.

Unfortunately for us, it was hot summer day and there was no air con. The air was humid and muggy inside the cafe and I soon lamented ordering a hot coffee instead of an icy drink.  The Chief was smarter than me and ordered a juice.

There were a lot of yummy-sounding breakfast options on the menu and we deliberated heavily over what to order.

Baked eggplant ($12)
Baked eggplant with home-made Napoli sauce, breadcrumbs, spinach, feta and herb toast

I tasted a bit of The Chief's baked eggplant and the dish was comfort food at its height.  She proclaimed that she thought she could make it at home and I didn't disagree with her.

I felt like eggs and luckily there was an abundance of these on the menu, cooked every which way.

Mushroom pesto eggs ($13)
Free range poached eggs served on Italian ciabatta bread with mushrooms, shaved parmesan cheese and pesto with a side of mixed leaves.  I also added on prosciutto for an extra $3.

My poached eggs were done 'just right' and I took great pleasure in breaking them up with my fork and swirling it around with the mushrooms.

The staff were friendly and diligent in refilling our water jug, for which I was very grateful given the stifling heat.

It seems to be quite a popular cafe, I'm glad that I finally had the chance to try this cute place and will definitely return for more breakfast goodness!

Clipper Café on Urbanspoon


Level 5 Westfield, Pitt St Mall, Sydney CBD

The new Westfield Sydney is about a 10-15 minute walk from my office.  I'll admit that some days, the thought of walking there makes me sigh because I'm feeling too lazy.  Then on other days, I think of the lovely options on offer at this food court compared to the mundane options surrounding my office and I pull on my walking shoes.

The prices are a bit steeper than your usual lunchtime food court offerings.  You can easily spend $15 - $20 here and you'll find that there aren't as many options below $10.  As such, I try not to come here too often but have still managed to sample most of the eateries located on Level 5.  Here is a small selection of what I have tried...warning, this is a long post!

Reuben & Moore

Reuben & Moore has become well-known for its Reuben sandwiches.  However it is not their Reuben sandwich which has won me over but instead, their Picania roast beef rump.  The roast beef is lightly coated with a pepper rim, served with duck-fat potatoes and caramelised vegetables.  Gravy?  Absolutely.  Their roasts are served in your choice of a roll (generally around $12.50) or on a plate with the sides shown above (generally about $16.50).   This is not a lunch for the light-hearted.

Update:  I ordered the Picania roast beef rump last Friday lunchtime and it was bad!  I don't know if it was a newbie at the stove but the beef was cold, there was hardly any gravy, the potatoes had been overcooked and the pumpkin tasted like it had been drenched in salt.  Unsure if I am willing to try it again - it was a disaster.

Reuben & Moore also serves cold cuts and sandwiches on the other side of their store. Shown above is the Alaskan King Crab open sandwich.  It was okay - not amazing.

Reuben & Moore on Urbanspoon

Charlie & Co. Burgers

The exterior of Charlie & Co reminds me of American burger joints.  When it first opened, I was extremely eager to try their wagyu beef burger but it wasn't as good as I had imagined.  The beef patty seemed quite plain and although large, didn't seem like it was worth the $16 price tag.

On the other hand, the parmesan and truffle fries ($8) are a tempting treat that I have returned for a couple of times since.  As soon as you open the box of fries, the smell of truffle oil wafts up to tantalise your senses.  The parmesan is scattered sparingly over the fries but I still recommend sharing these with someone so you don't end up scoffing down the whole serving and feeling incredibly guilty afterwards. Just sayin'.

Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

Snag Stand

Continuing on with the American theme, we have the relatively new Snag Stand.  Specialising in gourmet hot dogs, there is wide selection to choose from and the hot dogs are served in that ubiquitous American paper case - you know, the kind they eat hot dogs from at baseball games in the American movies!

I have only tried Snag Stand once and tasted the Pork & Fennel Italian sausage with caramelised onions and shaved parmesan on a toasted brioche roll.  It was good, but I queried whether it was worth the $9.90 price tag.  That afternoon, I was not particularly hungry yet I managed to eat the hot dog in about four bites.  I guess you are paying for the premium sausage rather than quantity.

Hot chips from the Snag Stand are made from Tasmanian Russet potatos and in comparison to their pricer snag companion, these are a bargain at $3.90.  They have a few different sauces to choose from (extra $1), including herb aioli and truffle aioli.

Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is my failsafe option at this food court.  I know that the xiao long baos are delicious and their soup noodles are too.  Don't be daunted by the long queue - it moves quickly and like most places in the food court, they give you a buzzer to come back when your food is ready.  Here's a tip - when waiting in line, grab an ordering card and pen to study the menu and fill out your order.  When you get to the register, hand over the card and the cashier will repeat your order back to you to check.

Four xiao long baos will set you back $5.80 and it's easy to rack up a high bill.  My favorite noodles are the Braised Beef Noodle Soup ($12.50) shown above - the noodles are silky smooth and the beef broth is always warming on a cold day.

Din Tai Fung Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hon

Sushi Hon serves ready-made sushi and it also has a sushi train partially hidden from the rest of the food court.  Some of their ready-made offerings are visually appealing like the box pictured above.  However, I have found that there is nothing special about the ready-made sushi.  If I feel like sushi, then I'm more likely to get it from another food court for a lower price.
Sushi Hon on Urbanspoon

Pie by Mick's Bakehouse

The first time that I went to Mick's Bakehouse, I didn't realise that half the pies on display are cold and for you to take home and heat up.  It's the ones that are in the hot warmers that are to eaten in the food court!

The menu here is very simple - the pies cost about $6 and you can add on sides like mashed potato, gravy, mushy peas etc for an additional cost.

I tried the Lamb Shank pie and the Surf and Turf pie.  No complaints but I wasn't bowled over either.  My favorite lunchtime pie remains the Beef Pie from Central Baking Depot on Erskine Street.

Pie by Mick's Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar

To me, Crust Pizza is just normal pizza that is served on a nice plate with a fancy salad on the side.  It's good for when you're in the mood for pizza.... that is all I have to say about it... it's a bit boring!

Cloudy Bay Fish Co.

Cloudy Bay Fish Co does a really good prawn cocktail salad.  I know that the photo above is actually of another dish, but my recommendation is for the prawn salad (apologies for the lack of photo, it has always been gobbled up too quickly!)

Another thing I have noticed about Cloudy Bay Fish Co is that you may have to wait a bit longer for your dish compared to other places.  One of my workmates always gets her lunch from this place, inevitably it is the salmon shown above and it takes forever to come out.  I think it's because their kitchen is also pumping out meals for the dine-in customers sitting along the side of their bar.  Just a word of warning if you're coming here during a weekday lunch hour - the dish shown above takes about 15 minutes to come out! Yes I timed.

Cloudy Bay Fish Co. - Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon

Via del Corso

Via del Corso is in the middle of the food court and offers a variety of sweet treats including gelato, cakes, pastries, handmade chocolates and macarons.    

The lemon meringue pie was a bit too acidic for my liking, my face screwed up with every bite.

Becasse Bakery

Mille Feuille ($7.90)

Vanilla Bean and Passionfruit Cheesecake ($6.95)

Another dessert option is the Becasse Bakery. Located near Quarter 21, the bakery showcases a range of breads, pastries and cakes.

The Mille Feuille was really good, one layer of light cream and the second layer of vanilla bean custard. It disappeared quickly as we gobbled it up. I would definitely get it again, it was that good.

The Vanilla Bean and Passionfruit cheesecake was lighter than it looked.  There was a thin crumbly biscuit base at the bottom and a shiny passionfruit glaze over the top.  I probably wouldn't get this again because there are too many other things to try at this bakery!

Bécasse Bakery on Urbanspoon

Glass Brasserie at Hilton, Sydney CBD

If you are a long-time reader of The Food Book, you would know that I am an avid fan of buffet breakfasts.

The next place to try on my list was the Hilton Sydney. On weekends, their buffet breakfast runs from 7.00am to 11.00am.  I made a reservation online with Dimmi - incidentally, this was the first time that I tried Dimmi.  It was pleasing to see that the booking went through without any problems at all! (I don't know why I felt skeptical about it in the first place - perhaps I feel like reservations are more definite when you speak with a human being over the phone.  Sometimes I worry with online bookings that the reservation will be lost in cyberspace!)

The full buffet breakfast costs $42 and there was a promotion where you could have a glass of Chandon for an additional dollar.  Who could resist this for a dollar?  Certainly not me, nor my companion Rehactor.  Two glasses please!

I was doubly pleased to see that we had a great table - right by the window overlooking George St and facing the QVB.
Being seated so close to the window meant that there was brilliant sunshine flooding our table.  For those who have not been to the Glass Brasserie before, the dining area is divided by the placement of the wine racks and other furnishings into different sections.  Our area was quite bright whereas other tables closer to the entrance were dimmer.

I was a fan of the natural sunlight - this created a great brunch atmosphere.

The restaurant was quite full and upon our arrival at 9.30am, most of the tables were filled.

The staff member who seated us was extremely friendly and after asking if we had been here before (the answer was no), she gave a quick rundown on where everything was.  This was helpful because unlike some other buffet breakfasts, the food is spread out over two areas of the restaurant.

Along one side included:
  • the hot food section - bain maries filled with mushrooms with spinach, bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, sausages, hash browns, french toast, little cups of baked eggs  
  • asian breakfast foods - congee, fried rice, dimsums
  • cold meats and salads - ham, smoked salmon etc
  • cereals and milk (I ignored this part - I don't go to buffet breakfast to have something that comes from a box and takes two seconds to prepare at home ;) )
  • Fruit juices - apple, pineapple, mango, orange
  • Refrigerated yoghurts.
The other side consisted of fresh breads, muffins, pastries, toasts - these tables were fairly groaning under their weight of baked goods.
Compared to the Swissotel buffet breakfast, the Hilton breakfast definitely reigns supreme. There were so many little things and nice touches which not only impressed me but reminded me that this buffet breakfast is served in a top-notch restaurant.

For example, there was....

A variety of healthy juices in addition to the normal range of juices

Little shot glasses - wheatgrass shots, carrot shots...

Bottled Mount Franklin sparkling or still mineral water - help yourself

Tubs of Yalla yoghurt - flavours including Strawberry & Pomegrante, Guava, Banana, Cinnamon, Natural yoghurt, Low Fat yoghurt

Fresh muffins, jam donuts, pain au chocolats, fruit danishes

More fresh breads....

Fresh honey - the Swissotel brunch had this too, but I noticed that the Hilton had a better setup for actually getting the honey.  It was a lot easier to scoop the dripping honey from the bottom of the plate shown below.  At the Swissotel, they had this slanting contraption to catch the honey that dripped into tiny little pots - hard to get out!

Different types of honey on the right, varying in taste and texture

And I haven't even posted any photos of the hot food yet!

My first plate was a selection of items from the bain maries.

Baked egg in a cup, scrambled eggs, mushrooms with spinach, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and hash brown

I liked the mushrooms so much, I had to go back for some more in my second plate!

Mushrooms (again), hash brown (again), french toast and a Yakult! Yes they had Yakult! I haven't had a Yakult in years, it was great!

In terms of ordering omelettes and the like, there was a good system happening.  A small paper order form was near the hot foods and a cheerful staff member stood duty to help you fill it out.  There were options for different types of omelettes, eggs (poached, benedict etc), waffles, could also specify on the form how you wanted your eggs to be cooked.

Once the form is filled out, you are given a number to bring back to your table and the food is brought back to you when cooked i.e. table service.  I thought this was great!  Something so simple, yet so efficient! At other places, you often have to hover around the cooking area, waiting for the chef to cook your items and then take it back to your table. 

Our order number

The tableware was crisp and clean - everything felt new, from the glasses to the table settings.  I ordered a pot of English breakfast tea.

When our ordered food arrived, we were a bit shocked because we didn't realise how much we had ordered.  It is so easy to get carried away when it is a buffet and you have that handy little order form. 

The pancakes were light and fluffy.  The drizzle of blackberry and maple syrup on the side made it a deliciously sweet plate.

Waffles = yum.  I have not had waffles in ages - who has time to make waffles at home these days?  Who even has a waffle maker?

Eggs Benedict

Italian omelette

The Italian omelette had capsicum, onions and some other veggies folded inside the egg with slices of bocconcini on top. Unfortunately, by the time we finished the other dishes, this had gotten a bit cold and hard. Still quite tasty though.

By this stage, my stomach was quietly begging for mercy. As such, I made one last plate of sweets.

Pain au chocolate, watermelon, rockmelon and a carrot shot....

... and a cinnamon yoghurt!

Although the Hilton buffet breakfast is a bit pricier, the price different shows in the quality and variety of items that they have on offer.  The service was impeccable and food was replenished regularly.  We left feeling satisfied and almost a bit overwhelmed by how good everything was. 

I would definitely revisit - and after such a great breakfast experience, I would like to see what the Glass Brasserie is like at lunch or dinner!

Glass Brasserie on Urbanspoon


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