High Tea at The Langham, Sydney CBD

I had fond memories of having high tea at The Observatory and wanted to revisit for my birthday last year.  I must have been living under a rock because The Observatory is long gone, it is now part of the Langham Hotel group but happily, high tea is still offered in the same Globe Bar.

High tea on the weekend costs $59 per person (without champagne or any other extras).  Be sure to mention if it is a special occasion such as a birthday when booking because they will probably prepare a little treat for you!

One of the reasons I like having high tea in the Globe Bar is the elegant dining room. The high backed chairs, wood paneling and tall bookshelves make you feel like you're truly indulging in old school decadence.

On the savoury tier, there were four varieties of sandwiches and mini quiches.  We received cucumber, egg, ham & cheese and smoked salmon & cream cheese.  The staff initially forgot that we had one vegetarian at the table and didn't bring out the vegetarian option.  After reminding them, they served a separate vegetarian plate for the savoury tier and we got to keep the original sandwiches too. Score!  

The dessert plate was crammed with sweets.  I think my favourite was the mini creme brulee.  There were so many sweets that we couldn't finish them and packed the rest in a little box for my friend to share with her colleagues the next day.

As I mentioned, it was my birthday and to my delight, a little dessert tray was brought out which incited a rousing rendition of happy birthday.

It was a lovely way to end the high tea and I felt very spoiled. 

Albion Street Kitchen, Surry Hills

Albion Street Kitchen is a fairly new restaurant from Warren Turnbull of former District Dining and Assiette.  I never had a chance to try Assiette and welcomed the opportunity to try the transformed Albion Street Kitchen with a recent Travelzoo voucher.  The deal cost $49 for $100 worth off the menu - a pretty neat way to lure people in to try the new restaurant.

We originally made a booking for 7pm but due to wonderful circumstances that allowed us to leave early, we arrived at 6.20pm.  The restaurant is short walk up Albion Street near Central Station.

There was only one other table occupied when we arrived at this time and we were shown to one of the best spots by the window.  I highly recommend a window table - so good for a spot of people watching!

Menu (click to enlarge)

The staff seemed to be on top of their game and service was faultless.  Our water was refilled regularly throughout the night, often before it was even empty.

Rosemary and olive oil with bread - complimentary

I was very impressed with the bread offering.  A soft, freshly baked pull-apart bun with scatterings of sea salt over the top.  The scent of rosemary was fragrant in both the oil and the bread.  What a nice change from the usual sourdough, rye, linseed rolls etc!

Before we even received our first course, another complimentary item arrived.

Duck liver pate on the left and goats cheese with beetroot on the right - complimentary

These little morsels were resting on wafer thin crisps.  I had the pate and it was yummy!  It should be on the menu :)

Grilled prawns, avocado, corn bread, burnt capsicum ($20)

Cheese on toast, truffle, asparagus, Pedro ximenez, raisins

Both entrees had beautiful presentation on the plate.  I ordered the prawns and they were cooked very well.  Grilled corn is always yummy and the only thing on the plate that I didn't enjoy was the burnt capsicum - a bit too bitter for my taste.

I had a taste of the cheese on toast and it was a nice surprise.  A very fancy version of what you would expect for cheese on toast.  The cheese was creamy and the mushrooms were full of flavour, helped by the delicate truffle shavings.

By now the restaurant had filled up with several more tables, not a bad showing for a Thursday night. There was a nice ambience with good music playing and the sun setting slowly outside our window.  

For my main, I couldn't go past the pork belly.

 Pork belly, salted caramel apple, heirloom carrots, gingerbread spice ($30)

It was a very generous serving of pork belly, and it went down smoothly.  A nice ribbon of fat, a crispy top and an extra bit of crackling to top it all off.  I was stuffed by the time I finished this plate.

Chatham Island Cod, cauliflower, vadouvan, tamarind gel ($30)

The real star of the plate was the cauliflower.  We both agreed that its slightly burnt flavour surpassed the fish.  Again, I thought the serving size was quite generous.

Before our desserts arrived, yet another complimentary little item was placed in front of us.

White peach mousse and jelly with pomegranate

Honeycomb parfait, fennel ice cream, pinenut praline ($15)

As I said earlier, I was feeling full at this stage but boy, am I glad that I didn't skip on ordering dessert!  I loved the parfait and the small scoops of fennel ice cream and burnt butter ice cream.  The caramel shards were fun to snap and even better to eat.

Crispy cannelloni, pistachio mousse, cherry sorbet ($15)

My friend enjoyed her dessert and I thought the colours in the dish were really pretty. 

After we had asked for the bill, another complimentary item arrived!  This time it was two small squares of passionfruit mousse that were melt in mouth fluffy.

In the end, we only had to pay an additional $30 on top of the voucher value.  Which meant that we had three courses for about $40 each.  I think that is pretty good value!  I'm looking forward to coming back again.

Albion Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Woods, Sydney CBD

There is something about The Woods that makes me think of the Teddy Bears Picnic song.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, I've gone to the effort of youtubing it for you here: link

When I walk into the restaurant, it even feels like The Woods.  Dark, mysterious and with a big fire burning steadily away in the open kitchen.  I guess it also helped that it had been storming outside so walking into this warm sanctuary gave me a small thrill of delight.

I made a booking online (may I just add here, how convenient online booking is....I love it! No busy tones, no waiting while the person on the other end scrounges around for available times...) and we failed dismally by being half an hour late.  I admitted to the hostess that yes, the delay had been due in part to the rain outside (that was completely false) but more so due to the new bar next door - Grain Bar.  She laughed and found our original booking, luckily there were still a few tables empty and I had a nice view of the kitchen from my seat.

The Woods is inside the Four Seasons hotel and you enter it straight from the lobby. Once you're inside the sectioned off area, it doesn't feel like you are in the middle of the ground lobby. It feels warm and cosy with a low-level hum of noise.

We started off with some wine and drinks while the waitress described the menu to us.  Upon announcing that the cut of lamb for the day was the rump, she gave a small tap to her own rump in demonstration which I found very amusing.  Teehee.

'Steve's seasonal oysters' are listed at the top of the menu and we ordered two each of the Clair de Lune and Moonlight Kisses.

Oysters ($4.50 each)

 By the way, who is Steve?  I don't know but the oysters were gooood. Very sweet in flavour.

Wood grilled calamari, pork cheek bacon and pickled muntries ($24)

I loved how soft the calamari was and the subtle flavour of the grill that was imprinted along the thin slices.  I didn't taste the pork cheek bacon on the plate though...where was the pork cheek bacon - am I missing it here? In hindsight as I look at this photo, I don't actually see any pork cheek bacon on the plate.....nevertheless, this was my favourite dish of the night.

Ash seasoned ocean trout, smoked trout roe and parsley salad ($21)

I couldn't taste much of the ash seasoning in the ocean trout but the fish was glistening and very fresh.  I loved these soft, pillowy little brioches - we also had them at Grain Bar, incidentally also with roe and there was brioche in our dessert too.  The parsley side on the plate was very, very salty. 

We had a bit more trouble deciding what to get for the main.  I found the entree options to be more exciting and in the end, settled for fish.

Crisp skin wild fish fillet, spanner crab, cauliflower and roast garlic ($36)

The fish was cooked well but the taste was incredibly bland with no distinguishable flavour.  The best thing on my plate was the cauliflower which had been roasted nicely. 

Olive wood roasted lamb, grilled carrots, chickpeas, purslane and tahini yoghurt ($38)

Let me preface my next sentence by saying that I didn't mind, because my stomach was satisfied with my fish, but there was a huge size discrepancy between the lamb and the fish.  The lamb looked like a giant feast at least twice the size of the fish main - it included two huge chunks of meat, each about the size of an adult fist and a variety of large items on the plate.

I am not a huge fan of lamb, often the game-y ness of it doesn't suit my palate.  I tasted a bit off my friends plate but had more interest in the vegetables. Most of the lamb was left on the plate, my friend couldn't finish it off.

There was only one item on the dessert menu which really leaped out on the page to both my friend and I.  We decided to share this dessert after I had provided assurances to my friend, who had claimed to be very full during mains, that I was sure I would be able to polish it off.

Rose geranium ice cream, toasted brioche and white peach caramel ($14)

As it turns out, we both polished off the dessert in record time.  After we licked our spoons clean, we looked at each other in surprise at how fast it was consumed.  Everything about the dessert was perfect - the ice cream had a lovely taste of rose, not the sickeningly overpowering rose that you might find elsewhere.  The caramel had a slight bitter, burnt taste to it that was a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the ice cream and the slice of ripe peach.  And underneath, another one of those delightfully soft brioches. This dessert really blew me away!

I would definitely be happy to come back to The Woods again. The service was very attentive with our water being refilled conscientiously throughout the night.  The staff seemed very competent with the only slight being our oysters coming out after our entrees - a first world problem and I would not even have noticed but for the waitress coming back after taking our order to specially advise us that she had requested for the oysters to come first, strange!

There are a lot of other items on the menu that I would like to try and you would not need to twist my arm to order that dessert again!

The Woods on Urbanspoon

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