Waffles & I- Sydney CBD

A self-indulgent blog post, about a man and his waffles.

I write this post with a very heavy heart- Clock it, it’s Wednesday 30 June, a start of a new day, but the start of the last day for Bells Hot Chicken Darling Square.

It all started in 2018, merely 3 years have passed but this romance has felt much longer than that. The once Entertainment Centre site, flattened into rubble, but resurrected into a commercial, residential, and entertainment precinct. And the first to open was Darling Square, a less than 20 metre long alley of shops and restaurants- and there, on the East West end of this short strip of stores is (or was, depending on when you’re reading this post) Bells Hot Chicken.

Pre-Covid, we were dine in customers only- my usual at Bells Hot was the Saturday Special-  Waffles and Chicken drumsticks (Hot), and an Arnold Palmer to cleanse the pallet before transitioning back from hot to sweet. But when Covid hit, our usual practice became ‘shuffle up to the takeaway counter’, order Waffles and Chicken drumsticks (Hot) to go, and in a matter of minutes we were back at our apartment, watching TV with our Bells Hot Chicken & Waffles in-front of us. Amber maple syrup poured over the 4 triangles of waffles, making sure that none of it found its way onto the chicken. And then it’s a forkful of waffles dripping with maple syrup, followed by a chicken drumstick (hot), finger so licking good! Sure, dining from home there wasn’t any Arnold Palmer chaser (half-and-half ice tea and freshly squeezed lemonade), but we made do with our own chasers (this week it was half-and-half apricot nectar with carbonated H2O).

And after 3 rounds of waffle + chicken drumstick (hot) +one more slice of waffle, belching softly I’m content. We always vow not to eat waffles and chicken (hot) again, for at least another 6 weeks. But inevitably we always end up back there, after having mad cravings for the fluffy sweet waffles, and the crunchy, spicy, and always cooked to perfection chicken drumsticks. Mmmmmm. I’m not counting here, but I estimate that these cravings kick-in within 3 weeks, and we succumb to these cravings 1-2 weeks after the symptums first present themselves.

On our second to last visit to Bells Hot Chicken Darling Square, whilst walking towards it, I asked my wife: “How devastated would you be, if we got there and it was closed down?” She responded, “9”, “Was that 9 out of 10 for being very devastated, or was this some reverse scaling system where 9 equated to not devastated at all?” I asked her, to clarify.

“No, no, 9 for being very devastated”, she confirmed. But hallelujah, as per usual, as we rounded the corner we could see that they were open! A staff member manning the take-away counter, while it was always pretty empty inside the actual restaurant. We made our orders, stood aside to wait, and when our waffles & chicken (hot) were ready. The staff member handed us the takeaway bag, and as a final thought he added “We’re closing at the end of the month, but the Barangaroo and Tramshed outlets will still be open.” And we were left utterly deflated, our worst nightmare realised. No more waffles & chicken (hot) in front of the TV anymore! Nooooo!

Fast forward a week, Sydney CBD was under lockdown orders due to the second wave of Covid, residents only permitted to leave their homes for 4 reasons: work or studies (if they cannot be performed remotely); visiting family or friends for compassionate reasons; for exercise; or for shopping for essentials. And with our lunch options limited (most restaurants were shut), we decided to get waffles & chicken (hot) in consecutive weekends, the last hurrah for old time sake. Not to mention visiting Bells Hot, ticked 3 of 4 criteria to leave the home during Covid lock-down (as Waffles & Chicken is soo an essential). But it was obvious that my wife’s love of waffles isn’t as devout as mine, as with our final opportunity she still elected the chicken (hot) sandwich over waffles. With the predictable end outcome being, that I was very satisfied and 95% full with a quarter of waffle to go. While she had long finished her sandwich before me, and I’d say she was probably only moderately satisfied and 85% full. And with my final triangle of waffle sitting there crying out to be eaten, I pushed my takeaway box over to her. “No, you have it, I’m full”, I lied. Something as good as waffles? Must be shared with loved ones!

So here I am, writing this open letter/blog to you, Bells Hot Chicken and Saturday special ‘Waffles & Chicken’, although you’re pretty pricy at $20 a serving, but you have brought me and my wife much joy over the past 3 years. Although I’ll never be able to enjoy your fluffy sweet waffles and crunchy, spicy, perfectly cooked chicken ever again from the comfort of our own home. But at least I’ll always have these fond memories of you, tucked away in my memory, to be re-lived and enjoyed whenever those mad cravings return.

I know this isn’t good-bye forever, as your cheery employee stated- that both Barangaroo and Tramshed outlets are still open, so one day we will meet again, when the mad cravings are so severe that this boy is motivated enough to go cross-town to be re-united with his waffles! Till then, shalom, and we’ll meet again, don’t know where or when. …. Who am I kidding, it’ll be at Barangaroo and I’d say, it’ll probably be within the next 4 weeks. SWEET!

The Little Spoon Fusion Café- Chippendale

Shop 4, 81-85 O’Connor Street, Chippendale

Not all fusion cafes are made equal.

Buoyed by the previous week’s dine-in experience, we ventured out again for another Asian fusion brunch venue. This time we headed to Chippendale, for the promise of a  Japanese fusion breakfast, and we were left a little bit disappointed and underwhelmed.

The Little Spoon Fusion Café is located in one of those pedestrianised alleys immediately behind Central Park. Greeted by a pair of yapping dogs, we elected to dine inside as it was a particularly windy and cold day in Sydney. Immediately we were welcomed by the interior; it was warm and inviting with plenty of fresh flowers and plants, and there were plenty of cushions to embrace your body in a cloud of soft feathery goodness.

Browsing through their menu, they had breakfast service till 11.30am (the usual café breakfast options); a list of Signature dishes, and a list of Japanese fusion burgers. 

I opted for the Seafood Soba noodles (fish and soft-shell crab, with fish roe), while my wife had the Eel burger, while we had a latte each.

Have you ever had a $31 burger? We justified it, as in the description of the burger it stated that you were getting a 200g piece of Unagi. Which is unheard of! If you’ve had sushi recently.

The Unagi was exactly what you’d expect it to be, the same usual flavours but if anything, it was saucier than the sushi. It was served hanging out of the ends of a brioche bun, amongst mayo, cheese, a poached egg, and thinly sliced fresh veg fillings. A knife and fork were required to consume this burger stack, so could we really call it a burger?

My Soba noodles came on a large plate, plated up in an Insta-worthy way, i.e. piled high was the green soba noodles, capped off by a giant fried soft-shell crab, ringed with a phalanx of fried fish nugs, and a generous dollop of fish roe.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed that the soba noodles were served cold (especially as it was a cold day), and it wasn’t a run-through-cold-water kind of cold, but more like an out-of-the-fridge, leftovers kind of  cold. The fish was mushy, although the outer fried coating was nice and crunchy. And although the soft-shell crab was huge, for a soft-shell crab (reminded me of the evil crab from Moana) it tasted more gutsy than sweet. The roe wasn’t a high-quality roe, so it tasted more like eating gritty sand, than a pleasant burst of fishy goodness. And although the serving was large, I found myself eating it because I don’t like wasting food, rather than really wanting more and more.

Our end verdict? 3.5 from 5.0 stars (2.0 from 3.0 for Food (the menu read better on paper, than it tasted in the mouth); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all super nice and efficient); 0.5 from 0.5 for Ambiance (we would like to  give extra marks for the look and feel of the store if we could, but we’ll just add an extra pic below); and 0.5 from 1.0 for Value for Money (after tips, $60 for two is pretty expensive, especially for cold noodles and a so, so, $31 burger)).

Hey, we’re getting out and about and spending money again, so that’s the important thing. And along the way, we’re going to have some hits and some misses. Today, it was a miss for The Little Spoon Fusion Café, the ironic thing, was that after forgetting to give me a teaspoon with my latte, there was no extra little spoons in sight, except for it being in the name of their store.

The Little Spoon Fusion Café- Saturday 29 May (3.5 stars).

Shop 4, 81-85 O’Connor Street, Chippendale NSW

Ph: 0406 656 998

https://www.instagram.com/littlespoonau/

Mon-Sun: 8.30am – 3.30pm 

The Brothers Café- Haymarket

Shop 5, 187 Thomas Street, Haymarket 

We came for souffle pancakes, and we went home bellies full of omelette!

We’re back Sydney! It has taken quite some cajoling to get us back out of our habit of ordering take-away, but we finally ate out and here is our tale.

So, we’re down to our very last ‘Dine & Discover’ voucher, and we wanted to try something new, and Zomato’s Trending Now collection def helped in providing us with some ideas.

What you can’t take-away successfully is brunch. So, seeing that a Haymarket café was trending, appealed to us. Heading out at 9.30am on a leisurely Saturday morning stroll kicked started our odyssey, and we found ‘The Brothers Café’ located inside a Chinatown building which we’ve never noticed before.

The majority of seating is located outside the café in a L-shape, and you plop yourself down, check out their menu and head on in when you’re ready to order.

We were drawn to the Bros due to the promise of souffle pancakes, but once we started to review the menu and their ‘Signature’ dishes, we quickly pivoted over to the idea of a savoury breakfast.

I had the “big prawn omelette on croissant”; while my wife had the “Crab-O-Crab on croissant”, and since we were here for sweets, we ordered a Taro latte for me, and a flat white with hazelnut syrup for her (total bill was $21.90 after Dine & Discover).

The wait for the food was probably around 15 minutes, and as soon as the drinks made their way to our table, so did the food.

According to the menu’s description the Crab-O-Crab was crab claw meat, curry scrambled eggs, celery and cashew puree, and chilli. 

While my omelette was topped with prawn, Japanese seasoning, mayo, and parmesan.

Eating it, you had to de-constructed it a little, removing the top of the croissant so you can get to the fluffy egg. In my omelette there were more prawns than you could keep track of, the omelette was amazingly thick and fluffy, and the Japanese seasoning was both salty and had strong sesame oil flavours. On the side was some salad coated in a yummy tart dressing, while my wife’s omelette was similar to mine, but it was browner in colour due to the infused curry.

The drinks were on the sweet side, but that was what we wanted, right? And the café itself was Insta worthy, with a wall covered with pics of the brothers and their clientele.

Our verdict? 4.5/5.0 Stars! 3.0 from 3.0 for Food (as everything was tasty, filling, and fresh!); 0.5 from 0.5 for ambiance, the café itself was charming, although it lacked indoor seating); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the brothers were polite and the food came out pretty quick); and 0.5 from 1.0 for Value for money (in the end, without Gladys’ $25 off, it was practically a $50 breakfast for two, which is pretty exxy).

So, we’re getting out and about again, I guess that was the whole idea and purpose behind the Dine & Discover vouchers, and I guess it has served its purpose. Although after 16 months of iso, it has changed our habits (we eat in front of the TV 99% of the time, but now we’ve eaten out a few times and the post-pandemic world feels a lot like pre-Covid, I guess we’ll be going out a bit more now. So, a few more Food reviews will be coming your way! And we def will be back to the Brothers Café, at least to try their souffle pancakes!

Saturday 22 May- The Brothers Cafe (4.5/5.0 Stars)

Shop 5, 187 Thomas Street, Haymarket NSW 

Mon – Sun 9am – 3pm 

https://www.thebrothers-cafe.com

Admin@thebrothers-cafe.com

Boon Table- Sydney CBD

Where healthy East meets healthy West!

Can you believe it!? It’s been over 13 months since I last reviewed a restaurant!? Crazy! As this blog was initially designed as a restaurant & lifestyle blog, but due to Covid it had become quite one dimensional. But we’re back! Well, we’ve been eating out during Covid, but most of our dining experiences haven’t been worth re-telling on a public forum like this. However Boon Table is definitely worth shouting from the roof tops!

I used to sneer at food bloggers who used to review takeaway joints, but these days with dining in being a bit of a risky affair (who wants to be named as a close contact), we’ve only been dining out, if that dining out looks like and smells like food in a takeaway container which can be consumed at home in front of the TV. Haaha.

And the best we’ve had since Covid rolled on in, has been Boon Table- a restaurant a part of the wider ‘Chat Thai’ group. Boon Table is located in the basement level food court in galleries Victoria.

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The Galleries Victoria food court is quickly becoming our favourite single destination for takeaway! In this relatively small square under the earth, you’ll find some of your  food court staples (Oporto, Subways, and Boost), some Asian favourites (Chat Thai for Thai, Jimmy’s for Malaysian, and a Jap place), and your healthy options (sandwich shop, Fishbowl for Poke, and Boon Table for salads).

Boon Table is East meets West when it comes to healthy foods, when describing it to friends I’d been calling it salads with a Thai twist? You can choose a rice bowl (Boon Bowl); a salad bowl (salad bowl); Vietnamese pork rolls (Boon-Me’s); steamed buns (Boon Baos); or elect to construct your own bowl.

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We’ve been to Boon Table at least 5-6 times now, and collectively with my wife we have pretty much tried all the Boon bowls, all the Salad bowls, and tried a Boon-Me each. And no joke, they’re all good! And I’m one who likes to try new things and usually don’t like ordering the same dish time and again- but when it comes down to Boon Table though, we’ve been happily coming back to the same exact bowls for seconds!

Each bowl or salad is unique in its own way, be that a different dressing, different condiments, different fresh produce, and of course different proteins. From my own humble opinion, their all good and each unique to themselves. It’s not liked the  same same salad but insert different protein on top- but each bowl is entirely unique to itself! On this day we ordered the Soya chicken with onsen egg, and I had the grilled beef bowl. Most bowls for a regular size costs $12.90 and you can pay an extra  $3 for the large (although the regular is already very filling).

<Insert food pics>

What surprises me each time we get Boon table, is that the vege is always super fresh! Like much better than what fresh produce you can get from your supermarket. And the other thing which always surprises me, is how generous they are with piling on the protein into your bowl. Every time I’m incredibly full and totally satisfied- which isn’t an easy achievement when we’re talking about salads.

The difference between a Boon bowl and a Salad bowl, is that the Boon bowl comes with either brown rice or Soba noodles (or half and half), while the salad is heavier on the leafy greens and doesn’t come with any rice or noodles. And the Boon bowls and Salads aren’t the same flavours or proteins with or without the rice/noodles. But they’re entirely different- be that a different style of cooking of the protein, or a different dressing or different condiments. So you have so many options to choose from, you’ll just have to keep  coming back time and again (which we have). But if you really want a type of meat, with a particular dressing, with a particular condiment, you can always design your own bowl- each step of its construction has a cost and an option so if you have the time and the desire you can build your own bowl from scratch.

We’re so bought into Boon Table, that we’ve already clocked 6 stamps on our loyalty card- at the halfway point your 6th bowl is 40% off. And when you reach your 12th bowl, it’s free! Holy crap I can’t wait to go back and get more healthy and tasty food! And did I mention that their like healthy salads with Thai/Asian flavours? Oh yeah, that’s the selling point- healthy East meets healthy West!

Our verdict 5.0 from 5.0! (3.0/3.0 for Food, literally everything is good here, I’ve never had a bad bite thus far; 0.5/0.5 for Service (the staff are friendly and turnaround the food  quickly); 0.5/0.5 for Atmosphere (it’s a takeaway place in a food court, but they’re always playing some pumping tracks, so it helps the wait); and 1.0/1.0 for Value for money (nothing like a full belly for two for under $26).

Boon Table- Saturday 6 February (5.0 Stars).

https://www.boontable.com/

 Food Court 9 The Galleries, Lower Ground Food Avenue. 500 George Street, Sydney NSW

Mon-Fri 9.30am – 4.30pm

Sat-Sun 10.30am – 3.30pm

Rey Jr- Haymarket

We only needed a working day in between Christmas and New Year’s to score a table at Rey Jr’s!

Ever since Rey Jr opened its doors on Little Hay Street, we’ve been cruising by trying to spy a free table. But to date, no such luck…But it took a Friday afternoon in between Christmas and New Year’s, for us to score an available table, allowing us to try the ‘express’ version of Darlinghurst’s full menu from Rey’s Place, serving up modern takes on traditional Filipino food.

An outdoor menu enables you to review what’s on offer before you step foot into their hole-in-the-wall store, before you make your orders at the bar. We ordered the Sisig ($16.00), the Ginataang Gulay ($14.00) and the BBQ Corn Coblette to share ($7.00).

We occupied one of the small tables for two at their doorway, and the first thing which stood out for us was how friendly the staff were and how their music selection was right up my alley (2000s Rap/Hip Hop). In less than 10 mins our small share arrived.

The corn on the cob was cut into slender quarters, making them super easy to handle and to eat! As advised by our server when he placed the tray before us, the BBQ corn cobs were also super buttery – hence the need for extra serviettes, and they were dusted with a light coating of chilli powder. Within 4 minutes I had consumed my share of the tasty corn fingers, and meanwhile our rice bowls had arrived.

I started off with the Sisig – twice cooked pork belly with a salty sweet flavour profile. The meat was cut into small pieces, so you were able to easily scoop up a forkful of meat, rice, and pickled veg all in one mouthful.

Meanwhile my wife started off with the Ginataang Gulay- a selection of vegetables (pumpkin, okra, beans, and eggplant) cooked in coconut cream. It was sweeter than it was savoury, and very creamy and filling for a non-meat dish.

Our verdict? 3.5 Stars from 5! (2 from 3 for Food (everything was tasty and ready to be consumed on the  go, thus making it a good take-away option for the nearby office crowd); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the server was super friendly which made our brief stay at their place feel like a neighbourhood affair); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the store is rustic and super small, but they play a cool Rap/Hip Hop playlist which might not be to everyone’s taste, and the tables are quite close together so you can hear every word from the neighbouring table); and 0.5 from 1.0 for Value for money ($37 for two for lunch is pretty standard these days, not bad while not being super economical either)).

We’re glad that we finally got to try Rey Jr, and got some Filo food back in our belly’s after a long absence (we hadn’t had Filo food since the Filo place above Mamak closed down a year ago). The food was good, while not being ‘blow your mind’, but we welcome this much needed variety in Chinatown! It definitely adds to the vibrancy of our town!

Rey Jr- Friday 27 December (3.0 Stars)

https://www.reysplace.com.au/reservations-2

PH: (02) 9361 5938

13 Little Hay Street, Haymarket

Mon-Fri 12noon – 3pm, 4.30pm – 9pm

Sat 12noon – 9pm

Sun 12noon – 4.00pm

Sweet Things- Purple rice yoghurt- Yomie’s Rice x Yogurt

Citymark Building, Shop G6, 683-689 George Street, Haymarket

So we’ve finally tried the original Purple rice yogurt by Yomie’s, after more than a year of avoiding it……well, avoiding lining up for it.

Ok, I had promised a long retraction article if Yomie’s original Purple rice yogurt turned out to be much better than what we tried at a copy-cat version of the Purple rice yogurt by ‘The Moment’ on Sussex Street. As at the time I had written a not-so-glowing review of the Purple rice yogurt fad. At that time, I had recoiled from the intense Greek yogurt-like drink, while my wife found it way too sour for her liking. But Yomie’s Purple rice yogurt?

It was definitely more like a drink this time, than like eating a tub of yogurt from a straw. The yogurt was a more liquid-y consistency, which was much easier to drink. And the purple rice was definitely a lot nicer than the copy-cat version’s, it was fresh and chewy (a good chewy), whereas last time it felt like eating day-old refrigerated rice. And the serving was just right, a good size for an accompanying drink, rather than feeling almost like a meal due to its heaviness in your gut ( click HERE to read the previous post re ‘The Moment’s version of Purple rice yogurt).  

However the yogurt from Yomie’s was perhaps just that little bit too watered down? If it was just that little bit thicker, I think it would have ticked all the boxes.

So in conclusion, here is my retraction post, I take it all back! I can see the appeal of Yomie’s rice yogurt offering, and it’s definitely at a consistency tolerable for most Asians’ lactose intolerances. If there aren’t any massively long lines, we’d definitely go back to try other flavours and toppings.