Blintz on Tour: Gnome, Sydney

The second most noteworthy Sydney foodie place I got to visit with Chris and Nicole on my weekend trip was teeny Surry Hills cafe Gnome. We were on a serious mission for food, as night-before shenanigans meant that it was 3pm on a Sunday, and we hadn’t eaten. IT WAS A FOOD EMERGENCY.

It was very lucky indeed then that we chanced upon Gnome and slipped into a corner table in the tiny space. It is a tight room, but comfortable – the large windows open out so a breeze comes through to cut through the humidity, the staff are cheery and the room’s white walls are brightened up with art like colourful ceramic animal heads.

I very much needed fortifying with vitamins, so before anything solid hit the table I had a Gnome breakfast juice, which consisted of whizzed up kale, watermelon, apple and ginger. Thankfully Gnome followed the green juices rule of if you’re going to put leafy greens in a juice you need to make sure they comprise 40% or less of the total otherwise it will taste like a glass of iron-rich sludge. This juice properly woke me up with its sizable ginger kick, yet with a really pleasant undercurrent of sweetness from the watermelon and apple.

On to BUSINESS. The day clearly required hollandaise, so all three of us decided to tuck into the mini egg benny roll – poached egg, hollandaise sauce and ham (kindly omitted for me) on a brioche roll. Chris added mushrooms to his because he knows what’s what. This was just what the doctor ordered, a hot handful of recovery in a bun. I want one now, someone send a plane.

Because this was our first meal of the day at a time when we should have had two already, we had absolutely no compunction in ordering seconds, because why would you even if you’d already had five meals? While Nicole and Chris went a second round on the benny rolls, I switched to sweet with the toasted banana bread served with cinnamon butter, and honey and lime mascarpone. This was A VERY GOOD CHOICE. The banana bread was this sweet, spicy scented warm slab, which once slathered with the cinnamon butter (which melted immediately OH SO DECADENTLY) and the citric tang of the mascarpone, just erupted one’s mouth with sweet comfort.

Gnome is a little place doing a little array of things but doing them ever so right, in a way that isn’t going to empty your pockets either. If you can squeeze in, it’s well worth the time.

Gnome

536 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Ph: (02) 9332 3191

www.brewtownnewtown.com

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Blintz on Tour: Fika Swedish Kitchen, Sydney

I recently popped up for a weekend in Sydney to spend time with the most excellent Chris and Nicole, passionate film lovers after my own heart. They also happen to be keen foodies, and were very open to my suggestions as to cafes and restaurants that I was was jumping to visit. While I initially did heaps of research, in the end there was only one place that I absolutely INSISTED that we make the effort to try, and that was Fika’s Swedish Kitchen in Manly.

The January I spent in Sweden five years ago is one of my most cherished memories, so any time I get the chance to tuck into some Swedish food (which is generally few and far between here in Oz) is enormously treasured. I was also interested to see how Fika’s Swedish food would translate to such a hot, beachy location as Manly. Very well, as it turns out.

After jumping a ferry at Circular Quay and letting Chris have enough time to acclimatise to Manly’s shores – despite being a native Sydneysider this was only his second visit ever to Manly (“Farken, it’s Bondi Two!”) – we crisscrossed the main drag in order to find Fika hidden up a sidestreet across from the library.

Fika is freaking ADORABLE, let me just put that out there first. Lots of Scandi blond wood (BUT OF COURSE) and blue and yellow touches, from signage to crockery. There are also proper Swedes serving you with big smiles and brandished menus, and the menu is very wide-ranging and filled with everything your little Scandinavian-longing heart could desire.

It was hard to tear my eyes away from the desserts (the Swedes take their cakes and baking VERY SERIOUSLY), but come on Hayley, being on holiday doesn’t mean avoiding vegetables. So I got the barley salad with asparagus, crispy apple, thick halves of fig heavy from having been poached in red wine, roasted almonds and Danish feta. This was a very good idea, rarely do you get a salad where all the ingredients have distinctly different flavours and textures and yet none work against each other. Everything was contributing to a complimentary circle of flavour building that resulted in DELICIOUSNESS. Coupled with an iced lingonberry drink and further on some cheeky cider, this was a very fresh and zingy lunch choice.

Both Chris and Nicole had the Gothenberg hot dog – beef and pork frankfurter with mash, roasted onion and house gherkin mayo in a bread roll, and served with a jar of some fermented prawn salad goodness. This was an impressively large hot dog (inches poking out the ends of the bun, make your wang jokes right here) and was very clever in taking a borders-crossing dish and making it firmly Swedish.

With savouries out of the way, it was finally time to attack the object of my long game: the pastries cabinet.  I fell in love quite fiercely with sweets such as semla and kanelbullar on my trip, and unless one makes them oneself, Swedish baked treats are hard to come by here. So I was so so pleased to take into my hands a kardemummabullar, or cardamom scroll, dotted with stark white sugar crystals and thick, dark seams of spices curling around in aromatic whorls. This was everything. If I could have a bun like this every day of my life and die from acute carbs arrest, I would.

Fika is very much worth the ferry ride, or indeed the plane trip, I took to get to it. If you reside in or are visiting the harbour city, make great haste there by whichever transportation means are necessary.

Fika Swedish Kitchen

5B Market Lane, Manly

Ph: (02) 9976 5099

www.fikaswedishkitchen.com.au

The Kettle Black

It is BUSY at The Kettle Black. Seemingly all the time. It makes sense – in this particular part of South Melbourne, just near the Domain Interchange, there’s not another quality cafe within cooee. Luckily Julian had got there before me on this day and had the good sense to put our name on the list, so the wait for me was under ten minutes. Always go to brunch with more punctual friends, it equals dividends!

The Kettle Black is very striking, aesthetically. It’s comprised of the ground level of a swisho new apartment block, all shiny surfaces and architectural whizz-bangery, which has managed to include an old, stark white terrace house as a part of the greater building. Inside walls are white, with potted plants and vines streaming their tendrils in the bright light of the wall to ceiling windows that face the street.

After a flat white, I got stuck into a plate of seasonal raw and cooked mushrooms on toast with mushroom powder and goat curd, plus a poached egg. The poached egg was served on the side, which was a little odd – surely the joy of the poached egg is to pop it open upon your bread and fixings and let the yolk ooze decadently over everything. Maybe The Kettle Black wants to advocate levering a poached egg directly into you mouth all at once, and if so I greatly dishonoured local practice by carefully transferring the egg onto the mushroom and curd mountain on toast. The cooked mushrooms were juicy and hot; I’m not 100% convinced that the raw mushrooms worked with the rest of the plate, mainly for textural reasons, but it certainly is an interesting idea. But hey, put creamy goats’ curd on things and it all tends to turn out right in the end.

Julian decided to feast on some native wildlife (okay maybe it was mostly the allure of the eggs) and went with the chilli scrambled eggs with air-dried Flinders Island wallaby, feta and leaves. The scramble was an eye-popping cadmium yellow – yes I just delved into Derwent pencil colours to get just the right descriptor – crowned with some red capsicum and little pink medallions of wallaby meat.

I also finally sampled a Doughboys doughnut, which were the crown jewels in a very impressively curated cake cabinet. I have been largely suspicious of the fancy doughnut craze, as for me a doughnut is a rebellious crap food indulgence. I don’t need quality ingredients when it comes to a doughnut, I want powdered sugar and artificial creme! But this morning I was beguiled by the fat, glazed rings calling at me from across the room. I asked the waiter to surprise me with the flavour, and he brought back a ‘lime toast’ with lemon and lime zest icing, sprinkled with toasted coconut. The dough was very light, puffy and airy, and the icing had been heavily zested with citrus flavours without being overwhelming. It was very pleasant, although I can’t say I’ve now been drawn into abandoning my crap doughnut ways.

I am not one to ordinarily advocate queuing for anything, no matter how good, but should you find yourself in South Melbourne and can snaffle yourself a spot at The Kettle Black in under ten minutes, I would recommend it as time well spent.

The Kettle Black

50 Albert Road, South Melbourne

Ph: 9088 0721

thekettleblack.com.au