High on Gallery

As the weather fluctuates between mild thunderstorms, freezing nights and sunny afternoons, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to throwback to the warm, balmy evenings of Summer 2013/14, much of which was spent on Gallery’s rooftop bar.

Despite watching the countdown to opening night from my window at work, I didn’t make it there until a few weeks later. I ended up having lunch, drinks and dinner there (all separate occasions) in the same week. I was hooked. There is something about the atmosphere – it’s casual and chic, borderline hipster but caters for the professional crowd. It was open, organised and filled with light, all the things that makes me happy in a space! I definitely have a thing for rooftop bars.

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During the summer months, mystifiers sprinkle minuscule droplets of water everywhere to combat the heat. There’s annoyingly little airflow due to the high glass barriers around the rooftop, but luckily hot air rises and floats off, so it’s never too stifling. I do wish smoking was banned though, because the smell can get slightly overwhelming. It’s best to stay close to the entrance or the bar if you see a group of smokers. All ordering is done at the bar, and there is a pretty good deal with the entertainment book available.

My favourite dish by far – in fact, my favourite dish of the year so far – was the zucchini flowers.

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Tempura zucchini flowers, spiced pumpkin purée and wasabi peas $13

At $13 for 2 flowers, this dish is just a tad expensive, but totally worth it for the combination of flavours and textures in every mouthful. On my first visit, I shared this dish, fell in love and ordered it again for dinner (covertly devouring it all myself). The flowers are perfectly crisp, and paired with the pumpkin purée, the zucchini melts in your mouth and disappears way too soon. I honestly didn’t notice any wasabi peas while I was eating, although it is obvious from the above photo that they were present. This dish couldn’t get better – except for there to be more of it!

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Chargrilled Spanish chorizo, house made crisps and Murcia cheese $13

The chorizo was an average tasting dish that was nicely presented. A few good sized pieces of grilled sausage with scattered crisps and pungent cheese, each element tasted nice but didn’t complement anything else on the dish. The cheese and chorizo flavours were competing for dominance in my mouth – and I much preferred the chorizo. There also could have been more crisps on the plate…sure, they are house made, but if you’re heating up the deep frier already, why not throw an extra few in?

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Rocket, pomegranate, cashew and mandarin salad with citrus dressing (seasonal) $11

For the salad lovers, the available seasonal salads are usually a fun and interesting mix of fruits and nuts with the usual greens. The 2013/14 summer salad above was light and fresh, with a nice tangy citrus dressing. The pop of sweet juices from the pomegranate bits and slices of mandarin were like happy surprises in my mouth. It was a cool, colourful and admittedly ‘girly’ salad that I enjoyed.

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Sliders: Mini beef burger (above top right) with madam cheese, tomato relish and pickle; Panko crumbed chicken, endive and kewpie; Pulled pork (above bottom right), cabbage and spiced apple sauce $9 each or any 2 for $18 with fries.

With so many pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and of course, food trucks serving some variation of a burger, the level of expectation has increased dramatically. These would rate in the average range – the brioche buns are glossy, soft and perfectly toasted, the filling cooked well with adequate sauces, but the flavours were just a bit unoriginal. Definitely not horrible, but not a stand-out either, especially when there are so many other exciting dishes on the menu.

I have been meaning to try some of the larger plates, but because Gallery is more of an after-work, “let’s have a few drinks” type of hang-out, I haven’t been hungry enough to try. They will have to wait until winter when I’m building up my layer of fat to keep from freezing. I have also yet to visit since autumn began and the rain started, but there are umbrellas over the seating areas that are bound to offer protection. I look forward to seeing how Gallery combats the onslaught of winter and whether he rooftop remains open (there is a seating area on a lower level that is reserved for functions at the moment. so they may utilise that in colder weather). I’m predicting a lot of gas heaters, some comfy blankets and a selection of warmed up / flaming cocktails to keep the crowds up! Only time will tell!

Smelling the Roses

Life seems to be travelling at an exceptional speed at the moment, and I’ve hardly had the chance to stop and take it all in. For all 10 of my loyal followers (you know who you are), here’s a recap of all the ‘moons’ I have in orbit around the planet I call my ‘Life’.

  • Settlement of my first ever home is in 16 days (goodbye money)
  • My month long trip to the USA is in 37 days (goodbye healthy eating and body)
  • My first CA module begins in 3 months and I haven’t been a student for over 2 years now (goodbye social life)
  • I have ‘groomsmaid’ duties in June leading up to the wedding in October (goodbye chocolate)
  • Tutoring duties begin again in July at Adelaide University (goodbye lunch breaks)!

This will either be one awesome, exhilarating year – or the year I have a mental breakdown. You have been warned.

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I had planned a Fringe wrap up post, but didn’t get to as many venues or shows as I had expected, so here’s a photo of the Royal Croquet Club – pretty much a classier, preppier version of last year’s The Depot. The fairy lights were a nice touch.

In the shadow of an impending mortgage, I have only managed to eat out occasionally (insert sad face), so be forewarned that there may be an influx of book reviews and easy lunch recipes for the next few weeks! Exciting times ahead!

A Series of Unfortunate Food Blunders

The mark of a fantastic restaurant or food establishment is when you can’t go wrong with whatever dish you decide to order. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of places like this in the world, and they are usually the ones that only have 5 dishes on the menu.

The rest of the establishments that don’t fall into this category will have a variety of menu items, depending on the clientele they are catering towards and the image they want to portray (pub, cafe, dessert bar, vegan oasis, etc). With these types of places (which is pretty much every place), it is important to know what which places specialise in certain things. You will have no one to blame but yourself for bad food, if you actively go out to seek it. For example, if you go out to a Chinese restaurant and order chicken nuggets and chips (like the table next to me at yum cha the other day). Or if you order wonton egg noodles at a pho restaurant (yeah, that was me stuck in Viet-ville with a huge craving and not very many brain cells)…

My whole spiel comes from a recent visit to The Saracen’s Hotel. Located on Carrington Street, it is a small, not-so-well known pub slash hotel that my friends and I thought would be nice for dinner before walking over to the Royal Croquet Club in Victoria Square. The funky looking menu consisted of the normal pub grub, which was a good sign, and there was a lot of variety, which got us all a bit excited (me particularly).

I’d been told that the pizzas were a specialty because of the wood-oven they have in the beer garden, so a friend and I decided to share the Mushroom Mania (wild porcini, enoki and swiss brown mushrooms on a tomato sugo, olive oil, truffle paste and mozzarella base, dressed with rocket and parmesan $20).

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Mistake #1 There is a such a thing as ‘mushroom overload’. This was a classic case of less is more.

The mushrooms, especially the porcini (which actually tasted like dried shittake), were overpowering and rubbery. Because they had been dried, there was also a slightly chemical/ preservative flavour, like they hadn’t been properly rinsed. To make it worse, there must have been no other mushrooms in the kitchen that night, because all we could see through the rocket was porcini.

In all fairness, the pizza base was nice and crispy, and it had been cooked right in front of us, so with any other topping, it may have been nice. Since my visit, I have been advised that duck pizza is the one to try. From personal experience, the mushroom one is definitely one to avoid.

The second mistake of the night was the chicken wings.

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Mistake #2 Never order chicken wings when they are the daily special (and not on the actual menu). And never assume that all chicken wings will taste like KFC Wicked Wings.

These wings had been deep fried with minimal batter and absolutely no seasoning or marinade. Only after they were fried were they covered with some variation of Chicken Tonight sauce. Even if you get 1kg of wings for $12, don’t ever order these.

Our third and final mistake was the Lapinja (special smoked chicken, avocado puree, garlic aioli, mixed green lettuce and roasted peppers, served with chips and house style tomato relish $19).

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Mistake #3 Always look up words you don’t know in the dictionary before ordering.

Lapinja doesn’t sound like ‘flat bread’ to me. Never heard of it. I thought it was a type of sauce. I didn’t actually try any of the lapinja but for something that looks like a focaccia, I can imagine it would have been a bit dry and quite bready. More of a lunch option than a satisfying dinner.

To end on a positive note, I ordered the Squid Ink Spaghetti off the specials board ($23) and it turned out to be the best dish of the night! It had been perfectly seasoned, there was a generous serve of peeled and cleaned prawns, and fresh rocket and whole cherry tomatoes mixed through. Although the pasta hadn’t been thoroughly inked and looked slightly grey, it had been cooked perfectly and I would happily order it again.

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So one out of three dishes were a hit at Saracen’s. For me, I feel like my visit didn’t really do the place justice due to all the mistakes we made with ordering. I’ve decided to give it one more go with some slightly different dishes before I make up my mind about whether to recommend it. It was completely packed out on a Wednesday night so they must be doing something right – I just have to find out what it is!

Saracens Head Hotel on Urbanspoon

Goodbye my lovers

It’s been a long, sad week of writing heartfelt messages in farewell cards, reminiscing funny stories and memories over drinks and countless hugs and re-hugs. This week I said “Goodbye” to two amazing friends as they leave Adelaide (and me) forever. Or at least for the foreseeable future.

One friend is moving to San Sebastián in Spain, where he’ll be learning to speak Spanish while relaxing by the pristine blue ocean and eating tapas. I’m not jealous at all.

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I will miss the laughs at work – especially the tram antics that have kept me wary of catching them for the last year now, the random facial hair and the drink bottle that made Thursdays of 2013 go by quicker. Thanks for teaching me that it’s safe to eat watermelon skin!

My other friend is moving to Melbourne to do an MBA before moving back to Phuket. I’ve known Sushi for about 10 years now and we’ve come from wearing goofy looking safety glasses in Chemistry classes to …something more classy.

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I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of my heart now that the four of us will never catch up for birthday dinners (which we’ve done since we were 15). There are so many memories, so much laughter and a terabyte hard drive worth of photos to cry over when you’re gone.

I’m so melodramatic. I don’t take goodbyes well, so I’ve been sulking in bed licking my wounds for the past week. It doesn’t help that one of my best friends at work has temporarily flown the coup and my pod mates have been forced to move desks to another floor. Why is everyone abandoning me?

I have “Free Beer”* tonight to drown my sorrows.

*the Fringe show

Tantalise Your Tastebuds at the Taverna

Just a quick one from me tonight – my head’s been immersed in researching both historical food trends and crypto-currency. It’s been a very busy week!

Last Friday’s date night was spent at the Taverna Greek Psistaria in Bowden, a slightly hidden, little gem of a restaurant I am now completely in love with. We were seated outside as they were completely booked out inside (reservations recommended!), but this did nothing to dampen the atmosphere. In fact, with the summer heat, the late afternoon sun setting and the lulling Greek music in the background, I was almost transported back to Mykonos! I haven’t felt that relaxed in a while :)

We ordered the Taverna Mix Grill ($39.90) which came with fresh, peeled prawns straight from the charcoal grill, a skewer of chicken (thigh) pieces, 2 marinated lamp chops and some deep fried octopus and calamari. And that’s just the meats. Underneath was a layer of wedges (baby cocktail potatoes cut up and deep fried – no pre cut McCains in sight), some freshly made pita bread and garlic sauce. There are honestly no words to describe how good everything tasted!

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The only thing I can fault is that the menu is slightly deceiving because it isn’t obvious how big the serves are – although the prices allude to what you hope are big serves. Believe me though, there was a lot of food on this plate! It was lucky we had just come from after work drinks and were feeling peckish, but even so, Sam and I were struggling to finish this ourselves. We had the (slightly sadistic) pleasure of watching some unsuspecting couples near us order the $90 mixed grill, which was about double our platter! I could have fed my whole family with one of those… hmm what a great idea! (Stay tuned for that episode…)

Luckily, Sam had the foresight to order me a small entree Greek salad ($11.90) which perfectly complemented the heaviness of our main. I had almost no expectations for the salad (because even I, with my minimal skills, can make Greek salad), but I was very surprised to discover that this was quite a good salad! There was something about the added herbs in the dressing – it was seasoned to perfection, and the fresh slab of feta was also a nice touch.

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I have been raving about this place all weekend, but it really is worth a try! I know that many people complain that Greek food can be salty (and I have been to restaurants where this is the case), but at the Taverna, there’s just enough salt for me to call the food deliciously ‘flavoursome’. I really enjoyed how the salt brought out the subtle flavours of the different meats without detracting from the slight char of the grill.

My observations of other diners compels me to warn you (and future Amy) that unless you plan on having Greek for breakfast the next day, you should order from the entree or small dish menu. In saying this though, the charcoal grill platters are much better value for money considering the serving size, so bring your whole family, and do as the Greeks do (in My Big, Fat Greek Wedding at least), and eat lots and lots of meat!

Vegetarians should probably stay away!

Taverna Greek Psistaria on Urbanspoon

Not to end on a negative note, BUT the one thing that irked me during my visit was the waitress’ response to my request for water: “Still or sparkling?” I KNOW YOU HAVE A PURATAP, I CAN SEE THE PURATAP. SO IF I’VE ALREADY BOUGHT OTHER (ALCOHOLIC) BEVERAGES, JUST GIVE ME THE PURATAP WATER, AND DON’T TRY TO MAKE ME FEEL INFERIOR BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO PAY $8 FOR BOTTLED GREEK WATER. Rant over.

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time by Mark Haddon

I haven’t read many book narrated by children – possibly due to my impatience with them in real life.

“Really Brendan, how many times are you going to hide around that same door when we play Hide and Seek to try to scare me?” 

Maybe I can’t relate to children because I was always too busy being the responsible older sister, and so never really got to experience a carefree, stressless existence as a kid. Sad.

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So you can imagine my fascination (and slight reluctance) when I picked up this book. It’s been on my “to-read” list for about 10 years now, mainly because of its nomination for the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year 2004 – this was back when I believed those awards were the undisputed judges of books. I happened to glance at it one day, not very long ago, on the shelf at the library. With a sigh and just a bit of curiosity, I checked it out and took it with me on my next plane trip. It was time I entered the head of a child. And what a child it happened to be…

Christopher Boone is a 15 year old boy living with Aspergers Syndrome (high functioning autism). Slightly obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, he decides to write his own murder mystery novel after he finds his neighbour’s dog stabbed to death with a pitch fork. Through his subsequent “investigation”, we get a deeper insight into the condition he lives with. Christopher has a huge dislike of physical contact (hugs are a no-no) and has the irrepressible urge to groan loudly when there are too many things happening at once in the world around him, like when he’s surrounded by people in the tube station. He loves routine and order, from his daily schedule after he gets home from school, to the fact that all his food needs to be separated by colour on his plate, with none of the colours touching.

His investigation into who killed Wellington (the dog) takes Christopher a long, long way out of his comfort zone, and he discovers a lot more about his life than he bargained for…

The novel was unexpected in its honesty and innocence. It made me sad reading how deeply afflicted Christopher was depending on how many red or yellow cars he saw on the way to school. I really felt like I was experiencing the world through his eyes. I loved the way he had the self awareness to explain how he saw the world, and how that was different to how everyone else saw it. As a mathematical genius with a logical mind, Christopher is aware on some level how irrational his behaviour is (some of the time), but is unable to stop the way he feels and reacts despite this knowledge.

This is a wonderful book to read to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It is unconventional, from the numbering of chapters to the voice who tells the story, it is emotional (because all you want to do is hug Christopher and tell him everything will be ok) and lastly, it is brilliant in its ability to make you feel both sadness and pride for all that Christopher manages to accomplish.

Not Your Ordinary Ramen

If you’re ever in need of a great, big, warm hug – but in food form, look no further than into the depths of a bowl of steaming hot ramen. And for the best bowl of ramen in town, head to Ajisen Ramen (two CBD locations in Adelaide). Despite not being a huge fan of franchised eateries, due to lack of quality control and poor consistency between stores, I have found Ajisen to be surprisingly good every time I’ve been.

My usual order of chargrilled beef ramen ($13) is more than enough to fill me up. For those who need a little extra, you can upsize for a dollar or add any extra ingredients to end up with a customised bowl.
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One of the main reasons I love Ajisen is the type of noodles they use in their ramen dishes. Forget the gluten-filled, cheap 2-minute Maggi style noodles found at most other Japanese restaurants, Ajisen use a spaghetti-like white noodle similar to udon, but slightly thinner. They maintain their elasticity and texture better than the curly noodles, and complement the bean sprouts and fungi well.

The broth, which is a pork bone white soup base (with a vegetarian broth option is available), is also very tasty without the added saltiness of MSG. You can always tell how much MSG has been added by how thirsty you are 30 minutes after your meal – the more MSG, the more you’ll feel like you’re dying of thirst.

The only thing that disappoints me occasionally about this dish is the beef. It is sometimes overcooked or a bit grisly at other times. But this shouldn’t put you off trying this place because there are so many other ramen combinations worth a try. Note that all the ramen dishes come with the same noodles, broth (pork or vegetable), bean sprouts, fungi (a type of dried, Asian mushroom), egg and spring onions. Some must-try ramen combinations include:

  • The Gyoza Ramen: with handmade steamed pork and vegetable dumplings
  • The Grilled Salmon Ramen: comes with a decent serve of skinless, boneless salmon
  • The Volcano Ramen: it will bring tears to your eyes – strictly for chilli lovers or those looking for a challenge
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