Review: Pecorino, Gordon

The past two months has been a whirlwind of decluttering, giving away possessions, packing, and general preparation for our upcoming move out of our apartment, eight months of travel, and move down to Melbourne. It feels as though we’re going through a state of rapid change at the moment, and it’s really affecting our stress levels. Early in August we tried to give ourselves a bit of a break from the constant parade of brown boxes through our apartment, and took off for a late Sunday lunch at Pecorino in Gordon. It’s only half an hour’s walk up the road, but that break and little bit of fresh air really helped to clear our heads!

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Pecorino is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cafe on the quiet side of the train tracks in Gordon with enough room for about thirty seats inside, but they do take advantage of outdoor seating that bumps numbers up to about fifty. It was very quiet when we were there, having missed the leisurely Sunday brunch crowds.

Cappucino

Cappuccino

K’s been off coffee for two months now. It all started when he realised that he was having over four coffees a day, and was becoming uncomfortably addicted to the caffeine hit. He’s now cut back to only having one or two a week, which means of course that the sole coffee that he allows himself has to be totally superb! Unfortunately while the Cappuccino he ordered was more than adequate as a coffee from a suburban cafe, it wasn’t anything special.

Corn fritters with tomato chutney and a poached egg

Corn fritters with tomato chutney and a poached egg

He also ordered the Corn Fritters which turned out to be surprisingly delicious. The chutney it was served with was well-spiced and had a real kick to it. The runny yolk on the poached egg on top mixed well with this chutney and became an excellent full-bodied dipping sauce for the crispy corn fritters. Quite delicious and more-ish.

Soft-boiled eggs and avocado on sourdough toast with grilled haloumi and a side of smoked salmon

Soft-boiled eggs and avocado on sourdough toast with grilled haloumi and a side of smoked salmon

I chose something simple – soft-boiled Eggs and Avocado on Toast with Grilled Haloumi. I also ordered an extra side-serve of Smoked Salmon, one of my go-to ingredients whenever I eat out for brunch as I love it but rarely buy it for meals at home. The eggs were a little more well-cooked than on K’s dish, which worked well for this dish. Unfortunately the haloumi wasn’t grilled as much as I would like but at least the salmon was fresh and savoury. The soft grated parmesan on top really helped to pull the whole dish together.

Pecorino’s nothing special to look at from the outside, but it serves up a surprisingly good plate of food for a decent price. Service was a little patchy even though the cafe was quiet when we visited, so I can only see how it would become a little unreliable during peak periods. It’s a decent small neighbourhood cafe. Too bad we only discovered it as we’re moving out of the area!

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Review: Shanghai Dumpling, Chatswood

I wonder what area of Sydney has the highest turnover of new restaurants? The CBD of course, and potentially somewhere like Newtown as well. Chatswood would definitely be in the running. While there are the old favourites that have been there for a million years, there’s a few areas where you’ll see a new restaurant once a year. That’s the only explanation for the fact that K and I have lived in that Mid-North Shore area for four years and still haven’t been to every restaurant in Chatswood!

One of these restaurants is Shanghai Dumpling, a second branch of the original Ashfield store. I’m not sure when they opened up but it must be recent as everything is still gleaming with that newly renovated shininess. One of the highlights here as you walk past is seeing the dumplings made in real time. Two people stand in the window with differen dumpling fillings in front of them and quickly and deftly fold each dumpling into its skin.

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It’s very busy on the weekend that we visit for lunch, and we waited a little while for a table. This wait was further extended as we waited for the waitress to come and take our order, and then again for the food to come out. In hindsight, the amount of waiting we did was probably standard for most restaurants, however as we were expecting the speedy surly service of other Chinese restaurants in this price range, it seemed to take a lot longer! It did make us wonder how they were making ends meet when they’re charging the same low prices but not turning over as many tables as other similar restaurants.

Stir fried noodles with five spicy beef, $11.80

Stir fried noodles with five spicy beef, $11.80

Though dumplings are their specialty, K wanted to test them on one of the noodle dishes on the menu – stir fried noodles with five spicy beef. While the beef was excellent (I love this type of cold roasted beef), the noodles were less impressive. They were definitely overcooked, and it seemed as though rather than strictly stir-frying them, they had been first blanched in water before being slathered with a mix of Maggi seasoning and sesame oil. They were a bit over-cooked and a bit gloopy – quite disappointing.

Chive and prawn dumplings and Chinese cabbage and pork dumplings, $15

Chive and prawn dumplings and Chinese cabbage and pork dumplings, $15

The dumplings made up for the disappointment of the noodles though! We ordered a half serve each of two of the daily specials – chive & prawn, and Chinese cabbage & pork. Shanghai Dumpling rotates the variety of dumplings flavours every day, so these two may not be available on the day you attend! If you do come across the chive & prawn combination though, I highly recommend ordering it as I’ve never tasted prawn dumplings of this quality – not even at New Shanghai or Din Tai Fung! The dumpling was absolutely stuffed with fresh, firm prawn meat flavoured lightly with fresh chives. The dumpling skin was thin and perfectly cooked without that stickiness or mushiness that can often happen.

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In the future, I wouldn’t bother ordering anything other than dumplings off the menu at Shanghai Dumpling. The noodles are subpar, so the dry steamed dumplings are the way to go. I’d possibly be interested in ordering the dumplings in soup next time as well…plus, apparently they offer frozen dumplings to take home which I’m definitely tempted by!

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Review: Gowings Bar and Grill, Sydney

To cap off my friend Jake’s recent stay in Sydney, he treated K and I out to a nice dinner at Gowings Bar and Grill. I protested initially, wanting to find somewhere a bit more budget-friendly, but he said, “Look, you’ve saved me $400 by allowing me to sleep on your couch the past few nights, so I have a bit of money to spend on dinner!”.

Luckily, we managed to walk in and get an early table at 6pm without a reservation on the proviso that we could vacate by 8pm. As the night progressed, you could see why they had such strict rules around dining times as the tables filled up quickly even on a Sunday night. Wait staff had to be quick on their feet to keep up with demand and unfortunately we were left waiting once or twice when things got busy.

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As we perused the menu, the waiter came back with some warm bread and Pepe Saya butter to start. I loved the softness of the baked bread roll, and I needn’t talk about how excellent Pepe Saya butter is as everyone already knows about the deliciousness of the handcrafted butter.

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Gowings has an extensive wine and cocktail list, thanks in large part to their popular cocktail bar adjacent to the restaurant. K opted for a Negroni, Jake chose a Floozie cocktail, and I searched the menu in vain for alcohol-free mocktails. When I asked the waitress who was taking our order, she simply said, “Oh, we can do mocktails to order. What kind do you prefer?” It would have been great to see a note to that effect on the drinks menu! Nevertheless, my “sweet” mocktail “with berries please” was very fresh, spritzy, and more-ish when it did arrive, so I can at least rate their mocktail efforts highly.

Barely seared sumac ocean trout fillet (lentils & carrots, 64d free range egg, raw green bean, radish and chive salad, served rare at room temperature), $36

Barely seared sumac ocean trout fillet (lentils & carrots, 64d free range egg, raw green bean, radish and chive salad, served rare at room temperature), $36

K goes a bit mad for anything that’s been cooked in a water bath, so the Ocean Trout Fillet was his main course of choice. The free range poached egg, cooked at a consistent 64 degrees Celsius is the star of the show here. Glistening proudly on top of the trout, a river of runny golden yolk bursts forth as soon as you touch it with your fork. The trout was deliciously tender and the bed of lentils crunchy and lightly spiced. Combined with the runny egg, it’s simply divine.

Pepper "Steak au Poivre" (Angus Hereford, Cape Grim TAS, 250g) with Gowings Red & Green Whole Peppercorn Sauce with Cognac, $38

Pepper “Steak au Poivre” (Angus Hereford, Cape Grim TAS, 250g) with Gowings Red & Green Whole Peppercorn Sauce with Cognac, $38

Jake’s recent break-up has meant that he’s been spending a lot more time in the kitchen preparing meals – with a lot more meat than he used to eat. He’s determined to perfect a medium-rare steak, and has been following Heston Blumenthal’s method. This Steak Au Poivre at the Gowings Bar & Grill has set a standard that he wants to emulate at home – perfectly cooked medium-rare pink steak, with a delicious creamy pepper sauce.

Seafood Pie (filled with snapper, ocean trout, prawns and scallops in a puff pastry crust), $42

Seafood Pie (filled with snapper, ocean trout, prawns and scallops in a puff pastry crust), $42

I generally opt for seafood when given the choice, and the Seafood Pie caught my eye. I always think it’s hard to serve up the perfect seafood pie as more often than not, the seafood in the mix gets overcooked and becomes too dry or chewy. It’s a test that Gowings passed with flying colours – the pastry was sinfully buttery and rich, the pie filling creamy, and seafood fresh and full of flavour. It was a fantastic mix of seafood as well, with fish, prawns, clams, mussels and fat juicy scallops all making an appearance.

Sauteed mixed mushrooms, mint, parsley baked in a paper bag, $10 and Paris Mash, $10

Sauteed mixed mushrooms, mint, parsley baked in a paper bag, $10 and Paris Mash, $10

We ordered some sides to share. I had just a small amount of the Paris Mash as my seafood pie is already quite potato-y, but I do enjoy the little that I have – it’s ridiculously buttery and creamy, but still has enough texture to make it more than boring mashed baby-style food. The Sauteed Mixed Mushrooms were completely excellent and more-ish with just that slightest twinge of mint to elevate the earthiness of the dish.

The French American Warm Butter Cake, $16

The French American Warm Butter Cake, $16

I’d never heard of a French American Warm Butter Cake before, but the description on the menu was enough to make Jake’s mouth water: “Sweet n sour poached vanilla strawberries, a hint of chilli, young basil, chocolate and almond chips. Super iced down like really cold double pouring cream.” Not just cream – it’s super iced down cream! While I can’t speak to the dish as a whole, Jake certainly seemed pleased with his choice and the strawberries that I sampled were certainly extremely flavourful and quite unique.

Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, $16

Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, $16

K opted for the Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, served in an interesting large-handled dish. I particularly liked the texture and punch of flavour offered by the salted caramel crisps on top, but the dish as a whole was very enjoyable with a smooth white chocolate cream.

My Pavlova, $16

My Pavlova, $16

I opted for a slightly unusual take on an Australian classic – the My Pavlova. While it still features the classics of vanilla cream and passionfruit pulp, Gowings has given this classic dessert a bit of an Asian twist with the added toppings of coconut (fresh green coconut flesh, and candied toasted coconut) as well as sliced bananas. It’s quite south-east Asian in that respect, and the dessert is heightened and enhanced by this melding of flavours. The only thing that could have topped it is if they had added some pandan flavouring to the cream!

Overall, Gowings offers a pretty top-rate dining experience. Our meal was necessarily quick as we didn’t have a reservation, but I can see how it would be a great place to enjoy a long meal over several excellent cock/mocktails. The bill does start to add up though and before you know it, you’re shelling out three figures per person – so I would reserve this one for special occasions only.

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