Good Food Month: Street Fest and Night Noodle Markets

While there’s always a lot of different exciting foodie events on for Good Food Month every year, for the most part they’re largely beyond my budget. As much as I would love to pay $150 for a Hats Off Dinner, I can’t justify the expense! I resign myself to enjoying the Let’s Do Lunch (read my review of The Bridge Room), Let’s Do Dessert and my favourite events – the budget-friendly, crowd-pleasing pop up markets.

This year I attended Street Fest in Pyrmont Point Park, a gathering of Sydney’s food trucks, and of course, everyone’s perennial favourite – the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park. The photos in this entry are from a few different nights, so you’ll have to excuse the difference in quality – some are from an iPhone, others from a proper camera!

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Street Fest was designed to appeal to a younger and more hipster crowd than the Night Noodle Markets. For one night only, Sydney’s best food trucks would converge on Pyrmont Point Park and DJs and dance groups would showcase the best in R’n’B and hip hop tunes and moves.

In reality, it was a haphazard event with inadequate lighting that saw groups of young people stumble over each other in the dark and swear at the ridiculously long queues for food. K and I went with a group of friends, and we had quite a mixed experience.

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The sugar cane juice we bought from one stand was flavoured with lime juice, which helped to temper the sweetness of the sugar cane, making a very drinkable and more-ish juice.

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Our first food stop was Agape Organic Food Truck, an offshoot of Agape Organic Restaurant in Botany. I have to be honest – the main reason we chose this option was because the line was relatively short, and we couldn’t be bothered waiting longer somewhere more popular like Eat Art Truck.

It turned out to be the right choice though, as the shorter line was more representative of the efficiency of the staff and their system, rather than any deficiencies in their food! Agape Food Truck use a buzzer system that notifies you when your order is ready, saving the staff from having to shout out order numbers and customers from lingering within a ten metre radius.

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Pulled Wagyu beef and rice (10 hour slow braised grass fed gundooee wagyu beef, rice & quinoa, coleslaw, bbq sauce, chimichurri), $12 and Small Hand-cut chips, $5

We waited only about fifteen minutes until our buzzer went off and we collected our order. The pulled wagyu beef was deliciously tender, and was really set off nicely by the chimmichurri on top. The coleslaw was nice and crunchy, but unfortunately the rice was a bit gluggy. Overall, it wasn’t a bad meal!

The hand-cut chips were a hit though, with all our friends helping themselves to a few chips while they waited in vain for their Eat Art Truck orders to come through (it took over an hour!).

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Chilorio Pork Burrito Desnudo (‘naked’ burrito with pork cooked in citrus and guajillo), $11.50

Our next stop was Cantina Movil for some Mexican food. Trying to keep my kilojoules down (ha!), I chose a burrito in a bowl, rather than wrapped in the traditional style. This was particularly tasty – the chilli pork went really well with the chipotle mayonnaise, and had that extra special tang from a squeeze of citrus.

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Lining up at Tsuru, I had my eye on the pandan pancakes for dessert. Unfortunately, as I reached third in line, the staff removed the pancakes option from the board, with everyone groaning and complaining as a result. So close, and yet so far!

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Salted palm sugar ice-cream bun, $6

I settled for a salted palm sugar ice-cream bun instead. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – their savoury bun options used the white soft steamed Chinese-style bun, but obviously you can’t use a hot steamed bun with ice-cream. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that they used a Hong Kong style cocktail bun as the bun. The coconut of the cocktail bun just went perfectly with the palm sugar ice-cream – a real hit!

Unfortunately, while the concept of Street Fest was well-intentioned, the execution just didn’t work. One example that stuck in my mind was the fact that while food trucks were banned from selling drinks (all drinks had to be purchased from the bar on site), they didn’t take that into account with their meal prices.

My friend tried to order one of Eat Art Truck‘s meals advertised on their regular menu on the side of the van – burger, chips and a drink for $15. They still charged him $15 though they wouldn’t serve him a drink, saying that he had to buy the drink separately by lining up at the bar. Surely, the owners of Eat Art Truck should have taken the “no beverage sales” policy into account, and reduced the usual meal cost accordingly? It’s only a little thing, but it’s that kind of negative experience that sticks in your mind unfortunately!

Our next stop a few days later was the Night Noodle Markets. The weather forecast was grim, which meant that everyone stayed home, leaving the markets dead quiet. Deciding to take our chances, we showed up anyway and enjoyed the bliss of having no queues. And the rain held off! Win win. There on a double date with a former colleague and her husband, we wandered around looking at all the stalls at the markets this year.

Sticky Rice with Mango from Span Thai, $12

Sticky Rice with Mango from Span Thai, $12

Agreeing that dessert was the ideal way to start our evening, I ordered sticky rice with mango from Span Thai. It came with a warm coconut sauce that really enhances the strong sweet tropical flavours of the just-in-season fresh mango, and helped make the slightly-dry sticky rice more palatable.

Lemon, ginger and mint ice tea from Span Thai, $5

Lemon, ginger and mint ice tea from Span Thai, $5

K was also complaining of thirst at this point, so I also got a lemon ice tea for us to share from the same stall. Lightly flavoured with ginger and mint, the tea was very refreshing and definitely hit the spot.

Korean Chips on a Stick, $6

Korean Chips on a Stick, $6

Moving along, one of the few stalls with a queue in front of it on this gloomy overcast evening was “Korean Chips on a Stick”. It’s a simple concept, and one we had while we were in Korea earlier this year – though ours was a bit fancier as it also had a sausage in the middle! I’d have to be honest though – this was probably a tastier version, as the chips was crispy on the outside though still soft in the inside. We chose to have the “special spice mix” on our chips on a stick, which consisted of chicken salt, salt and vinegar, lemon pepper, barbecue, satay, cheese, chilli, pepper and salt. It was an amazing combination of both chilli burn and salty mouth-puckering.

Three Gua Baos (braised pork belly, twice cooked pork belly and fried silky tofu) from Wonderbao, $20

Three Gua Baos (braised pork belly, twice cooked pork belly and fried silky tofu) from Wonderbao, $20

Wonderbao has definitely been the hit of the Night Noodle Markets this year though – you only have to look at Instagram to know! I was really glad when I heard that they would be making an appearance in Sydney’s markets, as I still haven’t managed to make my way to their Melbourne base despite my frequent trips down south. We chose their special of three “gua baos” for $20, which consisted of:

  • Braised pork belly with pickled mustard, coriander and crushed peanuts
  • Twice cooked pork belly with pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber and hoisin sauce
  • Fried silky tofu with pickled mustard, coriander, sweet soy and crushed peanuts

As much as I loved the tender mouth-watering goodness of the pork belly bao, I have to say the standout for me was probably the tofu bao. I really wasn’t expecting much, so to be surprised with crispy-skinned soft tofu with a subtle yet effective accompaniment of peanuts and soy…it blew my mind.

Rice Burger with Tenderous Pork Rib from One Tea Bar and Grill, $13.50

Rice Burger with Tenderous Pork Rib from One Tea Bar and Grill, $13.50

Last year’s fad of the Ramen Burger drew both positive and negative comments – I even created my own slider version. Rice burgers are this year’s fad offering, which reminds me of the rice burger created by Dani Venn on Masterchef back in 2011. This version was…interesting. If you don’t go into it expecting a bun that tastes like a bread roll, you’ll probably quite enjoy it – the pork rib is marinated really well in a BBQ sauce, and the chewier rice burger actually goes well with the tender meat as it lends some texture to each mouthful. Served with a small side salad and some watermelon to cleanse the palate, it’s actually a really good value meal.

Mee Goreng from May's Laksa House

Mee Goreng from May’s Laksa House, $12

The last main of the night that K and I shared was the mee goreng from May’s Laksa House. Notably, not a laksa. It’s a decent mee goreng though with plenty of “wok hei”, though I would personally have preferred a touch more chilli and spice – I always feel like Malaysian food is a bit lacking if you don’t finish with a burning mouth!

Phuc Khing Tasty and Street Hawker desserts from Gelato Messina, $9 each

Phuc Khing Tasty and Street Hawker desserts from Gelato Messina, $9 each

We finished the night with two of Gelato Messina’s dessert offerings designed specifically for the markets. My colleague and her husband shared the Phuc Khing Tasty, and K and I shared the Street Hawker:

  • Phuc Khing Tasty – Cinnamon scroll, coffee gelato, condensed milk pannacotta, walnut crunch, asian spiced cookie
  • Street Hawker – lime and chocolate brownie, peanut gelato, coconut and caramel jam, fortune cookie clusters, peanut cookie

I think K would have liked to try the Phuc Khing Tasty as he loves coffee gelato, but as I’m more of a peanut girl, I convinced him to share the Street Hawker with me instead. It was very very more-ish (the lime and chocolate brownie in particular), and Gelato Messina continues to impress. I would go back before the markets end this year to try their other two custom desserts!

Angus Beef Salad from The Star, $12

Angus Beef Salad from The Star, $12

The following night, we returned to the Noodle Markets on a whim – K’s colleagues wanted to play ping pong at the Nova Ping Pong tent, so we went along as well. It was much busier on our second visit, as the weather forecast was good and we found ourselves battling the crowds and queues.

Succumbing to our grumbling stomachs and reluctant to queue for half an hour or more, we satiated our initial hunger pangs at the stall with the shortest queue, run by The Star casino. We were apprehensive at what we would get, but soon realised that the short line wasn’t due to terrible food, but merely to extreme efficiency on the part of the staff. It was less than five minutes from the point that we started queuing to when we actually received our Angus Beef Salad.

The Vietnamese style warm salad of beef and vermicelli noodles was very heavy on the lemongrass – almost too much so. However, it did the job and kept us satiated while we lined up for Jackie M‘s Malaysian cuisine.

Chicken CKT from Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine, $16

Chicken CKT from Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine, $16

The staff were churning out serve after serve of CKT, rotis, and curries but almost couldn’t keep up with demand – there were just that many people waiting for their serve of some of the best Malaysian food in Sydney! We ordered a chicken CKT (with a spoonful of sambal sauce), and also ordered a serve of otak-otak (grilled spicy fishcake in banana leaf) and pulut panggang (grilled sticky rice in banana leaf with spicy dried shrimp and coconut), unpictured.

It was the first time I’d ever tried pulut panggang which I found a really interesting mix of savoury and near-sweet. The otak-otak was as good as ever (better than my usual serve at Sambal in North Ryde) and the CKT full of wok hei. In the darkness of Hyde Park, K’s colleague accidentally had the spoonful of sambal sauce in one full mouthful, rather than mixing it through his CKT first…he definitely regretted that decision!

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All in all, the Night Noodle Markets are always an enjoyable experience – more so when you don’t have to queue for over half an hour at each stall! It’s always interesting to see what new stalls and new dishes will make an appearance each year – and which will stick around. Personally, I’m hoping that Wonderbao will decide to open up a branch in Sydney, so I can have that delicious tofu bao more often!


Review: Ormeggio at the Spit, Mosman

Wind the clock back four years to when I was still living in Melbourne and not yet in a relationship with K. As friends, I went on a night out with him and a group of others when he was in Melbourne for a short weekend break. Much drinking was had. Slightly intoxicated and holding onto each other as we stumbled down the street, K promptly walked me straight into a pole and I found myself nursing the bruises for weeks afterwards.

Luckily, his way of courting me is now much more romantic! We recently celebrated three years together with a romantic long Sunday lunch by the water at Ormeggio at the Spit. It’s an amazing location, and definitely a step or two above drinking in a dodgy bar and inflicting bruises on each other in a drunken haze!

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Ormeggio is located in a nondescript building to the left of Spit Road, right before you drive over the bridge. Parking can be very tricky on a weekend, especially as the sun was shining the day that we went and everyone was out in force to jump into their boats or else indulge in other water sports.

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You walk through the strangest boat sales building before you finally go through a sliding door and find the classy understated elegance of Ormeggio. We arrived early, and took our seats before the rest of the lunch crowd showed up.

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Luckily, even though I hadn’t asked for a table by the water, we were seated right at the edge of the room. With the blinds up, we could enjoy the calmness of the sun glittering off the water. Our view also allowed us to speculate about the price of the houses on the water’s edge, and fantasise about a day when we too would be able to afford a dream home like that with a view to die for.

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We settled into our seats and started our meal with a few nibblies compliments of the chef. The sour cream on a wafer thin cracker really helped to whet the appetite, not to mention the moreishness of the deep-fried cheese ball.

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Having already scrutinised the menu online, I knew that I wanted to order the eight-course emozioni degustation menu. At only $112 per head ($196 with matching wines), it’s one of the best value hatted degustation menus that you’ll find in Sydney.

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Lychee Delight (frozen) with lychees, strawberry purée, rose water and cranberry juice, $11

Still on my no-alcohol kick (it’s doing wonders for my skin and overall health!), I asked our waiter for the non-alcoholic strawberry mojito mocktail. He hesitated and then said “If Madam is wanting an alcohol-free drink, might I suggest the Lychee Delight? It is frozen, so perfect for today’s weather. It’s one of my favourites.”

Who am I to argue with the expert? I’m very glad I took his advice, as the beautiful aromas of the lychees and rosewater in the mocktail were incredibly intoxicating and appealing. It really was the perfect mocktail to accompany my lunch.

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Cichetti – egg with mousse and pancetta

With each meal, you receive some cichetti from the chefs. On this particular day, we enjoyed a slow cooked egg that had been infused with sheep’s milk, mousse, and topped with crispy pancetta and flavoured with black pepper. A very simple dish that melted into nothing on your tongue, leaving only the smoky pancetta flavours behind.

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Ormeggio bakery organic warm sourdough with homemade whipped ricotta

I can also never stop myself from overindulging in house-made warm sourdough bread, especially if it’s served with light and fluffy whipped ricotta. With a generous spread of ricotta and a sprinkle of sea salt, the crusty sourdough could have made for a very simple and satisfying meal in itself – it’s just the type of breakfast I would enjoy every day!

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Glacier 51 toothfish – baccala – green peas – basil

Our first official course of the day was lightly grilled toothfish served with the highlight of the dish – baccala, or salted cod. The cod was pureed into a tasty mash that really added a depth of flavour, and the fresh peas added texture, to this fresh and simple dish that’s just perfect for summer.

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Biodynamic veal tonnato

The next course was Ormeggio’s famous veal tartare. It’s listed on the menu as being “veal tonnato” which I’m told is a classic Italian dish that’s more commonly served as chilled cooked veal with a creamy mayonnaise sauce. This is the fancier hatted version though – the veal is finely minced (by knife, not machine!) and served with dollops of tangy mayonnaise, pine nuts and thin slivers of baby radish.

Mixed together, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the dish considering my usual distaste for raw meat and beef tartare. It really helps that the veal doesn’t have the usual strong flavour that you often find, and is surprisingly mild. The pine nuts and radish also serve to add some interesting crunchy and crispy texture to an otherwise soft dish.

On a separate note, I love the crockery and serving plates used at Ormeggio! Each piece is I assume, carved individually as K’s wooden serving platter was slightly different to mine. I’d love to find out where they order their crockery from – they’re all so unique and I would love to own one as a statement piece that I could use for dinner parties!

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taglioni – mascarpone – cryctal bay prawns – bottaga di pilu – lemon

The first hearty course , bridging the gap between the lighter entrees and heavier mains, was a simple creamy and cheesy pasta with plump juicy prawns. The mascarpone is a very mild choice of dressing for the pasta, negating the need for both a sauce and a cheese. It serves to keep the pasta moist and slightly al dente, as well as adding a slight cheese flavour that is highly enhanced by the lemon zest. The sprinkling of bottaga (fish roe) really helps this dish sing with subtle flavours that combine well.

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Having finished my Lychee Delight mocktail quickly, I asked our waiter for another mocktail of his recommendation. The sommelier ended up bringing this pear mocktail over to me, which no longer seems to be available on the menu. It was a great combination of cloudy apple juice and pureed pear, topped with the thinnest slice of pear I’ve ever seen.

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john dory – chick peas – kale – squid ink

Our next course was, I’m afraid to say, not one of my favourites of the day. While the John Dory was grilled to perfection and the kale nice and crispy, the elements on the plate combined didn’t lead to any feelings of mouthgasming. I just really didn’t feel like the chickpea puree added much to the dish!

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tortelli filled with chicken parfait – globe artichoke – parmesan – olives

The next course of the tortelli was a much better dish though, and one of my favourites of the lunch! Filled with sinfully rich chicken parfait, each bite into a tortelli yielded a mouth explosion of intense flavour. With the few olive shavings on top and artichoke slivers, this dish really offered something special for a parfait lover.

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suckling pig – jerusalem artichoke – green apple – fennel

Our final main of the degustation was a soft melt-in-your-mouth suckling pig with a crunchy hard crackling that gave a satisfying crack every time you tapped it with your knife. Accompanied with wafer-thin apple slices, tiny roasted potatoes and a sweet apple sauce, this was a wonderful example of a hearty roast dinner turned fancy.

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lemon myrtle – passionfruit – organic Tasmanian honey

Our palate cleansers arrived just as K dashed out to put a bit more money on the parking meter. The lemon myrtle and passionfruit foam bubbled on the tongue not unlike having a sip of champagne, creating little bursts of flavour that quickly dissipated leaving us ready for the last course of dessert.

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coconut – mandarin – lemongrass

This dessert! I think I’ve over-used the word “orgasmic” in this blog entry already, but if ever there was a dish that was truly orgasmic, this would be it. The silky smooth and creamy coconut pannacotta contrasted with the lemongrass gelato and the mandarin granita…pure magic. The concentrated mandarin gel provided this really intense citrus tang that just completed the dish and put the metaphorical icing on the cake on an amazing four-hour lunch.

Our degustation lunch at Ormeggio was such a wonderful experience, and an amazing way to celebrate our anniversary. The quality and amount of loving dedication that goes into each plate is clear to see. Backed up with superb service and a fantastic scenic location, Ormeggio really ticks all the boxes for that ‘special dining experience’. It’s a bit harder to get to when compared to other hatted places located in the city, but the trip is worth it. I highly recommend that everyone consider Ormeggio as their next ‘special occasion’ destination!

Ormeggio at the Spit on Urbanspoon


Review: Let’s Do Lunch at The Bridge Room, Sydney

Windswept and rain-soaked, I arrived on the doorstep of The Bridge Room at 11.50am, ten minutes early for a 12pm booking with a friend. “Sorry Madam, but we’re not ready to receive guests yet as we’re still setting up,” the maitre d apologises. Grimacing slightly, I returned to the adverse weather conditions outside to find shelter for the ten minutes before the restaurant officially opened. Not, I’m afraid, the most auspicious start!

When I returned to meet my friend, I walked through to our table, admiring the simple understated decor of the restaurant with its few statement pieces of art. The tables around us quickly filled up, and the restaurant was full by 12.30pm with a varied audience from suited people on business lunches, groups of ladies who lunch, and other young people like us who were clearly taking advantage of The Bridge Room’s Let’s Do Lunch deal as part of Good Food Month.

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Lunch at a two-hatted restaurant is not something that is usually within my financial means – the Let’s Do Lunch special makes it affordable though! For only $38, you get a main, a beverage (glass of Yalumba wine, Coopers beer or Schweppes still or sparkling water), as well as tea or coffee to end the meal. While it’s still not a cheap meal, it certainly beats paying their usual $150+ for a three course meal with a glass of wine.

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The main dish this year is a grilled Cone Bay barramundi fillet on a tomato broth, topped with fennel, coriander, cardamom yoghurt and ‘grains’ which I believe mainly turned out to be puffed rice – or something similar. The barramundi was grilled well, with a crispy and slightly caramelised and sticky skin, and soft, tender and succulent meat. I felt like the tangy yet sweet tomato broth that the barramundi sat on was the main flavour enhancer in this dish, as both the fennel and the cardamom yoghurt were quite mild.

Those with big appetites be warned though – this is quite a small serving. I found myself supplementing this dish with a few slices of their complimentary house bread to fill up to a satisfactory level. Rye and sourdough are both available, and the service staff are quite prompt with coming around with the bread board.

I have to be honest as well – it didn’t strike me as a two-hat quality dish. I’ve been to one-hat places that delivered a better main than what I ate, and even non-hatted restaurants that provided a better meal. That may be a failing of the Let’s Do Lunch concept though – perhaps I would be more impressed if I did splash out for a full-priced three course meal?

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When we ordered our tea and coffee, this tiny little bowl of sugar cubes was delivered to our table. I went into raptures over how cute it was, and demanded that my friend hand-model it for me. Honestly – isn’t it cute?

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My friend ordered a soy flat white – the foam on top looked a little inconsistent.

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I ordered a pot of the Gyokuro tea by T2, described as “High grade Japanese green tea with a rich, savoury aroma and a creamy, complex grass-toned flavour”. Served in a traditional cast iron teapot, the tea was extremely potent and strong and helped to fortify me for battling the adverse weather as I left The Bridge Room.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed by my meal at The Bridge Room. When my friend and I first started talking about doing a Let’s Do Lunch, we decided to try somewhere hatted that we normally couldn’t afford – Aria and The Bridge Room being the main choices. I can’t help feeling like we should have tried Aria instead.

Maybe I just need to try The Bridge Room for a fully paid multi-course dinner though? Surely two hats, a Chef of the Year Award, and a Hottest Chef in Australia award can’t all be wrong?

The Bridge Room on Urbanspoon