Our last local brunch in Lindfield took place on the weekend before we moved out of apartment, at Café Reborn on Pacific Highway. It was a brunch of necessity – I’d done such a successful job of meal-planning that we simply had no food left in the house for our last week. Waste not, want not!
Luckily Café Reborn had some seats available for us at the bench overlooking the highway. It was surprisingly busy on the morning that we went, with all the tables taken up by a mix of local older empty-nesters, families dropping in post-early Saturday morning Little Athletics, and other young married couples like ourselves.
Feeling a little bit dusty after a late Friday night involving multiple beers, burgers and karaoke (his work farewell party!), K ordered a Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice ($6.50) to start the meal. His tastebuds weren’t up to scratch that morning and he thought that it tasted a bit funny like it had come out of a carton. I’m happy to announce that the orange juice was very much freshly squeezed though, with a pretty garnish of a juicy orange slice and a sprig of mint.
He ordered his go-to brunch choice at any café across Sydney – corn fritters, or as Café Reborn calls it, a Stacked Corn Rosti ($14) with bacon and avocado mash. The bacon wasn’t as crispy as either of us would normally prefer, but the corn rosti did have a good charred crust on it that made it very more-ish with the creamy avocado mash.
I ordered my own go-to brunch choice – Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon on toast ($15). I liked Café Reborn’s take on salmon eggs benedict, with the addition of julienned pink lady apples on top. The sweeter sprigs of apple really helped to accentuate the savouriness of the smoked salmon, and made the whole dish very more-ish.
Overall, Café Reborn dishes up a fairly decent breakfast for a reasonable price. It’s a fairly standard neighbourhood café, and you won’t find any ground-breaking items on the menu. It’s a crowd-pleaser for those who live locally, but don’t go out of your way to visit if you’re not a local!
One of the most budget-friendly ways of trying a fancy restaurant is to go at an unconventional time, or for a faster meal. The pre-theatre dining option at most hatted restaurants in Sydney combine these two options, with a specific 5.30pm to 7pm sitting that gets you fed quickly before rushing you out the door to ensure that you can get to your seat in the theatre in time. Sokyo in The Star casino complex does a great $55 three-course pre-theatre dining option. Drinks and dessert are extra, but $55 isn’t bad when you consider that ordering off the regular a la carte menu could set you back an easy $150 per person.
K and I recently took advantage of Sokyo’s fantastic pre-theatre option before a performance of Matilda the Musical (which incidentally, is a fantastic show so go and see it while it’s still showing in Sydney!). I’d been wanting to visit Sokyo for a while, especially after rave reviews from everyone I know.
The first course offered in the pre-theatre menu is a sashimi course. There’s three options on the menu, and I opt for the Salmon Ssamjang – thinly sliced, lightly seared slices of salmon with the most amazing spicy Korean-style dressing. It’s deceptively simple, but the spice really makes it something special.
K orders the Tuna Umami, which comes dressed with Choya branded plum-flavoured umeshu. While there’s only a very subtle hint of alcohol in the tuna dressing, it really lifts the whole dish.
We decided to get a drink each as well, outside of the pre-theatre menu. A Futurama fan, K opted for the Phillip J Fry cocktail, while I chose to have the Hibiscus mocktail. The cocktail was quite tropical in nature, with a healthy dash of pineapple juice that went extremely well with the yuzu. My Hibiscus mocktail was really refreshing, with a mint and lime twist.
The second course of the Sokyo pre-theatre menu is tempura. I chose Cuttlefish Tempura, and K chose the Red Snapper Tempura. I always think that tempura is particularly difficult to get right. Done wrong, the batter is too thick and gluggy, or the tempura is too oily. Sokyo gets it right though, with an incredibly light and barely-there batter, and light and tangy dipping sauces. Even the cuttlefish is nice and soft, without that overcooked chewiness that it can sometimes have in other restaurants.
We’re served a green salad and a bowl of short-grain sushi rice each, to accompany our main meals to come. The dressing on the salad was just right – enough to lightly coat the leaves, but not drench them in oil. Serving the short grain sushi rice, flavoured lightly with rice vinegar and sugar, rather than the usual boring long-grain jasmine rice, was a nice touch as well.
My main of the Sea Scallops was a little overdone for my liking (I like my seared scallops verging on raw), but others would really enjoy the firm, plump texture and strong bold flavours of the scallops. I did enjoy it myself of course, just not as much as I would have if it had been slightly less well done!
K chose the Lamb Chop as his main, as he often complains that we don’t eat enough red meat at home so he orders it every time we dine out. I retorted that as we couldn’t possibly hope to replicate the soft tender smoky charred perfection of Sokyo’s lamb chop at home, we might as well give up before we even start!
I had to order the Goma Street dessert as soon as I saw it on the menu. I’m an absolute fiend for anything black sesame related, so although we hadn’t originally planned to have dessert at Sokyo, we ended up staying for this. It was a fantastic choice as well, with an ideal blend of sweeter chocolate, strong nuttiness of the black sesame, as well as the creamy smoothness of the ice-cream. It’s beautifully presented, though challenging for those who aren’t used to eating grey or black desserts!
K opted for the Donatsu dessert, pineapple cream filled doughnut morsels served with a sweet drizzling sauce and a creme fraiche ice-cream that was clean, crisp, and refreshing. The doughnuts by themselves were probably a tad on the sweet side, but partnered with the fresher ice-cream, it really hit the mark.
With drinks and dessert added on top of our $55 per person bill, we ended up spending closer to $200 as a couple once we added on a tip as well. Still, I think a visit to Sokyo for their pre-theatre menu is well worth it, especially if you’re planning on seeing Matilda the Musical over the next few months!
You know you’re old when your friends invite you out for drinks and a casual late dinner and instead of feeling excited, you just think longingly of your dressing gown and your warm bed. Given that I haven’t quite hit the big three oh yet and thus have no reason to start thinking about applying for the old age pension, I forced myself to get a little bit excited, put on some real clothes, and schlep out to the small bar Black Penny in Surry Hills for a Saturday night out.
K and I got there on time, which naturally means ‘half an hour before everyone else’, so we settled down with some drinks to wait for our friends. I just had a simple lemonade, but he spent some time perusing the beers, ciders and ginger beers menu before choosing the Northern Beaches-based Brookvale Union Ginger Beer. Despite the hefty price tag on this local brew, K was disappointed to find that it didn’t taste all that different from a simple Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
Once others started arriving, a number of beers, wines and spirits started flowing to our table (order and pay at the bar!). One friend who was feeling a little under the weather chose to have a whiskey tasting, featuring lesser-known whiskies such as the Big Black Cock. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I’m not quite game enough to play with it or tease it out…
If you order something off Black Penny’s food menu, you get presented with your custom order number to place on your table for their staff to bring your food out to you. Ours was Michaelangelo and a friend had Raphael – quite the pair! It makes me wonder what happens when they have any more than four food orders at any given time – do they move onto other action figurines like He-Man? Do Doctor Barbie and Astronaut Barbie get a showing as well?
Given that we had had a little snack before we headed out for our late dinner, K and I chose to simply share an entree and a main and keep it relatively light. (Also, we wanted to go for a late dessert at Erciyes down the road, because I never spend time in the area without buying a walnut dessert pide to go!)
Our entree was the Crispy Pork Belly Bites – little squares of roasted pork belly topped with the crunchiest salty crackling. Unfortunately the rest of the pork didn’t quite live up to the promise of the crackling, as it had been overcooked and parts of it were quite dry.
Our healthy choice for our main was the Vegan Stack. I have a colleague who is vegan gluten-free and I often make the mistake of thinking that her diet is really boring. When you have options like this available to you though, it’s really not a terrible lifestyle choice! This was a highlight, with a thick and juicy mushroom topped with roasted eggplant and tomato, as well as an amazing spiced tomato sauce that mixed really well with the cous cous. I really enjoyed this dish – it felt really clean on the palate, and filling too.
The main highlight of Black Penny is its extensive drinks menu, something that I find hard to take advantage of as a non-drinker. If you like a cocktail or two, and don’t mind the idea of a spirits tasting, this is the place for you. If you’re solely after food, there’s probably better and cheaper alternatives available in the area.