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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Brewtown Newtown

Nutella crunch cruffin at Brewtown Newtown

Move over cronuts. The cruffin is in town. Cruffin? That's a croissant crossed with a muffin, the latest baking hybrid to hit the counter at Brewtown, Newtown.

Kees van der Westen espresso machine at Brewtown Newtown
Kees van der Westen espresso machine

Since opening a year ago, Brewtown Newtown has cemented itself as a local favourite. It's more unusual to walk straight in and sit down, than to join the snaking queue. The ex-bookshop (it used to be a Berkelouw Books store) has been converted into a buzzy cafe. Run by the same crew as Gnome, coffee is at the forefront of its priorities. That means a Kees van der Westen espresso machine at the front, and a Steampunk Mod by Alpha Dominiche brewing filter coffee to exact specifications.

Cold brew coffee at Brewtown Newtown
Cold brew coffee $6

On a hot summer's day, we went with the cold brew - mellow and rounded with citrus notes - and the iced black coffee. They don't add ice cream to their iced coffee which means you still get the taste of coffee, not sugar, with every mouthful.

Iced black coffee with milk at Brewtown Newtown
Iced black coffee with milk $3.50

90s Nightmare vegetable bruschetta at Brewtown Newtown
90s Nightmare $12
Mediterranean vegetables bruschetta, basil pesto, olives, spicy white bean mash and parmesan

The breakfast and lunch menus are both available all day. That means you can have grilled black sausages or Belgian waffles at 8am or 3pm. Mr Manchego, however, is more than happy to embrace the 90s Nightmare, a cheeky rendition of bruschetta. It's a door-stop sized slab of sourdough toast smothered with a panfried spicy white bean mash and then piled high with grilled mushrooms, red capsicum, fennel and watercress. Drizzles of pesto, dabs of olive tapenade and shavings of parmesan cheese complete the flashback.

Rare sesame crust yellow fin tuna at Brewtown Newtown
Rare sesame crust yellow fin tuna $24
with cucumber and seaweed salad and wasabi mayonnaise

I'm tempted to get the Elvis - a beef patty with Canadian bacon sandwiched between a savoury Brewnut - but end up ordering the rare sesame crust yellow fin tuna instead. I'm so glad I did.

Rare sesame crust yellow fin tuna at Brewtown Newtown
Rare sesame crust yellow fin tuna

It's a masterfully executed dish, two huge slices of rare tuna cooked evenly around its perimeter while the centre remains a soft and silky pink. The bed of cucumber and seaweed salad is sweet and acidic, the fine julienne of cucumber adding a delicate elegance. Everything gets mopped up in a generous drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise. I scrape my plate clean.

Chocolate muffins at Brewtown Newtown
Chocolate muffins

With lunch out of the way, I'm scoping out all the desserts. The chocolate muffins on the counter beckon, but it's hard not to be drawn into the army of Brewnuts, their version of the cronut that first appeared at Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York.

Brewnut menu at Brewtown Newtown
Brewnut menu

The Brewnuts are stacked inside and on top of the glass counter at the front. It's extraordinarily hard to choose.

Passionfruit curd brewnut cronut at Brewtown Newtown
Passionfruit curd brewnut $6

Glazed brewnut cronut at Brewtown Newtown
Glazed brewnut $4.50

Glazed brewnut cronut at Brewtown Newtown
Glazed brewnut 

Candied pineapple brewnut cronut at Brewtown Newtown
Candied pineapple, coconut cream, cranberry and pistachio brewnut $6

Cinnamon brewnut cronut at Brewtown Newtown
Cinnamon brewnut $4.50

I go with the classic cinnamon brewnut, the lofty ring dusted in cinnamon sugar.

Cinnamon brewnut cronut layers at Brewtown Newtown
Brewnut cross-section

There's a good cross-section of layers although it's a little heavier than the Dominique Ansel original.

Nutella crunch cruffin at Brewtown Newtown
Nutella crunch cruffin $6

And I can't resist the Nutella crunch cruffin either.

Hazelnuts on the Nutella crunch cruffin at Brewtown Newtown
Hazelnuts on the Nutella crunch cruffin 

The muffin-shaped swirl of croissant dough is crowned with Nutella and a generous crust of crushed hazelnuts.

Nutella crunch cruffin at Brewtown Newtown
Nutella innards

Inside the cruffin, there's a bounty of oozing Nutella goodness. It's like striking liquid gold. There's much to like here: the flaky croissant edges at the top, the crunch of hazelnuts, and that honeypot of Nutella that makes everything all right with the world.

Egyptian rose ice tea at Brewtown Newtown
Egyptian rose ice tea $6

Looking for a counter balance to all that sweetness? The Egyptian rose ice tea works wonders, not overly strong on the rose front, but a welcome respite from the sugar rush.

And while the upstairs balcony has been used in the past to host O'Connell Merchants, we hear that Brewtown will soon be expanding to use it as a permanent bakery selling sourdough breads and more. We can't wait. Bring on the carbs.

Diners inside Brewtown Newtown
Diners inside Brewtown

Brewnut and cruffin counter at Brewtown Newtown

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

Brewtown Newtown
6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9519 2920
Open 7 days 8am-4pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
The original cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York

Newtown - Luxe Bakery Cafe
Newtown - The Pie Tin
Surry Hills - Gnome Espresso and Wine Bar

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/21/2014 03:56:00 am

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood and Knafeh, North Strathfield

Double Fat Boy burger at Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood

There's a new wave of food trucks trundling around Sydney and I'm excited. And hungry. This next generation are focussed on doing one or two things only. And doing them well. Sydneysiders can't get enough of them.

Take Mister Gee Burger Truck. They do one burger. Fries. And one type of shake. Who needs to fuss with endless menu variations? They first propped open their shutter on November 5 but have already gathered a legion of burger-loving fans in just six weeks.

Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash

Mister Gee has one thing going for it. A semi-permanent location - for the moment anyway. When Burwood Deluxe Car Wash finishes up for the day, Mister Gee moves in. They currently set up every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Mister Gee Burger Truck menu at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Mister Gee Burger Truck menu (the burger changes regularly)

We turn up at 6.50pm to find a queue of twenty people already perched on milk crates set up in front of the truck. At 7.07pm the shutter opens and the crowd forms an orderly queue. It's predominantly a young crowd - in their teens to thirties. Noone pushes in.

Saucing fries on the Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Fries being sauced

The team on the truck is lean: one taking orders and making milkshakes; one on French fries and one burger master flipping patties.

Prepping burgers on the Mister Gee Burger Truck at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Prepping burgers

The kitchen is slammed from the start but they don't appear fazed at all. Meanwhile everyone sits back, chats and waits for their order to be called.

Dirty fries from the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries $5

Our dirty fries are ready first. It's a mountain of golden fries covered in diced tomato, grated cheese and lashings of a Thousand Island-style cream. They give you a fork to dig in but we have more fun using our fingers.

Double Fat Boy with bacon jam from the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Fat Boy with bacon jam $10 
and extra patty $3

The Fat Boy was on last week when we stopped by, a classic combo of beef, lettuce, red onion rings and cheese with a belt-popping addition of bacon jam across the top. We bump into these two and get the double patty tip off. It's a worthy investment. An extra three bucks doubles your protein.

You can see them pull these hand-shaped patties fresh out of the fridge. They're cooked so they caramelise at the edges but maintain a juicy core. The cheese is melted, the brioche buns are soft but sturdy, and then there's the sweet and smoky tang of that rubbly bacon jam adding a porky accent to every bite. 

Dirty fries by the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries

We order the baklava shake ($5) too, not overly nutty in taste but more caramel in nuance. You do need to stir that baby up with the straw, otherwise you'll hit a backlog of pastry bits at the end. We had flashbacks of soggy sweet Weetbix with those final slurps - not necessarily a bad thing.

Picking up orders at the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Picking up orders

The non-stop arrival of customers is pretty phenomenal. Generally there's enough seating as people polish off their burgers reasonably quickly and move on.

Tonight (Wednesday 17 December) they'll be bringing back The Truffe: grass-fed beef, rocket, Muenster cheese, onion confit and truffle mayo on brioche. It'll be available all week until Saturday.

Dirty fries and double Fat Boy burger at the Mister Gee Burger Truck, Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
Dirty fries

And what about dessert? If you head to Mister Gee this week, you won't have to go far to find Knafeh Bakery, currently trading two suburbs away in North Strathfield.

Knafeh - Jerusalem Street Food

Bearded men at Knafeh, North Strathfield

Head to Knafeh and you'll feel like you've stumbled on one big street party. There's music pumping, bright lights and crowds of young people, kids and families. This mobile shipping container sets-up in a different location roughly every two weeks. They sell one thing only. Knafeh.

Knafeh ready for pick-up at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Knafeh ready for pick-up

Knafeh is a baked dessert that originated in the Levant - that includes Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Israel, Syria and northern Egypt. The version they serve here is similar to what you'd find in Jerusalem, although co-owner Ameer El-issa is reported to have said his mother's recipe is a "lighter and creamier interpretation".

Shipping container set-up at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Shipping container set-up with giant whisk light fittings

The dessert first made an appearance at the family's restaurant Shisha Bar and Grill in Croydon Park. It was so popular they saw the potential to make it a separate business, run by brothers Joey and Ameer and their sister Mouna Emsis.

Ladling the fresh cheese mix at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Ladling the fresh cheese mix into bowls

Joey's usually the one taking orders. He's warm and chatty and will engage every customer with light-hearted banter. "Helen! Helen of Troy!" he exclaims, when I give him my name for our order. "Is this your first time?"

We explain we've visited before, when they were in Botany and experienced a black-out. "She's back! She's back!" he yells with excitement. He adds a #she'sback to my order tile. It's all part of the show but it's easy to buy into. Their smiles are way too infectious.

Adding the secret crumb topping at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Adding their secret crumb topping

There's an overriding sense of fun here. Every now and then, brothers Joey and Ameer break out into impromptu dancing to entertain the crowd. Their mischief-making carries over to their Instagram account which is dotted with jokesrock 'n' roll moves, dance offs and fun.

Spraying water onto the knafeh before they are grilled at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Spraying water onto the crumb mix before the knafeh goes under the grill

The open kitchen means you can watch everything being prepared while you wait. The cooked cheese mixture is ladled into bowls, covered with a special crumb mix, spritzed with water and then flashed under the grill. Once the bowls complete their conveyor belt run, they're sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

Knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Knafeh $8

Ameer calls out orders when they're ready. He greets me with the enthusiasm of a long lost friend, yelling "She's back!" when he sees the note on my order card. I'm not easily won over by token smiles but these guys seem genuinely excited to be serving you.

Huge squeezy bottles of sugar syrup sit on the counter so you can make your dessert as sweet as you please. Half the customers tonight are ordering takeaway, the bowls packed into pizza boxes with mini containers of sugar syrup on the side. Some blokes walk back to their car carrying eight serves of knafeh.

Stretchy cheese knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield
Stretchy cheese beneath a toasted crumb topping and crushed pistachios

You can't beat eating this on the spot though, while the crumbs are still hot and toasty, and the cheese a gooey mess underneath. Sweet cheese sounds strange to some until you remind them of cheesecake or ricotta hotcakes. Knafeh isn't overly cheesy in taste. It reminds me more of a mild mozzarella, milky in flavour with a tantalising stretchiness. It's warm and comforting and way too addictive.

They were out of Moroccan tea ($4) when we visited but we did have their homemade lemonade ($5), self-served from a massive plastic keg. It's just like the old fashioned kind you get at the Easter Show: just fresh lemon juice, sugar and water.

The Knafeh boys will be at North Strathfield until Sunday December 21. What are you waiting for?

Preparing knafeh at Knafeh, North Strathfield

Knafeh on Urbanspoon

Knafeh Bakery
Currently at the old Arnotts warehouse
Railway Lane, North Strathfield, Sydney
Parking onsite. Enter Railway Lane via George Street or park in the Bakehouse Quarter car park behind Delitalia
Open Thursday to Sunday 6pm til late

> Knafeh will be at North Strathfield until Sunday 21 December. Knafeh tends to stay in each location for two weeks. Check their facebook page or Instagram account for location updates. 

Mister Gee Burger Truck on Urbanspoon

Mister Gee Burger Truck
Current location: Burwood Deluxe Car Wash
55A Shaftesbury Road, Burwood, Sydney
Parking is available onsite
Tel: +61 (0)411 092 663
Open Wednesday to Saturday 7pm-10.30pm

> Currently a regular fixture at Burwood Deluxe Car Wash but check their facebook page or Instagram account for location updates and menu changes

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/17/2014 03:20:00 am

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mary's, Newtown

Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese at Mary's, Newtown

Who said cocktails can't come with a slice of grilled cheese and bacon? It makes perfect sense on a Bloody Mary, the spicy tomato juice protected by a lid of melted cheese. This bad boy comes to you from the crew at Mary's, Newtown- home of burgers, Metallica and deep fried chicken.

Inside Mary's, Newtown

So Mary's might have opened a new takeaway outlet in the city, but only Newtown allows you to eat-in and while away several hours with booze. The entrance still looks grotty, the interior is deliberately dark and gloomy, and the music borders on deafening, but that still doesn't stop the joint reaching capacity by 12.30pm on a Saturday. There's a steady trickle of families too - it's not unusual to see prams and toddlers wandering the floor on a weekend.

Jack Daniel's hot sauce at Mary's, Newtown

Service can be notoriously brusque at Mary's. We queue at the bar at 11.55am only to have one bar staff tell us sternly "don't you dare try and order food before midday". Mmmkay. Other staff members, however, go out of their way to be helpful.

Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese at Mary's, Newtown
Bloody Mary with bacon and cheese $18

But they that gives us more time to settle in with drinks, me with a Young Henry's cider and Suze with her Bloody Mary. We all try some of that Bloody Mary of course.

Sucking up that spicy tomato cocktail through a blanket of blowtorched cheese has to be up there as one of the craziest things you can drink. Then there's a drunken sense of bewilderment as you try to scoop up that melty cheese goodness with a straw. The curl of caramelised bacon on top is crazy delicious. And the pickled onion works brilliantly too. If you ever wanted a meal in a glass, this would have to be damned near perfection.

Delivering burgers and fries at Mary's, Newtown

The menu hasn't changed since my last visit, but novelty has never been high on the list of priorities here. The only thing that has changed is our appetite.

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Cheeseburger and fries $14 
with extra patty $3 and trashcan bacon $4 

These days we're all about double burgers. A cheeseburger with fries will set you back $14 but throw in an extra three bucks and you've got a double patty. Trashcan bacon is mandatory, $4 for three strips of sweet and smoky cured porcine goodness - smoked on a clean trashcan lid if you haven't worked that one out yet.

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon close-up Mary's, Newtown
Double cheeseburger goodness

Getting your gob around that double-stacked behemoth is your biggest worry. That melting river of gooey cheese is the least of your problems. Pickle slices are exactly what you need to balance everything out.

Mushroom burger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Mushroom burger and fries $12
with trashcan bacon $4

We've always steered past the mushroom burger on previous visits but word on the meat-free streets indicated this was worth making a detour. We succumb out of curiosity - but only after adding trashcan bacon.

Whoah. It's hard to beat the satisfaction of biting into a juicy meat patty, but sinking your teeth into this giant field mushroom isn't a bad consolation. The mushroom has a satisfying resistance with each bite, marked with an umami intensity that fulfils all your savoury requirements. Bonus points too for not squirting rivulets of oil like many other mushroom burgers we've tried.

Whole bird fried chicken $30

And of course there would be fried chicken. A whole bird ends up a decent-sized pile in our plastic basket. There's a terrific crunch to the knobbly batter. Make sure you drench it in hot sauce, siphoned into mini Jack Daniel's bottles on every table.

Mashed potato and gravy at Mary's, Newtown
Mashed potato and gravy $5

Round everything out with mashed potato and gravy. The mash is silkier than your sexiest bed sheets, smothered in a lake of gravy.

Dipping fries in mashed potato and gravy at Mary's, Newtown
Carb on carb action - chips dipped in mashed potato

There's no shame in carb on carb action. Dip your fries in that mashed potato and relish every mouthful.

Even as burger joints seem to opening up all over the city, it's good to see that Mary's is still holding her own.

Mary's Burger in the kitchen at Mary's, Newtown
Mary's burger (with lettuce and tomato)

Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon and fries at Mary's, Newtown
Double cheeseburger with trashcan bacon

Bar and menu at Mary's, Newtown
Downstairs bar

Mary's Burger and cheeseburger at Mary's, Newtown

Mary's on Urbanspoon

6 Mary Street, Newtown, Sydney

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 4pm-12am
Saturday 12pm-12am
Sunday 12pm-10pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Mary's Newtown (April 2013)

Burgers - Pub Life Kitchen at the Lord Wolseley Hotel, Ultimo

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/14/2014 03:14:00 am

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