Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gillian's Garden Cafe for Breakfast and Lunch

Gillian's Garden Cafe

I originally found out about Gillian's Garden Cafe through information about her awesomely famous sandcrab lasana. I've actually attempted it myself and to this date, it was one of the best things I've cooked with my two hands. It wasn't without effort though so I was very excited about the idea of trying someone else's.

I dragged mum out with me for lunch one day (before we drove on to have an indulgent 3hr massage... woohoo, life is good). Gillian's is located on Stanley Street near the Gabba. It's strange because bang in the middle of an inner city road, there's a small nursery slash gift shop slash cafe. It's a bit unexpected.

The cafe seating area really makes you feel like you're at a large nursery in suburbia. When we went for lunch, we sat in the 'outdoor' area. We perused the menu and mum decided on the oysters, which was a special of the day. There were many tempting options on the lunch menu but I HAD to get the sandcrab lasagna.

Coffin Bay oysters - with lemongrass and cucumber granita

The oysters came first. They looked gorgeous! The oysters were as delicious as they looked - juicy and fresh. I've never tried oysters with something like granita before and I must say it worked wonderfully.

Oyster close-up

The lemongrass granita perfectly complimented the oysters and it was cool and refreshing. All over, a great Summer dish.

Sandcrab lasagne - with abalone cream sauce and seasonal salad

The lasagna came next. It was a real hefty slab of lasagna and packed full of real crab meat. The flavors were rich and beautiful, albeit perhaps lacking a tiny bit of salt (easily ammended).

Cut shot of lasagna

My only complaint is that it wasn't saucy enough. The one I made had a creamy, tomato sauce to accompany the lasagna. Here, there was a sort of creamy sauce (supposed to be abalone cream) that wasn't tangy and there just wasn't enough of it. The light side salad was quite good though.

The next time I went to Gillian's was only yesterday. I was meeting up with an old highschool friend (we'll call her Flinn) for breakie and chose this place because I liked lunch there and the fact that it's inner city but also tranquil (and also relatively easy to find a park).

This time, I was lead to the 'inside' portion of the cafe. It's a quaint area that ressembles a dining room with chandeliers and mirrors and things.


I was undecided on food for a long time but knew I needed a coffee (2 hrs of sleep the night before will do that to you) so I got my usual latte. It will probably take 0-1 hrs of sleep for me to ask for an espresso or long black or any of those without-milk caffine shots.

The coffee was decidedly good. It was intense (but not burnt or bitter) and creamy with a great foam consistency.

Poached free range - with herbed hollandaise and brioche soldiers

I ended up choosing a simple breakfast of poached eggs with brioche soldiers. The eggs were poached perfectly and it was an example of how free range eggs are a league above the regular sort. The yolks were a deep orange colour and huge and delicious. I thought the hollandaise was excellent too but what let me down was the brioche. Don't get me wrong, the brioche itself was fine but to me, it was too sweet to go with the savory nature of this dish. Brioche french toast is awesome. Brioche with egg is... a bit weird.

Potato and leek hash - with smoked salmon, poached egg and asparagus

Flinn ordered the potato and leek hash with smoked salmon. The sauce on it was like my hollandaise. She said it was tasty and fresh but the serving was small, considering the price.

I personally liked my lunch experience at Gillian's better than the breakfast. It could be down to what we ordered but overall, I am still impressed by their food. The environment is inviting and the staff are nice. I noticed a cake cabinet too so I'll probably head back for sweets sometime.
Gillian's Garden Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kitchen Sanitarium for Breakfast

Kitchen Sanitarium

These last couple of weeks my trips to Brisbane increased from once per week to twice per week. It's not (entirely) because I get lonely and bored in Toowoomba but because I've actually had errands to do in Brissie that justified the drive. Because of this, I've managed to squeeze in a few extra eating trips too.

Everything is dandy when your pals are available but what if they're busy with uni/work/other aspects of their life? Why, you eat solo of course.

Yesturday I sort of took that to the next level. You'll shortly see what I mean.

I've wanted to try Kitchen Sanitarium for a while, to the point where I've attempted to go a few times but either got lost or it was closed. This time, I made it there (after a sweaty Summer trek from St Andrew's Hospital on Wickham Tce - don't ask why).

There were quite a few city suit folk lining up for takeaway but because I had time to kill, I took a seat.

At this point, I started facing the dilema of what to order. I try to make it a rule that in order to blog a place, I need at least 2 different dishes and perhaps a beverage too. When I used to go to uni in the city, I combated this by going to one particular cafe more than once before blogging about it, so that I would have the variety I needed.

Now, I'm more realistic. I don't live in Brisbane so who knows when I'll next be stopping by Kitchen Sanitarium. I decided to put on a brave face and risk any judgement of being a pig by ordering 2 breakfast dishes and a drink. I gave the waitress an apologetic look and tried to explain that it was for breakfast AND lunch. Like that makes me any less weird lol.

The food came really quickly, which I was impressed by. I must have had too many bad experiences of waiting forever for breakfast because I normally go on busy weekends.

Kitchen Muesli - with figs, sweet dates, seeds and oats, milk and natural yoghurt

I started with the muesli because it seemed more like the 'breakfast' item (I thought I'd begin with 'breakfast' before moving on to the 'lunch' component of my meal). It was a bountiful muesli with bucketloads of dried fruit, notably dried figs.

Muesli close-up

The muesli was served with a smattering of milk and some natural yogurt. It was great. I would've devoured the whole lot if I didn't have something else vying for my attention.

Breakfast Bruschetta - with smooth goat’s curd, sweet tomatoes, creamy avocado and herbs

The bruchetta was welcomingly simple. Two slabs of freshly toasted bread with perfect slices of avocado and tomato plus a scoop of goats cheese. The whole lot was then drizzled with olive oil and dressed with fresh baby basil. These types of classic combinations never fail to work, especially when the ingredients are of high quality. Seriously... there was not a single speck of brown/grey on the avocado. How do they manage that? The goats cheese was delicious. I was never a huge fan before but I think I'm going to convert...

Berry pear juice - with blackberry, strawberry, pear and apple

My pear and berry drink arrived while I was eating. It was beautifully layered and gave me this slightly guilty feeling of drinking a cocktail at 10am in the morning. Usually in any drink with berries in it, the berries overwhelm but in this, you could definitely taste the pear.

Kitchen Sanitarium was a great experience for me. I would love, love, love to try their lunch menu. The service was great and the whole atmosphere seemed calm and inviting (which shouldn't be taken for granted in an inner city cafe). The food was fresh, simple and delicious.
Sanitarium Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pho Sai Gon Noodle Shop

Pho Sai Gon Noodle Shop
Shop 9, 223 Calam Road Rd, Sunnybank Hills

My original Saturday night plans had disintegrated so I traded that in for a simple, early dinner and lots of online shopping during the night instead.

Mochi picked where to go. She's been eating out a fair bit recently, and we all know the feeling of "no more fancy shmancy or anything with big servings please" she chose something light. When I think of 'light' I think of Vietnamese, and evidently she's on the same brainwave as me because we ended up at Pho Sai Gon.

This is located in the little complex towards the end of Mains Rd (where it might no longer be called Mains Rd... haven't checked it up). I hadn't been there in ages so this place is new for me.

The shop is tiny with a smattering of tables to dine in, plus a few more outside. We chose to sat inside and it was quiet when we got there but gradually, more and more people came.

There were heaps of things on the menu - all $10 (except for spring rolls and drinks).

Mochi and I tried to order different things but we both wanted to vermicelli bowl so we compromised by ordering one with grilled pork and one with a combination of different meats.

From a blogging perspective, this might be boring for you to read/see but too bad!

Vietnamese iced white coffee

I also asked for a Vietnamese iced coffee. This was wowzers. It kept me up until 4am. Or that might've been because I was online shopping and got too excited. I'm not sure. In any case, it was a great iced coffee.

Combination vermicelli bowl

Our food took a while to come out. When I have a meal at Asian eateries, I sort of expect them to wave a wand out the back and shazam, the order is coming my way within 5min of being taken down. In this case, we were left gossiping/chatting scheming for a good 20min, maybe more. Lucky I was with Mochi and not someone awkward and unconversational!

Grilled pork vermicelli bowl

The dishes we ordered are basically the same but with slightly different toppings so I won't ramble on about them individually. You get a large bowl of vermicelli rice noodles with some lettuce, spring rolls and in my case, grilled pork (Mochi had that plus some other bits and pieces).

There's also a small bowl of fish sauce that you pour over the top as a dressing.

I haven't had Vietnamese food in ages. This bowl was exactly what I wanted. There was plenty of Vietnamese-style grilled pork (garlic/lemongrass/fish sauce flavor) and the lettuce was really fresh too. What I really enjoyed was the spring rolls! I normally don't see what the deal is with spring rolls but these were petite and crunchy and good.

Aside from being disappointed by the long waiting time, it was a fairly positive experience. I'd like to go back to Pho Sai Gon to try their other food.
Pho Sai Gon on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hometown Cafe

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Hometown Cafe
Shop 90d, Sunnybank Plaza, Sunnybank

I've been looking for things to blog and went through one of my photo albums from last month to find this. Mum and dad took me to Hometown Cafe when I was in the mood for 'homely' Asian food. Hometown for homely food. It makes sense, right?

Hometown Cafe is located in Sunnyank Plaza, opposite Welcome Asian grocery store (in that outdoor area). It serves Taiwanese food. My dad thinks the cafe itself ressembles a caffeteria because it's so simple (in terms of furnishings) and the food is very cheap.

We went for lunch one Saturday (or was it Sunday?) and picked a few meals.

Thickened fish noodle soup

Mum was feeling experimental and got this slimey fish noodle soup. I know it sounds unappetizing but honestly, that is a fair description. The fish was deep-fried and the soup was sort of sour and extremely thick and slimey. Mum said it was 'interesting' but this is definitely not something I would order again.

Three cup chicken with rice and sides

I chose the three cup chicken, which is about the extend of what I know of Taiwanese cuisine. It came with some rice, veggie sides and a simple broth (of not much more than salt + water).

Close-up of my measly scraps :(

You can see from my picture that there was a tiny amount of chicken. Extract the bone and it's really not much meat that you get. It's a pitty because the flavor was nice (although the chicken was a tad dry). The rice was seasoned with sauce from the chicken. I liked the egg.

Pork and pickled vegetable noodle soup

Dad ordered the pork and pickled vegetable noodle soup. I had a taste. It was nice but my mum can make much better. I suppose that's the point though: homely food without actually having to make it at home. The serving was quite decent.

Pearl milk tea

I also had a pearl milk tea to wash everything down. This was good. Not overly sweet or anything.

Hometown Cafe gives exactly what you expect and not much more. It is cheap, uneventful food that serves to fill you up. The flavors weren't bad but I think there are areas for improvement.
Hometown Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sling Lounge for Cocktails and Tapas

Sling Lounge

I managed to jam pack this past weekend with a delicate balance of bad luck/stupidity and great fun. Friday night was a Toowoomba Christmas party, where I had a blast until I figuratively let my hair down too far and ended up paying a cabbie $50 for a 2min drive home and also lost my camera. To point a): I'm very disappointed that there are cabbies out there who take advantage of floozy drunk girls by not giving them change! To point b): not only was it devastating to lose my ol' faithful camera (that has been servicing this food blog for the past year), I also lost the photos I took that night and have to deal with the idea that some pervert might be hoarding pictures of me and my friends...

Ok then, how many cameras have I been through now just in the time I've been writing posts in Hungry Kittens? 3? Maybe 4?

I liked my last model so much (Sony Cybershot TX10) that I bought a new one exactly the same (but in a different colour). It's a great little machine because I can drop it and wash it and it lives through it all. Unfortunately there wasn't a feature that prevented it from being misplaced... I have no one to blame but myself :(. There is a newer version of the TX10 but I didn't want to spend that much money when I was already happy with the old model so I picked up the last one they had in stock at Myer (literally the demo model) and was ready to snap photos again Saturday night.

I had the space of about 2hrs to do the camera shopping and set it up so I didn't have time to make sure it was perfect. As a result, I was on the lowest megapixel setting and most of the photos to follow are horrible (the poor lighting didn't help either). Sorry about that!

For Saturday, we had a massive girly night planned. Because we're oldies, we can't start our night at a fashionably late hour (like 9 or 10pm)... we just get too hungry. We managed to stretch it till 8 though, and the evening was to start with cocktails and tapas from Sling Lounge.

Being a massive fan of West End food and culture, I've walked past Sling a bazillion times but never ventured in.

When we did this time, it was pleasantly uncrowded. Mochi and Blossom started studying the massive cocktail bible while I took my sub par photos. With total lack of effort, I chose the cocktail special that was written on the chalkboard.

Silver River and Scattered Dust

Cocktails started arriving, much the joy of our alcohol-loving selves. I am always weary of the drinks Blossom orders because she likes ones that pack a punch. Mochi's Scattered Dust was part of the molecular mixology section sounded mind-boggling on the menu but it was actually delicious. It ended up being my favorite of the night.

Summer Cloud

My Summer Cloud was very drinkable (in terms of not being too alcoholic) but also too sweet for my liking.

At this point, we started picking out food options too. We decided on 3 different tapas plates to share, as well as the vegetarian grazing board.

Contrary to expectations, the tapas arrived first. They were stacked in high-tea fashion. This was probably the only thing that would work for our tiny table. As it was, I found it impractical to eat with the lack of surface space and the tower of food made me feel segregated from the girls on the other side of the table. That's a shame because tapas is supposed to be social.

Artichokes - baked with black olives and manchego, finished with a salsa verde

As for the food itself, it was all quite good. I started with the artichokes, which was Blossom's pick. I'm not very experienced with artichoke but this was a pleasant surprise. It had a zingy pickled flavor that would go well with beer.

Rabas (Aros-de Calamari Fritas) crispy squid - with citrus and aioli

I tried a bit of crispy squid next. Also quite good. The squid wasn't rubbery and the exterior was indeed crispy.

New York-style steak sliders - with sweet tomatoes, house pickles, truffle infused aged cheddar on house made bread

We then battled the task of dividing 2 steak sliders into enough for 3 girls. These were probably my favorite. They were simple, but steak and a slice of pickle on a bun just works. The sad part is they totally reminded me of Maccas cheeseburgers and I know which is better value.

Vegetarian grazing board - with goats cheese cherve, artichokes, mustard fruits,piquillo peppers, Australian olives, guindillas, mixed nuts and sun dried tomato, with side of bread

The vegetarian grazing plate arrived and once again, we had to shift stuff around to get everything to fit. We hurridly finished of the food in the tapas tier so we could bugger that contraption off and make more room.

Seeing the vegetarian grazing plate on the menu was one reason why Mochi and I decided to try Sling. It just goes to show how little we pay attention to detail because we both thought it would comprise of haloumi and falaafels but in actual fact, the menu mentions none of those things. It's just what our idea of a perfect vegetarian grazing plate would be. The real Sling vegetarian grazing plate was a selection of pickled things, different coloured olives and some bread with a nutty oil. The girls liked the nutty oil best.

We weren't ecstatic about our experience at Sling Lounge. The main waiter who serviced our table had a real attitude problem. Honestly, I don't care if your establishment is the most popular bar/lounge on the street, it's no excuse to have a scowl on your face and bark at us everytime you took an order. The food was OK but considering tapas plates averaged $12 a pop, the serving sizes were quite abysmal. I'd recommend Jam Jar over this place without hesitation. I am way too busy to spend my down time in wanky bars that think they're too good for proper service.

Edited to add: I went back on Tuesday night at the insistence of a friend who hadn't been before and it was actually quite nice. The nasty waiter guy wasn't there and the 2 guys who were there were so friendly. Guess it depends on who you get...?
Sling Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Grove Juice

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Grove Juice

Grove Juice is a fresh juice company that boasts of top standard flavor with the best nutritional properties. The people at Grove Juice were nice enough to send me a few samples of this new product to try.

I'm a bit of a juice maniac. I have a $250 juicer that crushes anything into sippable oblivion, core and skin and all. I love fruit that doesn't require effort. I love interesting mixtures of fruit. I even love juice with my vodka. Needless to say, I was keen on popping open the Grove Juice bottles and giving them all a try.

I noticed that there were a couple of unconventional flavor combinations. As well as the much-loved classic OJ, there was an apple, mandarin and passionfruit juice and an apple, mandarin, strawberry and lime juice. The last one in particular just screamed of Summer to me.

My first impression was that "yup, this is definitely real fruit juice", unlike much of that "fruit drink" rubbish that's focused on delivering sugar + artificial flavoring to kids.

Apple, mandarin, strawberry and lime was definitely my favorite. I love strawberry in juice! The orange juice was nice too, not overly pulpy. I'm not crazy about passionfruit so I didn't love the 3rd flavor... but it's got a nice tropical vibe. The juice on its own was a bit too sweet for me but I reackon they would be perfect for mixing drinks or adding ice-cubes to.

On a more scientific level, Grove Juice isn't pastorized and the nutrients are preserved from UV light by the clever white bottle.

I'm generally more concerned with flavor than body benefits but it's good to know that something that you're drinking can taste radical and still be nurturing you with vitamins.