I may hail from sunny Queensland but when it comes to finding good places to eat in any part of the world, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, namely The Internet. Urbanspoon is my old faithful but I like to cross-reference with other sources too. It so happened that when I checked into my hotel room, a copy of some magazine (name escapes me) had a special food edition showcasing NSW must-visits. It was conveniently categorized so I skipped over to the cafe section and noticed Reuben Hills and Joe Black mentioned, both of which I'd first heard of on Urbanspoon.
I ummed and ahhed about how to get to Surry Hills. My knowledge of Sydney is 'fair' but limited. I also find that how far apart everything is depends on who you travel with. Does anyone else notice that too? You'll get some travel companions who will say "let's cab it" about everything and that makes the city feel huge and inaccessible to pedestrians. On the other hand, if you're travelling with a 'walker', and the attitude is "let's just walk there", you realize that important destinations are not all light years apart.
I like to think of myself as a walker but I'm a bit of a walker to the extreme. By that I mean sometimes I think I can make it somewhere by walking and part way through it becomes obvious that I've read the scale wrong or I've ventured onto a highway or some other obstacle that can't be navigated. In absence of someone who knew better than me, I was hesitant about whether I could make it or not.
Ah the heck with sensibilities and reservations. Off I went. Darling Harbour to Surry Hills.
Man, it was such a short/easy walk it wasn't even worth pondering. I found Reuben Hills without any dramas. It was the one shopfront that had a giant crowd outside where everything else was quiet. I saw people lining up to get a queue number but they all seemed to be for groups so I ducked in and asked for a table for one. I got a spot straight away, right by the window. Yes! I've discovered a perk to dining along. Restaurants find you easier to squeeze in. That's got to count for something.
I felt pretty good hovering over the street onlooking the mass of people who were yet to get a table. Haha suckers :).
The decor at Reuben Hills is unfinished in a hipster, trendy way. Think: open brick walls, wooden-panel ceilings, visible speakers (totally retro) and little glass milk bottles to serve water.
My second coffee of the day was had here. I ordered a latte that arrived with lightning speed. It was amazing. Definitely the best coffee I've had in a long time.
The NOT-reuben sandwich - with wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, melted manchengo and horseradish cream
I ordered a not-reuben sandwich. I quickly Googled to see what a 'true' reuben sandwich was: Wiki reckons it's filled with corned beef, swiss cheese, thousand island dressing and sauerkraut. Hmm... that sounds kinda gross yet appealing at the same time. Rueben Hill's non-reuben contained wagyu salt brisket (replacing corned beef), pickled slaw (replacing sauerkraut), meltd manchengo (replacing swiss cheese) and horseradish cream (replacing thousand island). It was delicious.
The wagyu brisket was tender enough so that when you bite into it, you don't end up with a chewy bit of meat hanging out and the rest of the sandwich in tatters (come on, that's happened to everyone). It wasn't The Most Amazing sandwich I've had in my life but it was well rounded, had nice flavor and fresh ingredients and is basic enough to be a staple.
Doggs breakfast - ice-cream sandwich with salted caramel
I couldn't resist getting the ice-cream sandwich. I haven't seen ice-cream sandwich on a menu since... tuckshop days and I just HAD to get it. Who says that midday is inappropriate for dessert? Besides, it was listed on their breakfast menu so that makes it OK, doesn't it? Where the sandwich was good but not 'Oh my God', the ice-cream sandwich was OH MY GOD. I had planned to taste a bit and let the rest sit untouched in favor of limiting my caloric intake. That was impossible. I declare that it's a phyiscal impossibility to start eating this and not finish it.
The chocolate cookie was just the right amount of chewy and crumbly. The ice-cream itself was simple and creamy with soft vanilla flavor. What really set it off was the salted caramel. I know that salted caramel makes everything better, including emotional wounds and heck, it might even work on open sores and insect bites, it's THAT good. But on the ice-cream sandwich it was just amazing. I think I had to eat this with my eyes closed just to savor the moment. Bliss. It didn't hurt that it was served with the cutest metal spoon either.
Reuben Hills is a big win for me. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and a bit quirky. It was like your usual cafe menu but slightly not. Also, I have to mention that the food came out so quickly each time. I am very impressed by that because they were busy like a mofo so I don't know how they do it but well done!
I don't live in Sydney and I hate anything with queues (which probably works out well because if I did live in Sydney I'd have to get used to queuing) but I'd make the exception for this place. It's a shame because when I'm eating by myself I try to find places that I wouldn't think Marc would enjoy so that it's not a 'wasted opportunity', if that makes sense. However, I think he would've loved this place too so we might be back to try some of their other goodies.