Hits and Misses @ Bills Woollahra, Sydney

Date of Visit: July 31 2013

Even though I am back in Sydney for a few weeks of R&R, work still travels with me. Yesterday, I had a meeting with an associate who is training for the Blackmores full marathon in September. I had also signed up for the half-marathon, but since I can’t see myself to be back in Sydney for the marathon, I had eased back on training. Moreover, with the cold chilly weather and working on the computer reading up and replying litigation emails to idiots – seriously, dudes if you ever engage lawyers don’t let them make you out to be such morons – had made me too lazy to go outside for a run. So, starting August 1 (tomorrow), I am going on a diet…

Better still, why not start today since Mom suggested a light lunch at Bills? She wanted to have their Tuna Poke, but unfortunately, the tuna poke she fancied was no longer on the menu. So, here is a piece of iPhoto memory – a bowl of red translucent tuna sashimi slices, avocado, tomatoes, parsley, samphire (those tiny salty crunchy green veggies that grow along the coastal line which ones has to forage), sesame seeds which has barley underneath and seasoned with soy sauce.

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Tuna Poke

Bills is a busy cafe, where most of the patrons are ladies (of leisure). The outdoor sitting area with heaters is a fantastic spot to catch some sun. With the wind chills and spot of drizzle, we opted for indoor seating instead, for that, we had to wait for 20 minutes, so we went shopping.

Woollahra is a leafy shopping village with quite a few fashion boutiques (international labels includes Akira, Collete Diningan, et al), organic grocers (e.g Whole Foods, Simon Johnson), home furnishings, antiques dealers and galleries, besides the usual cafes of course.

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Al fresco dining in Queens Court

A quick twenty minutes later, we are back, with our shopping in tow…

Mom ordered Ocean Trout Salad which had rice vermicelli under the salad of sugar snap peas, watercress, mint and coriander. The grapefruit imparts a sweet tanginess that tarted up the perfect ocean trout. The dressing was a simple dash of fish sauce.

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Crisp Ocean Trout, Ruby Grapefruit, Coriander and Chili Salad ($22.00)

As for yours truly who is staying faithful to her ‘diet plans’, I ordered the healthy anti-oxidant superfood of Quinoa Salad. There were a lot of sunflower seeds mixed with the quinoa, the wedge of lime did wonders to furnish sourness to beetroot and carrot shavings on the salad. Overall, a satisfying and appetising salad that hope to replicate at home!

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Quinoa, Sprouting Sunflower, Beetroot, Chilli and Feta Salad($19.50)

My Bro who joined us for lunch had the more hearty Veal and Pork Ragu Pappardelle. No doubt it was hand-made in the house by the look of the thick unevenly cut pappardelle. It looked small, but was absolutely filling.

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Veal and Pork Ragu, Pappardelle, Tarragon, Lemon and Parmesan ($24.50)

I like going to Bills for light salads which are easy to assemble at home and I often learn a thing or 2 from dining there.

More iPhoto memories from past visits…

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Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

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Vitamix quickie – Chilled tomato and cucumber soup

A busy cafe has its off-days, and here is a pic of my Raw Green Salad looking totally sub-standard, with 1 piece of chopped bean (yes, I counted!), bits of veggies and simply tossed up!  If one is not a regular, I suppose this is the last straw!

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(Sub-par) Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

An astute businessman, he has his latest cookbook ‘Easy by Bill Granger’ on display. I am at odds whether to get it.

His cookings are quite Asianised, little wonder since he was co-owner/founder to Billy Kwong which chef Kylie Kwong later took over. The kimchi rice is very popular and whenever I have visitors from overseas, I would suggest they order this spicy rice dish (with comes with a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce – the one with a picture of the rooster – and this is pushing the authentic button). However, it was the corn fritters and truffled eggs that made Bills’ name, and they are available in the all-day breakfast menu.

Bills has 3 cafes in Sydney and expanding overseas. I often wondered at Japanese tourists who trekked to Woollahra for lunch in his cafe. It only clicked when I saw his one of his cafes in Tokyo. He is one heck of an global entrepreneur indeed – who’d think one can launch an empire from cooking eggs?

At the time of review, Bills scored 79% out of 157 votes

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Sunday Lunch @ Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

Date of Visit: July 28 2013

Bistro Moncur is quite an institution in the Eastern Suburbs. Many families come here for Sunday lunches to be served by attentive and friendly staffs. Bistro Moncur is also my family’s favourite. I like coming here for the familiar surrounds and also because I can mentally summise what I would be ordering without consulting their menu. Their long-standing signature dishes are fish soup, salt cod brandade, grilled sirloin and pork sausages, which are smackers. To cater for the many regulars, they have also have a ‘specials of the day’ menu for more innovative seasonal dishes.

The restaurant is located inside Woollahra Hotel, an iconic art deco building which also houses a TAB where one can get a lighter and more casual fare.

The curved interior of the restaurant is made up of a series of timber joists with fabric underneath. I am guessing this is for sound insulation purposes for a busy restaurant with hard surfaces such as the hardwood floor, mirrors, and bricks. In any regards, the noise level was low, moreover, I have noticed from my stay overseas is that the children here tend to be very well-behaved without the howling and running amok that the kids in Asia do. (Having said that, a little girl did fell off her chair while trying to grab a fork but she did not make a racket, but got back on her chair quietly). Read up on the conservation and refurbishment project here.

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Curved ceiling with arches in slated timber, made it a very acoustically controlled restaurant

The black-and-white Matisse-inspired wall murals by Michael Fitzjames adorned one side of the wall depicting humorous tales of the diners out in a restaurant e.g. 2 lovers dining in different tables next to each other, a pick-pocket lifting a wallet out the pocket of an unassuming diner among the few. This made for very interesting visuals.

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Wall mural by Michael Fitzjames

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Help waiter, there’s a snake in my salad!

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Bar/ Coffee Counter

Complimentary crusty sourdough bread. I like sprinkling some salt over the buttered bread for an extra salty crunch.

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Complimentary sourdough

My Bro’s usual is the Grilled Sirloin Cafe de Paris and Frites ($43.50 – wow, talk about inflation, it was $35 a few years back!). This is the Classic Parisian fare of steak and chips which is a fixture and signature of Bistro Moncur. The julienned frites are another hallmark of Bistro Moncur’s classic French cooking of potatoey goodness enveloped by the crispy shell. The taragon butter sauce drizzling the steak is a perfect accompaniment.

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Grilled Sirloin Cafe de Paris and Frites ($43.50)

Mom’s Bouillabaisse was one of the specials for the day. It was a very rustic hearty fare perfect for a cold wintry’s day. There was a lot of seafood in it, thus smelt very strongly of seafood. Needless to say, she was the last to finish.

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Bouillabaise with Dory Fillet, Crab, Balmain Bug, Broccolini and Sorrel ($39.50)

My Calves Liver was also another special of the day. The pan seared livers cooked in caramelised onions imparts a sweet tangy taste. Although the livers were seared with the insides still pinkish, the liver was tough and a tad too chewy. The bubble and squeak of cabbage, parsley, peas, ham and potato mash was delicious, I could not resist finishing them up.

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Pan fried Calves Liver, Bubble & Squeak and Onion Jus ($37.50)

We normally order a bowl of shoe-string fries to go with our meal, but decided to have a side salad of green beans with hazel nuts and eschalots instead. I can’t recall the waitress’s description of the beans, but needless to say, the long beans were very crunchy, the hazel nuts freshly roasted and the bitsy pulps of the tangy lemon balanced the grassy dish with a kick of acidity.

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Green Beans with hazel nuts and eschalots ($11)

The tarte tartin and soufflé in Bistro Moncur are very famous, but today we decided to go for something different.

My Bro chose Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Delice, popcorn ice cream and Banana Puree ($16.50). I did not get to taste, but since he left a clean plate, I was left in no doubt that he enjoyed it very much. I noted that the milk chocolate mousse was covered in dark chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with bits of caramel brittles and nuts. The Honey comb was set between the mousse and peanut butter ice-cream with pop corn on top.

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Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Delice, popcorn ice cream and Banana Puree

Mom and I shared the deconstructed ‘Choc Mint Slice‘, which was an assembly of chocolate ganache, lime sorbet, mint sorbet, salted caramel and choc chip crumble. I especially enjoyed the thick fudgey chocolate mousse and slivers of brittle tempered chocolate.

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Choc Mint Slice

To finish, and to balance out the sweet dessert, I had a Long Black.

At the time of review, Bistro Moncur received a score of 87% out of 337 votes

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