Cyren Bar and Restaurant, Darling Habour

Let me start by saying that I had great expectations of this Darling Harbour white spectacle. When it first opened it was heaving (and it’s not a small place by any means). On top of that, there were lines of 20 or 30 deep waiting for a table out the front. However, when we visited on a Friday night, a touch over half a year later, the place showed no signs of its former demand – foreshadowing an unfortunate experience. 

Cyren has been lavishly renovated with beautiful colours of white and gold. You can sit outside near fiery heaters, or inside where stone art seems to be a running theme. We were seated inside, quite gratefully as it was a cold autumn’s night.

We discovered that there was only one waiter responsible for taking orders in our rather large section of the restaurant when we realised no one had come to offer us water or take our orders for at least twenty minutes after sitting. So we waved the waiter down, ordering our selections of seafood and steak. The waiter seem frazzled and was run off his feet – he might’ve done a better job if management had been thoughtful enough to roster more staff on a Friday night in a Darling Harbour location.

I ordered the barramundi and chips – costing me $38. I had to choose between salad and chips for that amount – I didn’t get them both. The barramundi was nice enough; when I got past the sticky rather than crunchy skin – a big disappointment for me. Even more disappointing was when I, as well as a friend, requested aioli to go with our chips and it never came, despite asking for its whereabouts from two different waiters (it was always ‘on its way’).

Adding to this, I had to ask for more water, rather than my glass being refilled as you would expect from a place that charged you $38 for what was basically fish and chips.  When the waiter asked how everything was towards the end of the night, our friend didn’t hide our unsatisfied moods – letting him know it was nothing short of terrible. When the manager came over and asked if we wanted free desserts to make up for it, we politely declined as no doubt, we’d have to wait for another half hour to receive them – if at all.

Price

Around $20 for entrees and $38 for mains

Service

They need more staff, and then perhaps the service would be standard rather than dismal.

My final verdict

Overall, it was a rather substandard experience and I won’t be hurrying back there anytime soon.

Cyren Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Bruschetteria 102, 102 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW

Bruschetteria 102

Bruschetteria 102

www.facebook.com/pages/Bruschetteria-102/114052148635719

We visited Bruschetteria one sunny Saturday morning for brunch. As its name suggests, this modest cafe specialises in bruschetta and has a variety of options to choose from – whether you’d like to dine for breakfast, lunch or something in-between.

The place is distinctly Italian, from the coffees that have a taste and aroma reminding me of Rome to the staff with thick accents. Like so many of the cafes in Surry Hills, it’s set in a house-like structure. The front of the cafe is marked with a vintage suitcase – a chalkboard is propped up against it, declaring the house specials. Beyond the white picket fence is a small patio with artificial green lawn and a mismatch of iron, wicker and timber tables and chairs. An oversized wooden serving board is plastered to the front wall – announcing that we have reached our destination of Bruschetteria 102. Inside is even more quirky with more mismatched tables and chairs, rustic pitchers and fruit bowls, paper cup light shades (yes actual paper cups), and my favourite – a life-size black and white 1950s picture of Elvis.

We chose to sit at a lop-sided table at the very front and were treated with friendly and warm service. I ordered from the lunch menu, choosing the prosciutto, Italian cheese and pear bruschetta, along with my usual skinny cap. My partner in crime ordered the bacon and eggs bruschetta from the breakfast menu and a long black.

Our coffees arrived in mismatched cups and saucers (if there was a theme, mismatched would be it), accompanied with collectable souvenir teaspoons – an endearing touch I thought. My coffee was good, once I got past the 2cm high foam. And like I said earlier, it had the taste of Italy.

Bruschetteria 2

Our waitress then brought us some special bruschetta cutting knives and the meals themselves came shortly after on rustic serving boards. I really enjoyed my meal – it was fresh and honest tasting, the sweetness of the pear cutting through the saltiness of the prosciutto and cheese. The drizzle of olive oil topped it off perfectly. Tom happily gobbled his up too – the bacon was nice and crispy and the scrambled eggs soft and golden.  

We discovered that Bruschetteria is also open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They do a four course Italian menu for $40 per person – something Tom and I will be back for in the not too distant future.

Bruschetteria 102 on Urbanspoon

Mejico – 105 Pitt Street, Sydney

 

Mejico1

mejico.com.au

This is a new bright and colourful gem to the streets of Sydney’s CBD. And by bright and colourful, I mean literally – as soon as I walked in, I was confronted by an array of colour. In the front section is a cosy bar, where you can sit and have a cocktail while you wait for your table. But a word of warning, we went on a Tuesday night for dinner at around 7pm, and it was frantically busy, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a Friday night! At the time of posting this, the place had only been open for a couple of weeks, so its bright and sparkly newness may die down over time.

The restaurant itself is long and narrow – to the left is a long table and beyond that, a seating bar, both of which to share with other patrons. Behind the seating bar, you can see the chefs working away behind smoky windows. Individual tables are also dotted across the restaurant. Gorgeous vintage candlesticks and pitchers, thick off-white candles, and spiky cactus plants line the middle of the long table. Above are giant bell-shaped lightshades. Painted on the left wall is a large swirling black cactus-like image that is also strangely phallic. Neon pink seems to be the colour of choice – the front feature walls, chairs, cardboard menus, and guys’ uniform t-shirts were all marked by this colour.  In fact, the guys’ pink and white striped t-shirts reminded me of American candy striper volunteers. Taking in all of the surroundings, the place has a decidedly soft pink haze to it. 

Mejico2

We sat down to our table which had its own mortar and pestle. Next to that were water glasses that resembled oversized shot glasses – a thoughtful touch considering the sizeable list of tequilas available. From the menu we chose a selection to share, including fresh guacamole dip and banana chips, chorizo, lamb shoulder tacos, smoked pork belly tacos, Portobello mushrooms with sweet potato croquetas, and glazed pork ribs. To drink, I chose the Picante Espana Tempranillo Syrah – only wines from Spain and South America made the cut for this wine list. The beer list was mainly Mexican, including a chilli beer. My wine was sweet, but tangy and very well balanced, I really enjoyed it.

When the waitress came over to deliver our fresh guacamole, I discovered that the mortar and pestle wasn’t just there for pure decoration. Our waitress proceeded to bash the ingredients together right there in front of us using the mortar and pestle. I love quirky and different things, so for me this was the highlight of the night. We watched as she scooped the avocado out of their skins, and mixed in coriander, Spanish onion, lime juice, Serrano chilli and pistachio nuts.  The result was a beautifully spiced and chunky guacamole dip. The long banana chips were perfect for the dip, but I wish there had been more. The chorizo had a delicious smoky flavour – it was diced into small cubes and combined with small black Mexican beans and a hint of cream. This was also served with banana chips as well as lime wedges and a delightful paprika salt.

Mejico4  Mejico3 

The lamb tacos were beautiful – rich in flavour, soft and melt in your mouth – served with a mint-infused mayonnaise.  I preferred these to the pork belly tacos (served with a black bean hummus), but they were good too if you like pork belly. I can’t have too much of it myself as I find it too greasy. The pork ribs were nice, but not the best I’ve had. The basting sauce had a good sticky sweetness to it, but I felt the meat could have been softer. It was served with polenta chips, which I really enjoyed. The Portobello mushrooms and sweet potato croquetas were pleasant, especially with the manchengo cheese, black bean puree and tomatillo salsa, but I didn’t think there was enough seasoning to the dish, making it a little bland.

I would definitely come back here; the food was overall enjoyable and while there were some (minor) flaws, you can really taste the freshness in the food. The atmosphere is fun, cheeky and retro making it a fabulous destination for dinner and drinks with a group of friends who like to drink. This isn’t the same old Mexican place either; it takes the experience to another level, making Mejico well differentiated from the rest.

Méjico on Urbanspoon

Berry Sourdough Cafe, 23 Prince Alfred Street, Berry NSW

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berrysourdoughcafe.com.au

We stopped by the Berry Sourdough Cafe on the way back from a camping trip in Jervis Bay. After two days of drinking excessively (what else is there to do while you’re camping?) and eating nutrition-poor food such as sausages, chips and lollies, I was really hanging out for some fresh, tasty and healthy food. Well this little cafe definitely ticked the boxes.

I wasn’t exactly sure if I was walking into the right place at first, because it’s located on a suburban street and from the outside looks like someone’s barn-like house. Only the soft notes of baking dough wafting out onto the footpath told me I was at the right place. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with a cosy, warm and inviting ambience – defined by the gloriously orange tulips, rich wooden tables and chairs, white brick walls, high ceilings with low hanging lights, magnificently framed art, and dark red brick floors. One thing in particular that caught my eye was a beautiful large painting on the far wall that looked like it was set during the renaissance period, with an open book and feather quill – it was absolutely stunning.

It was nearing 1pm on a Sunday and the place was bustling with people. We had to wait about 15 minutes to get a table, but it was a pleasant wait. We were finally seated on a long table out on the front porch by the neatly trimmed hedges and crawling vines.

The cafe is known for its artisan sourdough and pastries. So for entrée we ordered the ‘sourdough bread with a selection of dips’ and ‘fries with mustard aioli’. I ordered the ‘seared scallops cucumber and melon salad with pancetta vinaigrette’ along with a skinny cap. Tom ordered the sourdough pizza special of the day with chorizo and mozzarella, along with his usual long black.

You can tell the bread was baked fresh that day; it was warm, sweet and soft with a crisp, powdery crust (I managed to get the crust’s white powder all over my mouth and cheeks, so be careful). The dips consisted of hommus, baba ghanoush and a pesto dip. I didn’t care too much for the dips – there seemed like something was missing in all three of them – especially the pesto one. The hummus was probably the best of the three. In the end we ordered balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dip the bread in and that was much better. The fries were perfect and lightly golden – crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, with just the right amount of seasoning. The mustard aioli was probably one of the best I’ve had – it had a yellow tinge to it and was rich and creamy. Our coffees weren’t too bad either.

Once we were done with our entrées, it took a little while for the mains to come out and our entrée dishes and coffee cups weren’t cleared away, so that when the mains came there was a bit of awkward fumbling around. But my main made up for all of this. The scallop salad was amazing – fresh tasting and the scallops were seared to perfection, coming out a lovely golden brown colour. And they weren’t stingy on the scallops either. The melons were a mix of rockmelon, watermelon and honeydew and were a wonderfully sweet match to the scallops. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wanted more of the pancetta vinaigrette dressing.

For me, Tom’s sourdough pizza was too thick and doughy. Tom likes to eat a lot and even for him, it was a struggle to finish due to the thickness of the base. The chorizo was a nice smoked flavour and the tomato base rich in flavour, but it was overpowered by the sheer amount of bread.

We were too stuffed for desert, but decided to take something to go from the bakery because the pastries not only looked to-die-for, they smelt it too. We decided on the raspberry tart and about an hour later as we were making our way towards Sydney, I entered pure heaven as I took my first bite into it. It was crunchy on the crust yet soft and crumbly in the middle – ah-maz-ing. For the rest of the drive home I was regretting I didn’t buy more (and that I had to share it with Tom as I wanted it all to myself).