Mejico – 105 Pitt Street, Sydney

 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Me & Art – 62 Mary Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

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www.meandart-sydney.webs.com

I love art and I love coffee, so this neat little place was exactly where I wanted to be on a sunny Saturday morning. It’s set in a light and airy terrace house complete with white washed walls and wooden floorboards (did that just sound like a real estate ad??). Outside, there’s a tiny front porch that you can sit on, decorated with pot plants and artificial grass. Inside, the place is divided up into three sections: a front section where you are greeted by the owners and where the coffee is made, a middle section that represents a homely lounge room, and a back narrow corridor complete with a giant disco ball that takes up most of that area’s ceiling.

The cafe specialises in Japanese art, which lines most of the walls. There’s some very vivid and colourful art and then there’s the more subdued kind. We were told that every fortnight, new art would be available for viewing or purchasing pleasure. Besides the wall art, vintage pieces adorn the place, including an old-fashioned telephone, clock and gramophone.  

You can leisurely recline on the comfy couch and take in the surrounding art. There’s a beautiful, heavy, unfinished coffee table on which to place your coffee cup or water glass that could have easily come from your mother’s, or for some of you, grandmother’s cupboard. Otherwise, there’s an eclectic mix of chairs, stools, sheepskin covered benches and small wooden round tables to occupy while you gaze at the art, listen to the trendy background music and breathe in the coffee aromas.  

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We ordered our usual skinny cap and long black. The service is wonderful and the guys give off a friendly, ‘easy-going’ kind of attitude. But it’s the coffee that’s going to keep me coming back to this little treasure. It was rich, but not too creamy with a deliciously nutty undertone – such a delight to my senses. Tom was loving his long black too.

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The guys are currently focusing on roasting their own coffee beans, so as at this post, there wasn’t much available in the way of food. What they do have in their little fridge includes bircher muesli cups and brownies, but that’s about it for now. Further down the track they’ll have more food available of a decidedly healthy nature.

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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).

Robo Cog Cafe, 249 Riley Steet, Surry Hills

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This was an interesting little cafe set in a quaint terrace house, complete with white picket fence. As most of you are probably doing now, I Googled reviews for the best places to have brunch in Surry Hills. Robo Cog came highly recommended. So we visited the cafe at around 10am on a Sunday – at this point it was still fairly quiet so we were able to get a table right away. Mind you, about 15 minutes later we noticed people lining up outside, so we had come at the right time. This made me excited and led me to believe that we picked the perfect place for our Sunday brunch.

Inside, the place was decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage robotic toys and drawings on the walls (hence the name). It was an intimate setting, with small, thick wooden tables and an open kitchen in which you could see the food being prepared (which I always enjoy, not just for the fact that you can see whether someone spits in your food). There was also relaxing music playing in the background, set to a perfect volume for a Sunday morning and especially if you’re hung over. The chairs were a bit confusing to me though; they reminded me of high-chairs for babies. Nevertheless, they were comfortable enough. I noticed on the walls some framed photography for sale and right next to these, hanging skateboard decks – once again adding to the eclectic nature of the place.

The staff were friendly and very attentive, each with a smile on their face. One guy in particular caught my attention as he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat. It’s run by Thai people, but when we inspected the oversized menu, the food had a Mexican theme to it. For example, they have a Breakfast Burrito and a Vego Quesadilla. I was tossing up between the Breakfast Burrito – filled with chorizo and egg – and the eggs benedict, but I decided to go traditional and get the ‘Eggs Benny’ with a skim cappuccino.  Tom, my foodie partner, ordered the ‘Big Robo Breaky’ and a long black.

Water came to us at room temperature, which I didn’t mind, but Tom didn’t like it so much. “Water should be cold” he said. Our coffees then came out, and well, while they weren’t bad, I can’t say it was fabulous either. My cap seemed too milky and Tom’s was a bit burnt.

Next came the food. Let me tell you about Tom’s first – it was certainly a ‘big’ breakfast, the large white plate was filled with mushrooms, hash browns, chorizo, tomatoes, sourdough toast, eggs made to your choice and bacon. This suited Tom perfectly as he likes to eat a lot (“a growing boy” he says – at 25). I had a taste of the hash brown and it was beautiful, soft and falling apart (you might not like it if you prefer crunchy) and the dusting of flower with salt on it was perfect. I also tasted the chorizo – it was a delicious flavour, but I felt that it could have had longer in the pan.

Unfortunately my eggs benny was flawed. Now I love a good poached egg, but alas my eggs were overcooked and not runny. This didn’t go down well with me. In saying that however, the ham that came with it was scrumptious – it was soft, and a blushing pink with a gorgeous fresh flavour. And the best part was that there was lots of it. The spinach had a lovely garlic flavour (not good for those who don’t like garlic as the garlic was well pronounced, but I like that).

It really is unfortunate about my un-runny eggs and overly milky coffee because it made the experience disappointing overall. Although, I do believe this place has a lot more potential. I think I’ll give it one more chance – I do want to try that breakfast burrito and the service was fabulous. Oh and one more thing, they only take cash.

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