Saluna, Newcastle (and some nice water views)

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Sunday Brunch at Saluna with Rasta! She had a virtuous Apple, Watermelon & Mint juice, freshly squeezed. Hubby & I shared a cheeky Bloody Mary (with a celery forest)!

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VERY hard to choose.  I should disclose: I have a connection in the kitchen.  But he wasn’t working that day.  So I am totally objectively and unbiasedly raving about our excellent meal.

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Rasta’s semolina pancakes with caramelised pears, praline butter and maple syrup.  I swiped the last bite; they were heavenly.  Elegantly rather than overwhelmingly sweet, and with a bit of substance from the semolina.

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Hubby’s (perfect) poached eggs on a fancy hash brown, spinach, dukkah and fancy spiced tomato sauce. Was bigger than the photo suggests, and he and I went halfsies.

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My monster of a Croque Monsieur; glad to share it.  All its components were fantastic and so generous.  I didn’t eat again for many hours.  Nice coffee too.

Saluna: cute décor, friendly service, fab menu.  Rasta and I then went for a gorgeous walk up to Nobby’s Lighthouse which was unexpectedly open to the public.  A lovely Newy visit!

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Party Like It’s 1994

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The party plan was an “underage fun” afternoon of arcade games and bowling then an evening of bar-hopping, Korean BBQ and karaoke. The nostalgia element was ramped up us wearing stuff from when we were actually 90s teens: half our party were in Doc Martens and the other half in Converse All Stars. Pretending to be teenagers was great – we were easily pleased by the offer of nasty cheap sparkling wine at the King Street Wharf Strike Bowl Bar.

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My navy Docs from 1997. Bonus point for being purchased from the DM shop in Covent Garden. (Point lost perhaps for reviving them with skinny jeans and looking like a skinhead from the waist down.) Hubby’s Testuwan Atomu (i.e. Astroboy) t-shirt was doubly appropriate for the 90s vibe and the Japanese bar and later karaoke.

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A series of drinks in hard-to-find bars.  More-than-$4-champers at Stitch Bar, delicious Iichiko shochu on the rocks at Uncle Ming’s and dangerously sweet Chamisul soju at 678 Korean BBQ.  (Proper food review post coming soon!)

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Pre-grilling. Chopsticks hovering over bowls of banchan. Soju and Hite beers at the ready. Geon bae!

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Converse Crew.   Tonari no Totoro tattoo.  Karaoke times not pictured.  Happy Birthday Amy-chan!

Scrumpy!

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Apéritifs.  Two delightful finds from Western Australia: Feral Hop Hog IPA, and Custard & Co cider.  At The Little Guy, where the barstaff are legends and the spiced popcorn is free!

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This was SERIOUSLY lush. A dry and cloudy scrumpy. Properly pongy.

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Upstairs, The Little Guy is like your granny’s living room, with charity-shop mismatched chairs, lamps, and this little guy. The music is sometime a bit too left-field for my tastes (we got a big whack of country & western before they put The Clash on, which was much better) but that’s alright as long as they keep serving that scrumpy!

Best Biscuits™ with Dark Chocolate, Crimson Raisins & Pretzels

I posted my Best Biscuits™ recipe yonks ago here before I was doing much in the way of pictures.  Here’s a variation with dark chocolatecrimson raisins (no, I’d not heard of them either ’til I saw them) and broken-up salted pretzels.  I am now using a dodgy electric oven so these ones were baked for 16 minutes not my usual 14.  (Generally aim for 14, check if the bottoms are golden, and if not then maybe give ‘em another minute or 2. They firm up when cool, trust me.)

I made a double batch, and my 400g of ‘flavour ingredients’ was roughly a third each of chocolate, raisins and pretzel bits.

NB: I consumed slightly too much raw dough and felt predictably ill. Hard not to though!!

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Na Zdrowie, Glebe Point Road

Na Zrdowie has been on Glebe point Road for at least 7 years and is a lovely little local serving authentic Polish cuisine.  I had to avoid it for a while in early 2008 after a birthday celebration for a Polish Australian friend which involved many plates of pierogi but also much cheap rosé, cumulating in some very loud singing of ‘Happy Birthday’, then said friend befriending the Polish Australians at the next table and encouraging them to sing her ‘Happy Birthday’ in Polish, and then the Polish National Anthem, and then some other Polish songs…  From memory I’m not sure if the other table did in fact join in or if was just my friend doing the Polish singing.  I’d like to hope we left a good tip, though we were povvo students at the time…

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Photo from the Facebook archives.  Much impassioned singing.  Sto lat!

Anyway, I’ve been back many times since (more respectably en famille) and it’s always delightful. The food is hearty and meat-and-potatoes based, but overall I find Polish food a bit more refined than its more Central European counterparts (e.g. all the countries represented at Tommy’s further down the street).  Not to disrespect the Fatherland: I do love my simple Czech knedlíky and Slovakian strapačky.  But Polish pierogi – basically ravioli in un-Italian flavours – are arguably more sophisticated in substance and design.  (Don’t tell my dead ancestors.)

Our party of six shared All The Smoked Meats of Poland, plus horseradish sauce, and some fantastic caraway-spiked rye bread which came in a sweet little basket lined with a grandma doily.

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We then shared two large plates of pierogi – the pork ones, fried, with mushroom and cream sauce; and the sauerkraut ones, boiled, with onion and bacon topping.  Thicker skins than ravioli or other filled Italian pasta, but not as stodgy as bread or potato dumplings.  I could have happily ordered another plate of these – perhaps a mixed plate, which they do – for the rest of my dinner.

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But instead – lest this become yet another a post solely about dumplings – I revisited All The Smoked Meats of Poland in the form of bigos or ‘hunter’s stew’, with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.   Probably the best thing you could eat on a cold winter’s night (bar Czech guláš).

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Dad’s roast duck with red cabbage was declared delicious but not quite as good as the Czechs do it at Tommy’s (of course).

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The shish kebabs defeated everyone else – they came with a pile of fried potato dumplings, plus beetroot & apple relish, plus a pot of aioli or some Polish variant thereof.  I stole various dumplings from people and dipped them in the Polish variant.  Mmm.

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For pudding, Dad and I (with perpetually hollow Czech legs) shared a piece of poppyseed cake which seemed, coincidentally, exactly the same as a recipe for a Ukranian poppyseed cake which I’d torn the day before from a food magazine and made a mental note to bake ASAP.  It was almost black with poppyseeds, and very soft and airy as though many whipped egg white had been folded in.  There was a taste of lemon zest too, which really enlivened the nutty, earthy flavour of the poppyseeds.  It was meant to be served with chocolate sauce but Dad asked for it without – my Ukranian recipe calls for chocolate ganache, which I will definitely been keeping!   I should note that it was all-in-all an unusual combination of textures and tastes, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or piece of cake).  But worth trying if you are feeling adventurous!  I will report back with I’ve made the Ukranian one.

The service is helpful and friendly and, like at Tommy’s down the street, the staff always seem personally touched that you want to try their cuisine (and gently correct your mangled pronunciation!).  My only beef is with the pricing of the mostly-pickled-vegetable side dishes: all are $4.90, and all are very small.  See the traditional pickles in the pierogi picture above – that few pickles should not cost $4.90.  The bill quickly starts to add up if you order too many side dishes, which is obviously what you want to do when trying a different cuisine.  The mains average at about $24, which is fair as they are well sized and very filling.  And I certainly don’t begrudge a small, probably family-run restaurant in that no-man’s-land strip of Glebe Point Road for needing to charge what they do to make a profit.  I just want a few more pickles for my $4.90!

But pickle grumbles aside, Na Zdrowie is very much worth a visit.  You never know, someone at the next table might sing to you in Polish!

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I’m sure my friend took the opportunity to sing this…

Noodle Soup Lunch XV

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Pre-ramen coffee at Rising Sun Workshop, which does coffee, ramen and motorbike repairs.  I haven’t needed the trifecta, but the first two are excellent.

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Pre-ramen gyoza.  Gorgeously juicy but with crunchy charred bottoms. The pretty blobs of hot sauce looked cute and then tasted great stirred in with the escaping pork juices.

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Everything about The Monk is what I don’t usually look for in a ramen: thick curly noodles; miso base; not tonkotsu; vegetarian! Yet I love it. I think because it’s so different – it’s not a compromised tonkotsu; it’s a totally different beast (plant?).