The Duck Inn, Chippendale

On a cold drizzly night, a catchup with old friends on the cards, the promise of a warm, lively night at the Duck Inn pub in Chippendale seemed just the ticket.

The pub was packed as we arrived, and our only seating option was in the beer garden outside. A great spot in concept, but not so great as it started drizzling, then bucketing down, after we had taken a big gulp of our first ciders. Using great agility, we hopped, skipped and jumped over to an umbrella-protected table and there proceeded to continue our leisurely chatter until the rain really started bucketing. Luckily a few people had left in the main part of the bar, so we quickly nabbed a table and were thankful for an actual roof.

We started off with a cider and all commented on the slight rancidity involved with sipping a glass of Magners. We all agreed that the taste improves significantly, with rancidity decreasing in inverse proportion to the number of schooners consumed. $7 each.

Dinner is basically pub grub, with the essence of a effort to make things just a little bit fancier than the normal hum drum grub. In our group, one ordered the Classic Oz Beef Burger ($18), one Pork & Fennel Sausages ($17) and two steak sandwiches ($19).

The burger was described as “not the best burger I’ve ever tasted” and it was noted that the bottom half of the bun was cut from a loaf, and was not an individual roll. We reflected on the potentially critical error of this, depending on the sauciness/ juiciness of the burger and the necessity of the crust from a roll to prevent disintegration. We were advised by our resident New Zealander to go to Queenstown’s Fergberger…or the significantly closer Burger Fuel…for a more tasty morsel.

Burgerman

Burgerman

The pork and fennel sausages were described as “amazing”, although the accompanying potato mash was “floury” and “the worst I’ve ever had”.

Sausage king

Sausage king

The steak sandwich, I felt, was slightly on the small size, although the steak was fairly thick. I had a super grissly bit in one corner of mine, which made eating with hands – as any good steak sandwich should be – awkward and with the distinct possibility of ending up with a sizeable bit of steak hanging from my mouth, out in the open. The spiced tomato chutney was described as “pretty tasty”, although I was less optimistic about it. Fairly average and I was not a fan of raw red onion slices – cooked and caramelised is the way to go here.

Steak and bake

Steak and bake

The chips were a good-sized serve, crisp and generously salted. I’m personally less a fan of the french fry style and more a fan of the steak-cut chips style, but that is no criticism of the Duck Inn.

I had pretty significant food envy of the table next door, which had ordered a couple of the Vale Ale battered fish and chips ($18) and the Twice Cooked Pork Belly (about $24, I think)

Another cider (Batlow, $8.50) later, we headed off into the cold, walking past those young things out for a night on King St, and retreated into the warm, warm safety of our apartments.

The Duck Inn
74 Rose St
Chippendale NSW 2008

Food? 6/10. I wanted to like the food so, so much. And I admit my said food envy…but for us, it was average at best! Safe pub grub though, with a few nice hearty touches
Drinks? 8/10 Decent. A few ciders on tap (the boring Magners, the Batlow and then one poured out of an ale pump) and few craft beers
Atmosphere? 9/10 – a cool neighbourhood pub. Lively, packed, a cool beer garden out the back, a dining hall to one side, friendly bar tenders, rushed but nice service. I’d definitely go back for a Sunday afternoon session.
The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Cafe con Leche, Surry Hills

It’s a rare and special thing when an unpretentious, non-hip, non-ironic noshery comes up in Surry Hills. It’s been there for a while, I believe, and it was a welcome and delicious surprise one leisurely morning (a little while ago now!). I was fortunate enough to have a leisurely hour to spend in the tiny (but very popular) Cafe con Leche on Fitzroy Street in Surry Hills.

Their claim to fame is being Colombian. So, of course, despite offerings of lattes and flat whites and Sonoma muesli, fruit salad and eggs on toast, I had to go for the most South American items on the menu. I guess I was looking confused, as the nice chap behind the counter recommended the arepas. I bloody love arepas, having only recently discovered them on my visit to Fairfield a little while back. What is better than arepas con queso? It’s basically liquid cheese running through a thick corn pancake and it’s freakin’ fantastic. For about $11 or so, I had a plate of two arepas – one being con queso, and the other being with little chunks of corn running through, and all the trimmings. Super cute little plate-lets of guacamole, salsas, pulled pork and sour cream. Simple, but effective, sufficient in quantity, and altogether delicious. Could’ve done with a litttttle more spice in the salsas – but if that’s my only complaint, then that ain’t half bad.

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For drinks, I obviously couldn’t go past HOT CHOCOLATE WITH CHEESE. With. Cheese. I’d had this thought that it was obviously going to be some form of cream cheese / cottage cheese / something that looks vaguely soluble. But no, it was actual slices of cheese. It was weird…. The hot chocolate, itself, was great. It was rich and dark and not too sweet – just how I like my men. I mean…my hot chocolate. And it was served in a cool, funky looking little cup, with a stick in it. Now to the cheese. It didn’t really melt. I’m not sure if it was because the hot chocolate wasn’t burningly hot….or if that’s the point and the cheese isn’t meant to melt. Either way, it essentially resulted in me ending each sip of the delicious liquid with a small piece of cheese dribbling down my chin. Not my most attractive moment. It didn’t taste BAD…it was just weird.

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Despite my cheese debarcle, I had a great little relaxing brunch at Cafe con Leche. Luckily, being a week day, it wasn’t packed as it seems when I’ve walked past it a few times on Saturday mornings. There were many locals coming in for a takeaway coffee – so I assume their brew is pretty good! The staff were super nice and attentive (and didn’t look at me like I was a total idiot when I stared at the menu, bewildered). The menu isn’t lengthy, but it’s considered and from my experience, it tastes great and is reasonably priced. I hope I have another free weekday morning some time, some day, to head back there again.

Cafe con Leche
104 Fitzroy St, Surry Hills

Food? 9 out of 10
Drinks? 8 out of 10. A delicious hot chocolate and interesting with a Columbian twist. I hear the coffee is good, but other than that, pretty stock-standard
Atmosphere? 8 out of 10. Small and cute – could be cramped on a busy day – but with some cute little “Colombian-feeling” touches.

Cafe con Leche on Urbanspoon

The Spanish Fly, Randwick

I once went to Spain, back in the day. It was after a set of my uni exams and I was on exchange in England and everyone else was either busy, boring, studying or a combination of the three so I decided that for a brief weekend I would nip on down to Barcelona to check it out. I caught a train out of the busy, bustling city one day, out to this beachside town called Sitges. After many hours of wandering aimlessly, looking at beautiful, old crumbling buildings and wading in the warm waves, the hunger that had been brewing in that tummy of mine came to a head. As if the town of Sitges knew that my hunger was rampant, it provided a cute little tapas bar in my very path. I sat there for hours, talking (badly) in Spanish to the waiter, taking photos of the passing people and ordering plate after plate of delicious tapas. I enjoyed so much the pure flavours that came out of the meats, the cheeses, the seafood. It was nothing fancy – the whole premise of the bar was an out-of-the-way family run tapas bar for the locals. But everything was fresh. And the flavours of the ingredients – of the meats, for example – came out so vividly. As I watched nearby tables talking and laughing and sharing these little, beautiful plates of deliciousness over glasses of red wine, I came to appreciate just how much the humble tapas contributes to this amazing social movement. I drank my wine and finished my plate and as the sun dipped behind the old, crumbling buildings, I caught a train back into the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

Anyhoo – through my dining friend, I decided to attempt to re-live this beautiful moment (hey – it’s a mission to get back to Spain) There are a number of tapas restaurants around “The Spot” in Randwick – El Bulli, L’il Darlin, to name a couple. But being fans of the independent, non-chain restaurant, we ended up at the Spanish Fly. We got there at about 7pm on a Friday night and it was packed. ┬áSeated at the bar, it unfortunately ruined any chance of a romantic evening, but at the delicious smells wafting around, we were happy to take it.

Starting off, we went with a jug of sangria. I’ve gotta comment The Spanish Fly on their Sangria, it was cinnamon-y, nutmeggy, winy and not wimpy. It was strong without being overpoweringly wine-y. It wasn’t filled to the brim with those little bits of fruit that ruin my delicious mouthful. It was just tasty, spicy, heady sangria.

For our plates of deliciousness, we went with the fried zucchini flowers, filled with ricotta and sat upon a red capsicum sauce. I felt that the batter was ever so slightly thick and oily (not in the “corner store battered fish” sort of way; more in the “compared to tempura” sort of way). The capsicum sauce on which it sat has a nice strong flavour – not too spicy – but like a roasted capsicum that meant to be there. The filling of the flowers was neither here nor there; I couldn’t really detect anything exciting. But with a bit of capsicum smooshed onto it, the combination was crisp, fresh and nicely flavoured.

Crunchy, crispy zucchini flowers

Next up, calamari. Without having actually read the description, I automatically assumed that the calamari would have been deep fried to crisp perfection. It wasn’t. DF wasn’t as impressed with the dish that appeared in front of us, but I thought it was a nicely different dish to the usual hum-drum deep fried squid. In front of us appeared a generous mound of calamari rings, sauteed in almost a caponata – it had been tossed in a tomato-y, olive-y, eggplant-y, chunky sauce. The calamari was tender, the sauce was spicy and well seasoned and I didn’t mind it at all. It wasn’t a wholesome, fulfilling dish, ┬ábut light and fresh isn’t so bad.

Calamari – fresh is best

We also had chorizo, as I guess you need to get to complete a tapas meal. We were served a – again – generous portion of thick slices of chorizo (by the time I got around to taking the photo, we’d eaten most of it), sitting atop the zucchini flower’s capsicum sauce, and a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil. I have to say that the chorizo could have done with a bit more time over the flame to get that delicious caramelised, char-grilled surface; instead, the chorizo was cooked so-so, but sort of dry.

Chorizo!

Last up, mushroom ravioli. Ok, so it’s not spanish per se. But we were presented with a cute little terracotta bowl of 6 beautiful morsels of ravioli. I actually think this was the highlight of the night. Mushrooms can often be an underwhelming, flavourless effort to inject some form of salty flavour into a vegetarian dish. But here, the Spanish Fly performed admirably. The ravioli was delicate, the mushroom flavour really came out, and each piece was seasoned well. And the sharp parmesan that topped the dish was crumbly and strong, if a bit light on the coverage.

Mushroom ravioli

All up, I had a good time at the Spanish Fly. Tispy from that delicious sangria and comfortably full, I noticed the many groups of tables nearby, talking and laughing, sharing little plates bursting with flavour over glasses of wine. And I realised that despite not being in the beautiful beachside town of Sitges, the same movement carried across the kilometres, through the waves and into the Spanish Fly in Randwick.

The Spanish Fly
35 St Pauls Street
Randwick NSW 2031

Food? 7/10
Drinks? 8/10
Atmosphere? 9/10

The Spanish Fly on Urbanspoon