Pimp My Plate #36 – GIRDLERS, Dee Why, NSW

Breakfast, brunch, or lunch reviews where the main plate is $20 or less.

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You say heatwave? I say it’s another excuse for a beach café review…

As I sit opposite the bold blue sky meets ocean horizon of Dee Why beach, the words laid-back and lucky best describe the ambience of GIRDLERS cafe.

The mood is laid-back and no fuss – customers wear bikinis, shorts, or loose summery garments. Dee Why, located on Sydney’s northern beaches, is more a local hangout than a tourist spot like Manly or Bondi. There’s a community vibe and because it’s school summer holidays, lots of young tanned bodies are wearing as little as possible.

GIRDLERS sits on a prime corner location facing the beach, so you can watch the waves and visually crowd-surf a parade of beachgoers from your table.

Their vision is SIMPLE. HONEST. FOOD. Because it’s a heatwave outside of 38°C/100.4°F that is exactly the kind of food I feel like.

I read the menu and GIRDLERS’ vision: ‘There’s a spot at the South end of Dee Why we like to call our own. It’s a place where the people are real, where you can kick back and take your time, a place where you can always count on a great coffee, a clear view of the ocean and the smell of good things cooking.’

Every workplace should have this view – magic.

Tables are scrubbed-back distressed wood, enamelware plates, and the brick wall features a hippy-lace decal, and an interesting vintage photo I forgot to ask about. There’s an easy ambience, and a faded-summer-sun softness to the decor.

As I said it’s REALLY HOT. I claim the table directly under the furiously rotating ceiling fan because it IS THAT HOT.

I choose pancakes for lunch, but first I order a Sweet Cheeks ($9) – a mix of watermelon, apple, cucumber, lime and raspberry juice. It’s cold and super-refreshing. There’s also Kombucha on tap and Kombucha Spritz, fresh juices, super smoothies, and milkshakes.

My plate of gluten and dairy free Pancake Revolution ($19) arrives – coconut and banana pancakes with seasonal berries, homemade Goodtella (a Nutella substitute), vanilla coconut yoghurt, and a generous sprinkle of crushed pistachio nuts. And organic maple syrup. Yum!

It’s incredibly filling and perfect for a not-too-heavy but satisfying lunch.

Another menu temptation is Goat On the Orchard ($16) – organic rye sourdough toast with Danish goat’s feta, fresh peaches, raspberries, and organic activated nut spread, drizzled with Hinterland Honey.

There are egg dishes, and Glow Bowls ($18) based around tofu or haloumi cheese, with kale, quinoa, roasted field mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and cauliflower sauce. Another reason to go back.

GIRDLERS is a space to kick-back and inhale beach air, smell the coffee, and ponder whether afterwards to sit in the shade of the pine trees with a book, take a long walk along the beach, swim, or wander down to the rock pools and explore. So many choices and all of them designed by Nature to kiss your spirits and extend that state of relaxation.

If you’re wondering about the name – GIRDLERS is so close to the word Grinders, isn’t it?  –  the café is named after local and ex-football player Ryan Girdler and his wife, Katja.

Once a run-down juice bar, husband and wife team Ryan and Katja and their friend Sebastian have created a café with a mindset committed to healthy deliciousness. Before or after the beach, this is the place to park your beach bum.

RATED: Pimped by pancakes!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 4/5   VENUE ATMOS: 100% Laid back
VIBE:  Beachside
GIRDLERS – 7-8 The Strand, Dee Why, NSW
7 days. M-S: 6.30am-5pm SUN: 7am-5pm

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Pimp My Plate #29 – NO NAME, Darlinghurst, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is back in Australia and back to a budget of AUD$19-ish.

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This month I’m posting a series of three café reviews focused on one particular dish. Remember that old Italian-Australian favourite Spaghetti Bolognese?

‘Pimp my Bolognese, again!’

In this week’s quest to see if Spaghetti Bolognese has disappeared from Sydney menus, I twirl my fork in one of Darlinghurst’s oldest Italian restaurants.

As I mentioned last week, a traditional version of Bolognese sauce includes onion, celery, and carrot, different types of minced or chopped beef, and sometimes small amounts of fatty pork, red wine, tomato concentrate and/or ripe tomatoes.

This is the second of three plates of Spaghetti Bolognese I’ll be reviewing.

No Name Restaurant – Ristorante #2

It seems like NO NAME restaurant has been in Darlinghurst for …. forever. Decades ago, when I worked in an advertising agency nearby NO NAMES (as we called it) was a regular hangout on Friday afternoons with the tribe.

I remember this restaurant from as far back as the mid-1970s. Even so, I’d have been shocked if Spaghetti Bolognese had disappeared from the menu.

My heart skips a beat …  Yes! It’s still on the menu. ‘Of course it is,’ I reprimand myself.

I order a ‘small’ Garden Salad ($4 – say whaaat?) to accompany my bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese ($10), and with that I get a complimentary side of bread, a glass of cordial, and a glass of water.

‘Parmesan cheese?’

‘Yes,’ I answer without any expectations of fresh Parmesan cheese.

When it first opened, NO NAME began a tradition of offering simple, no-fuss Italian food, with a rustic style.

Not much has changed since in the style of décor or the food, and that’s its charm. The fact that over so many years NO NAME continues to offer basic Italian meals at a price that seems oblivious to inflation is unique. Especially in a large city like Sydney, where change is a constant of this city’s restaurant scene.

If my memory is correct, the only thing missing on my table compared to ‘back then’ are the little glass salt-shaker bottles full of dried chilli flakes. Part of the Friday lunch ceremony was sprinkling copious amounts of chilli flakes over our bowls of spaghetti. In their place is a sea of bright yellow plastic squeeze bottles full of vinegar. What these are for, I’m not sure, and I don’t care to find out.

My bowl of spaghetti arrives and it looks good, and tastes good. There’s no garnish or carrot – no fuss – but I notice a pleasing ratio of sauce to pasta.

This is cheap and cheerful food. It offers flavour and fills you up, and does both at an incredibly good price. So my second experience of Spaghetti Bolognese is filling, no-frills, and enjoyable. And there’s enough sauce.

NO NAME’S blackboard menu features other dishes including, Schnitzels ($15-$24), Scaloppini w Mushrooms (another old favourite), and Osso Buco (both $12), Liver and Onions ($14), and Steak and Onions ($15).

About the name NO NAME – how did it begin?

According to urban legend, the original restaurant sign kept being knocked down by passing rubbish trucks. Faced with having to continually replace the restaurant sign, eventually the restaurant was left with no name – literally.

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After lunch, I head downstairs to Darlinghurst’s other long term resident, THE ARCH, for dessert: a great cup of coffee and a crunchy pistachio biscotti.

My next and final Spaghetti Bolognese encounter is next week.

RATED: No frills  FOOD: 3/5
VALUE: 4.5/5   ATMOS: Minimalist   VIBE:  No-frills fun
NO NAME – 2 Chapel Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW

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No-brainer Basil Pesto

Enjoy the last of end-of-season basil with this simple recipe that puts the taste of Summer on your plate. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, think about planting basil to add to Summer salads.

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BASIL PESTO with spaghettini
(makes 1 1/2 – 2 cups of pesto, serves 4)
3 cups of fresh basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup of raw pine nuts, plus extra to garnish
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until pine nuts and basil leaves have been minced into a smooth paste.

Simmer spaghettini in plenty of water, and drain when cooked al dente.
Mix pesto through the spaghettini, and garnish with finely grated parmesan cheese and pinenuts. Season with salt, to taste.

 

Pimp My Plate #13 – Dee Why

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $18 or less. *In November 2016 BUTTERCUP reopened as JB & SONS

BUTTERCUP*

I was on my way to review a different café in Dee Why when I drove past BUTTERCUP and spontaneously decided to find a park, and review it instead.

BUTTERCUP is a just short walk from Dee Why beach. Unlike the other cafes it doesn’t have a beach view, but it has a beachy colour scheme, and you are greeted with a sunny smile. Besides, today’s view of the beach offered a grey blur, with large clumps of seaweed marooned on the sand – a great day to be indoors.

Inside the café-bar-restaurant the vibe is friendly and welcoming and relaxing, and isn’t that what the beach experience is all about.

I scanned the menu and ordered two items from the range of Snacks: Smoked Cauliflower Nuggets, and Salt and Native Pepper Squid. Add a side of Salad Greens and you have a hearty meal.

Deep fried Cauliflower floret fritters (try saying that fast!) are a thing at the moment and for good reason.

Smoked? I must try them.

Smoked Cauliflower Nuggets with Lemon Pepper Mayo ($9) are pieces of cauliflower dipped in beer batter, using Baldwin & Simspons Lager from nearby microbrewery, Brookvale Brewery.

These ‘nuggets’ have a nice chewy mouth feel, and an intense smoky flavour.

‘Liquid smoke?’ I asked, ‘No, we smoke them ourselves’. With a smile, I’ll leave that there.

The reality is that BUTTERCUP do all their own pickling, curing, and smoking, with the aim of serving ‘hearty food inspired by country Australia’. A nice point of difference for an urban café. Yes, Dee Why is urban, and heading close to urbane.

Did someone say chilli? The little pot of vibrant red House Chilli on my plate of Salt and Native Pepper Squid ($12) is a standout. This ‘house’ chilli pickle is packed with plenty of flavour and fire – my kind of chilli condiment.

I find ordering squid is always a lottery. I’m glad to say that’s not the case here – the pieces of squid were so tender that my knife cut through them like butter, and it was a joy to eat. And their use of Native Pepper instead of black peppercorns was a nice variation. I want more of this, and I’ll be back!

Native Pepper is an Australian native shrub, also known as pepperberry, or mountain pepper. It typically grows in gullies and rainforests in Tasmania, Victoria, and some parts of NSW. The dried leaves and berries are used as a spice in food and drink recipes and it’s considered a ‘bushfood’.

I recommend pairing it with a plate of Salad Greens ($7) for a hearty and good value meal.

Another must-try-because-I-didn’t is the Charred Broccoli with Confit Salmon, Peas, Dill, and Chilli ($17), which would also make a nice lunch.

The bar is fully stocked, and some Thursday evenings the bar offers a $10 cocktail special.

There’s a lot to like about BUTTERCUP and as autumn leaves fall, and bikinis and beach towels are replaced by woolly jumpers – or wetsuits – it’s reassuring to know a place to hibernate indoors with some heart-warming food, and cocktails. Who needs a beach view in Winter?

RATED: Pimped!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 5/5  ATMOS: 4.5/5  VIBE: Talk.Eat.Drink.Relax.
BUTTERCUP – 154-158 Pacific Parade, Dee Why, NSW (7 days)

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Spiced Hummus dip, with Turkish Bread

HUMMUS comes from the Arabic word حمّص (ḥummuṣ) meaning ‘chickpeas’. I’ve added a little spice to my version of hummus dip – so you can keep it simple, or add the spice mix, your choice. Enjoy! Or, التمتع طعامك!

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Spiced Hummus dip, with Turkish Bread
(serves 4, T=tablespoon)

Ingredients

400g can chickpeas, drained
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. store bought minced garlic (optional, but adds a slight kick)
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 T tahini paste (sesame paste)
2 T fresh lemon juice, all seeds removed
30ml hot water
2 tsp. spice mix (recipe below), or, just use 2 tsp. ground caraway seed
Turkish Bread – one day old is best as it’s drier and easier to toast. Try to find one with a topping of sesame seeds
1 extra garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

Spice mix:

Mix together 1T of each of these spices in a cup – ground coriander; sweet paprika; cayenne pepper; cinnamon (not cinnamon sugar); ground caraway seeds, salt; and 2/3 T of freshly ground black pepper. Use 2 teaspoons of this mixture for the hummus Store the rest of the mixture in an airtight container, to mix with olive oil and use as a marinade for chicken or lamb skewers.

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HUMMUS:

Add chickpeas and garlic pieces to your food processor and process until both are finely chopped, but not a puree.

Add remaining ingredients and process until the mixture forms a coarse puree. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Use a spatula to scoop mixture into a bowl or onto a serving platter. Refridgerate until needed but use within a few hours or the lemon flavour can become bitter over time.

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, walnuts, or pomegranate seeds.

Just before serving, cut the Turkish bread into 1cm slices and toast lightly in a toaster, or in the oven. When toasted, rub the cut piece of garlic across the bread. Serve with the hummus. Enjoy!