Sunday, 17 May 2015

Circa Espresso - Parramatta - Sydney, Australia

It's been a few months since I last posted as life has kept me occupied or should I say I've been rather lazy. Sorry dear readers! Continuing on with the backlog of posts I've yet to go through, next up is Circa Espresso, now one of my favourite brunch places. I've been there twice and on both occasions the food has been consistently good.

Circa Espresso is situated between two buildings in what used to be a laneway, then a garage and then transformed into a fully operational cafe in the greater western suburb of Parramatta. It's located on the quieter side of the train station and away from the hustle and bustle.

Having attempted to go here a few times, I just didn't have any luck as it was either closed or another restaurant took precedence over it. It just wasn't meant to be as one would say. Then the day finally came but it was raining and from the photos we saw online it looked small inside, so once again we were about to cancel and change location. Luckily, my friend was persistent in going to have a look and thankfully we did. Seating is unavailable outside when it rains but once it clears it becomes available.

On our first visit we got a table inside within 15 minutes of waiting, which was much shorter than what we were expecting. The miserable weather  didn't stop customers from getting their coffee and breakfast as it was buzzing with patrons. However, on our second visit, the wait was close to an hour for a table inside. Be prepared to patiently wait on weekends as it's extremely popular.

From the outside it looks very small and narrow, but once you enter it's much bigger than it actually looks with more tables towards the back. Even though there is limited space, they've made use of it very well.

The rustic walls are lined with bricks and brightly painted murals, bringing back memories of the cafe culture in Melbourne.

The cheerful and bubbly waitress brings us to our tables right at the back, alongside shelves of books and encyclopedias, reminiscing to the days when we were younger. While the internal decor is quirky and fun, the lack of light makes photo taking slightly difficult but that's what creates the ambiance.

The menu is presented on pieces of paper on a clipboard, and from initial observation it looks impressive. There is a decent selection of home-style dishes from the basic breakfast items to the much more elaborate and unique, all of which are well-priced and affordable.

The 'Cappuccino (regular size)' is made using a blend of Little Marionette beans. The coffee is potent, robust and full bodied, and is ultra smooth on the palate.

On another visit, I opt for the large size cappuccino and wow it's huge for an additional 50 cents! Well worth the money as it's nearly twice the size of the regular and you'll surely get your full caffeine fix from that single cup.

The 'Baked Eggs' is made with sujuk, Danish feta, diced tomatoes and free range eggs with a hint of chilli, served in a pan. The side of crusty bread makes a good accompaniment for the perfectly cooked runny eggs. The hint of sourness from the juicy tomatoes and the saltiness from the creamy fetta balanced out well . Overall, I really liked the bold tomato based flavours and wish there was more of the bread for scooping up the sauce.

The 'Avocado Smash' looked sensational with shades of greens, reds and yellow from the assortment of vegetables. Suitable for those who prefer a lighter or less heavy breakfast as there isn't any meat. It's made with smashed creamy avocado, feta and lime juice, with a side of boiled eggs. It was fresh, tasty and popping with not only colour but also flavour.

'Baked Squid' appears to be a seasonal item as it wasn't on the menu the second time I was there. It's a shame cause it was very delicious. It resembled the baked eggs with a tomato base sauce but with the addition of chick peas and squid. A hearty and comforting dish that's perfect for this weather.

While seating is limited and the wait may be long, the quality ingredients and delicious food makes up for it. The service staff were welcoming and friendly making it even better. This cafe is definitely worth a visit. Hopefully I can try out one of their delectable desserts on display at the front soon.

21 Wentworth St
Parramatta NSW 2150

Phone no: 02 8896 6071

Opening Hour

Tuesday - Friday: 7:00am to 4:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 8:00am to 3:00pm


Circa on Urbanspoon

Friday, 20 March 2015

Hawker Malaysian Street Food - Sydney CBD - Sydney, Australia

From the same owners of the ever so popular Mamak, Hawker is also a Malaysian restaurant, but its core focus is on the Malay-Chinese street food of Malaysia, also known as hawker fare. Their simple and pocket-friendly menu offers classic items that fall under the categories of snacks, fried bread, noodles and desserts. There are certain dishes only available here and no where else in Sydney as of yet, such as the fried oyster omelette, stingray and turnover pancake.

On a Friday night we were expecting to queue for a table but surprisingly we walked straight through. On the contrary, when we left the line was going out the door.

As we were directed to our table, our eyes deviated towards the chefs cooking in the open kitchen. There was so much happening in that little space.

The dining area is spacious, airy and clean, with minimal decor.

The 'Popiah ($8.00 for 2)' was first to come out. I had this once in Malaysia and faintly remember how it tasted. It's a fresh spring roll that is filled with an assortment of ingredients. The version here is freshly made from start to finish. The paper-thin skin is prepared by the chefs on premises and the way it's made is mesmerising.

It's filled with yam bean, shredded omelette, minced tofu, lettuce and crispy shallots with a hoisin like sauce. While we found the mixture to be fresh and crunchy at parts, the sauce overpowered the popiah and left a weird aftertaste which wasn't very pleasant.

The 'Ikan Bakar ($14.00)' is a grilled stingray marinated with sambal and served with a tangy and spicy dipping sauce. The piece we got was relatively thick compared to the flat ones we usually see in Malaysia or Singapore.

On initial bite, the stingray is succulent like white fish meat. It does have big bones but don't get deterred by this as it's easy to eat once you take it out. Unfortunately, it lacks the seasoning and we find ourselves having to make use of the sauce for extra flavour.

Hawker's rendition of the 'Char Koay Teow ($12.00)' is similar to what I ate in Kuala Lumpur. It uses the thin rice noodles tossed together with prawns, cockles, lap cheong, eggs and bean sprouts.

Cockles aren't usually found in the dishes here but I'm amazed at how they've adapted it to be very much like home. We like how there is the balance of sweetness from the dark soya sauce and slight saltiness from the Chinese sausage, whilst also having the wok-hei, giving it a nice smoky taste which wasn't too overwhelming. Word of warning, there are chilli specks scattered throughout and it's quite spicy.

Crispy pork fat! Those words on the menu immediately grabbed my attention. The 'KL Hokkien Mee ($12.00)' uses the thick Hokkein noodles, stir fried with pork slices, prawns, cabbage and crispy pork fat in a rich black sauce. Not the prettiest or healthiest of dishes but it was delicious and full of flavour. The side of chilli sauce was a great accompaniment to the noodles.

We ended our meal with a dessert called the 'Apam Balik ($6.00 for 2)'. It's the Malaysian adaptation of the pancake. Special moulds are used to make these crispy turnover pancakes filled with crushed peanuts, butter and creamed corn. I've wanted to try this for many years and the day final came. Did it live up to its expectations? It sure did.  The outside was crispy and the filling was deliciously sweet.

Some dishes were hits while others were misses. We went within the first month of opening so they may have improved on their flavours since then. We would definitely return to try the other items on their menu. Fancy a durian fried fritter?

Shop G.02, 345B-353 Sussex St
Sydney NSW 2000

Phone no: 02 9264 9315

Opening Hours
Open 7 Days a Week
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 10:00pm


Hawker on Urbanspoon