Food News, September, 2011

September 2011

Cheap Eats: Out. Proud. And very loud.

We’re talking about — and up — Cheap Eats 2011–12 in screeching orange and hot pink and stuffed with more than 500 of the best and cheapest eats in town reviewed anonymously by our hand-picked crew of hungry cheapskates. 

For those of you new to Sydney, this is the oldest restaurant guide in town, used and trusted for coming up to 30 years.

We’ve lasted so long because we provide what you want: eating places offering quality and value. And that’s even more important in these lean times. Speaking of lean you might notice we’ve been to the gym and slimmed down. We shed those heavy and expensive Flash Eats (but we’ll talk about them here from time to time) and returned to our roots: the best and cheapest.

But wait — there’s less! Pick up your copy and take advantage of the special Virgin Wine offer: $80 off a dozen delicious wines. Buy Cheap Eats and you’re already ahead of the game. Get your copy here.

We’ve also vamped up and ramped up our website — Go there for more cheap eats — we’re adding to it constantly as we find new ones — and don’t forget the Restaurant Doctor. Got a problem? Family descending on you? Want to pop the question? Celebrate an anniversary/divorce, hiring/firing? Ask the Restaurant Doctor. Free advice from the best-fed team in town.

And then there are our greatest hits — best daytime cafes, small bars with food, yum cha, pizza, pub food, late-night bites, big group restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, do-it-yourself eats, falafel and burger joints, student eats and sweet treats.

Best of all, though, is a whole book full of really good places serving real food at really good prices. Read. Eat. Enjoy.


Sri Lankan Food Fair

Now this, which I learnt from a Sri Lankan friend, is a great deal of fun and a source of cheap and delicious Sri Lankan cooking, which can be combined with a food shopping expedition to the little Asian/Sri Lankan enclave at Homebush Road behind Flemington Station (just up The Crescent from the Food Fair) or for lunch after a Saturday morning at the Flemington Markets. Take your pick. Here’s how it works.

Go to the Homebush Primary School at the corner of The Crescent and Rochester Street around 11.30am (the earlier you’re there, the shorter the queue) on the first Saturday of every month — that’d make the next one September 3 — and check out the menu. All the people cooking in the school yard are amateur home cooks and they’re raising money for their community.

The menu items are priced from $1.50 to $8 and include two different vadai (spicy donut-shaped ulundu and crisp-fried masala), lamb chicken or vegetarian biryani, kotthu roti and much, much more. You queue, order, pay, wait and then you can eat there or take the delicious food home.

And that enclave of shops up the road? If you haven’t discovered it you’re in for a treat. In and around Henley road, near The Crescent, is one of Sydney’s best Sri Lankan spice shops, Spiceland (14 Henley Road) if you’re inspired to cook your own; also Viet Hoa Seafood (98 Henley Road) — you know the Vietnamese won’t even look at fish unless it’s almost flapping fresh; and a couple of interesting Vietnamese grocery shops, including  Yuen Fong (14 Henley Road) where you’ll find vegies you’ve never seen before. Ask and they’ll be delighted to show you how to cook them, even if they don’t know the name in English. Around the corner is Cao Thong BBQ (97 The Crescent) where the barbecue duck is superb. There. That’s Saturday week sorted.


Dinner with 15 chefs and a blonde

One of the hardships of my job is being asked to eat out a lot. And sometimes I say yes. How could I say no to dinner at the cool new Concrete Blonde (33 Bayswater Road, Potts Point, Ph 9380 8307)? Now CB is not a cheap eat but there comes a time in everyone’s life when they want to splash out. You could do worse than splash out here with Patrick Dang’s food in another interesting and comfortable Michael McCann-designed room.

Mr Dang is a modern chef, which means he does like to experiment with produce. And the produce the night I ate there was all caught by a man who is often called Australia’s best fisherman, Mark Eather. The other guests were all chefs — people like Colin Fassnidge (Four in Hand Dining Room, 105 Sutherland Street, Paddington, Ph 9326 2254), Dan Hong (Ms G’s, 155 Victoria Street, Potts Point, Ph 8313 1000), Warren Turnbull (District Dining, 17 Randle Street, Surry Hills, Ph 9211 7798) and many others.

So Mr Chang was out to impress and impress he did. We ate Mark’s line-caught ike jime (spike) killed ocean trout “prepared like charcuterie” as well as brawn, pastrami and salami, all made from the trout (terrific), and green asparagus with mud crab hollandaise etc etc. There were 14 courses in all. This little fishie dropped out at #10. The chefs, I understand, stayed the course and then some — sore heads in kitchens next day.


Old friends, new faces

On the way to Concrete Blonde, I took note of two things. One, the final nail in the coffin of one of my favourite Kings Cross Cheap Eats — the fabulous 50+ New York Restaurant, which closed last year, in its place Antiques on Kellett (18 Kellett Street). I’m tearing up at the keyboard — the tripe in white sauce with peas! The chicken Maryland! The creamed rice and prunes! And nothing over $10! All gone. Those of you who knew and loved it might like to rock up to Michael Gormly’s photographic exhibition, Last Days of the New York Restaurant, at Antiques on Kellett on Thursday September 1 at 6.30pm. There’ll be finger food inspired by the menu. See you there.


Over the road from CB, in the old Darley Street Thai space — who remembers the terribly elegant but very 90s Burley Katon Halliday design, all hot-pink lacquer and gold leaf ceiling? — is Barrio Chino (28 Bayswater Road, Ph 8021 9750). Inside, it’s as if someone with a paint-stripping flame thrower has burned away any vestige of anything that might vaguely be called decoration. It’s plain. But that’s OK. There’s a nice, big bar and people eating Mexican food. But the name did my head in. Barrio Chino in Barcelona, you probably know, is the “don’t go that way” red-light area off the Ramblas. Barrio Chino in Mexico City is Chinatown, home to most of the Mexican Chinese population in the country. WTF? Anyway, apparently Barrio Chino in the Cross offers very good Mexican food (if there is such a thing this side of Cuernavaca — just showing my prejudice) and mucho tequila. We’ll take a closer look very soon and report back.


Coconuts and Inca quinoa

You might recall I posted information about the Organic Expo in the last edition of Food News. I went — hope you did, too — and uncovered some fascinating stuff. One thing I did note was the rise and rise of the coconut, which looks like becoming the olive of the noughties. After decades in the wings, coconut oil, coconut juice and all sorts of other coconut products are coming onto the market. One company, Niulife (, has coconut syrup, and a coconut soy sauce substitute (wait for it — not on the market yet). And Nakula ( has a delicious coconut water drink. But my favourite story from the expo was told to me by Antonio Ramos, importer of Olive Green Organics Royal Quinoa. “Why royal?” I asked. “Aaah,” he said, “let me tell you the story.

“Long ago in the Peru of the Incas, an Inca king had a wife and a mistress. The wife, sadly, could not conceive. But the mistress gave birth to a healthy boy. After the child was born, the jealous queen ordered the king to banish the mistress from his kingdom.

“Reluctantly, he did so. His mistress, devastated, wandered off to the edge of the kingdom. Then Pachamac, the god of creation, appeared to her and said, “As you walk away, child, express the milk from your breasts and where it falls on the ground will grow a wonderful food to feed your child.” This she did, until she reached the border, and  royal quinoa grew. When she crossed the border into the next country, Bolivia, she lay down and died. Here grew ordinary quinoa.”

Now, is that not a terrific marketing story? I think it’s deserving of a plug. It’s also a pretty good quinoa. Go to for stockists.

Two more gems from the expo: the 2009 Thistle Hill organic Riesling is an absolute corker for lovers of austere Rieslings in the Austrian style. Congratulations to winemaker Michael Slater. Go to for stockists and sales. And WellBeing beauty writer Carla Oates was showing her new product, certified organic Carla Oates Inner Beauty Powder, which I have been taking every day since the expo. No discernible results yet but it tastes terrific and I’m prepared to wait. Go to for more info on this and other Carla Oates beauty products. 

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