Sunday, 17 February 2008


Sassafras has been seving up popular breakfasts and lunches at Paddington for years.

I hadn't eaten there for ages, but we popped in for a Sunday breakfast recently. If you haven't been to Sassafras before, it occupies an old cottage, with a yard area out the back. You can either sit inside at a table in one of the rooms, or outside which is a bit quieter.

The other thing about Sassafras is that it is usually very busy on weekends. Today was no exception. Although you order and pay at the counter, in busy times its usually a good idea to find yourself a seat first, or risk not having anywhere to eat when your food is ready. Luckily most of the diners are a pretty friendly lot, and there was no problem with us sharing a table with another couple out in the backyard. After we'd ordered, we watched the resident magpie walking around the backyard, picking up scraps as if he owned the place. Everyone is well catered for at Sassafras.

Sassafras has a good variety in its breakfast menu. If you're looking for something sweet, there is French toast with syrupy caramelised apples & double cream ($10.90) or the delicious sounding ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter & maple syrup ($13.50). There are also some different savoury options, like chilli corn cakes with hummus, spinach, crispy bacon & relish ($13.50) or more standard fare such as eggs benedict with baby spinach, toasted turkish bread, hollandaise & your choice of ham or avocado ($13.50).

Vegetarians are also very well catered for, with a great selection on the menu including a vegetarian big breakfast of scrambled tofu, toasted turkish bread, relish, avocado, grilled tomato, baked beans & mushrooms ($15.90) and mushrooms & tomatoes on toasted turkish bread ($10.90). Sassafras also has a good range of gluten free options, with all breakfasts being able to be prepared gluten free (except the scrambled tofu) for $1 extra.

There is also a wide selection of drinks to match with your Sunday breakfast. Cold drinks cover some refreshing sounding frappes ($5.50), fresh juices ($6), smoothies ($6), milkshakes ($4.50-$5) and iced chocolate/coffee/mocha ($4.50). Coffee is Grinders, and a flat white here is $3.50. There is also a good range of T2 teas, which seem to be popping up everwhere. You can get anything from a Darjeeling to a monk pear spi chai (whatever that might be) for $3.80.

There was a bit of a wait for our breakfasts, which was to be expected, given how busy it was. There are plenty of magazines and papers floating around to read, and we certainly weren't in a hurry.

Our coffees came out first. They were fine, but both had a decent amount spilt out of them into the saucer on the trip out from the kitchen.

Somehow the people sitting next to us, who had ordered after us, got their cooked breakfasts before we did, but ours came out shortly after. Unfortunately my poached eggs with "crispy bacon" and gluten free bread ($13) weren't the best. The eggs were great - a generous serving of 3 free range eggs, nicely runny. However, when the kitchen had plated up the poached eggs, they had also plonked on a fair bit of the water out of the saucepan onto my plate, which was basically swimming in water. That was bearable I suppose, but it quickly turned my toast soggy and watery - not exactly the most appetising breakfast. Also I am a big fan of crispy bacon, and if the menu says "crispy bacon" you'd hope it was actually crispy. This bacon was cooked, but definitely not crispy. If your bacon isn't going to be crispy, then just list it as bacon on your menu.

On the other hand, the mushrooms & tomatoes on toasted turkish bread with a side serve of avocado ($13.90) was very good. Although it came out without the avocado, we tracked down a staff member who quickly brought out a side serve, as it had been ordered. The mushrooms were perfectly cooked, still with a bit of bite, and were delicious. The tomatoes were also beautiful, and it was a pretty generous breakfast all round.

So our food here was a bit hit and miss. I know we were there at a busy time, but standards shouldn't slip just because there are plenty of orders coming in. A little more attention to service and presentation would have made an enormous difference to my meal in particular.

Sassafras is also open for lunch, and serves up some great sandwiches, salads and other meals. Next time you're in the Paddington area and looking for a tasty lunch, it's definitely worth a try. Sassafras also offers a catering service - check out their website for further details.

What does all this mean? A very popular, casual cafe for breakfast and lunch, but our food was a bit hit and miss.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - OK
Ambience - Relaxed, casual spot with a great outside area
Value for Money - Good
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Great

88 Latrobe Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3369 0600
E -
W -

Sassafras Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Fruit Fantasy & Deli

Ever since Vinnies at Newmarket decided to close its deli section (which was excellent) I have been trying to find a good deli in the North-West area.

I noticed that Fruit Fantasy & Deli opened at Stafford City recently. We don't go to Stafford City very often, but decided to pop in there today to grab some lunch supplies.

Fruit Fantasy & Deli sells a good range of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also has a small deli section at the back of the shop. Although its not the biggest deli in the world, it does have a particularly good selection. There are plenty of cold meats, smallgoods, antipasto, Italian & Australian cheeses (including Kingaroy Cheese), Maggie Beer's products, Gerbino's breads, dips, gelati, spices & honey.

On this visit, we ended up buying a jar of Suzanne Quinter's locally produced preserved lemons (which are my new favourite ingredient after our visit to Morocco last year), a Kingaroy Cheese Stuart River triple cream brie, some large semi-dried roma tomatoes, Bertocchi sopressa and a basket full of fresh fruit and vegies.

It doesn't have the range that Zone Fresh or the New Farm Deli carry, but it's streets ahead of supermaket delis in the quality stakes. The prices are very reasonable too. If you live in the area, its definitely worth a visit. I'll definitely be going back.

Fruit Fantasy & Deli
Shop 135, Stafford City Shopping Centre
400 Stafford Road
Stafford 4053
P - 07 3352 3857

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Chinese New Year at Huongs

We had a great Chinese New Year dinner at Huongs on the weekend.

I'm normally dead against ordering any kind of banquet for dinner, but in plenty of Chinese restaurants on the weekend, that was the only option, given they were all going to be packed.

For entrees we had spring rolls and some very tasty, crunchy san choy bow.

Mains spanned Chinese and Thai food, but were delicious - garlic king prawns, chicken massaman curry, salt & pepper calamari, duck with basil sauce and sweet & sour pork. The prawns, chicken and duck were my pick of the dishes as we struggled to finish them all.

Not only was the food great, but there were two Chinese dragons which danced around the room after the mains were served, while a couple of drums beat away.

Even though the restaurant was full, service through the night was quick and friendly. All this for $32 made it a great, fun night out. I've already done a post on Huongs which you can read if you're keen to find out more about the restaurant.

83A Vulture Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 6701

Queensland Lifestyle Awards

Voting is now open for the Courier Mail's Queensland Lifestyle Awards. You can vote in the following categories:
  • Best Bar
  • Best Bar Person
  • Best Cafe
  • Best Barista
  • Best Restaurant
  • Best Floorstaff
  • Best Deli
  • Best Queensland Product

Get in quick, as voting is only open until 24 February 2008. You can vote here.

I'll keep an eye on the results and post them up. It'll be interesting to see which places come out as everyone's favourites.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

New Zealand in a Glass 2008

There are new events a plenty this week. The latest one I've found out about is the New Zealand in a Glass 2008 wine tasting.

Out of all the wine tasting roadshows that visit Brisbane, this one is my favourite. Usually all of the top New Zealand producers are there and the quality of wines across the board is generally excellent. Wineries taking part this year include Cloudy Bay, Huia, Hunters and Villa Maria.

This year its being held on 24 February 2008 from 6-9pm at the Sofitel. Tickets are $35 and have to be bought in advance. Last year it sold out, so if you're planning to go, get your tickets now. You can find more information and purchase tickets here.

Masterclass Weekend

I just picked up a card today for the 2008 Brisbane Masterclass Weekend, which is held at the Hilton.

This year the dates are 26 and 27 July 2008. You can register your details to obtain a program by sending an email to

The website for the Masterclass is here, but it doesn't seem to have been updated since 2006. Hopefully the program will be up there a little closer to July.

I'll post up some more details once I've got my hand on the program for this year. In the meantime, start saving your pennies for July.

Chinese New Year

Its now officially the Year of the Rat, and there are plenty of Chinese New Year celebrations happening in Brisbane.

Loads of Chinese restaurants around Brisbane are holding special dinners, with banquets, events and entertainment. There are also heaps of free events happening in the Valley.

For more info about Chinese New Year events, check out these sites:

Be warned though, if you're thinking of going out to dinner on Friday or Saturday night, you better book quickly, as restaurants are filling up fast.

Monday, 4 February 2008


ShilX gelato is currently my favourite place for dessert in the Valley.

ShilX is perfectly placed on Brunswick Street, across the road from the Sunbar and the Press Club, and just up from New York Slice. That also explains why ShliX is open until 3am on Saturdays and 5am on Sundays - sometimes you just need a good gelato instead of another drink.

The gelato is made freshly on the premises, and covers the usual range of fruity flavours (like blood orange, mango and passionfruit), creamy/chocolately ones (like white chocolate, tiramisu and mars) and also the "drink of the week" flavour (pina colada anyone?).

Serves start at $3 for one flavour and go up in price depending on just how much drink of the week you need that night.

ShliX also serves coffee (by Coffex) and shakes. But you're really here for the great gelati.

Best of all, ShliX is a local, family run operation . So next time you're wandering around the Valley after a great dinner or a few drinks, head into ShliX for a gelati or two. And if you find yourself liking it, make sure you pick up a VIP card, to reward you for your dedicated gelati scoffing.

ShliX Gelato
364 Brunswick Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3252 2229
W -

Mooloolaba Fish Market

The Mooloolaba Fish Market is my favourite place to buy seafood (fresh or cooked) in the Mooloolaba/Maroochydore area.

It's a fantastic place to buy just about any fresh seafood - whole fish, fish fillets, prawns, bugs, crabs, scallops, oysters etc. And they also have a great range of cooked seafood, if you are just after some fish and chips. Sit on the deck upstairs, overlooking the trawlers and munch away on some of the freshest, tastiest seafood on the Sunshine Coast.

On my most recent trip we picked up a dozen oysters, half a kilo of fresh green headless prawns and a sand crab for $34. Great value, and even better once we started eating it. The sand crab in particular was beautifully sweet. Although I felt terribly lazy, its also great to be able to get headless green prawns, which saves about 5 seconds in peeling after they've been cooked up (not to mention the scraps).

Best of all, plenty of the seafood comes from their own local company - Mooloolah River Fisheries - which also exports seafood all over the world.

But be warned, the fish market can get very busy in peak times - at school holidays and on weekends - but the wait is definitely worth it.

Mooloolaba Fish Market
Lot 201 Parkyn Parade
Mooloolaba 4557
P - 07 5452 4611
E -
W -

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Thai Wi Rat

I have been meaning to make it along to Thai Wi Rat for ages. Its considered by many to serve the most authentic Thai food in Brisbane.

Thai Wi Rat is in the Chinatown Mall in the Valley. It has seating both inside and out in the mall.

We arrived at 7.30 on a Friday night, and it was pretty busy. We had booked a table outside, but it was pretty hard to grab a free waiter to be seated. So we just joined the line up at the front counter. At Thai Wi Rat, you line up and place your order at the counter. Eventually we got to the front of the line and were seated at our table outside. It was worth booking though, because we ended up at the only table with a tablecloth and place setting, which is a nice touch.

The menu here is a fair bit longer than most Thai restaurants in Brisbane. It also has a few Laotian dishes, which you probably won't find anywhere else in Brisbane. The menu covers soup, "special dishes", grilled dishes, Thai style salads, uncooked salads, Laos style salads, stir fries, curries, single dishes (ie with rice), stir fried noodles and noodle soups. With all those options, it will take you a little while to decide. Everything is priced very well - the most expensive thing on the menu is the Surin set for $22.90, but most other main dishes are between $9.90 and $14.90.

Despite the otherwise extensive menu, the entree selection is a bit limited, so I went for the chicken satays ($6.90 for 4). These were good, as was the satay sauce. The thing with chicken satays though is that they are very rarely bad. They're usually pretty tasty, and even if the chicken isn't the best, you can usually smother them with sauce until they are great.

We also had a vegetarian tom yum soup ($6.90). This was ok, but lacked the real spicy and sour tanginess of a great tom yum. It did have plenty of fresh vegetables in it though.

Unfortunately, there was a very long wait until our starters came out. We sat at our table for an hour before even the tom yum soup came out. Not only did the tom yum come out then, but so did the panang curry, one of our main courses, together with the sticky rice we had also ordered for main course. We told the waiter that the panang curry was a main course, but she didn't seem the slightest bit concerned and it just stayed on the table. The next thing that came out was my entree. So the panang curry and rice sat on our table, cooling down all the time while we ate our entrees. Luckily it was a typically warm Brisbane summer night.

When you get to mains, there are plenty to choose from. Some of the more interesting dishes are grilled whole Thai catfish served with Thai E-san sauce ($14.90), grilled Laos style pork sausage ($9.90), steamed boneless chicken feet Thai salad ($13.90), duck mince Laos style salad ($13.90) and the great sounding cracking pork on rice ($9.90). There really is a huge selection of mains. The menu also has plenty of pictures just in case you're not sure what the dish you're thinking about might actually look like.

Given the great selection, I decided to try something new, and went with the pork guay teaw lard na or Thai gravy sauce ($9.90). This dish had plenty of fresh vegetables, flat rice noodles and was served in a fairly thick, Thai gravy. It was tasty enough, but not spectactular.

We also had the vegetable panang curry ($9.90) as I mentioned above. This contained pretty much the same fresh vegetables as the tom yum sauce. It was in the more fragrant, rather than richer, style of Thai curries and was good, but again not fantastic.

With mains, you also have a selection of steamed jasmine rice or sticky rice. We ordered some of the sticky rice, which comes out in great thatched kind of container. It is very sticky stuff, and needs a bit of sauce on it to break it up. Still, it made a good change from the plain steamed rice we usually order.

The most disappointing part of the night however was the service. Waiting an hour for 4 chicken satay sticks and a small bowl of tom yum soup is a bit over the top. Our bottle of white wine also sat on the table for the night without a cooler. Maybe we just picked the wrong time of the week to go, but service could definitely be improved.

Thai Wi Rat is both licenced and BYO. They have a good selection of beers, including Singha, but the wine choice is pretty limited. If you are after a bottle of wine with your Thai, then its probably a good idea to bring it along yourself.

It's also excellent value. Our dinner was $38, for two entrees, two mains, rice and a soft drink. The servings are pretty generous for the price as well.

Overall, the food at Thai Wi Rat was good, but not exceptional. Maybe I was expecting too much, given all that I'd read about it. I'll certainly be going back to give it another try, as there are plenty of dishes on the menu I've never come across before. Next time, we'll head back with plenty of friends, so we can get a good cross-section of the menu.

What does all this mean? A great selection of interesting Thai and Laotian food at excellent prices, but the service needs improving.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Poor
Ambience - Relaxed outdoor seating
Value for money - Top Shelf
Wine - Very limited selection
Vegetarian - Great

Thai Wi Rat
Shop 48, Duncan Street
China Town Mall
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3257 0884

Thai Wi-Rat on Urbanspoon