Because we have a decent selection of spirits and mixers at home, we rarely go out to drink. Making drinks at home gives us the flexibility to make what we like, when we like – without the hefty price tag that often comes with cocktails. But sometimes, it’s worth the money to get the professionals to make something different that just might surprise and delight you, and we definitely found that at Pocket Bar.
We arrived at 7pm on a Friday night, and the place was already buzzing. The alcohol shelves behind the bar hold a massive range of spirits, and the extensive drinks list reflects that.
It takes us a while to read all the cocktails on offer but eventually we choose our poisons of choice. Sir D chooses “Day of the Dead” – a tequila-based cocktail with grapefruit bitters and vanilla sugar. The 1800 anejo tequila is aged so doesn’t have the same harshness as white tequilas, and you can taste citrus notes from the grapefruit and orange peel. Call me a sucker for novelty, but I’m most impressed with the sphere of ice that swirls around in the glass. Having the ice in a sphere shape cools your drink without diluting it as much as ice cubes. Genius!
It’s a bit early in the night to be saying “take your clothes off” but if you want this cocktail, you’ll have to say it to order it! This is another tequila-based cocktail, but this time it is the un-aged blanco tequila that is used. I usually find this a bit strong, but the agave honey, lime juice, pear puree and cinnamon tones it down and makes it quite easy to drink.
Jaypee decides to go for the Tiki Times (in the English undergrowth) cocktail which is mai-tai inspired but given a gin twist. The Appleton rum base is mixed with Haymans Old Tom and sloe gins, and ruby grapefruit juice. Despite the 3 spirits within this cocktail, it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of alcohol and is actually quite sweet.
We decide that it’s best to get some food in our stomachs before all the alcohol goes to our head, and there’s lots to choose from on Pocket Bar’s menu. The menu is inspired by street food from all around the world so it’s a great snack-like accompaniment to the drinks. First up are the cassava chips with salsa huancaína. We had no idea what salsa huancaína was but it turned out to be a spicy cheese sauce with queso fresco and aji amarillo chili peppers. It was a bit pungent for some but I loved it, especially with the fat fried batons of cassava.
Food is king in Japan. You’d be hard pressed to walk down a city street without seeing a restaurant, shop or vending machine offering all sorts of weird and wonderful food. It’s tasty, convenient and absolute paradise for food lovers.
Walking into a Japanese department store basement is like walking into a David Jones Foodhall on steroids. There are literally food stalls as far as the eye can see, selling cakes, fresh fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat food, snack food on sticks, carefully packaged gift boxes of food – it seriously just goes on and on. The first time I saw one of these was in the tunnels of Sapporo station and I was gobsmacked by the amount of food on offer (which turned out to be nothing compared to the huge department stores of Tokyo!)
I was keen to see the super expensive fresh fruit that I’d heard about in Japan, and yes, you can definitely buy 15 strawberries for 6680 yen (about $63AUD, or $4 a strawberry!)
We also saw beautifully presented boxes of cherries at a cool 6480 yen per box (~$60AUD)… right next to the almost-tennis-ball-sized strawberries which were 1620 yen for two (~$15AUD).
Aside from the exquisitely packaged but expensive fruit, there was also other fresh food to be purchased. The meat section had prepackaged cuts of beef, pork and chicken, including the most incredibly marbled cuts of wagyu! The fish section offered lots of fresh fish and seafood to be taken home for cooking, including many types that I hadn’t seen before.
I was particularly surprised to see thinly sliced fugu sashimi available for purchase at department stores. Fugu isn’t something I would eat anywhere except for a specialised fugu restaurant where I knew the chef was qualified and had knowledge on how to prepare it properly without poisoning me! I wasn’t game enough to try it in a department store, but if you want to try fugu without going to a restaurant, just head to your local department store fish section.
Calling all chocaholics! By now you’ve probably been to Max Brenner, Lindt cafe, Oliver Brown and the like, so it’s time to put The Choc Pot on the top of your chocolate cafe list and get there stat! Mainly because of this….
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
This is The Choc Pot’s signature dessert, the molten choc pot. It’s like a chocolate fondant, complete with a gooey, molten centre and in case there wasn’t enough chocolate, some extra molten milk and dark chocolate has been drizzled on top.
I used to love buffets. The thought of being able to eat as much as you want was like heaven for me and invariably, it would result in us paying loads of money, stuffing our faces to ensure we get value for money (don’t even think about wasting stomach space on bread!), and then feeling ill for the rest of the night.
Now, I’m much more inclined to spend my money on smaller portions of better quality food, at a place that focuses on one type of food and does it well, rather than going somewhere where I can eat huge quantities but not so great food. Well, it turns out these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At Pizza Autentico, a mere $20 gets you all you can eat, high-quality pizza and pasta made fresh by Italian chefs for 90 minutes straight.
The unlimited pizza and pasta menu has over 10 pizzas and 5 pastas to choose from, which waiters bring out straight from the kitchen. The pizzas and pastas are served to each diner so you get the opportunity to taste a little bit of everything.
Before we get started on the pizzas and pastas though, a small board of olives, olive tapenade, olive oil and house made bread is brought out to whet the appetite. All the fresh ingredients used at Pizza Autentico are sourced from Salt Meats Cheese in Alexandria, so you know it’s going to be good!
It doesn’t take long for the pizzas to start flowing. Each pizza is brought around and you’re asked if you want a slice. Um… yes please! The first one we try is the n’duja pizza, a napoli sauce base with spicy Italian pork sausage and mozzarella.
Back in the day when I still lived at home, Wahroonga was my hood. There wasn’t much around there at the time – a few takeaway food stores, a book store, a florist and a chicken shop (which was also good for post-school munchies) but nothing to shout about.
A lot has changed since those days. The chicken shop is still there, as are some of the takeaway food stores, but some new cafes have popped up and word on the street is that there’s good coffee, the food is delicious and Instagram-worthy, even.
So of course, I had to go and check it out. The Butcher’s Block was one cafe that I’d heard lots of good things about, so it wasn’t a surprise to me when we arrived on a Saturday lunchtime that there was a full house and a 15-minute wait for a table.
We ordered some drinks once we were seated, and apart from the usual coffees, juices and shakes offered at cafes, The Butcher’s Block also has some sodas like raspberry and rose, and blackberry flavoured sodas. The raspberry and rose soda proved to be quite the refreshing drink and not too sweet either.
Coffees were also on the money with the iced coffee being a simple espresso shot mixed with milk on ice.
The menu was very enticing and it took us quite a while to decide what to get. The pulled pork and cheese quesadilla came with a generous serve of sour cream on the side. The quesadilla wedges were topped with an onion and tomato salsa while inside the toasted quesadilla housed some juicy pulled pork and melty cheese.