Even though there are plenty of cafes around my area, I still get a little excited when a new one pops up. Word on the street was that there was a new cafe in Artarmon that had awesome coffee and food to boot.
You’d never think that there was a hipster cafe down the little pedestrian walkway leading out from Artarmon train station, but in amongst the Japanese restaurants, convenience stores and bookshops is Salvage Specialty Coffee.
They take their coffee seriously here with the Mecca Dark Horse blend and single origin coffees on offer, and a rather amusing sign saying that any coffee “extras” cost 50c – extras that may or may not include “soy, extra shot, mocha, honey, vampire blood, unicorn tears, kisses from Zooey Deschanel”.
Apart from the normal espresso-based coffees, Salvage also do filter coffees including Aeropress and cold brews. The cold brew comes in a cute Salvage bottle and is served with a sphere of ice in a glass to keep it chilled.
Japan is a country that is a little obsessed with the cute and cuddly. You’ll see kawaii mascots everywhere in Japan promoting TV channels, transport passes and even the cities and prefectures themselves! So when I see the logo of Harajuku Gyoza with its cutesy face, it’s almost like I’m back in Japan.
Inside, the kawaii theme continues with Japanese-patterned melamine plates and light fixtures saying ‘HAI!’. The menu is equally as cutesy, proclaiming “Welcome, Customer-san!”, before comparing your appetite to Godzilla and saying “We want your happy face”. As for the food items, naturally the menu is gyoza-heavy but there are also other Japanese side dishes and izakaya style dishes available.
There are 5 gyoza dishes at $8 each, and we manage to try 3 out of the 5. For the pork, chicken and duck gyoza, you can choose to have these either grilled or poached. We’re after the crispy burnished bottoms of the fried variety, so we choose to have our pork and duck gyoza fried.
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.
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.