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.
There are a number of different ways to get around Japan, but we found that one of the most convenient ways to travel from city to city is using Japan Rail. Japan Rail (JR) passes are special passes that are only available for overseas tourists, allowing you to travel on any of the JR train and local bus lines within the region specified on your pass. The passes can be bought as 7, 14, or 21 day passes to be used consecutively from the date of exchange. We bought a 14-day Japan Rail Pass from JTB Travel (about 46,000 JPY or 485 AUD) which covered almost of our days in Japan.
The pass itself isn’t cheap, so we had to do some research and planning to ensure that it was the best option for us in terms of how much we were going to be travelling using the JR pass. To make the most of it, we took day trips out to different towns and cities from where we were staying using the JR pass. Our first day trip was to Otaru, a port city northwest of Sapporo that is affectionately known as “The Town of Hills”.
The train ride from Sapporo takes a little over 30 minutes on a semi-rapid train on the JR Hakodate line (~640 JPY one way). The train ride is quite pleasant, especially as we can reserve seats for free with our JR Pass. The view is quite scenic as the Hakodate line follows the Hokkaido shoreline, so you get beautiful views of Ishikari Bay as you approach Otaru Station.
Being a port town and in such close proximity to the sea, it’s no surprise that seafood is everywhere in Otaru. A hop, skip and a jump away from Otaru JR Station is the Sankaku Fish Markets (三角市場). It’s not nearly as big as Nijo Markets in Sapporo, but it still has several stores in the triangular-shaped building (sankaku means triangle) including ones where you can sit down and eat your freshly prepared seafood.
I’ve passed by Li’l Darlin several times in Darlinghurst, and have always meant to drop by for a cheeky cocktail or two. But it’s hard when Gelato Messina is only a few doors down, and somehow gelato always became a priority when walking down Victoria Street and the idea was quickly forgotten. Gelato can do that to you sometimes.
Luckily Li’l Darlin also has two other locations in Surry Hills and Randwick (which aren’t in very close proximity to a gelateria) so there was nothing to stop me from dropping by Li’l Darlin in Surry Hills to try some food and cocktails.
We begin with a few starters, including salt and pepper calamari with a choice of two sauces, nahm jim sauce or chipotle aioli. The calamari is perfectly tender and the chipotle aioli delivers a slightly spicy kick but I find the batter a little oily for my liking.
The arancini balls are crispy round nuggets of risotto stuffed with feta, fontina, tomato and herbs. It’s also served with the same chipotle aioli but I find that they’re perfectly tasty on their own.
A terracotta pot arrives on the table accompanied by some bread and we realise that lurking within the tomato-based sauce are some delectable grilled prawns. They’re great smothered in the tomato and chilli sauce and I keep going back for more of these.