Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA

Pastabella

Hello Everyone and hello to an all new Review Sunday! I’ve visited Pastabella twice now; the first time was for Marissa’s birthday dinner at the beginning of this month, and the second time was two nights ago when I caught up with my friend Rowena from back home. Both times did not disappoint; the food was absolutely amazing and the dining experience was taken to the next level with great company.

Pastabella is an Italian restaurant that is all about fresh house-made pasta and wood fired pizza. Now it may not have the best looking ambience in comparison to the other cafés and restaurants on the same street, but it had a homely feel to it. The inside space was like sitting down in your own dining room, while the outside space felt like your backyard or patio area.

There is this man, a cheerful guy he is, who I believe may quite possibly be the owner of Pastabella, greeted us with a smile, a cheeky joke and a laugh, which I thought was quite pleasant because it set the mood for us. I absolutely hate it when you’re greeted with snotty and unpleasant waiters/waitresses, but no, none at Pastabella! You could easily joke around with this man as well and he even returned the favour. When he served us, he asked “who ordered the spachatella?” I raised my hand and he placed the dish in front of me. He then asked “and who ordered the gamberi?” I mean, I was with one other person at that time so it was obviously Rowena’s dish. Nonetheless I responded by saying “I think someone inside ordered this” while I tried to point through the glass windows at a table inside. He the responded by saying “oh okay” and took about two steps away from our table, then quickly turned around, laughed, placed the dish in front of Rowena, and said “she’s a cheeky one isn’t she?” Golden. There were many other funny encounters but I’ll end up writing a whole paragraph or two more about that!

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): BOSCAIOLA
PRIMI (PASTA): BOSCAIOLA
House-made fettuccine pasta with mushroom, bacon, and shallots in a fresh creamy sauce ($18.00)

This dish was quite similar to their carbonara, minus the mushrooms of course and add the egg. I had a little taste of this from my friend’s plate and I quite enjoyed how the cream sauce was nice and relatively thin, but still very flavoursome.

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA
PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA
Famous Italian dish of house-made spaghetti pasta with bacon, shallots, egg, and cream ($18.00)

Carbonara is like a classic favourite of mine, but I always try to stray away from ordering it for two reasons mainly. The first is because I can make my own carbonara and secondly, for me I find that carbonara anywhere is the same. When this came to our table though, I have never seen anything like it! When I say that, I am actually referring to it’s presentation. I’ve had my fair share of carbonara’s and never have I seen it being served with a raw egg yolk sitting on a bed of pasta. It tasted amazing! The sauce was rich and absolutely divine, but I probably would struggle to eat a whole plate of it just because the richness and creaminess gets to you at a certain point.

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CHILLI CON GAMBERI
PRIMI (PASTA): CHILLI CON GAMBERI
House-made fettuccine pasta with tiger prawns, rocket, garlic, and olive oil, cooked in a white wine sauce with a dash of chilli ($22.00)

I had a little taste of this off Rowena’s plate – the tiger prawns were cooked to perfection. Plump, juicy, and soft; nothing of that rubbery texture that I’ve had at a fair share of other places. This dish here was perfection. The pasta was cooked well and I remember Rowena saying that she gets skeptical when dishes say ‘chilli’ but they don’t live up to that level of spice that she expects. This dish did not disappoint her tough! To quote her, “they used legit chillies”. I felt though that those who cannot take the heat will complain about the ‘dash’ of chilli – did not feel like dash! But I’m not complaining; I love the spicy kick!

Pastabella - PASTABELLA SPECIALS: RISOTTO MARINARA
PASTABELLA SPECIALS: RISOTTO MARINARA
Traditionally cooked risotto with mixed seafood in our traditional napolitana sauce garnished with fresh parsley ($26.00)

This for me tasted really good; the seafood was cooked to perfection and flavours were on point. But like other marinara dishes that I’ve had, I feel like they all taste the same.

Pastabella - PASTABELLA SPECIALS: SPACHATELLA, PISTACHIO E PANA
PASTABELLA SPECIALS: SPACHATELLA, PISTACHIO E PANA
A traditional Sicilian style pasta cooked with fresh cream, sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts, and topped with pecorino cheese ($25.00)

I was intrigued by this one because never have I ever had a pasta-pistachio combination before. I love pistachios, and I know they have a very distinct taste to them as well. This pasta tasted so great! The pistachios really enhanced the flavour of the dish and was finished off nicely with pecorino on top. It was something that I’ve never tasted before, and I couldn’t even compare it to any other dish in terms of flavour.

In my opinion, the pizzas that we ordered were nothing really special that would make me want to go all the way back here for more. Don’t get me wrong, the pizzas were good, but it’s more like there are other pizza places that are nearer to where I live that are just as good.

Pastabella - PIZZA: ITALIANA
PIZZA: ITALIANA
Napolitana & mozzarella cheese base with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, artichokes, olives, and garlic ($23.00)

Pastabella - PIZZA: PASTABELLA
PIZZA: PASTABELLA
Signature Pastabella sauce, grilled chicken, mushrooms, and olives ($20.00)

Pastabella - DOLCI (DESSERTS): PIZZA ALLA BANANA
DOLCI (DESSERTS): PIZZA ALLA BANANA
Banana and custard pizza, drizzled with a delicious caramel sauce and lightly sprinkled with icing sugar ($14.00)

After a filling feast, we just had to have dessert, and we definitely made the right choice. Wood fired dessert pizza with a custard-base sauce, fresh bananas, and caramel sauce – what a combination! Though I love the taste of fresh bananas, I probably would’ve loved them to be fired in the pizza oven for a few minutes to caramelise. I bet that would be AMAZING.

Pastabella - DOLCI (DESSERTS): PASSIONE DI FRUTTI
DOLCI (DESSERTS): PASSIONE DI FRUTTI
Banana, passionfruit and custard pizza, sprinkled with icing sugar ($15.00)

I know, you’re probably thinking that this is exactly the same as above but with passionfruit instead of a caramel sauce. Well you are totally right! But this was supposed to be a dessert pizza with peaches and passionfruit instead of banana. To my dismay, they had run out of peaches that night, and they asked if banana was okay. Well, I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just agreed to it. Not disappointed on the taste though because it was just as good as the last time I had their pizza alla banana dessert!

I definitely recommend this place if you want to spend a quiet date night with friends or even your special someone. There’s just something about ambience that makes you feel right at home, and eating great traditional pasta and pizza with good company that makes Pastabella a great dining place.

So based on all that, I’d say that this place is a definite 9.5 for food (just a slight disappointment that they didn’t have peaches for the passione di frutti dessert pizza we ordered), ambience probably 8, and service an easy 10. Value? I’d probably give it an 8.5? The portions were decent for the price in my opinion!

Pastabella
89 Glebe Point Road,
Glebe, NSW
Australia, 2037

– Ally xx

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Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Ampersand Café & Bookstore is one that I am very fond of mainly because of the memories and conversations shared over food. I have been going to Ampersand on a frequent basis over the past 4 years; it was the go-to brunch/lunch spot before or after classes at the then-COFA (now known as UNSW Art & Design). I remember popping by the café with Bec many times before our 9am classes; I would always get a regular latte, and she would always get a regular flat white. Then there are many times we’d visit for a quick brunch/lunch in between classes. Most recently, it was an after photography class lunch date for Anastasia, Jess, Jialing, and myself. We would sit and talk about the most random things for 2 hours, and even quote from White Chicks all throughout lunch.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

What I also love about this café is that it is also a bookstore! It has a rustic, or as one would use the term, ‘hipster’ feel to it which makes it even that more inviting for the suburb that it is in. The café and bookstore has three amazing floors of dining areas surrounded with an adjoining library and bookstore with many books to choose from. A great place for those who just want to sit and immerse themselves in a book over a cup of coffee, or with friends over food.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Besides all the fond memories I have of this café, and the cozy ambience, the coffee and food are also quite excellent! The menu that you are about to see in this post is some of the dishes that my friends and I have indulged in. I have had many more dishes from this café but I think that during first two years of visiting this café I wasn’t taking any photos or I just can’t seem to find where the photographs are if I did take any. I have indulged in the Ampersandian, the Morning After Breakfast, and their Club Sandwich from their counter items. Nonetheless, I feel like the dishes on this post are quite a good range of the food that Ampersand has to offer. Also, I should make mention that they also have another café known as Ampersand on Crown | Café, Bar & Bookstore. I actually didn’t know that this existed until I went and had brunch with some friends at  Rustic Pearl. Ampersand on Crown was just right next to it! 413 Crown Street, Surry Hills for those who want to know where!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
brewed using Allpress Beans (Regular $3.30, Large $3.80)

Their coffee art amazes me every time. I have yet to come across an ampersand on the drink as I have seen in many Facebook/Instagram posts by others.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
Nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, and honey served with hot milk ($4.80)

What really struck me about this drink was that, on their blackboard menu, it said ‘seahorse eggs’. Being naive and gullible at that time, I legitimately thought that the drink actually had seahorse eggs it in. Only then did I come to a realisation that the seahorse eggs referred to the frothy, fizzing bubbles in the drink. I was not disappointed though; the drink was absolutely amazing! However, probably not a great idea to have before a boring lecture (which was what I did at the time). It’s all in the name of the drink!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
Arborio & barley risotto, confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto ($15.90)

What attracted me to this dish was the fact that it was originally ‘arborio & barley risotto, tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta’ on their blackboard menu. The combination sounded so great in my head that I had no second thoughts of wanting to order it. However, for a reason that I cannot remember, the lady at the cashier told me that their risotto for that day was confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto. At first I was hesitating whether or not I should have that or order something else off their menu, but at that time there wasn’t anything else that tickled my fancy. So I decided to go for this, and absolutely no regrets. It tasted amazing! But I secretly think that the tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta would’ve been amazing-er!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
Braised beef cheeks (slow-cooked), seasonal veggies, potato rösti, and poached egg ($16.90)

This dish, that Jialing ordered and we shared with Annie, was again to die for! The only criticism I have with this dish that it said ‘poached egg’ and the egg we for that day was what you would get between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg. No runny yolk! Disappointed. Other than that, the beef cheeks where tender and full of flavour; verging on the dry side which is why it was important that we had that runny yolk!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

I mean, if these empty plates of the first two dishes mentioned above does not convince you of their deliciousness, then you sir are not my friend (the other empty plate is of the stuffed red capsicum which is the very last photograph on this post).

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
served with aïoli ($6.00)

This is a winner side dish for me. I never fail to order these babies each time I visit Ampersand. But sadly over the past month in late October, early November last year, I did not get to have any. Why? Because their deep fryer had been broken during those times. But for a month? Pure torture. I have not been back since our last photography class which was in early November. Maybe it’s time I paid another visit – hopefully their deep fryer is fixed by now! I just love the thin crispy sweet potato sliced paired with garlic-y and tangy aïoli.

Besides their blackboard menu, they also have a selection of pre-cooked counter items. Possibly an easier and quick option for those who have their breakfast/lunch/brunch to go, but that never stopped us from trying them ourselves over a two hour lunch session. You can probably tell that we have a thing for their arancini as it appears in almost every counter item on this post, but are paired with a different salad each time. This is because no salad is ever the same whenever we visit the café. One thing that I do love about their salads is that they aren’t your regular Joe that you see in almost every café; they are pretty exotic to your taste buds! Black sticky rice? Miso chic pea? Cracked wheat? I mean, who would’ve thought these combinations would work so well?! Yum! So what you can do is order an arancini, sandwich, wrap, or whatever hot dish they have at the counter, and then add $5.00 on top for a salad on the side.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Chic pea salad with miso and red wine dressing, enoki, kale, and raw zucchini (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Cracked wheat salad with mixed beans, feta, grilled sweet potato, asparagus, and sweet & sour paprika dressing (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Roasted eggplant and cracked wheat salad with green peas, red pepper, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
Poached egg, crispy bacon, spinach, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise ($9.50) & Black sticky rice salad with cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, rocket, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
with pearl barley, pumpkin, feta, and spinach purée ($5.90)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore
78 Oxford Street
Paddington, New South Wales
Australia, 2021

– Ally xx

Bar Indigo - FROM THE FARM: Argentine Salmon Omelette

Bar Indigo

Hello Everyone! Today’s post won’t be a recipe, but instead I want to share with you this gem of a place that I recently visited with my ladies for what was supposed to be a nice Sunday brunch, but instead turned out to be a late lunch. In a nutshell, my friend Yvonne wanted to try this place out and recommended it to both Jialing and I. So Jialing and I planned our trip since we live in the same area, just a suburb away. We decided that we would get into the city at around 10am and meet Yvonne there to arrive at Double Bay by 10:30am and hoping to start eating by 11am. Yvonne then said it was too early and told us to come into the city around 11am, and I was like, what?!

Ally: But the whole point of brunch is that it is in between breakfast and lunch! Brunch for me is like 10am… 11am is already pushing it because it’s close to noon which is lunch for me!
Yvonne: When I said brunch, I actually meant lunch!

God bless her haha! Anyway, so we then decided to push it to meet up at 11am in the city, to be at Double Bay by 11:30am and have ‘lunch’ by noon. As usual, Jialing and I got to the city just 2 minutes past 11 and Yvonne was still at home. So we waited around for another 20 minutes for her and finally got on the bus to Double Bay. At this point I was super hungry also because I didn’t have anything to eat beforehand. We got to Double Bay at roughly around noon and when we got to Bar Indigo, man was it busy! We still had to wait for a table, another half hour. As we waited, we went through the menu and it was sounding so delicious – and a bit torturous being very hungry and all as we watched dishes go by. Finally we sat down and ordered and I can say that the wait was all worth it! The food was absolutely amazing (but then again I find EVERYTHING amazing, especially when I’m super hungry).

The food did not disappoint at all. The portions were massive! Actually their plates were massive as well that it could barely sit on the table we sat at! Also, their plates – loved them. I have a new sense of appreciation for plates ever since taking up an intro to ceramics class last semester – which by the way I got an overall High Distinction for (you know, those Lovelily plates I posted about probably weeks ago, yes those)!

The one thing I love about going out with my girls is that we all decide one one dish that we like most, and once the food arrives, we split our dishes into three, and share – which I think is the best thing to do if you want to be able to try more than one dish, especially if it’s your first visit. Simply amazing! I say this in particular because I do have other friends who don’t like to share dishes – that is if it is a dish that is not meant to be shared.

Bar Indigo - FROM THE FARM: Argentine Salmon Omelette
FROM THE FARM: Argentine Salmon Omelette
Oven-roasted salmon, bell peppers, spring onion, flame-grilled corn & coriander salsa, sweet potato, fresh aversana mozzarella & chimichurri sauce ($19.90)

This was the dish that I ordered, and for one very particular reason as well which was the description. It just screamed my name! Salmon, eggs, and chimichurri?! Why not!

Bar Indigo - FROM THE GARDEN: Grilled Lamb Salad
FROM THE GARDEN: Grilled Lamb Salad
Crispy flat bread, sweet yoghurt, baby carrots & couscous ($29.90)

A dish that Yvonne ordered. The description isn’t as fancy as the others only because I completely forgot to take a photo of the menu description for this! And it wasn’t on their website as well because they changed their menu I think for the season. Nonetheless, that lamb was cooked to perfection and the flavour combinations went really well together. Loved the presentation as well (you can’t really see it in the photograph above, but those crispy flatbreads standing tall from the plate looked so majestic)!

Bar Indigo - INDIGO LUNCH FAVOURITES: Free Range Victor Churchill Duck Sausage Risotto
INDIGO LUNCH FAVOURITES: Free Range Victor Churchill Duck Sausage Risotto
Chicken stock, thyme leaves, spring onion, white truffle oil, garlic, chives, mascarpone, sliced asparagus, parsley, aged parmesan & asparagus crisp ($28.90)

And finally the dish Jialing ordered (or more like I recommended since the description appealed a lot to me as well). The risotto was really rich and creamy, packed with lots of flavour and just… SO yummy. And those duck sausages, just WOW.

After our lunch, we still had space for a yummy warm dessert (since it was freezing cold out). It was probably one of the best decisions we made together as a group only because I know for a fact that we usually go for a walk first after a meal to clear our bloated tummies, and then get dessert elsewhere, but this time around we decided to go for some fluffy pancakes because they looked oh-so-good on various Instagram accounts.

Bar Indigo - INDIGO BREAKFAST FAVOURITES: Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
INDIGO BREAKFAST FAVOURITES: Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
Maple syrup, caramel-glazed bananas & vanilla whipped mascarpone ($18.90)

The winner for me, hands down. I actually wanted these pancakes to begin with but I thought starting the day (in terms of the first meal of the day) with sweet pancakes just didn’t quite fit with me, needed something savoury. JUST LOOK AT ALL THAT FLUFF!

One of my favourite spots indefinitely. Great food, great company. The bill scared me a little bit, but otherwise affordable, just not a place to eat at every single week – for me that is. Be sure to check this place out if you haven’t already done so! Cheers!

Bar Indigo
15 Cross Street
Double Bay, New South Wales
Australia, 2028

– Ally xx