Sumac Cafe, Goodwood Road

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date of visit: Saturday 1 August 2015

A couple of months back we were driving down Goodwood Road for some reason and spotted Sumac Cafe. After dark it’s a bit hard to miss – the windows are rather boldly edged with brightly coloured fairy lights making it seem, at first glance, rather less like a cafe.

As we’re both big fans of middle eastern food it went on the ‘to-do’ list and we almost made it there a month or so ago but some really feral weather put us off driving ‘too far’. Last weekend, there was no excuse.

We’d done our research and knew that Sumac was open all day, so our need to eat early wouldn’t be a problem. Even so, when we we arrived there were still quite a few tables occupied.

While the cafe feels quite large and spacious there’s not actually that many tables so if you were wanting to eat at a more sensible time than 5:30pm I’d recommend booking.

Everything is very casual – the menus are laminated and you order and pay at the counter and receive a table number. There’s a fridge for drinks and a water fountain. The cafe is unlicensed so don’t head along expecting a beer!

The menu is not excessively long and most of the options are based around platters, so this is an ideal venue if you like sharing your food. For any conservative eaters, there are burgers, and there are also middle eastern style pizzas, flavoured with things like za’atar. There are a few pictures on the menu so Master 4 decided he wanted the felafel plate ($9.90 for 6 felafel, pickles and tahini) while we chose the kebab/shaslik platter – $21.90 for one each of chicken, lamb and kofta kebabs, served with rice, salad (choice of fattoush or tabouleh), pickles, babaghanoush, hummous and toum. Of course, you also get pita bread on the side.

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The food came out reasonably quickly – the grill is open to the restaurant so you get an excellent idea of what’s currently being cooked and how far off your food is. Obviously, it was not quickly enough for Master 4 (any tips on how to stop your four year old bellowing “Where’s my food?” greatly appreciated!) but when it arrived it was all hot, fresh and delicious.

For me, the revelation of the meal was the toum. Perfectly white, slightly lumpy in appearance, this is one ferociously garlicky sauce. To say it is like aioli is not really fair because aioli has eggs in it and toum is all about the garlic. It is basically garlic and oil. I don’t know whether toum is a peculiarly Lebanese thing or not – I’ve never knowingly had it in other middle eastern countries (and I’ve never been to Lebanon) but certainly, if you believe the internet, the Lebanese lay claim to it. Now I’ve discovered it, I don’t really care. After scoffing an unfair proportion of that served to us (unfair in both that I deprived Andy of a 50% portion and then breathed all over him!), I announced that it would be perfect on a big slice of bread or toast. It really is that good!

There were other things on the plate – the kebabs were all delicious, the fattoush was good (lots of crispy bread on top – yum!) and I also liked the lightly spiced rice and the hummous. Babaghanoush I never like (I did try it, I promise!).

The pickles were also tasty – pickled chillis that weren’t too hot, olives and some alarmingly bright pink pickle which I have since discovered is turnip and beetroot. It was really crunchy with a relatively neutral savoury pickle flavour. At the time, we couldn’t pick what it was.

We probably didn’t order quite enough food because of course we had to share our kebabs and rice (in particular) with Master Four who only reluctantly let us try his felafel (and only once he had established he was completely full). There was a family platter on offer and I think that might have been a better choice – something we can try out next time we head there!

Because I love middle eastern desserts and pastries we decided to investigate dessert – something of a rarity for us. I was really disappointed that the only desserts (or sweet things) on offer were all decidedly western European. Custard tart, cannoli, muffin? I asked about baklava and was told that they had sold out. I think that’s a bit of stock control that needs redressing – if you’re out of baklava at 6:30pm on a Saturday night the chances are there will be a few unhappy customers later in the evening.

One thing to be aware of – the cafe is also home to three massive TV screens. I don’t know why people do it. There was no sound, but TV screens are these horrible, horrible things that magically suck everyone into gawping at them and they have no place in a cafe or restaurant.

TV screes and fairy lights aside – we’ll definitely be heading back to Sumac and we left feeling it was quite a shame we didn’t live in the area so we could also make use of the takeaway side of the business!

Sumac Cafe
576-590 Goodwood Road
Colonel Light Gardens SA 5041
phone: 08 8177 1458

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The Reliance, Leeds

Black Pudding Salad at the Reliance
date of visit: Sunday 26 October 2014

In what feels like a lifetime ago, Andy and I lived in the beautiful city of Leeds. Since moving back to Australia we’ve managed to return to the UK on a semi-regular basis – helped in no small part by the excuse that is taking a small child to see its grandparents – and we have always made time to top in Leeds. This time around it felt like a flying visit, fewer than five days in a neat little flat in Burley. Of course, it wasn’t enough time to catch up with everyone and one old friend found his allocated slot wedged in between our checkout time and our drive across to Cumbria.

This meant brunch.

Brunch is meal we don’t enjoy often enough. The occasions when all three of us are up, awake and functioning in time for anything before lunch are few and far between – but on holiday things are always different and in this case we made it to the Reliance well ahead of 11am opening*. I’d called in advance to make a booking as the suggestion on the internet was that brunches can be a bit busy but on the morning we were there we would have snagged a table easily.

The Reliance is some kind of hybrid between bar, cafĂ© and restaurant. Although it’s in a somewhat out of the way corner of town (parking on a Sunday is easy though!) this hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Leeds’ eaters and drinkers and The Reliance is fast becoming a stalwart on the scene. My old blog tells me that my own first forays there were back in 2006 – so an impressive effort for an independent bar.

We settled down and the small child immediately asked “where’s my food?” (clearly the early morning Weetabix had worn off by this point). For him, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on sourdough and a babycino. For me, the warm salad of black pudding, bacon, potatoes and spinach, topped with a poached egg and for Andy a full English. My friend was waylaid by car troubles, but when he did arrive, he opted for a bacon bap.

20141026_112021 Like father, like son …

While waiting we listened to the chorus of “where’s my food?” while enjoying coffees and reading the newspaper. Sitting in pubs and reading papers (ones that have actual content) is definitely one of the things we both miss about England. The variety of quality newspapers available far tops anything that Mr Murdoch offers the Australian reader. The food arrived and we tucked in.

My salad was pretty good indeed – although not flawless. There was definitely an argument for some of the potatoes being slightly underdone and the salad was dressed a little unevenly, meaning that some mouthfuls were too heavy on the Balsamic vinegar (in general, I find this an overused ingredient). However, the combination of ingredients was spot on with a great mix of textures and flavours: the bursts of saltiness from the bacon, the smoothness of the egg, the slight spiciness of the black pudding. While not perfect, definitely something I’d order again.

The full English got a big tick (the mushrooms which were donated to me were good!) and while I didn’t get to try the scrambled eggs (ahem) the sourdough toast was delicious. The bacon bap also looked good (I’m not sure how you can go wrong sticking bacon in a bap … but I guess it’s always possible, and to be difficult my friend did specify that he wanted the bacon well done!).

I’m pretty sure that the small child would comment that the babycino was perhaps not up to standard – it was predominantly milk rather than froth, which did cause a raised eyebrow.

But while England as a whole may have a long way to go in the babycino stakes … anywhere that can dish up a solid breakfast with the Sunday papers deserves its loyal and enduring clientele. The Reliance remains somewhere that exemplifies many of the best things about the Leeds bar scene.

* during winter it looks like the kitchen is opening at noon and they head straight into lunch, rather than brunch

The Reliance (the-reliance.co.uk)
76-78 North Street
Leeds
LS2 7PN
phone: 0113 295 6060

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Viva Espresso

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date of visit: Wednesday 11 June 2014

I have worked in the CBD for almost five years now and never really written about my lunch (admittedly, someone writing about his/her lunch may be as interesting as the same person talking about their dreams …). When I worked full time I usually took my lunch (leftovers for the win!) and while I do now buy my lunch the two days I do work, I have been in something of a rut.

When I started a new job in December last year I had plans to explore new places but that never really got off the ground. However, one of my usual haunts has just put up the price of sandwiches AGAIN and I figure that $9 is far too much to be paying for the same old same old. Time to go hunting for something new.

Viva Espresso is only sort of new because it is actually very close to my work and where I head to buy my morning coffee. The coffee is excellent – I wouldn’t go back it if weren’t – and the staff are super friendly and efficient. You only have to be a repeat customer a few times before both your name and regular order are memorised. Even if there’s a bit of a coffee queue you don’t have to wait long (always important first thing in the morning).

I’d read some good things about the sandwiches so I figured that starting close to home was a good bet. The range of freshly made sandwiches at Viva is quite small (there’s a choice of about 6) but they all sound tasty and you get a choice of bread. I chose the beef and horseradish (with cheese, tomato, salad etc) option, on Turkish bread, partly because I love beef and horseradish but also in part because so often you get a really anaemic horseradish that you can barely taste.

The bad news is that the sandwich at Viva was $9.50, so I didn’t save myself any money. However, the sandwich was excellent. The horseradish had a good kick, the meat was moist and slightly pink and the salad and tomato was all fresh and crispy. I asked for the sandwich without mayonnaise and there was no mayo, so that’s also a big tick. The Turkish bread had good flavour (although I personally could have lived with more texture to it).

While I was waiting, someone near me was tucking in to the red lentil and vegetable soup and that looked amazing. It was a good size portion and that can also go on my lunch to-do list …

Viva also has a good range of sweet things and smaller savoury snacks so you’re well catered for, whatever you’re after.

If you are around Pirie Street, drop in for a coffee and make up your own mind!

Viva also roasts its own coffee and you can buy some to take home.

Viva Espresso
70 Pirie Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: 08 8232 8545

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