Friday, 14 December 2018

George Banks Bistro - Review

Yes you're on the right track here: George Banks, Mary Poppins and so on.  This new rooftop bar and bistro sits on top of an old bank in the regional town of Toowoomba.  Toowoomba used to be a quiet, conservative sort of place, full of farmers and countryfolk, but is rapidly heading towards being a hot-spot of bars, caf├ęs and restaurants equal to any in the big city.

Our Insta friend who lives there, made noises about wanting to check out George Banks so I surprised her by saying "Okay, we're heading up in a couple of nights."  And so we did, and we tried out this very new place (our waitress said it had opened only two weeks before on 2 November.)  Once you pass inspection by the security officer, you head up in the lift to the rooftop where you can partake in a drink at the bar, or head into the bistro for a sophisticated meal.




looking into the kitchen from the bistro - love those pendant lamps


The bistro looks like a boardroom, (intentionally I guess) with heavy armchairs (a bit hard to pull up to the table in fact) and bright lighting.  The bar is outside, and had lots of happy Friday night customers.  Our waitress was friendly and helpful; sad to say we couldn't leave her a tip as their cash register system didn't allow it. 



sparkling water $8 per bottle

lemon lime and bitters $3.80

prosecco $9

We started with a drink - Prosecco for me; lemon lime and bitters for our Toowoomba friends, while Mr P. had a cranberry drink ($3.80).  Oops no photo of his glass.  



black olive crisp

barley sourdough


cultured butter


We moved on: there was a serve of barley sourdough with cultured butter ($7), and black olive crisp ($6) with smoked almond, chickpeas and pomegranate.  The bread was crusty and fresh, the butter was tangy, and there was a little bowl of Marmite gel (?) which tasted zippy on the palate.  I think I was the only one at our table to try it, and I really loved it.  (Yep, I ate it all.) 
The black olive crisp was just that - black and crispy, with a chunky chickpea dip.  Our friends shared that one, and really liked the rustic dip.  You could taste the earthy chickpeas, which lent a slightly grainy (but delicious) aspect to it.



you guessed it!  our cutlery 

I have to show you this, folks.  To be honest, Mr P. and I really didn't like the cutlery.  It was narrow and unwieldy, and just weird.  My blogger friend Sandra from Please Pass The Recipe told me that these are all over the place lately.  Eek!



yellowtail kingfish $16


I chose the kingfish for a refreshing start to the meal.  The waitress explained that it was a cold dish; I can only assume that the good countryfolk of Toowoomba had been surprised by this.  It was dressed with tomato, guanciale, mandarin and wattleseed.  This was refreshing and interesting.  The fish was dense and meaty, the accompaniments added a tangy balance, and the dressing was zesty.  The tiny jellied cubes were a fun item on the plate.  Oh, and pretty - did I say pretty with the flowers?   



buffalo labneh $17


Our friends shared the buffalo labneh - served with watermelon, pickled onion, brioche and bitter leaves.  They said the contrast of smooth labneh went well with the crisp leaves, the crunchy croutons and the pomegranate seeds.  No, hang on, I'm saying that, but that's what they meant :-) 



King salmon $38


The salmon, which came with baked celeriac, white bean, asparagus and hazelnut milk was a huge hit with our lady friend Madam S.  She said it was superb and deliciously moist, and cooked perfectly.  Not everyone gets this right, but GB did.    



wagyu rib fillet $39


Mr PE. went for the wagyu steak, which they happily cooked 'medium' without a murmur.  No throwing of plates and ordering him out of the restaurant for daring to have other than 'medium rare'.  It actually came out a bit more to the medium rare side, but he ended up loving it as it was.  Chunky chips came with it, and were readily devoured.



wagyu brisket $55


Extraordinarily, Mr P. suggested we share the brisket.  I nearly fell off my chair:-)  He usually eats vego when we are out, and is never one for huge lumps of meat.   Well, my friends, 'quelle surprise', as the French say.  It came out on a large plate, as one massive bit of cow.  And no steak knife.  Fortunately, it was tender and I could mostly pull it apart with my knife and fork, though Mr PE lent me his steak knife.  We enjoyed the flavour and the texture, though it was slightly drier than I expected.  I guess I'm just not used to big hunks of meat, but it was worth trying and I think many people would adore it.  



flatbread and yoghurt came with the brisket

Pickles were meant to come with this, but I think we may have missed out on those.  



a side of greens $10

The side of greens was garnished with salted lemon, almond tarator, buckwheat and egg yolk.  Mr P. and I shared a side of wagyu fat potatoes ($11), which came as chunky wedges.  They were delicious, and unctuous - sorry, I hate that word, but you know what I mean.  Oops again, forgot to take a photo.

We decided to head off to the nearby gelati place for dessert, as the noise and bright lights were affecting our poor old brains and ears.  We stood out in the bar area for a few minutes, to check out the scene.  It was dark; it was moody and merry and full of happy Toowoomba-ites, having a Friday night tipple.  A fun place to be.  


Picking's Verdict:  great food and friendly service; ambience with the bright light, heavy chairs and noise a tiny bit off-putting for these ancient folk.  A funny ending to our meal: an elderly couple were getting into the lift with us; as we stepped in, she turned to us and said: "I've had better!"  We chortled...




glorious chandelier


This amazing umbrella-shaped chandelier is in the bar area.  How very magical, how very Mary Poppins! 




looking up at the bar


Cnr of Ruthven & Margaret Streets,
Toowoomba 4350
Ph: 07 4580 0808



George Banks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Beetroot, Orange and Smoked Fish Salad

Like the good Aussie I am, I love pickled beetroot.  You just can't call it a hamburger unless there is a slice or two of beetroot on top of the meat pattie!  Not that this recipe is for a hamburger, but for a refreshing, tangy salad which is just what we need during this heatwave we're having.  It is going to be 36C today, and very dusty and windy.  The fires up north are still burning, so it's a wee bit scary too.

I saw that Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella) had recently made a roasted beetroot salad, which reminded me to put up my version.  I had been meaning to do this for yonks!  So my recipe is inspired by an ancient red onion and orange recipe ripped out of a Cuisine NZ magazine, a huge whack of inspo from a recent Woolworth's Fresh magazine, and a wee kick up the backside from reading Lorraine's:-) 




juicing the orange (I grated mine) 



Serves 2-3 people as a main, or 4 as a side:


(Start preparing the onion about an hour before serving)


ingredients:


1 small (or half a large) red onion, finely sliced

1 tbs red wine vinegar

2 tbs lime or lemon juice

1 small orange (or half a large) - zest and juice

1 baby cos lettuce, torn into pieces 

100g. walnuts, toasted @ 170C for about 10 minutes

500g. of cooked beetroot - I used ready-cooked, vacuum packed

1 small Lebanese cucumber (approx 140g.), cut into chunks OR one apple, chopped into large chunks

200g. smoked salmon or ocean trout, roughly chopped (use scissors - it's easier)

a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped with scissors

2 tbs fresh dill, chopped

black pepper to taste


Dressing:

2-3 tbs plain Greek yoghurt

1/2-1 tbs tahini

1-2 tsp grain mustard

1 tbs lime or lemon juice

salt and ground black pepper to taste


Method:


Place the onion slices in a small, non-corrosive bowl

Stir in the vinegar and lime juice

Cover with a tea towel and let it sit for an hour

When the onion is done, place the orange zest and juice, lettuce, walnuts, beets and cucumber (or apple) in a large salad bowl and stir gently together

Mix the dressing ingredients together, and dollop it over the salad

Toss gently if you feel inclined

Now sprinkle the fish and herbs over the salad

Grind the pepper over the bowl

Serve as is for a main, or with baked potato etc. as a side


Notes:

Feel free to cook up your own beetroot, but this is so easy on a hot, steamy night with pre-cooked beets - just make sure they're 100% beetroot and nothing else

For extra tang, toss the cucumber slices/chunks into some vinegar for 10 minutes before adding to the salad




marinate the red onion in vinegar and lime juice for about an hour 



zest and juice the orange


pile the ingredients into a large salad bowl



mix the dressing



dollop over the salad



snip the fish over the salad 



I threw a bit of this over the salad  




beetroot artwork by sherry's pickings


Saturday, 1 December 2018

In My Kitchen - December 2018

I know, I know, your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating 'cos it's only a few weeks till Christmas and you forgot to make that pudding in October, and order that ham and turkey in November, and you just want to sit by the pool with a large G & T in hand, but you can't because the rellies are due to stay soon, and the tree needs to go up, and you need to spend days untangling the lights, and decorating the tree, and making the fruit mince for the tarts, and getting some Sherry (who, me?)  in for Santa, and glugging down a whole bottle of your fave tipple before collapsing in a huge, sweaty heap on the kitchen floor, nearly-empty bottle in hand, wiping the melted chocolate for the handmade truffles you just managed to get done in a 35C kitchen from your greasy, unwashed hair ('cos who has time to wash?), singing carols while you sway to the music - la, la, la, la, oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree ...

Nope, of course that's not me or you!  We are all serene, having calmly ordered gifts and turkey and ham weeks ago.  La, la, la ....  And anyway, Mr P. and I aren't doing Christmas this year.  Yep Grinch, Scrooge and the Kranks all in one.  Gifts for kids only is our mantra.  And no puddings or parties or Xmas lights ... Well, let's see how that goes. 

Anyway, here in my preternaturally calm pre-Christmas kitchen:




soy sauce??:-)


Well, you know my predilection for things Japanese, and my complete ignorance of their script, so we may have some soy sauce here:-)  This is supposedly some super-duper handmade in wooden vats etc. version - as you can see by the drawing on the label.  Here's hoping it's great.




a couple more Martin Boyd ramekins


It's a bit weird lately that I keep coming across all these Martin Boyd ceramics, mysteriously ranging in price from $10 each (as above) to $38 each.  Huh?  What the?  I've mentioned before that Martin Boyd was an australian ceramics factory, named after one of the famous Boyd family of artists.  I just adore these little beauties, so perfect for dessert servings.




more cookbooks?!!


I bought the school one as I like to support local endeavours, and a friend gave me the Latvian one after her European trip earlier this year.  Yep, definitely looking forward to making sauerkraut soup:-)




another tea-towel


I love tea-towels (and I do use them all); Princess Pia came back from New Zealand recently with this lovely one for me.  Who can resist a colourful Kiwi?




yep, more ceramics

A new store has popped up near us lately, full of local artists' work.  I saw a set of these, and thought they would make great gifts for Christmas.  So if you see this post my friends, know I was thinking of you if you get one for Christmas.



gin is so in these days, isn't it?


Guess what we're having chez Pickings at Christmas time?  Gin and more gin!  Four Pillars distillery makes this gin and the puddings only at this time of year (natch) and it sells out like hotcakes, so I scooped up one of each pronto.




gifts from the lovely Lorraine


Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella was up in Brisbane the other week, bearing gifts.  She knows of my love for spoons, as you can see.  And that dulce de leche was so good I hoed in with a spoon straight out of the jar.    




Mel's book

Our mate Mel from Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures has published her Culinary Quickies at last:-)  Lots of great recipes and tips here.  That lavosh bread you see on the cover is a winner, especially for this time of year.


gorgeous little tumbler


This is another beautiful piece from Magnolia Mountain, who make the loveliest ceramics.  I just cannot resist!  The beautiful pink represents cherry blossoms in Japan.


Well, that's about it for now.  Just wait till January, when I bet I bombard you with the culinary gifts I've received.  And please join in this month, my friends.  Can't wait to see what's in your kitchen.


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Sherrys Pickings

Monday, 26 November 2018

Hellenika at The Calile - Review

Hellenika has opened its doors recently in the Calile Hotel, serving up authentic Greek cuisine.  This is the Brisbane sister to Hellenika on the Gold Coast.  My food blogger buddy Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella was up in Brissie last week, so we met up for dinner here at the Calile.  I have not been to Greece for many years, so I really can't tell you if the food is currently authentic or not, but I do know it was delicious!

You can either walk up an intimidating amount of stairs to the pool level where Hellenika sits, or take the lift in the lobby.  If you're in high heels, I suggest the lift:-)  You will see a very inviting area with a pool, and cabanas where you can sit and drink, or order from the poolside menu, which has snacks and wraps for your delectation.



looking out from our table over trendy James Street 


Lorraine being an intrepid eater and reviewer led the push to try innovative dishes, rather than the usual Greek suspects.  She asked the advice of our waiter, who was hesitant to suggest dishes, but she managed to strong-arm (just kidding) another waiter-fellow who was happy to point out popular, interesting dishes on the menu.

We started off with cocktails: I had a gimlet, which is gin, elderflower, lemon and prosecco, while she had an ari onassis - similar to mine but with mastiha - a liqueur flavoured with mastic, a resin exclusively from trees on the island of Chios.  They were refreshing on a warm evening, though I think Lorraine had chosen the better one.  I was hoping for a bit more oomph in mine.



gimlet $20

ari onassis $19 

amuse-bouche

We were given a shot glass with a fish and something? soup - I didn't catch the other flavour.  For some reason, I expected it to be cold, but it was a warm and tasty little start to the meal.  I couldn't taste the fish particularly, but it got the tastebuds going in anticipation.



fetta and capsicum dip $16


This was rich and a bit oily, and came studded with chunks of fetta.  I can't say it rocked my world, but we both happily slathered the dip on the crusty bread, and chowed down.



yep you guessed it - crusty bread for the dip 

saganaki $14

This is grilled cheese with lemon; a salty, chewy treat.  It's made with kefalograviera, a sheep's milk cheese, dusted in flour and fried.  I'm not much of a cheese eater, but this was well-flavoured and tasty.  And always made better with a squeeze of lemon.



Murray River cod $100 - 500g. 

another view of the cod


Oh my, the baked Murray cod with caramelised onion was absolutely superb: tender and moist, sitting in a creamy (capsicum?) sauce, with soft, sweet onions overlaying it.  It was a mild, not overly fishy fish dish, and really moreish.  We both loved the texture and flavours of this one.  A real winner, and highly recommended by me!  And Lorraine too, I'm sure.  The flesh seemed to be boneless, apart from a few in the head.  And you can just see the eye peeking out from under the onions.  I would happily eat this every week.  Though I don't think my budget would like that:-)   



baby gem lettuce with cheese $18


This leafy green side (called Marouli) comes with kefalotiri cheese.  Neither of us made much of a dent in this one; I think because we'd already eaten well, and dressed leaves (even with a tangy olive oil) just weren't that interesting by that point in the night.  After all, we had to leave room for dessert, didn't we?



orzo with spanner crab $32

We also tried the kritharaki, orzo pasta with Fraser Coast spanner crab.  There wasn't a hugely crabby flavour here, though you can see it dotted amongst the orzo.  I enjoyed the texture of the orzo, and found this a pleasant if not spectacular dish.



halva ice cream $6 per scoop


I really loved this dessert of vanilla ice cream with a generous coat of halva on top.  It was cool and nutty (or should I say seedy?), smooth and delicious down my throat.  A winner for me!  Our waiter definitely steered us right with this one.



bougatsa $14 (sorry, crap photo)

The waiter told us the bougatsa was another popular dessert, and it being a fave of Lorraine's, we ordered this too.  Phyllo wrapped around a custard filling, with a warm lemon syrup - you can't go wrong with this.  Crunchy outside, smooth inside, icing sugar and sugared lemon strips on top.  We were full, we were happy, we decided to call it a night, sans coffee as I have enough trouble sleeping:-)



hotel corridor

And just because I think it looked interesting, here you have a gratuitous view of one of the hotel corridors.  I left Lorraine to her elegant and spacious hotel room, while I wandered off home, replete with delicious flavours and textures.  Oh yes, and I really fancy a drink by the pool next time.

You can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner here every day of the week.  Or just a drink and snacks by the pool.  Or go ahead and eat popular Greek dishes like moussaka, or spanakopita or baked lamb or ... well, you get the picture.  You can even get married here, if you feel the need.  Our waiter told us the restaurant is booked out for Fridays/Saturdays till March 2019!  So get cracking, and maybe try another night.  It was full even on a Monday night when we dined, so remember to reserve a table.  


(I was Lorraine's guest, who was a guest of Hellenika's.  So thanks to her and to Hellenika.  All opinions remain my own however!)


The Calile Hotel
Pool Deck, Level 1
48 James St., Fortitude Valley 4006
Ph: 07 3252 2060



Hellenika Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato