Category Archives: Tapas style

Reuben Hills – so hip it hurts


vibe:  4 stars

design:  industro-chic, earthy exposed brick walls, concrete floors and the oh-so-hip right now, neon lighting.

food:  3 stars, coffee 2 stars

damage:  Eats are reasonably priced from $6-$18, coffee is super exxy at $5

Right off the bat I’d like to say that I really wanted to like this place.  I was giving it my 5 star attention, thanks to their awesomely welcoming and urban rustic fitout, its 5 min walk from my house location and well, its vibe.

Reuben Hills coffee with ironic water bottle and neon

But it failed.  In my 3 visits, my experience got progressively worse.  Why?  Let me break it down for you so it’s really fair.

1:  The coffee is bad bad bad.  This is a joint that roasts its own, has aspirations of supplying other cafes and has frankly, promoted its merits based on their coffee philosophy.  Or what I like to call, their coffeelosophy .  These guys select their own beans from growers in South America, roast it themselves and offer to teach others how they do it.  At 5 bucks a pop, it should be hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck awesome.  It is not.  Sad face.

Reuben Hills cafe latte with more ironic water bottles

2: The menu is limited.  I dig what they are trying to do, it’s just that it makes the dining experience challenging.  What the hell am I on about?  Well the guys at Reuben Hills are not South American yet their menu is.  By way of explanation of their food style & philosophy, they have included the following at the top of their printed menu;

“Baleada (Bal-YA-da) originates from El Progreso Honduras and its one of their most original and popular foods.  It’s a wheat flour tortilla, often quite thick, folded in half and filled with an array of fillings.  The ones we were eating always had cheese and egg and some sort of meat.”  Right….

On 2 occasions, I had the Baked Eggs.  Once with Jamon, steamed spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata and once with Goats Curd, steamed spinach, Ranchero Sauce and Schiacciata.  I love baked eggs.  Baffi & Mo in Redfern do the most rocking Baked Eggs on the planet (Disclaimer: I have not eaten baked eggs all over the planet so this is clearly a ploy to convince you of their supreme awesomeness).  The Baked Eggs at Reuben Hills are a bit too runny to qualify as baked.  The Ranchero Sauce is so overpowering you cant really taste the schiacciata and the spinach is a bit light on.  Having said that, I still enjoyed them well enough on both occasions. The baked ciabatta that comes on the side is a nice touch and perfect for soaking up the whole gooey mess once you pierce your first egg.

Baked Eggs with Goats Curd, Steamed Spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata

Baked Eggs with shaved Jamon, Steamed Spinach, Ranchero Sauce & Schiacciata

The rest of the menu looks interesting but if you’re not in the mood for South American bar food, you’re left with the ‘Doggs Breakfast’, an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel; a breakfast trifle of rolled oats, vanilla & anise stonefruits with cassia & ginger yoghurt; a Jamon, rocket, goats curd and fig sandwich and a Brioche with dulce de leche or choc cherry ganache.  All in all, a somewhat confused menu that relies on the diner’s particular penchant for one type of food or utter eclecticism.

What’s good about Reuben Hills is their on trend use of grandma’s old plates, Depression-era recycled glass bottles and their interior design.  They really got the mix of communal dining, pit-stop style coffee break and sit down lunch date, just right.  This is a café that ‘feels’ good.  It really does.  The staff are warm and friendly, the clientele is a mixture of hipster art students, ad men and urban professionals and the space flows nicely.  The upshot is I really wanted to like this place!  To be honest if the coffee was better, this review would probably have gone a different way.

Reuben Hills interior with accent neon lighting

Even the ceiling gets the uber cool neon treatment!

So there it is Reuben Hills.  If you’re gonna put yourself out there as coffee aficionados, you better deliver.  Improve your coffee (and I’m sure they will) and the quirky menu could be forgiven.  If you love South American bar food, eclectic ice cream snacks and cool industrial interiors then give Reuben Hills a try.  Just don’t go for the coffee…

Reuben Hills

61 Albion St

Surry Hills  NSW  2010

http://www.reubenhills.com.au

Hours:

7 days

7am – 4 pm

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Mille Vini – a thousand times “Yes!”


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Earthy Tuscan rustica meets slick Sydney bar.  Sandstone bare walls cosy up to dark wooden tables, low lighting and an exposed wine cellar.  Warm, elegant and cosy.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Entree: $12-$24 Mains: $23-$34 Dessert: $12 Wines by the glass from $7, by the bottle from $35

Mille Vini's exterior

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been to Mille Vini more than once.  Forgive me father for I have sinned, many times.  A thousand times?  Well not quite, but I have frequented this chic hole-in-the-wall more often than is healthy.  A couple of hail marys and I can be back on my sinful way, you say?  Well sign me up and call me a Catholic so that I may once again worship at the alter of a thousand wines!

Mille Vini is one of those rare little delights that Sydney manages to cultivate seemingly out of nothing from time to time.  With a solid pedigree that hails from those talented folk who built Pizza e Birra, Mille Vini is what happens when excellent taste meets authenticity meets demand meets surryhills2010.  Seriously, if I were to design the perfect wine bar cum restaurant, this pretty much would be it.  Great design that evokes warmth and sophistication without pretense, looking up from your Pinot Grigio you wouldnt be surprised to see Sophia Loren scooting past on a Vespa at 2 in the afternoon its so Euro.

Mille Vini interior

Thats right, its authentic.  From a miniature galley kitchen, the corridor that manages to fit no less than 6 tables, right down to its open air bar seats at the front, Mille Vini would not be out of place shoe-horned down any tiny laneway in Siena, save for the Aesop products inside ‘il bagno’. Sadly, unlike in Siena, it is more than likely that you will be forced to wait up to 45mins for a table if you arrive after 7.30pm on any given night of the week.  Of course there are no bookings so your best bet is to put your name down with the staff and take a stroll down Crown St to Yulli’s to wait it out (check out my Yulli’s review in this blog).

As is the great tradition in Italian enoteca’s, wine is always consumed with food.  Mille Vini does a cracking trade in delicious spuntini (bar snacks), antipasto & heartier dishes designed to be easily shared.  From the stuffed calamari, Nonna’s home made gnocchi, the superb cheese platter and everything else in between, Mille Vini‘s deft and authentic Italian touch ensures each dish delivers a delicate yet flavourful punch with every bite.

Stuffed calamari with tomato salsa

Figs wrapped in proscuitto with blue cheese

Cheese board with honey and quince jelly

But let’s face it, Mille Vini is all about the wine.  It ain’t called ‘thousand wines’ for nothing.  As you sit, literally surrounded by the colossal wine store and ponder its even more daunting leather bound ‘vino libro’, fear not dear reader, your humble waiter is not only a dashingly handsome italian with piercing blue eyes, but also a bonified wine expert.  Yet another layer to the authenticity of this great enoteca is the fact that all of the staff are schooled in the breadth of the old and new worldly wine list and thereby well qualified to offer up educated recommendations.

Some of the wines on offer...

It is my humble opinion that when faced with the option to go Old World, one should always take it.  Thanks to this M.O, and Mille Vini, I have been introduced to some of the most delightful Barolos, Albariños & Moscatos with delicious results.  Not that my liver really needs any further introduction to such temptations…

Mille Vini is the original small bar, but so much more.  The perfect spot to watch the hipsters and fashionistas slink by, sup on some saporous food & wine and share in the good life.  It maybe Italian for a thousand wines, but Mille Vini is more accurately ‘la dolce vita’, the sweet life.  I’ll be going back for sure!

Loco Tip:  Mondays you’ll be lucky enough to score my fave, the $16 pasta & vino deal.

Mille Vini

397 Crown St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9357 3366

Hours:

Mon 5pm-10pm;

Tue-Wed 5-11pm;

Thu 8am-11pm;

Fri-Sat 8am-12 midnight;

Sun 8am-10pm


13b – Hemingway meets the Great Gatsby


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Ernest Hemingway would approve of the dark petroleum coloured walls, marble top tables and Louis XV inspired wall sconces and bar.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: what you’d expect from a hip Sydney bar; $4-22 mains; $15-20 cocktails

13b interior

UPDATE JULY 2012: THIS BAR HAS CLOSED

13b is a safe haven of heaven against the bridge and tunnel invasion on a Friday night in Surry Hills.  Formally known as The Safe House, it’s a small bar in the truest sense of the word.  It’s tiny.  Right now thats OK coz its still blissfully under the radar.  Something that surprised my pal and I when we strolled in at 8.30pm this Friday night with no booking.  You can imagine our surprise to find this charming little nook blissfully devoid of Homo Sapiens Boganis especially having just followed a mass pack of them down Riley St on our way to the bar.  And that’s one of the supremely great things about Surry Hills.  Around every corner, down a little laneway, up a flight of concealed stairs and through a non-descript door is potentially a golden little nugget of a bar or restaurant just waiting to be discovered.

Located at the hippest address in town right now, the triumvirate of Dr Pong, Commons Local Eating House and Pocket Bar, Burton St north of Oxford (Bur-No-Ox) 13b Burton St, Darlo is a wine-bar-cum-bistro intriguingly named 13b, of course, after its address.

Intimate coffee den by day, wine bar by night, 13b is pleasingly minute with a limited charter, but one that it seeks to do well.  That limited charter restricts itself to a small menu of mod-oz classics and a few whacky tapas style plates for good reason.  The kitchen is small and the experience behind the bar is really the key selling feature of this joint.  Cocktails both old school and new are really what sets this place apart.  With a sassy nod to the Prohibition era, the cocktail list reads like an F. Scott Fitzgerald  novel and takes in old classics like the Negroni, but spices things up by conga-lining it down to the Caribbean (Rum replaces Gin) with their original take on the martini.  On our visit, we worked our way through the list by starting with the Maple Rose (Maker’s Mark, maple syrup, lemon juice, with a rosemary garnish), tripped onto the signature  13b martini, a refreshing concoction of watermelon, kaffir lime, herradura blanco tequila, pomme verte with a hint of apple, until finally weaving our way merrily towards the Don Corelone.  It’s a testament to the power of this drink that I can’t actually remember what’s in it – rest assured, it was good!

a Maple Rose & 13b Martini

Personally,  I wouldn’t go to 13b for the food.  I’d go back for the welcoming and embracing Paris-after-dark vibe, the stupendously good cocktails and a smile from one of those hip bartenders.  Apparently the coffee is top notch and the weekend breakfast worth the trip, but I’ll have to leave that review up to you guys….surryhills2010 is onto the next hip joint on your behalf.

13B

13b Burton St
Darlinghurst 2010

P: 02 9356 8718

http://www.13b.com.au

Hours

Tuesday – Saturday: 7am – Midnight

Sunday: 8am – 4pm


Yulli’s – a li’l patch of green


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: Art student, found object d’ refuse meets croquet lawn garden party.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: $10 wines by the glass, tapas plates from $12.50, mains from $15.50

OK so here’s the dealio.  You know I’m from Melbourne, so there is nothing more annoying to me than this recent obsession of bestowing the moniker “its just like Melbourne” upon every new so-called small bar that pops its cheeky head out from under Clover Moore’s ample skirts.  Get over it Sydney.  Melbourne is Melborne and Sydney is Sydney.  And quite frankly that’s a good thing.  How BORING if they were both the same.  I love Melbourne for being Melbourne and I love Sydney for being Sydney.  Celebrate the diversity people!

Inside Yulli's

Now that I’ve got that rant out-of-the-way, let me say this about Yulli’s.  It’s nothing like Melbourne, but it does remind me of that perculiar Melbourne penchant for decorating ones bar with found objects and refuse turned into natty bits of furniture.  Got a couple of milk crates out in the lane?  Great, whack a bit of perspex on top and et vóila, instant table.  Mum’s throwing out those daggy old 70’s curtains?  Fab, with a quick flick of the Janome you’ve got yourself a groovy new upholstered banquette.  Floor a bit crap?  Roll out the astroturf and just watch the hipsters slink in.  And on and on it goes across the bars of Melbourne’s CBD, Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Well, Yulli’s has certainly been inspired by this aesthetic and a lack of cash.  Thanks to an authenticity that can only be delivered when funds are genuinely tight, the owners have managed to pull off the oh-so-challenging-for-sydney balancing act of keeping the decor retro and relaxed, without it feeling like the owners went down to Vampt and bought the whole lot in an Amex fuelled spending spree.

So they got the decor right.  And thanks to some genuinely friendly wait staff, a lovely big picture window at the front and a cute little astro-lined sliver of a courtyard out the back, they’ve got the vibe right.  No pretension here.  This place screams “hang out all day on one latte if you like.  We’re happy to have you”, and we all know that’s a rarity in Sydney.

Yulli's courtyard

Sadly, the food lets them down.  The menu is ‘international’ which clearly means they can put whatever they like on it without fear of recrimination. Unfortunately it clashes and clangs its way through the world, one tapas plate at a time, without cohesion, through every cuisine of the moment.  From too fat Fried Haloumi with the strangest salsa I’ve ever tasted (kiwi fruit & tomato) to Hazelnut & Ricotta stuffed Zucchini Flowers (neon yellow batter covered & too salty, these oddly textured stuffed zucchinis just don’t work ), Steamed Leek and Mushroom Dumplings, a Falafel plate, Hand Cut Chips & more dishes that don’t really match.  I guess the interesting thing is that it’s totally vego, without being twee or hippy about it.  What a shame they didn’t get the cooking right though.

Fried haloumi with kiwi and tomato salsa

Stuffed fried zucchini flowers

Like any self-respecting Surry Hills wino, to go with my lively pinot grigio, I want flavours that compliment and enhance my wine.  This menu made that difficult, which is a shame because I do think their wine list is full of some great, Aussie, boutique wines by the glass.  With the right food, this place could really sing.  They also do a cracking good trade in micro-brewery beers, so you’ve gotta commend them for that, and with all of them NSW grown, the slow food movement will be down here in their hemp clad droves.

The thing about Yulli’s is that it really has got the relaxed wine bar thing down pat.  Open all day and late into the night, it’s a great place to drop into on your way home from dinner.  The lack of pretension and super wine/beer list is what will ensure this charming little watering hole survives the small bar invasion, long after the wannabes have slunk off to Alexandria in search of the next big thing.  Would I go back?  Definitely, but not to eat.

Yulli’s

417 Crown St

Surry Hills 2010

P: 02 9319 6609

http://www.yullis.com.au

Hours

Mon to Wed    5pm to late

Thurs to Sun   11.30 to late


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