Gama BBQ, Turramurra ($$)

Address: 1/1380 Pacific Highway Turramurra NSW

Tel: (02) 9988 4939

Website: http://gamabbq.com.au/

* * *

Atmosphere

The atmosphere was a little quiet as it was early on in the week and there weren’t many customers around. However, the sounds of the TV playing The Voice and the sizzling BBQ made it the place a little more interesting and no doubt Fridays and Saturdays are busy nights for this little suburban restaurant.

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Entrance to Gama BBQ

Service

Some would say service is pretty average as when we walked in the owners themselves were cooking at a bbq table! It was a bit unusual for a restaurant but my family, MC and I all thought service was great. Why? Because the owners were extremely friendly, very helpful and welcoming.

Although they were eating their own meals nearby, the lovely gentleman came over to set up our BBQs and teach us how to use it, would come and change our hotplates when they became charred from the meats, and would check the temperature of our BBQs.

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The BBQs

The friendly lady made us tea and coffee and would now and then answer my mum’s questions about Korean food.

They were both so friendly that we felt like they too were guests who were dining with us.

Food

The food was quite good. I have only had Korean food a couple of times and so I was interested to see what the Korean BBQ would be like.

The restaurant is set up with the hot plates on each table and a separate area for the buffet. You choose your own meats (including pork, beef, rump, wagyu, prawns, NZ mussells, octopus, marinated chicken etc) and bring them over to your table where you cook them to your liking.

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My dad and brother choosing their meats

You can also choose from steamed rice and soup, a variety of pickles including Kimchi and radish, lettuce and carrot, garlic, onions, and various sauces (such as BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce and chilli sauce).

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Pickles, kim chi and salad (bit of a mess!)

The variety of foods on offer and the option of cooking with different sauces made the experience really exciting, especially for the younger ones who tend to get bored at dinners. Needless to say, my brother and MC had a very enjoyable time cooking their own meats!
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My brother enjoying cooking his own food

There was plenty of food available, even though my family are big eaters. My dad enjoyed the prawns, MC enjoyed the beef and my brother and I enjoyed the chicken.

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Some of the raw meats- marinated chicken, wagyu beef, angus steak and bacon

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Cooking the meat

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BBQ prawns, meat and chicken

Summary

Overall the food was tasty, the experience interesting and the service friendly and welcoming. We would definitely return to try this again, perhaps next time we will ge the Hot Pot!

Cost:

Gama BBQ’s Korean BBQ buffet costs between $25-30pp.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-6.5
  • Food-6.5
  • Ambience -5
  • Value –7.5

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The Cook’s Garden, Turramurra ($)

Address: 272 Bobbin Head Rd  North Turramurra NSW

Tel: (02) 9144 5086

Website: http://www.thecooksgarden.com.au/

* * *

I had heard good things about this place and had been wanting to visit for some time.

Prowsey and I finally got the chance one Saturday afternoon as we headed up to North Turramurra to check it out.

Atmosphere

As it was the afternoon the atmosphere was pretty quiet and calm, really serene.

The interior is decorated with lots of wood panelling and neutral colours like whites and greens and you can see the little garden at the back which is a nice touch, but the front view of the street is quite boring.

The tables were nicely set up and as we were dining the waitress was preparing them up for dinner service.

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The Cook’s Garden proved to be a good spot to have a chat as apart from Prowsey and I, there were only two other ladies at the restaurant.

Service

We stepped into the little chocolate and cake shop at the front of the restaurant and waited about 5 minutes before someone came to the front of the shop to greet us.

We decided to have a tea and cake each and ordered and paid at the front counter before taking our own seats by the window.

There really wasn’t much to the service. We didn’t have any amazing waiters or friendly smiles. We just ordered, our tea and cakes were brought out and that’s it.  As we were leaving however, a friendly gentleman at the front of the shop did thank us for coming and was quite nice but other than that it was a really average experience.

Food

Prowsey and I both ordered English Breakfast teas and Persian Polenta cakes.

The Persian Polenta cakes were delicious. They were moist and very orangey, had a lovely mini-sized presentation and were slightly sticky. Delicious.

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Persian Orange Polenta Cake

While the tea was also tasty and quite nice, the cups they were served in were a little stained and chipped. Not very good presentation for a place which supposedly has a couple of Good Food Chef Hats!

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English Breakfast Tea

Cost

The tea cost $4.00.

There are a variety of cakes available at the front of the restaurant.

Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5.5
  • Food-  7
  • Ambience- 6.5

The Cook's Garden on Urbanspoon

Top Speed Thai, Willoughby ($$)

Address: 331 Penshurst St, North Willoughby NSW

Tel: (02) 9417 7500

Website: 

* * *

Atmosphere

My family and I decided to check out Top Speed Thai on Sunday night for an early 5.30pm dinner. Located in the North Shore suburb of WIlloughby, TST is a modern-style Thai restaurant with pleasing aesthetics and a warm atmosphere.

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We were surprised to find that the restaurant was quite busy. There were three other tables of about 4-5 people and a couple of tables of 2. Not bad for a Sunday night. On top of that, plenty of people came in for take-away. A busy restaurant is always a good indication of the quality of the food!

The wooden tables and cute candles make TST look quite cosy, while the dark decor and pink and gold accents add some vibrancy to the space.

I liked the general set up of the restaurant except for the fact that some of the staff were making spring rolls and food on a dining table at the back of the restaurant, which was visible from our table. This was a little odd and I think, they should have used a screen to cover that area up if they were going to use the space for food preparation.

Service

Service was quite good. The staff were friendly, and food was VERY quick- we barely waited 10 minutes before we were served our first order although the food did not all come out at the same time. Further, our water was filled up promptly and our wine (corkage $2.00 pp) was cleared away when we had finished.

Food

To start off we ordered the Gai Satay, “tender marinated chicken breast on skewers, grilled and served with peanut sauce.”

This dish was delicious and was served with a sweet watermelon flavoured syrup with chilli floating in it, and a thick, crunchy peanut satay sauce. The chicken was delicious and moist and the dish was a winner with all of us!

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Gai Satay, $7.90

Next up were the Curry Puffs, “assorted vegetables cooked with Thai herbs and curry powder, then wrapped in puff pastry and served with sweet chilli sauce.”

This dish was great too. The pastry was lovely and crispy, obviously fresh and made hot to order. The filling was quite spicy, but that’s exactly how it should be so I was quite happy with this dish.

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Curry Puffs, $6.90

For mains we ordered Cashew Chicken with Chilli Jam Sauce which was a chicken stir fry with cashews, vegetables including onions, broccoli and carrots, chilli jam and chillis. This is usually a classic Thai dish and one of my favourites but I was disappointed that the sauce wasn’t darker and thicker. It wasn’t very flavoursome and although it tasted OK, was a bit of a let down for me given my love of this dish.

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Cashew Chicken with Chilli Jam Sauce, $16.90

Next up was Satay Beef which contained strips of beef stir-fried with vegetables in a peanut sauce. I did enjoy this dish and my brother loved it, having a second serving and pouring all the sauce into his bowl!

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Satay Beef, $16.90

We also ordered the Volcano from the Sea, “a steamed combination of seafood (prawn, fish fillet, squid, mussels, scallops and egg) in red curry sauce and coconut milk.”

This came to the table on fire, with some oil around the foil being lit for special effect and to keep the dish warm. What a dramatic entrance! Once the fire went out we opened up the foil to find a delicious creamy coconut sauce with perfectly cooked seafood inside. There were also some steamed leaves (bok choy) in the bottom of the dish, but we didn’t eat them as they seemed a little odd in a creamy curry and we were beginning to get full. However, all up the curry tasted delicious and for mum and I, was a favourite.

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Volcano from the Sea, $22.90

Finally we ordered the Lamb Cutlets in Massaman Curry. This dish consisted of 4 lamb cutlets with massaman sauce, Thai spices, baby potatoes and cashew nuts. It was delicious. Although the serving was quite small, the lamb was very tender and soft. The curry was creamy and rich and the dish was very well presented. The soft, starchy potatoes were great with the creamy sauce. A fantastic dish which is quite different from the usual Thai fare!

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Lamb Massaman Cutlets, $20.90

We also had steamed rice to go with the food, at $3.00 per person.

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Cost

I had a voucher for dinner for two which cost $40.00 on Groupon. I decided to take my family along as well and so we ended up paying another $45.00 for their meals. All up dinner cost $85.00.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 7
  • Food- 7.75
  • Ambience- 7
  • Value – 8

Top Speed Thai on Urbanspoon

Buddha Belly, Terry Hills ($$)

Address: 327 Mona Vale Rd  Terrey Hills NSW

Tel: (02) 9450 1504

Website: http://www.thebuddhabelly.com.au/

* * *

Atmosphere

Buddha Belly is situated in Terry Hills gardens, just off Mona Vale Road. It is a tranquil spot, surrounded by bamboo, trees, a koi pond and a cute little store selling decor and furnishings from Bali.

All of this combine to make it a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a coffee or a meal. Prowsey and I headed over to Buddha Belly upon discovering that Plan A (Butcher’s Block) and Plan B (Sous le soleil) were closed on Sundays.

Service

Upon arriving we were greeted at the door by a young guy who led us to a table. During our time there we were helped by another waiter who was also young, and who seemed a little inexperienced and shy. However he took our orders with accuracy and politeness and we didn’t have any problems with service at all.

Food

We started off with drinks. I ordered a Summer Morning (pineapple, passionfruit and mint) juice ($7.50), while Prowsey had a smoothie (also $7.50). My juice was delicious. It had a fresh minty smell and a slightly sour tang of passionfruit mixed with the sweetness of pineapple- delicious!

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Summer Morning Juice

For entrees we ordered Sourdough Bread with Olive Oil and Balsamic Dukkah ($3.00). This entree included a large piece of bread, some delicious tangy balsamic and mellow olive oil, and a great dukkah mix of spices, herbs and sesame seeds. Delicious. It was a perfect serving for us to start off the meal without getting too full and was pretty cheap too!

For mains, Prowsey and I both ordered the Summer Salad ($27.00), which was a salad of smoked trout and crab meat, king prawns, green mango, paw paw, onion, cucumber, wakame, cherry tomatoes, herbs (including mint and parsley), and wasabi mayonnaise (taken from the menu).

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The salad was delicious. There was plenty of it and there was a high seafood to salad ratio. The dressing was delicious and creamy, while the leaves and tomatoes were refreshing and light. The seafood was cooked perfectly and the smoked trout really added to the complexity of the dish. At the end of this we felt satisfied and full but weren’t in a food coma from fatty carb-loaded food!

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After lunch, I had a chai tea ($3.80) and Prowsey had a cappuccino ($3.30). My tea was a little weak as I think one tea bag for that pot of water wasn’t enough (I prefer a strong chai tea with lots of milk and a bit of honey!).

Cost:

Overall our entrees, meals, drinks and coffee came to about $40 each.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5.5
  • Food- 7.5
  • Ambience- 7.5
  • Value –7

Buddha Belly on Urbanspoon

The Butcher’s Block, Wahroonga ($$)

Address: 15 Redleaf Ave, Wahroonga NSW

Tel: (02) 9487 8136

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Butchers-Block

Opening hours:

Sunday- Closed

Monday -Saturday: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm

* * *

TBB is the newest offering on the Ku-Ring-Gai dining scene. Prowsey has been raving about this place for a while now and I finally got a chance to visit with my friend, ClareBear.

Atmosphere

A father/son duo, George and Anthony, have transformed this space into a fresh and exciting new eatery whilst managing to retain the personality and uniqueness of the shop which, for over 70 years, was a Butchery.

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The Butcher style aprons, meat hooks and various accessories add to the atmosphere, while wooden benches and the smell of freshly ground coffee invite passersby inside to taste the delicious foods on offer.

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The place has a sort of rustic, garden vibe, with a lot of wood and exposed brick. The crowning glory of the decor is the vintage meat cleaver used by a Butcher in the store in 1882. While I LOVE that they have decided to use a vintage item in the restaurant, I was appalled to find that the cleaver is now used as a handle to enter the toilets! Bit gross really…

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Service

ClareBear and I rocked up at 10.00 am on a Saturday without a reservation. When we got there, there was already a line of about 10-15 people waiting to get in. We put our name down on the list and were told that the wait would be about 15-20 minutes. We decided to go to a nearby cafe, Danes, to have a coffee while we waited to get a seat at TBB.

After our coffee, we headed back and luckily, within about 5 minutes we were seated at an outside table. Unfortunately, as the day was very rainy, it wasn’t the best spot. We were quite cold (there were no outdoor heaters) and the awning didn’t quite shelter us fully from the rain.

Nonetheless it didn’t bother us too much, and we were excited to receive the menus.

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Throughout our meal, we had a few waiters serve us. I would have preferred to have just the one waitress who gave us the menus as it would have looked a little more orderly than having a few different people checking up on us.

I would also comment that some of the waiters seemed to hurry us a little, clearing our plates very quickly and always checking whether we wanted something else. Given the cafe was quite busy, that was fair enough. I did notice that once the place quietened down (around 12.30 pm), they stopped asking us if we needed anything and we went up to the counter to pay for our meals before we left.

Food

I was really in the mood for eggs so I decided to order the one pan bacon and eggs with sourdough and home made tomato sauce ($14.00).

I was hoping that this dish would be served in an actual pan (as the name suggests), but was a little disappointed that it was served up on a large plate. Further, the eggs were not runny enough and the sourdough was almost impossible to eat with a fork and knife as it was so crunchy. I ended up smearing the sauce over it and using my hands!

Despite the above, the tomato sauce was divine- it was chunky and slightly sour, was very rich and plentiful. There was plenty of bacon and eggs as well. If only this dish had been served in a mini pan, I would have been quite happy!

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ClareBear ordered the croissant with hazelnut spread ($7.00). I had seen this on the menu before and it did look absolutely divine!  A great alternative to Max Brenner, Oliver Brown or  San Churros!

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After breakfast we ordered some tea while we chatted away. I ordered the Congo Bongo, and ClareBear got the English Breakfast. The tea was served in cast iron tea pots which although nice to look at, were very heavy to lift! The tea pots gave us about 4 small cups each.

My Congo Bongo tea smelt like a fruity breakfast cereal and was the perfect way to relax on this particularly chilly morning!

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Cast iron tea pots

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English breakfast -milk served in cute bottles

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Congo Bongo tea

Summary

Overall a great little breakfast spot. The decor and menu options are great, and exactly what the upper north shore needs. Service is a little disjointed, perhaps due to the large crowds.

I would love to come back to try the lunch menu sometime and even the dinner menu, which I hear is soon to come!

Cost: 

Overall my meal came to about $20 while Clare Bear’s was about $12.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-6.5
  • Food-7.5
  • Ambience-8.5
  • Value –7.5

The Butcher's Block on Urbanspoon

Mamak, Chatswood ($)

Address: P9/1-5 Railway St  Chatswood NSW

Tel: (02) 9411 4411

Website: http://www.mamak.com.au/

* * *

Atmosphere

Mamak is usually busy and as we visited on a Thursday night I was surprised that we were able to get a seat within about 5 minutes. The restaurant was buzzing with happy customers, chatting away and enjoying their meals. There was a sound of sizzling pans and grills coming from the kitchen and through the windows at the front of the restaurant you could see the chefs preparing, flipping and meticulously cooking the flaky rotis.

Service

As we were seated we were handed the menus and given some plates and cutlery (they were just put in the middle of the table).

Mamak is not a place you go to to get fancy tables and high -end service. It is the street stall type of restaurant where you go for delicious, quick and hot food.

Service was quite fast, our meals only took a couple of minutes to come out. The staff were friendly and nice and we enjoyed the night.

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Food

We decided to order the Nasi Goreng (one of my favourites), a Roti Canai and a Roti Telur to share.

The Nasi Goreng came out served piled high on a plate, with delicious egg and prawn mixed through the dish. The flavours were delicious. Spicy yet sweet, with well-cooked seafood and soft rice. Definitely one of my favourite dishes. I would have liked the egg to be fried and served on top of the rice, but nonetheless this was a tasty dish.

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Nasi Goreng, $11.50

The Roti Canai is the traditional roti, served in a meal dish with a spicy fishy sauce and a dhal curry. The spicy fish curry was just that, spicy! It was a little too hot but hey, that’s what Malaysian food is all about- the spice! This roti was deliciously flaky, fresh from the kitchen and divine! Mamak’s rotis are always consistent and delicious.

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Roti Canai, $5.50

The Roti Telur is an egg roti which was also served with the two curries. The egg roti was flatter and less flaky compared to the plain roti. It was also thicker and had a lot of egg in it. It could have done with a little pepper and salt though. All in all, not a bad roti.

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Roti Telur, $6.50

Cost

Overall the meal cost $23.50 which is fantastic value considering how full we were!

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6.5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 7.5
  • Value – 8

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Thyme Square, Hornsby ($)

Address: 5/43a Florence Street Hornsby NSW

Tel: (02) 9476 0700

Websitehttp://thymesquarecafe.com.au/

* * *

The news of my friend’s engagement to her long-term boyfriend brought us to Thyme Square for some Sunday morning brunch!

Prowsey, Kate-T and I chose a cosy booth for our morning coffee and breakfast spot. We were greeted by a nice waitress who was pretty efficient despite telling us that she was new to the job. She soon took our orders and the coffees and my chai latte were soon brought out.

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Chai tea latte

My chai latte was delicious and creamy, very soothing and quite tasty with the honey. A good choice!

While Prowsey and Kate-T both chose the Bacon & Eggs with a cappucino, I opted for the Smoke Salmon breakfast. This option included toasted wholemeal bread (although I ended up getting sourdough), smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, half an avocado, and rocket, all for $15.50.

The Bacon & Eggs contained two eggs with bacon and toast for $13.50. The girls also ordered a side of spinach and mushrooms (extra).

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Smoked salmon breakfast

I really enjoyed my meal. The avocado was a little hard, not ripe enough, but that is something which isn’t always controllable!

The eggs weren’t as fluffy as I would prefer them to be but were still tasty and enjoyable.

There was plenty of salmon for the amount of eggs and toast, and the toast was crunchy and delicious.

I didn’t see any rocket on the plate however, which was a little disappointing as it could have done with more greens!

Also, the girls asked for some Turkish bread but also got sourdough -perhaps they ran out? Either way we should have been told that there was no Turkish bread instead of just being served a different type of bread.

Overall there were some minor issues but the place is quite cute and cosy and the food pretty tasty and reasonably-priced.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5.5
  • Food- 7
  • Ambience- 4.5
  • Value – 6.5

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