Thursday, 20 June 2013

'Eat Ya Self Stupid' Tour - The Inner West

A promise of visting and sampling treats at 'secret' little gems in the Inner West had me buzzing with an excited energy. My fabulous friend, Mr G (or Gdawg as he likes to be called) came well prepared with a list of places we were visiting on his self made/self guided tour and a notebook and pen for me to take notes! (if you know me personally you would know that I am an obsessive list person and I had my own secret notebook stash in my handbag) I know now why we have been friends for nearly 25 years!

The list was shaping up to be an 'eat ya self stupid tour' ending with dinner at Hartsyard. A pace was going to have to be set. A game plan set in action. I'm glad I wore my stretchy pants!

We set out early and headed towards Marrickville with our first stop being Bourke Street Bakery yee of Surry Hills fame. This is the sister branch found in an industrial area, but that doesn't stop the locals heading there for their morning coffee and pastries. There are a few outdoor tables to soak up the rays on a beautiful sunny morning or bench seating along the inside wall with big windows or there is a big communal table that gives a birds eye view into the bakery kitchens, where you can watch the bakers in action.

Lamb, Almond & Harrisa Sausage Roll and a Skinny Cappuccino

I'm intrigued by the menu and we opt for the Lamb, Almond and harrisa sausage roll (harissa!!! I nearly asked where they got theirs from (or whether they make it themselves) - more on that later)).  Flaky pastries, great flavour and there are sultanas scattered through the mince filling.

BOURKE STREET BAKERY - 2 Mitchell St Marrickville

Our second stop takes us to the Hellenic Bakery.

You can smell the bread before you get into the store and it's memorising. When I step through the door I don't know where to start looking first! My head is darting around trying to take it all in, so I take a deep breath and start looking through each glass cabinet from the door and sweeping around the shop. First there are a selection of Greek biscuits and bread , then it's onto the Greek pastries. Fresh ricotta canollis and custard filled canollis catch my eye, along with freshly baked galaktobouriko, which is a baked semolina custard and phyllo pie drenched in sugary syrup and dusted with cinnamon.

I'm mesmerised by the decadent sweets on offer and try not to drool over the glass display cases.  Single serve pieces, perfect for entertaining, dessert or just an indulgent snack!  My taste buds are having a party in my mouth!

Macaroons, Lemon Meringue Pie, Galaktobouriko

We go with cannolis and a piece of galaktobouriko (to have after 'lunch').

HELLENIC BAKERY (facebook page) 371 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville
(02) 9559 2701

We find a couple of stops on the list closed unfortunately, but that doesn't dampen our spirit.  We just move along to the next pit stop! However we did pop in to see this little cake shop, which was a detour from the list.

Gorgeous cakes, Greek biscuits and lots of covered almonds.  We snacked on these tiny cannolis which were crispy and chocolaty and custardy goodness

baby cannolis

ATHENA CAKE SHOP - 412 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville

Tucked away behind a house at the end of a dead end street is a cheese factory.  A cheese factory that makes beautiful fresh Italian cheeses.  Family owned and ran this is the place to pick up fresh cheese.

The display case is packed with wonderful cheeses ranging from fresh caciotta with rocket and chilli to fresh burrata and buffalo mozzarella through imported cheeses such as fetta, provolone, cheddar, taleggio and blue to name a few. 

After some discussion with the helpful staff I walked away with 5 cheeses!  burata, fett, caciotta, taleggio and a hard goats cheese.  I don't think I've ever bought so much cheese in one go! (and realised that I may have gone a bit cheese mad lately with no less than 15 different types of cheese in my fridge (thankfully I'm entertaining over the next couple of weeks))!

lots of cheeses

PAESANELLA CHEESE - 27 Gerald Street, Marrickville (at end of street behind a house)

We drop into (The) Pasta Factory (which is also known as Chef's or Chef Express) just near Sydenham train station.  This is a little factory selling a wide range of foods including fresh pasta, sauces, gelato, finger foods, jams and condiments.  Pity they weren't selling this old stove.  LOVE!

Hank's Jam and the old stove

THE PASTA FACTORY - 17-19 Buckley St, Marrickville

However, it's the shop across the road that is the reason we are in the 'hood.  The shop that has a line out the door most mornings.  It's Faros Brothers Seafood and as I walk in I actually gasp with the abundance and variety going on!

There are prawns as big as my hand, fresh tuna and salmon, bottarga (or mullet roe), ocean perch, rainbow trout, octopus and squid, flathead and scallops, oysters and fish I didn't even know existed.  The best bit?  It's cheap.  I was very surprised with the prices.  We grabbed 2 trout and it only came to $12.25 and the fishmonger kindly cleaned them for us.  You want quality seafood but don't want the fish market hassle or prices.  Head this way!

yabbies anyone?

FAROS BROTHERS SEAFOOD ( - 34 Buckley St, Marrickville

Our last stop before lunch and a nanna nap was a walk down Marrickville Rd.  Mr G wanted to buy some meat for a stew.  We stumbled across a deli and I just had to go in.  I have been on the hunt for harissa paste in Sydney and have had no luck (seriously, I was considering going into making it myself and marketing it - in fact that's still not a bad idea).  Anyway, I could have hugged kissed the guy as he passed me a big jar of the stuff  and it only cost $7 (mind you I would have paid $50 by this point in time).  If you know of anywhere else that sells it let me know!

This deli is jam packed with wonderful groceries from the continent and further afield.  Olives, cheeses and beautiful deli meats are displayed in the glass cabinets.  Halva tubs adorn the counter tops, everywhere you look there is a new product on display.  I love places like this were my curiosity for new delights can be explored!

We also walked away with a slab/brick  (and I mean a brick, it weighed the same) of freshly made spanokopita.  It was dense and packed with cheese and spinach.

LAMIA SUPER DELI - 270 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville

We took the motherload of fresh produce back to Mr G's crib and to have a bit of a picnic with our produce.  I love dining table picnics.

We delve into buffalo mozzarella, spanokopita and the Greek pastries.

buffalo mozzarella, spanokopita, cannoli's and galaktobouriko

The mozzarella is creamy and grassy and has a smooth soft interior, the spanokopita is dense and rich and full of flavour and not short on cheese, it had a great lemon tang to it too, unfortunately upon reheating it got a little burnt crispy on the edges (but hey they're the best bits!) .  Dessert was the cannoli which unfortunately was soggy but the flavours were good.  I preferred the custard filled one over the ricotta one, but that just comes down to personal preference.  The  galaktobouriko however was glorious in all its syrupy goodness. The custard is firm but velvety. What's is happening to me? I'm developing a sweet tooth! 

Resting the feet and the mind over a cheeky glass of chardy (it was a respectable hour), we head back out for phase 2 of the tour. We head toward Alexandria, parking is crazy around The Grounds of Alexandria, so expect to walk for a few minutes. 
lemons, strawberrys, mandarins to make lemonade

fresh bread

awesome olives
It's mayhem. There are people crowded around the entrance trying to get inside, the garden area is packed with people sipping coffee and munching on BBQ and bacon and egg rolls. Wow it's changed since I was last here about a year ago. The smell of BBQ is making me salivate but today we are not participating. *sad face*. There are a couple of stalls from Salt Meats Cheese selling a variety of amazing chillies and fresh lemonade.

The green fiery olives are chilli-head hot! and actually makes me start to sweat a little, so I purchase some, along with a spoonful of middle eastern flavour kalamatas! 
I love kale 'flowers'
We check out The Grounds and are surprised that they now offer BBQ and Bacon and Egg carts...this is fantastic as it offers guests another option instead of having to line up to get inside.  It's laid back and very casual.  It's lovely sitting outside in the sun, in the garden, soaking up a little bit of green in what is really a concrete urban space! One the downside, it crowds more people into a lovely outdoor space, making it even more chaotic!

We stopped by to visit with Kevin the pig.
This is now my second visit to The Grounds in a year and I still have yet to step foot inside!
We head into Salt Meats Cheese and again I gasp. It's like entering a holy shrine! I take a moment to send a little prayer to the kitchen gods as I step into the walk-in coolroom packed with cheeses. 
Truly a religious experience for any foodie!

Deli meat delights 

We spend a good 40 minutes exploring the shelves, sniffing and prodding and tasting where we can. I'm in love with the flavoured salts range and am taken by a few but do not like the expresso flavoured one! I stand in awe as I look up to the ceiling in the deli! Hams, salamis and sausages hanging from the rafters.....They are selling ham and cheese rolls made with Iberico ham! My heart is palpating a little. I will be coming back here to purchase some very soon! 

Currently there is a promotion where, if you check-in on Facebook and make a purchase you receive a free box of pasta. We came away with 2 bottles of red and white vinegar, a bottle of tomato and vodka pasta sauce and free box of pasta! Easy peasy quick dinner party meal is sorted for next week!
(Yes I'll cheat using a jar sauce this time).

SALT MEATS CHEESE - behind The Grounds at Alexandria - 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria 

Out last stop of the day is King St, Newtown to visit a couple of spice stores.

This little Indian spice shop also sells music and videos.  I feel like I'm going to bust out a Bollywood routine in the middle of the shop as I pick out my spices!  I stock up on fenugreek and besan (chickpea) flour and we are enticed by the samosas and Indian pastries and sweets in the window. But we are heading to dinner soon and don't want to spoil our appetites so go with a small packet of Gulab Jamun, which is a little cheese like dumpling (mixed with flour) and fried then soaked in syrup. I'm disappointed, they are spongy, stodgy and dry (probably because they are pre-packaged earlier in the day). They also supply ready to heat meals, fresh and frozen indian vegetables and all sorts of kitchenware and toiletries and some odd products like this.....

Tinned corned mutton anyone?  Actually this is something my Dad would eat for lunch!
Indian sweets

Vinyak (Music, Videos & Spices) - 642a King Street, Newtown

We finish  up at Fiji Market. A vast array of spices, Indian products, kitchenware along with rice and pulses and they even have a decent Mexican/South American section too!

FIJI MARKET - 591 King St, Newtown

Our food touring part of the day has come to an end.  We are actually starting to feel hungry and realise that we didn't eat as much as we thought we would today.  The night is still young and we are both excited about our dinner reservations!

I would like to thank Mr G/Gdawg for sharing his neighbourhood delights with me.  I had a fantastic day spending time with a close friend, something that I haven't been able to do for a very lone time due to being overseas.  It's days like this, spending time with loved ones, that really fortify my soul.  Thanks G. Big love and hugs! x



  1. Awesome read cuz! I'm inspired to hit some of the local haunts on Dundas ASAP.
    Any Toronto recommendations?...provided they are still there.

  2. Back in those days I wasn't so focused on where to eat....but I know Dundas West is packed with great eats and bars its' called Little Portugal. Also The Annex (Bloor and Spadina) which is where I lived is great - near Koreatown and it's a university area. Think Frat and Sorority houses = cheap eats and bars. You can't beat cheap yum cha in Chinatown. There is an amazing cheese shop in Kensington Market called (i think) Global Cheeses. Check out The Dish in Toronto Life ENJOY PATIO SEASON...I loved it!