REVIEW: Hawker

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

The Summer of 1998. 4:30pm. Gerringong Beach on the South Coast, home to about twenty swimmers, four of which are myself, my Dad and my sisters. I was probably wearing a rash vest. Said twenty swimmers suddenly drops down to five swimmers, who have stopped swimming and started walking towards the shore as quickly as possible. Dad’s ushered his daughters to the sand but left his son Home Alone in the water. Just call me Levin McAllister. I slowly make my way towards them, ignoring their urges for me to hurry with a loveable pre-teen attitude that I’d just developed over summer. Ten metres to go and I step on something. Something, big, slimy and strong. I lift my other foot up and put it down on the same big slimy strong thing. It’s a stingray.

The Summer of 2015. 1:15pm. Chinatown in Sydney’s CBD, at Hawker, the new restaurant by the Malaysian team behind Mamak. Where Mamak serves Malay/Indian eats by way of rotis and curries, Hawker pays homage to the hawker street markets of Malaysia. The best part of a visit to Mamak was watching through the open kitchen at the roti’s being made, and Hawker’s kitchen side views include bread bubbling away in oil-filled woks, pancakes stretched over a griddle and huge wings of fish on the grill. What kind of fish? Stingray.

Hawker condenses the fun and noise of a night market into a clean and open dining space, surrounded by photos of a fun and noisy night market. There’s no rice, but plenty of noodles, found swimming in the sour, fruity Assam laksa or surrounded by prawns and cockles for char koay teow. KL hokkein mee appears on the menu, making Hawker one of the first places to offer it in Sydney. It comes to the table looking promising, the noodles dark with soy sauce and hiding a handful of wok fried treasures within, but is unexciting to eat, a surprisingly bland concoction featuring blackened cabbage as the only standout flavour.

The real treats on the menu are all listed as snacks, the sweet yam bean filled, fresh popiah spring rolls with chilli paste is an absolute must get and the lor bak – a selection of deep fried pork sausages, prawn cakes and taro fritters is as fun as it sounds. The snacks section is also home to the ikan bakar – a.k.a the reason I was terrified and excited to visit Hawker – grilled stingray.

To call it a snack is underselling the ikan bakar by a mile. The bright red triangle of stingray, the size of your plate, is quite daunting at first, and quite difficult to begin eating with chopsticks. It’s best to tuck the sticks behind your ears (ladies LOVE it) and get stuck in with your fingers, tearing into the charred sambal crust to reveal long lines of milk-white tender meat. It’s the kind of spicy fish that goes great with a can of beer, which you can pick up at the bottl-o around the corner. Try to eat it all before someone at your table makes a Steve Irwin joke (if they bring Bindi into it they have to cover the bill).

While the best savoury option is easily the grilled stingray, the desserts at Hawker are definitely worth your time, especially the apam balik, a shell of crispy pancake with crushed peanuts, butter and a small smear of creamed corn, which takes you by pleasant surprise each time you bite into a piece. If you forget to get beers, a jug of cold milo or barley water and syrup is almost as good.

While not as immediately appealing as Mamak, Hawker is worth the visit just to try the grilled stingray. It’s such an unexpected hit that I can’t recommend enough. Before this meal I didn’t realise you could do anything with a stingray besides awkwardly run away from it while wearing a rash vest. Who’s up for a trip back to Gerringong?

REVIEW: Rupert & Ruby

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Since Kickstarter launched I have personally help crowdfund a book I haven’t read and an iPhone gaming accessory that I crammed into the back of a drawer with my least favourite socks after about 30 seconds of trying to make it work. Rupert & Ruby is a new cafe on Stanley St, and the first instance of crowdfunding that hasn’t made me seethe with regret.

Rupert & Ruby is the latest occupant of Icon Park, the space that use crowdfunding to finance new tenants, raising the necessary funds needed to open a new restaurant or bar space. The Rupert part comes from Bondi restaurant Fat Rupert’s, while the Ruby comes from Ruby’s BBQ, an American barbecue pop up named after the wife of the Fat Rupert’s head chef, Eli Challenger. Eli has a passion for barbecue and Southern cooking, and Rupert & Ruby is a cafe where almost everything on the menu has a little nod to the South.

There’s a smoker at Fat Rupert’s, and much of the menu at Rupert & Ruby utilises that cast iron flavour machine, with the smoked chicken salad and the smoked vegetable gratin both benefiting from a welcome hit of schmoke. Even the Big Poppa burger gets a little fire – the meat in the patty is a mixture of chuck and smoked brisket. It’s a completely different texture to what you’re used to in a burger – it may have been even better with a little more fat through the patty. You can easily make up for that lost fat after your meal with dessert – a maple cheesecake with chocolate bacon and popcorn – or even before your meal with breakfast, waffles with fried chicken and ice cream. You might want to crowdfund a bigger belt after eating here though.

REVIEW: Bowery Lane

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Deep inside Suitsville, where parking costs $75 an hour and holding your phone in front of your date for the entire meal is totally ok, sits Bowery Lane, a sprawling, vaguely American complex comprised of a coffee counter, a takeaway sandwich nook, a bar and a restaurant, which is now open for dinner every night of the week.

The fit out is welcoming, long tables for larger groups and intimate booths perfect for dating couples or a romantic reviewer/photographer duo. The American inspired menu mostly lives up to the detailed descriptions, the enormous and meaty share plates definitely being the highlight overall, with a number of diners looking longingly at the neighbouring tables tucking into wagyu short rib or pork collar while they contemplate their soft shell crab burgers.

Bowery Lane’s forays into more trendy, “fun!” dishes is less successful, their decision to serve rare tuna on a tough brioche bun is confusing, although far less confusing than serving their best dessert, cookies and cream, in a jar and then on a huge plank of wood. If there was an award for the most 2014 presentation of food ever, we would have a winner.

Where Bowery Lane stays true to its name is behind the bar. There’s an impressive list of New York’s finest beers, from Brooklyn Lager to Sorachi Ace, both rarely found at any of Sydney’s Americana hotspots. All beers are served in a glass, not a jar, and without a plank of wood beneath them.


I reviewed the pretty awesome new WarioWare game for Time Out, read the review here.