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When Cuckoo Callay first shot through an invite to their Bacon Festival (yes, it totally happened and I didn’t just imagine it), I actually contemplated on saying no. If there were ever a time to torch my inbox with hate mail, that would have been it. Thankfully, I was made to see the light, thereupon getting myself porked on eight bacon dishes. In other words, a normal Saturday.
Now, the bacon festival is over. A sad day for sure, however fret not – where there’s a Yin, there must be Yang. Cuckoo Callay’s new menu has arrived, and with my crew Isaac @ iFat, Anna @ Polyphagia & the Lady in tow, we were set to create our own festival right there on the table. It may be a bit Cuckoo, but it’s right up my all-ay.
Date Last Visited: 20/6/15
Address: 324b Newtown Train Station, Newtown, NSW
Recommended Dish(es): trout pout, pop goes the chicken, rice rice baby
The kind folks at Cuckoo Callay (courtesy of Wasamedia) have once again invited the Lady and I, in conjunction with iFat & Polyphagia’s invite. We decided to combine them for the ultimate showstopper breakfast appetite. Yes, the Usual Disclaimer does apply.
Readers of the Bacon Festival post will remember that Cuckoo Callay’s positioning could hardly be better – in the heart of Newtown, right outside Newtown station. Its convenience is a vital advantage whether arriving by train or bus. Unfortunately, while there are many good cafes, they’re often not good enough for non-locals to travel to, if they’re inconvenient to reach.
First thing’s first – the coffee. As usual, it would be egregious not to take tabs on the brew. A reasonable price, in line with the market? Check. Latte art? Most leafinitely. Taste? Enjoyable to someone who’s not fussy about coffee. I can’t vouch for what the connoisseurs may remark, but I find that a coffee is considered good, if I would order again on a revisit. In that respect, Cuckoo Callay passes the test with flying, frothy milk.
But let’s get real for a second. You’re here for the food. Don’t you worry – never let it be said that I under-deliver. Say hello to the spread.
And this didn’t even include the desserts, heh.
So, where to start in this marathon? As I was deliberating, about to be consumed by indecision, the ruling was made for me when Anna generously plonked down some of her dish onto my plate, in the sacred tradition among food bloggers known as “food sharing”.
You bet the dish features eggs.
Well, just one egg, but don’t pout, because there’s trout about! To start strongly, the Trout Pout is one of my favourite dishes out of what we tried.
What did it for me was the potato, leek & fennel cake. It’s a soft, moist pillow of goodness that avoids being too dry and crumbly. Taste-wise, it’s redolent with the starchiness of potato and the slight sweetness of fennel, supplemented by the umami of horseradish cream. Mop it up, people.
While that alone could make for a satisfying side dish by itself, it’s the trout that completes it. As far as the set of all trout goes, this one’s squarely in the middle of the pack. It satisfies, pleases, while only great expectations would be disappointed. I felt the smokiness of the trout was more muted than I’d have liked, but on the flip side I actually prefer my fish un-smoked, so this was a blessing in disguise. What it goes really well with is the fennel cake, with a swipe of that horseradish cream and a dollop of melty egg yolk. That’s a forkful of food worth eating.
Speaking of melty egg yolk, let’s talk more egg….and uhhh, more fish.
Deja vu, anyone? Smoked trout now becomes beetroot cured salmon. Fennel becomes chargrilled broccolini, while instead of a fennel cake, we get quinoa & legumes. 63C egg? Only just witnessed in action.
If the Trout Pout is the carb-loader, the Purple Rain is its “superfoods” cousin. While I don’t pay too much ministration on the organic/superfood movement, I have to acknowledge that when prepared properly, they can form the basis of a tasty dish that doesn’t have to be the “compromise” to a more calorific version.
The positives: the trout. Very tasty, a killer for beetroot fans. The chargrilled broccolini – I’ve made no secret that I love this stuff. Its crunchy texture and ability to lend itself exceedingly well to the Maillard browning reaction improves any dish that aspires to be green in colour and health. The 63C egg? You’ve seen the yolkporn yourself – I need to say no more.
But is there something to rain on this parade? Yes – overall, the dish is too oily. You can probably tell from the slick on the sugar peas and kale in the picture. Unfortunately, these days it’s still all too easy to be a little heavy-handed with the oil.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s get onto something lighter – let’s get onto some ramen. Of course, being a little bit cuckoo, a little bit of theatrics is required. Cue dashi pour!
Judging by the traffic my Best Ramen in Sydney post has brought to this blog, I’m pretty sure half of my readers right now are ramen fanatics. In the spirit of keeping my newly
captured acquired audience sated, I have a breakfast ramen for you. Sure! You say, but there’s a question: what in the heck is breakfast ramen?
Let’s not overthink this – it’s ramen noodles, served in a – and this is key – light broth. No tonkotsu, no miso, shoyu at best. Cuckoo Callay does it with a – won’t you know it – bacon dashi. Trust the spirit of the pig: once you’re porked, you never go back.
The killer question is: is this bowl worth ramen-iscing over when you’re recounting your great noodle conquests to noodle-lovers yet to be born? Let’s tackle this question in the same manner as I tackled seventeen bowls of goodness.
Noodles: the weakest point of the dish. Quaggy, soft, far too ductile. I prefer my noodles al dente, in almost every setting. These tasted too slippery for my liking. They’re also not prominent in that noodle “wheatiness” that I treasure so much in proper ramen noodles.
Broth: the short of it? Enjoyable. The dashi is light enough such that it’s appropriate to drink first thing in the morning. Its daintiness is very easy to slurp, and in fact, it’s almost like drinking a savoury tea. I’m satisfied, but a major improvement is for the flavour to be amped up a fair degree. There’s only so much bacon to flavour the ramen.
Toppings: thick-cut bacon, oodles of mushrooms. Enough said. (Seriously, Cuckoo’s bacon game is top-notch. Nothing more needs to be said)
Misc: that the dashi is poured at the table is a solid move – not only is it theatrically attractive, it is also practical in keeping the dashi as hot as possible between plating and consuming.
Winter mornings are often the coldest point of a day. A breakfast ramen is a novel idea in providing a revitalising boost. Sure, the noodles are a far cry from perfection, and the dashi could use some extra flavour kick, but hey – what other cafe has ramen on the menu?
If a breakfast ramen is a little too avant-garde for you, how about a breakfast burger? And they say ramen is too heavy for breakfast…
Open question – how come nobody’s thought of putting popcorn chicken into a burger? Is it that bad of an idea? Apparently so, because not even Cuckoo Callay is doing it, despite its name speaking to the contrary. While on paper we see “popcorn chicken”, the reality is more a crumbled chicken patty. That’s patty in the singular. To be fair, nobody was truly expecting popcorn chicken the size of little nuggets to work in – they would fall out, and there would be no cohesion.
In the end, is it a good burger? Yes, yes it is. I’ve been on a bit of a lucky run with burgers recently – it’s been awhile since I’ve had a bad one and I’m chuffed Cuckoo Callay’s continuing my run. That chicken patty? So crumbly, so unctuous. The crust is as friable as a well-made cookie. The chicken inside is a little weak on the texture front, being a bit overcooked, as evidenced in how chewy and stringy it was. You win some, you lose some.
Fortunately, the rest of the burger improves – the buns are pillowy soft and sugary, lightly toasted. The manchego is a crime not to savour, to the point that I really, really wished Cuckoo had gone for a double portion. One slice was just not enough.
I can’t say I’m a fan of sauerkraut in burgers, but this fermented vegetable deserves more credit than it gets – without it, the burger would have come off too dry. This fixes it. The ideal solution instead? An extra slice of cheese!
Does it surprise anyone that I was the only one at the table who ordered two dishes? The chicken burger made for a good snack, so I followed it up with a chaser of porked. The low down of this dish is that it’s a pork mince patty served on toast. Dejectedly, the pressed pork turned out to be a lot drier and lacking in flavour than I had assumed. It required copious amounts of sauce to keep it interesting. In the end, it should have been more flavoursome by itself, and a little less quaggy in texture.
I didn’t find that the pineapple added anything in particular, though Hawaiian pizza lovers may choose to disagree. For me, the most enjoyable element of this dish happens to be the broccolini as it mops up the mustard sauce. This combination is infallible, but it’s all that goes for this dish.
Yours truly, Isaac, Anna and the Lady all reaffirmed our friendships in the sweet potato wedges test. Cuckoo Callay’s spiced spin on these rooty vegetables is to develop a beautiful browned skin, with soft and pillowy starchiness underneath. There’s a little hint of spiciness, but overall difficult to detect. The beauty of sweet potato wedges is that fundamentally, you don’t need to add anything other than a dash of salt for them to taste great. They’re usually a safe bet.
Those looking for crispiness/crunchiness more appropriate for fries will be disappointed. We on the other hand, lapped them all up with gumption.
At this stage, we were suitably chuffed in both appetite and satisfaction. We didn’t have a view to order the sweet items on the menu, but then…
They came anyway. For those aspirational food bloggers: never underestimate the generosity of a venue that wants you to promote their food. It’s a good problem to have, but you must hit the gym that all foodies are forged in – the kitchen. WORK THAT APPETITE!
Seriously though, despite being close to our reasonable limits (all four of us had even more food-related plans afterwards), we totally made work of these sweet treats. They deserve our stomach space.
First up is the rice, rice baby. When I read the menu description for this dish, I couldn’t help but think of Devon Cafe’s Aphrodite’s Bowl, even though there are only mild similarities between the two.
It makes sense that porridge is hitting its strides as a cafe staple, bringing a sweeter side to the hearty breakfast. Kudos to Cuckoo Callay for using the much healthier, and in my view, tastier red rice instead of plain white rice. Sure, it’s more expensive, but there is a mosaic of mouthfeel complexity that you just don’t get from white rice. A bit of skin here, a bit of nuttiness there, and all round a bit more al dente than regular white.
The spice baked pear is the guilty extra in this dish – sugary and plump, this is definitely more than your standard serving of fruit. It’s just so good with the included mascarpone that it would be a shame not to take it all for yourself. All of this is under the musk of rosewater, which may or may not be your predilection.
Perhaps its the inherent sweetness of the rice and spiced pear itself, but I found that the rhubarb sorbet was quite lacking in flavour. All I could taste was its icy texture of, and only the slightest hint of acidity. While I felt the sorbet could have been left out entirely, it does add a nice visual element to what would otherwise be a flat dish. I suppose they didn’t want to copy Devon’s porridge by adding flowers…eh? 😉
Overall, a nice dish to order. However, as with most sweet breakfast dishes – it’s not something I would order as my main. Do share!
The second of the confection dishes on Cuckoo Callay’s menu is Cap’n Jack. This is their take on banana bread. Of course, doing the minimum means lagging behind everybody else, so these guys spice things up with brûléed banana, coffee sauce and rum-infused mascarpone. Yowsa, this sounds like the kind of dish that would put me into bed straight after I woke up to eat it. No regrets.
I liked everything about this dish, except – funnily enough – the banana bread itself. It’s really dense and heavy, even for banana bread. I feel that a lighter carb is more appropriate for such a dish, something more akin to the texture of a French toast or something of a similar texture. We already have the banana itself – that can be the banana element. Adding banana bread on top is a little too much.
Keep every other element on the dish, swap out the heavyset banana bread, and we’re good to make friends with the Cap’n.
Yep, this cafe lives up to its namesake – it’s cuckoo, alright. Keep up the eclectic menu and we’ll be sure to keep on coming back! Did anything at Cuckoo Callay make you go cuckoo? I’d love to hear your thoughts on any dishes you’ve tried!
This post is based on a sponsored visit to Cuckoo Callay, enabled by Wasamedia.
- A varied menu with something for everyone
- The spirit of the bacon festival live on
- On a whole, enjoyable dishes – a genuine contribution to Newtown’s food scene
- There are diminutive, but still noticeable nitpicks with each dish that prevent any of them being labelled ‘exceptional’
- Singling out the breakfast ramen in particular: it could be so much more
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7 | A3