The food adventurer in me means i’ve been slightly preoccupied by a recent house move to the Sydney suburb of Rodd Point. Wallpapering, floorboard sanding, painting and decorating have taken a back seat as I’ve scoured the new neighbourhood for good food finds. So far i’ve found five, just a few minutes walk away in the Italian pocket of Five Dock. It’s a bit of a multicultural line-up.
Nam Viet Hot Bread
I’ve never actually bought hot bread from his no-frills Vietnamese bakery. That’s because i’m never there at crack of dawn when it has just been pulled from the oven. I’m still in bed, dreaming about things like hot, crusty bread. Pretty rosette rolls — a steal at 40 cents each — are big on crustiness. The baker could offer a rebate for returned crummage — there’s plenty of it — and turn it into bags of breadcrumbs, i’m sure. The rolls are light and soft in flavour. They’re irresistible slathered in mayonnaise and English mustard, then stuffed with ham and salad. A bag of cold rolls accompanied me to the Post Office one morning, where I found myself enviously trying to sniff out the person who had hot fresh baked bread in their shopping bag. As it happens, the delightful aroma — the one that unleashes the tummy rumbles — was emanating from my own bakery stash. My mid-morning haul may not have been hot any longer, but it still bore the fresh-baked scent that makes a true bread lover go weak at the knees.
Nam Viet Hot Bread
113 Great North Rd
A suburb that is not home to one of the two major supermarkets is a rare find and patronising our local independent player, Superbarn, is a weekly feel-good moment that rivals a therapeutic massage when your dicky back is having a dummy spit. Superbarn is a Greek family-run business that began in Canberra and has expanded to New South Wales. The fruit and vegetable section of my local store is superb in both breadth and freshness. The delicatessen counter is huge and well stocked, there’s a butcher on hand to bone a leg of lamb for you when you just can’t be arsed to do it yourself, and there are cavernous fridges chockablock with huge beef fillets and other prime cuts that will be cut to your desired size. Prices are higher and there are far fewer “specials” to be had. But when a special offer means the supplier has been screwed on price by the supermarket, which doesn’t actually lose a cent itself, i can live with a slightly the higher shopping bill.
4 Garfield Street
3 Punte Caffe & Pasticceria
From baby cannoli squished full of custard, to family-sized cakes — such as fresh-baked ricotta cake sprinkled liberally with flaked almonds and ‘diet begins tomorrow’ good intentions — the pastries that line the glass cabinets like foxy temptresses are handmade daily by the Italian family that has owned the joint for nine years. You can eat in. Sandwiches and panini are also on the menu, if you can crane your head away from the dessert counter long enough. Or grab a box of pastries and high-tail it home with your heist to gorge in privacy. A ricotta cake shared with colleagues at work was so soft it was difficult to cut in to small serves, which explains why a select crew were struck down with cream-comatose one afternoon. Fresh cannoli have made it into my kitchen, but never out again. Fat, baby chocolate eclairs are wicked little numbers that are worth returning for. It’s really very naughty, but it’s oh so awfully nice.
3 Punte Caffe & Paticceria
101 Great North Road
Bamiyan Afghan restaurant
Bamiyan restaurant delivers a hit that lulls spice junkies into a temporary stupor of the kind that only a guzzle of ice-cold beer can rectify. The menu dabbles in quintessential Indian favourites, such as butter chicken and vindaloo, samosa, pappadums and naan. But Afghani specialities are where the real adventure begins. Get your gob around a mantu or ashaak — they’re dumplings originating from Uzbek and Kabul respectively — and all thoughts of bog-standard dishes like butter chicken will be eradicated from your spice-sozzled mind. Cardamon and coriander dominate, but are partnered with more cooling ingredients such as mint, yoghurt and tomatoes so the spice overload doesn’t leave your tastebuds scorched. Staff are kidnap-worthy for their friendliness and curry-making skills. But it’s the diners that are held to ransom the minute they take their first bite.
175 First Avenue
If you can get your head around the bizarre window display of freshly baked golden bread next to household cleaning products long enough to take a peek inside, Peter’s Deli will have you hooked. From towers of tinned goods, to wheels of fresh cheese and mounds of olives, it’s a hive of all things Italiana. Mamas, nonnas and screeching primadonnas rule the roost on Saturday mornings when they press the counter elbow-to-elbow, three-deep like a line-up of riot police. They shout their gastronomic orders over the counter and harangue staff over prices. “Signora, the prices are going up,” says one employee despairingly as an old battle-axe of a customer tries to barter him down. You can join the mosh pit, or talk a stroll around the store and await the mamas’ retreat. Either practice is imminently dangerous. Half the size of most of my female shopping competitors i tend to browse the shelves as i wait. Temptation always gets the better of me. One time it was chocolate-filled croissants. Another time it was fresh marscapone. “500 percent fat,” laughed the shop-keeper as he rang up my loot. A deli-counter food fight may have been the better option after all.
97 Great North Road
What are the top food finds in your neighbourhood?