East of Norman

Today on the Dining Diaries…

Fat fries rule
Friendly wait staff rule more and
Good food and atmosphere rulest the most!


Diners today we were at East of Norman, a funky little newish establishment on Sturt St in the city.

I was wondering how this place got its name and then noticed the street a few metres away was indeed called Norman.

Nothing like calling it as it is.

We walked into a room with a great feel. Already there were groups of people enjoying lunch. Modern jazz music was playing and staff greeted us at the door.

I love the industrial look decor. I was told East of Norman has been around for about a year now but this was the first I’d heard of it and I was glad we’d decided to stop in today.

The menu was ok. There were a nice selection of pizzas on there, plus a few share platters and some mains.  I was hoping for a bit more of a selection but if they cook everything they have on the menu as well as what we had today, they’re doing ok!

We started off with our staple…. some fries to share.


Look at those fat fries!!! There was something really different about them. It was almost like they’d been roasted. They were full and fat and had such a delicious flavour to them. The aioli was creamy and a perfect accompaniment.
I should also add that this was a very generous serve!

While we ate the tables filled with what I presumed to be work groups and it made it seem like we were dining in a very popular place.

For main hubby chose the Wagyu Cheese Burger with chips, aioli, tomato chutney, pickles and smoked cheddar.


Yes there are more of those gorgeous fat fries on that plate!! He was in heaven!
The first thing hubby said though was although the bread was toasted, it actually seemed cold, but that was his only complaint. He said the burger itself was really delicious. It was like a home made burger that had been barbecued. Everything married up really well including the chutney which surprised him a little. I kept asking if he could taste cheese because I couldn’t see any but he said it was in there!

My first choice was the burger as well but I didn’t want to get the same as him so I decided to go for the Tajine on a whim! Chickpea and Vegetable Tajine with Pizza Bread

This dish would be a perfect Winter warmer and even though we are in Summer, I just loved every spoonful!!! It had just enough heat to keep things interesting and that sauce was delicious and flavoursome. I kept dipping my Pizza Bread in there to mop it up, not wanting any to go to waste!

By the time we left the place was full. The waitress answered a few questions I had and I gave her some feedback, telling her we really loved everything – especially the fries!
She said a lot of people give the same feedback and it was great to hear.

I would have loved to have tried on of their pizzas. I saw a few on different tables and they looked really good!! I guess that will have to wait for next time.

I’m not really sure who they market themselves too. There are quite a few residential apartments around there so maybe to the residents? And while they are still classified as CBD, there aren’t a huge amount of businesses out there.

Whatever their marketing strategy is, it seems to be working and with their cooking and hosting skills, I’d have no hesitation in recommending East of Norman for your casual work function!

Have you been to East of Norman?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!!

Till next we chow…


Today on the Dining Diaries…

Fat chips are my new best thing
The hostess became my new best friend and
We learnt Wagyu Rump can be the best meat and is also served with the best fat.

hg2.jpgDiners today we finally made it to Hoosegow!

This is proving to be a popular place! I had heard so many good things about it that when we finally made it my expectations were super high.

I called to make a reservation and Shadia was so lovely on the phone. I had to call her back later to amend the time and she didn’t seem bothered by it and thankfully it didn’t affect our booking.
When we arrived she spoke to me by name like we were long friends. In fact all of the wait staff were friendly but not overbearing. They all wanted you to have a great time and to feel comfortable and at home.

hg1The front looks pretty unassuming but what a difference when you get inside!

It was elegant, dim lighting, lots of dark colours and interesting things to look at.
That photo of the interior was not mine but one I found on the internet – I’m always a bit hesitant to put up photos with other diners in them.

img_7629Each table had at least one candle on it.

A lot of the reviews I’d read mentioned that they’d received complimentary something or other when they arrived, and given the prices at Hoosegow, I’d think that would be a nice gesture but unfortunately we didn’t. But that’s ok.

The menu is not large but again I prefer a smaller menu that the kitchen staff can do well, over a large menu with lots of choices that the kitchen staff struggle to keep up with.

I have to mention this also, when we walked in, they were playing “Pink Martini” who I absolutely adore!! Poor hubby had to sit there and wish he was somewhere else while I excitedly sang along with some of the tunes…

We ordered our food and watched other dishes coming out. The aromas were just to die for! The food looked pretty good too! I noticed the relationship between kitchen and wait staff seemed pretty good. They were very busy but there were no frowns… they were just quickly doing what they were supposed to be doing, working together. I hate seeing a stressed kitchen.

For entree we ordered the Mexican Chilli Squid with Charred Cos Lettuce.


I must admit when it came out we were a little disappointed because it looked so small. Just a tiny piece of squid for $14 but honestly , the taste was just divine. That squid was cooked perfectly. The cos lettuce also had so much flavour!!! I could have had a couple of those for my dinner alone!
I had to be careful not to eat any of those red chili bits as they were hot hot hot!
It was a great start to the night.

For main I chose Guajillo Lamb Backstrap, couscous chickpea and herb salad, toasted pecan nuts


I haven’t had backstrap before so I wasn’t sure what it was going to taste like. The server told me that it’s quite a lean meat and I normally love lamb so I thought I’d try it. It was just melt in your mouth delicious! And I don’t know what their cooking process is but that lovely charchoal taste was throughout the meat and it was such a pleasure to eat.
I love the way it was presented on the plate too with that cute mound of cous cous.
It looked like a small serve but the meat was actually quite filling.

Hubby chose the MS5 Wagyu Rump 350gm served with fat chips and a smoked spicy tomato relish


When it first came out I thought “wow”!! That looks amazing!
The chips were soooo nicely seasoned and the tomato relish was tasty and a nice accompaniment. The meat was tender and flavoured beautifully.Another great taste sensation from Hoosegow.
The only thing that bothered us was the enormous amount of fat.
fullsizerenderYou can’t see it in the picture above, but I took another picture when hubby was halfway through his meal.

There was still more fat to come.

A server came to ask how our meals were so I said “Is it normal to have that much fat?” And she said yes.
The answer seemed scripted so I guess she must get asked that quite often. I know wagyu is marbled meat, but I’ve had it before and I just don’t remember having that much fat on it. Hubby thought maybe it was because he’d asked for it to be cooked medium rare so the fat hadn’t drained out? I don’t know, but it made what seemed like a big piece of steak reduce to half the size.

We weren’t upset by it, and everything else was absolutely perfect but if anyone has any knowledge about this I’d love to hear your comments.

Hoosegow is a little on the pricier side but the service and food you’re going to get is definitely above average so it would be a great place to celebrate a special occasion.

Have you been to Hoosegow?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!!

Till next we chow…


Today on the Dining Diaries,

We experience moo-verlous or moo-velicious steak ,
I find out that rare is better than medium-rare and
We try Black Onyx Beef for the first time and we like it!

carmel-s-cafe-bar-andDiners today we were at Carmel’s in McLaren Vale. A restaurant in the heart of South Australian wineland.

Hubby and I have been here many times before although it had been at least a few years since our last visit.

Although we arrived fairly early – 6pm – on a Thursday (steak specials night) I was surprised that there weren’t many people there. Last time we came was on steak specials night too and it was packed! When I got the menu I understood why. While the steak specials are ok, they are not what they were last time I was here. Last time I’m sure they were under or around $20 each, this time they were about $5 – $7 off the regular price.
Still, I knew the quality was going to be good so I didn’t mind too much.

I love the ambiance inside this place. Music playing softly, dim lighting, lots of wooden tables, an enclosed and added on paved outdoor area and a lovely fireplace going right behind us.

I thought the menu had lots of great options even for non meat eaters. I was intending to eat steak tonight seeing as I was here so I had a look at the specials and noticed a 300 gram black onyx rump. I probably don’t get out much but I hadn’t heard of black onyx before so I asked the waiter. He was very lovely and said he’d go and check with the chef as he didn’t want to misinform me.
They even have a link to it on their menu and if you’re interested, and it is interesting, you can find out more here http://www.blackonyx.com.au/our-story/

The waiter told us simply that it’s a cross between Wagyu and Black Angus beef. That sold it for me so I decided to go for that. Now every time I’ve ordered steak I’ve asked for it medium-rare but always thought it was cooked too much. I was just a little afraid of what I’d get if I asked for it rare. I mentioned this to the waiter and he said they could always put it back on the grill if I thought it was too rare so I chose to have it cooked rare.

Hubby went for the 350 gram scotch fillet which he chose to have cooked medium rare.
We also ordered some bread with a trio of butters.

The bread was really nice. Very toasty warm and crispy and those delicious butters just melted on it when we buttered it on. My only complaint was there was not enough bread to the butter! We were hungry and went through those few slices very quickly.
From the bottom up, the butters were seeded mustard, tuscan herb & garlic and bacon jam.

I liked the herb and garlic one the best. The seeded mustard was ok but I didn’t notice a strong taste. The bacon jam was also ok but it had a strange sweetness to it.
It was a great starter though, accompanied by a delicious house cabernet sauvignon.

The mains looked soooo good when they came out!

The Black Onyx is on the left and the Scotch Fillet is on the right.
I’m not going to review them separately as we both were in raptures with our meals. The meat was just so gorgeously tender and I definitely made the right choice in ordering it rare.
The waitress who brought the food out to us came back a few minutes later to make sure it was ok but the original waiter who’d seen us at the door, also came back a little while after that to make sure it was ok for me and that I didn’t want it cooked a little more. I thought that was really great service.
I honestly wanted to go into that kitchen and shake the chef’s hand. I don’t have steak very often so I want it to be good when I do and this was really exceptional. I didn’t try any of hubby’s but gave him some of mine and he said they had similar seasoning but mine tasted “meatier”. I’m not sure what that meant but he liked it.

The fries and salad were really good too. You can tell they source quality ingredients and are proud of what comes out of their kitchen.

As mentioned, this was not our first trip to Carmel’s and I have to say we have been impressed every time we’ve gone, whether we’ve had steak, pasta or pizza. The food and service have always been great and I would definitely recommend this place if you are wanting a nice night out.

Have you been to Carmel’s?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!

Till next we chow…