Situated near the Norfolk on Cleveland St, Surry Hills, Nourishing Quarter is close enough to the city to make dinner a viable option after work, but far enough from the city lights that you don't feel as though you're still at work. The perfect place to unwind.
With floral patterned table settings, ornate high-backed chairs, photos of the Queen and swaying stacks of books, all set against exposed red brick walls, you could easily imagine yourself in your grandmother's living room, with the sense of comfort that it would provide. Ngawwww.
My friend E could see me eyeing her plate with a beady eye, to which she grinned and asked slyly, "You want my bird plate don't you?" There was no point denying it. So she graciously swapped her plate with mine. I mean, who wouldn't want their crockery to be as cute as their food?
Rice paper rolls. I've tried many a roll in my time (trust me on this) and these were probably the best rice paper rolls I've ever had. So good that E and I didn't even pretend we would share them with each other. "You're getting your own plate of these, right?" "Absolutely." They were absolutely stuffed with ingredients, as stuffed as a thin piece of rice paper can be before it bursts. I couldn't even tell you everything that was inside. Tofu, vegetables, quinoa, herbs, spices .... It was a bottomless pit, and E and I were only too happy to slide right into it.
Pho-evermore Nourished Soup. Who could resist ordering something with such an adorable name?? This was E's choice, but I managed to snag a sip (again, sharing food in this place is a very difficult endeavour, fraught with danger) and the broth was bouncing with flavour. The hearty chunks of tofu were juicy and moreish. Mmmm.
Quinoa noodle salad. How every good meal should be served. Stacked high with ingredients, overflowing with flavour, light on the stomach (the noodles were light and fluffy), and so good that conversation is stilled. Well this dish ticked all those boxes.
The long strips of fried tofu were delicious, but a few of them strayed a little too far onto the burnt side and were slightly black. Probably just a manifestation of the chef's excitement over the food, bubbling over a fiery fry-pan.
Blueberry and lemon cheesecake. Amazing. There was a chalkboard hanging ever so temptingly on the wall directly in front of me throughout dinner, and it read "Dessert for models and athletes - dairy free, gluten free and sugar free'. With a tag like that, who could resist? And once E and I had dug our little spoons into the blueberry cheesecake, we knew there was no going back. We had to order another one.
Chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Again, this was creamy, soft, light, fluffy ... it was like eating a cherry ripe while floating on clouds. The sensation of floating probably stemmed from the absence of guilt usually associated with desserts like this. Because you know the cake is dairy free, gluten free and sugar free, you can pick at it quite merrily, with a spring in your step. We badgered the waitress for the recipe before we left, and were told that the cheesecakes generally contain cashew butter, avocado and coconut (among other things) which act as substitutes for the usual cocktail of sinful ingredients found in cake. Win!
Buoyed by my new-found delight in all things quinoa, I stumbled upon this block of Alter Eco chocolate in a health food shop shortly after visiting the Nourishing Quarter and couldn't resist.
Similar to the cheesecakes at NQ, not only was this chocolate a guilt-free pleasure, but it was a textural delight. Smooth rich chocolate, stubbled by crunchy golden pieces of nutty toasted quinoa. Heaven in a pink package.
So if you're ever in need of a guilt-free pick-me-up, hit the Nourishing Quarter or grab a block of quinoa chocolate on your way home, or just kick back with the gnomes one sunny afternoon, and watch the grass grow.
Until next time.