And now for something completely different… brunch this Sunday was Pub Cha! For the uninitiated, pub cha is yum cha at the Annandale Hotel. For the completely uninitiated, yum cha is a Chinese morning tea which centres around tea and dim sum. Pub cha then seems like an unusual concept but it works extremely well. In the handful of times I’ve been there, the only Chinese face I have seen was in the kitchen so it would seem that this is either Sydney’s best kept secret or frowned upon by yum cha purists. One reason for this could be that the dishes on offer are not only of yum cha origin. There are also Japanese and Thai/Malay delights on offer.
Get the image of a dingy bar with yum cha carts peddling around out of your head. The dingy part is in the Annandale Hotel itself while pub cha gets its own courtyard and bar at the rear with ice cold beer on tap. The pub cha phenomenon is catching on fast though so booking is absolutely essential. Despite the sign on the exterior wall, the opening time is now 11am and even though there was only one other table of patrons when we arrived at 11:30am, the entire place was teeming with guests by the time we left.
If you haven’t been before, everything will be explained to you when you arrive. Briefly, you receive a pen and menu that lists every dish with boxes next to each item. Simply write the number of plates you want to order. The number of pieces on each plate is also included so you know how many you’ll receive. There is also a photo of each dish on the wall. Drinks can be ordered from the bar and the entire bill is settled after the meal. You will find green tea at your table almost as soon as you sit and sauces (soy, sweet chilli, chilli and plum) can be gathered by you from the counter in the corner or fetched by your waiter.
I would suggest ordering small amounts (3-4 plates) at first and then more later if you’re still hungry. Once the steam baskets start to arrive, they come very quickly so soon you’ll be bombarded with more food at once than you know what to do with.
A yum cha staple and one of the favourites, the BBQ pork bun ($3). The bun itself was fluffy and light while there was plenty of pork inside. The pork is slow cooked in a mixture of oyster and hoi sin sauces amongst other ingredients and is actually quite sweet. Our first round of food included nine of these (for eight people) and they were enjoyed by all.
I did not take note of the name of the above tofu and vegetable satay dish but the sauce itself was fantastic – thick and peanutty on top, thinner below to dip the vegetables in. The vegetables were fresh and well cooked. Too much heat and they would have lost their colour and flavour but everything was still crunchy.
One of our first signs that this is not all traditionally Chinese is the arrival of the chicken curry puffs ($5.50) (vegetarian also available ($4.50)). They were deliciously crunchy with a creamy chicken curry inside very similar in flavour to the Thai restaurant curry puffs we’re all used to.
The chicken satay ($5 for 3) was always going to be popular at our table. They tasted better than we could have imagined with tender marinated chicken covered in the same thick satay sauce as the vegetable dish above. This was another crowd pleaser.
As we started to realise our eyes may have been too big for our stomachs, the steam baskets kept arriving! The salt and pepper calamari ($7.50) was simply fantastic especially when combined with the sweet chilli sauce. The salt and pepper flavours were both strong but not overpowering.
The BBQ beef ($7.50) was easily the most popular dish at the table. Tender and cooked medium, it was served with a chilli sauce that wasn’t as dangerous as we thought packing more flavour than heat. The serving was also very generous – many a pair of chopsticks was dipped into the basket before it was finished.
The prawn har gaeu ($7.00) was not to everyones’ taste but I thought they were fantastic. The prawn inside had been spiced and with a touch of hot chilli and soy sauce poured on top this dumpling tasted great.
The mind boggles as to what the ‘combination’ in the pork combination dumpling ($7) actually is. We hoped it was in reference to the combination of pork and spices which by the way tasted great. The dumplings themselves seemed expertly made and were a fitting finale to our meal.
The service was good during our visit but staff did start to become understandably flustered when the heavens opened and halved the number of available tables. The drinks and their prices were not reviewed this week because of the sheer amount of food to review and the fact that the beer, wine and soft drinks at pub prices don’t need to be critiqued. After our meals we enjoyed hot chocolates but coffee and Paddle Pops ($2) are also available. For something a bit unusual, pub cha is a must-try event. Even if you don’t enjoy yum cha, you’re likely to find something you will enjoy here.
Overall Rating: 19/25
Phone: 9565 2334
Address: 17 Parramatta Road, Annandale, 2038
Payment Options: Credit cards, EFTPOS, cash