PUBLISHED November 30th, 2012 12:20 am | UPDATED May 9th, 2018 03:13 am
Don’t you just love it when ideas are sprung from a deep well of passion?
A visit to The Big Sheila warms the heart in so many ways. Tucked away in a cosy neighbourhood out East, the chic monochrome interior and hearty greetings from the staff make you feel like you have just walked into a friend’s home in the heart of Sydney.
You can choose to dine at the long rectangular dinner table, where you could potentially make new friends, while sofa-lovers can tuck themselves in the two corner seats. There is no pretentiousness about this place, it all feels familiar and welcoming, which instantly makes it a gem!
Founder and chef Fleur Grover was born into a family of food, in fact as her mother was a chef, Fleuf spent much of her childhood helping out in the kitchen. In fact, the Beef Bourguignon that she serves in the café originated from her mum’s kitchen in Bacchasmarsh, a country town just outside Melbourne.
Fleur’s mother never wanted the hard life of a chef for her, so Fleur was previously in Global IT outsourcing. However, her dream of being a chef always burnt bright. In September 2011, after one of her best friends passed away, she reached an epiphany: life is short, so do what you are supposed to be doing! She resigned from her IT job, went to Thailand for three weeks and wrote her business plan.
Why the name Big Sheila? Fleur has always been a strong swimmer and since she was 14, she has always been bigger and taller than her peers. Embracing her childhood name, she used to sign off as The Big Sheila on her blog –theotherside. In two short years she had a following of 20,000, all of whom eagerly anticipated the official opening of The Big Sheila on 1 October 2012.
The food store has daily specials and you can certainly chase away Monday blues with The Big Sheila’s Wild Mushroom Risotto ($12). From the first forkful it is bliss. Other diners were overheard exclaiming in delight at the same dish. The fresh rocket’s peppery tones are balanced by a faint sweetness of a balsamic drizzle and the tang of quality parmesan.
The Backyard SoSo Rolls ($7) are a meat-lovers dream; I was amazed at just how much meat they managed to pack into this roll! The crust had just enough butter but was not overpoweringly rich. The home-made tomato chutney pairs well with the meat both in terms of texture and taste.
The TBS Shepherd’s Pie ($13) is a real treat for comfort food lovers with its generous mash and tender filling of lamb that has been marinated for 8 hours! If you have always been hesitant about trying lamb, then this will be a delicious introduction, there is none of that ‘gamey’ flavour that sometimes puts people off.
Regulars in the neighbourhood who might be mourning the loss of Big Ben’s Pies, fear not! The Big Sheila does amazing pies. I was impressed by the portions of the pies, the 3 Beef Biggie ($9) features a whopping three cuts of beef all lovingly slow-roasted and infused with the sweetness of the red wine and the earthiness of mushrooms. This could easily be shared by two dainty eaters, however when it is this good, I am not sure if there will be much sharing!
However, there might be a rationale to share when the desserts are THIS good! My favourite is actually the Blissed Out Orange and Pistachio ($8 per slice, $80 for a whole cake). I will not even spoil it for you, just try it!
If you are not a fan of moist cakes, and are a lover of the texture of sponge cake, you can try their Lemon, Yoghurt, Semolina and Almond Cake ($8 per slice, $80 for a whole cake) with its wonderfully zesty lemon syrup.
The Banker Cake is a must for chocolate, whisky and prune lovers…
while their Baked Cheesecake with TimTam Crust ($8 per slice, $80 for a whole cake) is proving to be a firm favourite with guests.
Wash everything down with their free flow of chilled water with a hint of raspberry, soft drinks ($2.50) and carefully selected wine ($36-$77 per bottle).
The restroom is as voluptuous as its food, and finally, thank you, a proper-sized sink deep and wide enough to wash your hands without feeling like a Giant in Thumbelina’s home!
Hankering for more? Fret not! The Big Sheila has the best take-away packaging I have ever seen! Fleur designed the beautiful packaging so that the food can be insulated and guests can recycle the boxes to the drivers.
Enamoured by the café? This is one more place to add to the list for free wif-fi! Just log onto the TBS Guest account, get the password from any of the friendly staff and get ready to rave about the place!
Written by guest writer Emily Eastender.
Images courtesy of The Big Sheila.