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Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review The Cottage Bar and Kitchen on Darling Street, Balmain feels just like home. Or at least like Grandma’s.

We sat in what would probably be Granny’s front room, round the corner from the main bar and just near the kitchen. It was a comfortable little spot surrounded by old kitchen tools and odd little pictures.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review decor downstairs
Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review decor down stairs This theme runs throughout the restaurant with a strange eclectic mix of ornaments and objects. Designed by the impressive Luchetti Krelle (of Momofuku Seiobo, Hinky Dinks and Sake fame), each room is so full of fun, quirky details that you could probably spend all day looking around and still find something new. See if you can find the painting of Patrick Swayze as a prince.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review Swayze
Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review decor Although the restaurant is decked out to look and feel like Grandma’s house, full of strange trinkets and bric-a-brac, the menu shows another side to the Cottage; a side of friendly sophistication.

We ordered the roast cauliflower with pulled lamb shoulder and the seared scallops with pear and elderflower puree to start with.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review scallops
Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review Cauliflower lamb Mrs R really doesn’t like cauliflower and has very strong opinions on it. However, Rob – one of the owners of the Cottage – recommended this dish. It was really very good. The cauliflower had a lovely nutty flavour, countered well with the sour raisins and pomegranate, and the pulled lamb was tender and delicious.

The four plump scallops were sweet and juicy with their seared edges were perfectly caramelised and crispy.

Mrs Romance went on to choose the maple and cider beef brisket with red cabbage and apple slaw. The slabs of beef were caramelised on the edges but juicy and pull-apart tender in the middle, and the slaw matched the brisket perfectly.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review pizzas Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review beef brisket I couldn’t go past the rectangular wood fired pizza range – especially when the diavola pizza came with lots of salami – the amount I’d put on if I were making it at home – olive slivers, chilli oil and gorgonzola cheese. I’m a sucker for gorgonzola!

We had every intention of trying the dessert menu, but we were so full we decided to finish with a cocktail. The drinks menu is as intriguing and full of surprises as the shelves of the restaurant’s interior.

Mrs Romance had the White Chocolate and Chai Martini – Reposado tequila, crème de cacao, chai syrup, lemon juice and pineapple. It served a perfect sweet supplement to one of the recommended desserts.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review cocktails I, on the other hand, prefer savoury dishes anyway, so I ordered a Speyside Sour. A clever blend of 12-year-old Glenfiddich scotch, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, honey water and orange bitters. Perfect.

We have been back to The Cottage since by the way, as people kept telling us to order all the other things we’d missed the first time. The key lime pie is excellent as is the salted caramel choc tart.

The cheese plate is surprisingly good value – especially when a lot of places tend to rip you off with after-dinner cheese.

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain review drinks For drinks, the beer menu shouldn’t be ignored and the punchbowl cocktails are a great way to share a drink with friends. Mrs R recommends the Passionfruit Punch – though I’d stick with the Speyside Sours!

A perfect venue for a dinner date night, drinks and a bite with friends or even an event, where you can book larger tables or the upstairs dining area.

The Cottage Bar and Kitchen

Mr and Mrs Romance - The Cottage Balmain restaurant review Open: Mon to Wed: 5pm – midnight, Thurs to Sat: midday – midnight, Sun: midday – 10pm.

342 Darling Street

Tel: 02 8084 8185

The Cottage on Facebook.

Images by Mrs Romance.


I love cooking curries – especially for Mrs Romance. Over the next few Wednesdays I’ll be telling you how I cook my favourite Indian dishes in our curry series. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Mr & Mrs Romance - Curry Series - Brinjal Bhaji title 1 This is one of my very favourite curries. The way the eggplant absorbs all the curry flavours then turns all gooey and soft makes this one of Mrs Romance’s favourites too.

The funny thing is, whenever I go out for a curry with my other English mates – a tough crowd for the restaurants to please – there’s always one of us that orders the eggplant curry. But he never eats it! Surprisingly, the brinjal bhaji is one of the hotter dishes on Indian restaurant menus and he can’t handle it!

Fortunately the rest of us tuck in. He sees it as a way to get us all to eat some veggies – he gets terrible mother hen syndrome!

Mr & Mrs Romance - Curry Series - Bringal Bhaji ingredients This dish is very easy to make though. The trick is cooking the eggplant in the curry paste before adding anything else. Eggplant absorbs every flavour you put with it – especially when you first start cooking. So if you start with onions, the eggplant will mostly taste of onions.

Remember, eggplant really is absorbent. It’ll soak up all the oil from your curry paste, so be ready to add a little more oil if needed.

Brinjal Bhaji Eggplant Curry

Curry Series - Brinjal Bhaji Eggplant Curry Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Gooey soft eggplant in a velvety spiced tomato sauce. The combination of eggplant, tender chat potatoes and the oniony curry sauce makes this an essential for any great curry feast!
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
  • 1 med-large eggplant - cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 potatoes (waxy) or about the same weight as the eggplant - cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 med onion - chopped
  • 1 - 2 garlic cloves - finely chopped
  • 1 tomato - chopped
  • 1 chilli (optional) - finely chopped
  • ½ - ¼ tin of chopped tomato
  • ¼ cup rice bran oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp curry powder - I used Keen’s
  • ½ tsp turmeric (optional)
  • Salt to season
  1. Toast the coriander seeds and half the cumin in a hot, high-edged pan or saucepan, then transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind into powder.
  2. Par-boil the potato either in the microwave (about 8 minutes on high) or in a pan. The potato pieces should stay whole but fall off the tip of a knife when stabbed.
  3. Meanwhile heat oil in the pan and add the powder, the curry powder and the remaining cumin seeds.
  4. When the cumin seeds start to sizzle and pop, add the eggplant pieces and stir to ensure all sides are covered in the curry paste. Watch how much oil the eggplant absorbs - add a little more if things start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the eggplant starts to change colour and the curry paste is fully absorbed, add the onion, garlic and chopped chilli.
  6. When the onions have started going transparent, add the ½ tin of tomato and combine well.
  7. Add the potatoes and a tablespoon or so of water. You can use some of the water from the potatoes if you like. This will make the sauce thicken too.
  8. Add the turmeric for a bit of extra colour, cover and cook on medium for about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove lid, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid off - add the fresh tomato at this stage. If the curry looks a bit dry or you want it to have more sauce, add a bit more of the tomato from the tin.
  10. Test how cooked the eggplant and potato is by tapping gently on an edge with your spoon. If the potato dents or collapses, it’s done. If the eggplant squishes, you’re in the right track. If this doesn’t happen, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Check frequently until the potato and eggplant are tender and soft.
  11. Uncover the pan, increase the heat until the curry bubbles, then either remove from heat and cover or serve immediately.


This curry doesn’t freeze that well because when you defrost it, the eggplant goes to mush. However, the flavours in the eggplant really develop by the second day, so keeping it in the fridge for up to five days is actually a pretty good idea!

I haven’t tried this, but I think adding pork mince or pork and veal mince blend to this recipe when you cook the onions would make it even richer. You’d have to add more tomato and spices too though.

Try adding other curry pastes at the beginning to change the flavour. A tandoori paste or a vindaloo paste added when you’re sealing the eggplant at the beginning would give a bit of extra punch to the dish.

I also add a dash of white vinegar in step 8, which tenderises the eggplant a bit more and adds a little acidity.

This curry recipe is gluten free, vegetarian and dairy free too!

Mr & Mrs Romance - Curry Series - spices Have you cooked this kind of curry before? Do you have any tips or alterations to suggest? What would you do if one of your group of friends kept ordering a dish but never ate it?

Images by Mr Romance.


Our Instagram Diary – food, drink and the Easter long weekend!

Mr & Mrs Romance - Insta Diary - 1 Sky and title

It’s probably true to say it’s not healthy to spend all week thinking about when it’ll end. But this time, I don’t think we’re alone – after all, it’s Easter long weekend! Mrs Romance kicks off this week’s Instagram Diary with a beautiful shot of the Sydney skies between rain storms. It’s been a wet [...]

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Friday Drinks – The Woog Cocktail

Mr and Mrs Romance Friday Drinks - The Woog Cocktail

Far be it for us to pigeonhole people, Mrs Romance and I have decided to name a few cocktails we’ve made recently after some of our close blogging friends. Mrs Woog hardly needs an introduction, she is a force in the Australian blogging community. Never beige, Mrs Woog doesn’t shy away from controversial issues but [...]

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Aperitivo Hour – A sneaky way to eat for free in Italy

Mr and Mrs Romance - Cin Cin - aperitivo hour Milan

Italians are famed for their hospitality, but there is no better example of this than aperitivo hour in Milan. Go to any bar in the nation’s fashion capital at around 6 or 7pm and you’ll be welcomed by a wonderful sight. We discovered it completely by accident when we were looking for a place for [...]

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Curry Series – Chana Masala Recipe

Mr & Mrs Romance - curry series - chana masala title

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The secrets of how to cook the perfect steak

Mr & Mrs Romance - how to cook the perfect steak - 1 title

Ever since we both read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Mrs Romance and I always take our steaks either rare or medium-rare. From this book, we gleaned that well-done steaks tend to harbour a number of meat evils that kitchens – unsurprisingly – don’t tell us. A well-done steak is often an inferior piece of meat. [...]

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Our Instagram Diary – Fashion Week, Friends and Frozen Goods

Mr & Mrs Romance - Insta Diary - 1 artwork by Matthew Kentmann at his exhibition launch

We start the week off with a visit to a gallery exhibition. Lexi of Potty Mouth Mama fame has invited us to see her husband Matthew Kentmann’s collection of paintings. Matthew’s drawn his inspiration from the Australian coastline. Beautiful works. We like this one the most. There’s something quite spiritual about the collection. It reminds [...]

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Three deceptively simple champagne cocktails to get the weekend started

3 deceptively simple champagne cocktail that make you want to celebrate

How good is Friday? Best day of the week, I reckon. And I have some very strong opinions on the days of the week (Tuesdays suck). It’s pretty much a rule in our house that, if it’s Friday afternoon, Mrs Romance needs a glass of champers in her hand. It’s not up for negotiation – [...]

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The best way to get around in Venice, Italy – how to use the vaporetto system

Postcard perfect Venice Italy - Mr and Mrs Romance

Ah, Venice! It really is like being in a postcard. I didn’t think it would be as fascinating or as beautiful as it really is until I was there. Even with Mrs Romance excitedly describing every detail as our train pulled into Venezia S. Lucia Station didn’t completely prepare me. Roaming the little pathways and [...]

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