Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Promises to keep: Sydney again.

It wouldn't be Surry Hills without a picture of the Crown Street school,

I’m not sure if I can keep my promise.

I said to my friends, “This is absolutely my last Sydney trip for this year. I promise.”

See that? I promised.

My most recent trip had nothing to do with work. It was simply the pull of the place and the people – particularly the people - that had me on the early flight out of Perth. A few dozy hours, one indifferent breakfast and a crying baby later, and the view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from the aeroplane window was an iconic and breath-taking welcome.

Just as breath-taking from ground level.

I’d based myself in Surry Hills again – the scene of my previous “Red Adventures” as I now think of them, at Red Lantern and Red Door. In an interesting coincidence, my apartment, with its Vietnamese and Russian communist propaganda art, and glossy cinnabar-coloured furniture, had been given the name “Red Panda”. It was my home for five wonderful days and a great base from which to explore the neighbourhood.

The cupboard of mystery - never did manage to find out what was inside.
My food adventures were many and varied and too numerous for one post, so I’d like to share some of the highlights here and show you why my promise to stay put in Perth for the rest of the year is going to be so hard to keep.

·        Reuben Sandwich from Two Good Eggs Café – Goulburn Street, Surry Hills

I’d enjoyed the coffee at Two Good Eggs before so it was no surprise that the food was as great as the brew. The thick wedge of Reuben sandwich, (suggested by my friend and dining companion, @rich_tapestry) with clear strata of corned beef, pickle, and cheese was creamy and tangy and substantial.

It was also too much for me - I couldn’t finish. I didn’t even touch the fat olives that were served on the side. The long macc that I had with it lifted my jet-lag (the 2 hour time difference is just the wrong side of acceptable).

·        Salted Caramel Éclair from Flour and Stone Bakery – Riley Street, Woolloomooloo

The temptation of the fabled salted caramel éclair and the chance to meet Twitter friend @multiforkgasms in person had me walking the length of Riley Street in the sunshine. It was hard to believe it was the end of winter; the weather was so warm and pleasant.

There was a queue outside the bakery but the resourceful @multiforkgasms and his good lady, J., had managed to score a table inside. The pleasure of being with other food-minded people is that they understand the need to photograph the hell out of anything edible that happens to be around. The éclairs, carrot cake, shortbread and other baked goods were duly recorded and J. showed all the classic patience of the partner who knows not to touch their food until it has been photographed from every possible angle.

And the éclair? The delicate choux was topped with dark chocolate which was itself studded with toffee praline. The filling was dense, sweet with the smokiness of burnt sugar and subtly salty (I would add more salt!)

I chased my sinful éclair with the world’s fiercest mocha. It packed a real punch but I think I needed it to counter all the sugar. After a wonderful breakfast, I said goodbye to family Forkgasms, and stocked up with Flour and Stone loot for lunch – leek and gruyere tart, pizza scrolls, lemon and ricotta doughnuts, strawberry brulee, and strawberry shortbread. 

Strawberry shortbread for a Strawberrythief
Strawberry brulee for...yes, you guessed it, me!
·     El Mexicano cocktail from Hinky Dinks Bar - Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst

I knew that I would like Hinky Dinks when I saw their motto, “Cocktails first, questions later.”

This is a bar with beautiful mixologists serving beautiful concoctions. I wasn’t sure what had more appeal – all the perfect-skin supermodels holding cocktail shakers or the drinks menu. My El Mexicano contained chipotle-infused sweet vermouth, Campari, chocolate bitters, soda, blood orange and a large hand-cut rock of ice. Citrus and woodsmoke and herbs – a refreshing blend for a warm evening. Thanks to my dear friend, F. for introducing me to this bar.


Breakfast and bubbles from Baia – Darling Harbour/ Cocktails from The Strawberry Hills Hotel roof-top bar

I would probably be less in Sydney if my sister, C., didn’t live there. We had a long, leisurely breakfast working our way up the tiered cake-stand which had a good balance of sweet and savoury early-morning morsels for us to sample. We began with coffee and finished with bubbles, and along the way enjoyed cucumber topped with salmon and roe, mini-croissants, chocolate, olives, and finger-sandwiches.


After breakfast, we had some quality sister-time shopping, taking a turn about the Chinese Friendship Garden, and going for a Thai massage. 

You get a picture of the Friendship Garden but not of the Thai massage.

 At the time of typing, I am still recovering from the massage which brought sensation back to long-forgotten muscles. The cocktails at The Strawberry Hills Hotel were a way to numb those surprised muscles all over again.

 C. had a pomegranate mojito and I had an espresso martini. While the cocktails were delicious, the martini was my second choice. I’d asked for a Negroni and been flatly refused (even though I could see that they had all the necessary ingredients behind the bar). There wasn’t even an attempt to try to help me out – “We only do the cocktails on the chalkboard” – not the way to win return business. Still, the roof-bar is a good space for a drink or to have a meal (I have eaten there with my sister before) and there is the bonus (or not, depending on your vintage) of 80s music videos on the TV screens. Between sips of my martini, I proved that I knew all the words to “The Timewarp”, “Rock Lobster” and “Dreadlock Holiday” and my sister was generous enough not to disown me there and then.


 Lemon snapper with truffled risotto from The Dove and Olive – Waterloo Road, Surry Hills


I’m never sure what to expect from pub meals. The only thing I do know is that I try to avoid the word “hearty” when writing about them. The Dove and Olive had the double advantage of being only 200m up the street from my “Red Panda” apartment and also of raising the bar for pub-food everywhere simply with the quality of the truffle risotto – no stinginess with the black gold here, lots of discernible truffle shavings through the rice, and an intense truffle flavour that paired nicely with the lemony fish. Alas, the house wine didn’t quite reach the standard of the meal. It was…hearty. Still, if you want to get off the main strip of Crown Street but stay in Surry Hills, you will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at The Dove and Olive, and I’m grateful to the wonderful R. for taking me there.


·        Toby’s Estate coffee (and a freckle!) from Fifi Foveaux Café – Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

My last excursion out and my only solo one. I loved my giant mocha with a double shot of superb coffee. The friendly service made me smile, as did the freckle on the spoon.

And that’s meant to be it for this year. I promised that I would not return to Sydney again in 2013. But you can see the temptations, can’t you?

And you would understand, wouldn’t you, if, in a few months, I was blogging about the Sydney food and beverage scene all over again?

I knew you would.

I have to go back - if only to get a ride on the Darling Harbour carousel...

1 comment:

  1. You are right, it looks all very tempting, although I doubt it very much I would have a chance of going to Sydney myself in the near future. Still, it's good to see some lovely food and get ideas.