Sydney Food Diary: Belloccio, Darlinghurst

If it’s a weeknight, say a Tuesday night, and it’s 10pm, and you’re in Darlinghurst or Surry Hills, you may have no other choice but to eat at Belloccio. Every other restaurant on the way from Potts Point to Oxford Street was packing up and closing down; there was not a one open. The Indian restaurant a few doors down was still open, but this looked the furthest from fast food.

Sometimes Sydney surprises me like that. Canadian cities always have a handful of interesting cafes and diners and ethnic restaurants that are open. In Vancouver, there’s wonton and noodles open until past midnight any night of the week. But I digress.

We ordered off a pretty basic menu. My better half had chicken risotto and I went for the chicken schnitzel, and it was pretty much perfect. The fries were super crisp. The chicken had the right batter, and was well done. The risotto got good reviews though was found to be a little large as a serving for that time of night (we took half of it home).

They weren’t serving alcohol at that time of night (slightly confusing, since the menu had wine by the glass and they said it wasn’t licensed, but so be it). $60 for two main courses and two bottles of pelligrino. Expensive but beggars can’t be choosers and we were just happy to get a meal, and that the meal turned out to be just fine.

Belloccio Cafe Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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How to refill a long lighter

Does anyone else have this problem? I’ve never liked cigarette lighters. I spin the little metal dial, get the flame up, and then when trying to light my tea lights (which is the main reason why I would use a lighter), I manage to angle the lighter so that it burns my fingers. In situations where a gas stove needs lighting, I have always had the fear that I will light the gas and my whole hand.

That is why I have always used long lighters.

I’ve always found it a bit wasteful, even though they only cost between $2 and $6, to throw them out when the butane has run out. But the thing is, the last time I tried refilling them, many years ago, I remember it being a complete disaster.

But things move fast these days. I thought of this task more recently and realised that at the time, it was unlikely for there to be advice up on the internet, but nowadays, there is advice on EVERYTHING. The weird thing is that the advice that I found was super complicated and often wrong.

The worst advice involved removing the cartridge from a cigarette lighter and then removing the cartridge from the long lighter, and putting the cigarette lighter cartridge into the long lighter AFTER you’ve made a few small adjustments.

Yeah, right. A video from a kid (who shouldn’t be playing with lighters) didn’t help out, and gave advice that was opposite to what eventually worked. The best advice was found on a message board, but without illustration. So, I thought that I could help out here, for anyone who was once, like me, confused.

How to refill a long lighter:

  • Buy a can of butane
  • Use the smallest nozzle and first use it (or a pin or a screwdriver) to completely release any remaining gas or butane that is in the lighter. Put your instrument into the small hole and press until there is no pressure left, no sound, nothing. This is an important step and I think was my problem the first time I tried this.
  • When the cartridge is completely empty, then you can fill it up. Hold the can of butane upside down with the nozzle inserted into the tiny hole for refilling the butane!

  • Press down. It’s likely that extra butane will leak over your fingers, which will be cold, so you might want to wear gloves. And you’d probably want to do this on a solid surface rather than my hands in the air illustration purposes only.
  • You will be able to see in the window whether the cartridge has filled up. Apparently, the success rate is not 100% and you may find that your lighter is simply not refillable, but I managed to refill two out of two with no problems.

Hurrah. And it looks to me like this can of butane will be big enough to last for a very long time…

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Sydney Food Diary: Radio Cairo, Cremorne

Radio Cairo sounded to me like it could be one of thos new fusion restaurants that Sydney is a bit fond of these days (I was just at the Turkish-Mexican mash-up at Pazaar Food Collective recently). And there is a definite charm (and contemporary feeling) to the owner of the restaurant, Srian Perera, introducing himself on the menu as of ‘Sri Lankan (Wijeyekoon), English (Martin), Irish (Kennedy), Scottish (Anderson), German Jewish (De Worms), and Portuguese (Perera) descent’.

In fact, Radio Cairo seems to be a neighbourhood institution and the waiter tells us that he’d been told that the decor and feel to the restaurant is pretty much the same as when it opened 25 years ago.

We were just after a simple meal before going to the Cremorne Theatre to watch ‘The Disaster Artist” (which was fun). Being a bit pushy, I took control of ordering and we had the Jamaican patties, the Boerewors sausage, the Ugandan Nile Perch and the Cuban Juju Sirloin Slippers. We also tried some Roshi bread and sambar.

The menu is very appealing with so many cultural influences and the food fit the ambience, a friendly neighbourhood diner that happens to also be quite international. It was good. A fun meal and a good option for before a movie in Cremorne!

Radio Cairo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Alex Lee Kitchen, Spice Alley, Chippendale

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: I think Spice Alley in Chippendale is a great place. Beautifully designed, good concept, buzzing with life. Aside from some complications to try to get an alcoholic drink, the rest of it works great. Everyone in your party can choose their own favourite Asian dish, and then gather and eat tasty food together.

Others in our party went for laksa and sushi; I felt like a roti canai from Alex Lee Kitchen, and it’s hard to go wrong with this. A crispy, fried roti with not one but two spicy curries and a sambal. Yum. $7.50. It’s the first photo up top. I do think that the frozen roti in Chinatown are really good quality to fry up at home, but I wouldn’t be able to recreate these curries.

And then I was really interested in trying the Ngoh Hiang, a deep fried ‘five spice’ roll with minced pork, prawns, water chestnuts and onions as a filling, wrapped in a bean curd skin. It reminded me of some dishes that I like at yum cha. Delicious. $12.

With so much choice in Spice Alley, I should probably try a different place next time, but I was really happy with my choice that night.

Alex Lee Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Pazar Food Collective, Canterbury


If the idea of Turkish-Mexican fusion food doesn’t intrigue you, what would?

I’m a fan of the NYT, and of their restaurant reviews. I’ve been really happy about their new Australian desk, and then even happier to find out that they coaxed an Australian food reviewer, Besha Rodell, back from LA, where it sounded like she had a great reputation.

I love that for her first review of a Sydney restaurant, she chose not one by a more well-known chef, nor one smack dab in the middle of the CBD or Surry Hills, but a location tucked away and serving interesting, modest food, not high-end, but with a Modern Australian flare.

With my vegan friend Steve, I was happy to stay away from the meat dishes. There was lots of vegetarian food to choose from, and dishes like this hummus were pretty much perfect.

It’s a casual atmosphere, with a buzz. I would perhaps request to sit in the back next time, which looks like hanging out in someone’s backyard for a BBQ.

I have to admit that while I loved the concept, an Asian wrap, with lettuce leaves, pickled vegetables and herbs, the star of the dish, a spiced red lentil kofte, didn’t grab me in terms of taste or texture.

Yet these zucchini balls were as good as they look.

And this shucked corn, roasted and combined with yoghurt and lime and toasted buckwheat and hot sauce mayo and manchego cheese: my god. That was good too.

Definitely intrigued to come back and try the rest of the menu items, including dessert. While I’m usually a wine drinker, we discovered their pale ale from Willie the Boatman from Tempe, a neighbourhood over. I loved it and could drink it by the jugful (we only split one between us).

I wasn’t excited overall as I thought I might be, but I think that’s because we needed a few more people to try a few more dishes since generally, loved the vibe, loved the concept and liked the food and beer. Will be back.

PAZAR Food Collective Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen

Truthfully, there’s not a lot of choice if you want to grab a quick meal before going to a show at the Seymour Centre. So, I was intrigued to try the Duck Inn Pub, which has excellent ratings on Zomato, and specialises in duck, which I love. I’m pretty sure I had a casual meal here back when it was the Duck and Swan, and it was transformed under new owners maybe a year and a half ago. There’s a lively bar on one side, an outdoors space in the back and restaurant seating on the other side, with lots of room between the tables.

I was hoping to get the duck tasting plate, meant to be shared, but I was going to hog it all to myself for a main: hoisin duck treats, a rillette, some smoked duck… But it was sold out. I settled on the sous-vide crispy skin duck breast, as did another in our party. The others had bangers and mash and a duck ragout pappardelle.

We of the duck breast though it was good not great, though the others really liked theirs. We matched it with the cheapest pinot noir on the wine list (I think it was $42), which was light and spicy. We worried about getting to the show in time as the service seemed a bit slow, but our timing was just fine in the end (arriving at 7pm at the pub; show was at 8:30pm; though we only had main courses).

The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Travel notes: the ‘Servidor’ or the ‘Coffin Hotel Door’

After I stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City in May, I wrote a little review of my experience, and the most interesting comment was posted below it, just today. I had wondered: what’s with the door? I had never seen a door like this in a hotel… Considering that it’s not a particularly attractive feature in a bizarre and rundown hotel, I assumed it was something negative.

But no, I am informed, and I love when my assumptions are challenged. This is a fine example of the little-known Servidor, or Coffin Door, found only in the most luxurious hotels in New York City in the 20s!

This article explains that Hotel Syracuse, opened in 1924, had them (and still have some of them). And the Hotel Pennsylvania, apparently grand in its original days, also had them.

Apparently, they were a security feature that allowed guests to leave their drycleaning in the compartment behind the door, which could be picked up without the guests having to open or unlock the full door. It could also be used for mail, cigars and packages. And served as natural ventilation with vents at the top and bottom.

Check out this fantastic brochure from the Servidor company from 2017; I would assume they would have been horrified that they also became known as Coffin Doors.

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Sydney Food Diary: Daily Eats, Surry Hills


Daily Eats is a little cafe that took over from a butcher shop in the St Margaret’s complex a bit behind Taylor Square. It specialises in healthy food, and I thought it would be a nice place for my pal David and I to have a quick lunch on his lunch break. There’s outdoors seating, which is pleasant, and the interior has a contemporary vibe and handsome staff.

However, after waiting for both our sandwiches and coffees, both parts of the order seemingly forgotten (and we were only part of a handful of people there), David said: this better be great when it arrives.

Sadly, it wasn’t. Good, I’d say. But not great. My reuben sandwich was like a nice toastie, and a good combo of fillings. Presentation good. Garnishes good. Coffee fine. David had a roasted vegetable sandwich (they were both $12). But no, they didn’t quite recover from their mistake.

Daily Eats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Hughes BBQ @ the George Hotel

Ready for a meat coma? Bring friends so you can try as much as you can.

A barbecue joint has opened up in the back of the George Hotel in Waterloo and it was descended upon by this year’s food bloggers Christmas get-together, as organised by Chocolate Suze (her review here) and Helen of Grab Your Fork (her review here). It’s a great, casual atmosphere. Grab an Aussie craft beer on tap from the bar, and then strategise how you’re going to try as many of the delicious menu items as you can fit in your bellies.

I’ll defer to fellow bloggers, such as Coco and Vine and Ramen Raff, who provide a much more incisive description of the food than I can along with much better photos! It’s always amusing to dine with food bloggers and watch the different styles of photo-taking and food arranging!

Sadly, I wasn’t super hungry that day, but the beef brisket burger was really beautiful (and the fries too, perfectly crisp). The meat was tender and smoky and wonderful.

And I got to sample this amazing tri-tip.

It was fun hanging out with the food bloggers over great food at a new Sydney dining hotspot. I can see that when word gets out to Sydney’s meatlovers, they’ll be beating a path to Hughes Barbecue’s door.

Hughes Barbecue - George Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A flowering cycad on our balcony

As a Canadian transplanted to Australia, my wonder at the weird flora and fauna around here is likely to never wear off. Since cycads are subtropical or tropical, I wasn’t familiar with them, nor expected to have them on my balcony, but when we moved into our apartment in early 2011, the previous owners had left a half a dozen of these on the top balcony. The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney tells me that these plants were around even before the dinosaurs, more than 200 million years ago, in the Permian era.

They’re big, sturdy things, and spiky too, so hard to manoeuvre around, and they’ve all lasted, some healthier than others, putting out new leaves, and occasionally shedding an old one. And now, for the first time that we’ve seen, one has put out a flower! And what a strange flower it is. Check it out (the lower left corner shows one of the other cycads, not flowering, for comparison).

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