Sydney Food Diary: The Colonial, Darlinghurst

Almost four years since I’ve been to the Colonial, and I’m impressed they’ve kept it open. As I’ve said many times on this blog, the restaurant business is hard in Sydney! And getting through the COVID lockdown: these are hardworking folks who have been making sacrifices!

We ended up here as we couldn’t get into Lankan Filling Station. A two hour wait on a Saturday night. We’ll have to try again another (less busy?) night.

We also couldn’t get into another two or three restaurants. On a Saturday night, just after the COVID lockdown is opening up, it’s not easy to get in anywhere.

So we were happy to have simple, tasty food at the Colonial from cheery wait staff, ours in a amusing Union Jack bowtie.

The food is tasty and simple. The British fish curry, tofu mango and cucumber salad were all fine. I thought the eggplant was the standout, bhaigan barta, and the naan were good: I always like getting the one with raisins and coconut in it. We also had a seafood platter to start with which was tastier than it looked.

And the wine was a reasonable price. All good. It was basically $50 a head, including grog.

img_5919 Indian food like you’d get in Blighty (18 Nov 2016)

So, my better half tells me he went to this weird Indian restaurant on Crown Street that serves kebabs, a roadie truckstop diner, but made into a hip Eastern Suburbs location. He didn’t love it, but I was sufficiently intrigued to suggest it to my pal, A, for an easy meal. I also noticed that there was a coupon in the Entertainment book.

img_5920So, here’s the thing. I meant to try out Trunk Road… (which looks cool and was packed with people when we walked by)… and we ended up at the Colonial. Oops. Next time. The idea behind it is that England has its own kind of Indian food, a mixture and melding and adaptation from so many Indian migrants. And I remember this from when I lived in London: the restaurants around Kings Cross, the ones near Brick Lane. There were many different areas each with its own twist, as well as British-only dishes, like Balti curries.

img_5923In any case, we opted for two starters: a delicate fried fish, and a tandoori sort of chicken which was supposed to be spicy, and wasn’t too spicy (both pictured above). We had a goat curry with a thick gravy. I like goat since it’s unusual. Two different kinds of naan bread, very crisp and tasty.

img_5924Washed it down with an unusual natural sparkling wine from across the road, a bit strange but not bad with Indian food.

There was a big group of Indian folks in the back of the restaurant; they’d organised a buffet, and I wanted to but was too shy to ask them their more expert opinion of what they thought of the food.

img_5922I thought it was fine. Good, friendly service. Tasty. Nothing special (to me, though the naan bread was exceptional) but if I was from the UK, in search of British Indian food, perhaps I’d have been very excited.

The Colonial Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Coffee in Sydney: Take Coffee, Marrickville

We were looking for coffee, perhaps Vietnamese coffee, after our amazing pork rolls at Alex ‘N’ Rolls. On that little strip of Illawarra Road, we couldn’t find anything. Lots of small restaurants, but nothing that looked like it served Vietnamese coffee. Until we saw Take Coffee. Hurrah!

We split a mango pudding as well, and each had a Vietnamese coffee, though mine was salted! Strong coffee. Condensed milk. And a pinch of salt. It was a bit like salted caramel. Absolutely delicious and a change from your regular Aussie latte!

Try it out! They also seem to have lots of other interesting tasty treats and unusual drinks.

Take Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cocktails with Cynar

I always liked cocktails, and got into a regular negroni habit, but the cocktail making really kicked off with the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s been fun to explore new drinks and treat ourselves to a covid cocktail. My strategy is to find an interesting liqueur (or possibly spirit) and then try a whole bunch of different drinks made with it!

Cynar interested me, made from artichoke, and being similar to the Italian sweet red vermouths that are a part of the negroni. I was calling it Sigh-Nar, embarrassingly, until I figured out it’s Chee-Nar, and I see that it’s distributed by Campari, who describes it as such on their website:

Cynar is an artichoke based bittersweet liqueur known for its versatility and distinctive flavour; its taste is enriched by an infusion of 13 herbs and plants. The name of the drink derives from Cynar scolymus, the botanical name for artichoke, as artichoke leaves lend the distinctive flavour.

The secret recipe, which has remained the same since its creation, is based on some of the natural substances found in the artichokes, including β€˜cynarine’.

Created by Angelo Dalle Molle, a Venetian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Cynar was launched in Italy in 1952. Since then, the brand has grown and is now distributed internationally.

I’m loving it. It is similar to an ordinary sweet red vermouth but there’s something a bit more complex about it: I can’t quite describe it!

Here’s what we’re making with it:

Food and Wine provided this easy recipe for a refreshing Cynar and Soda. It was refreshing and light and a good introduction to the flavour of Cynar, a bit like a Pimm’s without the cucumber! I bought new highballs (from Orrefors) just for the occasion!

David Lebovitz is a baker extraordinaire who also knows his drinks! I was happy to find his recipe for the Chin Up!, which mixes gin, cynar and dry vermouth with cucumber muddled with a hit of salt. I found it bracing, and really interesting: super dry. Husband thought that the salt and cucumber mellowed the dry qualities of the cynar and gin and made it interesting and complex. The Australian dry vermouth, Maidenii, might have helped it all along!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try cynar in a negroni, just substituting the regular vermouth for the cynar, as recommended by Steve the Bartender. It did provide an interesting variation on the negroni, which I liked: maybe a little more herbaceous and sweet? Though we also used premium gin in this one, Roku.

Finally, back to Food and Wine, for the amusingly named Presbyterian’s Revenge. I didn’t have any blended Scotch so used Bourbon, and then thinking how well Peychaud’s Bitters goes with bourbon, used that instead of Orange Bitters. So, whiskey plus Cynar plus lemon plus simple syrup, a grapefruit twist and a dash of soda. This was on the heavy side, but I liked it.

Have you got a favourite Cynar cocktail? Or do you like drinking it straight? Share your comments!

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Sydney Food Diary: Turpan Restaurant, Kensington

We thought we’d grab a quick lunch in the neighbourhood before hitting Peter’s of Kensington to scratch that kitchenware itch. Kensington’s long had a reputation for interesting and tasty Asian food, but on this day, a Sunday, it looks like places are still closed because of COVID, are are closed for good, or closed a while ago and I didn’t notice.

This place was open and has a good name! And the Indonesian place on the corner was actually so packed, we couldn’t get into it. I didn’t even know Turpan was Uighur before I sat down but was excited. I’ve really enjoyed Uighur food in the past.

There was a lunch special for two, which included handmade noodles, a pilaf and some lamb skewers for $40, which sounded like a good deal. I really, really like the texture of Chinese handmade noodles: springy and with a good bite to them.

I found the rice a little greasy. Tasty, but a little rich.

The lamb skewers had that beautiful cumin and grilled flavour that I am familar with. The taste was nice although the meat was a bit tough, probably not an expensive cut of meat.

All in all, it was a fun experience though. And this was way more than two people could eat, but leftovers are always good. If we can’t travel at the moment because of COVID-19, why not be transported to exotic places through where we eat?

Turpan Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Casa Barelli’s Burgundy Truffles from Aldi


As of right now (28 June 2020), these truffles are back at Aldi. Maybe only this week! Run out and grab them if you like them. They’re $7 (seemed to be $8 in July 2018) and both varieties are available: the whole truffles and the salsa.

They are labelled as Tuber aestivum, which wikipedia helpfully explains in the link. However, Wikipedia says that the summer truffle is different than the Burgundy truffle, Tuber uncinatum, that is harvested earlier with a less intense aroma. And the label calls these Burgundy truffles. Oh well. The label also says they are a product of Italy: I’d read on a site originally these are Chinese truffles so I stand corrected!

We shaved them (the two truffles in the little jar) on two portions of mushroom and chicken risotto, and we found them subtle but pleasant. I mean: for the price, it’s pretty amazing.

This useful Italian website page of a truffle company (which charmingly describes their ‘hystory’ recommends that they are better cooked than raw:

Use in the kitchen: Less perfumed and flavourful than the winter truffle, more preferably used cooked.
Whole: slivers on fillet, fondue, eggs in the pan, tagliatelle.
Diced: sautΓ© with oil and a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. The preparation can be used on pasta dishes, main courses, omelettes and eggs.

The last time I saw these (and wrote about them) was nearly two years ago! Below is what I wrote:

Aldi is a phenomenon. I love it. The middle aisles, filled with their current specials, are like a surprise door from a game show: What’s behind door number 3 today? While Aldi has provided me with various delights over time (mmm… truffle butter), a few days ago, I stumbled on a tiny jar of truffles, so to speak, from Casa Barelli labelled as Burgundy Truffles, for $8.

I was preparing an afternoon birthday party (my own) with snacks from Italy, as we’ve just returned from there. So, I thought I’d figure out a way of using them; I’m sure I was first introduced to truffles in Italy. I searched online and saw that while a number of people online have bought them from Aldi, and asked what to do with them, no one has really reported on the result. So, I thought I’d do a favour for the next person to do an online search…

I was going to douse them with truffle oil, but even the smallest bottle I could find at Harris Farms was $20, so I thought I’d be brave and do without.

While I really wanted to find savoury tart shells, I couldn’t! So, I made my own out of frozen shortcrust pastry (that turned out much better than I thought), filled them with fresh ricotta (delicious, and better than when I’ve made it myself, and relatively cheap as I went for the cow’s milk version rather than buffalo milk), and then put thin slices of the truffle on top (with a bit of basil to top it off).

The result? Not bad at all. It had the texture of shaved truffle that I’ve had in the past, slightly woody, almost a nut-like texture. It was missing a hit of truffle flavour so perhaps I should have gone for the truffle oil (or mixed in a bit of truffle oil with the ricotta). But for only $8, this was worth a try. If anyone’s reading this and has used this, tell us about it in a comment!

I liked it enough to buy another jar but this time a ‘truffle salsa’. I mixed in about one-third of the jar with some pasta and cream and… you could barely taste the flavour at all. I should have just dumped the whole jar in.

I’m amused that as of September 2019, I see that this blog post, a little over a year old, is one of the most popular posts on my website! And starting to get comments from other people who’ve bought them. If you found them, did you enjoy them? What did you do with them?

And today, in June 2020, I see some joker in Sydney is selling these on eBay for $45 and it says they’ve sold 9 of them at that price. Yikes! Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Posted in Consumer, Home, Home cooking, Sydney | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

What’s your favourite men’s cologne?

We’re running out of one of our current favourite men’s colognes right now. I only learned that my husband really likes it too, both on me, and to wear. It was Dsquared2 Wood, and it was discontinued a few years ago. The reviews of its replacement are pretty bad, so it’s time to look for something else.

I decided to ask Facebook for opinions and am surprised at the response: 125 comments and counting. I do love a message string like this. Friends really do want to converse, share their opinions and be seen. I think the info here is a great snapshot and far too interesting to not share.

I’ll leave it to you to judge what kind of friends I have… And I’ll remove the names because that wouldn’t be right to leave them up!

My specific question was: Am looking for inspiration for the next bottle: what’s your favourite men’s cologne?

You can see that some of my friends are … jokers. Also, I was surprised (but shouldn’t be) how many of my women friends weighed in.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ Paul Rudd may be able to provide some guidance on this one:

Anchorman - Sex panther


Anchorman – Sex panther

πŸ§”πŸ½ That is awesome.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ Hugo Boss. Issey Miyake.

Image may contain: text that says 'Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homm...'

πŸ§”πŸ½ I’ve worn this one in the past: I like the light, orange scent of it.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Czech & Speake: I only wear No. 88, but their others are also good.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Jo malone of course

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I don’t know if they still make it but Dolce & Gabanna = lime deliciousness
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ:Moi le parfum que je prΓ©fΓ¨re pour les hommes c’est Eau sauvage de Christian Dior. Un classique, mais still incredibly sexy!


Image may contain: text that says 'EXPLORER MONT BLANC EAU UDEPARFUM 00MLE3.3FL.OZ'

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Oud from Oman

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Eau d’Eau, as any scents trigger my complex chronic diseases …
Once upon a time I wore Lagerfeld (for men), but that’s out now for a number of reasons. I literally can’t stay in places where a lot of scent is around or a little of what I react to most … your pukin’ and wheezin’ cuz …
πŸ§”πŸ½ Ouch, cousin!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: This was one of O’s favorites. Not exactly unique, but it was a great scent on him.Γ¨s

Terre d'Hermès - Wikipedia

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: ‘Acqua di Gio’ by Armani – people (including a lovely young Frenchman on the Paris Metro!) stop me and ask me what I am wearing…

πŸ§”πŸ½ It’s my fave

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: PACO RABANNE.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Marrakech | Aesop Australia
Marrakech | Aesop Australia
And their other one which is very Smokey is good too, just cannot remember it’s name
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I will thrill you momentarily
THE AFTERNOON OF A FAUN | Etat Libre d'Orange

THE AFTERNOON OF A FAUN | Etat Libre d’Orange

Thank me later

πŸ§”πŸ½ good to see Justin Vivian Bond getting credit for that perfume again

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Oud Wood

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Try this fragrance. It is also an ancient disinfectant Ottoman Turkish style.

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πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling – like wearing a Gin & Tonic !

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πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: OMG, if you try all of the above, you will smell good for the rest of your life!

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: Or I’ll smell like Duty Free at the airport.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: the new fragrance of travellers: Duty Free No 5!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Tom Ford Oud Wood, Comme des GarΓ§ons β€œAmazing Green”, Histoires de Parfums 1740: You can’t go wrong with these 😊

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: You and I like the same smells. I was just going to mention Oud (there are a variety but the classic Oud Wood is best). I also like and have Commes des GarΓ§ons Copper. It’s hard to find outside of Japan though. It also smells a bit too metallic and weird for most. The bottle is beautiful. I love bringing it out for inspection at airport security check.

Image may contain: one or more people

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: oh wow, thanks for the info. What other Oud smells do you like?

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I bought Arabian Wood by mistake, which is spicier but I liked that. Tobacco Oud is also nice but a little too much “decay” undertone.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Hard to find but Jil Sander for Men is amazing!

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: None! Men’s body odour 😝
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ:Le Labo – many options but I like ThΓ© Noir
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Gin
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Hai Karate
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Chablis is good! Or for strength a good St Emillion or Margaret River Cabernet.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I always go for KENZO πŸ˜‰πŸ‘
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Old Spice.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Aqua di Parma Intensa. It is so good and very discreet. And you like Italy. Just try it. There are also some divine shave products also.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Happy: I always feel happy when I spray
Served Neat: This Homemade Whiskey Cologne Will Bring Out Your Inner Bond Villain


Served Neat: This Homemade Whiskey Cologne Will Bring Out Your Inner Bond Villain

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: Uh, I smell like alcohol too often already…
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Scotch.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β  Channel Allure Blanche is light citrusy and my current go to.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β Baldessarini

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I don’t know if you have Lush in Australia? I love their scents!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I’ve got a soft spot for this, myself…

L'Occitan Eau de Toilette 75ml | L’OCCITANE UK


L’Occitane Eau de Toilette 75ml | L’OCCITANE UK
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Brut 33 splash it over – feel like a 70s porn star
πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I thought you felt like that all the time
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Terre d’Hermes
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Old Spice, Brut, Aqua Velva (although Aqua Vulva, which autocorrect suggested, does sound enticing).
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dove soap. Screw those headache-inducing poofy stinkystuffs.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Apparently Carolina Herrera’s new fragrance is nice. It’s called β€œBad Boy” 😜

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dyptique Philosykos

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πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Terre d’Hermes

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: My husband loves this.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Track down a sniff of Stercus by Orto Parisi. Armpit in leather bar, with hint of… stercus.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I always liked “Right… HE won’t be back. Could you turn the omelet, Love? I brought fair trade beans!”

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Have you tried Frederic Malle or Creed?

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rhubarb! Sounds weird but it’s great

Image may contain: text
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β Tommy Hilfiger original
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Guilty by Gucci. Medicinal.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Bleu de Chanel
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Eau naturelle

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Boucheron

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β OMG! I love that also! I just ran out and want more!!!

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Anarchiste – from Caron
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Happy
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: A few drops of Chanel No. 5
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I was hoping you were going to say wine.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: TOM (unaf)FORD(able). Oud MinΓ©rale is what I was treated to a while back, and it’s lovely. But it’s at least Β£195 for 100ml. Advantage is a little last a long time, and so it should at that price.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Bvlgari Black
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: This is my fave!!!
No photo description available.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I was all set to type Hendrick’s gin, then I read the rest.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Aqua di Parma – most of them but I particularly like Arancia di Capri, Chinotto di Liguria, Ginepro di Sardenia and the Fico di Amalfi.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I can never go past the classics – L’eau D’issey Pour Homme by Issey Miyake for summer & Fahrenheit by Dior for winter
πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  Exactly the two out of the four I have (the other two are JPG’s Le Male and Chanel’s Egoiste).


Image may contain: text that says 'TOM FORD Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau De Parfum 50ml TOM FORD OUD WOOD EAU DE PARFUM 50ML'

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  You have expensive taste πŸ˜„ I’m going to go smell this one: I think at least three people have mentioned it.

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  She is on to the good stuff there. Le Labo Santal is similar.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rick it old school!
No photo description available.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rock it that is…
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Bleu de Chanel … so hot
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Try Replica: Jazz Club
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Issey Miyake
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: D & G Light Blue
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I had a dream once that I drank every bottle of alcohol in the place. And when I ran out I drank every bottle of aftershave. The Island Lime aftershave was delicious.
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Bacon grease. Your cats will love it!
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Pasha de Cartier, my all time favourite
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Cool Water/ Davidoff. Excellent!
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dior’s Fahrenheit. It makes me feel like a daddy! (A millennial work colleague told me once that I smelt like her dad while wearing this)
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: So many places have banned perfume that I know very few people who wear it. Most workplaces here are scent free. That being said, a men’s cologne that doesn’t smell like you doused yourself with cheap booze is a nice touch.πŸ™‚
πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I remember hearing about perfume being banned in places in Canada, and perhaps the issue being raised in some parts of the United States. But as far as I know, it’s really not an issue in Australia and most other countries.

Posted in Consumer | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cocktail of the Day: The Sencha Flip

I love Japanese tea and often serve it to my reiki clients before (and after) a treatment. While hojicha is my standard, with roasted rice, sencha is another green tea that I like and got a hold of lately. It’s a green whole leaf tea, and apparently makes up 80% of Japan’s tea exports. The other factoid for the day is that it is made of leaves grown under sunlight, which is different than other teas (uh, grown in the dark? Grown under moonlight?).

No matter. I brewed up some sencha and my client declined to drink any of it and this gave me the inspiration to look up whether I could make a cocktail with it, since I’ve been making daily COVID cocktails since the lockdown started in Sydney. Should I admit that? While I know that a cocktail today is not necessarily a good thing, I find such pleasure in it.

And I found a lot of pleasure in this drink. posted this recipe posted by which came from Jason Walsh, a bartender in Brooklyn, New York, from (which no longer seems to work). But you can see what Jason looks like here, where he’s spruiking some sort of tea drink as a mixer for cocktails!

Jason said: β€œThis cocktail was inspired by my adoration of Sencha Japanese tea. Many people use Matcha; however, Sencha has more complexity and flavour so I prefer it over Matcha in certain cocktails.”

I’ve made the recipe for two (because cocktails like company) but halve it if you’re drinking solo.

🍸 4 oz gin of your preference
🍸 3 oz sencha green tea
🍸 1/2 oz (or a big squeeze) of honey
🍸 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice (one medium-large lemon)
🍸 1 egg white

Dry-shake, then add a few ice cubes (say 4 or 5) and shake again. Strain into a coupe glass and enjoy.

This gave me the opportunity to perfect my dry shaking technique, which I read should be done as long as you can (60 seconds?). It really does create a much more significant amount of pretty foam than when you shake an egg white (and other ingredients) with ice.

The original recipe called for sweetened sencha while Kindred Cocktails got confused and removed the reference to the sweet part. I considered using sugar syrup, but I think the honey is a nice match.

This drink reminded me a little of a pisco sour. Something about the tea mellows out both the gin and lemon and the end result tastes sophisticated and complex. And yummy. Tell me if you try it!

Posted in Cocktails | Leave a comment

2020 in lists: concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV

(A work in progress…)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre, Exhibitions & Words

  • Dodecalis Luminarium. This art installation apparently took six months to make. It really is beautiful and I love how it engages people (especially kids). By the Architects of Air, this was part of the Sydney Festival.
  • The Life of Us, Hayes Theatre. A homegrown Australian musical, where the two young leads were the writers and are partners (in a musical about the trials of a long-distance relationship). Such great talent. Amazing songwriting. I think the book might need a little adjustment if it’s going to make it to bigger stages, but we were really impressed.
  • Conchita Wurst & Trevor Ashley in Concert, for Mardi Gras 2020. A rainbow sparkly evening with not two but three amazing performers (Kate Miller-Heidke was a guest).


  • AndrΓ© Aciman’s Find Me (fiction). Boy did I hate this book. Here’s my review.
  • David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames (humour). Here’s my review.
  • Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (novel). Here’s my review.
  • Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (a ‘pictorial work’). Here’s my review.
  • David Lebovitz’s Drinking French (recipes and more). Here’s my review.
  • Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story (fiction). Here’s my review.
  • Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors (fiction). In progress.

Movies (including those shown on TV, like Netflix documentaries)

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Enjoyable enough and hit the mark, I thought. I would have liked to see Rose get more screentime. I enjoyed seeing Carrie Fisher. I got mixed up and expected to see Baby Yoda in this film.
  • Joker: Joaquin Phoenix is so intriguing and compelling, I was really drawn into the film, even though the main plot seemed to be ‘How did the Joker become who he is?’, basically a set-up for the Batman myth. So, not much of a movie in the end, but a performance. Interesting to read the reviews: critics seemed to hate this (or at least the hype or huge praise it got).Β 
  • Frozen II: How could I be bored during the world’s highest grossing animated film? I guess I’m not the target audience (though I liked Frozen).
  • The Marriage Story: Meh. I think I read too much of the hype and was distracted by it. I thought it was fine, but didn’t love it.
  • The Irishman: Uh oh. Again, the critics have been raving about this. I think the acting is magnificent but in one of the longest films I’ve seen in recent memory, the storytelling wasn’t exactly tight, and the dramatic hooks took a long time to come.
  • Judy: I quite liked this one. Amazing performance by Zellweger and I liked the story enough: a look behind the legend.
  • Jojo Rabbit: Whoah. I don’t even know what to think of this one. A superb performance by the lead and the director playing Adolf Hitler was hilarious and charismatic. But I’m still kind of taking it in.
  • Fyre: The Greatest Music Festival that Never Happened: They sort of make this out like this is a particular sign of the times, instagram influencers combining with the young wealthy and technology, but compulsive liars and fantasists have been the subject of literature and art throughout history. Some surprising similarities with Tiger King (see below).
  • Michelle Obama’s Becoming: Loved it. What an incredible woman.
  • Snowpiercer: Inspired by watching the current TV series, this movie, the first English-language film by Oscar-winning Bong Joon-Ho, was great. Gripping and suspenseful but makes a point too (like Parasite). Tilda Swinton was unrecognisable!
  • Circus of Books: I found this character study, of the filmmaker’s parents, a conventional Jewish couple, one of them devout, who happen to own a famous gay porn store and get into producing gay porn, to be fascinating.
  • Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas: What an interesting mind Gadsby has, and this show is a perfectly constructed look inside her brain, with unusual connections, some discomfort, some outrage and some deep laughter. I really liked it.

Reality television

  • Flirty Dancing UK, Season 2. We were utterly charmed by this show, that seemed to be sincere about trying to match up couples and set them up for a first date where they dance together, a routine they’ve practised all week with trainers. They don’t even know each other’s names. It’s sweet and romantic.
  • Queer Eye, Season 3. For some reason, this season didn’t grab me as much. Was it that there were no standout heroes? Or am I getting bored of the boys? It’s still good TV but we weren’t as into it this time around.
  • Queer Eye in Japan. Wow, was this weird. I do enjoy the show in general, but there were so many moments that I cringed at, well-meaning Westerners walking into another culture and giving advice that probably is inappropriate. Here’s a really interesting commentary on the show.
  • Project Runway, Season 18. I am loving that this show is back with its original production team. The focus is on talent and skills and that is here in abundance. Of course there was drama, inevitably, but it doesn’t feel manufactured as in some previous seasons. Christian Siriano has really hit his stride, and I like Karlie Kloss and the judges too. Happy with the decision on who won!
  • Don’t F#ck With Cats: Netflix is making crazy documentaries these days, and this was so compelling, engaging and disturbing. I couldn’t look away.
  • Next in Fashion: We’re huge fans of Project Runway so wanted to watch its competitor. There were drawbacks: like the Chef’s Table competition, pairing randoms together and eliminating these teams of two seems unfair and brutal. Yet the quality of talent was so much higher that it was great to watch, and the focus was all on the talent and skills, rather than interpersonal drama (though the current Project Runway is doing a good job of this as well). With a truly international cast, it felt a whole step up from Project Runway in terms of diversity. On Project Runway, German blonde supermodel host Heidi Klum has been replaced by American blonde model host Karlie Kloss. Here, South Asian Tan France and part-Chinese Alexa Chung are refreshingly short and non-blonde. All in all, we loved it. Good television!
  • Australian Survivor All Stars (Season 5): So much Survivor. So much TV. So much time in my life that I’ll never get back. And really, half the cast aren’t really ‘All Stars’. They didn’t make it far in their own seasons or were very good at the game. It’s just that viewers seemed to like them. But I can’t stop watching. In the end, I was happy enough with the winner (though would have preferred Moana to win).
  • Survivor Season 40: Winners at War: Bringing back winners from 20 seasons. OMG. Am loving this season. Every player is interesting and knows how to play. I don’t love the Extinction Island thing. But it’s a great theme for one of our favourite shows. In the end, it was one of the best seasons ever with a worthy winner. Why did no one take him out earlier, knowing how good he is?
  • Tiger King: Like it seems everyone else in lockdown, I watched this. Oh my god, this was good TV. A trainwreck that you could not look away from.
  • Making the Cut: The long awaited return of Tim and Heidi features Amazon’s plumped up budget, and a set of designers with more experience than in Project Runway. The producers still love their drama though; I’d rather just enjoy the fashion, which teaches me what’s in style and what works and doesn’t. There are little interludes during the show of Tim and Heidi hanging out in Paris which are completely bizarre and not very enjoyable. But in the end, enjoyed watching the designers and see their (generally) beautiful creations.
  • Googlebox Australia, Season 11: I dipped into this here and there, and missed some of the cast that had left (or are taking a break because of the COVID). But it’s still great TV. Much more enjoyable than watching the shows themselves to instead see the commentary. ‘We watched it so you don’t have to.’ And it confirms my belief that Aussies are really some of the most naturally funny people, ever. I dipped into the Celebrity Googlebox USA that they started showing in June, and am bemused that they are so less interesting and funny than the Gogglebox Australia cast.
  • Masterchef Australia, Winners at War: Oh, was that the name of this season of Survivor? It’s pretty much the same. Super enjoyable. Love the new hosts. Enjoy people being celebrated for their talents and they are supportive of each other. The producers don’t stir up any interpersonal drama. Am not as inspired to cook the dishes, as I have been in the past: they’re too complicated. But yup, we’re hooked on this.
  • More Rupaul:Β Mama Ru just churns out more and more of these. The celebrity four-parter was a bit odd, and not that engaging. The idea of anyone doing drag is great (including women and men and folks of different shapes and sizes) but something about this mostly didn’t work for me. Uh, we got through the last regular season (12) which was interesting for some wrong reasons (the Sherry Pie scandal, the finale under lockdown) and while I respect Jaida, the winner, and understand that the other two finalists were too similar to recent winners, I did like them a bit better. Now we’re onto the latest All Stars season (5) and I have to say I’m oversaturated.

Other television

  • The Good Place, Season 4. I really did love this show. I thought it was so funny and witty. I fell in love with the characters. I loved that it offered wit and intelligence as well as a lot of silliness. The finale was lovely.
  • Crashing: OK. Who’s watched Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s predecessor to Fleabag? I loved Fleabag so it was fascinating to see a first draft. Instead of the uptight contrasting character to Fleabag being her sister, in this case, it’s Phoebe’s childhood best friend (and unrequited love)’s fiance. Waller-Bridge’s character is wild and shocking and sexual. But what doesn’t work is that, unlike Fleabag, where there’s a rationale for the protagonist’s coldness, fucked-up-edness and wild behaviour, here, there is none. It’s pure id. Scenes often end in a mass fight verging on an orgy involving liquid (food, wine, paint, bodily fluids). They often go too far, because the sake of it seems to be to go too far. It was watchable and has some great bits, but all in all, is a promise of what’s to come.
  • El Camino: Six years since Breaking Bad. I remember being obsessed with it, captivated by it, and yet I’m surprised now how much I’d forgotten. I read a catch-up summary online and here we were: ready to watch El Camino, which basically tells us what happened to Jesse Pinkman after the final episode. As before, the filming, the angles, the storytelling: all top-notch and the characters were always uniformly fascinating. So, I’m glad they made it! And I’m glad we watched it.
  • Killing Eve, Season 3: Oh boy is this ever good.
  • Schitt’s Creek, Seasons 1 to 3: I like this, eh? It gets even better the more seasons you watch.
  • Hollywood: There was something about Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace that I found both compelling but just a bit too tawdry. It was so dark. The pace was all over the place. So, I worried about Hollywood, which was pilloried in every review I found in major newspapers. But I found it like cotton candy. I couldn’t eat it more than once in a blue moon, but it was sweet and it sure was pretty.
  • The Politican, Season 2: I have to report I’m bowing out of this one. I loved Ben Platt in Evan Hansen. And pretty much on that basis watched Season 1. But by the second episode of season 2, I found the whole thing so cartoonish and so lacking in some emotional grounding or reality, it’s unpleasant. The story, the characters: everything just seems to be begging for attention.

Posted in Australia, Book, Books, Concert, Exhibition, Film, Music, Review, Sydney, Theatre/Concert Review, Theatre/Show | Leave a comment

Sydney Food Diary: Alex ‘N’ Rolls, Marrickville

My friend Lai Heng (whose photos appear in this post) enthusiastically recommended that we take up the suggestion from this rave review in Broadsheet and head over to Alex ‘N’ Rolls to see if they really do have the best Banh Mi in Marrickville. Or Sydney even!

Che-Marie Trigg, the author of the article, describes them better than I could, but here’s to say: Yes. She’s right. These were uh-mazing.

Even getting them, standing in line, and then sitting at the small table, while the line continued was fun. I like eating somewhere where you know, because of the demand for the food, that it’s good.

I absolutely can’t believe that the sandwiches were only $6. This has got to be the best deal in town. Sydney’s expensive for food, drink and coffee, so $6 hardly gets you anything in most places, much less a delicious pork sandwich.

You can tell when they are making the sandwiches that they are pros at it, and that they take real care to get exactly the right amount.

The hit of chili was strong, but perfect. The pork was soooo delicious (choose between three kinds). The buns were crisp without being crumbly. The fresh vegetables and herbs: great.

What else can I say? Get there.

This is the first review I’ve done since before the COVID-19 lockdown. I think for my Zomato reviews, I’m going to give all the restaurants and cafes five stars until things stabilise. Any restaurant and cafe that is managing to stay open and serve customers at this time I think deserves the highest praise. And I’d give Alex ‘N’ Rolls five stars anyways!

Alex 'N' Rolls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Asian, Food n' Grog, Sydney | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cocktail of the day: NutriBullet Watermelon Daiquiri

So, the COVID cocktails turned into a daily habit and I haven’t managed to shake it, even now that the lockdown has eased. It still feels like a treat to finish work and have a cocktail before dinner, and to delight in the discovery of a new recipe or to purposely choose to indulge in an old favourite.

My routine generally is to either get an interesting bottle of liqueur from which I base a number of cocktails on, or sometimes an ingredient. It is a sad reflection of my health these days that I buy fruit, because I should eat more fruit, and end up making cocktails out of them.

The watermelon in the fridge also gave me a chance to use some of the Captain Morgan Spiced Rum that I bought to replace the Bacardi White Rum that we’d run out of. I’m not sure whether I like it! Something tasted a bit artificial and strong when I used it in a Dark and Stormy the other day. But it tasted fine in this cocktail.

Looking up a recipe, most recipes are for JUGS of this, and the majority recommend freezing the watermelon first. And using a blender. We’ve got a NutriBullet and it’s a favourite among many kitchen appliances. It makes super creamy soups. Husband uses it for healthy shakes. And I think it whips up a rather nice cocktail.

Adapted from the folks at the Fitchen, this recipe makes enough for 4 glasses, or in our case, 2 glasses each!

Nutribullet Watermelon Daiquri (4 servings)

🍸 4 oz. spiced rum
🍸 2 oz grand marnier or cointreau
🍸 2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
🍸 2 cups of watermelon cubes (seedless makes it easier)
🍸 6 ice cubes

Blend it all up. Drink with pleasure.

Also: I’m super happy that I finally got coupe glasses (which also seem to be known as champagne saucers). They seem to be popular for serving cocktails these days.

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