Sydney Food Diary: Paragon Hotel, Circular Quay

If you live in Sydney, you know this place, even though you might not know that you know it. It’s the pub on the corner at Circular Quay next to and above the McDonalds. I must have passed it a hundred times.

So, it was fun to finally eat here. My pal immediately identified that the downstairs looked a pretty standard (photo below) and the upstairs (forgot to take photos) is nice: open, funky.

It’s got a regular pub menu with reasonable prices. I can never resist a croquette and these were absolutely fine.

My pal had a lentil burger and I forgot to ask him how it was. Bad blogger.

I had a chicken parma and thought it was a more elegant version than some I’ve had. Everything: the fries and the chicken were perfectly crisp. How could I complain with that.

Washed down with a $40 bottle of Pinot Noir (and happy to get $20 off with my Entertainment coupon), this was an easy, tasty meal, a nice enough atmosphere to catch up, and perfect before going off to see Jonsi and Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps performance at the Opera House.

Paragon Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gami Chicken & Beer, Central Park Mall, Chippendale

Reader. Yes: I was crying.

We ordered the fried chicken, as recommended, where you get to choose two flavours. Correctly, I chose the original, because then you really get to appreciate the crispy coating. And they served it with a nice dipping sauce of some sort.

And then we opted for the spicy one, rather than garlic, because why not? And while it was really tasty and good, it was so spicy, I was crying. But I don’t mind a good cry.

Dinner for two here, unless you carry extra stomachs (like most Asian people), it’s hard to order a lot of dishes. We couldn’t manage any more besides the chicken and I noticed that other tables that HAD ordered more were unable to finish them.

The chicken came with a nice, small coleslaw. We could probably done with a little more of it to cut the heat.

I have read about this place, and I like the concept: a bunch of friends who decided that they would open restaurants to serve really good Korean fried chicken. Matched up with beer, with is perfect, I really can’t complain about a thing here. Nor can I imagine ordering anything else from the menu except the delicious chicken, even though there looks like there are quite a few interesting things.

The decor is bright, cheap and cheerful and people seem to be come to enjoy their eating!

Gami Chicken and Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Gigi Pizzeria, Newtown

There are a few things to love about this place. I absolutely adore that this is a vegan pizzeria that doesn’t really advertise as such. I didn’t see it on the walls of the restaurant, or signage, or the menu. They just happen to not use animal products.

Now, I like meat, but I think it’s much healthier for the planet to eat less of it, and for humans to eat less meat than we do. Having a delicious option to meat and not make a fuss about it (and serve negronis and good Italian wine too). Well, that’s worth celebrating.

And indeed the food was delicious. The arancini were crisp and for arancini were very delicate actually. The pizza was very tasty though with the lighting and my rushed photo, it looks a bit impressionist, no?

Service was all over the place. The manager insisted on cramming us into a small tables for two, right next to each other, with barely any space between (but was more charming when he brought me a glass of house red). There was a charming young Italian fellow with a great accent. An amusing cluster of skinny European men in the kitchen all with the same patchy beards. But they kept trying to take our plates before we’d completely finished the food, and my attempt to say “Hands off my plate” in a joking way was met with confusion and a snarl. The service was quick but to the point of being rushed. Friendly cashier though who liked my eyeglasses.

Still, I’m very happy to recommend Gigi (which also happened to be my Dad’s nickname for my Mom). And I’d be happy to come back.

Gigi Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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2019 in lists: concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV

(A work in progress…)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre, Exhibitions & Words

  • Sasha Velour’s Smoke and Mirrors, the Enmore Theatre. See review here.
  • Jane Siberry in concert at the Camelot Lounge, Sydney.
  • Jane Siberry hosting Songwriters in the Round at the Estonian House, Sydney.
  • Bent Burlesque, Seymour Centre
  • Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Giant Dwarf.
  • West Side Story, Handa Opera: A classic musical, maybe my favourite, on a huge stage, colourful, with beautiful singing and acting and dancing. Loved it.
  • Heaven and earth: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Art Gallery of NSW.
  • Jonsi and Alex: Riceboy Sleeps, Sydney Opera House: It’s such a complex work, built up with so many sounds and layers, I never expected to see it performed live. I found it incredible.
  • John Grant, with Brendan McLean, special guest, the Metro.
  • Once, Darlinghurst Theatre.
  • Love is a Drag, Tim Draxl, Sydney Cabaret Festival.
  • Reuben Kaye, Sydney Cabaret Festival. Shockingly funny, filthy, witty AND he greeted each of us to the theatre with a hug. Uh-mazing.
  • Kim David Smith, Kim Sings Kylie, Sydney Cabaret Festival.


  • Lily Brett’s New York (essays)
  • André Aciman’s Call me by your name (fiction)
  • Ali Smith’s How to be Both (fiction)
  • Chris Somerville’s We are not the same anymore (short fiction)


  • Three Identical Strangers: A pretty interesting documentary about some terrible incidents (triplets, as well as twins, separated for scientific observation).
  • Roma: The kind of film that if it were an arthouse film, I’d be raving about to tell friends, but since it’s the possible best picture at the Oscars, I think, ‘Is this overhyped?’ It has beautiful scenes yet at times almost seemed too simple and rambling to me.
  • Brooklyn: Finally caught this, on Netflix. I thought it was a beautiful, beautiful film, a meditation on living between cultures and countries, and Saoirse Ronan has this luminous beauty and charisma, a bit like Cate Blanchett.
  • A Star is Born: I’m not sure why this film didn’t grab me. I did like Lady Gaga’s performance, very natural, and found something interesting about Bradley Cooper’s character that he created in his voice and mannerisms, but its treatment of the themes of creativity, fame and jealous relationships was all a bit expected.
  • Isn’t it Romantic?: I have a soft spot for Rebel Wilson, and thought this movie fluff was a fine way to pass a weeknight in front of Netflix.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk: From the director of Moonlight, this was an interesting mix of romance and social history with beautiful acting (and people) and a soundtrack to die for. I found the pace a little slow and would have cut half an hour but I really did like it.
  • Shazam!: Hmm, top film in the USA right now and most of the critics loved it, with a few outliers. I just couldn’t find my way into the story, there are some good bits, but it was too juvenile before it descended into the regular smash ’em ups of regular superhero films.
  • Avengers: Infinity Wars: I had to catch up before seeing the big finale and I have to say I thought it was pretty good. The fight scenes make sense (unlike those of Shazam!): they generally had a logic of what the powers were and how they could be used. It’s fun to see such big actors playing … superheroes.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Likewise, I appreciated the slow, quiet start, the attempt to create emotional bonds with the audience but without overdoing it, and with good moments of comedy (Chris Hemsworth really does a good job with this). It was LONG with a LOT HAPPENING but enjoyable.
  • Rocketman: I liked this, maybe even more than Bohemian Rhapsody. It was fantastical in the right sort of ways.
  • Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts: Possibly only for fans of Rupaul’s Drag Race. I think Trixie is very talented and very watchable and engaging: but it delved so little into what made him tick. The film was not as smart and deep as its subject.


  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, All Stars, Season 4: A pretty weird season and I’d agree with the internet chatter. A weird ending with the double-crowning, chosen from pre-filmed clips.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, Season 1: Binge-watched on a long, plane ride. Enjoyable. The critics LOVE this show, but strangely, I couldn’t then get past the first episodes of Season 2.
  • Bron/Broen, Season 4: How I loved this show. The character Saga is unforgettable and I was captivated every time she was on the screen. But her counterpart Henrik was also fantastic, and the crazy puzzle plot, with all its red herrings, was enjoyable.
  • Tidying up with Marie Kondo, Season 1: I was fascinated about the cultural reception to this show, too much hostility I thought from those who didn’t like it, which had racial overtones. I myself loved it.
  • The Good Place, Season 3: I love this show.
  • My Brilliant Friend: It was great to watch this TV adaptation after the first of Elena Ferrante’s books in her Neapolitan series, which I loved so much. A very different experience, seeing what is imagined come to life, but mostly successful to me.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Husband liked this quite a bit, it just didn’t come together for me. The motivations of … everyone were simplistic and cartoonish. 
  • Project Runway S17: Loving the return of this season to watch talented fashion designers at work. I thought at the start it was a bit awkward with the new team but was willing to see how it went. By the end, I was convinced: they really did a good job on this, focusing on the fashion and talent (and not interpersonal drama) and the cast all fell into a really nice groove.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race S11: Too many queens, too loud: have I overdosed on RPDR? In the end, I thought it was a really weak season for watching.
  • Survivor S38: I am not digging the ‘Edge of Extinction’ concept, combined with the returning players schtick; it’s thrown off the rhythm of the show and I still don’t ‘know’ the tribe members.
  • Leaving Neverland: A deeply disturbing documentary and I find it so hard to comprehend people watching these men and their families speak, and imagining that they made it up.
  • Killing Eve, Season 2: Some strange plot turns here. Husband thought it was even better than Season 1; I’m not so sure. Still: love the two leads and the style.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 8: Is it really over? We couldn’t help but watch it and there really was some amazing TV. But it felt rushed over all, with various huh? moments (and not in a good way).

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

Sydney Food Diary: Don’t Tell Aunty, Surry Hills

So, we couldn’t get into SÁNG, as I didn’t know how tiny it is. I thought the shop (or restaurant?) on the corner was part of it, so was surprised, trying to get into this modern Korean restaurant, that there was so little seating.

But it was Mother’s Day, after all, and I had planned badly. Instead, I backtracked, with my two visitors from Canada, and we decided to try the amusingly named Don’t Tell Aunty, modern Indian food that took over Colin Fassndge’s 4Fourteen.

We were told that we could only order the Mother’s Day special, $70 each, I believe, and sat down for a rather big feast. It’s a strange venue with its high ceilings. They’ve made it festive, and it’s a bit too brightly lit for my liking.

There was a Bollywood film being projected in one corner, which reminded me of nightclubs from my youth, back when nightclubs thought it was daring and camp to project old films on walls.

Our first dishes were fun and impressive. The lamb cutlet was particularly memorable. Cauliflower battered and fried, tasted like a sort of sweet and sour meat (photo at the top) Some delicious prawns. Oh, a choice of a cocktail to start things off: that was festive.

We didn’t know we’d be getting a thali each, a platter of food with many small dishes. There was a lot of food, I tell you!

I thought it was good rather than great. I feel a bit spoiled for Modern Indian lately. The excellent Masala Theory is nearby on Crown Street. Brick Lane on Stanley Street was superb. Both seemed a bit more refined, although it’s hard to compare a special menu to choosing your own dishes. Still, something was missing.

Dessert left us happy though. The kulfi coming in a long triangular mould, and gulab jamon always brings a smile to my face. And the restaurant is getting some good reviews so: give it a try.

Don't Tell Aunty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Royale Specialty, Surry Hills

First, there was the Gnome Cafe. For years and years. I always thought it was cute: a compact place, busy but you could get a seat with some effort, serving great coffee.

Then it was taken over by Brewtown for a short time.

And now it seems to have become Royale Specialty, ‘Surry Hill’s first espresso bar devoted to serving only natural process coffee.

We just wanted somewhere for breakie, and I was really impressed.

The coffee WAS really good. We both ended up ordering a foccacia, mine the breakfast special with a sort of omelette inside. It was perfectly crisp and a nice balance, and a generous portion. And the prices were good, for pricy Surry Hills.

It was nice that somewhere I liked has been replaced by something new that I also like.

Royale Specialty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Oiden Bowl Restaurant, CBD

Right next to the extremely popular Mappen Udon Noodle Restaurant is the Oiden Rice Bowl Restaurant, in the odd little Skyview Shopping Plaza, just down from the George Street Cinemas and up from 3 Wise Monkeys bar.

It’s simple, quick and tasty. Being completely indecisive, the option of three small bowls, for the same cost as one large bowl, was appealing.

I got a curry, a stewed beef and a pork tonkatsu. Nothing was outstanding, but you get what you pay for, really. Ten bucks might be one of the cheaper lunches you’ll have. It was filling and carb-heavy. And with good flavours.

Oiden Bowl Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food & Grog Diary: Rosé Royale, Potts Point

‘Wow. That food was so bad I think I’ll have to give it two stars.’

‘Give it a one.’

I guess what surprised me was that my pal Freddy also found his food bad. I mean, here I was thinking: that food was terrible. And then he said, without my prompting, that food was terrible. And sometimes a restaurant can have a miss but two misses? And three, if you count the charcuterie plate. As Freddy said, it’s hard to get bad food in a Sydney restaurant. But we succeeded.

Let’s take a step back. I LOVE the idea of a place dedicated just to rosé. And if we stuck with drinking, this would be 4 or 5 stars. We did a little tasting of the premium rosés, 5 glasses (modest pours) for $40 each. It was really fun to taste the difference in character, and our waiter (sommelier?) was knowledgeable and charming. I love the converted terrace house, and the slightly over-the-top decor. Our other waiters were super-charming too, including a young Belgian fellow.

But the food fell short. First, the charcuterie platter, large, supposedly. Five tiny toasted pieces of baguette. Foie gras or paté, piped out in the shape of a fleur-de-lys. It was dry and tasteless. And then a mean portion of different meats. Some pickles. One cherry tomato, cut in half. I mean: this was a really stingy plate of food. The photo makes it look bigger than it was. Then, there was an unfortunate wait, and our main courses arrived, which were from the specials list, which implied they would be special.

‘What was wrong with yours?’ I asked Freddy. I mean, it looked good. I thought it was fun, the idea of a deconstructed lamb shank pie, the bone sticking up from the middle of the dish. He said that the cauliflower was cold, and that all the rest of the dish, the potato gratin which he’d been looking forward to, and the meat, was all mixed together and you couldn’t tell what was what.

‘Undifferentiated?’ I suggested. Sorry for the terrible fuzzy photo though as far as I can tell, this is how it tasted.

The problem with mine, Blanquette de Dinde, a version of a classic French dish with veal, but with turkey instead, was that no amount of the pleasant, creamy sauce, nor the vegetables (again, this was a small dish, and for nearly $30 each, was overpriced) could make up for the turkey: white meat and so dry and overcooked that it was unpleasant to eat.

We were glad to have $40 off from the Entertainment guide, as $140 for the two of us was way too much to pay for terrible food. I don’t like giving bad reviews to restaurants, as I know how hard and how costly it is to run a restaurant. But what went wrong? Was their regular chef on holidays? Why is the food so bad here? In the meantime, I WOULD recommend it as a place to go for a night of drinking. It’s a good concept, and you’ll enjoy a variety of great wine with friendly service.

Rosé Royale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Longrain, Surry Hills

Longrain is moving! I just read about it. No definite location yet, but they’re leaving Surry Hills. What an institution it’s been.

While I’ve dined only a few times in the last decade or two, I’ve always known it’s part of Sydney’s fine dining personality, offering high-end, perfectly done Thai food, that I’m not sure you could find in any other countries in the world. Even in Thailand, I think the fine-dining Thai food would be a different style than how they do it in Sydney.

In any case, the food was as good as I remembered, though the lighting at the bar, where we sat, was terrible for taking photos of food. The betel leaf wraps I remember from each time I’ve dined here. They’re impossible to pass up (photo at the top).

I couldn’t resist ordering the mushroom special. The peanut curry with beef brisket and bullhorn peppers was super rich (and sorry, the photo is the worst of the bunch). The hor mok in scallop shells were lovely.

The salt and pepper silken tofu is a classic here. Looks basic, but tastes way better than basic.

I think this dish was sour orange curry, prawns, ling fillet, mussels, green papaya, Chinese white cabbage: incredible flavour combination, and surprised me how green and tasty and salady it was.

I’ve always found the space a little strange: just a little too cavernous and big, and if you’re sitting at the big communal tables, a little hard to speak to someone if they’re across from you. Hopefully, the next incarnation will be without these design problems but I’m glad to read they’ll be back. How sad it would be for Sydney to lose Longrain.

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

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Sydney Food Diary: The Beyond Burger at Grill’d, World Square

Hold the door! I was so excited. I’d been reading about Beyond Meat but didn’t know it was available in Australia. I love the taste of meat, but I’m fully on board with the research that says we eat too much of it to be healthy, and that if the world consumed much less meat, it would be much better for the planet.

So, what would it taste like? I was glad to find it at Grill’d (this branch was in World Square). I’ve always found it an interesting chain. To still be fast food but go up a notch, offering a wider menu, a nicer customer experience and serving alcohol: I think it’s a good approach. On the other hand, I think the idea of a burger and a glass of wine (and a side of fries) for $30 would surprise a lot of people. But I think the value was fine.

Completely aside from the burger, the zucchini chips were ridiculously good. Whatever technique they use to get them so crispy: bravo. And the burger? Well, it didn’t bleed, as I’d heard it might do, from the beetjuice, but the biggest thing I noticed was the charred flavour from the grill tasted pretty much exactly like charred meat.

The texture tasted like a somewhat overprocessed meat patty, as you often get at fast food restaurants, which don’t necessarily taste like meat, either. So, while I didn’t think it tasted exactly like a burger made out of freshly ground beef, I did think that it tasted like a burger that you get at a fast food restaurant.

And matched with a delicious bun and extras, those amazing chips and a glass of wine: I was mighty, might impressed. Am going to drag my husband in to try one too. Soon.

Grill'd - World Square Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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