Coffee in Sydney: Dovetail, CBD

Upstairs in World Square, Georgie Boy’s Coffee looked much hipper. But it was an unusually cool Saturday morning in Sydney, and I really wanted a place to sit down, read a little bit of my current book, Lily Brett’s New York, and have a coffee.

Dovetail did the trick. In wood, with greenery and glass, it’s does its best to overcome its location in the basement of a mall, brightly lit, and right across from Coles. And my coffee was just fine. It came with a little biscuit and quite good coffee art. It was more sour than I’m used to, strong also, but something in the taste wasn’t quite as creamy or integrated as I normally encounter, but I didn’t think it was bad, just another style.

The reviews on Zomato are horrible, but as a place to be out of the cold, sit down and have a perfectly acceptable coffee: it was fine.

Dovetail Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Botany View Hotel, Newtown

My pal who lives near the St Peters Station tells me that the pubs have some of the best food in the area. It’s the quiet end of Newtown and King Street is dotted with restaurants, but it is true: it’s hard to know where to go. This pub, the Botany View Hotel, is apparently famous for letting dogs have the run of the top floor, and I have to say I loved the neighbourhood vibe. A young couple managed to have a nice night out with a toddler, there were some folks who might have been taking a break from gambling, there was a guy at the bar with a full mullet. It was fantastic.

The food’s not half-bad either, and the drinks, bought from the pub, are nice and cheap (compared to the CBD or Surry Hills). My pal had a salad with tempeh (vegetarians know what this is). It was supposed to have a ginger jalapeno sauce, and it tasted a bit of ginger but of peppers not at all. But it was tasty and nicely presented.

I had a seafood linguine, and while the pasta was regular dry pasta, cooked al dente, and the sauce was not thick enough and sort of milky, they’d somehow imparted on the seafood, which was perfectly cooked, this fantastic chargrilled flavour which elevated the dish to really quite good.

I’ve give this place a solid four stars, but since I notice there are two mean ones, I’m going to give it a five as a protest (against the ones).

Botany View Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Book Review: Banana Yoshimoto’s Asleep

AsleepAsleep by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was either a very good idea or a very bad idea to have ‘Asleep’ as my bedside reading for the last period. It’s not a long book: three short novellas, and it wasn’t that I was uninterested, but like her characters, in a netherworld between sleep and awakedness, between life and death, I just kept … falling asleep. But in the end, I’m very glad to have stumbled upon this book. I’d heard about Banana Yoshimoto for many years without reading any of her work. I found her characters interesting, although I’m not sure how well I knew them by the end of the novellas. The setting, contemporary Japan, with three young women at the centre of each story intrigued me. The stories are mostly about their interior worlds, their feelings, how they relate, tenuously, to people around them. There’s certainly a loneliness and ennui about them. The friendships between women are much more alive than their romantic entanglements with men. Death (or the near-death of a long-term coma) appears as a mystery; grief is more disbelief than sadness, and why be sad if the ghosts of those who have passed on can talk to you in your sleep? Occasionally, I found the language awkward and I wondered if there was a translation issue. ‘I’ll end up marrying some businessman … And then I want to put together a pleasant, bright, stable household’, said one character. But at other times, I found a lovely poetry in the writing, particularly in describing a natural setting or the weather or a quality of light as a stand-in for someone’s own emotional state. In the end, the book did awaken an interest in me to read more by Banana Yoshimoto. Maybe I’ll check out her blockbuster debut, Kitchen, next.

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Sydney Food Diary: New Shanghai, Ashfield

I have no idea how I haven’t blogged about New Shanghai in Ashfield yet. For a long period, this was my go-to dumpling spot, and a group of us from Surry Hills and Redfern would hop on the train to Ashfield to get our fix.

It also has some comical memories, as even the huge cockroach crawling up the wall next to us one night, nor a period where they were named and shamed for bad sanitation, could keep us away. We always ordered the same things and could never believe how cheap the meal turned out to be.

So, it was a pleasure to return here for a weekday lunch, although with only two of us, the variation was limited (and we had to bring half of the pan fried pork buns home with us). It is worth the trip here, and I should make the trip more often!

Even though New Shanghai has opened in two other locations (Chatswood and the Westfield Pitt Street Mall), I have the feeling their best work is here. Neither here, nor their now closed location in the Bondi Junction Westfield matched up for me. The super crispness on the bottom of the pork buns, the molten soup inside both them and the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), weren’t the same in the mall locations.

So, the xiaolongbao were… savoury, super-hot and perfect bursts of flavour. Amazing. Also had their crispy radish cakes, with a light flaky pastry around shredded white radish. I loved them. But I had a revelation this visit. Even though I really love the pan fried pork buns, I can really only handle eating one of them, maybe two. They are pretty big, rich, doughy and fried, and even splitting the serving of 8 between two of us wasn’t manageable. And even eating two of them, on top of the other dumplings and pastries: some of the magic was lost. I’ll have to be more judicious and wait until I can bring 7 friends with me next time.

New Shanghai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Brix Distillers, Surry Hills

 

I love that there’s a moody little rum distillery in Surry Hills. Who doesn’t need a rum distillery, after all?

I met up with my old flatmate for a drink, and the menu almost tempted us into dinner: another night. But the Caribbean and Latin American-inspired dishes look awfully tasty. The menu of drinks is extensive, with cocktails and wine and flights of rum and then pages and pages of rum choices. For some reason, the backdrop of the menu is all X’s, some upright and some on their side, and I almost thought I was losing my sight. To remedy this, we had a cocktail each, and then…

Because we were at Brix, we thought we should do a little taster. For only ten bucks, you can try a sip of their white and gold rum (and a carafe of water with which to dilute said rum). I thought they tasted like… rum. I am obviously not a connoisseur. But it would be good to try one of the higher-priced flights and see what I can figure out.

Trevor liked his cocktail. I LOVED my cocktail. It was called the Long But Fat Like Buddha, and had Brix gold rum, Benedictine, Cointreau, a Blackcurrant Tea Syrup, Fever Tea Tonic and a Malbec Float. It didn’t taste complicated, more just a bit complex, with a nice sweetness but not too sweet, and a certain body. The touch of red wine didn’t really taste much of red wine, more like a hint of mulled wine, as it touched the other sweet ingredients. Anyways, did I say I loved it? I’ll be back.

Brix Distillers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Poly, Surry Hills

Paramount is a really great place to see films. It’s intimate, with not so many seats, and a good view from each of them. But it’s still a communal experience, which, if people remember they’re not watching Netflix at homes, is a fun way to watch a movie. I like hearing other people’s sounds of pleasure or surprise, or a collective silence during an intense moment. On the other hand, I don’t know why this couple talked to each other the entire way through the documentary on Alexander McQueen. I guess there will always be those who are a bit stupid and selfish.

Finishing the film (highly recommended, by the way), what a treat it was to wander down the block to Poly. I think it used to be a furniture shop, and then had some pop-up clothing sales. Very little has been done to the space: it’s open, with little adornment, but they’ve lucked out with (or have designed) the acoustics so it’s not too noisy.

I’d heard about the buzz (and it’s located across the street, pretty much, from Chin Chin, so the whole street has a buzz). We grabbed two seats, without a reservation, at a counter, and were thrilled with the whole experience. It was super buzzy and fun. The wait staff are fun and efficient.

And most of all, the food was sensational. A ‘donut’ with comte cheese ($15). Shitaake mushrooms in a creamy sauce (flavoured with pancetta) where the ‘shrooms have broken apart and taste like a noodle ($12). A delicious steak tartare hidden beneath a parmesan wafer (titled raw beef and grilled cheese) ($24). Zucchini flowers and ricotta gnudi (sort of like a gnocchi) with ‘smoked whey sauce’ ($24).

Each dish was tasty and surprising, with great textures as well as flavours. The mushrooms were my favourite but I wouldn’t hesistate to recommend any of them.

A humungous selection of very, very interesting wine. We ordered by the glass so we could try more.

So, yup, I could just move in here and try everything on the menu, including the wines.  Maybe I should.

Poly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Bread ‘n’ More Bakery, Surry Hills

Mr. Mo’s, formerly at this location on Campbell Street, in Surry Hills, has moved down the street and around the corner. And so Bread ‘n’ More Bakery, specialising in Artisan Sourdough bread, has moved in. They apparently have a mothership in Matraville. I’ve always like a bakery so it was good to try it out on a quiet Sunday.

The interior is much the same, but the tables, which used to be too high, are now at a manageable level. You order at the counter, and they bring the food out to you. I couldn’t go by having a bacon and egg roll, which was perfectly acceptable.

My pal had a cheese toastie.

The coffee wasn’t very pretty.

It’s a pleasant place to hang out. The service was pretty screwy while we were there; things took a long time to get to us. But then, to make up for it, the manager brought us over a delicious muffin. So, that shows promise in terms of customer service. It feels like they just need to find their groove.

 

Bread 'n' More Bakery, Surry Hills Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Bistrot Gavroche, Chippendale

It’s so hard to decide where to eat on Spice Alley! But our decision was made for us, somewhat, in that not everything is open on a Sunday night. For example, in this little complex of restaurants stacked on top of each other, in the Old Rum Store, Bistrot Gavroche was the only one open!

We’d tried to pizza place down the street, where the waiters ignored us waiting for a table. Like completely not seemed to care at all. So we searched elsewhere.

We were very happy with our discovery. A little taste of France right in Chippendale, the setting and decor are pretty charming (perfectly on a miserable blustery and wet night). The prices are a bit high. We had the mussels ($34) and quenelles of pike ($36). I seem to recall we split a bottle of wine.

The cheapest on the menu are $60, so that was a splurge but the wine was obviously so tasty we started to not care about prices! We didn’t have starters or desserts either, which made it a reasonable meal, and the green salad ($8) was perfectly dressed, and light.

Freddy loved his mussels, and I found the quenelles of fish a wonder. I didn’t quite know what to expect so this kind of fish cakes bathed in a rich crayfish sauce: yum.

Service was nice. All things in all: we liked it. Oui did.

Bistrot Gavroche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Book Review: Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight

WarlightWarlight by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked Ondaatje’s In The Skin of a Lion so much that it sort of become part of my identity: an aspiring writer who liked Ondaatje, his showy, poetic descriptions and unforgettable characters, and odd, affecting scenarios. But as an adult, my reviews have been more mixed. I quite liked Cat’s Table. For some reason, Anil’s Ghost didn’t grab me. Divisadero: liked.

Unfortunately, Warlight isn’t one of my favourites, and it is perhaps because it feels so familiar. A story from wartime. Mysterious characters with nicknames, the Gatherer, the Felon, the Moth. Displays of unusual talents or knowledge. The keeping and withholding of information (and perhaps, inevitable admissions) Even the cadence of the writing seems too familiar: somewhat dramatic and overwrought. “Where were we going? Into another life”, he ends Part One. I can see myself at twenty finding that kind of writing and phrases dreamy, compact and romantic, yet now, nearly fifty, a little trite.

I dog-eared a page where one character is telling another a story, in detail, of a chess match played in an opera house, during an opera. The narrative is filled with obscure details and anecdotes like this one; so I supposed it all depends how much you are charmed by these diversions. And perhaps how you immerse yourself in the story. With Ondaatje’s books, I find I can be pulled in by more interest in the setting or narrator; in this case, spying and espionage in wartime Britain wasn’t an automatic in for me, and the narrator I found somewhat cold. In fact, I can’t think how I’d describe him. The details around him, and his search to know his mother better seemed to be more important.

The reviews of Warlight in mainstream media have been rave and one of my friends, an Ondaatje, loved it. I think if I were a reader new to him, I would have found this book interesting enough, rather than tainted by disappointment. But at the same time, the overall ambiance of the book, its colouring and light (or lack of light) stayed with me afterwards, so perhaps I liked it more than I cared to admit.

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Sydney Food Diary: Parida Bondi, Bondi Beach

Could this be the best brunch in Bondi? Or in Sydney? Parida Bondi is setting its aims high, and with a beautiful location and cosy but contemporary design, it’s a good place to find out. We arrived for a sneaky mid-week brunch (as it sounds very busy on the weekends) and were charmed by it.

I have to say that I love the name. Peter and Frida combined their names and the result sounds vaguely Latin or Brazilian and perfect for a beachside cafe. There’s loads of outdoors seating, but we thought we’d hide in a cozy corner.

I also liked the design. With a recent relaunch with a new fit out, chef and menu, the cafe feels new and it’s a very stylish building and design (as part of the Pacific complex); some of Bondi feels a bit rundown to me, but this felt sharp and contemporary.

I opted for the Baby Parida with rosti (potato balls), big chorizo croquettes and perfectly spherical eggs and I had bacon on the side. Beautifully presented (very sculptural), and very rich: my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I managed it, but probably should have ordered something lighter!

My better half went for the wittily named Paleo Escobar, with srichacha chili scrambled eggs, and found it delicious.

Also: bacon. And a perfectly sliced avocado. It was not only a paleo meal, but a keto meal, which we approve of.

Also, after consuming a very nice latte, I tried the matcha latte too! I love me a matcha latte.

So, a high recommendation. Why don’t you get yourself down there and try it? It would be a great place to take out-of-towners too.

Parida Bondi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We dined as guests of Parida (thanks Parida!) but the opinion here is solely mine (well, my husband’s too).

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