Sydney Food Diary: Grandma’s at McEvoy, Alexandria

Listen the food is fine here, but I kind of liked the way the whole place made me ask questions. Like how they get business? My guess is that it’s all people on their way to shop at Bunnings, Victoria’s Basement Warehouse, and Petbarn, because there’s just not a lot around here, in terms of either houses or even other businesses. Maybe there are some offices nearby that keep them afloat.

Then, the whole idea of the place: Grandma’s. It says prominently on the wall that this is a ‘concept’ (not a restaurant?). It’s the idea of global grandmas who have inspired the food (seems Israeli or Middle Eastern inspired though all the staff are young Asians). But I find it a mismatch that it’s a big warehouse space, not cosy like Grandma’s house too, unless your grandma lived in an industrial warehouse.

Still, the food was absolutely fine. I can never go past a meat pastry and this one was delicious. Then we split a Shakshouka, that they do in many flavours: we got the Italian one with bolognaise. It was tasty and piping hot. The flatbread was weirdly solid, not a light variety, but it seemed that way on purpose. Drop by on your way to Bunnings?

Grandma's At McEvoy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Cafe con Leche, Surry Hills

I stopped by this cheery cafe on Fitzroy street for coffee a few months ago so was glad to come back with my pal Darryl for breakfast. It’s a Colombian cafe, I believe, and has a neighbourhood, authentic feel.

Thus, the coffee is creamy and delicious, but lacks coffee art, but is fine. As for the breakfast, it was easy to imagine my Colombian special to be something that I could get on holidays visiting the country or if invited to a friend’s home.

The flatbread was dense, and perhaps a touch dry, but therefore suitable for dipping into the beans. With the the well-cooked plantains, eggs and chorizo, salsa and herbs, it was tasty and… a bigger portion that I could eat!

My pal had a quesadilla and seemed happy with it. I’d be happy to come back here.

Cafe Con Leche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Scout Sydney, Surry Hills

I’m a sucker for the hype occasionally, and the Scout Sydney team has been bringing it. I think I saw a sign on a local bus shelter. I saw an article in Time Out Sydney before it had opened its doors. I’ve seen it on Facebook. And the idea seems exciting to me: take one of the world’s best mixologists and give him his own space in my neighbourhood and see what happens. Oh, and they take reservations which for a bar, I think, is sort of crazy. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Super-amusing is this wooden box they’ve built to block off the stairs to this intimate space on the top floor of the Dolphin Hotel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been all the way up there before. It is like a treehouse entrance perhaps, or a boy scout’s secret hideaway.

We arrived early, though we made a reservation, and were served drinks by a succesion of young men, mostly European. It was dead quiet but slowly filling up and we were assured it would be packed later on. It’s dark and intimate with well-placed lighting and an impressive large fake treet in the middle (carrying on with the treehouse theme).

An amuse-bouche with watermelon and nori was a taste of what was to come, as the flavours were slightly strange together but made you ask: do they work?

The cocktail menu is, as I’d hoped, inviting, though what kind of cocktails would they be? We learned with our first round. It’s all about flavours and flavour combinations. The stamped ice is amusing and large size of the cubes, and with each of the drinks there was a visible garnish. But there’s something clean and direct about these cocktails, visually and texturally.

The trick is the ingredients. These are the cocktails we had:

Avo on Toast: 666 Butter, Avocado, Brioche’d Prosecco, Orange Wine, Coffee Oil, Isolated Lychee Tannin.

Cane Toad: Guava, Blended Rum, Muyu Vetiver Gris, Bunya Nut, Verjus

Death Myrtle: Calvados, Cinnamon Myrtle, Burrata Whey, Overnight Apple.

Green Negroni: Tanqueray, Melon Quinine, Peach Leaf/Stone/Fruit Vermouth.

All of them were $22 each. And while this is certainly not cheap, it doesn’t seem to be more expensive than the other high-end cocktail bars in Sydney. If you’re prepared for the prices, you can settle down and enjoy yourself.

Apparently, Avo on Toast (photo second above) isn’t for everyone, and I just couldn’t taste the avocado. But I DID taste coffee and a slightly burned toast and butter. The overall effect was breakfast in a cocktail, and I liked it.

My pal Trevor thought his Cane Toad (photo at the top) was better though. It had a wonderful strong guava flavour. Delicious.

He also preferred his Death Myrtle (photo above) to my Green Negroni (photo below), and the combo of cinnamon and apple and calvados was lovely.

I’m a huge negroni fan. So, why not switch it up? This was light and vegetal, almost more savoury then sweet, and a contrast to the heavy, powerful punch of a regular negroni. I liked it.

In any case, if you like cocktails, I’d definitely recommend a visit. I think it would also impress out-of-town visitors and those of your loved ones who like bright and shiny objects.

Scout Sydney Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: White Cockatoo Hotel, Petersham

Now, this was a surprise. And such a surprise that I didn’t get proper photos of all the dishes we tried, nor of the venue. It was a fairly impromptu reunion of old friends, in a part of the city unfamiliar to me, and here in a quiet area next to a train station is the White Cockatoo Hotel.

A perfect autumn day, still warm but not as hot as summer, ample seating outside: just the right temperature. We downed beers and I had a sangria on tap (generous amount of fruit garnish, not bad) and we switched to riesling. My roast lamb, with perfectly cooked pumpkin and yummy kale was great. Our vegetarian was impressed that her choice, a selection of roast vegetables, was the first and most prominent menu item. Our guest from out-of-town had snags.

Good friends, food and drink on a perfect Sydney afternoon. Life couldn’t get better.

White Cockatoo Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drinking in Sydney: Corridor, Newtown

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Buzzy, hip and crowded. Who cares about reviews? (a review from August 2016, scroll down for an update).

Corridor has a good look about it, the open frontage revealing a shiny bar, and in back and upstairs, classic Newtown: it could be a share house, really: pull up a few chairs around a table to have a drink with your housemates, and turn the music on.

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I arrived just after 7pm on a Friday night and it was buzzy. My pal said it had been packed 15 minutes before. Strangely, while I felt like a cocktail, nothing on the list really jumped out at me. It was like I’d stumbled into the wrong house party. And then, on the wine list, under white wines, there were only three choices, a chardy, which we had, and was pretty good, and not one but two Kiwi white wines. After the glut on the market a few years ago, I’m still a bit apprehensive about them: I don’t know the names of the better winemakers; and often find them too generic.

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But who cares if I don’t vibe with the cocktail list and think there should be more white wines to choose from. Newtown doesn’t! Corridor’s a popular place, and looks like it won’t be going away anytime soon, on ever-changing King Street.

Update: Apr 2019

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

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Sydney Food Diary: Rustic Pearl, Surry Hills

It was great to be to show friends from overseas, Canadians who are living in Penang, a bit of Surry Hills’s cafe culture. Our mission was to find vegan food for one of the party, and for some reason, because it’s next to Yulli’s (with its vegetarian and brewery awesomeness), I always assumed this buzzy little cafe was vegetarian too.

It’s not, but there are a lot of good options for both vegetarians and vegans. It’s a Turkish cafe, and I love a blend of cultures. My Turkish scrambled eggs were delicious. Our vegan was happy with her breakfast. And my pal Phil liked his Eggs Benedict. A win. Also: they have a sensational rating on Zomato. It’s nice to see a local cafe that is well-loved, with no gimmick to attract clients, just good food and service.

Rustic Pearl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Big Daddy’s Burger Bar, Darlinghurst

There was no way that we were ordering the food on offer at Karaoke World on Elizabeth Street. It looked nasty and overpriced. But, wow, were we ever hungry after an exhausting session of karaoke for Justin’s birthday. And I’d drunk too much without eating anything so was a bit tipsy.

Big Daddy’s Burger Bar came to the rescue, requiring no decision at all. It was there on our way home, we’d never tried it before and it’s loud design beckoned to us. I didn’t know it’s a chain, and there are six of them in Sydney. It’s an Australian creation, I think, though peddles Americana.

We both went for the Mac Daddy. A burger with macaroni and cheese. And bacon. And you know, I’m not sure I can be objective here. We were hungry. It was super tasty. It was just what we needed. And… the next day, expecting a hangover, I didn’t have one. I reckon all the alcohol got absorbed into those carbs and fat and I felt fit as a fiddle. So, to avoid a hangover: I highly recommend this burger.

[Update July 2019: It’s closed already! I should have had another one of those burgers before it shut down!]

Big Daddy's Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Product Review: Philips Pasta Maker (HR2358/06)

Oh, how I love a kitchen gadget. Really. So, to add to to the electric pressure cooker, the airfryer, and the automatic ice cream maker, I present: the Philips Automatic Pasta Maker. I’m still obsessed with it after a month. So far, I’ve added some kale juice to make green pasta (as in the video) and some carrot juice (which made the papardelle more yellow than orange).

So far, I’ve had mostly hits, and some near-misses. The spaghetti was delicate and lovely. The papardelle was a bit thick and too al dente.  Plus, the papardelle noodles fell apart during cooking, and didn’t retain their length. I thought the first batch of penne I made (though thrilled with the shape) was also too thick and hard, but the next batch of penne I made with more pasta flour and less semolina with a bit of xantham gum just in case, to keep it together, was nicer.

Angel hair pasta was a hit, and I was surprised how delicate it was. I’m still to try the dumpling wrappers and lasagna sheets but I will, and will report back.

I was very excited to make Asian noodles. Making the rice noodles, made with rice flour and tapioca flour, was my first problem! I didn’t trust the recipe and put too much liquid into it and had to make a new batch. Which turned out just fine. I boiled them briefly and fried them in XO sauce and they were good (but needed more sauce).

Then, I made soba noodles from buckwheat flour. Served with soba sauce, as bought in an Asian grocery store, with some wasabi and green onions, the only thing that was missing was some nori (dried seaweed). I was really proud of these. They were delicious, and the homemade quality of the noodles really shone. Next I’ll try ramen, though the recipe I found on the web requires an ingredient, kansui, a sort of lye, which might be hard to track down.

Weirdly, though these things have been around for a while, I’m finding it really hard to find recipes and tips on how to use it in the best way. So, I’ll experiment with flours and liquid proportions and report back. One person suggested resting the dough longer (by turning off the machine) but my machine doesn’t seem to like that. Anyways, I’ll report on recipes and more tips and hints as I find them, so it might help someone like me who’s searching for advice.

In the meantime, I’m very happy with it. It’s not small, but not humungous. It isn’t hard to clean at all. It makes the pasta so quickly, it’s amazing. I am tempted to buy the shell/paccheri die to try. Also, I grabbed a great bargain I wanted the most expensive of the models, which had the most dies (Fettuccine, Spaghetti, Penne, Pappardelle, Lasagne, Ravioli) and an automatic scale, which sounds essential (as the proportion needs to be just right). New it seems to cost $439 here in Australia, and on sale down to $400 or even $380. But I found one on eBay, used apparently only three times, and I won the bid for $180 plus $10 postage (surprisingly cheap for such a heavy thing). The only thing I like more than a kitchen gadget is a bargain!

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Sydney Food Diary: Nudge Cafe, Surry Hills

Sometimes you pass by places because they just seem too easy to get to! Nudge is a cafe that I pass all the time on my way to Aldi or Vintage Cellars or the discount pharmacy in Oxford Village Square, and I’ve never stopped by. It’s a pretty casual stop off, not meant for a long meal. They seem to do a healthy trade.

This unusual day I was finishing my volunteer shift at GetUp! and was hankering for a treat before I headed home to give a reiki treatment. Nudge beckoned, and seemed an easy option. Plus, they offer a special for a bacon and egg roll, and a coffee, and how can I resist that?

While it’s true, the occasional bacon and egg roll surprises me and becomes a SUPREME example of a bacon and egg roll, I also find it hard to disagree with bacon and egg rolls in general. And so it was.

My coffee had coffee art. Much appreciated. The atmosphere was light and cheery. The service was pleasant. And indeed, my bacon and egg roll was tasty. Just what I wanted. $8 for the combo coffee and bacon and egg roll, and I could have also swapped out the roll for a ham and cheese croissant. Perhaps I’ll try that next.

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

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Is the United World Colleges worth it?

My second year at Pearson college, our ‘house’, Harambee House, a dorm where about 40 students from all over the world lived, 4 to a room!

A friend from university wrote and said: “My daughter just got into UWC. Please tell me that UWC is worth it.”

So, having attended Pearson College from 1986 to 1988, I can answer the question, at least from my perspective, though I won’t answer the question: is the United World College movement worth the resources invested in it versus what it brings to the world (which is a question that graduates often ask themselves)?

I’ll simply answer: was it worth it for me?

Dear M.

Was the United World Colleges worth it for me? In high school, I felt out of place. I was too smart and too political. I was not athletic enough and while I had a small group of friends, you wouldn’t say I was well-liked. I was bored in most of my classes, taught by teachers who seemed pretty bored themselves.

When I arrived at Pearson College, what was perhaps the most amazing thing for me was that there many people, from around the world, smart, interesting and talented, and they seemed interested in me simply because of my character, because of myself. I didn’t have to prove myself or try to fit in. I was liked.

We lived together and did activities and learned and sang together and climbed rocks and stayed up far too late in the night, and I felt accepted in a way that gave me an incredible confidence in myself, at such a young age. I felt like I could do anything and I could be true to myself from then on. I marvel at how confident I was.

Without a UWC, I think I would have taken another opportunity, perhaps a Rotary scholarship, and perhaps I would have ended up studying away from my home city and even working internationally, as I have done. But I just can’t imagine I would have done so with as much confidence as I did, and achieved as much.

Academically, the teachers were the best they could be, and surrounded by people who were at my academic level or higher, I learned and loved learning far more than I would have been doing my last year at my high school. And then when entering university, I found I had been far better-prepared than my peers.

Socially, I made lifelong friends. I learned much about myself. I grew in ways I don’t think would have been otherwise possible.

Now, the UWCs aren’t for everyone, and a few students don’t have great experiences. I’ve heard lately that sometimes the academic pressure can be high, and students can spend too much time studying and worrying about getting into prestigious universities. I heard of some who had to adjust from being the best and brightest in their schools to being one of many. A few people, for whatever reasons, might not fit in. And of course, students won’t be immune from life:  an unlucky incident of some sort, a bad (or good) relationship that might take over their lives from regular UWC life, mental health issues. Introverts may find it exhausting to be living with roommates and to be around so many people ALL THE TIME.

But the selection committees do try to select kids with resilience as well as talent, so I hope and expect your daughter to be fine… and wish her all the best … and hope that you share this with her. I used to be shy to talk about my experience at UWC too much, because I didn’t want to make it seem like we were some exclusive club, or make others feel bad who didn’t attend, and I thought that to have one experience that defines you might sound limiting. But looking back, it was my most important formative experience, one that I will always be grateful for, and that really did make me into the person I am today.

In the meantime, as a UWC parent, you will from this time forward have a steady stream of houseguests from around the world, possibly for the rest of your lives! Enjoy.

xo

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