So… Australia. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I am pleasantly surprised. Not that I expected not to be, but thus far, impressions have been good. I’ve only seen a tiny bit of this enormous country, but I have it on good authority the other bit is all rocks, taipans, wild camels and sand – no sir not for me.
Started out in Brisbane, and whilst I think its a beautiful city, it didn’t get me excited in the right kind of way, if you know what I mean…Great weather, check. Good coffee, check. ( Blackstar Coffee, West End) Cocktail heaven, check. (Sling, West End – although there are quite a few other strong competitors) Good food, sort of check. I had good charcuterie at Anise Wine Bar, and a good meat selection and mussel escabeche at Ortiga, although the portions were a joke and I didn’t see any of the oompa loompa’s around that would have been happy with that amount of food. Inside the restaurant was dead quiet, which made enjoying ourselves comfortably a bit difficult.
Avocado season has just started here and I have totally overindulged in my obsession with the fabulous fruit already. And then I discovered finger limes, and rambutans, and custard apples – brunch has become my favorite sport. No seriously – finger limes are the coolest lime ever – caviar -like bursts of citrus – great over anything from avocado’s to salad dressings or scraped into an ice cold Corona. Fantastastic!
Funnily enough some of the best value food I had was at the Himalayan Cafe – with excellent bread and good sharing food for a large crowd (which the occasion was). For a weeknight indecision sort of place, this is a no-fail option – there must be good reason for it to be buzzing every night of the week. The abovementioned by no means reflects what the foodie scene is like here, but I was around too short a period to try the big guns like Aria Brisbane or Montrachet. Maybe next time…
Along down the coast and on to Sydney. It seems as if this city was built to impress the socks off any visitor, and has city-sights that will make all your holiday pics look like postcards. I happened to visit in a week of perfect weather, and between living just off Bondi beach (run in the morning, swim at sunset – then off to a wine bar) to checking out the diverse suburbs and history around the city, it just made me want to stay there longer. It’s polished, well spoken, knows its way about culture and food and best of all is home to my favourite magazine of all time, the Gourmet Food Traveller. Restaurants are gleaming and pricy, menu’s read like seasonal compositions of the best produce around. A friend and our local guide, took me to the best butcher I think I’ve ever set foot in – if Louis Vuitton was a butchers, Victor Churchill’s would be it. Unequalled cuts of dry aged meat (you don’t understand – the most beautiful meat I’ve EVER SEEN) are displayed in glass-case fridges, and the meat still ageing hangs behind glass panels in a coldroom built from salt ‘bricks’. Sausages and other charcuterie? Only house recipes or bespoke ( the prices are bespoke too). No sterile, harsh industrial lighting here – warm, luxurious spotlights highlight the cases. This place makes Harrods look like your ordinary high street butcher. I wanted to start crying, so it was time to leave before I got too emotional over a Wagyu steak.
We went for a coffee instead at Flat White – a superb cafe serving great food, and better coffee, so good I came straight back the next day. They make a mean roast lamb sandwich, and sweeter brekkie options (banana bread, fruit toast etc.) are good too.
Down in Bondi we looked to Shop & Wine Bar for some interesting wines by the glass, and a decent cheese board too. Its a coffee joint in the day and turns into a wine bar as the sun sets – cool concept I thought, and it’s tiny, so feels like a neighbourhood gem.
So if your’e driving south and contemplating taking the coastal route – unless you are in search of a lot of quiet meditational time – don’t. The sights, the beaches, they are beautiful, but the little towns, they are dead. I’m think I’m starting to get the reason for this Australian tendency to bunch together around cities and pretty much ignore the rest – cause there is very, very little going on along the loooong coastline between Sydney and Melbourne. Just shoot down the middle and have a look at the big pineapple.
Next post – Melbourne, cause there is so much going on foodwise down here that I’ll be writing for a while…