Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Goats on Toast and Other Sydney Adventures
Last weekend, I went to Sydney to attend my friend Camilla's baby shower. This was no mean feat, because unbeknownst to me at the time that I booked the trip, I was burdened with a heavy chest cough that I have had for two weeks, paired with a torn calf muscle that I have been nursing for around the same period of time.
Despite this, I duly attended the baby shower on Saturday afternoon (more on that in another post), and stayed for Sunday to enjoy my own adventures. I am going to share them with you because the things that I did were by and large off the beaten track and a little different to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, but to me, just as special in their own way.
I stayed at Travelodge in Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills. This hotel has special significance for me, because it is where I interviewed for my first in-house job (because I was staying there and the interview was on a Saturday), and it is just up the road from where I went to work for that job on Wentworth Avenue.
Last year, I went to a cafe just up the road from the Travelodge called Two Good Eggs, that I have posted about before. I liked it so much that I wanted to go back there for breakfast on Sunday. And I wasn't disappointed - the food and the service were both top notch.
I was the first guest of the day, and was able to choose a seat overlooking the park across the road, but which also enabled me to admire the interior of the cafe:
I started off with a skinny flat white (which came with a chocolate wafer that I scoffed before taking this photo):
There were two ladies from Hawaii who came in after me, and one of them asked the waitress what a flat white was - she ended up ordering black coffee with milk on the side, but it was interesting to know that a flat white is not a common type of coffee, at least in Hawaii.
For breakfast, there were so many wonderful dishes that the choice was hard, but I decided to go with Goats on Toast, pictured at the top of this post. Goats on Toast is comprised of warm Trinity Cellars French goats cheese with drizzled honey, sliced apple and smashed walnuts on sour cherry fruit toast. It is a similar concept to a Donna Hay dish that I made earlier this year, but sweet rather than savoury. While Goats on Toast is very rich, and I could honestly have survived nicely on just one piece, it is devine. The sweetness of the honey and the tartness of the sliced Granny Smith apple cut through the creamy richness of the warmed goats cheese, and the walnuts add texture and crunch. I loved this dish (especially its cool name!), and would order it again. The service was friendly and efficient (it transpired from her conversations with other customers that my waitress was Swedish, although she sounded English), and I could enjoy the view of people walking their dogs in the park, where I sometimes used to eat my lunch.
Going backwards in time, I went for dinner on Saturday night at Spice I Am, also in Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills. Interestingly, this place used to be our "local" when I worked in Surry Hills, and we went there often, sitting on plastic tables and chairs. Back in those days, I consistently ordered the pad thai, probably the only Thai dish I was then familiar with. Now Spice I Am is famous, and has upgraded to wooden tables and chairs, and despite being very small, you have to get there early to get a table. The competition is fierce, and people who were Johnny come latelys pushed in to rush to a table at 5.45pm, when Spice I Am opened. In my condition, I couldn't argue with them, but another lady who arrived shortly after me stuck up for us both. Also, the wait staff knew that we had arrived first, and made sure that we got tables. They didn't mind that I dined alone at a four person table (the smallest size). I ordered the mussaman curry, containing beef, potatoes, peanuts and onions:
Although it is on the menu as a mild curry, it has quite a kick, so this is important to bear in mind when ordering (unless you want a surprise). The beef chunks looked impossibly big, but they simply melted when prised apart with no more than a spoon and a fork - an all round lovely dish. I also ordered steamed rice to soak up the sauce:
The next afternoon, I went to afternoon tea with my friend Camilla and her sister Rowena at The Old Vienna Coffee House on Level 2 of the QV Building in the Sydney CBD. It is a truly beautiful venue, with the splendour of the QV Building outside, and reproduction Klimts adorning the walls inside. I ordered lemon sugar crepes, which were light and refreshing, and perfect with another flat white:
At this point in the post, I am going to diverge from food and talk about some of my favourite places that are in or easily accessible from Surry Hills. Most of these places are not tourist destinations, but I think they are fascinating to look at, particularly if you are a fan of architecture. The first of these places is the Griffiths Teas building on the corner of Wentworth Avenue and Goulburn St:
It resembles the New York Flat Iron building in shape, and has the most wonderful tiled signage at the top and on the sides of the building. Unfortunately, the building was in a terrible state of disrepair when I worked near it 8 years ago, and remains so today. It is a shame to see such a marvellous building, built in 1915 but empty for over 25 years, go to rack and ruin. A reason for its state is proposed in this article. We could see it from the rooftop balcony at work where we held monthly sausage sizzles, and the Griffiths Teas signage featured as a backdrop to many photos from those sausage sizzles.
Across the street from the Griffiths Teas building is the Mark Foys building, built in Federation warehouse style:
Formerly a warehouse for the Mark Foys department store, built in around 1920, it is luckier than the Griffiths Teas building as it has been converted into apartments and is in good shape. Both the Griffiths Teas Building and the Mark Foys building were visible in all their glory from my hotel room window - bonus!
Also around the same area is the art deco style Hotel Hollywood:
This pub holds special significance for me, as it is located out the back of my old workplace. On many Friday evenings, my boss, Nadia, would invite us there for a "beer". Ironically, Nadia drank sparkling wine or "bubbles" as she put it, not beer. It was the dying days of smoking in pubs back then, and Nadia would always ask us if we minded if she lit up - the answer was always no, but she always politely asked. Nadia often regaled us with entertaining stories about her life that were never mentioned at work, and it even slipped out that she had her own blog, back in the days when blogging was a novelty. It was Nadia who inspired me to believe that I could write this blog, although our subject matter and styles are worlds apart. I have Nadia to thank for giving me my in-house break, even though for what seem now like silly reasons, I left of my own accord after a year.
The Hollywood has old movie posters inside, perhaps from films in which its owner, Doris Goddard, once starred, but outside, it is adorned by beautiful alcohol advertising posters, presumably reproductions from the 1930s (judging from the clothes):
The next building on my Surry Hills adventure is the Art Nouveau style The Downing Centre, once the Mark Foys department store when constructed in 1908, and with signage bearing the legacy of that time, but now a court house (don't expect to buy laces or gloves there):
If you continue walking up Liverpool St from the Downing Centre, you will reach Museum Station, on the edge of Hyde Park. This is the railway station from whence I walked into work each day. Below ground on the platforms, the station features wonderful reproduction advertising signs spruiking the virtues of Aussie brands of old:
I love how this one looks like a Minties wrapper (the product advertised on the sign, with the old "it's moments like these" slogan):
On Sunday, following breakfast at Two Good Eggs, I went to the NSW Art Gallery in The Domain to see The Archibald Prize exhibition:
My favourite paintings were in fact in the Wynne prize (landscape artists) exhibition, hung side by side and painted by a pair of Tims: Tim Johnston's Observatory Hill, with aboriginal inspired dot work mixed with modern Sydney landmarks, and Tim Storrier's (The Archibald prize winner, but not the Wynne prize winner) whimsical floating flowers in the sky called The Dalliance.
To get to the Art Gallery, I went through the Sydney Hospital grounds on Macquarie Street:
This was apparently Australia's first hospital, and is 200 years old this year - and I have never noticed it before! It has a smashing fountain in the courtyard featuring swans, and there is also a cafe open to the public.
Afterwards, to rest my leg, I did the very touristy thing of taking a Harbour cruise, but you can see better photos of the Harbour than mine anywhere.
I hope you have enjoyed this off the tourist track tour of the Sydney CBD, especially those parts of Surry Hills that I remember with fondness as "my Sydney".