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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The smell of the sea. Hustle and bustle as rowdy customers move closer to their prize. The satisfaction of de-shelling a fresh prawn in the morning sunshine as the hungry seagulls circle overhead.

Sydney Fish Market is my favourite weekend treat. Picking up the freshest fish, deciding which mouthwatering recipe to try out and serving up the results that night. It’s a day-long affair and one of the most enjoyable things to do in Sydney.

The fish market itself now offers lots more than just fish – there’s a fresh deli to start. With cheeses, cooked meats or specialist pantry goods. You can grab a coffee and a baked treat from the mini cafe. There’s also a greengrocers with fresh fruit and veg.

Here’s my trip to the Sydney fish market in images….and the results of my visit that evening in the form of a Sydney-style Spanish Paella…..

Oyster-shucking at the market

One of the larger fishes I spotted

fresh fish to eat at the market

Seagulls tear apart a piece of discarded fish

Fish on ice

Ling fish

Plus, everything else on offer at the market:

Deli cheese

Deli meats

Trying to avoid purchasing any of this..

Finally, the results of my shopping trip….

The final results….a delicious paella

And some sangria with fruits from the on-site greengrocer

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Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains on a crisp spring afternoon

Just as Sydney enjoyed the first warm days of Spring, we drove two hours west of the city this weekend to a substantially cooler climate – the Blue Mountains.

Temperatures at this time of year (late September) reach just 11-13 degrees at most (compared to around 23 degrees in Sydney). But the chill in the air and the brisk winds provide the perfect weather to enjoy what the Blue Mountains were made for – walking.

1)   Three Sisters

First stop is the epic Three Sisters. We travel to the Echo Point viewing platform near Katoomba town which provides a panoramic sight of the mountains. It’s worth the effort to walk around halfway down the 500 steps of the Giant Stairway to get an even closer look at the rocks. Be warned the steps are steep, uneven and can get very crowded….that’s why I mention that the halfway point is fine!

Pulling on our walking shoes we then embarked on a two-hour return trip around the ‘upper pathway’. This was an opportunity to see some of the less busy viewing platforms, stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh country air.

Don’t worry about researching a walk to do before you go; a tip is to pop into the Information Centre on site prior to your walk for a tailored suggestion depending on how long you want to walk for and whether you have a car.

The Three Sisters viewed from Echo Point

The Three Sisters viewed from Echo Point

2)   Wentworth Falls

A short drive away is Wentworth Falls. Here, we took a five minute walk down stairs to another stunning viewing platform of the falls from across the valley. Again, you can choose to extend you walk to take in more of the scenery or even walk across the summit of the falls or the foot of the falls.

The view from Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls as a rainbow appears on the water

3)   Govett’s Leap

The Govett’s Leap lookout was my favourite of the day. Combining a magnificent waterfall and views of the Blue Mountains, it is also much quieter than the Three Sisters or Wentworth Falls which are packed with tourists. Access Govett’s Leap via the small town of Blackheath and stop off for a cup of coffee and a wander among the vintage shops and art galleries too.

Govett's Leap

The view from Govett’s Leap

Blue Mountains from Govett's Leap

The view of the Blue Mountains from Govett’s Leap

Where we ate, drank and stayed:

Kubbba Roonga Guesthouse: In the small town of Blackheath, Kubba Roonga is a comfortable guesthouse with full English breakfast, complimentary chocolates on arrival and complimentary newspapers and Port next to the roaring fire. A great choice for a cosy weekend stay.

Cabin and co.: As you travel through Blackheath on the way to the Govett’s Leap lookout, stop off on the high street (Govett’s Leap Road) for a coffee. Cabin and co. is a cute homewares shop with a hidden ‘snug’ at the back of the shop serving delicious homemade pastries and hot drinks. This family-run business had only been open three weeks when we stopped by, and the coffee was great.

Keep an eye out in Blackheath for Cabin and Co. serving great coffee in the 'snug' at the back of its retail shop.

Keep an eye out in Blackheath for Cabin and Co. serving great coffee in the ‘snug’ at the back of its retail shop.

Leura town: Avoid the bland Katoomba and stop off in Leura for a picturesque lunch overlooking the mountains. There’s plenty of delicious cafes to choose from and lovely shops to browse if you need a break from the mountains.

Hot chocolate

An indulgent Hot Chocolate and marshmallows from one of the many cafes on Leura mall

Dinner: Ashcroft’s restaurant on Govett’s Leap Road in Blackheath was the perfect dinner choice. It’s not cheap ($78 for two, or $88 for three courses) and you can’t do BYO, but the portions are huge, the wine delicious (even by the glass) and it’s a Sydney Morning Herald award-winning restaurant. Make sure to book before you go.

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Bondi Open Air cinema screen

Bondi Open Air cinema screen

Yesterday was opening night of Bondi Open Air cinema 2012.

Held on a grassy bank overlooking the beach, the Open Air cinema is scheduled through until early March, taking advantage of the warm summer evenings and everyone’s inclination to get outside as much as possible.

We watched Bill Cunningham New York, the story of New York Times fashion photographer Bill and the life he has dedicated to his work. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen; I knew nothing of Bill before I sat down to watch the film last night and left feeling like I’d known him for years and heart-warmed by the passion he has for what he does.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream, a picnic blanket and biscuits...

Ben and Jerry's ice cream, a picnic blanket and biscuits...

We were given free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the movie, along with a goodie bag to take away filled with Sonoma muesli, Aesop body balm and the latest Time Out Sydney magazine. Not bad for a $12 ticket!

There was also live music prior to the film and a random magician act which was a bit pointless as by the time he came on it was dark and no one could see anything!

Okay, there were a few technical hitches with the sound and the lighting, but there’s plenty of time for this to all be ironed out over the next few weeks.

It’s a different story for the wet weather Sydney is currently experiencing as this now looks set to play havoc with the success of the Open Air cinema. Even last night, a few people left the film because of the blowing wind, before crowds got up to exit several minutes before the end when the rain did finally come. Films will go ahead in the rain, so it’s best to be prepared unless you’re happy to leave without a refund.

By the time summer is over I will have experienced all three of the main Sydney outdoor cinemas: this one at Bondi, along with the Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park and finally the most popular – St George Open Air cinema in the Domain where the screen rises from the water and the audience overlooks the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. What better way to watch a film!

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As 2012 begins, so will my second full year in this country. I reckon this one will be even better than the first.

Arriving from England back in late 2010, I can look back now and admit how hard I found my first year in Sydney.

I never expected the culture shock I got when I moved to Sydney. This blog has been one way to cope with that. Writing about some of the peculiar things I’ve observed has helped to understand it in my own mind.

Surely Australia would just be England with sunshine I thought? No, not at all. From the serious matters, such as Australia’s uneasy history with the Aboriginal people of this country, through to the silly – like the sight of kangaroos hopping down the streets in Victoria. Every day has shown me something new.

It’s taken me over 12 months to adjust to having so much sunshine for a start. Being able to explore far flung beaches, go kayaking, walk along the coastline on weekends. Instead of arranging afternoons that actually avoid going outside in the rain like I was doing in the UK.

My diet has changed. I was used to casseroles and pastas. But here, year-round we eat barbecued meat or fresh fish from the market and salads almost every evening. I’ve never eaten so much Sushi or Thai food or Banana Bread either.

I’ve stopped complaining too much about the price of everything. Though I still feel like I’m being robbed every time a can of soup costs me $4, or a bottle of water on the street $3.

My dad told me last week my accent was changing. He hates it when I go up at the end of every sentence, Aussie-style. It’ll go I said, ‘No worries mate.’

I know not to get offended when I see ‘Coon’ written on a packet of cheese, or hear Wog used in the workplace. I know my Rangas from my Bogans. I still call my ‘thongs’ ‘flip-flops.’

I’ve met some great Australian friends now, not just ex-pats. People who’ve lived in Sydney their whole lives and with whom I can have a conversation without talking about what we miss from home.

Yes, I still shop for clothes online at Dorothy Perkins, but I also find a lot I like in Marcs, and Myer and Sportsgirl.

I’ve experimented with the sunrise exercise routine, getting up at 5.30am in the mornings, when the heat is just bearable in the summer. I’ve still felt inferior to the gorgeous Aussie girls who just seem so lean and glamourous and blonde.

I don’t really miss Eastenders or Strictly Come Dancing anymore. But I’d recognise Dani and Hayden from Australian Masterchef in the street.

I check smh.com.au in the mornings now, instead of bbc.co.uk. I subscribe to Mumbrella for my media news. We’ve got the Gruen Transfer boxset.

I can get stopped on the street and offer a tourist directions. I can tell you where to get the best cup of coffee on George Street and where serves the best Mojito (not too sweet, not too sour).

I keep my mosquito repellent at the side of my bed, and I make sure I’ve got my Factor 30 on for the morning walk to work.

I can tell you that it’s a nightmare trying to catch a bus home from Bondi on a busy Saturday…but the North end of the beach is your best bet.

I’ll know where’s best to stand for a good view at the Chinese New Year parade. I can tell you not to forget to arrange a meeting place for your friends at Future Music Festival. I can tell you what radio station to listen to on Australia Day.

I know my NRL from my AFL. My CBD and my QVB. My capsicum from my eggplant. I remember to ask for no beetroot on my burger. 

I know that I would have known none of the above without living in this country.

Am I changing? Am I losing the person I was when I arrived here?

I hope not. I think for the first time since I arrived here I’m finally feeling like I belong in this city. Not feeling like some outsider visiting for my holidays, not really ‘getting it’. But a true resident, like I’ve turned it from my house to my home, like I’ve been invited into the party.

Yes, it’s great to do new things and discover new adventures each and every day.

But I reckon there’s also a lot to be said for doing things the second time around too…..

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picture of rain

Is this all we have to look forward to this weekend in Sydney?

It’s December in Sydney and the sun should be shining!

But sadly, our plans for the beach, barbecues and outdoor beers are on hold as the rain is predicted to set in for the second weekend in a row.

So, what to do? Here’s my top five suggestions for making the best out of the miserable weather this weekend:

1)      Sushi and songs

For the perfect all-in-one dinner/drinks/late-night entertainment venue that saves you having to bar-hop through the rain, head to Mizuya on George Street. This underground restaurant serves up delicious, fresh sushi in cozy surroundings, far away from the disappointing weatheroutside. The hot pot with wagyu beef is a favourite of mine, and the various meat and fish skewers are addictive. Better still, you get to order your dinner on a touch screen at your table, meaning you can keep going back for more until you’re stuffed!

Oh, and once you’re full of sushi and sake, simply head down the corridor to the real reason Mizuya was created – karaoke booths where you can gather all your mates into a sealed room, belt out your favourite songs until the early hours and even order more sushi if you wish!

2)      Head to an Irish Bar

That’s right, what better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, than settled down in a traditional Irish Pub with some hearty grub, a live band or two and perhaps a pint of Guinness. There’s plenty of options in central Sydney including PJ O’Brien’s, Durty Nelly’s, Scruffy Murphy’s and Paddy Maguires.

For the ultimate Irish experience however – and a venue I can’t recommend enough – head to Mulligan’s restaurant in Chippendale. You’ll enjoy the best comfort food in Sydney, in surroundings which feel like you’re in the living room of a cuddly older relative.

3)      Pretend you’re in the UK

For an ex-pat, Christmas in Australia has meant swapping many of the traditional wintry fayre for light, summery bites in reflection of the warmer weather. So this weekend, why not head to Lindt Cafe at Darling Harbour and indulge with a warming hot chocolate and marshmallows, or snuggle up at home with a hot mince pie, brandy butter and your favourite Greatest Hits Xmas CD.

4)      Get cultural

Time to explore all the museums, art galleries and other interesting parts of Sydney that it just seems wrong to visit when the sun is shining. First stop could be the new Picasso exhibition now open at Art Gallery New South Wales where you’ll get to see more than 150 pieces of his work.

5)      Get out of Sydney and catch a flight to Melbourne

Four words that need no further explanation: Topshop is now open. What better reason do we need to escape Sydney for the weekend than a chance to explore one of the UK’s most successful fashion chains now open at its first location in Australia. Prepare yourself for chaos and queues, but it’ll be worth it when you get to swan into work on Monday in your brand new Topshop clothes.

Who needs sunshine!

What are your weekend plans?

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At $3 each, are these the most expensive bananas in the world?

Ask any Australian when they last ate a banana and I bet they’d be hard pressed to tell you.

It’s not because they don’t like them – they do – it’s because I don’t think they would remember when they were last able to afford to buy them.

I snapped this market stall this morning in central Sydney selling bananas for $3 each (approx GBP2). Not $3 a kilo. Or $3 for a bunch. That’s $3 for each individual banana!

Unfortunately, the price of bananas has been this high all year. Most Aussies are sympathetic to the pricing because they know it’s because so many crops were destroyed during Cyclone Yasi in Queensland at the beginning of the year.

Not only that, but Australia won’t replace the destroyed crops by importing from overseas. There are very strict quarantine restrictions in place, particularly around fruit coming into the country (I nearly faced a $300 fine at the airport for forgetting I had an apple in my bag once).

The good news is, prices are at last expected to fall in September. I expect they’ll be flying off the shelves.

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