Archives for category: Sydney

This is the best ice cream in Sydney. In no particular order.

Supermarket

  • Maggie Beer – Burnt Fig Jam, Honeycomb and Caramel
    It’s popular with everyone, it’s available everyfuckingwhere and it’s fucking sick. This should be more famous than her obsession for verjus or horribly sweet Pheasant Farm Pate. This is the BOMB.
  • Streets – Golden Gaytime
    A classic. This is what you eat if you’re visiting Australia. It’s more than just the name too.
  • Weis – Fruito
    Banana, Pineapple and Passionfruit. What a combo.
  • Pat and Sticks – Vanilla Lace
    Allow a little time for the biscuit to ease up and you’re good to go.
  • Coles Smart Buy – Neapolitan
    Actually, only the “strawberry” with it’s incredible un-strawberry like nuances is good. The choc and vanilla are unfortunately, taints.

Gelato Shops

  • Gelato Messina
    Queues are now insane. The Darlinghurst spot was my first date spot. That was how much more civil it used to be. Nowadays, it’s just absurd and they’ve got multiple stores, even one in Melbourne. Still, prices haven’t changed and at ~$7 for 3 scoops, it’s just straight up the best dessert deal in Sydney. Quality and flavours are just as good as ever. My faves include but are not limited to: Salted Caramel & White Choc, Blood Orange, Chocolate Sorbet, Hazelnut, Pistachio
  • Cow & The Moon
    Pretty damn popular but not on the Messina scale. This Enmore shop has a constant stream of people in it from opening to closing. It’s also priced well and the servers scoop awesome gelato scoop quenelles onto cones and cups alike. My faves are: Chocolate Sorbet, Honey, Popcorn
  • Pompei’s
    This Bondi pizzeria has got some awesome Amedei 65% chocolate sorbet (see a trend yet?) plus Fior di Latte, White Peach, 70% dark Amedei gelato, 40% Milk Amedei gelato and solid hazelnut and pistachio too. Pricey but the choc sorbet is unbeatable. Clearly, if you don’t like luscious and insanely rich stuff that melts away with unbearably so inside your mouth, you ought to reconsider life.
  • N2 Extreme Gelato
    Truth be told, I only like the texture. I find the flavours pissweak and different for the sake of and a lot of it’s just pure gimmickry. However, despite the fact that this is one of the best examples of not getting the point about modernist cooking, it’s also a great example of what’s good about modernist cooking. You can’t beat using liquid N2 to quickly freeze ice cream such that bigger ice crystals don’t have to chance to form. The texture is just spectacular but if you had access to a stand mixer and a license for renting liquid nitrogen dewars, you could do this at home too son.
  • Antica Gelateria
    Tucked away in one corner of Crows Nest, this is a little under the radar store that isn’t quite as good as some of the more popular shops in the city but it’s still pretty damn good. When I lived around the area, they had this sick black sesame chocolate chip and also an amazing banana split plus a really good choc sorbet, nut flavours etc. I just kinda wish it had a better location/concept. The product is just really good.

Now I know there’s more than this. There’s plenty of places in Sydney that do great Gelato/Ice Cream that I haven’t had the chance to try. This is my list and yes there are some cliches but we all fucking scream for ice cream. So, in summary:

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Nabbed myself a 2/2/1 apartment off the plan in Marrickville. It’s next to the train station and I’ve got the corner northeast facing unit away from the tracks. 86sqm internal and 11sqm external, I’ll get morning sun and look out onto Illawarra road. When I was at the sales office, another dude snapped up this other apartment adjacent so he made the choice for me really. At first, I think I preferred the layout of that one. It had a double ensuite and kitchen island and more internal space plus a spare toilet for guests. Now I think I prefer mine. It’s got a long galley kitchen, a larger study nook and hallway storage. The plan is to make a custom counter in front of the kitchen. I think I’m just too used to working in kitchens. I’ve gotta have a counter! I feel naked if it’s just a galley kitchen! So I want this extra long counter. Will probably design it when I get more concrete plans etc. It’s gonna be a longass piece of wood with a metal frame below for storage and support. The floor is going to be carpet until I think I wanna get wood. We’re also going to paint the dining room wall yellow and use turqoise and mint for contrast. Here’s the overall plan. ^=existing , *=essential

Entrance
It’s a small space but it’s the one that greets you. I want mine a little cluttered and I’m gonna paint a doormat with some jizz.

  1. Wooden Stool
  2. Custom Ikea Trampa
  3. Mirror ^
  4. Umbrella Stand

Study
This is basically going to be my space haha! 27″ iMac with all black stealth mode furniture. The existing Ikea shelving will be in the living room space.

  1. Magis Chair One, black *
  2. Flos Tab T Lamp, black
  3. Ikea Alex Drawer Unit, black
  4. Ikea Lerberg, white x 2 ^
  5. Small Boxes

Living
I wanna get stuff from Australia too. Jardan makes some nice sofas and they aren’t cheap and crap either. Gonna use my girl’s expedit as a divider and displayer. Might get an Apple TV too to stream content to the telly.

  1. Jardan Coast Soda, medium gray
  2. Bright Yellow Cushions.
  3. Coffee Table
  4. Armchair
  5. Standing Lamp
  6. Ikea Besta TV Console, white
  7. Ikea Expedit Shelf, white ^

Dining
Another important space. I don’t reckon we will entertain much. It’s a small apartment. Going with a soft round table and ideally 4 Thonet B9s. The colour scheme for the apartment grew from here. Yellow wall, brown sideboard, copper lamp, white chairs, light wood table, turqoise wall art/plant, mint painting.

  1. Round Table
  2. Thonet B9, white x4
  3. Hanging Lamp
  4. Sideboard

Kitchen
This is a crucial space. My “dream” kitchen. Custom wood slab with metal frame support counter is gonna be exposed and hold up some nice plates and equipment and stuff. You’ll be able to read our lives in this counter. Will stick some herbs on the end of it to catch the sun from the balcony.

  1. Custom Wood Counter
  2. Magis Stool One, white counter height x 2

Bedroom
The dresser is my girl’s desk haha! Her zone.

  1. Sidetables
  2. Bed + Mattress (Upgrade time! With a headboard please!)
  3. Dresser
  4. Chair^

Second Bedroom
Will rent this out and have some stuff to furnish with too.

  1. Ikea Bed + Mattress^
  2. Ikea Drawer Unit^
  3. Ikea Desks^
  4. Ikea Chair^

Bathrooms
Won’t need much here, perhaps some small storage. We will see as there’s a storage space outside.

Balcony
Sippin’ on filter coffee in the daytime and a brewski at night. Prolly get a bright red BBQ too. Charcoal grillin’.

  1. Table
  2. 2 Chairs

Whitegoods/Electronics
I’m gonna fly the flag for my girl here. I have been mightily impressed by the Samsung washer I’ve used for the last 4 years. Going strong despite heavy use trying to wash chef jackets relentlessly. On the other hand, the Whirlpool fridge ain’t doing that well. Koreans do it well. It’s good that we’re getting a gas stove, oven and dryer included.

  1. Phillips TV^
  2. Apple TV
  3. Breville Smart Grinder^
  4. Samsung Fridge
  5. Iron
  6. Samsung Washing Machine
  7. Mixer (I think Kitchenaid but I’m not 100%)
  8. Breville Kinetix Pro Blender
  9. Toaster
  10. 21″ iMac^
  11. 27″ iMac
  12. Maybe some nice speakers

Smaller Items
Basically this is down to my girl. She’s going to pick the best from Korea. We’ll add to this as we go along obviously.

  1. Ironing Board
  2. Dinnerware
  3. Cutlery
  4. Curtains?
  5. Bedsheets
  6. House Slippers
  7. Umbrella
  8. Small Boxes/Stationery
  9. Cushion covers
  10. Cups/Drinkware

Super excited and constantly budgeting and listmaking. Just threw down the deposit today too. Mad broke.

Alright, I’ve just been to the best Korean BBQ joint in Sydney. Kang Ho Dong 678 is actually a chain from Korea started by the comedian of the same name. Mr. 678’s latest venture is here in Sydney, located on the corner of Pitt and Goulburn in Haymarket just above Mr. B’s Hotel. Actually, the owner is a friend of an acquaintance of mine as well but I can unabashedly say that I’m completely unbiased.

I first heard about 678 from my colleague, a Korean dude who’s also an avid eater. He went there twice in a week so it’s gotta be good. My girlfriend heard it was pricey but good. I was keen to find out for myself.

The interior is actually kinda nice. Lovely high ceiling, nice wood booths, tables and chairs with big windows that would surely provide heaps of light in the daytime. Then you got the plentiful smoke suckers and these actually work really well. Honestly, I enjoy the smoke myself and don’t mind smelling of chargrilled meat at the end of a night but I guess most people prefer cologne. I also think smoke with grilled meat is part of the eating experience too but it’s a concession I’m willing to accept. I love the attention to detail here. Ssam lettuce is served on nice wooden trays and individually as well so everyone gets their own tray. The aluminium dishes are also of a higher, thicker walled variety than you’d commonly find.

We ordered 3 cuts of meat plus a Haemul Soondubu Jigae/Seafood Tofu Soup to share for 2. We got 8+ Rib Eye, 6+ Skirt and pork shoulder. But first to arrive were the ban chan/side dishes. We got some paechu kimchi (cabbage), dongchimi (cold radish soup), ojinguh jut(raw pickled squid), radish kimchi, sweet potato, lettuce salad and gyeran jjim (steamed eggs). The only minus was the gyeran jjim which went a little over and got a little browned on the bottom. (I have now been advised that this is actually more authentic) Flavour wise though, it was good and eggy. Everything else was a solid 7. The squid, in particular, was a highlight. It came with the cutest little glasslock container of seaweed to wrap with some rice. My dad would love this.

They then bring out glowing hot charcoal which looks really good. I mention this and my girlfriend thinks it’s just standard fare in Korea. Well we’re in Sydney honey, it tends to be shit here. I get interrupted next by the ribeye.

What caught me was how cleanly cut the steak was. It also came as a nice slab of meat, lovely marbling even if I’m not 100% that it’s 8+. Clearly they either have a nice sharp slicer or a good sharp knife with a good butcher. You could be fooled into thinking that the slab they give you is a piece of plastic is how clean it was prepped. They do the meat in house by the way so it ought to be good. The steak seared off nicely. I tried to take a peek and moved the vacuum smoke sucker which let loose a bit of smoke. The staff immediately came over, stopped me and made sure nothing escaped! I found this a little intrusive but I suppose ultimately, it kept the restaurant devoid of smoke. As for the meat… Well, it’s fucking good. The flavour is light and superbly clean. No funk, no smell. Texture was sublime at medium rare and still great even at medium well when it was left on the grill for a bit. All you need is the beautiful quality salt they give you.

Now the skirt. I generally prefer secondary cuts nowadays and was trying to look for something aside from the usual ribs/ribeye/scotchfillet at K BBQs. Thankfully, the specials had inside skirt. Fantastic. I love inside skirt cos it’s got that wonderfully bloody, meaty, beefy flavour and the way they scored the meat went a fair way to making it tender too. Overall, I prefer the skirt but the ribeye is a nice luxury and well worth it.

By the time I got to the pork, I was almost all done. I could only do 2 out of 7 pieces of the shoulder. The meat was again nice and fresh, no smell and really clean tasting. The serve came with a generous amount of fat, which gets better on the charcoal. The shoulder tends to be a little tougher than other cuts but I like the flavour of their pork and with the fat, it’s just great.

The seafood tofu soup was also excellent. The stock isn’t spectacular except for the addition of crab, which gives a brilliant sweet flavour. The serve is also generous and comes with clams, zucchini, mushrooms, onion and some pork belly as well as big hunks of whole tofu not broken up plus a beautiful egg that still had the yolk runny when I ate it. Sublime. The crab itself isn’t meaty or anything but I still find the serve great value.

Across the board, 678 ticked all the right boxes for me. For the quality of meat, the generosity and the standard of stuff aside from the meat, it’s a superb meal and really good value to flavour ratio. We ended up spending 90+ including 3 bottles of OB lager but I reckon 50-60+ is a more normal figure. This works out to about 30ish pax. I pay about the same when I smash it at various different K BBQs across the city and outside it.

One of the specials was a 9+ cut of beef that went for $39. Considering their portion to be around 150-180g, it is again, generous. You can get 9+ at like fucking Rockpool Bar & Grill or something like that but that’s a 3 figure steak. For the money, you really can’t find a better steak in Sydney, albeit one you cut up with tongs and a pair of scissors. If you compare against the various Strathfield, Homebush, Chatswood, Eastwood, Campsie etc K BBQ joints, this one is the clear winner in terms of quality meat.

This is straight into my favourites. That’s how fucking good it is. Keen to try the marinated meats and also the lunch specials.

You don’t think about rice much. That’s unless you work in a sushi restaurant perhaps. Most people don’t even eat rice in the world. The ones who do tend to be labelled AZN but in truth, plenty non AZNs eat rice too. I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot recently. Partly because Rene Redzepi made an unusual dessert from it in the last edition of Cook It Raw. Partly because my housemate decided to start making moonshine/makgeolli (he’s Singaporean to boot, not Korean). Partly because I work in a Japanese restaurant.

When I was young, I used to eat a lotta rice. I used to get double serves all the time. My grandma called me rice bucket/fan tong. I think all AZN kids might be like this regardless of whether you’re Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Malay, Thai or whatever… We eat a lotta rice. I didn’t hate eating the blandness at all. I often found that I needed it to eat some delicious sauce or whatever. It was the perfect complement.

I was also spoiled, growing up in Singapore. I got good rice. Whether it was the intricate stock steamed perfection of Chicken Rice or the saffron looseness of briyani or perfectly loose and golden egg coated fried rice, it was always good. Of course, I also had the experience of cooking rice as a child, putting my hand into the pot to feel for the water to rice ratio. If I screwed it up, I’d get a soggy mess or maybe crunchy cereal.

As I got older, my family’s tastes gravitated toward Japanese short or medium grain rice. We liked the firmer bite and the texture. When I moved to Sydney, the rice of choice now, is restricted to Korean medium grain that is cooked in a Cuckoo, a talking rice cooker which is also a pressure cooker. This is often mixed with black rice or brown rice, which I abhor. I like it whiter than white. I’m totes rice-ist in this respect. Coloured rice I label as grains, not rice. Cuckoo is amazing. Not only does it sing out when the rice is ready, it also hisses a load of steam to let you know it’s cooked well under pressure. This pressure is what enables the rice to typically come out bloody perfect. So much so that everytime I eat rice out of a Cuckoo at home, I’m extolling it’s virtues. Koreans make the best home rice cookers.

Pressure is hugely important in cooking rice. Jiro Ono knows this to be true. In the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, they are shown to cook the rice with a great weight on the lid of the pot. This produces the pressure necessary to cook the rice well. It’s totally neglected in a lot of older rice cookers and how most people cook rice. The Koreans and Japanese know what’s up when it comes to applying pressure to rice.

Working in a Japanese restaurant, I’m up close and personal with washing rice. We use two types of rice. One for sushi and one for plain white rice. The sushi rice is spectacular. It’s up there with the best I’ve had, in Japan/Korea/China/Singapore etc. It’s maybe not the best of the best but we’re getting into a rarefied atmosphere. The plain rice is less so. I like to eat the sushi rice before and after the vinegar is mixed in. This tells you if it’s been soaked well, washed well and cooked with the right amount of water. I think our cooker lacks great pressure but the rice itself does the trick.

I also learned about Uncle Ben’s, a brand of parboiled rice that always comes out perfect and is totally idiot proof. The texture is just superb because they do most of the work for you. I had this at a Turkish/kebab type joint in Surry Hills. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have that fresh cooked flavour, in fact, it’s got a bit of a metallic twang to it that’s not noticeable if you’re eating it with smelly chargrilled goat.

One of my best rice experiences came at Thai Pothong, in Newtown. Thai’s use fragrant jasmine rice and at most joints, they can come up with soft, soggy stuff that’s not all that great. Actually, in general, I’d rate South East Asia as poorer skilled in cooking rice versus the Koreans and Japanese. So when I had jasmine rice that was firm but fluffy and delicious as is, it was awesome.

When it comes to basmati though, I’m not a big fan. I think of basmati as a different beast, something that’s got great flavour but something that also needs flavour. It’s not blandly tasty like long/medium/short grains. It’s a skinny, starchless anomaly of it’s own. Again, I just see it as different to what I typically think of as rice. I’m sure my perspective would be totally different were I born in South Asia. Still, personal preference or not, I think rice that’s fluffy, firm and texturally intriguing with a seeming blandness is absolute perfection. Basmati, for me, has a one note kinda of texture and has too much flavour going on which detracts so it needs to be paired with something. I like rice you can eat by itself without any accompaniments and yet be completely enthralled by. This last part is the most difficult to achieve but it’s what I aspire.

Recently, I had the opportunity to further appreciate the wonder that is well cooked rice. I ate at a food court in an outer Sydney suburb and it was a revelation in how to make a rice smudge. I was taught to eat all the grains or I’d get pimples/African kids would haunt my dreams… I couldn’t. It was despicable. A crime. It taught me that some people just don’t care at all about the simple things but these very things are actually the most important.

Respect rice.

This guy is a legend. Alan Waddell has sinced passed at the sprightly age of 94 but from the age of 88 took on a walking tour of Sydney’s suburbs, documenting a lot of it in photographs that show his humour and also an eye for the unusual. This is real street photography from an amateur but with real heart and passion, a truly inspirational soul.

Here’s his website. The organization is pretty curious and sorts out things like Australia’s tribute to antarctica through it’s street names and hidden “secrets” in various burbs. For most every photo, there’s also a funny little tagline.

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Chairman Mao is bomb. I’m just gonna rip this one right out. It’s bomb. You can stop reading and just go fucking eat it because you’re missing out if you don’t. I’ve eaten here a grand total of once and I’m convinced this is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney. It’s bomb.

Perhaps it’s the newness to me. I haven’t actually had any Hunanese food before, which I’m ashamed to say. Yet, the novelty factor only has a marginal effect on me raving about this place. I ate with two friends and if 3 chefs all agree that everything is superb, from cold starter to wok fried wonders and a hearty bowl of soup, it has to merit some degree of praise regardless of the hyperbole I seem to be spitting. The cooking is rock solid and the seasoning is superb and importantly, the flavours are well balanced. Yes some of the dishes are spicy and some are even intentionally mad spicy but they’re balanced and they work. Hunanese food is famous for it’s spiciness and in this sense has some similarity to Szechuan food. However, it’s got much more varied flavour profiles and features smoking, curing and pickling quite extensively. I dunno if Chairman Mao is truly authentic or if it’s even any good to a true blood Hunanese but I can tell you that 3 food obsessed chefs were pretty happy folk after eating here. I don’t even give a damn if it’s not considered good because it is to me.

We start off with a coupla cold starters. Actually no, we start off with a complimentary side of pickles, which look almost the same as the pickles I’ve had before in a Szechuan restaurant. I’m hoping it’s different and it is. The vinegar kick is sharp but personally I actually preferred the Szechuan style one. I felt the same way with the Pig’s Ears, which come braised and then cooled before getting sliced and tossed with sesame, garlic, and chilli. I also prefer the Szechuan version which is a sliced terrine of ears served with a dipping sauce of garlic, chilli and black vinegar. That’s the only two things where I thought “good but not great”. Everything else just changed the game.

Black fungus is dressed simply with ginger, garlic, sesame and chilli oil and it’s spectacular in it’s clarity and balance. It’s kinda similar to Szechuan style cold dishes but it’s evident it is a beast entirely unto itself. Whilst we chow down on the starters, we gape at other tables and the stuff just looked awesome. The braised pork was something we considered but because we could envision what it’d be like, we didn’t get it.

Anyway, the second round arrives and I start scooping the rice. My companions start picking at the first dish and after one bite, they each utter a moan of bewilderment. I have to say that the two picky ass bastards I eat with don’t normally ooh and ahh over just anything. I hurry and grab my chopsticks to grab a piece of Pig Intestine stir fried with chilli. It’s sublime. The intestines are first braised probably in 5 spice soy before getting cut up and stir fried until some of the outer layers get crisped up, which is insane against the tender, near creamy texture of the interior. The heat from the chilli amps it up and you get the freshness of some shallots plus ginger and garlic and a shitload of oil. It’s an incredible flavour/texture blast that few dishes in this world have. Pity that intestines are an acquired taste and not to mention the oil spill that’s left behind. Mere mortals would tremble at this but the brave would be rewarded well.

Next, I try the Smoked Pork stir fried with Smoked Bamboo Shoots, which is another exercise in balance. The salty, Chinese style bacon pork belly slices are strong on their own but when paired with the bland but crunchy bamboo shoots, it’s like twice as good. The contrasting textures and balance of flavour and heat from dried chillies seem to create an endless dramatic shift in flavour. I just don’t wanna stop. But oh, here comes the Cucumber stir fried with Perilla, our requisite vegetable dish. I never knew we used perilla in Chinese cuisine much but here it takes the humble cucumber to the next level. Dressed with a spicy, salty, sour sauce, the coolness of the cucumber still comes through and it’s the perilla that takes it further. It’s a touch oily but that’s the cuisine and I for one, enjoy it immensely.

We finish off with a bowl of soup. It was something I had little expectation for because in Sydney, soups in Chinese restaurants tend to be water thickened with cornstarch. Instead of that piss, we get a bowl of handmade pork mince balls floating in a massive bowl of stock that is flecked with shredded pickled mustard greens and hidden beneath, a generous serve of broad beans. Again, the combination is superb. Sweet, fresh broad beans always match well with pork but the mustard greens twist you in a way you didn’t think would be good but it is. Mad respect for the meatballs alone, which would make any grandmother, Italian, Chinese or otherwise, immensely happy.

Chairman Mao is comforting, interesting, exciting food and it’s generous to boot. We end up spending $40 a head but I think $20-30 would get most well satisfied. I’d go back just for the pork intestines alone and already am planning another trip. If this place wasn’t Chinese, it’d have a hat. It deserves one in my opinion. I get that people maybe scared of the spice and maybe baulk at the oil but they clearly have no problems eating salads tossed in vinaigrette etc. The food here is the same. The oily, spicy, salty richness of the flavour is always cut with vinegars and lightened with vegetables. It’s a true balancing act that’s daring enough to push you in multiple directions and still have you together. The food critics all say this place is sick. Why they don’t think it deserves more than the 13.5/20 it got in 2012 I have no clue. This is real food for real food lovers, not a smoosh of jizz puree on a piece of slate with a boil in a bag piece of protein and flowers on top with a waiter that points to the $234 bottle of vin de pays. I know people have known about this place since 2009 but it deserves so much more attention than it got.

Totally going back for the Chairman Mao’s Red Braised Pork Belly, the Stir Fried Green Chillies with Pork Crackling and Beer Duck. Call in to book a table. Do it now.

Chairman Mao
189 Anzac Parade, Kensington NSW 2033
Tel: 9697 9189

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How sick is that Lucky Beer bottle by the way? Went back a few days later and had:

Pickled Gailan – as a free appetizer. oh man. my fave chinese greens made even better. would pay for this.
Beer Braised Duck – well seasoned but dry as all hell. they’re human after all.
Smoked Pork + 5 Spice Tofu – just as good with 5 spice tofu, the “bacon” is lovely and smoky.
Stir Fried Eggplant + Green Chilli – quite spicy but not headblowing as I had imagined. so good that I refer to this when I stir fry anything. superbly seasoned and so simple. My housemate tried some I brought home cold from the fridge and she couldn’t stop swearing about how good it was.

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Reuben Hills is a coffee roastery as well as a cafe that does great food in a converted house on Albion Street in Surry Hills. It’s one of those by now not so new places that I never get to until it’s not cool anymore. Except Reuben Hills is still cool. It’s so achingly hip, you feel like you need to hit up the dollar store for that fake beard and tattoo sticker first. The space itself is quite nice. The front entrance itself doesn’t look like much but then you enter and it’s a long space. Dark timber slatted ceiling reinforced black beams with all exposed concrete and brick everything and the neu-industrial vibe that’s sweeping the city of Sydney is what’s going on in here. Behind the long counter is 1/3 kitchen, 2/3 coffee bar and then it opens up into the bright back, which would’ve been the garage in times past. A communal table  adorned with the most massively obstrusive vase with tree inside (this dude kept flicking a branch away from his toussled mane) sits in front of a wall lit up with different coloured flourescent tubes that looks like James Clar on a budget. The job Herbert & Mason did is a lot better than my pithy excuse of a description. This house is to Sydney what a nice loft is in New York. It’s fucking perfection.

You feel like you’re in that guy’s house. The guy who knows the band members and not just the bands, the guy who’s into all the cool stuff. It’s not really super pretentious but it definitely gives off distinctly trendy vibes. A custom La Marzocco Mistral is what does the business and acts as the centrepiece for the entire operation. The owners used to run The Source in Mosman and they roast the coffee upstairs. They moved to Surry Hills because, well who doesn’t? Me, it seems.

1st trip. We get a table bang in the middle. My girl forgets her phone on the cab. I have to get out to get the cabbie back. This costs me $10 and my mood is dour. Thankfully, the menu comes to the rescue and I quickly forget. I order a Not Reuben ($16) sandwich, which is rye bread (Brasserie) plus wagyu brisket, coleslaw, Manchego and horseradish cream plus a salted caramel milkshake ($8.50). My girl gets the Dirty Bird ($15), which is brioche, grilled chicken, tomatillo salsa, pickles, cheese and chipotle aioli plus a flat white ($4). Yes you read correctly, salted caramel milkshake motherfuckers. The trend flavour for 2012/13. Incidentally, you really ought to smash some Salted Caramel White Choc at Gelato Messina if you haven’t.

But back to the Hills. They’re alive with the sounds of hip-hop. The water comes in milk bottles printed with vintage graphics. A shelf is filled with cutlery, plates, Tasmanian Leatherwood honey (the ones with the brilliant flower adorned cans), sriracha and more. It’s a carefully curated selection of condiments that look as good as they taste. The plates we get are like from some hipster bitch’s tea party collection, vintage as fuck. My sandwich comes in a red plastic basket lined with greaseproof. The place feels like a diner, only too cool for school. I actually hate the plates because they’re light as fuck and you struggle trying to cut stuff because the plate keeps moving.

You can see the influence of South American cuisine on the food. The guys source a good bit of coffee from Central/South America, so I suppose it makes sense to combine the two, even if it does seems a little of the moment. The Dirty Bird is a good sandwich. The pickles it contains appear to be the same coleslaw as in my Not Reuben. I suppose it’s called that because it’s not a Reuben sandwich, which is rye, corned beef, cheese, russian dressing and sauerkraut but it’s sort of um similar? It’s not. It’s good. The slaw is strongly pungent of cloves and spices. I bit into some. This is not super cool but the flavour of the slaw is great. The brisket is well done and everything goes well together. This shit isn’t on some next level blow your mind tip, it’s just sambos done justice. The milkshake is pretty bomb. It sort of split after a while but that’s the nature of the game I guess.

2nd trip. We get breakfast on Easter Saturday. It’s a half hour wait for a table with a lotta people just waiting outside. I worried I wouldn’t get a feed after a starving morning but it we just perched ourselves on a steel beam that served as a waiting bench. We get seated at the window this time, looking out at babies and people strolling past. I opt for the Baleada with Eggs, Queso Fresco, & Black Beans ($11). My girl tosses between Scramble on Rye ($12) with Heirloom Tomatoes ($5) & Berkshire Ham ($6) or a Chorizo Grits. She went for the former which I think is pretty damn expensive. $12 for a dry style of scramble sitting on one slice of rye toast although my girl thought she saw someone else getting something really creamy (coulda just been another dish). This was a probably near creamless scramble with brunoise onions running through it, it’s tasty but it’s hard to justify the money. The toast is sufficient whilst the sides are good, albeit pricey again. $5 gets you a quarter of a punnet of lightly cooked premium organic mixed variety cherry tomatoes and they taste great. $6 gets you a couple thick slices of lightly grilled ham, which is good but not great. My baleada is pretty good though. Soft tortilla with the same scramble as on the scramble, just a half portion worth plus a generous amount of heavily spiced black beans and a good helping of cheese is pretty tasty.

Drinks wise, we went with a strong flat ($4.5) and an Espresso & White Choc Milkshake ($8.50) which is good but doesn’t beat the Salted Caramel. I also got a cold pour over ($5). The coffee is a clear standout for me. They offer filter, espresso and cold pour over and a variety of beans plus they also sell whole beans etc. My espresso has a great, distinct fruitiness which I thought set it apart from most other coffee joints in the city. Their house blend appears to be what most other places would offer as a special instead. It’s a style of espresso (slightly lighter roast, brighter flavours) I think is a lot more common in Melbourne. The pour over came in a sake jug with froth on top to keep it cold I presume. But they also give you a regular sized mug so the tendency will be to pour it all out in one shot anyway. It’s good though, blackberry/blackcurrant brightness and quite refreshing.

I’m very attracted to the menu. I think it’s pretty extensive feeling and it’s not a poached eggs only kinda joint. It also tends to bigger, richer flavours, which is what I’m into as well. I’m keen to keep going back to try their Baked Eggs, Fried Chicken and their Dogg’s Breakfast, which is an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel, which perhaps is dedicated to Nate Dogg? I also count 2 fuckings on the menu. One for the fried chicken and one for the pour over. Plus one cray for the affogato. It’s clear they are earnest in their vernacular.

Is it worth the hype? Yes. I think this is how you make a cool spot, with good food, good coffee and a great vibe. More than anything, this is the sort of place I wish I opened.

Alright, 3rd trip in like a week? I must like this place maybe. I had the Really fucking great Fried Chicken with chilli in a basket ($16) and the girl had the Soft Baked Eggs with Jamon, Spinach, Ranchero & Rye ($17) plus a Root Beer Float ($8.50) to down it all. First, let’s get it out of the way, 8 and a 1/2 is a lot for a scoop of ice cream and root beer but I like it with fried chicken. The chicken comes in a basket with a spicy mayo plus a salsa. Both the condiments are good but the swearing on the menu isn’t justified. I mean, as a self professed fried chicken expert, this is good but not great. The chicken is deboned leg meat and crumbed in a spiced crumb that has got fennel and anise and shit in it. It’s not particularly crispy and is a touch too salty. The flesh is tender and overall, it’s nice but it doesn’t come close to beating out Korean Fried Chicken, like the mind shatteringly crispy shit I had in Yongsan. But it ain’t fair to compare with real masters of chicken frying. The baked eggs, I’m happy to report, are excellent. It arrives in a earthen bowl, with two slices of Brasserie rye sourdough. The eggs are nice and soft, sitting on a bed of well spiced salsa plus you get spinach and uncooked jamon, which is very good in my book. Slopping up a bit of everything with the bread to mop it up is great. This is how you do a good baked eggs, which is a big trend in Sydney cafes for a while now but a lot of places do a piss poor version.

Again, I don’t know exactly why but I just feel the need to stress that nothing on the menu is mind blowingly good. It’s mostly consistent 7s all round with a few 7.5s here or there. I personally think that breakfast here is great with excellent coffee and either the baleadas or baked eggs being superb choices. The sambos are good and most of the stuff is reasonably priced but if I have to suggest one must, it’s the salted caramel milkshake, which maybe gets an 8.

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Pepe Saya is an artisanal butter churner located in Tempe, NSW. I first found the butter on store shelves a few years ago and it’s only now that I decided to pick it up and give it a go. Mostly, I was just put off by the high price. At my local store, it was $9.99 for a 225gm block. This was comparable to the Lescure next to it and about 4 or 5 times that of Allowrie, my typical choice. Combine that with the artisanal spruiking and I was worried that this was some fakeass rich hipster shit. Well, it is, in a sense, it is a premium product but it’s a good one for sure. Is it worth the money?

I bought a block of salted butter to try. So far, I’ve had it on it’s own as well as slathered over some sourdough. The salt is 50% Olsson’s Pacific Dairy Salt and 50% Murray River Pink. I would say that the seasoning isn’t particularly strong, probably just a little under, which is good because people usually pop more on anyway. They are a pretty small operation that used to only use cream from Country Valley Dairy in Picton, NSW but are now forced to also source cream from Allansford in Victoria. The stuff from Country Valley is from free roaming grass fed cows if that makes any difference to you. It’s one of the things that gives the butter a golden hue as well as affecting the flavour. I suppose if your nose pointed high enough, you’d taste the terroir of Picton in every creamy daub.

And creamy it fucking is. I have tried a fair few butters. Up til this point, I can safely say that the expensive poncey French shit (Echirre, Lescure, Isigne Ste Mere etc) was the best shit, albeit way overpriced. Pepe’s is just better and at a slightly lower price range. Mind you, I still have to compare it with other premium Australian butters. The reason why I think Pepe’s is better is because it’s cheaper than the imported French mass produced shit but it’s also local and fresh. Keyword fresh because the French stuff suffers from a freeze and a plane ride and more time getting to your store shelf.

I might not be French or poncey but my tastebuds know good shit when they come into contact with it. As a child, my mother gave me slivers of cold butter whenever she was prepping anything with butter. When people see me eating cold butter, they’re usually aghast. I like a lovely thin slice (like chocolate thickness) of butter on top of hot toast drizzled with honey. I can eat butter by itself just as easily. Pepe’s is clearly good enough to eat by itself. The flavour is distinct because it is cultured butter and the texture divine. Straight from the fridge overnight, it’s easily scraped up by my knife and spreads easily too. This is a sure sign that there’s a high fat content in the butter, which contributes to a luxurious mouthfeel and brilliant flavour.

Is it 5 times better than cheap butter? Well, that’s not a fair comparison because in the first place, cheap “butter” isn’t really proper butter. Pepe’s butter is actually butter. You can watch a few videos on their processes and how they do it all by hand, from the churning to the squeezing of buttermilk to the forming and packaging. Personally, I’d definitely use this as a great table butter on bread etc. When it comes to cooking, I’m more likely to use something else but on the rare occasion, I think perhaps as a finish on something special it might be worth wasting. On bread, there is no comparison, it’s heaps better, maybe not 5 times but it is better. If you eat butter by itself like me, it’s more than 5 times better.

Edit* Ok so I just pilfered some Brasserie Ciabatta, which I like to eat toasted with some cold butter and a drizzle of honey on the top. I also prefer to use salted butter in this case because I’m a sucker for sweet/savoury. I just want to say that after a fortnight in my kimchi filled fridged, it has taken on some wonkiness but that’s just the nature of butter. However, it’s ability to absorb fridge odours notwithstanding, Pepe Saya’s butter has taken my honey drizzled, cold buttered hot toast to the next level; simply because it has a higher fat content than regular butter and morphs ever so much more luxuriously on the palate. Sitting on the hot toast, the previously firm (not hard) butter has sort of coalesced into this amorphous beast waiting to melt in your mouth that resists creeping into the crevices of the spongey bed it sits on. Mmm.

Other than butter (unsalted, salted, truffled…) Pepe also does buttermilk (duh), mascarpone and creme fraiche plus desserts under the Homemade Fine Foods label. You can find Pepe Saya in Thomas Dux as well as a few good grocers. Or alternatively, you can eat it at Reuben Hills, Kitchen By Mike, Rockpool, Sepia and many other fine place.

Incidentally, that channel on vimeo, Food Wine Dine, is chockful of goodies, from Sonoma Sourdough to Chat Thai to Glenloth Game.

Bronte is a beach suburb on the Eastside of Sydney. What this means is that you’ll find a lot of cashed up white people with bad tans and melanoma, insane house prices, a beautiful beach and great cafes. Bronte’s beach doesn’t have the finest, whitest sand and it’s a pretty small patch really. Here, the water’s edge rides up a relatively steep incline and the surf and tide can get a little stronger than your average Sydney beach. This is one reason why a good few surfers come down here. It isn’t maybe the best place for surfing though since it is pretty small and the waves aren’t the most well known. If you’d like, you can always jump into the public baths, which are connected to the ocean by way of a staircase. The scenery is pretty gorgeous. Houses sit atop cliffs that surround the beach on both sides and the water is so damn beautiful. If you think Sydney beach, Bronte has to be one of those iconic ones.

I can easily imagine wasting away, roasting into an even shade of vermillion with a stubby in my hand. But then you can also visit the nearby cemetery, which is full of interesting looking graves and shit and isn’t the least bit creepy. Also nearby are a few good foodie havens. In my opinion, this is a great suburb to introduce to a visitor. It’s way better than going to Bondi for sure. One of the best walks in Sydney is the Coogee to Bondi one and Bronte is smack in the middle of the two. If I was doing this bloody walk, I’d stop in Bronte for breakfast or lunch for sure.

Three Blue Ducks has made a lot of press by now and has been hit up by every surfer/hipster/foodie in Sydney. I’ve been here a couple times now myself and I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t like it the first time. I think I had a baked egg dish that was underseasoned but I’ll put it down to the fact that they were bloody busy at 11:30 in between services. Technically, they do brekkie until 11 but after waiting for half an hour, they let us order it anyway. It took a good while to arrive even after the table after us got their food. I was somehow determined to change my impressions though.

The kitchen is run by three guys who met by way of Tetsuya’s, although the name of the cafe only references one of them. But this is why they have a bit of rep; because they have 3 qualified chefs who once worked in an iconic Sydney restaurant. As a dude who has works in kitchens and knows a fair few people who do the same, I know that just because you worked at here or there doesn’t mean you can cook worth a damn. Not to disparage the trio of Darren Robertson, Shannon Debreceny and Mark LaBrooy because they can clearly cook. This is evidenced by my second trip there. Also, they got a chef’s hat in 2012. They’re a bloody cafe!

This time, we went on a Tuesday afternoon. The place wasn’t packed to shit with prams in your face and babies screaming. They’d expanded into next door and gone are the tables in the laneway. Still remaining though is the cafe garden where they grow their own shit and instead of the pop up dinners they had when they started, they now run a full on lunch as well as a more refined mod oz dinner menu. One thing I’m glad to see again is the Single Origin Roasters coffee. If you can get in quality stuff from SOR and you appreciate it, you’ll probably try to do well by it. The food, I have to say, impressed me. I ordered a Quinoa and Fig Bircher ($14). My girl got the Avocado Toast ($16) with sides of bacon and poached eggs. The avo toast was well seasoned and just bang up delicious. It’s simple but when you have good ingredients, that’s all you need. One well charred slice of Iggy’s sourdough is topped with sliced avo and roast tomatoes with a herb salad. This by itself is great but I think throwing in the eggs ($3 for 2) and bacon ($3) just makes it better. My “bircher” wasn’t what I was expecting. It came like a composed salad of individual components and looked amazing. Instead of a bowl of mush, you get a visual and textural feast. In the middle was the quinoa, possibly steeped in poaching liqour. Next to it yoghurt, fresh berries, toasted coconut, the peaches and toasted peanuts adding a nutty toasty depth. On top of it all, one caramelized fig cut in two. The presentation was unconventional and you could see and taste and feel every ingredient. It was a revelation for me, I think. It also tasted super. I think I’m just gonna stick with that really. Except I saw this dude order the rather boring sounding Bacon and Egg Roll ($14). Of course, he cleverly added a side of black sausage ($6) to give it some next level shimmy. It looked awesome. Then again, if you have Iggy’s incredible bread, you automatically win. Back for more even though I don’t live in the neighbourhood. Actually I think my girl wants to move here and pointed out a few fancy houses to make her point.

Three Blue Ducks
141-143 MacPherson Street Bronte Closed Mondays, Dinner Bookings Only Wed – Sat

But yeah, Iggy’s bread. The dude we’re talking about is Igor Ivanovic. He came to Sydney via Boston though he was born in Yugoslavia. There are two small bakeries, both in Bronte. The one that’s easier to access is the one next to Three Blue Ducks, on MacPherson Street. There’s also a little bit more to see there, with the cemetery nearby and the main drag there too. Bronte Road Bistro is down a bit. I’ll just say this straight up. Iggy’s bread is the best I’ve had in Sydney. Bar none. I really like Sonoma’s Miche but Iggy’s is #1. Why? Let’s talk about their signature Country Sourdough. First up, it’s baked in the size of a massive wheel. It’s huge and you can get a whole, half or quarter. A quarter is round about the size of a regular loaf elsewhere, give or take a bit. It costs a little over $3. It doesn’t require the least bit of oil, butter or salt. It is scrumptious as is and I can sit in front of my computer and smash one quarter if I had one, even at a semi stale stage. The crust is crispy, dark and thin. It’s incredible. You have to see the cross section to appreciate the beauty of the thing. The texture of the insides are soft, moist, springy and flavourful. I’ve had a good amount of great bread down under but nothing comes close to Iggy’s flavour. This is bread that just tastes amazing. It’s arguably good enough that I’d recommend anyone visiting Sydney to go down to Bronte just for the bread here. Iggy’s also do bread sticks and a variety of other stuff. There’s an American bakery of the same name that I think is actually the one that Iggy himself started and left back in 2008. Sydney is kowtowing to the man for doing so.

But don’t take it from me about the bread. Take it from places like Three Blue Ducks or people like Colin Fassnidge. In the past, Iggy’s had a smaller production and struggled to keep up with demand so they had to be a little picky with who they supplied to but nowadays it’s a little more readily available. The shops still do sell out very quickly of all the good stuff though and long queues are common. This is what it means to have good shit. If you can’t dice with the possibility of not getting your daily bread, you can cry and miss out. I, for one, would just accept my fate and try again. It’s that bloody good and it’s only bread.

Iggy’s Bread Of The World
49 Belgrave Street Bronte Tues-Sun 7am – sold out
or
145d MacPherson Street Bronte Tues-Fri 7.30am – sold out Sat – Sun 8am – sold out

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So I got these free tickets to Taste Of Sydney, a restaurant, food and wine festival held annually. This year, it was at Centennial Park and the people exhibiting included Porteno, Sake, 4 In Hand, Claude’s, Biota, Three Blue Ducks, Efendy and many many more. I just listed the places that appealed to me most. Normally, you pay like $30 or more for entry and exchange cash or credit for the non refundable festival currency, crowns. You get a card that you can use to spend your crowns on merch, food and drink. Apparently, you’re only supposed to be able to change in multiples of 10 but I heard this girl doing multiples of 2 for this lady later on in the evening. There’s plenty of people walking around selling crowns and also at least 2 large booths so there’s no long queues and whatnot.

The festival opens for lunch and dinner and starts tonight til Sunday lunch. Most restaurants offer anywhere from 2 to 4 dishes, with most costing around $6-12 although there are a few “icon” dishes that run past the $20 mark. At the end of the night, we’d dropped $120 for 2 including 1 beer, 1 glass of Pimm’s, a bottle of water and a good amount of food. I was full and I eat a lot. My girlfriend is contemplating if she ought to vomit at this point because she went back for seconds.

Let’s start off with the best shit. Porteno easily had the best stall. They had a bloody American style smoker there filled with chorizo, beef brisket and cheese, of all things. We ordered one of each. The chorizo ($6) is the same as what you’d get at the restaurant. You get 2 small chunks and it comes with chimmichurri but man is it good. The forcemeat just falls apart with the most loose texture in your mouth and the flavour’s brilliant, especially with the tart salsa. The cheese ($8) is a little meh but it’s stretchy and quite delicious if a little small. The brisket ($12) is great and super value. Smokey, flavoursome and served with a fantastic coleslaw and a bright BBQ sauce, it’s one of the best things to get at the festival. The great thing about Porteno is that they serve a lot of rich, hearty and straight up delish shit but they counter the richness with good acidic dressings and salsas. Case in point being their “icon” dish of veal sweetbreads with salsa criolla ($18) that had corn, onions and peppers in it. Bit pricey but if you love veal sweetbreads like me, it’s great. Rich and super oily but then you get the sweetcorn and the acid breaking it down for you. I just liked that they basically did this festival like it should be done, properly and not like some other guys who came bare bones-ish with kinda paltry offerings. Of course, the guys from Porteno have recently been doing Big Day Out as well so maybe they’re just more into it.

I also really enjoyed Biota Dining. They did a Croquette of Crayfish with Paleta and Garden Onions ($10) from their own backyard. 3 nicely fried little drums come on top of this white shit (yoghurt? cheese? cream?) I have no idea about (paleta) that goes really well with it. This dish was so good, my girl had to get it again. Myself, I think MoVida has the best croquettes down under but Biota’s are pretty good too. They also served Spatchcock with Black Garlic Farro, Garden Sage and Bush Lemons ($12). Half a little birdey sitting on top of a nicely seasoned mound of farro is good value I think. The flavour of the black garlic doesn’t really come through but if you put the lemon, poultry and farro together, it is superb. Dessert was a little Strawberry Sorbet Cone with Wild Strawberries and Bronze Fennel ($6). What they did was stuff the cone with some small chunks of tart berries mixed with a little bit of fennel tops and then some sorbet then more berries and fennel on top with these flat meringue wafers. I think for the money, it’s a great option. The sorbet tastes fresh and redolent of good strawberries and the combination of berries and fennel produces a curious mangoey flavour. I think I’m gonna steal that and serve berries, fennel and mango. The meringue wafers offered a bit of sweetness and bite.

4 In Hand had a suckling pig on a spit. I only tried their dessert because I was full up on the savouries. They did an entree of Mussels with Chorizo and Prosciutto Broth ($10), a Suckling Pig with Coleslaw and Hot Sauce ($12) and a White Choc Ice Cream Sandwich ($6). The pork looked, like Porteno’s brisket to be an excellent choice, particularly if you scored some crackling. The dessert though was bang on brilliant for the money. You get a generously sized rectangle of caramelized white choc ice cream covered with a pile of spiced crumble and it’s just great. So great I had 2.

Claude’s did a Braised Pork Cheek and Black Fungus Relish Roll ($6), Confit Ocean Trout, Saltbush, Anchovy Dashi ($12), Lemon Curd with Muscvado Crumb & Coffee Meringue ($6) plus their restaurant menu Twice Baked Cheese Souffle ($22). We shared one roll, which I enjoyed although it could have done with some chilli or maybe a slice of cucumber or some acid. I like the fatty pork and the umami of the relish but it needed some bazingbang. I noticed a few leftover plates filled with just the pork cheek. Clearly some people don’t like pork fat. I’ll never understand people. I didn’t try anything else but I did watch Chui Lee Luk do a demo of the souffle, which is a classic dish that I’d enjoyed previously albeit not at Claude’s. It’s a bechamel based souffle that you bake once and then rebake with a mound of grated cheese and cream and when that cheese and cream gratinates, it’s just divine. When she popped the souffle out the oven, you could smell the gruyere filling the air. Chui looked nervous and uncomfortable with a mic dangling off her face and people snapping photos and shit whilst she had to negotiate whisking with a pesky host in her ear. She’s definitely the type that prefers to stay out of the limelight you can tell. SG Represent!

Efendy is a place that I’ve wanted to hit up for a while now. They had a charcoal grill or two on with assorted meats filling the air with a pungent smoke. They also offered a special of Sheep Head with Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes Tandir ($14) that sounded awesome, as did the Lamb Shoulder ($6) and the Beef Kebap ($12).

Sake, Ananas and The Cut also did a large tent. The former offering some Aburi Salmon Nigiri (bit pricey @ $10)and Tonkatsu Lettuce Cups ($8) but I got mine for free hahaha! Ananas did a pretty classic tasting Coq au Vin ($10) and their Salted Caramel Eclair ($6) is great but I’ve had it before hehe.

Elsewhere, you had a whole host of tents, like Rekordelig Cider or Pimm’s that had a red and white striped theme. There was also a beer tent that had a few boutique breweries including The Rocks Brewing Company as well as Red Oak plus many more. A wine tent sponsored by Plumm Wine Glasses had Matt Skinner doing a talk. The Woods had an incredibly pricey $36 dish of marron on offer and a nonexistent queue strangely. There was a cocktail bar, a Malaysian tent, chocolates, wines from everywhere, pastries and breads, a Tasmania Pavilion, a Western Australian Pavilion (damn I missed out trying on some Manjimup truffles…), Peter Kuruvita on the grill, an hourly demo show featuring the chefs exhibiting and this Sustainable Living corner tucked away, out of sight, out of mind.

All in all, if you dropped the $30 for the entry fee plus you ate a lot of food and drank a lot of wine, Taste isn’t cheap. However, it’s a good bit of fun and it’s one of the few chances you get to get a little taste of what a few of the top restaurants in Sydney right now are throwing down. Whilst it’s an outdoor event and the exhibitors don’t have access to the same kitchens and equipment they have like in their restaurants, most of the shit I tried was more than worthy. Just be a little open minded that stuff isn’t going to blow your mind or served at perfect temperatures and in massive portions. It’s about quality and in truth, quantity if you so choose. That said, I’m a bit of a fanboy when it comes to these well known Sydney restaurants and it just happened that this year, a good chunk of the places I actually really really like.

It’s like a Laneway for food really. My kinda trip.

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