Monday, April 21, 2014

Belated Sydney Recap

This year's been pretty crazy so far. I've started a new job, which I'm enjoying heaps, been running around like crazy trying to keep up with the blog, and have had a few other little projects on the side to continue work on. I honestly feel like I'm so luckily at the moment that I come home exhausted, and still find myself with more to do, that my life is so bountiful with activity that I'm almost on that precipice of exploding. All in a good way though. 

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But who could have anticipated this last year at all? I remember towards the end of last year, I was getting anxious. I enjoyed helping my dad at work, but was worried I was not getting as much growth as I should be, and that I would never really find what it was I wanted to do (as we all do sometime in our 20's right?)

But sometimes you just need a moment in life that ends up being a catalyst, a doorway to many more things, when the brain switches on and figures out an action plan that's executed and that ends up being much more than you may ever anticipate. 

Last year in November, I spent about 5 days in Sydney, as the group of friends, my forum, who I see a few times a year, was going to all congregate in Australia for the first time in 3 years. We normally meet in Asia. 

I got in early and crashed with my friend in Potts Point, which was a much cuter area than I had ever anticipated (I mean, it does border Kings Cross…), and was also amazed about how short a drive it was to the airport…why is Melbourne's airport so far out?!

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After settling in for the afternoon and getting some admin sorted out, I ducked out to Ms G's with my friend Ben for a dinner catch up. Ms G's had been one of those places where I had been drooling over the online menu endlessly, and may have even considered making a trip up just to visit.

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I was not disappointed, with delightful cocktails and those lamb ribs, where the meat just slipped cleanly off the bone. Those lamb ribs that are sticky, sweet and all things nice. Heaven.

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I also finally got to have that dessert, the 'Stoner's Delight 2.0', which I somehow managed to eat all myself. Considering it consists of a doughnut ice-cream, peanut butter, raspberry jam, candied bacon, potato chips, mars bars slice and banana fritter…it all comes out rather elegantly plated and looking a lot fancier than the name might imply (won't lie, was kind of expecting a mountain of danger to be popped down in front of me). 

Not to be missed, is all I can say!

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The next morning, I picked up my Thai friend Andrew from the airport, and we made our way down to the Bird and Bear Boathouse for a little morning coffee and treat. It was so cute, even on an overcast morning, just looking out over the water brought a sense of peace. I don't know where they get their almond croissants from, but they are delicious!

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Although I offered beaches to my friend, I was most intrigued when he said he wanted to walk through the gardens, as in Thailand, they're a bit of a scarce, whilst beaches are found a plenty. So our afternoon was spent getting lost in the botanical gardens, and doing the touristy rounds of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Even in a place one knows, there's such a nice freedom to allowing yourself to be surprised and amazed, and look around through the eyes of a tourist. 

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Lunch that day was at the Fish Shop (original name much?) where the fish serves were a little on the light side, but fully delicious. Sydney oysters did not disappoint either. 

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I might have also loved the chalk for the tables that you could draw all over on, kind of go a bit crazy with that kind of stuff!

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The next day we were blessed with sunny weather, so after picking up another friend from the airport (this one was from Vietnam), we made our way to Bondi to breathe in the ocean and wiggle our toes into the sand. I'm always amazed at how beautiful Bondi actually is every time I see it, as if I expect it to be less beautiful now that I have seen it before, but the white sand and deepest of ceruleans always melts my heart. 

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That night, after being verbally abused about my driving skills, we had dinner at Cafe Sydney, which I had been very much looking forward to, with many raving reviews of the view and the food. Although the views were definitely outstanding and breathtaking with the lights twinkling away on the bridge, I couldn't help but feel I had a rather sub-par experience at Cafe Sydney. 

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Food was alright, but not great, with nothing that really wowed us, or left a statement, on the table. So much so, that we didn't bother to stay for dessert, which is most unusual of our group. Not only that, but I felt such a coldness in the service, no smile, no welcome, and a rather curt tone. And if you needed to flag someone down for water or to order more food? Good luck with that. 

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As most night's do in Sydney, instead of dessert at Cafe Sydney, we found ourselves at Gelato Messina where happiness quotients were once again met with 'Elvis the Fat Years' which had brioche, peanut butter and bananas or something else whimsically fantastic. Messina you do it so well. You keep doing you.

The following day, we attended a workshop called 'Inside 80' which looks into what your lifestyle pace is and whether that's in line with what you need to do in your day to day, and how you can make that work for you so that you're smarter and more efficient with your time. It was a great workshop, as it looked into balancing not just work, but tying in nutrition, wellbeing and external work factors as well and started turning the cogs of what I needed to do with myself to get myself into a different space in my life. Highly recommended for personal, or career development. 

It was time to get out of the city. We piled into two cars, with fresh flaky hot beef rolls from Bourke Street Bakery, and drove around 2 hours out into the Southern Highlands for a getaway, where my friend had booked a house for all of us to share while we were there.

Woah. Talk about soul restoring.

Off the main road, we had to take a short dirt road to the house, surrounded by trees and with hardly any phone reception anywhere (a big thing these days right?)

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The Seidler House greeted us in all it's glory, with it's soft curved lines, that extended over the hillside and rock formation it was built into and into the valley with an absolutely breath taking view. The Seidler House was the private home of Harry Seidler, one of Australia's architectural masters and one of the last houses he designed and built. A slice of modern and comfort in amongst the wilderness. Just how I like it personally. 

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It's the perfect getaway for a group of friends (we were a group of 6), with all the creature comforts of a modern kitchen and barbecue, generous swimming pool and very plush and comfortable beds. 

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And those sunsets. Oh my soul. 

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Dinner the first night in the Southern Highlands was at the nearby Eschalot, which was possibly the best meal we had that trip. Tucked away in a cute little house, there's a simple and relaxed charm to the place, despite the more formal indicators of the white tablecloth and smartly dressed waiters. 

I wish I could tell you everything we had, but as this visit was over 6 months ago, I'm a little lacking on information, but I can tell you the food was immaculately presented, rich in colours and flavours and on a whole, just divine. 

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A cucumber sorbet with a crisp of basil on sweetcorn was the perfect amuse bouche to whet the palate and kick the tastebuds into gear. 

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I was enamoured with the gorgeous vegetable medley, but the clear favourite was the scallops, which were so popular that a second serve was ordered, and the boys drove out the following night to try and get it take away (and were rejected). 

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Meat was exquisitely blushing, and those onion rings, those onion rings drove me mad. So much amazing. 

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Back at the house, the family sitting area comes with a fire place, in which I made amazing roaring fires (MacGyver over here), and we had intense, intense games of taboo that were fuelled with Clonakilla Shiraz's and whisky. Much yelling and verbal abuse was had, but all in all, a lot of fun. 

Our last full day was spent entirely at the house, where I woke up at 6am to sunlight squeezing in through the cracks between the blinds. 

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Creeping out of the bed and to the front of the house, I was then treated to the valley still sleeping, with it's foggy blanket drawn up over it. There's absolutely nothing like sitting on the edge of the balcony (if you can call it that), breathing in the cool crisp air and centring yourself, with the gentle sound of cows mooing in the background as the layers of fog slowly peel off and the green foliage stretches it's way up. 

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I could definitely have gotten used to this breakfast set up a lot more. 

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This group of friends that I travel to meet 4 times a year for our forum, are well dressed jet setters, with occasionally expensive tastes, but bring us all together in a house for a few nights and put together a few meals, with our own hands, and you lose all of that completely. It's amazing how bonding an experience cooking is, and also incredibly funny how many of the boys who professed to not being much good in the kitchen at all, so were all put on dishwasher duty instead. It's a grounding experience, and one that we all can't wait to repeat again and again. 

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In an environment like this, a playfulness is unleashed, an abandonment to what society thinks you should be like and an acceptance of being just you. Paper aeroplanes, Fred Astaire by San Cisco blaring at 9am as an alarm and new found nicknames for everyone (almost). 

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It was with much sadness that I left the next day, reluctant to leave this space that allowed for a brief disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world. 

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But how sad can you be when you turn down the wide and leafy entrance to Milton Park, with it's lush gardens and quaint English countryside feel. 

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You could have been transported. Who knows? 

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The Orangarie with it's high ceilings and pared back chateau atmosphere is a charming spot for lunch, serving up a concise but beautifully crafted menu. I drooled over my friend's onion soup, and swooned over buttery scallops with black pudding and a perfect serve of duck that was surprisingly light and almost refreshing. 

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After this trip, with my head reconnected with my being, I felt restored. It was just marvellous. And with my confidence restored that I could do what I needed to, opportunities started falling into place, the way it does in the movies. 


Who says good food and good company can't be life changing? 

155 Victoria Street
Potts Point, NSW

Ms.G's on Urbanspoon

1 Ithaca Road
Port Jackson, NSW 

Bird and Bear Boathouse on Urbanspoon

22 Challis Avenue
Potts Point, NSW

The Fish Shop on Urbanspoon

31 Alfred Street
Sydney, NSW

Cafe Sydney on Urbanspoon

24 Old Hume Highway
Berrima, NSW 2577

Eschalot on Urbanspoon

1 Horderns Road
Bowral, NSW, 2576

Hordern's on Urbanspoon