A Sydney bar feature for issue #70 of the great Imbibe Magazine. Featured below: The Baxter Inn, Bulletin Place, Grifter Brewing Co., Lobo Plantation, Continental Deli and This Must Be The Place.
A Sydney bar feature for issue #70 of the great Imbibe Magazine. Featured below: The Baxter Inn, Bulletin Place, Grifter Brewing Co., Lobo Plantation, Continental Deli and This Must Be The Place.
If you’re not from Sydney, let me let you in on a little secret: if there’s a night time market, we’ll be there. Night Noodle Markets. The markets at Carriageworks where they set everything on fire. The Sydney Fish Market 36 Hour Seafood Marathon. WE LOVE IT. You can’t hold us back from any event in Sydney which actually feels alive after dark. No punching on, just punching prawns.
The Sydney Fish Market marathon is unrivaled in experience in that it’s so alien seeing something so familiar, but beneath the veil of midnight. It’s like going to a bakery at 11pm, or hitting up a kebab shop for brunch. Instead of harsh sun, everything glows green.
I was expecting a frantically busy experience, but I soon remembered it’s always frantic at the Sydney Fish Market. Inside it looked as usual albeit a little more stocked: hurried but capable staff, obscene mounds of prawns, enthusiastic customers. Dewy tinsel dangling above the dank floors pointing downwards at buckets of whole fish. The clammy queue for aburi scallops and midnight mangos. The silent fishing boats and everybody struggling to park amongst the more eager of us dragging stacked eskies of good stuff home.
There were no grand haul plans from me, I only visited for a late, late dinner and to buy some strawberries for a Christmas pavlova: but it’s worth visiting if only to watch people enjoying midnight oysters below the glow of the crammed ANZAC Bridge that gets them there.
Hello lovelies! How did December catch up with us so quickly? With the Christmas season amongst us I thought it only appropriate to share one of my festive recipes with you all!
Ok, ok, ok, ok, I need this, I need to feel good about myself and my life, I need to grow my paltry number of followers, I gotta make my blog big and presence known, I need influencer status, I want free stuff, I want fame by way of minimal effort, I want to flourish online not offline, I want to feel adored for all that I choose to share, I need this, I need this…
How many times have you been sweating in the kitchen preparing Christmas lunch for your family and friends? Cheese platter to arrange? Prawns to buy and ham to glaze? Dressing a pavlova for dessert? It’s so hard, and not everybody can cook with the efficiency of Curtis Stone!
Am I sounding like a relatable housewife enough?? Cooking-is-hard-but-I-totally-get-it-here’s-a-fun-and-simple-solution? I am here to help these plebs with my amazing food. Bow down, peasants. The world needs this content and the world needs me. The algorithm can’t stop me, NOTHING can stop me.
I’ve come up with an amazing, time-saving recipe incorporating all the things we love about Christmas – it’s a fabulous 3-in-1 assembly-only dish using readily available products from the nearest supermarket. Easy to prepare with a real, rustic flair. An absolute celebration of the greatest time of year. Yummy!
I am awesome, this is totally happening, they are going to throw so many free stand mixers at me for this. Airlines will be all over my dick. Guest spots, magazine features, book deals. I’ll have more #spon opportunities and free dinners than ANYBODY ahahahah ahhhhh I’m going to be tagging the shit out of big brands for big coin the moment I hit ‘publish’. My new life begins now.
Christmas Celebration Pavlova AKA Prawn Pavlova
2x pavlova bases
2x 600ml cream
Thousand Island dressing
200g shaved ham
1/2 kilo prawns, cooked and unpeeled
1 cup of cherries, stem on
400g tasty cheese, cubed
2 sticks of cabanossi
1 can passionfruit pulp
1. Whip your cream until soft peaks form. Remove half and gently fold through a few generous squirts of Thousand Island dressing to create a gorgeous ripple effect.
2. Place one pavlova base on your cake stand. In rustic spoonfuls, dollop the rippled cream around the base and into the middle.
3. Layer folded slices of shaved ham over the cream.
4. Add the other pavlova base and layer the remaining half of the cream.
5. In generous handfuls, adorn the cake with your prawns. The more antennae, the better! Then add the cherries – their long stems mimic the peachy prawn antennae and intertwine like gorgeous branches – followed by the cubes of cheese.
6. In a squishy flourish, dress the prawns with more Thousand Island dressing. Gently push a long cabanossi stick into the pavlova base, then drizzle over passionfruit pulp with a teaspoon.
Oh fuck oh shit oh jeez it’s toppling over oh no it’s all falling nnNNNNOOOOOO
7. Candy canes! Throw them at the pavlova. From a distance, I don’t care. Same with any other festive candy you have in the cupboard, like these Lindt balls. Yes, so shiny.
Thank goodness, it’s festive again. I’m a genius ha ha ha ha oh noo it’s still crumbling ahhHHH SHIII-
8. Take a, uhh, big stick of uncut cheese and just really shove it in there. ADD MORE CABANOSSI BECAUSE IT’S RED, RED FOR CHRISTMAS.
It’s still good, it’s still good, it’s still good: you are NOT a failure, you are popular and likeable with ‘grammable content, you are popular and likeable with ‘grammable content…
9. Sprinkle with icing sugar! It’s snowing! I know we live in Australia but make it SNOW because IT’S WHAT THEY DO IN THE MAGAZINES
10. Let the disgusting cavity of the thing consume you and allow the social media likes, no matter how feeble, fuel you for yet another day. Uh, I mean…
10. Spoon generous serves in lovely bowls for all your guests to enjoy ensuring there’s a bit of everything in each portion.
I am sick. I need help.
If you enjoy the recipe, don’t forget to like and share! You can also check out my Instagram video for this post!
I HATE MY LIFE, I DON’T WANT TO BE A NOBODY ANYMORE
Beigel Bake is a 24 hour Jewish bakery on Brick Lane and has been around since 1977. They serve bagels and pastries round the clock, the crowd changing in character depending on the time – Shoreditch locals in the early evening, clubbers a little later on and taxi drivers in the early morning hours. This is a light that never goes out.
Their menu is extensive and affordable – jam donuts, Eccles cakes, croissants, apple turnovers, a myriad of slices, cakes and muffins. Buttery slabs and scrolls of glazed dough are forced up against the display like abstract brickwork, loaves and loaves line the shelves behind the counter and bagels are boiled in the steamy kitchen out the back (they churn out over 700 per day). We could all draw comparisons to our local bakery with their frog cakes and ham and cheese rolls, but Beigel Bake offers something far more fantastical.
The hot salt beef bagel.
Low and slow cooking has slipped into modern restaurant haiku, a pox on those who actually do it well as bandwagoning establishments dilute the pool of well-tended-to meat with subpar offerings flaunting faux-Texan typefaces. But not here. At Beigel Bake large briskets are boiled for hours until they emerge dripping wet and are then thrown onto the pass and are carved, no, hacked apart by the gentle stroke of a large knife – the hot salt beef surrunders like butter. The beef is then generously tossed into a sliced bagel boasting an out of this world bread-to-meat ratio with mustard (pickles optional), and you are thrust outside, or onto the cold steel bar behind you, as you’re left to your own devices with the most succulent sandwich that exists on this godforsaken planet. All this for £3.70.
The wonderous meat chopping is visible from the storefront, and friends and I gathered watching the majesty unfolding as if we were basking before one of the many wonders of the world. This was after we’d already eaten. At 8pm people were spilling outside brandishing either bagels or cakes beneath the sign that reads “HOT BEIGELS ALL NIGHT”.
Three doors down sits Beigel Shop (or, “the yellow one”). I’m not sure if their rivalry is friendly or at comical levels of a mortal enemy situation unfolding for years, but sadly for them Beigel Bake reigns supreme on the popularity front.
A perfect evening was spent as four friends devoured the softest meat. It was carnage. I want more Hot Beigel Nights.
159 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB
No guide is ever definitive, but most are extremely helpful – here are some of my favourite places I visited while on holiday in Tokyo recently, on assignment for nobody but myself and my face. Food things, booze things, cute things, etc.
About Life Coffee Brewers
I had big plans to become acquainted with the specialty coffee shops of Tokyo but I simply could not move past About Life Coffee Brewers each and every morning.
Their use of space defines smart design: About Life is essentially a housed bar with two windows two order and a single bench to lean and loiter upon with your coffee of choice (I strongly recommend their cold brew on a warm day). Working against the tide of Starbucks culture should be easy with coffee and a collaborative spirit as sensational as this. Wataru greeted me almost every day and was patient and kind in correcting my waning Japanese – by the end of the trip my coffee order for two was fluent.
Too many places on my unofficial coffee tour list remained unchecked as I boarded my final flight home, but no regrets. About Life Coffee Brewers is the coolest spot craft
1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043
How good can one cheesecake be? Good enough for three grown adults to huddle in a corner in busy Shibuya scarfing an entire cake of warm, barely set cheese goo at lightning speed – the scrum of the shameless. Let the illuminated oozing cheesecake guide you to their store of traditional cheesecake offerings (“classic” or “rare” style) as well as matcha flavours. Join the queue and experience the happy production line from mixing, to baking, to glazing to branding. Witness the birth of beautiful cake, then end it on the curb, in the gutter, like my friends and I did – for an extra few yen they’ll throw in some plastic spoons for you.
This location has since closed
Yet another wonderful outpost of the Danish original – a little piece of Europe in the back streets of Shibuya complete with shiny floors and Keith Shore artwork.
2-19-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
This street in Tokyo (affectionately refered to as “Kitchen Town”) exists only for the procurement of kitchen utensils. In Japan’s case, the world of hospitality goods also blankets sampuru, or fake plastic food displays, those immaculate models of bowls of curry, crêpes dotted with piped whipped cream and plates of spaghetti so often found at the entrance of restaurants. You can buy all these things on Kappabashi Street, from rice cookers to noodle bowls, specialty coffee equipment to commercial deep fryers, but the fake food and their novel fridge magnet and key ring spinoffs are the main attraction here, at least for me.
Also, trolling a gaggle of burger experts online by taking a photo of and reviewing a fake plastic burger once I arrived home may have been the best money I’d ever spent.
Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0035
What if I told you this roadside, sunset yakitori around the corner from Kappabashi was incredible? What if I told you the husband of this sweet, elderly couple smacked his wife on the arse right after I took these photo? A tear-jerking experience all ’round.
Mita Seimen Jo
A place accidentally discovered many years ago by following flocks of salarymen inside immediately after a long flight: chewy tsukemen in sludgey broth was an unlikely remedy but you can’t argue with what the heart wants. I come here anytime I visit Tokyo.
1-13-3 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023
Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory
In the cutest corner of a leafy residential street of Shimokitazawa sits the Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff shop. Keep an eye out for the painted sign of three Totoros, acorns and mushrooms at the front as the quaint operation is easily mistaken for somebody’s home. The factory specialises in one thing: choux pastry shaped as adorable Totoros filled with a variety of seasonal flavours. The staff are as sweet as their offerings, and if a box of Totoros is purchased they’ll ensure the little guys are facing each other to avoid being lonely on your journey home. I can guarantee that, despite your best efforts to not be that guy, you’ll be squealing “kawaii!!!!” faster than you can say “I’ll take one of each” (or pointing to what you want with a stupid, slumped jaw).
5-3-1 Daita, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 150-0033
The World’s Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
Crisp, warm melon bread paired with cool, cool ice cream – it’s genius. This outlet was on the way to dinner, but its scent lingered half way down the street. Oblivious to what this product actually was I watched curiously as people took to the neighbouring alley with these mysterious cones and a straw. I joined the queue, I was annointed by the world’s second best freshly baked melon-pan ice cream, I blended into the alley crowd and was elated. More and more people (like myself 10 minutes ago) fixated by the bakery fragrance curiously stopped before the modest storefront and jumped in line. Circle of life. I ruined my dinner and it was so good. Oh yeah, the guy running the shop was an absolute blast.
1-15-9 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0041
Beautiful bar, vast selection of drinks: head down the staircase illuminated by blue fairly lights. While I wish it were easy for me to erase my first memory of Craftheads, witnessing a disastrous first date within earshot, the beers are rare and the menu, at time of visitation, is pork heavy. I’m a big fan.
1-13-10 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0041
If you need to walk off all that you ate while on Holidays, Shimokitazawa is the perfect neighbourhood for it.
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
Specialty coffee in a warehouse conversion setting with plenty of outdoor seating and broad window sills acting as tabletops. There are beans roasting up the back so expect excellent coffee as well as a selection of pastries and caffeinated desserts including espresso soft serve and condensed milk poured over coffee jelly.
5-17-13, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Home of the cronut, but honestly who cares. An extension of its New York bakery, the Omotesando outlet is home to cute Japan-only exclusive desserts including the Maneki Neki Religieuse – choux filled with yuzu and vanilla custard in the form of a happy kitty. I tried taking a dedicated photo of this sweet guy later in the day but I found its head had toppled off once the coveted treat had been unboxed. This is what happens when you hoard desserts rather than enjoying them ASAP.
5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Happy Pudding Mahakala
While shiba hunting in Nakameguro I saw four women in a quaint side street huddled together laughing and enjoying something from little jars with little spoons. Delayed curiosity spiked and 5 minutes later I backtracked to find Happy Pudding. It was the afternoon of my flight home and thankfully there was just enough change in my heaving-with-every-other-currency wallet for one luxurious Ureshii Purin, a pot of silky custard and bitter toffee. Top grade eggs are sourced from Hyogo Prefecture resulting in vibrant, luscious puddings from the eggs’ bright orange yolks. It’s a hole-in-the-wall space and you’re encouraged to take a seat on the few benches outside. It’s bloody pleasant as.
1-17-5 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Enormous, cakey donuts with a little hand-made panda head donut nestled inside. The store is located conveniently in Ueno JR station making these puffy donuts easy to collect and savour upon either arrival or departure of Tokyo. Too adorable to eat, too enticing not to eat. The Hokkaido milk and salted caramel flavours are excellent.
JR Ueno Station 3F, 7-1-1 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
A ramen chain, yes, but absolutely worth visiting – their broths are chicken bone based yet, despite the absence of all that pork collagen, remain creamy, thick and gravy like. If noodles aren’t your jam (get out), order a plate of gyoza and relish in the symphonic experience of 10 businessmen slurping around you. Recommended by my buddy Raff.
1F, 3-20-4 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0051
Floresta Nature Doughnuts
How strong is Japan’s cute donut game? Floresta Nature Doughnuts are organic and made using locally sourced ingredients – they even taste healthy and err on the not-so-sweet side. Best of all their decorative range are dressed in a variety of animals, but get in quick before they sell out. Next time that chicken donut will be mine.
1-56-18 Sasazuka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0073
In a world where burgers are exalted and where Facebook groups are created to rate, review, praise and destroy the humble sandwich and the vendors from which they are grilled, the stakes in the burger industry have never been higher, or more dangerous.
Within this terrible scenario, Authentic Burger has absolutely nothing to worry about. I ordered the peach burger (damn I love fruit in meat dishes, tagines and whatnot) – beef with cheese, tomato, lettuce and thinly sliced peach. Delicious. The beers are crafty, the chips crispy and the owners friendly – upon further research he apparently only closes shop for new year and the Fuji Rock Festival. This burger joint also sports the greatest informative illustration of our generation: keep an eye out for the crab’s instructions concerning the correct method of holding an Authentic Burger on the menu. You’ll understand when you see it.
2-18-19, Minato, Tokyo 107-0052
The alluring scent of grilled chicken had me drifting down the street à la an 80s-cartoon-character-to-window-sill-pie. Toritake is smoky, bustling, loud and conveniently located by Shibuya station. You have the option of either ordering takeaway via a small window, or inviting numerous friends inside to drink all of the beer, eat all of the grilled chicken bits with a side of eggplant and leek (with your choice of either tare/soy or shio/salt). Settle in and ride the bird.
1-6-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043
Uchimura Egyptian Deli Shop
Two years ago my travelling partner Steve discovered Uchimura Deli and upon his return home insisted he take me one day. “Wouldn’t it be nice to make a magazine of all these unexpected little places people discover when they go on holiday?”, I waffled optimistically, and here I am, face-to-face with InDesign. The idea of an Egyptian restaurant located in the middle of Tokyo is what propelled me to produce this entire book without having even visited yet.
Uchimura is owned by a married couple, one Japanese and one Egyptian. They’ve spent time living in Egypt and wanted to open a small takeaway shop to repurpose the family butcher. It evolved into the small restaurant it is today offering some very typical dishes: bamya, ful medames and of course legitimate falafel. The chef and owner seemed nervous when I dropped my heritage but there was no need: the food is fantastic and was prepared with all the flavour and care that makes an excellent home-cooked Arabic meal. For one of the better lunches in Tokyo this might just be one of the cheapest too. Thank you Uchimura for the inspiration.
3-2-11 Kitazawa Setagayaku, Tokyo 155-0031
The above, plus more, is an excerpt from Holiday Notes: Notes From a Holiday.
KFC Hotrods, Supercharged sauce, Flatbread Sliders. Welcome to the world of watered down food for white people, or by white people, I’m not sure. This is a swathe of offerings featuring names so perverse they could have been written into that falafel episode of The Simpsons. It’s flavour sauce!
Normally I eat this food to suffer the indignity; consider it a very mild eating disorder to keep my mind, body and spirit just a little too humble (or, to keep the ideal version of me at arm’s length so I am always yearning below a self-imposed glass ceiling because really I don’t deserve better please won’t you help me out of this hole help I can’t breathe help he-). But this time the name alone had turned me off, there was no intrigue, no willingness to make myself cry by way of food. But here we are. Content diem.
Flatbread Slider? I’m pretty sure that’s called a taco. Evidently their foray into Mexican street food didn’t work out for them last time. I can’t work out who their key demographic is with this. There’s a trend at home right now where vapid folk from high-income areas venture out to the suburbs for some ethnic cuisine. You know, the kind of meaningless people who refer to a 40 minute train trip as a mission, or the culturally-zilch twats who hail anything other than the norm of $24-brunch-and-million-dollar-Wes-Anderson-inspired-café-fitouts as unassuming (no no, I’m not talking about the people who actually dig sahlab and a legit zingy tabouli so please don’t @ me). This suite of bullshit is too shoddy, even for these hacks.
The Flatbread Sliders are presented as a manchildish bonbon, or a Molotov cocktail of mediocrity with “slider” written in a Speed-Racer-esque style font with zoomy lines and everything; all it’s missing are the garish Guy Fieri-ish flames. It lethargically unravels, like the saddest man on Earth carrying the weight of the universe limping out of bed early in the morning. Gaping misery. Sloppy, stiff. The flatbread: a thick, sour pancake; the barbecue sauce sweet like caramel; the chicken is as you’d expect, a bland protein propped up by whatever surrounds it. Iceberg lettuce scant, minimal. I didn’t receive the Supercharged sauce because the order was wrong, but I’m thankful to avoid a repeat of last time’s vinegar bomb. Seriously though, what’s with that name, do people need to feel empowered after tackling some very mild chili? How low does a personal Everest need to be? It’s the vanity sizing of the sauce world.
The temperature of the irregular and weird Hotrods is too tepid, barely inching above room temperature to the point the body braces for an absolute bacteria fest. I’ve never felt my tongue flinch before – I now know that 40 degree fast food is one hell of a stomach churner. In retrospect, the takeaway bag I received didn’t even hurts-so-good burn my hands. The Hotrods are void of KFC’s only redeeming quality: that hangover-friendly-yet-eventually-regrettable oily saltiness. I miss the nastiness. The spiciness tingles, and that’s as about as exciting as it gets, besides the impending anxiety of diarrhoea. Should I attempt a tactical vom? Should I cancel work tomorrow? I’d mention the aioli sauce but they’d forgotten that too.
Souvlaki, yakitori, satay, espetada, Hotrods. There’s a reason meat historically is enjoyed on sticks: it’s to grill that good good, charcoal permeating, smokiness, succulence. Not to parade around in a juvenile fistful. Not to be served lukewarm and insipid. I came across a change.org petition earlier today to bring back the KFC Hotrods: it had 25 supporters.
No matter where you are in the socioeconomic chain, KFC is always good. You’d be an idiot to think otherwise. In this case my advice is to stick with the classics. Ultimately the KFC Hotrods and Flatbread Sliders are for those old mates and old, old, distant-memory Facebook friends of ours who want to enjoy “street food”, but are too racist to go the whole hog, or bird, as it were. After eating this I feel just as miserable as night falls over this winter night and I wonder why I’ve done this to myself yet again. Hello darkness, my old friend. Please don’t shit yourself at work tomorrow.
How you can you possibly illustrate a city as complex as Hong Kong in just under a week? The bustle, the history, the enormity, the tangle of new and old? You can’t. That would be impossible.
But to walk around, enjoy things and learn – that’s doable.
Holiday Notes: Six Nights in Hong Kong is my second self-published travel book. The ups and downs of a short holiday in 200 pages, printed in Australia. Places to eat, things to see, good coffee, brief rantings about This Modern Life! Hand-numbered edition of 100. This book is available to purchase at my online store! Here’s a look inside.