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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.

Shinjuku

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
in Tokyo.

1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043

About Life Coffee Brewers, Tokyo
About Life Coffee Brewers, Tokyo
About Life Coffee Brewers, Tokyo
About Life Coffee Brewers, Tokyo
About Life Coffee Brewers, Tokyo

Pablo Cheesecake
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

Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya
Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya
Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya
Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya
Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya
Pablo Cheesecake, Shibuya

Mikkeller Tokyo
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

Mikkeller Tokyo
Mikkeller Tokyo
Mikkeller Tokyo

Kappabashi
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

Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo

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.

Yakitori, Tokyo
Yakitori, Tokyo
Yakitori, Tokyo
Yakitori, Tokyo
Yakitori, Tokyo
Kappabashi, Tokyo
Tokyo
Shiba
Tokyo
Tokyo

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

Mita Seimen Jo, Shinjuku
Mita Seimen Jo, Shinjuku
Mita Seimen Jo, Shinjuku

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

Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff
Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff
Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff
Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff
Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff
Tokyo
Tokyo
Vendo
Tokyo
Tokyo
Shiba
Tokyo

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

The World's Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
The World's Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
The World's Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
The World's Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
The World's Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream

Craftheads

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

Craftheads, Shibuya
Craftheads, Shibuya
Craftheads, Shibuya
Craftheads, Shibuya
Craftheads, Shibuya
Craftheads, Shibuya

Shimokitazawa
If you need to walk off all that you ate while on Holidays, Shimokitazawa is the perfect neighbourhood for it.

Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa

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

The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee
Shinjuku
Tokyo
Tokyo

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

Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Dominique Ansel Bakery

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

Happy Pudding Mahakala
Happy Pudding Mahakala
Happy Pudding Mahakala

Siretoco Donuts
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.
aut
JR Ueno Station 3F, 7-1-1 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Siretoco Donuts

Tenkaippin
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

Tenkaippin
Tenkaippin
Shinjuku Hotel
Yoyogi Park

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

Floresta Nature Doughnuts
Floresta Nature Doughnuts
Tokyo

Authentic Burger
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

Authentic Burger
Authentic Burger
Authentic Burger
Authentic Burger

Toritake
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

Toritake
Toritake
Toritake
Toritake
Shibuya Crossing
Tokyo
Tokyo

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

Uchimura Egyptian Deli Shop
Uchimura Egyptian Deli Shop
Uchimura Egyptian Deli Shop
Uchimura Egyptian Deli Shop
Nakameguro



The above, plus more, is an excerpt from Holiday Notes: Notes From a Holiday.

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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.

Holiday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong KongHoliday Notes: Six Nights in Hong Kong

Some recent work for the new Madame Shanghai in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

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Madame Shanghai
Madame Shanghai

Digging through the vault: here are some photos of Hakiki Turkish Ice Cream in Enmore from a little while ago.

Hakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, EnmoreHakiki, Enmore

I’ve written about my friends Grumpy Donuts before so there’s no need to get all gushy about Sydney’s best donuts again: but you should most definitely visit them at their sweet Camperdown store.

Grumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy DonutsGrumpy Donuts

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Shooting at a half-finished venue days before opening, here’s some recent work for Sydney’s newest viking destination Mjølner.

MjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolnerMjolner

Flaounes Day

Assembly line like old times, construction like ravioli, kinda. Cheese, sultanas and two types of dough by experienced hands, the sort of hands who’ve seen more than I ever will in this lifetime, a crown of sesame seeds. These are flaounes, a traditional Cypriot bread prepared every Easter. A tablecloth is drawn over a temporary trundle where the accumulation begins: batch after batch after batch.

Lunch follows: barbecued things over coals, haloumi, olives pickled by papou, melitzanes glyko steeped by yiayia. These are the things you won’t find in any restaurant, only the homes of incredible immigrants. These small acts of tradition flown and sailed over seas are what make Australia so good.

You can’t undo years of taking your culture for granted, but there’s no time like the present to show appreciation.

FlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounesFlaounes

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It seems every 1.5 years I visit Melbourne and write about Melbourne – it’s so great, I’m so sad, life is pain. My life is garbage, Melbourne is good. My emotions are incorrect, my skills are subpar, and Melbourne is good. I’m trapped in a cage and Melbourne is good. Here’s Exhibit A and Exhibit B. But 1.5 years is a significant amount of time to grow and has evaporated most of those feelings of Melbourne existing as a hypothetical space of what I could have been.

So my guide to enjoying Melbourne in 2016 is simple: Melbourne is so nice, but this time the grass is greener on my side.

Good places to eat and be: QT Hotel Melbourne, Higher Ground, Biggie Smalls, Bad Frankie, Top Paddock, Tivoli Road Bakery, Stagger Lee’s, Brighton Beach, Marion Wine, Lune Croissanterie, Four Pillars Distillery, Beechworth Bakery, Yarra Valley Dairy, Manchester Press.

MelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourneMelbourne

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Some new poised work on marble (!!) for the excellent Bouche on Bridge and The Cellar here in Sydney.

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