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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


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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

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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How do you successfully post a collection of images which are essentially B-Sides? Do I have the audacity to upload a wall, an assault, of decent photos which were never good enough for a book?

I never raved about it too much here, but I once or twice mentioned my Kickstarter project to print a self-published book Holiday Notes – a travel book and purely personal exercise. It reached its goal, it was printed, 98% of the books have been sold, and Broadsheet even wrote a nice thing. That’s first world success.

The opportunity to print was terrifying phenomenal, however my arrogant large-photos-are-essential! book design allowed space for very little photos per venue. What to do with all the off cuts, that aren’t even that terrible, they just didn’t suit this particular format? Throw them here. This disregards the entire purpose of the book, a tangible collection, but today I am a hypocrite and I just bloody love sharing content.

The below is linear, with omissions – basically these are the photos that made me upset to cut from the book. I hope they still make sense as some sort of photo essay around Hong Kong, Europe and Tokyo. And if you’re after more food photos and recommendations… buy the book.

Hong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongHong KongLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonLondonBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsBrusselsAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamAmsterdamManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaManarolaMadridMadridMadridMadridMadridMadridMadridMadridMadridCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyoTokyo

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I’ve spent a long time attempting to write about my experience at Noma – paragraphs of anecdotes and waffling about complex cooking of foraged leaves, essays concerning unruly restaurant expectations of people with TripAdvisor accounts – but I’m struggling. I need to be more succinct lest I sound like a drooling fan.

I could tell you about the new friends I made from Singapore out the front as we aided each other in selfie-by-proxies at the famous restaurant’s front door, I could wax lyrical of its unexpected location, an area undergoing intensive redevelopment, or perhaps mention the intimidation which poured over me as I approached the façade I had seen in so many photos before.

We were the first to walk into the restaurant, and – “hello! Welcome to Noma!”, greeted 30 or so waitstaff and chefs in waves of humility. I was stunned. The bants of the waitstaff are so strong, as are the chefs’ as they introduced the food after introducing themselves, asking how long we were staying in Copenhagen for and about our hometown (“did you pick we were Australian from our horrible accents?”, “well yes, but I also saw the country code of your phone number of your booking”).

The dishes continued to arrive – immaculate, curated nature – they graced the table, not with any flourish, but with a casual cool composure, and I gazed toward this mysterious food, then gazed out the window to a half-constructed bridge toward Nyhavn, then gazed back to my transcendent bowl, and sighed, not a resigned sigh, but an expression of appreciation and wonderment – sedated by an unescorted grilled onion served with a single wooden spoon, and like Kanye West feeling on a typeface, I’d never felt emotions like this.

Black garlic was pressed and shaped into gorgeous flowers, an entire wild duck, shot only the day before, is served whole, then trimmed and returned to the table beside berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year. An amalgam of esteem, humility, and flavours as stunning as new colours don’t exist anywhere else but here. Bold and kind: that’s Noma.

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Dishes pictured: Apples and lemon thyme, Øland wheat and rapeseed oil, cabbage leaves and white currants, grilled onion, grilled baby corn with cured egg yolk, new Danish potatoes and artichoke, sliced raw squid and kelp, monkfish liver, pumpkin, beechnuts and barley, vegetables flower, roasted wild duck, a dessert of Gammel Dansk and hazelnut oil, forest flavours with chocolate and egg liqueur.

The above is an excerpt (with additional photos) from my book Holiday Notes which is available to purchase here.

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The time has finally come this year to pack away the smarminess and speak with a thread of earnestness.

Throughout September and October I embarked on a little holiday across Hong Kong, Europe and Japan. Naturally my camera accompanied me and as a result I treated the trip somewhat as work, for better or for worse. I took a lot of photos in eight different cities (Sheung Wan, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cinque Terre, Madrid, Copenhagen, Tokyo).

Instead of posting them on Facebook, or making a 10-part blog post, I designed a 290 page book – and in true Gen Y-ish style I’m turning to Kickstarter for help!

holidaynotes-cover

Holiday Notes: Notes From a Holiday is a chronological book: part photo album, part eclectic travel guide, part blog post, part journal. It’s 290 pages of big photography with notes, captions, and the odd essay – a fun one-off publication for those who enjoy food and travel which doesn’t take itself too seriously. These are concise “reviews” (spoiler: I liked everything (almost)) and photo essays of over 70 things I ate and places I visited, with writing ranging from a couple of sentences to a few paragraphs. It’s for people who prefer photo after photo rather than walls and walls of text. From drunk food to fine food, from coffee bars to beer bars, I believe a nice cross-section has been covered. You won’t find the meaning of life here, it won’t provide enlightenment or eternal wisdom, but you will be able to track down the best panna cotta in Manarola. Yes, these are some cities from only one person’s perspective, but this is my point of difference. It’s the personal touch of exalting a neighbourhood restaurant on the other side of the world for offering traditional street food I’d never seen anywhere outside of family meals, how some rotisserie chicken made me feel complete again, or how I lost my shit at the famed Noma in Copenhagen. Needless to say it’s food heavy.

holidaynotes-spread-littlebao

holidaynotes-spread-noma

holidaynotes-spread-amsterdam

holidaynotes-spread-toma

holidaynotes-spread-shimo

If you’d like to pledge/pre-order a copy of this book, please visit the Kickstarter page where you’ll find far more information concerning this big fat vanity project. I shoot for restaurants and city guides, I write smarmy things here, so making something of my own seemed like a natural progression – self-publishing as a challenging personal project. If I don’t make my goal it will be a shame, but I’m proud of myself nonetheless for seeing a project through from start to finish.

Regardless, I would be really thankful if you had a spare minute to take a look. Thank you so much!!

holidaynotes-kickstarter

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I often wonder what life would be like if I moved to Melbourne. I suppose it would be the same business as in Sydney: instead of burgers bespoke doughnuts are the trend de jour and instead of Sydney Festival’s Higher Ground a plethora of locals are taking selfies on Carsten Höller’s Golden Mirror Carousel at the NGV. “Why won’t these people just live in the moment?!” I scream interally, as I snapchat every single friend the specifics of my hotel room and instagram the magnificent pool, a smattering of self-indulgence and hypocrisy spilling out of me.

Only an hour after arriving, a proposed detox from my usual routine, I exploded into stress personified at a South Melbourne cafe – shaking hands, unfathomably restless legs, all the trimmings – and why? Because I was seated at the bar, facing a wall, beneath an orange light, which we all know to be instagram suicide. Since when did life get so hard? And why did I find a bone in this sea bream sashimi? Why won’t that restaurant I like take reservations for dinner and where the hell is my lobster roll? I can’t download Tram Tracker because my iPhone storage is full. Oh My God.

Every morning it’s the same mild existential crisis, but today I’m alive in a different state, the promised land for the creative, yet somehow my mind isn’t soothed.

I’m not working yet I’ll take a camera and point it at literally everything out of habit, expecting each frame to appear in the viewfinder as a Frankie-worthy piece of art, instead it’s all meaningless symmetry, just like at home, a weird reminder of my first-world job I can’t seem to switch off from. The white sky mirrors my blandness, I’m taking photos of some nice looking succulents on the street for some reason.

I often wonder what life would be like if I moved to Melbourne, I’ll open a successful pop-up exploiting the street food of my ancestors, my photography and copywriting skills will be put to excellent use, online press will talk about me until I’m the latest trend and my UrbanSpoon percentage will plummet due to everyone’s unfairly high expectations. But it’s ok, because the streets are wide and the taxis are comically yellow. Haha, so cute. But realistically, instead of visiting neat small bars and wholesome eateries with kind friends I’d most likely mimic my Sydney self, at my worst falling into a comfortable and unfortunate routine of staring into the eternal splash screen of Menulog.com.au, wondering how I came to reach my lowest common denominator self once again, but at least this time there will be a different view outside of my window.

How To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne II
How To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne IIHow To Enjoy Melbourne II

Places of (food) interest: The Kettle Black, Supernormal, New Gold Mountain, Kokoro, Om Nom, Pop Up Scroll, Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Two Row

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A great job involving a road trip down the coast of Australia fell through last minute this week so instead of sitting at home disappointed I decided to embark on the first leg I had planned out anyway. Although bovine dense topography is abundant there are plenty of gems to be uncovered in NSW’s small coastal towns – however things close early and don’t always trade everyday (which I learnt the hard way), google might be your best friend when planning a drive a few hours south. This post only skims the surface.

The first stop, excluding a perverse intermission at a Gerringong lookout, is to Berry to visit the relentlessly instagrammed Famous Berry Doughnut Van. Entering venues with zero expectations is my default setting yet somehow this van in shining armour was everything I had hoped for and more. The warm pillowy fried-to-order donuts laced with cinnamon sugar were the epitome of what I loved about growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, the alluring scent of Donut King in a local Westfield is one of my earliest and fondest memories – except these were tremendously better with no Quake Shake in sight. The humble cinnamon donut has finally been elevated to what it should be. Mangos, cherries and plums being were sold by the box across the short fence next door.

Back into the car and after fields and paddocks of cows and corn I arrive at Greenwell Point, home of possibly Australia’s most awesome mate, Jim of Jim Wild’s Oyster Service, discovered via Sophie. I could dedicate an entire post to his operation: loud shirt, huge mo’ and shucking oysters to order by the dozen from his teal shack, insisting I take a photo with him, not of him. Order a plate and take a seat by the Crookhaven River with a view of the serene oyster farms. The area is incredible, the bone dry ruins of shellfish of the past lying in shackling buckets amongst faded machinery and creaky palettes. Turn left at the Greens Road fork to find him.

After some more cow spotting my next destination is HopDog Beerworks. At their brewery and cellar door  you can enjoy a chalice of their latest and freshest offerings amongst fermenters and barrel-ageing brews. The brewers are more than happy to provide live tasting notes, their paddle a very reasonable $9.

I drive toward Sydney via Berry again and visit Milkwood Bakery, the busiest cafe on the street, their shelves dotted with sourdough and quaint cakes. I grab a watermelon juice after feeling particularly, ah, “dehydrated” from my HopDog experience and head to The Berry Bottle Shop / Justin Lill Wines, a store heaving with tipples and highly rated rare beers, both international and local. Another purchase, another Queen Street stroll and sadly things are closing shop – a nearby deli denies the privilege of a sandwich for the day but Milkwood is on the way to the car and I find solace in a lamington to share, soft and generous with chocolate. I spy a traditional takeaway flaunting “GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS” amongst the usual Coca-Cola paraphernalia – a sad sign of the times. The drive home turns wet and I park at Bombo Beach for a break, watching surfers amongst a bleak horizon, my shoes becoming matted with damp sand as I awkwardly clomp by the water.

Getting peckish I detour to Bulli for a beachside burger but unfortunately, again, the “grills have been switched off” at only 5:30, another early closer in the area. Undeterred and by the power of the internet I lay internet eyes upon Bergie’s Fish Cafe in Thirroul (who knew UrbanSpoon would be useful for something?), a venue divided: a casual restaurant and takeaway, the former being closed for Valentines Day only reservations. Two burgers and some fantastic chips are ordered instead and are enjoyed amongst the facade of the takeaway area, barely avoiding the rain. The “gourmet” flour dusted bun reminds me of a simpler time before the Great Sydney Burger Wars of 2014-present.

Driving across the Sea Cliff Bridge is an undeniably breathtaking route back to Sydney, boasting one of the widest views of the edge of the country in NSW, but good luck trying to take photos from a fast moving car. In fact ditch the camera entirely and enjoy the day, embracing it with your eyes and everything, not through a lousy lens. Do as I say, not as I do.

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Good things happen when @australia invites the world’s biggest chefs and food influencers to a behemoth of a party.

An elaborate pop-up market graces a Tasmanian pier to showcase anything and everything Australia does so well – butter, venison, barra, raw milk cheese, mangos and wine. Salami is paraded and wattleseed crackers are celebrated. The MasterChef crew make a fashionably late appearance and some people beside me are losing their minds for a photo op with the holy trinity of judges.

Later that evening a coast-to-coast progressive evening begins with guests being ferried across the island. There’s lobster with kombu butter, green lipped abalone and enormous whole marron making the rounds as the sun sets amongst a dizzying smokey haze. The oysters are so good they taste exactly like the sea, if the sea was in heaven, and the wind is so chilly but nobody seems to mind because blankets and music and fire are abundant and plentiful. People are tumbling over one another at the pass of the make-shift outdoor kitchen for a glance of what’s to come, skewers and big cameras at the ready.

A stunning venue is sought out for the main meal, a culinary inappropriate one at that, but who cares – a custom dining table has been commissioned, a work of art in itself, to seat hundreds within the walls of MONA to enjoy a three-dish menu curated by Neil Perry, Peter Gilmore and Ben Shewry.

Afterwards dessert is served downstairs in nests in the trees and there’s cheese flowing and whisky flowing and really everybody is having the best time. There’s a lady dressed up as fairy floss singing opera in a bathtub of fairy floss. And I’ll agree my descriptive prose sounds like nothing more than a huge wank, but trying explain this sensory overload in words is like desperately trying to eat ice cream that’s melting through my fingers… it’s difficult and awkward, and makes me look stupid regardless of determination and real feels™.

But before all of this even happened, the nice people organising this mammoth occasion go and choose me – to report from the ground with my camera, a nobody being surrounded by the biggest somebodies in the business. Thanks a million, Australia, for the tremendous experience I’ll forever be grateful for – and while it’s usually uncouth to post event photos here I’m sure you’ll agree this is an experience worth plastering all over my corner of the internet. No words, just pictures. If you’re into gratuitous photos of lobsters, please keep scrolling.

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I arrived in Japan a month after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the catalyst of the devastating Fukushima meltdown. Despite advice from peripheral acquaintances to cancel my trip, life in Tokyo (superficially) seemed as normal as ever – operating transportation, bustling nightlife, all those good and normal things. That is until we ventured to Tsukiji market one weekend.

There was an apocalyptic feel at 9am. We were met with emptiness, a certain stillness of sparse warehouses and strewn palettes. We found a sign slathered to a grubby wall in red tape politely warning us: “Please stop visiting the market by the earthquake generation”. Our morning stroll felt increasingly intrusive as we meandered, confused, through deserted loading dock after deserted loading dock. Crates and turret trucks were poised neatly for the most part ready for a busy day of trade. A school of comical plastic tetraodontidae fish hung limp above locked roller doors – eerie to say the least. We eventually found a small pocket of stalls operating on the market’s outskirts running on skeleton staff but I could feel unrest in the air, even a sweet pug resting at my feet had the most solemn look in its eyes.

We eventually found somewhere to eat, and did so gravely (with occasional banter regarding how wonderful our breakfast was like the filthy foodies we are), and left the hushed Tsukiji market, not having experienced the bustling wonder of people and produce, but instead a rare scene at a standstill I struggle to express in words.

Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji Market

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