At Least Once a Fortnight (Work-Related Bargain Meals™ Edition)

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…I get the $5 coffee+muffin special from the guys at The Canopy on Liverpool Street, who get my name wrong every time, every though I spell it for them (it’s not MOLEY, guys).  But the deal is great and the coffee is perfectly nice; made nicer by dipping into it the fresh, warm, buttery muffin (this one was dark chocolate and raisin).


…I stop at Sushi Hub at Railway Square on my walk to work for a more unusual but much healthier inarizushi breakfast (these were mixed mushroom, but usually I get plain – just $3 for 2 pieces!) which I then virtuously complement with green tea and a winter vitamin.  And a sun flare.


…I get my favourite vegie rice noodle soup (with chilli & extra soy sauce) from Wong Kee in Chambers Arcade. Packed with brocolli, cauliflower, snow peas, bean shoots, mushrooms and bok choi.  Sprinkled with fried shallots and squeezed with lemon.  $7!!  I could easily eat this for every meal, every day.


…I hike up the hill to Gelato Messina for a less sensible lunch: two scoops in a cup for $6, happily devoured by the time I’m back at the bottom of the hill.  This combo was a snazzy Mandarin Sorbet and the slightly odd Ginger Ninja - a not-exactly-salty-but-distinctly-savoury miso caramel & ginger gelato with gingerbread snaps.


…I try to make time for an after-work vino with friends, preferably at my new #1 favourite wine bar Fold on Liverpool Street, where this veritable feast of double brie and accoutrements costs a mere $12! (glass… or carafe… or bottle… of French rosé sold separately ☺)

Chur Burger, Albion Street

Every foodie type in Sydney has been to Chur Burger already, I know.  Now I have too!  And I loved it too!  Keeping in mind, though, I’m not a “burger person” – what I loved was the fish burger and the sweet potato fries. And the spotty grease-proof paper they serve the burgers on.  If you want a review of the regular burger and chips you’ll have to read one of the 8,000 other Sydney food blogs…

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Le menu.

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Gratuitous photo of milkshake.

My friend and I shared the famous salted caramel milkshake made with some fancy type of vanilla, but we couldn’t finish it – or rather, had we finished it, we would have been sick.   It was very nice though I can’t say I detected saltiness, just caramel sweetness.  Much sweetness.  So sweetness.  (Must be the fancy type of vanilla.)

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Chur burgers, bro!  With sweet potato fries.

My fish burger was incredible – everything about it was perfect. And I finally met a brioche bun I didn’t dislike – these ones were very buttery and yeasty and with some substance to them, not just overly sweet and foolishly fluffy. PROPER brioche. Nice sourcing, Chur.   The fish was perfectly cooked, everything was super generous and the balance of flavours, textures and components was just right.  I especially enjoyed the lightly pickled cucumber ribbons – so dainty!  My friend gave his pulled pork burger “a hipster 8/10″ for the meat, and we both loved the sweet potato fries which were a nice balance of crispy and soft, and strongly (in a good way) seasoned with lime. Sharing both the huge serving of fries and the milkshake was definitely the way to go.

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I will go back and eat this again very soon – bugger all their other types of burgers.  Also, see sun flare (#nofilter).

My pal and I had a great vantage spot against the back wall, and we particularly enjoyed watching the efficient kitchen production line.  The service was friendly and quick, though would it kill the staff to wear vaguely identifying clothing?  I’m not advocating for uniforms and “Hi my name is…” badges, but at least wear all black.  It’s most confusing when a random girl in a beanie suddenly appears at your side with food.  Plus you don’t know who to ask stuff, like where the elusive water jugs were.

We arrived at just before half twelve on a weekday, and Chur was about 2/3 full, and by the time we left at just after 1 o’clock there was a queue out the door (surely you’d just time your lunch better..?).  The crowd was an amusingly ill-fitting mix of the super cool local types, the ‘suits’ who work nearby (myself included, though not in a suit that day), and those who’d clearly read Time Out and wouldn’t otherwise be in Surry Hills.  A trio of middle-aged tourists in a lurid mixture of fleece zippered jackets and puffa vests sat opposite us: the antithesis of hipster instagrammers, but all dutifully taking photos of their food.  Like me.  And everyone else in the place.  Smartphones unite us forever

Chur Burger on Urbanspoon

A Pleasing Breakfast

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Still house-sitting and enjoying splendid surrounds – and gadgets!  I braved the Nespresso machine and made us each a very respectable long macchiato (using ‘ristretto’ pod thingies – I’m sure there’s a variety of different types).  I think I’m sold on these slick and super simple espresso machines!  No mess no fuss – and not a bad drop!

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Bacon and black kale, together as they should be.

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…and then popped on toasted ciabatta with hummous and a squeeze of lemon. Even better!

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The whippet was not invited to share the bacon, and sulked in the sun.

House-sitting Risotto (Courgette, Pine Nuts & Chilli)

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Love these plates.

While we wait patiently for our renovations to commence, we are doing a spot of luxurious weekend house-sitting.  Central heating!  A proper kitchen!  Nice pans!  A telly!  A sound-system!  (All our good things are in storage including my Le Creuset pans, the digital television, and anything to play music on. And now that the analogue signal is no more, the old telly in our un-renovated cottage is also functis. Cue copious amounts of News Radio for entertainment…)

There are Implied Rules of being a house guest as to what is appropriate to eat from your hosts’ pantry/fridge, and what is not.  Eating up fresh things left in the fridge is appropriate (leaving them to simply go off is not).  Eating their expensive specialty goods is not appropriate.  Using things up and not replacing them is not appropriate, but neither is buying inappropriate replacements, such as a loaf of supermarket sliced white when you’ve eaten all the artisan sourdough.  And opening a new jar of peanut butter despite there being an open one next to it on the shelf is just totally infuriating.

But I figured that using a few cups of rice would be appropriate, and I also figured our hosts would have Arborio rice as they’re currently on holiday in Italy.  So I came equipped with two courgettes, my fancy au naturale vegetable stock powder, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.  And a bottle of Kemeny’s Hidden Label 2006 Hunter Valley Semillon (NB: it’s the McWilliam’s Mt Pleasant Elizabeth).  A respectful perusal of the pantry found me Arborio rice (phew!) and also an onion (which I had forgotten to bring – double phew!) plus olive oil, seasoning, and dried chillies.  When I went to put the vino in the fridge I also found a jar of anchovies in oil, and decided I felt comfortable using two of them too.


Rice/stock quantities and method as per my standard failsafe risotto method here. I dry-toasted the pine nuts in the heavy frying pan first and set them to one side. The risotto base comprised a large brown onion, two small anchovies melted into the frypan, and vegetable stock. I added the two finely diced courgettes about halfway through cooking the rice. Finished with grated parmigiano reggiano, snipped dried chillies and toasted pinenuts.

Excellent with the sharp yet syrupy aged semillon.  Followed up with some Lindt Excellence ‘A Touch of Sea Salt’ dark chocolate, and an evening of playlists and DVDs in centrally-heated comfort.

I house-sitting.

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Awesome colourful plates too!

Sunday Night shouldn’t equal Shangri-La Bar + Sake Restaurant…

A dear friend of ours who has moved to Hong Kong was recently back in Sydney for a work trip, arriving on a Sunday evening. Our envisaged “early drink and dinner (we all have work tomorrow)” became a rather long haul (a) because our friend was delayed, and (b) because we were having too much fun.  Oh, and (c) because our friend’s company paid for a generous amount of it – or rather our friend generously used his travel allowance to cover all of us.  (The company was putting him up at the Shangri-La at the Rocks, so you get the gist of the potential generosity.)

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Feeling slightly giddy looking down…

Hubby and I had some pretty bubbles whilst we waited for our friend at the Shangri-La’s Blu Bar on the 36th floor.  We were sat at a glass counter, looking out floor-to-ceiling windows, directly above the motorway leading on to the Harbour Bridge.  We were in the ‘bar’ rather than the ‘lounge’ area: you have to put your name down with the door bitch hostess and wait for a seat to become free in the popular lounge area, as it has the more spectacular views to the north-east.  Waiting for a seat in a bar just to see a better side of the harbour in our own city sounded ridiculous.  Our north-west views were just fine – it was more interesting really, orienting ourselves to the harbour at night, absent the obvious landmark of the Harbour Bridge (we got the Anzac and Gladesville Bridges instead). (#innerwestisbest!)

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Then our friend arrived with the company card.

So… this is what $76 worth (!!!!!!!!) of cocktails looks like at the Shangri-La.  Note the fancy, heavy, crystal tumbler.  Note also, however, the absence of coasters, paper serviettes, nuts, water glasses.  This is because the service at the bar was practically non-existent.  If you are buying $76 worth of posh cocktails, you’d expect that (a) someone would clear away your empties first, (b) someone would bring said $76 worth of posh cocktails to your table, and (c) there might be some free nibbles involved.  Just a little bowl of peanuts would do.  And a paper serviette or coaster for my fancy, heavy, crystal tumbler.  And a glass of water that I don’t have to help myself to.

I will gladly put up with uncleared empties and carry my own drinks in a place where it costs $28 for a round, not one cocktail.  Meanwhile all pubs have ‘glassies’, and many have free nuts!  I did not expect that at the iconic bar (I don’t care if it wasn’t the lounge area, it’s all the same place) on the 36th floor of a five-star hotel, where the majority of the modest number of Sunday night patrons would be paying guests, I would find such a woeful lack of service.  Our friend whose company was footing our indulgence was suitably displeased and will be filling out the Customer Satisfaction Survey in the negative upon check-out.  Apparently Blu Bar won ‘Best Hotel Bar’ in the 2014 Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards Guide - obviously the reviewers didn’t visit on a Sunday evening in winter.

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My delicious Rosemary Old Fashion (sic, and $28!!!!!!) posing with my beloved old-fashioned Oroton.

It was an extremely tasty selection of expensive cocktails, and we had a lovely time catching up in our window spot.  But we felt bad for the visitors to Sydney and other paying guests of the hotel who would have had certain (not unreasonable) expectations of this posh place, would have been sorely disappointed, and could’ve saved their cash and gone to the rooftop bar at the Glenmore Hotel down the street instead if only they’d known about it!

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We had the Glenlivet Smash, the Vanilla Espresso Martini, and the Rosemary Old Fashion.  At those frightening prices.

But! In contrast to the cocktails, the beers and wines are averagely priced: my nice Yarrabank sparkling was $13, and pints of local Rocks Brewing Co beer were only $9. So you can go there and enjoy the stunning view (from whichever area!) and not even pretend to be interested in the scarier pages of the drinks list.   The staff clearly won’t care, and the lack of price-/star-/award-appropriate customer service won’t be such an issue!

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Shangri-La suite selfie with photo-bombing friend, then a picturesque stroll down through the Rocks to our old favourite Saké Restaurant.

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Kirinzan (Green Mountain) junmai nihonshu.  Edamame.  Smoked Hiramasa kingfish with nashi pear salsa and a confit yuzu (fusion WIN!)

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Dramatic ‘spider’ makizushi (fried soft shell crab, with no scrimping on the tobiko) and failsafe tuna & avocado. We ate a thousand other things but these deserved a special mention (plus I took a bunch of pictures at a previous visit here).

We finished with a round of Magnums (not a magnum – the company card wouldn’t stretch to that!) from the convenience store for a late pudding.  How did it come to be 11 o’clock at night on a Sunday…?  Damn.  ☺

Blu Bar on 36 on Urbanspoon