DOING IT DOWN UNDER: EATING MY GLOBE IN SYDNEY
DAY ONE: SENTENCED TO QUANTAS
It’s a brutal old journey from civilisation to down under. Make no mistake. Twenty one hours in a tin tube hurtling at 600kph while breathing in recycled air with all the health properties of inhaling next to a sweaty wrestler is bad enough. But, for a man whose idea of roughing it is a manicure every other week then, well you get the picture.
Add to that, the fact that the cheapest ticket I could get was on Quantas, an airline so awful that people on board talk with misty eyed nostalgia about the days of the convict ships and it was not an altogether positive start to my trip to Australia.
As we prepared to take off, the Captain’s voice was heard over the p.a “a special welcome to all Australians returning home” What about the rest of us? I paid good money too. I mean I am not expecting him to say “big up to the man in 46c who looks like an out of shape Vin Diesel” but some acknowledgment that I exist would have been nice
Unfortunately, my seat companion had no doubts I existed. Believe it if you will, he was called Les, and was every bit the stereotypical Aussie male that Barry Humphries has padded out his career with when not wearing dresses. Les decided that I was the perfect person to discuss the cricket world cup with despite my protestations that I loathe cricket. Nothing would dissuade him and we ( and by “we” I mean “he”) spent the best part of the next day discussing in minute detail why the England team were, and I quote “ spoilt, woofters”
By the time I got to Sydney, I was, quite frankly a gibbering wreck and, when he asked for an e-mail address I quickly scribbled firstname.lastname@example.org and scurried up the walkway while he wheezed behind me burbling to some other poor sucker about “Long Leg.”
But, despite all of that, I was here. Sydney. I had been previously but, only for three days. Barely enough to scratch the surface of a city of four million people and some of the best food offerings in the world.
I am often quite wary of Sydnians(?) when I encounter them abroad. Too keen to point out that Sydney is © The Greatest City On Earth. They tend to get terribly upset when I respond “ how many times can you let fireworks off that fucking bridge and expect the whole world to applaud?” Ever the diplomat.
Here though, in their own environment, they are different. Less inclined to push Sydney as a competitor to NYC or London which it patently is not and content to luxuriate in the fact that this truly is a very beautiful city with some of the most stunning views of any capital anywhere on earth.
When I arrived at my accommodation, I felt very weary. Not just from the jet lag but also from the fact that all the people in the communal breakfast room seemed to be half my age at most. That is what you get for doing these things on a budget, I guess. Still, it my room was clean, if basic and, after a quick shower I threw myself on a slightly rickety bed and was in the land of Nod almost before I hit the mattress.
DAY TWO: BREAKFAST WITH BILL, LUNCH WITH HANNAH AND TEA WITH TETSUYA ( OH, AND SOME FISH)
Surprisingly, the jet lag barely hit me and, at 6am the next morning, I was up and in my running gear for a few miles of cobweb clearing. I love running in cities and never thought I would find anywhere to compare with running alongside the Thames or by The Hudson in NYC. Sorry folks, but, jogging around Sydney Harbour with the bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other certainly does take some beating even if the Opera House ( he whispers quietly) really isn’t that impressive.
But, this trip is about food, no? So, as soon as I was back at the hostel and showered, I headed out for breakfast at Bill's, a Sydney institution run by perma grinned, blond uber chef, Bill Granger. Very good it was too with some house made ricotta along side creamy eggs, home cured salmon and excellent sourdough. Just what the post run Dr ordered to set me up for a day of mooching.
And, mooch I did. If mooching was a sport, I would represent England at the Olympics at it. I am the moochatolla, the moochmeister. The, if you will uben moochenfeuhrer. If you did not already get the picture, I like to mooch.
First a mooch to The Sydney Fish Market. A hugely impressive collection of stores offering a bewildering variety of fish and seafood to Sydney's eateries. Astonishing and now, open from 9am to the public to come and buy fish and have lunch at a number of restaurants that have opened in the complex. In truth the stalls are more interesting that the restaurants where tired looking seafood sat hardening under heat lamps and fried fish glistened in the oil of bad frying. But, definitely worth a visit.
Then, I mooched down to Darling harbour and spent a thoroughly agreeable couple of hours in The Powerhouse Museum of Design which has the single most eclectic collection of any museum I can recall. Everything from the Victorian announcement board of Sydney Train Station to an entire seaplane hanging from the ceiling. Great fun.
After the mooching (please see above) I was a it peckish and recalled from a previous visit that across from the museum was an out let for Hannah’s hot Pies. Let’s put this into perspective. What Shakespeare is to England, hot pies are to Australians. They are one of the true expressions of their culture and it is a little known fact ( little known because I just made it up) that Australia Fair only just became the national anthem by a whisker when it beat, by one vote a song called “ Touch My Hot Pie and I will Beat You To Death with My Boomerang”
They are wonderous things, your meat pie. Short crust pastry traditionally filled with lean minced beef, although now there are any number of other combinations including Indian Curry ( do the joys of this ethnically diverse land know no bounds?)
By now, I was beginning to feel the effects of the traumas of the previous day’s flight and headed back to the hotel for a bit of a kip in preparation for an evening of 3* pleasures at Sydney’s finest restaurant,Tetsuya