Thursday 31 January 2019

The Tea Cosy tearooms, The Rocks, Sydney

For my final post about our Sydney holiday, I will share a favourite place in Sydney and probably my favourite meal of our time there.  The Rocks is a special place both for insight into colonial Australia and for remembering the importance of preserving our history.  In the Rocks I found the Tea Cosy Cafe, a place that made us a marvellous lunch of scones.  But history first!

The Rocks was built upon by Europeans soon after they arrived (invaded) in 1788.  It was soon a crowded slum, a place where convicts lived. In the early 20th Century many houses were so derelict that they were demolished.  Some to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge that can be seen from the Rocks to this day.  In the 1970s, the government made plans to demolish the historic buildings to build high density residential dwellings.  Thank goodness for the residents group ad the unions who opposed the plans and saved many important heritage buildings.

The Rocks is now much cleaner than it was but apparently still has a considerable amount of public housing.  It is a Mecca for tourists, being easy to reach by a short walk from Circular Quay and over looking the Harbour and Opera House.  Although there was a huge cruise ship blocking the view each day while we were there.

We visited the Rocks on a hot day.  I wanted to walk around and just enjoy the buildings, the laneways and the cobblestones.  Sylvia needed to stop for sustenance.  We had a fantastic chocolate and cassis (black currant) ice cream at the Guylian Cafe (91 George Street).  It was decadent and refreshing.  Then we visited the nearby tourist information and some souvenir shops.  I didn't find quite the information I was after but some was useful.

Instead of following an historic walk map, we found a few streets to walk along.  I really loved this house on Harrington Street with its door so high.  Sylvia and I had fun guessing why the door was so high.  We walked down to Nurses Walk, talked about bricks (who doesn't love some historic bricks), up the steps at Globe Street.

Here I must digress because there is a huge mural of Jack Mundey, a unionist and an activist.  He is the type of person to make you feel proud of unionism.  He was the secretary of the NSW Buildings Labours Union who imposed the green bans on the demolition of the Rocks in the 1960s and 1970s because they believed in the preservation of heritage buildings and community space.  It is important that we remember people such as Jack Mundey to remind us that places like the Rocks should not be taken for granted.

We had not got far and already Sylvia was hot and tired and decided she did not want to walk.  So our aim was to get to the Tea Cosy Cafe.  It wasn't that far but when you are hot and tired, distances stretch much further.  We didn't walk up this flight of steps at Cumberland Place.  They are cordoned off as an example of older worn steps.  You can see the more uniform newer steps beside them that we walked up.  At the top of these steps is historic house museum, Susannah Place, but we were too early for it's afternoon opening hours.

We walked along Cambridge Place to Argyle Cut.  It is an imposing streetscape.  Sydney seems to have presented so many more natural challenges with hills and habour than Melbourne ever did.  The Argyle Cut was a great engineering feat and created important access through the sandstone wall at the top of the Rocks.  It was started in 1843 by hand with convict labour but abandoned.  Then in 1859 it was done with explosives and council labour.

We walked along Gloucester Walk to Foundation Park.  It is an area where small houses (3m x 3m) were built very cheaply in the Nineteenth Century and demolished in the 1940s.  In the 1970s after archeological work, it was turned into a park with low walls showing just how small the houses were.  Imagine a family of 10 kids in a tiny 2 room house.

We wandered around the houses and talked about what it would be like to live in such a small house.

I was quite struck by this chimney with no floor.  It showed just how time can erode a place.

I also enjoyed looking down at the rooftops and the market.

We continued walking along Gloucester Walk until we got to George Street where we found the Rocks Market in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Not far down George Street we found the Tea Cosy Cafe.  I loved it because they loved scones (the sign outside says All you need is scones)!  Though it was busy, there were lots of places to sit and we had no problem finding a seat.

It is situated in an old terrace house and charmingly furnished in old wooden furniture around fireplaces with baskets of wool for decoration.  The cafe wore its Irish heritage on its sleeve with posters and the occasional Irish flag.

And of course it had lots of fun tea cosies.  Not only were they all around the cafe but pots of tea were served in tea cosies.

Sylvia and I wanted a tiered high tea platter but the sandwiches were mainly meat and the vegetarian one was curried egg at which both of us turned up our noses.  So we agreed to share a Ploughman's lunch and a Devonshire tea.  The Ploughman's lunch had freshly baked cheese scones served with vintage cheddar and strong stilton cheeses, tomato, celery, cucumber, gherkin, pickled onion, and a boiled egg, served with chutney and butter.  It was really wonderful.  The cheese scones were warm and delicious.  The vegetables were crisp and fresh.  I could have eaten a platter of those scones.

The Devonshire tea was equally impressive.  Again the scones were warm and fresh.  My rosehip tea (served in a strawberry tea cosy) was real tea leaves.  No tea bags here!  We chose to pay $2 extra to have two jams: pear and vanilla and strawberry.  The pear jam was nice but the strawberry jam was divine.  Obviously home made and not bought from a store.  Sylvia enjoyed my tea but also had a strawberry milkshake.

The Tea Cosy was just what we needed.  A cool charming place away from the bustle of the market.  It was busy but not bothersomely busy.  We enjoyed looking around around at all the little rooms and the courtyard out the back.  Our meals were really lovely and just right.  No mean feat for a tearooms in the middle of a busy tourist precinct.  I hope to be back one day when I am next in the Rocks in Sydney.

Tea Cosy
33 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney
Mon – Fri, 10 am – 4 pm
Sat – Sun, 9.30 am – 5 pm

The Tea Cosy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Vaucluse House, Sydney

On our final day of our Sydney trip, we went took two ferries and a bus to go to the house museum of grand colonial Vaucluse House.  I had been determined to go to a museum while in Sydney and this is one I remember going to many years ago.  Sylvia was not so keen to go there but, despite her displeasure at being told to be careful with her chewing gum, she enjoyed the audio tour.

The bus dropped us off opposite these gates and we walked up the drive and past the above splendid view of the house.  It was built between 1803 and 1839, with the majority of work done after it was purchased in 1827 by William Charles Wentworth.  I knew of Wentworth as a schoolgirl when we read about him being in the group of explorers who first crossed the Blue Mountains.  These days we see it differently as the first Europeans to go that way into Aboriginal Land.  Nevertheless Wentworth seemed interesting, being part of the emancipist party, co-founding a newspaper, chairing the committee to draft the New South Wales constitution.  However he and his wife came from convict families so the house in its dramatic Gothic Revival style with crenellated walls was quite aspirational.

I would have loved to sit and listen to move history on the audio guide but when taking a child around, life has to move a little faster.  After all the crowds of Sydney in summer, I was surprised that it was fairly quiet at Vaucluse House.  Perhaps it is a little far from the madding crowds in many ways.  It also was set up as it would have been when the Wentworths lived there, which meant not great lighting which in turn meant my photos were a little dark.

We started at the walkway between the entrance hall and the kitchen.  Having had a lot of hot days this summer, I can well understand why the hot kitchens used to be fairly separate from the rest of the house.  Of course it was not just heat that kept the kitchen apart but the reality that a kitchen was a likely place for fire to start.

The grand hallway was quite impressive but it was rather poignant that they never built the front door which was intended to have the guest walk in to see this view.  Wentworth's plans for the house were never completed due to the 1840s depression.  However it is a magnificent example of early colonial life for the wealthy.  It is rather old in Australia's European history.  It was built before European occupation of Melbourne and opened to the public in the 1920s.

The Dining room was splendidly set for fancy dining, albeit with not that much natural light.  As the William and Sarah Wentworth had 10 children, Sylvia thought this table was big enough for the family.  She lives in a time when kids share the table with adults and could not imagine the kids being upstairs having their nursery suppers while the parents had lavish dinner parties!

The Little TeaRoom was also quite dark.  Yet it looks like a calm place to relax.  It was notable for its wallpaper. 

The Drawing room was the most impressive room.  Apparently it was created as a place for the 7 daughters to meet potential suitors due to Sarah's social isolation (she came from a convict family and had her first two children out of wedlock).  It was here that I wished I had gone to Elizabeth farm house museum instead.  When I asked if we could touch the furniture I was told not any more but on Elizabeth farm you can touch almost all the furniture.

Fitzwilliam's room in the hall was rather interesting.  Having lots of children, the Wentworths were pushed for space, even in this grand home.  They walled off part of the first floor hallway to make a bedroom for their second son.

Also on the first floor was the Second room or private family sitting room.  This was where the family spent a lot of time writing letters, reading, playing games and playing the piano.  I can't help but see Judy and Meg from Seven Little Australians here.

Along the hallway was the Principal bedroom where William and Sarah slept.  It was a fancy bed but life was a bit more basic in the Nineteenth Century.  The steps up to the bed actually hide a commode.  But the Wentworths room is presented in one way that we recognise today with his and hers jug and basin by the window.

Upstairs on the second floor is the Miss Wentworth's room. I particularly appreciated the mosquito netting for the beds after Sylvia was bitten a lot by mosquitos while sitting on our hotel balcony early one morning. 

It is a fairly sparse bedroom for older girls.  There were some books on the mantlepiece.  I hope they were allowed a bit more signs of life back when it was inhabited by the older three Wentworth girls.

More lively was the Children's Room next door.  More mosquito nets on these three beds and a table of activity in the middle.  (So far I have counted 7 children's beds so I am not sure if the 10 children were all there together or not!  Perhaps I should have listened more to the audio tour!)

I was quite taken by this tin tub in front of the fire because it just looks like a health and safety nightmare today.  The bathtub was by the fire so the kids were warm when bathing.  And how did they get the hot water up there on the second floor.

I was also fascinated by this highchair in the nursery.  It makes the bathtub look safe and secure.  Can you imagine putting a young child in this chair teetering on a table!

And here are ye olde water closets.  For their time they were quite advanced with a flush system in the form of a handle towards the front that you could pull up to let the contents out.  Apparently the two toilets was not because people liked to sit beside each other but because chances are only one out of two would work.

Then following our audio tour we went along the outdoor passageway to the large service wing. 

Firstly we saw the Housekeeper's Room.  The housekeeper was an important position in the household.

The other important person was the butler.  Here is the Butler's pantry.  Candles had their wicks trimmed here.  Sylvia was drawn to the candle snuffer.  I think anyone with so many candles before electricity must have had a lot of power (no pun intended).

The butler overlooked the drive where visitors would arrive.  Does that mean he had to always be on lookout or only when he knew that people were coming?

The actual kitchen was huge with lots of ordered calm space.  I can imagine it would have looked quite different when filled with busy servants bustling about with many tasks to do.  This collection of jelly moulds was impressive.

This fireplace would have been great in winter but so hot in summer.  This was the source of hot water as well as a place to cook and keep the kettle boiled.

So many racks of pans.  So much cooking!  So much washing up!  I think these pans were in the Scullery (but maybe the kitchen).

This was definitely the Scullery.  It was here that washing up was done.  It was also our last stop on the tour of the house so we were getting tired and not paying such close attention.  We skipped the dairy as our time was tight and our attention was dwindling.

Vaucluse was a beautiful grand house and I loved walking through it without too many other people about (there was a group outside when we left).  I particularly loved the kitchens with rows of pots and pans.  We rushed for our bus back to Rose Bay wharf and just got our ferry.  I was quite impressed by the view from Rose Bay back towards the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

I would have loved to have stayed to walk about the Vaucluse House gardens and eat at the tearooms but our time was up. Maybe next time.  If you are interested to read more about the house, I found that there was quite a lot of information on Wikipedia.

Vaucluse House
Wentworth Road, Vaucluse, NSW 2030
Phone (House): 02 9388 7922
Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am–4pm (and daily during school holidays)

Monday 28 January 2019

Moo Gourmet Burgers and Manly Beach, Sydney

One way in which Sydney differs from Melbourne is that the former has wavy ocean beaches whereas my city has only calm bay beaches.  I am not familiar with Sydney's famous surf beaches - Manly and Bondi - but I was surprised just how far the beaches were from the CBD.  Manly was easier to go to so we headed out there on a warm Sunday in January while on holiday.  It was probably one of the busier days at Manly all year.  I could not believe all the crowds but we loved getting in the water.

The famous Manly ferry (F1) is far bigger than the other public transport ferries we saw on the harbour.  And I could see why when we saw how busy it was.  It also a 30 minute trip from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf (or 20 minutes on the fast ferry) with no stops in between.  So there are cafes on board, though they weren't open when we were travelling.

We hopped off the ferry and found quite a lot of shops at the wharf.  A lolly shop, a newsagent and places to find salads and ice cream.  Perfect hot weather food.

Then we meandered down the Corso, trying not to be tempted by all the souvenir shops on the short walk to the beach.  At first glance there were not many people in the water.  I could see mostly surfers out on the waves.

A sign pointed us in the direction of the flags so we walked that way.  As we approached, we saw just how busy the beach was.  We stopped to put on our sun cream and dump our bag before heading into the water.

The water was cold, the waves were rough.  Sylvia took a while to warm to it but we had a lovely swim.  I was bemused by the line of people further out than we went.

I was also interested in the vigilance of the lifeguards.  We frequently heard their whistle as they waved swimmers back inside the flags.  I spoke to one about it and she told me there was a rip that would take people out into the ocean.  (Where we go in Torquay the lifeguards just snuggle down in their seats.)

Buildings surrounded the beach so we could glance over to the Manly Lifesaving Club and see the time on the clock.  It was quite overcast but we still managed to get slightly burnt after an hour in the water.  But it was worth it for the lovely swim

When I had been planning our trip to Sydney, I had checked some favourite blogs for their favourite vegan cafes but I found that I didn't get to them.  We ended up finding places that were in the areas that we wanted to visit and then I narrowed it down to suit both Sylvia and myself.  Hence no visit to Verde for the amazing sounding vegan healthy bowls.

Instead we went to Moo Gourmet Burgers for a vegan burger, mashed potato balls and a view of the sea.  It was upstairs so you might miss it if strolling along South Steyne.  But the cafes on the street along the beach were so busy it was nice to head upstairs away from the crowds.  There were quite a few tables but it felt small.  We sat out on the balcony to continue taking in the sea view.

For kids there is a Little Cow meal of burger, chips, milkshake and ice cream.  They do a vegetarian option but Sylvia was not keen on any burgers.  So she had the mini milkshake (caramel) and some mashed potato balls and onion rings.  (Not the healthiest meal but during holidays we have to balance her meals out so that she has a good breakfast and a carbitarian lunch)

I ordered the vegan lentil burger ($14.50) which was a lentil patty with walnuts, fresh herbs and garlic, sliced avocado, rocket, home made hummus and chilli jam.  It was a nice burger though a bit thick.  I loved that it didn't ooze out everywhere as some burgers do.  It was very good with the onion rings and mashed potato balls.  All washed down with some apple crisp kombucha.

I was glad we ordered 9 mashed potato balls rather than the smaller serving of 6.  They were amazing.  The mashed potato was really creamy inside with a crisp fried outside.  I would go back just for this.  Sylvia loved them too.  They were a great alternative to chips.  She also enjoyed the crispy onion rings that were perfectly fried.  It was lovely to sit looking over the sea and eat good food.  We left Manly on another crowded ferry (having missed the fast ferry) feeling very satisfied.

Moo Gourmet Burgers
Level 2 and 3
33 South Steyne
Manly NSW 2095
Phone: 02 9976 0948

Moo Gourmet Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato