Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Harrys Cafe de Wheels, Darling Harbour, Sydney

While we were in Sydney there were lots of summer events on offer.  I was pleased to find that one of the outdoor cinemas was quite close to our hotel in Darling Quarter and would fill in the time until fireworks in Darling Harbour.  We rushed out to the cinema and didn't have time to get food so I went to get some from Harry's Cafe de Wheels once we were settled in front of the film. 

I discovered that Darling Quarter is just a few minutes walk under the overpasses at the south of Darling Harbour.  We walked from our hotel and enjoyed the relaxed holiday feeling of families being out late on a balmy evening.  Many children were playing in the ankle deep watery expanses of Tumbalong Park.  We had to hurry on and find the screen for the open air cinema to see Coco.  We were a little late and then I had to rush off to find us some food.

There were quite a lot of casual cafes but huge queues everywhere.  Everyone else wanted to eat.  I wanted to try Harry's Cafe de Wheels.  The name sounded familiar and when I got home I found it was indeed a legendary cafe in Sydney.  The original cafe was actually a pie cart in the Woolloomooloo naval dockyard that was opened in 1938 y Harry Edwards.  A precursor of the food truck!

I had noticed Harry's Cafe de Wheels on the way and went back.  I had no delusions about its old fashioned values.  In fact, it was with some trepidation that I asked for a vegetarian pie.  The staff were pleasant but the pie had to be heated up.  I waited another 10 minutes after standing in queue for a long time.  But it sure beat going to MacDonalds!

By the time I got back to the movie, I had missed half - which was a shame as it was enjoyable.  But I really enjoyed my pie.  I had a vegetarian pie with potato, peas and corn in a cheese sauce.  By itself it would be ordinary.  (There are far better vegetarian pies to be had and the pastry was good but not amazing.)  But with mash, mushy peas and gravy on top, it was great.  With those towering topping I needed a fork to eat it.  However it was a pretty stodgy dinner.  Not quite as stodgy as the guy after me who ordered chips with mash and gravy on them!

Sylvia was happy to have chips and coke.  She had eaten a pretty decent lunch and we were on holiday! After the movie finished, she enjoyed wading in the water.  I watched as crowds made their way to Darling Harbour for the fireworks.

So it was no surprise to see that Darling Harbour was crowded with people waiting to see the fireworks display that is held on Saturday nights in January.  The Sydney Festival had an area of "moon drops" big waterfilled rubber discs, a bit like water beds, that we watched the kids bouncing on during the day.  Sylvia had a quick bounce and we sat on a moon drop to watch the fireworks.  It was impressive and loud (but too much for my camera).

We were really happy with our evening out.  Not even Sylvia's ill fated attempt to walk in the spiral fountain that resulted in bruised feet could dampen our spirits and we walked back to our hotel that evening!

Harry's Cafe de Wheels
ICC Sydney
14 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour
by Tumbalong Park

Harry's Cafe de Wheels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 18 January 2019

Sydney, Harbour, Aquarium, QVB etc

We arrived home from Sydney a few days ago.  We had a pleasant 4 nights there with lots of time on the harbour.  I have never spent so much time by the water on any previous visits.  Visiting Sydney during the school holidays meant crowds.  More surprisingly it meant clouds but we were happy to escape the heat wave in Melbourne.  We had a lot to do and did not need heat-induced lethargy.

I booked the Oaks Goldsborough Hotel in near Darling Harbour.  It was a quick trip from Central Station on the Light Rail.  Unfortunately we were there on the weekend when track works were happening and had to go a more tortuous route in the buses.  And then we had to ask 3 times to work out how to find a shortcut through the huge carpark.  It took us longer to find walkways to connect our hotel to Darling Harbour.

But I chose this hotel partly because I am a sucker for old warehouses.  This old warehouse turned into a hotel was surrounded by creepy trees that grew over the road.

Inside the hotel walkway was framed by sturdy wooden beams such as might have once held up an old warehouse.  I really liked how spacious it was compared to the usual poky hotel corridors.

Our room was quite small and lacking a lounge chair or any sort but it had a kitchen and a balcony that we could use for most breakfasts and dinners.  We were never about for lunches.

On our first day, having found our hotel, we made our way around Darling Harbour, up some steps over a freeway, under a freeway and down a steep ramp to find the Queen Victoria Building.  It is an magnificent building that is worth seeing just for the architecture.  The construction of this Romaneque Revival building was completed in 1898.  Today it is restored with elegant arches, lead lighting, and mosaic tiles.

We spent some time in the City Toys and Treasures, an excellent toy shop on the top floor.  But Sylvia was hungry so we had some mediocre baked potatoes for a late lunch.

Then went to the Old Vienna Coffee Shops to share an overpriced but delicious slice of New York cheesecake at $14.10.  It make me think of my sister exclaiming how expensive Sydney is.

Our closest ferry stop was Pyrmont Bay.  It was only about 10 minutes walk by Darling Harbour past the Maritime Museum.  This above Welcome Wall was part of the museum to list migrants who arrived by boat.  When we had time I stopped to read snippets of migrants stories.

We counted that over 4 days we made 11 ferry trips.  On previous trips I have usually made one or less ferry trips.  Our ferry from Pyrmont Bay took us by Luna Park, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge between the Opera House and The Rocks to Circular Quay.  What a fantastic view each day!

As we looked around the Harbour at the mansions and flats overlooking the bridge and opera house I wondered if those with a very amazing view ever go tired of looking at it.

There was a series of astronaut statues around Barangaroo Wharf where we stopped each day on the other side of Darling Harbour.  The photo does not show the perspective.  This statue above was twice as tall as an average person.  The name Barangaroo was fun to say and then we discovered she was the wife of Bennelong.  Bennelong was a local Indigenous man who was kidnapped by Governor Arthur Phillip who wanted to learn about Indigenous life.  (The Sydney Opera House is on Bennelong Point.)

This sculpture saying simply "ALWAYS" intrigued me.  We only ever saw it from the ferry but I would have loved to walk around it.  I read it is there for this January as part of the Sydney Festival.  It is a 28 metre sculpture by Aboriginal artist/designer, Jacob Nash, that alludes to the Aboriginal slogan "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land".  It is good to have reminders of Sydney's Aboriginal past.

Here is the view coming into Circular Quay with the ferries dwarfed by the skyscrapers.  We took many more trips on the ferry than the train.  I am very fond of the Sydney circle train that goes around the city to beautiful early 20th Century stations.  But I have spent enough time on trains and will again on other trips.

We sailed past the Opera House many times.  Only once did we find time to walk around to look at it up close.  I wish we had had more time and Sylvia had been less tired.  At least we got to climb up the back steps and look at the tiles up close.  It is such an Australian icon, and yet like the Bridge, I still find it stunning to look at over and over.

When we were in Sydney in March last year, it was a far more fleeting visit but we did find time to visit the Aquarium on Darling Harbour.  This year Sylvia was keen to go again.  It was good going after being there so recently and knowing what to expect and what we could just skip past.  She did not enjoy the tunnels with fish swimming around us last time.  This time she managed to enjoy them for a while.

She really loved the dugong.  I still think it a shame that we see the dugong before we read about it later in the exhibition.  The Dugong is called Pig and was brought to the Aquarium after being rescued and unable to survive in the wild.  He seems very calm and lovely as he glides through the water.

But once the stingrays started floating overhead Sylvia had had enough and sat outside while I finished enjoying standing with the fish floating around me. I find it fascinating to be able to look up and see the stingrays faces.  I also enjoyed watching the clown fish (hello Nemo) darting around the sea anemone.  But it is not fun trying to get a clear photo.

Sylvia sat out of the shark tunnels altogether, even though a friendly staff member informed her that they were grey nurse sharks that did not have any interest in humans and could only be bothered eating sick or old fish.  Really, the sharks did look quite gormless as they drifted around the tunnels looking like they did not have a clue what was going on.

And here are some of the yachts in the harbour.  It was interesting to get a glimpse of the watery side to Sydney.  And the wealth.  We saw many boats speeding about or just bobbing at anchor to remind us of all the people who enjoy being on the water in Sydney.  Though Melbourne has a seaside culture it is far smaller than in Sydney and well away from where we live.

When we were only in Sydney overnight last year, it seemed too short.  I hoped hoped a longer trip would give us more time to enjoy the city.  However it still feels like everyday was a long day exploring (yielding 500 plus photos) and yet after 5 days we still had only scratched the surface and still have so much to see.

I am planning to write more about more of the places we visited and will link to them when I have posted:

Gardens of Alexandria 
Harry's Cafe de Wheels, Darling Harbour
Luna Park
Moo Burgers and Many Beach
The Tea Cosy and the Rocks
Vaucluse House

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Overnight sourdough cranberry nut rolls

I know in January that Christmas seems so long ago.  But I also know that if I don't post this now, then when Christmas rolls around at the end of the year, I will have forgotten what I did at the end of last year.  You see, I have been making these cranberry nut rolls for Christmas brunch since 2011.  During that time they have morphed slightly but this year I based them on my favourite overnight sourdough bread.  It worked really well and is definitely worth revisiting this Christmas or any time of year.

One thing I love about the overnight bread is that once I put it on to rise the night before, there is not so much to do the next day.  This is great for these rolls that I make on Christmas Eve as I have lots of other baking to do on Christmas Eve and appreciate a head start.  I was pretty tired on the night I put the dough together and so I watched Love Actually while the dough rose.  A great Christmas movie.  Unfortunately I had forgotten how long it was. At least it gave me some time to wrap presents.

I decided to use the soaking liquid instead of some of the milk.  It made the dough alarmingly pink.  Not something I am likely to do again, even though most of the pink had gone in the final rolls.  Apparently soaking the dried cranberries is worthwhile because it helps keep the rolls from drying out.

The next day the dough took ages to rise because my starter wasn't bubbly enough to begin with.  I had to leave it 12 hours but in summer it is often ready in 8 hours.  (In the Northern Hemisphere it would not be usual to leave it 12 hours unless the house was really warm.)  The dough was sticky so it was a messy business chopping it with my large chef knife.  A plastic scraper might also work here.

I have been making a lot of sourdough rolls this year so am used to taking a sticky dough, treating it gently so as not to take all the air out (which means less rising time) and using a bit of flour to mould it into neat circles and to pull the dough away from the top to fold in under the bottom to create some tension.

While I usually cram about twice these rolls into one of my enamelled casserole dishes, I know it means that they don't have such pretty neat shapes.  So I made sure to give them plenty of space to rise in the oven as well as on the kitchen table.  I left them for 60 not 30 minutes because Sylvia was sick on Christmas Eve and had quite a few naps.  In theory this gave more time to bake but in practice it meant she needed even more attention to settle her between naps.

When they came out of the oven they were quite dull.  I brushed them with margarine but this was not that helpful.  The original recipe I found for these rolls used eggwash but I don't always have eggs around so I didn't use it.  They didn't look as shiny and beautiful but they still tasted great.

I was really pleased with these rolls.  The recipe is a cross between the cranberry nut rolls and the overnight sourdough bread recipes that are tried and true.  We really enjoyed these with orange juice and cheese on Christmas morning.  And I hope I might enjoy them on many Christmas mornings to come.  Between Christmases I might even play with the recipes to make a currant bun type of recipe.  The sky's the limit.

More fruity breads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Freshly fruited yeast bread
Fruit mince scrolls (v)
Malted sourdough loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts (v)
Overnight sourdough fruit bread (v)  
Rhubarb and raspberry no knead focaccia (v)

Cranberry nut rolls
Makes 12-16 rolls
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
150g sourdough starter
310g milk (I used soy)
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
450g bread flour

extra flour for shaping
olive oil and melted butter/margarine, for brushing

A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.  Cover cranberries with boiling water in a bowl to soak and cool.  Gently dry fry walnuts until smell toasted and then cool.

About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) drain water from cranberries (I gave them a little squeeze), roughly chop walnuts and mix all ingredients together in a large bowl (adding flour last when everything else is mixed).  It will be quite sticky.  Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour.  Knead in the bowl for about 1 minute (use a little flour for your hands if you need).  Cover with greased clingwrap (or beeswax) and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured board (I used semolina flour).  Very gently without punching the air out, use a large knife to cut the dough into 16 pieces.  Use floured hands to gently shape the rolls (I try and pull the dough towards the bottom so there is some tension on the top).  Brush with olive oil and place 1-2cm apart in a couple of large casserole dishes lined with baking paper. and cover with lid.  Leave to rise for 30-60 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 220.

When ready to bake, place buns in casserole dishes with lids on in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Then turn around (for even baking) and remove lids.  Bake another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven when golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Brush with melted margarine.  Cool on a wire rack. 

I made these vegan with soy milk and Nuttalex margarine.  However instead of brushing with margarine you could brush with eggwash before baking the rolls. 
On the stereo:
Christmas with the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy David Jnr

Monday, 14 January 2019

Are the vegan burgers better at Hungry Jacks?

I never thought I would see the day when I would write about a vegan burger at Hungry Jacks but here it is.  The title of my blog post is a tongue in cheek take on the advertising slogan "The burgers are better at Hungry Jacks".  I think this slogan is aimed at McDonalds, its main rival.  So I sampled a vegan burger to see if they really are better.  And while I think it is great they have a vegan burger, Hungry Jacks is still not much my sort of place.  (For those outside Australia, Hungry Jacks are the Australian equivalent of Burger King.)

I was fascinated to read that Hungry Jacks had introduced a vegan burger with vegan cheese.  (Disclaimer: I am a lacto ovo vegetarian who eats a lot of vegan food.)  It really feels like veganism is hitting the mainstream when this happens.  I think that it is great for current vegans or wannabe vegans to have the option when they want to relive happy memories of fast food or just want something quick on the go.

Having said all that, it is still weird to see vegan ingredients in a fast food place like this.  Here it is on the menu display with the vegan burger surrounded by chicken burgers.  (Is that because there are many people who when I say I am vegetarian they ask if I eat chicken!)

I had to go all nostalgic for the days before I went vegetarian and add some fries and coke.  It's been 25 years since I went vegetarian but I do have some fond memories of fast food meals.  But only in the way that I have fond memories of meat sausages and burgers that I don't want to relive.  That is how I felt when faced with this meal.

And here is my burger.  Not anywhere near as impressive as the picture on the menu board.  I have to reminisce about the most excellent vegetarian burger patty I had about 20 years ago in a British Burger King while travelling.  Nothing at Burger King or Hungry Jacks has ever lived up to its amazingness.  Definitely not this burger.  Apparently this is based on the "popular" vegetarian whopper.  I think I might have tried one ages ago and then blanked it from my memory.

A mashed potato burger with peas and carrots is a cop out.  They are the sort of burgers that butchers sell who don't have any understanding of what it means to be a vegetarian/vegan.  I wanted to find out what sort of cheese they use but neglected to ask and then could not find any information online.  For those who aren't vegan, vegan cheeses aren't all created equal any more than vegan burger patties. 

And just to remind me I don't really belong in Hungry Jacks, I see the printed note about their beef guarantee inside the whopper box.  This note does seem to say that Hungry Jacks will put more effort into their meat burgers, probably best given this is their target audience. 

So, I am not thrilled about this burger but then again I am way past being thrilled about fast food.  It fills a void.  This could be done better but I am grateful it is done at all.  However if you really want to eat a decent vegan burger to fulfill a fast food craving, I would suggest you would be much better off at Lord of the Fries.  Though as I had this burger at Belmont in Geelong, I think it is pretty safe to say there are no Lord of the Fries outlets there.  So I am sure there are places where Hungry Jacks might be as good as you can get for fast food and vegans will be able to order this burger and know this is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Julian Opie at the NGV

We often like to go to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to see their summer exhibitions.  This year the free exhibition by Julian Opie seemed a bit less exciting than in previous years.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Julian Opie was a young British artist in the 1980s and has made his mark with minimalist pictures (which I recognised from the Best of Blur album).  We met my sister and niece there a few days ago and were greeted with these electronic pictures of people running outside the gallery. 

First stop of course was the waterwall at the entrance.  I have been going there since I was a kid and still can't resist reaching out to touch the water falling down the wall.  Sylvia was straight over to it.  Unlike most visits, there were Julian Opie carp swimming down the wall.

Inside the foyer were Opie figures of people walking and also some clues as to how the fish were put on the water wall.  If you look to the left of the photo above you can see the electronic screens on the window.

Opie's work is almost cartoonish and yet there is a seriousness to it that sets it apart from many cartoons.  It is more a stripped down simplicity that represents the very basics of people or scenes he has observed.  The kids had great fun with these characters.

Walk towards the Great Hall and you will see his skyscrapers.  I didn't stop long as they had security guards here trying to check bags to see if they should direct you to the long queue at the cloakroom.  I had an extra bag with some lunch in it so I didn't want it checked in.

We took our picnic of cheeseymite scrolls and cherries into the back garden of the gallery.  Behind us was an electronic picture of a horse running.  Sylvia pointed out it was a gif.  This was one of the fastest of Opie's electronic artworks.  There were some points of view from cars going along roads but I liked the more subtle ones like water rippling in the moonlight.  Many movements were hardly such as a sigh or a blink on portraits.

We really liked these walls of black and white figures.  It was fun with the kids to talk about the figures and which they liked.  I really liked that they were all portraits of people in Melbourne.

This wall looked quite similar to the other wall but as we chatted to a security guard he pointed out that all these people were at the beach.

I think these walls of figures were more impressive in the museum than in a photo.  As you can see with my niece in the photo above, the figures are pretty much lifesize so we could see much more detail in the gallery.

This is another Walking in Melbourne picture that I liked.  Then we missed a room as we were running after the kids.

In the next room were some large portraits. 

Then we went around the corner to the Julian Opie Kids Studio.  Let me tell you a secret.  I think it is called the Kids Studio to keep the numbers down but I think it was equally attractive to the adults.

Firstly there was a little felt station with lots of felt parts you could use to make a face or a picture.

But the main attraction was the photo drawing software.  So you could take a photo, draw a line around your face and hair.  Then the photo was removed from behind and you were left with a simple line drawing and then added colours.  It was brilliant.  This is a photo of Sylvia and I doing a double portrait.  I showed a friend today who said it did not look like us at all.  (I really don't look that pretty and Sylvia looks prettier!)  But the general outlines are there.

I think it would be great fun to watch everyone else doing it but it seemed a bit private.  My niece did one with my sister and insisted of adding a unicorn horn to her picture.  Such a cutie!  Some of the kids pictures were hilarious.  It is not as easy as it looks.  We had to redo our lines many times to get it looking ok.  I could have sat there for ages doing these pictures.  (There is a note to ask people to only do one portrait during busy times.)

Then we headed outside to get an ice cream.  Old English toffee.  And can you see the horse running behind the ice cream. 

It is really worth going out the back for some of the best parts of the exhibition.  We loved these birds.  My sister said they were her favourite sort of birds.  They pecked at the ground in their little electronic boxes but did not fly anywhere near her and were not bothered if we ate nearby!

We also loved the sheep in the garden with the skypscrapers behind them.  Kids loved climbing on them and this was a rare moment when it was not crowded.

Then we found the place I had read about and given up seeing.  Apparently Julian Opie did a version in his own style of the famous Mannekin Pis (translated at Little Pisser) in the Brussels fountain.  I had expected to see it out the front of the gallery in the fountains.  However it is hidden away in a corner of the back garden, perhaps so as not to shock those Melburnians with a delicate sensibility!!!

We found it very amusing.  It was a good end to a fun gallery visit.  If you are looking for some free fun over the summer / school holidays, I highly recommend Julian Opie at the NGV.

Julian Opie at the NGV
NGV, St Kilda Road
Free entry
9 Nov 2018 – 17 Feb 2019
Open 10am–5pm daily