‘So how was Sydney?’
Here’s my answer:
My top 5 food experiences
5. The fish market
The Sydney Fish Market deserves an ode. The sheer number of seafood varieties was amazing. In South Africa, crab is crab (that’s if you get lucky. Most of the time we’re subjected to those weird-looking crab sticks that aren’t really crab at all). In the Fish Market . . . wow. From the live crabs that feebly brandish their pincers at you to the scallops with roe to eagle ray wings . . . aaahh.
Who knew that manta ray was edible?
Well if you can’t decide, just have a bit of everything!
4. Flourless chocolate cake from Pattison’s
I’ve always thought that there’s a fine line between ‘deliciously rich’ and ‘nauseatingly rich’ – a balance that’s difficult to achieve. This flourless chocolate cake was everything a flourless chocolate cake should be. It floored you with an instant chocolate hit; the hazelnuts kept it from turning into something emetic; the texture was perfect; and the portion was just large enough to share.
3. La Duree
La Duree is located in one of the classiest quarters of Westfield in Sydney’s CBD, surrounded by the likes of Prada, Gucci and Louboutin. The macarons that are sold in this branch of La Duree aren’t flown over from Paris as commonly thought. They are produced in Switzerland, flash-frozen and flown to Australia. While it does take some shine off the experience, the beautiful décor more than makes up for it. Beautiful pastel colours abound, everything light, delicate and so sumptuous.
Now about those macarons . . .
My aunt gifted my lucky sister with a box of eight macarons. The flavours on offer were a good mix of interesting and common. She picked lemon, rose, salted caramel, coffee, pistachio, yuzu ginger, Venezuela pure origin chocolate and orange blossom.
(L to R) Venezuelan chocolate, rose, salted caramel, lemon, yuzu ginger, orange blossom, coffee, pistachio (apologies for the picture quality)
THE WINNER: the rose. It was perfection; an amazing non-chewy creation with an airy rose-flavoured cream in the centre.
THE RUNNER-UP: the Venezuelan chocolate. Two macaron discs that encased a silky smooth chocolate filling which hung in some heavenly space in between ganache and a rich chocolate frosting.
Sydney has a huge Arab community which reflects in their food scene. We tried authentic Lebanese cuisine in Greenacre’s Al Aseel. We’re familiar with the more famous middle Eastern exports like hummus, baba ganouj and falafel, but Al Aseel opens up a whole world of Lebanese yumminess.
For starters we had sambousek, a pastry filled with melty cheese and fattoush, which is the Most Delicious Healthy Thing In The World (and must be capitalized to emphasise that). The fattoush was a heavily dressed mixture of parsley, lettuce, spring onions and radish, with crunchy pieces of something that tasted like fried samoosa pur stirred through it. Turned out to be ‘crunchy fried Lebanese bread’.
Lavash (lebanese bread) and fattoush
For mains we had skewers of shish taouk, lamb kafta (similar to seekh kebaab) as well as lemon garlic chicken, which came covered in a creamy lemon sauce. They all were flanked by hummus, toum (a creamy seriously garlicky garlic dip), falafel and tabouli (a salad of parsley, onions and tomatoes, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic).
Dips: L to R: toum, baba ganouj, hummus
There was nothing on the table that we could fault.
Side note: shout out to Sumi for ordering all the right things!
Other side note: Pity the person doing all the garlic peeling in Al Aseel’s kitchens.
1. Grocery shopping
Really. Grocery shopping takes the number one spot. A good Australian supermarket is like a kiddies’ ball pond for food-lovers. I spent an obscene amount of time perusing the aisles of the local Coles. Mainstream retailers carry quinoa milk, for God’s sake.
Aaand speaking of quinoa: would you like it like the usual variety? Or maybe black quinoa? Or red quinoa? No? Then can I interest you in some fresh almonds instead?
The almonds were found in Abu Salim, a family-run Arab supermarket in Greenacre, among other earthly delights like these huge mint leaves:
Interestingly, many of their Aussie-made products proudly proclaim their origins on the label – which made me wonder, whatever happened to Proudly South African?
- The Guylian chocolate café, who served up this beautiful waffle, topped with creamy praline ice cream, accompanied by a bowl of chocolate ganache:
- Calamari from Ocean Heart, a little fish ‘n chips shop in Brighton le Sands
- Etihad airline food (Will post about this later on. It was shockingly good.)
- All daily braais at ‘home’ in Sydney. Thank you Foi and Sumi – food always tastes better outdoors.
Burger King in Abu Dhabi International
Meh. I’d take a San Diego burger from Dish’d over Burger King ANY DAY. Their famed chicken fries tasted a bit like Mochacho’s battered chicken strips. With more MSG.
You can’t have watched Masterchef Australia without hearing about Zumbo. We all salivated over that croquembouche and had a mild heart attack when we saw those macarons. So, several days into our visit, my aunt drove us halfway across Sydney to Pyrmont, one of the locations of Zumbo’s patisseries.
This is what I expected:
A brightly coloured store. Check.
A long, long queue (it was during the days preceding New Year’s Day). Nope. Quiet as a library.
Some kind of movement? Something amazing! Some kind of vibe! Some kind of ambience! Some kind of Zumbo-aura radiating around the place! Nope, nope, nope, and nope again.
This is what I didn’t expect:
Not being able to eat anything in the store. The Brit who manned the counter said almost everything in the store contained gelatine, and that he couldn’t give us any guarantees about the non-gelatine stuff.
Ahh, the disappointment. So much disappointment. I felt like I had been let down by Zumbo himself. Australia, land of vegans and vegetarians, all of them being excluded from the magic of a Zumbaron.
The odd thing is that when my sister called the patisserie the following day to ask if the Zumbarons were vegetarian, the answer was yes. Overnight they had also become free of gelatine. Someone was lying, but who? And the annoying thing is, err … why?
So this is what we got instead:
It’s a poor substitute BUT it is a substitute nonetheless!