Category Archives: CBD

The Long Goodbye

It’s never easy saying goodbye, whether it be a long drawn out affair or short and sweet, there’s sure to be certain shared memories that are evoked that may lead to tearful moments and an occasional feeling of despair and hopelessness. Sometimes there’s the comfort of a return date to let you know that the goodbye is merely an intermission but when it’s indefinite it can be especially hard to take.

Of course goodbyes are always made easier with alcohol as is life in general (I’m kidding kids), and what better way to signal the end of something then with a few pints of beer, a few shots of something on fire and a bunch of stupid ideas. It can turn something that is potentially sad into something fun, and if the few turns into a car load then it can be wildly ridiculous, just like the time I may or may have not made advances on my boss’s wife at a work function… but that’s a story for another time.

When I heard the news that the Sydney monorail was being taken down I was hit with an immense feeling of sadness. I proceeded to spend the remainder of the day thinking about the glory of an eyesore that was those blue rails, about the automated voice that got you all excited that Sydney had a Spanish Quarter, about the monorail stop in Chinatown that never was, and all this accompanied by the constant soundtrack of ‘monorail, monorail monoooraaaaaiiiil… mono-doh!’. Later a friend of mine and I decided that the best way to say goodbye to this dear old friend of ours was with a monorail pub crawl, the idea being that we’d get off each stop and have a few drinks at whatever bar was close. The only thing we needed was a name.

monocrawl-coronationClockwise from top left – Hello front door; Yes I’m sad too; Oh look its the inside; fatty fries and a surprisingly good aioli.

And this, my dear readers is how I found myself out on a mildly chilly Saturday night embarking on #monocrawl2012. We start our evening at the highly trendy Hotel Coronation which sits right near the Galleries Victoria stop. Ok so it’s not the coolest place in Sydney and a place that attracts drunkards at a highly disturbing 7am on a weekday doesn’t scream inviting to non-locals, but it’s this diveyness that I find so appealing. We kick back with a few beers and, some gloriously fried in not canola oil fries and what’s great for me and not so much my company, F1 qualifying live on one of the TV’s. If sticky carpeted floors and memories of an 80’s Irish pub/ sports bar aren’t your thing then you could try going to The Arthouse Hotel.

monocrawl-monorailClockwise from top left – It’s the monorail; Psychedelic seats and bored passengers; Poignant shot; What I see when I’m drunk.

From here our night begins in earnest and we jump aboard the monorail. Now those of you from Sydney would be fairly familiar with how expensive a monorail ride can be ($5.00 for a single ticket), but if you’re smart about this then you’ll go and get yourself a day pass at $9.80 which allows you unlimited access for the day.

At our next stop – the aptly named City Centre – we encounter our first hiccup of the night with the closest bar Kulabar looking to be no longer in business. We try going to St. James Hotel which is further up on Castlereagh Street only to find that that too is sadly closed. Realising we’re behind on time anyway we decide to get back onto the monorail.  If you come across the same problem that we had then I might suggest that you try City Tattersalls, which is directly opposite the station. This sadly wasn’t an option for us as several people in our group lived within the 5KM radius that forces them to become members should they want to go inside.

monocrawl-helmbarLeft: The view from Helm; Right The view outside of Helm. Hello ladies.

Never one to be down after a minor setback we kick on and head towards Darling Harbour, with the first stop of this precinct being Darling Park. Here we head into Helm Bar. It’s remarkably quiet for a Saturday night and lacking in character, but with its views of the harbour and an empty bar we weren’t about to start complaining. By this point I’ve switched to Gin and after buying a round of shots I find it amusing that due to a tequila aversion by one of the girls she decides to sip on it using a straw rather than knocking it back. It is an odd sight. If drinking in an overextended tin shed isn’t really your thing then you might want to try Pontoon around the corner, Cargo Bar on the other side of the aquarium, or if you’re feeling a little classy then at Coast above Cockle Bay Wharf.

monocrawl-pyrmontbridgeA quiet moment of reflection outside the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel. Memories.

The closeness of the next stop reminds us of how redundant the monorail is. At only a few hundred metres away it would have made more sense to walk across the Pyrmont Bridge (affording us time to get sober), but what’s a monocrawl without a monorail? Like the good sports we are, we get back on and head to our next Destination the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel. In the past I’ve always avoided this pub as I always saw it as the seedy 24 hour joint in Darling Harbour. I’m pleasantly surprised to be greeted by friendly bouncers (going beyond their call of duty to find extra chairs for other patrons) and an interior lifted straight from the 1920’s that wouldn’t look so far removed in uber trendy Surry Hills/ Darlinghurst. If however, you can’t get past these reservations then you may want to try heading inside Harbourside and going to Cohibar where you can sit back with an excellent cocktail while puffing on a very fine cigar.

monocrawl-charliesClockwise from top left – The Flaming Charlie; Larb so good from Mrs’s Chans, Being creepily served by me; Larb so good I had to throw in another shot.

With the next stop being even closer in proximity – Convention – and with us running behind on time and being fairly intoxicated we decide to bypass it and head towards the Paddy’s Markets stop where we stroll towards Charlie Chan’s. Ok so technically this isn’t the closest bar and if you wanted to stick to the rules then you may want to try going over to the Market City Tavern, but Charlie Chan’s (or Chacha’s as I affectionately call it) happen to serve one of my favourite drinks in Sydney, the amusingly named Flaming Charlie (fits in with the Simpson’s theme as well), a layered shot of drinks that I can’t remember that’s set aflame and further ignited using cinnamon powder. Feeling overly tipsy we order some food from Mrs Chan’s (by Crocodile Senior), a lovely plate of larb gai and some vegetarian spring rolls. The food sits well in our stomachs and perhaps I’m a little drunk at this point as I believe it to be the best larb gai I’d ever come across (will have to go back and retry it in a sober state). I guess the cute waitress didn’t hurt either (although the rejection kind of did).

Unfortunately we spend a little too long inside and therefore miss the last monorail and with it our last monorail stop, World Square. Had we made it we could have tried going to Shark Hotel and ordered some fried ice cream from Holy Basil, or we may have walked on over to Mr B’s where we would have experienced a little bit of Bangkok in Sydney.

From there the monocrawl was over but my night had only just begun. Begun to get stupid that is. A brief summary would include karaoke, copious amounts of something alcoholic mixed with green tea, a drunken meal of bibimbap at 4 or 5 am and an all day vomiting session the day after, by which point I had fallen completely off the rails. So just like any other farewell then.

Ok so I realise that alcohol isn’t for everyone but I suggest a monocrawl is something you should do before the monorail gets taken down. Perhaps you’ll want to try a monorail food crawl which would also be a brilliant idea. If it were me then my itinerary may look something like this; katsu cheese curry from Ichi-Ban Boshi at The Galleries, a Reuben Sandwich from Reuben and More inside Westfield at City Centre, a mini tsukemen from Menya at Darling Park, a scoop or 2 of ice cream from Movenpick at Harbourside, nothing from Convention, a Chinese Lamb Burger from the Northern Chinese vendor in Dixon House at Paddy’s Markets and finally that fried ice cream I mentioned from Holy Basil inside Shark Hotel at World Square. Go on, I implore you. #monocrawl2012

Hotel Coronation

5-7 Park Street, Sydney
(02) 9266 3100

Helm Bar

Wheat Road, Sydney
(02) 9290 1571

Pyrmont Bridge Hotel

96 Union Street, Pyrmont
(02) 9660 6996

Charlie Chans

635 George Street, Sydney
(02) 9281 4299

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Filed under CBD, Pub Crawl, Pyrmont, Sydney, Thai Food, Uncategorized

O Bal Tan Sydney

You can’t say you’re back and then not actually be back.

A short while ago I was toying around with the idea of getting myself a cat or a dog. It was one of those things that one seems to go through when they’ve freshly come out of a long term relationship and decide that a bottle of wine or two doesn’t necessarily amount to good company. Thinking to myself how brilliant of an idea it was to replace a void in my life with something that can be so needy I broached the subject with my workmate (who you may remember from past incidents such as hallway bowling and refused vegetable washing… actually as I type this she’s gorging herself on her fifth Easter egg of the morning).

The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: Hey so I’m thinking of getting a cat or a dog…

Workmate: Oh yeah how’s your bonsai going? (background: she’d given me a bonsai a couple of Christmas’s earlier after hearing me speak of how much I had wanted one)

Me: Oh F*** I haven’t seen that in over a year (just remembering that I had one)

Workmate: …Please don’t get a pet.

Well there went that idea. She did remind me though that I did have a blog, (which my dear readers you’re currently having the pleasure of reading) and that if I so wanted to invest my time into something then perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea considering that if I happened to neglect it then it wouldn’t equate to the death of something innocent. Or that I should just go and get a stuffed animal.

After spending a few weeks searching and not finding anything decent in the way of stuffed animals I decided to give this blogging thing another go, which is how I found myself on a cold and windy night within the warm confines of a Korean BBQ joint.

On this particular night I found myself at O Bal Tan. For those not familiar you may know it’s more illustrious queue-laden neighbour Madang which sits adjacent to it in the same alleyway. Now I know they say that a full restaurant generally means a good restaurant and I won’t deny that Madang is pretty damn good, but the repressed hipster inside of me prefers the more relaxed crowds at O Bal Tan and also its use of a charcoal grill as opposed to a gas burner.

obaltan-premeatPanchan Selection and a glowing BBQ. Servings seem tight, but ask for more and the next servings are generally bigger.

Tonight I’m dining with two others and we go for the rather easy option of ‘Combination A’, a cleverly named platter of beef brisket, beef skirt, boneless beef ribs and pork belly. At $67.00 this could easily feed a group of four and as a threesome by meal’s end we are seriously struggling with the meat sweats.

obaltan-meatCombination ‘A’ sizzling away – $67.00 

Accompanying the meat is a decent selection of panchan. Tonight it’s a macaroni salad with what I think is puree’d sweet potato, onions in soy sauce, shredded cabbage in a sesame/ soy dressing and a very good kim chi. We’re also given some dipping sauces for the meat – my favourite being the chilli soybean paste, and a generous serve of lettuce leaves for wrapping said meat.

obaltan-lettuceboatLettuce cups, Hite beer and a failed Instagram upload.

My only regret for this evening is that it’s a school night and I’m convinced by my dining companions to not order one of the huge beer towers that I see some other tables indulging in, and there’s also a veto on soju. Rack one up for the non-alcoholics.

obaltan-wrapshotWrap me up in your love. Or is the love on the inside?

So I know it’s been awhile, in fact that while has been a fair bit longer than the while that went on before my previous it’s been awhile post, but hey seeing as we’re getting into the colder months and I’m generally a winter sports type person let’s just say I was taking a long and flakey summer break.

O Bal Tan Sydney

363A Pitt Street, Sydney
(02) 9269 0299

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Filed under BBQ, CBD, Korean, Sydney

Sepia Restaurant

Looking back at my posts there’s been an awful lot of smut. I don’t think there’s been a single post yet where the mention of alcohol hasn’t been present. In my previous post there may have even been a smutty, sexual innuendo filled call regarding a certain taco dish, so for this post I’m going high brow if for no other reason than the venue being Sepia (Google it to see awards/ plaudits its amassed in its short lifespan – though seeing as you’re most likely a foodie, you probably already know). Now I didn’t intend for my second post in a row to be about a hatted restaurant, – I’m just not that kind of guy – but in my circles I’m right in the thick of birthday season (I think I had 3 or 4 birthdays this past weekend… Do you have any idea how brutal this is on the wallet?).

Sometimes I have this ability to just talk my mouth off, not knowing when to stop and then inadvertently offend whoever it is I may be speaking too so today I’m going to try and keep the words to a minimum in order to increase my chances of getting through this one clean.

So on to the food. We enter the restaurant and I’m instantly reminded of New York. I’ve never been to New York but I’ve seen it in movies and in my mind this is what it would look like. The only thing missing is a Christian Bale look alike waxing lyrical about the genius that is Phil Collins. We’re seated in a tucked away spot beneath what looks like a staircase, it’s a cosy spot and a nice area to start boozing the night away (but that’s not what we’re here for).

We go for the 4 course spring set menu – the degustation looks great and at $150 per person is really quite affordable at this level of dining – but seeing as there’s a couple of shellfish items on the menu and I’m not that brave yet we give it a miss.

sepia-breadrollBread Roll + Whipped Butter

I love free bread. I love butter. This butter has been whipped and I’m reminded of McDonalds’ Big Breakfast, getting the butter and spreading it on my hash browns (don’t tell me you haven’t tried this).   

sepia-searedbonitoSeared spring bonito

The seared bonito has a strong ‘flavour of the sea’ with a hint of smokiness and in some ways reminds me of a really good piece of smoked salmon. The grated daikon makes this dish really clean and I’m off to a refreshing start to the evening.

sepia-noriscallopsNori rolled scallop

The scallops look good, the presentation of the nori is amazing. I didn’t get a chance to taste them but I’m assured theyre ‘mmm mmhhmm mhhmmm’.

sepia-tunatartareTartare of yellow fin tuna

I must say I’m not a huge fan of the Tuna tartare. There’s a strong presence of a ‘sprouting caviar lentils’, and not being big on sprouts in general I’m overwhelmed by it. The tuna itself is glorious and I’m left annoyed at myself for mixing everything in.

sepia-spannercrabrisottoQueensland spanner crab + buckwheat risotto

Once again I didn’t get to try the risotto, but once again I’m told ‘mmmmm, oh yeah, mhhmmm, gooood’.

sepia-beef-tenderloinCharcoal roasted pasture fed Angus beef tenderloin

The tenderloin is incredible. The beef is so tender and once again I’m impressed with the nori presentation. There’s a strong miso flavour to the accompaniments without it being overpowering and I’m left with the realisation that this is probably one of the best ‘steak’ dishes I’ve ever had.

sepia-butterpoachedwhitingButter poached King George whiting

I take a stab at the whiting with my dining partner finally agreeing to share. The fish has been cooked to perfection and there’s an almost creamy flavour to it. I can’t really say much else, I had less than a spoonful.

sepia-chocolate-forestSpring chocolate forest

We both go for the Chocolate forest and I’m glad we haven’t alternated on this one as this is a total OMG moment (I think I know what Usher Raymond was singing about now). I know it’s good as I like to end a meal on savoury, but after this I’m quite happy not eating anything else. Texturally this is amazing, and it actually feels as though we’re spooning mouthfuls of dirt…. Sweet delicious dirt.

I end the evening with a short stroll around Darling Harbour with no thoughts of a cheeky post dinner burger or pie. I’m left satisfied with what I feel is the best dining experience I’ve ever had, without a care in the world and almost instantly I find myself at bottle shop, bottles of wine in hand and handing over my keycard to the teller.

Sepia Restaurant

201 Sussex Street, Sydney
(02) 9283 1990

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Filed under CBD, Contemporary Australian