Around the world

It’s been a steady month of being out and about.

My credit card just got cancelled- the charming folks at the bank called to query some spending behaviour that was out of character. I tried to explain that it had just been busy. We hadn’t meant to be eating out this much.

They calmed me down by explaining they weren’t monitoring out budget to that degree- had I really spent $9,000 on jewelry in London in the past week?


So while my credit card details have been finding their way around the world and back again, here, safe in Sydney so have we. We’ve been busy unearthing some new favourites and returning to the old faithful’s.

In the last month there’s been an astounding northern chinese birthday banquet at the Grape Garden, a wine soaked Italian celebration at Pizza Mario, a spiffy French farewell at Becasse, some pre-theatre munching of pasta and tapas at both Ventuno and Firefly, a ‘yay it’s friday’ lunch at Bodega’s new baby sister cafe, a ‘congratulations for making it to one’ lunch for my niece at Cafe Morso and a showdown between Emma’s on Liberty’s and the Hungry One and some well-matched appetites.

Speckled between those have been the places we turn to mid week when the Hungry One’s just come home from training or I’ve been caught at my desk- moving a pile of papers from one side to another and taking down every piece of Excessive Capitalisation before Someone think’s it’s Important to put them back Up. And then the game starts Again. I love my job. I really do.

So in the midst of all of that I think I’ve made around three home cooked meals in the last month- reheating Pitango organic tomato soup with some chopped fennel in it and a splodge of basil dip on top doesn’t really count as cooking- let’s be honest.

Everyone of those places deserves its own proper write up. But we’ll get to them…

The first stand out that deserves its own piece of online real-estate was the Grape Garden.

Hosting the 70th celebrations of my aunt, an expert on all things fine and chinese, The Grape Garden was somewhere the Hungry One was particularly pleased to be heading to.

Driving through the cold, over the bridge, he busted out with ‘I do like going to Chinese restaurants. They always try and feed me.’

Hungry by name, hungry by nature.

This small nest of northern chinese goodness, just opposite Willoughby Girls High and a suite of tile shops certainly didn’t disappoint.

On this cold Saturday night there was an excellent turn out- three generations of the family, with little ones blinking, grasping and tugging at trucks and chopsticks from all angles. We had representatives from New York, Tokyo, Canberra- and Castlecrag.

There was a lot of conversation and catching up. But for us, unfortunately it was far too easy to get side-tracked by the quality (and quantity) of the food.

It started with champagne and proper Peking pancakes, sweet, star anise scented duck and crispy skin, all wrapped up like the two babies we everyone was trying to convince to nod off to sleep.

There was shredded chicken studded with chilli, pork dumplings which were delightfully crispy on the base, yet connected together like Lego on the top. The Hungry One’s textural devotion was mightily pleased by other feats of contrast, like the enormous knuckle of braised pork, that almost forked apart- its gelatinous skin oozy and playful like the inside of marshmallows.

There was fried pancake with chives and then crispy rice, soused with soup and nudged by prawns.

There were wheat noodles with soupy sauce, green beans with whole chillis and slivers of garlic- then came the Yellow River fish, which had been freeze dried and flown to Sydney. The chef had tried to convince my aunt the anglo-heavy company wouldn’t like the amount of bones in the whole fish. I think we served her convictions otherwise well. If anything is proof that the closer to the bone, the sweeter the flesh, this fish was it. It was only because of civilised company that we didn’t sneak the carcass off to the corner and slowly clean it dry.

We finished off with fresh fruit, middle eastern sweets, salted plums and rice wine that was nearly as old as me.

We’ll be back.

** My Aunt is not alone in her excellent taste. The newest incarnation of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide declared the Grape Garden as one of Sydney’s best Chinese.

We’re still dreaming of that duck.

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  1. Grape Garden in the SMH??? Hope it doesnt affect our meals!

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