Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wine o’clock in downtown Moss Vale

I've always had a weak spot for Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of NSW – I even got married just down the road from there, at Sutton Forest, one of the better and more enduring steps in my life. I have been watching it slowly change over the decades since.

Argyle Street Wine Merchant entrance, on the corner of the main road through Moss Vale.

I like the slightly worn feel that Moss Vale has, not to mention the fine steaks in its pub, which has been a finalist in important national meat awards. Given we have often stayed in many of the cottages at Pines Pastoral, just outside Moss Vale, and Pines is mainly a producer of quality beef, this seems appropriate. For a long time the town was the poor cousin to Bowral – where the well-off and famous came to live – but lately it has been blooming, with shops opening rather than closing, as used to be the case.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Big city myopia, regional cities and cool capitals – is Canberra cool and who really cares?

I’ve been entertained by the heated discussion over an article in the Canberra Times recently about whether Canberra is cool or not, written by one of it’s previous inhabitants who now lives in Melbourne. The question of regional cities and cool capitals is one that won’t go away, not helped by some of the superficial journalism that passes for content in the online world.

Instead of endlessly comparing cities – Melbourne versus Sydney, Melbourne versus Canberra, Canberra versus Queanbeyan, Devonport versus East Devonport (as we did in my youth) – to gauge their degree of cool or of dismal, perhaps we’d be better seeking out the interesting places and features that lurk in every city, town and locality – including Canberra.

The eye-challenging foyer of Hotel Hotel in NewActon.

Fleeing the tizz of the big city
When I first moved to Canberra in 2000, as part of my own personal Olympic project, representing Australia in the well-established and popular sport of moving house, I wasn’t sure what I had come to. I was sick of the tizz of the big city—the late night parties and the unbanned substances, that probably should have been, the nicotine and plonk and shimmering vodka, clear as the conscience of a new-born child. In the end I galloped out of Sydney, like one of those wild grey horses that roam the Snowy Mountains—the ones that have now become far too prolific and need to be culled by gunshot from helicopters.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Travelling overseas in your own country - Austrian winter lunches in the high country

Winter in Canberra can be cold and sharp. The last few weeks have been like that. In the morning it can be bitterly cold, though nothing in Australia even approaches a real cold climate. Still, when I was growing up in Tasmania, we used to get chilblains on the tips of our ears and the other morning as I was hanging out the washing it was so cold I thought it might happen again.

Gebackene Mäuse - little mice, Austrian sweet yeast pastries.

The pay off for the cold mornings is that with no cloud during the night the days are clear and blue and brilliant. That’s when Canberra comes into its own. That’s the time to enjoy a long luxurious lunch with friends. That’s exactly what we did last week, at Murrumbateman, one of the cool climate wine regions around Canberra.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Eating out in the cold country – Grazing at Gundaroo

I can’t remember how many years I have been coming to this restaurant, in the tiny historic town of Gundaroo, just outside Canberra – it seems like forever. In the time I’ve been coming here Prime Ministers have risen and fallen, Governments have teetered, illusions have shattered.

On the ground here in the country, they’ve built extensions, poured wine by the bucket and served food by the platter – and burned a tonne or two of firewood as well. Too many of the people I’ve enjoyed meals with here are no longer around to remember them but, thankfully, there’s enough of us to be getting on with.

Removing layers of clothing and adding layers of food
After settling down and removing a few layers of clothing I started with a local beer. All the tap beers are brewed by Canberra brewer Christoph Zierholz, whose brewery has been producing beer in Canberra since 2005. I settled for a glass of the Hopmeister, which has a slightly darker colour than many and a full flavour. Others at the table settled for a good alternative – a few glasses of the Wily Trout Blanc de Blanc sparkling before moving onto a bottle of the 2016 Nick O’Leary Riesling, with a seriously dry demeanour.

The main entrance of the long-established Royal Hotel where Grazing Restaurant now resides.

On previous visits I’ve found it hard to tear myself away from their seafood pie, which used to be served a as a main course. It could be challenging because it’s quite rich. However, they have now wisely reinvented it as an entrée. It’s a seafood pithivier of scallops, mussels and snapper, with creamed leek and smoked oyster emulsion. I think it’s even better as an entrée. I particularly like the fact that, even with the entrée they don’t stint on the pastry – a pie covered in pastry on the top only is not a pie at all to my mind. Quite a few of us had the pie.

Another of our party had the fennel and sugar cured Spanish Mackerel, with duck prosciutto, almond and olive, and pronounced it very good. Probably the least satisfying was the breaded Crookwell lamb and kidney croquette, with apple slaw, Bredbo black garlic and hollandaise, with the comment that the kidney was not really identifiable. That would be a plus for me, since I’m not a big fan of kidney and thought the dish looked like a darker version of a fish finger, anyway.

A big day in the country

They must have already had a big day because the braised ox cheek, with walnut, Roquefort, carrot, anchovy and spinach had run out entirely. Instead they were offering a lamb Scotch fillet with fennel and various other things I can't remember. Several of our party opted for that – though they were disappointed because although it was very flavoursome, it was slightly stringy in texture.

There was one serving left of an intriguing dish, the pressing of duck, with parsnip toffee, pickled rhubarb and pork crackle but as interesting as it sounded, we had other fish to fry. Most of the rest of us chose the organic boned and rolled whole roast hen, with chestnuts, cabbage, bacon and parsnips, which though a little too salty, was a triumph. The fish pie followed by the chicken was a complete success, so I was happy.

A couple of us felt like red wine, so we shared a bottle of 2015 Pinot Noir from Lerida Estate at Lake George, which was excellent with the chicken.

Dessert and Muscat rounding out the day
I almost wasn’t going to have dessert but I was strong-armed into it so my dining companion could try my dish. I had the burnt honey cream, with ginger and orange blossom poached pear, Iron Bark honey jelly and candied pastry, which I found very enjoyable.

Others had the apple splice, which according to the menu was Granny Smith apple and tarragon sorbet, Earl Grey infused ice cream, apple ‘salsa’ and meringue wafers – except that the Earl Grey had disappeared and it had become strawberry ice cream instead and the tarragon sorbet had gone missing in action as well. Despite this it was also pronounced a success – though lingering sadness at the missed opportunity to try the distinctive flavour of Earl Grey was evident.

One lone adventurer had the caramel salted hazelnut, with frozen caramel custard, salted hazelnut praline, chocolate parfait, chocolate aero and cocoa fragments, and gave it the thumbs up.

With my dessert I had a glass of the Gundog Estate NV Muscat from Rutherglen in Victoria, while a fellow diner tried the Morris Tokay from the same region. Both were full of flavour and dark colour – quite different choices, but both enjoyable. I used to be very fond of Muscat when I lived in Adelaide many decades ago, but I haven’t had many since, so it was a memorable pleasure.

Gundog Estate has taken over the old building at the rear of Grazing, an annexe that has housed a string of smaller operations. We inspected it after lunch and it looked impressive, with a warm and cosy space for winter and a pleasing deck for warmer months.

Remembering and forgetting
One of the pitfalls of the food blogger is getting so caught up in enjoying the food and the fun of sitting around chatting with a lively group over fine food and drinks that you forget to take any photographs. It’s not embarrassment at taking photos of your food. I’ve long since got over that – after all, what better thing is there to photograph? The problem is just general neglect of photography – I think I’ve realised that you can’t be a part-time photographer, even at dinner.

In this case, some of the dishes, as well as being excellent, looked superb. The much enjoyed fish pie and rolled chicken shall, alas, forever remain invisible. However, the solution is to go there yourself, hunker down over an open fire or in a private room, savour the local beer and wine and see for yourself what the food tastes, smells, looks and feels like. It will make you happy.

See also

'tableland' on Facebook – life on the land and at the table
'Life on the land and at the table, the companion Facebook site to this blog, for brief and topical snippets and vignettes about land to table – the daily routine of living in the high country, on the edge of the vast Pacific, just up from Sydney, just down from Mount Kosciuszko', 'tableland' on Facebook.

Wine o’clock in downtown Moss Vale
‘I've always had a weak spot for Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of NSW. I have been watching it slowly change over the decades since. The latest addition is a new and very funky bar, Wine Mosaic Lounge, combined with a wine vendor, Argyle Street Wine Merchant. Passing through, we stopped to sample it. We thought aloud ‘we must come back here soon’ – and we will’, Wine o’clock in downtown Moss Vale.

Big city myopia, regional cities and cool capitals – is Canberra cool and who really cares?
'I’ve been entertained by the heated discussion about whether Canberra is cool or not. The question of regional cities and cool capitals is one that won’t go away. Instead of endlessly comparing cities – Melbourne versus Sydney, Melbourne versus Canberra, Canberra versus Queanbeyan, Devonport versus East Devonport (as we did in my youth) – to gauge their degree of cool or of dismal, perhaps we’d be better seeking out the interesting places and features that lurk in every city, town and locality', Big city myopia, regional cities and cool capitals – is Canberra cool and who really cares?

Travelling overseas in your own country ­– Austrian winter lunches in the high country
‘The pay off for cold Canberra mornings is that with no cloud during the night the days are clear and blue and brilliant. That’s when Canberra comes into its own. That’s the time to enjoy a long luxurious lunch with friends. The ACT is so tiny that is doesn’t take long before you have to cross the border in your quest for food and drink and spectacular landscapes. These outings are the slices of life in between the restaurants and bars where you go out in public. This is where the farmers markets and the home-grown produce and the local vintages come together in the privacy of your own home. With moments like this, even winter starts to look attractive’, Travelling overseas in your own country ­– Austrian winter lunches in the high country.

Mezzalira Ristorante – the Italian empire strikes back
‘I seem to spend a lot of time in the small Italian and Sons restaurant in hipster heaven in downtown Braddon, with its equally small bar annexe, Bacaro, at the rear. It’s so good and so pleasant that it’s easy to forget the other parts of the Italian empire. The flagship restaurant, Mezzalira, is across the the city, near the National University. It’s in the fabulous but somewhat neglected though stately Melbourne Building, with its Italianate arches and colonnades. I sometimes think that if suddenly the world was about to end (a bit like contemporary times) and I was offered the choice of only one cuisine until the crunch, I’d have to choose Italian. That way I could die happy,’ Mezzalira Ristorante – the Italian empire strikes back.

Ester – the sweet smell of success
‘Because the high country is adjacent to the low country, it takes only three hours to drive from the nation’s capital to the nation’s financial capital. In the early to mid 1990s Chippendale in Sydney was a suburb you travelled through to get somewhere else. All that is changing in a big way, with plenty there to explore. A sure sign of these times is eatery Ester, a restaurant that reflects the focus of its name on the science of food with some intrepid experiments in the culinary arts’, Ester – the sweet smell of success.

In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts
‘Tucked away in a corner at the Ainslie shops where it’s easy to miss entirely ­– in the heart of the suburb know as the Red Centre for it’s exceptionally high Labor vote – is an unexpected delight. The location has hosted a series of less than successful ventures but this most recent has been an unqualified success. Who would have thought that a cafe hailing from Brittany could attract such a crowd. The secret of success is that it focuses on what it does and it does it well. You can park yourself inside the small venue or outside if the weather is fine and pick from some unexpected sweet pastries, throw down the odd glass of French wine or eat buckwheat pancakes or baguettes. The cafe also runs to daily specials that can be very unexpected. Long may it reign over us – Rule Brittany rather than Rule Britannia’, In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts.

We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii 
‘I realise I may have just become a statistic. I have a suspicion that I have eaten more sorbet, gelato and icecream since local Canberra icecream outlet Frugii opened in Canberra’s Braddon perimeter than I have eaten in my whole previous life. Tucked away in hipster heaven, it keeps churning out flavours, in an ever changing smorgasbord of coldness’, We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii.

A bustling Friday night in hipster heaven
‘On a bustling Friday night in hipster heaven, I popped into my favourite Canberra restaurant, Italian and Sons, planning for little more than a quick bite to eat. I managed to get my favourite spot – when I’m not settled comfortably in Bacaro, the adjoining bar out the back, that is – sitting in the window, watching the action on the street. I headed straight for a real blast from my Adelaide past, part of my earliest discovery of Italian cuisine – saltimbocca. Then I beat a path down Lonsdale Street to Frugii, Canberra’s own dessert laboratory. What is happening to this city? It’s getting cooler by the minute and it’s not just the icecream or the approach of winter’, A bustling Friday night in hipster heaven.

Peas in a pod – food takes off
‘Pod Food is in the heart of the slightly ramshackle gardening and nursery hub of Canberra, Pialligo , adjacent to the burgeoning exercise in urban growth called Canberra Airport. It was always the place you went to get large pots and even larger apples. Pod Food was always good enough – but now it is something a whole lot more impressive. On a rainy Friday I entered through their marvellous cottage garden entrance way to sit on the covered and contained outside deck. The entrance to Pod Food, formerly part of an operating nursery, is the sort of garden I eventually want to have. It felt highly suitable sitting at the entrance to the Australian high country as the rain came down, drinking the fine product of another high region on the opposite side of the world’, Peas in a pod – food takes off.

Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven
‘It had been quite a week and I had been crushed by too many encounters with the crazy world of Centrelink as I fulfilled my long list of aged care responsibilities. I needed cheering up so last night ate out at the venerable Italian and Sons, the very first of the many funky venues which now enliven Braddon. My attention was drawn to the rare appearance of vitello tonnato. My imagination had been captured decades ago when I was a young boy by seeing the recipe for the dish in Margaret Fulton’s classic cookbook. I finally tried it in a tiny restaurant in Florence, during my first visit overseas, after a stint at the massive Frankfurt Book Fair in 1989. This most recent one was the best I have ever eaten outside my own home – well, perhaps the best anywhere. This is a favourite place, probably my most favourite in Canberra. Coming here always makes me feel happy and what more can you ask?’, Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven.

Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century
‘On a day and night which was bitterly cold – as cold as Canberra has been this year, with the hint of snow clouds overhead – I was reminded why I live here. As we wandered along after a full day of cultural institutions and design events, looking for somewhere to eat we impetuously popped into Restaurant Eightysix and even more impetuously were able to get a table. I had forgotten reading somewhere that famed long-former Adelaide chef, Christine Manfield was here for the month, cooking up an Asian-inspired menu. How much better could it get?’, Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century.

Smoking for broke beside the Molongolo
‘Where the market gardens that supplied Canberra as far back as the 1820s used to be a small fortune has been spent turning 86 acres overlooking the Eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin into a superb regional restaurant, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant. It made for a tremendous birthday lunch in a spacious airy and light space, full of exciting food treated well. I couldn’t take my eyes off the copper guttering and downpipes. I thought all the loose copper in the world had already been stolen but clearly it’s still available. It’s quite clear that even though work is still being finalised, when it is finished it will be a spectacular addition to the nation’s capital and the region’, Smoking for broke beside the Molongolo.

In praise of the Berra
‘When I first moved to Canberra, almost as an accidental intersection of geography and employment after the Sydney Olympics, I used to say “if you had lived in Sydney and one day you woke up and discovered you were in Canberra, you would think you had died.” Then I changed my mind. It took ten years but it was inevitable. Berrans are a hardy bunch – they can withstand the hot winds of summer and of Australia’s Parliament, the chill flurries from the Snowy Mountains and the chilling news of budget cuts. The Berra is half-way between everywhere’, In praise of the Berra.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mezzalira Ristorante – the Italian empire strikes back

I seem to spend a lot of time in the small Italian and Sons restaurant in hipster heaven in downtown Braddon, with its equally small bar annexe, Bacaro, at the rear. It’s so good and so pleasant that it’s easy to forget the other parts of the Italian empire – Mezzalira and Da Rosario.

The flagship restaurant, Mezzalira, is across the the city from Italian and Sons, near the National University. It’s in the fabulous but somewhat neglected though stately Melbourne Building, with its Italianate arches and colonnades. Da Rosario is a hole in the wall attached to it, serving fine lunches, coffees and Italian pastries.

Mezzalira Ristorante - in the glorious though neglected Melbourne Building in the heart of Civic.

Last night my dinner companion and I joined some old friends (also long-term friends) to sample the wares of Mezzalira one more time. We hadn’t been for a while so I was excited to be seated on the corner of the Melbourne Building in the heart of Civic. We were feeling a bit peckish so while we made up our minds we had a plate of their signature rosemary focaccia bread with a side serve of Cerignola green and Taggiasche black olives ‘Schiacciate’ with sage, chilli and rosemary.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Shed universe – adventures in the curious world of over-crowded sheds

While it’s easy to live in an apartment without a garden – though it’s amazing how spectacular the world of pots can be – it’s difficult to live in a house without a garden. If you live in a house and have a garden, then you must have a shed. The wild and wonky world of sheds has been well-documented by eminent researcher, Mark Thomson, from the Institute of Backyard Studies.

If you live in a house with a garden, then you must have a shed.

In the spirit of his research, I have a shed, modest though it might be in comparison to those he has uncovered. At times it feels like the storage area of a small farm. It involves many of the great issues of modern life: the challenge of storage (the contents increase in volume while the size of the shed remains the same), the dilemma of relevance (I have found that some items I have kept and carried around across several states for thirty years, ‘just in case’, have definitely been needed – others less so) and the judgement about quality versus expense versus ‘how often will I actually use it?’

I would never have considered that one day I might again have a shed – it just shows that there’s truth in that tired old phrase ‘never say never’. It also shows that the phrase ‘I am unlikely ever to use that again’ is definitely loaded with risk.

See also

'tableland' on Facebook – life on the land and at the table
'Life on the land and at the table, the companion Facebook site to this blog, for brief and topical snippets and vignettes about land to table – the daily routine of living in the high country, on the edge of the vast Pacific, just up from Sydney, just down from Mount Kosciuszko', 'tableland' on Facebook.

Wine o’clock in downtown Moss Vale
‘I've always had a weak spot for Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of NSW. I have been watching it slowly change over the decades since. The latest addition is a new and very funky bar, Wine Mosaic Lounge, combined with a wine vendor, Argyle Street Wine Merchant. Passing through, we stopped to sample it. We thought aloud ‘we must come back here soon’ – and we will’, Wine o’clock in downtown Moss Vale.

Big city myopia, regional cities and cool capitals – is Canberra cool and who really cares?
'I’ve been entertained by the heated discussion about whether Canberra is cool or not. The question of regional cities and cool capitals is one that won’t go away. Instead of endlessly comparing cities – Melbourne versus Sydney, Melbourne versus Canberra, Canberra versus Queanbeyan, Devonport versus East Devonport (as we did in my youth) – to gauge their degree of cool or of dismal, perhaps we’d be better seeking out the interesting places and features that lurk in every city, town and locality', Big city myopia, regional cities and cool capitals – is Canberra cool and who really cares?

In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts
‘Tucked away in a corner at the Ainslie shops where it’s easy to miss entirely ­– in the heart of the suburb know as the Red Centre for it’s exceptionally high Labor vote – is an unexpected delight. The location has hosted a series of less than successful ventures but this most recent has been an unqualified success. Who would have thought that a cafe hailing from Brittany could attract such a crowd. The secret of success is that it focuses on what it does and it does it well. You can park yourself inside the small venue or outside if the weather is fine and pick from some unexpected sweet pastries, throw down the odd glass of French wine or eat buckwheat pancakes or baguettes. The cafe also runs to daily specials that can be very unexpected. Long may it reign over us – Rule Brittany rather than Rule Britannia’, In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts.

We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii 
‘I realise I may have just become a statistic. I have a suspicion that I have eaten more sorbet, gelato and icecream since local Canberra icecream outlet Frugii opened in Canberra’s Braddon perimeter than I have eaten in my whole previous life. Tucked away in hipster heaven, it keeps churning out flavours, in an ever changing smorgasbord of coldness’, We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii.

A bustling Friday night in hipster heaven
‘On a bustling Friday night in hipster heaven, I popped into my favourite Canberra restaurant, Italian and Sons, planning for little more than a quick bite to eat. I managed to get my favourite spot – when I’m not settled comfortably in Bacaro, the adjoining bar out the back, that is – sitting in the window, watching the action on the street. I headed straight for a real blast from my Adelaide past, part of my earliest discovery of Italian cuisine – saltimbocca. Then I beat a path down Lonsdale Street to Frugii, Canberra’s own dessert laboratory. What is happening to this city? It’s getting cooler by the minute and it’s not just the icecream or the approach of winter’, A bustling Friday night in hipster heaven.

Peas in a pod – food takes off
‘Pod Food is in the heart of the slightly ramshackle gardening and nursery hub of Canberra, Pialligo , adjacent to the burgeoning exercise in urban growth called Canberra Airport. It was always the place you went to get large pots and even larger apples. Pod Food was always good enough – but now it is something a whole lot more impressive. On a rainy Friday I entered through their marvellous cottage garden entrance way to sit on the covered and contained outside deck. The entrance to Pod Food, formerly part of an operating nursery, is the sort of garden I eventually want to have. It felt highly suitable sitting at the entrance to the Australian high country as the rain came down, drinking the fine product of another high region on the opposite side of the world’, Peas in a pod – food takes off.

Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven
‘It had been quite a week and I had been crushed by too many encounters with the crazy world of Centrelink as I fulfilled my long list of aged care responsibilities. I needed cheering up so last night ate out at the venerable Italian and Sons, the very first of the many funky venues which now enliven Braddon. My attention was drawn to the rare appearance of vitello tonnato. My imagination had been captured decades ago when I was a young boy by seeing the recipe for the dish in Margaret Fulton’s classic cookbook. I finally tried it in a tiny restaurant in Florence, during my first visit overseas, after a stint at the massive Frankfurt Book Fair in 1989. This most recent one was the best I have ever eaten outside my own home – well, perhaps the best anywhere. This is a favourite place, probably my most favourite in Canberra. Coming here always makes me feel happy and what more can you ask?’, Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven.

Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century
‘On a day and night which was bitterly cold – as cold as Canberra has been this year, with the hint of snow clouds overhead – I was reminded why I live here. As we wandered along after a full day of cultural institutions and design events, looking for somewhere to eat we impetuously popped into Restaurant Eightysix and even more impetuously were able to get a table. I had forgotten reading somewhere that famed long-former Adelaide chef, Christine Manfield was here for the month, cooking up an Asian-inspired menu. How much better could it get?’, Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century.

Smoking for broke beside the Molongolo
‘Where the market gardens that supplied Canberra as far back as the 1820s used to be a small fortune has been spent turning 86 acres overlooking the Eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin into a superb regional restaurant, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant. It made for a tremendous birthday lunch in a spacious airy and light space, full of exciting food treated well. I couldn’t take my eyes off the copper guttering and downpipes. I thought all the loose copper in the world had already been stolen but clearly it’s still available. It’s quite clear that even though work is still being finalised, when it is finished it will be a spectacular addition to the nation’s capital and the region’, Smoking for broke beside the Molongolo.

In praise of the Berra
‘When I first moved to Canberra, almost as an accidental intersection of geography and employment after the Sydney Olympics, I used to say “if you had lived in Sydney and one day you woke up and discovered you were in Canberra, you would think you had died.” Then I changed my mind. It took ten years but it was inevitable. Berrans are a hardy bunch – they can withstand the hot winds of summer and of Australia’s Parliament, the chill flurries from the Snowy Mountains and the chilling news of budget cuts. The Berra is half-way between everywhere’, In praise of the Berra.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ester – the sweet smell of success

Because the high country is adjacent to the low country, it takes only three hours to drive from the nation’s capital to the nation’s financial capital. This means that my ‘tableland’ blog often ventures to the 'floorland' of Sydney to take in the views, the culture and the cuisine of our largest city.

In the early to mid 1990s, when I worked for community radio 2SER-FM, set in the heart of Chippendale atop the 26 floor University of Technology tower, its surrounds were distinctly lacking in facilities. It’s main claim to fame was, briefly, The Hell Fire Club – and the Funeral Station. It was a suburb you travelled through to get somewhere else.

On a recent visit to Sydney I found all that is changing in a big way, with plenty there yet to explore, such as White Rabbit Gallery and the whole redeveloped Central Park area. A sure sign of these times is eatery Ester, a restaurant that reflects the focus of its name on the science of food with some intrepid experiments in the culinary arts (Esters: a class of organic compounds, often fragrant, which contribute smell, and hence flavour, to food). In a terrific space it sits you down and begins to work its magic.

Ester's menu hits lots of high notes

Settling in for a hot spell
Sydney was settling in for one of its hot spells – though nothing compared to Adelaide, enough to be unpleasant. We decided to face it head on and started with something sparkling to quench our thirst and set the tone for the evening. A bottle of La Bulle du Facteur Chenin Blanc 2015 from the Loire in France did the trick, though I interspersed that with a bottle of Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale from Richmond in Victoria for variety.