Thursday, October 21, 2010

Darlinghurst: Street Art: Cupco

Loitering around the Bourke Street badlands in Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst today, these colourful characters caught my eye. They look like some bent, Japanese comic book heroes and monsters, and there were posters of them all the way along the street. I like to think of the pair above as Three-Eyed Web Man and Twin-Pocket Geek.

The chap above would have to be The Crab Monster.

These two look like Redneck One and Redneck Two.

You may have noticed the word CUPCO in large capital letters beneath each character and you may have thought this was just another plastic-cup promotion stunt.
But no, a genuine artist is behind these posters and the only thing he is selling is felt dolls, which look like his mad characters, and have detachable heads. He's a bloody genius. I have a secret fondness for dolls and now I want one of Luke Temby's hand-made friends. He even offers a custom-made doll service where you can have a felt character made in your likeness.
Temby, who is in his late 30s, was inspired to make his wacky dolls during a five-year stint in Japan. He arrived back in Australia, with his own living doll, wife Mayumi, and set about building a doll empire of more than 100 pieces.
Temby has made dolls of Osama Bin Laden, female suicide bombers, Jesus, Satan, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Joan of Arc, the multi-armed Hindu goddess Kali and former standover man turned author Mark Chopper Read.
He has also held a couple of solo shows at the Damien Minton Gallery in Redfern, in inner-Sydney, where in 2007 the doll of Hubbard - being shot out of a felt volcano - was listed for sale at $850 and dolls of the Pope and the Queen sold for $950 each. Joan of Arc being burned at the stake - while listening to The Smiths on her walkman - sold for $850.
I rather fancy the Suicide Angels, which are limited to an edition of ten, and are relatively inexpensive at $350.

Temby lives in Summer Hill, in Sydney's inner-west, so I'm guessing it was one of his minions - or a fan who requested free stickers through his website - that pasted these colourful posters up around Darlinghurst.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Darlinghurst: Food: Forbes and Burton

After a week of cold weather and a few days of gales, Spring finally stuck its head out from under a rug of clouds to make Sunday a fabulous day to head outdoors again. I spent the morning running errands and by 2pm I still hadn't eaten a scrap, so when Ruby Molteno called and suggested a late lunch, I swung by, scooped her up and we landed promptly at the doorway of Forbes and Burton cafe.
On such a lovely day we were surprised at first to discover an available outdoor table, so we donned hats and sat in the sun . . . until we became so sickeningly hot from its rays, and realised why most diners were sitting inside.
We placed our order and moved inside too:

Forbes and Burton is located in an 1850s building that stretches all the way from 238-252 Forbes Street, and is listed on the Register of the National Estate. I'll be doing a post soon about the history of the building, known as the Belgrave Terrace.
But I still can't talk about its 21st Century life without mentioning the building's historical sandstone walls with their chip marks from the workers' picks. The building is right across the road from the National Art School and former Darlinghurst Gaol, which is mainly built from sandstone that was dug out from the local area by convict workers.
The gaol was constructed between 1821 to 1841 and I wonder if the sandstone used on the Belgrave Terrace was hacked out by its convict neighbours or was left-overs.
The interior design of Forbes and Burton makes the most of the building's heritage aspects, but also includes nice modern embellishments, such as this crimson-pink, reflective panel:

The building was home to the very trendy Dov cafe until 2006 when David Pegrum, a former head chef at the internationally acclaimed Sydney restaurant Tetsuyas, took over the kitchen.
I ordered the special of the day, which the waiter incorrectly recited to me, and which turned out to be Braised Chicory and Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Asparagus ($22). The waiter wasn't far off the mark though (he thought the chicory was witlof) and he was right when he said it was a good-looking dish:

It tasted great too and there was some wilted greens, drenched in deliciously fattening butter, hidden beneath the fish. Ms Molteno, the all-day breakfast queen, ordered poached eggs with whole-grain toast, bacon and tomato:

I asked Ruby why on earth she always orders bacon and eggs when she could easily cook them at home. She said it's because she doesn't like to have bacon in the fridge as she wants to keep fatty temptations right out of sight. I suspect the real reason is because she doesn't much like cooking. Ruby then went on a discourse about how such a seemingly simple dish can be cooked so many ways and how each cafe's bacon and eggs tasted completely different.
Ruby said she didn't truly realise this until she went to London many years ago and discovered to her horror that some cafes didn't know how to cook bacon and eggs. As for the Forbes and Burton version, Ruby was full of admiration: the eggs were plump and free range, the tomatoes were Roma and the bacon wasn't too salty.
Then because I hadn't eaten all day and because I had to work in the evening and life is too short to say no to anything, I ordered the Chocolate Brownie with Raspberry Coulis and Yoghurt:

We weren't quite sure about the yoghurt blob - surely it should have been double cream - but the sourish yoghurt and raspberry were a good foil for the sweet chocolate.
Forbes and Burton
252 Forbes Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9356 8788

Monday, October 18, 2010

Darlinghurst: Detritus: Electrical Substation Flyer

This flyer was posted in the window of the newly relocated Bill Warner Chemist on the corner of Victoria and Surrey streets.
Energy Australia are hoping to install new kiosk substations in the area to cater to the increased demand for power, and obviously some people aren't happy about it.
The kiosk mentioned in the flyer above is set to be installed on Surrey Street, just outside Dr Warner's shop door.
Energy Australia says it will result in the loss of one car space, but that a nearby Plane tree will be unaffected. Save the car space, saw down the tree, I say.
The kiosk is rather big (about 2.7m long, 1.5m wide and 1.6m high) and not all that pretty but I don't really understand the fuss Dr Warner is making - especially when he keeps his shop lights on all night.
It also appears that the Surrey Street location is an alternative to Energy Australia's original and foolish plan to place the kiosk within the grounds of St John's Church across the road, which was opposed by the Darlinghurst Residents Action Group in August.

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Stoneleigh

- Register of the National Estate, NSW Heritage Act
Oh, to live in Stoneleigh,
If only it could be.
Ms Violet Tingle of Stoneleigh,
Sounds so right to me.
I so badly want to live in this mansion at 1A Darley Street, but it hasn't been on the market since 1990 - when it sold for $3.18 million. I wonder how much I would have to pay for the keys 20-years later? It's my dream Darlinghurst pad and I haven't even been inside. I can only imagine what it's like . . . the marble floors, high ceilings and the parties I would host. And how I would have a room each, dedicated to day dresses, evening gowns, high-heeled shoes and feathered head-pieces. And a library, of course. And maybe even a room purely for flower arrangement, with a sink, custom shelves to hold vases and a large bench stocked with scissors and ribbons. And it would be really useful to have a writing room, flooded in sunshine with a desk next to the largest window. I'd also definitely have a little cocktail lounge with big comfortable chairs, an old record player and a well-stocked bar.

But this two-storey Victorian Regency home, with its beautiful colonnades and fine hedge, is not only grand, glamorous and unattainable, it has an interesting history too.
Stoneleigh was built for distinguished solicitor William Barker in 1860 - the same year Abraham Lincoln was elected US President, Anton Chekhov was born and Charles Dickins published the first instalment of Great Expectations.
Mr Barker, a church-going colonist, was born in Ireland in 1815 and came to Australia in 1830, at the wee-age of 15. By the time he was 38, Mr Barker was important enough to be granted 28 parcels of land in Darlinghurst and the surrounding area. Seven years later he built Stoneleigh, on the highest point in the hood.
Mr Barker once ran as the candidate for the seat of East Sydney and lost, not surprisingly in retrospect, to Sir Henry Parkes, the Father of Federation who went on to serve five terms as NSW Premier (and who also had his own mansion, Kenilworth, designed by John Young in distinctive Gothic style on Johnston Street, Annandale, in Sydney's inner west - it sold for a measly $3.35 million in 2007).
Mr Barker was a partner in the firm, Norton, Son and Barker, and was once offered a District Court Judgeship, but declined the position because he preferred private practice. He died suddenly at his home in Bondi in 1879, aged just 64.
I am not certain of when Mr Barker vacated Stoneleigh for Bondi but from 1870, ten years after it was built, the grand home belonged to Richard Jones, founder of the Maitland Mercury newspaper (still published by Fairfax) and a former chairman of the Commonwealth Bank. Jones died inside Stoneleigh on August 25, 1892. Apparently on that day, each year, his ghost appears in the kitchen asking for a cup of tea.
I made that bit up, but it's highly possible.
In 1895 the home moved into the hands of another banking big-wig, Sir J. Russell French, general manager of the Bank of NSW, and he stayed at Stoneleigh for ten years.
From 1907 the building operated as a boarding house and was owned by Henry Tongue. I could find no further details about this boarding house period or the curious Mr Tongue, but in 1912 Stoneleigh was snapped up by the Marist Brothers High School, which occupied the neighbouring building, now known as Alexandra Flats.
When the Marist Brothers sold up in '68, I can only assume that Stoneleigh - which for a brief spell went under the decidedly less romantic name, Greencourt - was resumed as a private residence.
I'm not sure who is living there today - there is often a black Porsche in the driveway - but two rather obscure businesses have their address at Stoneleigh.
The first is called Stoneleigh Gallery and judging by their website, they are a wholesaler of deluxe silk flowers. At one time they were listed with NSW Tourism and appear to have invited travellers in to the property to peruse the gardens and its artfully placed urns - drats that I missed this!
The other business is called Liberon Waxes, which is the name of a cult bees' wax polish for wooden furnishing. Just listen to this guff from a wax website:

''Liberon Beeswax Polish brings back that memory of a time when the pace of life was less hectic and when drying and wood-denaturing aerosol waxes had yet to be invented.''

I guess Stoneleigh evokes the same memories . . . I often sit around, idly day-dreaming about the less hectic pace of life I would have at Stoneleigh, and how I would definitely employ a cleaner, because there was no way I was looking after that big old mansion on my own.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Darlinghurst: Food: Tigerbakers Cafe

With gale force winds hitting Sydney and Plane tree dust hazard-alerts issued by the Bureau of Allergies, I ditched my usual Saturday morning food trip to the Kings Cross Markets yesterday for the safety of indoors at the cosy and colourful Tigerbakers Cafe.
It was a well-timed visit too, because the cafe at 292 Victoria Street only reopened a couple of weeks ago following a mini-renovation and makeover.
I'm not a regular at Tigerbakers so it is hard to notice the changes, but it seems cleaner and more comfortable. The outdoor tables have been upgraded, the inside bar has been redesigned, embroidered cushions appear new and the walls are now lined with little boxes containing curios. There's also a chainsaw sitting on a top shelf, just in case some rogue Daleks should make an appearance.
I suppose it could also come in handy for night-time Plane tree removal.

On this Saturday morning Tigerbakers was packed with a diverse range of people, from modellish-looking young trendies, to older men in love, mothers with their daughters and lone women with laptops.
Tigerbakers recently introduced free wi-fi. It also now has a liquor licence and offers bar food and drinks in the evenings, when previously it was closed.
Tigerbakers is not just about the food and drinks though, art takes a starring role: a brilliant tiger leaps across an emerald blue backdrop on the cafe's roller-shutter and the same beast can be found on an inside wall:

There's also a mural decorating the ceiling and canvases and framed paintings lining the walls from the front door, all the way to the bathrooms out back. Tigerbakers's website features profiles of the artists, which include Justin Feuerring, whose chalk, pavement illustrations of men's faces were once a regular part of the Darlinghurst street-scene.
Despite all these great visual distractions, the chef hasn't forgotten to take care with the food, which is lovingly prepared. My friend, Hildred Moore, had hotcakes with berries and maple syrup, which she described between mouthfuls as ''really good''.

I ordered a BLT, which came within a hot, crispy round bun:

It was a perfectly balanced sandwich and a bit of a bargain too at only $8.
On top of everything, Tigerbakers's waiters were very friendly and super-efficient. I was so happy and comfortable on my cushioned bench that this could easily become my new brunch haunt.
Tigerbakers Cafe
292 Victoria Street
0415 200 474

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Across the Border: Surry Hills: Maya Vegetarian

Even just writing about Maya Vegetarian, at 468-472 Cleveland Street, in Surry Hills, makes me crave Indian food. Maya is worth crossing the border for and I do so regularly just to eat there (but I dash back to Darlinghurst once I have eaten).
Maya is one of those restaurants that you need to eat at, at least once every one or two months, for nourishment. Even on the days when I have gone to Maya, and not been that excited or hungry, the moment I walk inside and I'm hit by the smell of their curries, I'm suddenly famished and end up eating like a pig. My excuse for eating so much is because nothing else tastes like it, and I'd never be able to replicate the dishes at home. I almost always go there with my friend, photo-meister John Webber, so that I am not alone in my pigginess.

Maya is nothing fancy, just a little canteen on busy Cleveland Street that has wooden chairs and tables without cloths, spread across two dining rooms with tiled floors. You order at the counter, take a number on a stand, find some cutlery, napkins and plastic cups of water, and then hopefully gain a seat facing out towards Cleveland Street so you can watch the world go by.
There are a few large-screen televisions mounted on the walls, which feature the latest Bollywood extravaganza, just to set the mood.
For a while the walls were decorated in photographs of the owner's expensive sports car, but at the moment they are dotted with small blackboards with cute quotes, such as, ''I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals, I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants - A. Whitney Brown''.
I almost always go to Maya on Sundays when I am feeling a little rat-shit from the night before and need pepping up. I was there last Sunday, with John Webber, and we ordered what we always order on Sundays. First up, Lassi:

And before we have even taken three sips, the waiter arrives with our Aloo Tikki:

The Aloo Tikki is only available on weekends and is a bargain at $5.90. Aloo means potato and Tikki means cake - I think - so it is basically two large potato cakes, dressed with chickpea curry, spicy sauces, some crunchy Indian noodle-ish snacks, slices of fresh red onion and coriander leaves.
This is perhaps not the best photograph, because once again I have dived in before remembering to take a picture (because it is just so tasty) but you must go to Maya this weekend and order it.
The other dish we always share is the South Indian Thali for $13.90. I prefer the South to the North, because you are given pooris with the South, and japatis with the North. And I love pooris, those flaky, hot, puffy rounds of bread that are best torn apart and then used as a claw to pick up the curries.
Thali refers to the round metal dish that the seven little metal pots, rice, pooris, pickle, papadum, fresh cucumber and tomato are served upon. The seven little pots contain four overly-yummy curries, rasam, which is a sourish, thin, lentil and tomato soup, raita and a creamy rice and pistachio dessert.

My favourite curry, which we weren't given this weekend, is made from kidney beans or some dark, small bean, which is sitting in the most scrumptious sauce that maybe has a dash of cream. I have no idea what it is called but one day I am going to plead our favourite, dark-eyed waiter for the recipe. That curry is so good, it could pass for meat, but it is all, purely vego.
The other curries, either dry or in gravy, are usually a mix of vegetables or lentils or a combination of both, but each have their own unique flavours, textures and levels of spiciness.
Maya Vegetarian must have been so successful the owners were able to open a meat version, Maya Da Dhaba, across the road about six years ago. Then about four years ago they opened Maya Tandoori in the floor above Maya Vegetarian. Business is booming and I am so happy for them because in about 2001 the kitchen of Maya Vegetarian burnt down and they had to close the doors and start from scratch.
Maya Da Dhaba and Maya Tandoori are good, but I have only eaten there a few times, whereas I continually return to Maya Vegetarian.
And despite the fact that I am always so disgustingly full when I have finished the thali, I always make sure to grab a take-out gulab jaman in sugary syrup from their extensive sweets selection, to eat later.
Maya Vegetarian
468-472 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
02 9699 8633

Friday, October 15, 2010

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Alexandra Flats

Alexandra Flats
- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List
This three-storey, sprawling Federation Free Style building, taking up 280-296 Liverpool Street, was home to the Marist Brothers High School from 1911 to 1968. There were then plans to demolish the building and construct some Canberra-style, 13-story apartment building on the site. How fortunate that this never happened.
While the plans were put on hold and the building sat dormant, some very clever artists, actors and musicians decided to use the large rooms for rehearsals, gigs and studio space. One such group, known as the Side F/X collective, squatted in the building for about 20 years. The building is just a hop away from the National Art School so it was very convenient.
I had a friend who squatted at a disused building in Woolloomooloo during the 1970s and 80s. When the state government wanted the site back, my friend and his squatter colleagues refused to budge. The fight went on for a while until the government promised it would subsidise the squatters' rents if they would just move the hell out.
To this day my friend only pays 25 per cent of the market rate for the lease of his very fancy apartment in Rose Bay, in Sydney's east.
The Side F/X collective was evicted from Alexandra Flats in March 1981 when a developer purchased the building for $600,000 and converted the former school into 17 residential apartments.
The following year a three-bedroom apartment with a balcony would have set you back $180,000, which was actually quite a lot for the early 80s.
In March this year a similar property in Alexandra Flats sold for $1.305 million, which is actually quite a lot too.
I've never been inside the flats, so I don't know what I am missing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Darlinghurst: Plant Life: City of Sydney Council's Potted Colour

Every now and then the City of Sydney Council reveals its truly potted side, by installing unusual flower and leaf planter-box sculptures on the footpaths in a bid to spruce up the neighbourhood.
The latest crop of kooky-shaped, green-sculptures arrived last week and if I had more time on my hands, I would have gone to Reverse Garbage in Marrickville, in Sydney's inner west, to purchase art and craft supplies, off-cuts and other materials, so I could creep out in the middle of the night and turn these:

Into these:

I wouldn't need much, just some old tennis balls, pieces of cardboard, maybe some kind of round-ducted device and a handful of sticks, and in a few crafty minutes the streets of Darlinghurst would be invaded by Daleks:

Perhaps I do have too much time on my hands though, because I also dreamt up an idea for a budget craft attack, whereby I would find some old vacuum-cleaner hoses to transform the planter-boxes into that dinky robot from Lost in Space:

But the Dalek urge is much stronger and the similarity uncanny, so despite the City of Sydney Council's intention to inspire thoughts of Spring-growth and plant lovin', I only think, ''Ex-ter-minate! Ex-ter-minate!''
Since Dr Who's foes were installed, near Poos on Sticks on Victoria Street, I have also started having peculiar day-dreams that a seemingly innocent floral-Dalek such as this . . .

. . . would one day pop open to reveal this:


But I'm still trying to work out what to make of this:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Novar

- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List
This Victorian Italianate-style villa at 298 Liverpool Street, on the corner of Darley Street, was built way back in 1880, so is now 130-years-old. And it doesn't look too bad for an old fella.
The NSW Heritage Branch says changes were made to the building in the 1930s, significantly an overlay of ''stripped Classical style'', which I assume means the once decorative facade was pared back, although there are still elements of Victorian decoration along the rim of the roof.
There's also an ugly, white drain-pipe running down the building, which I believe was added in the late 20th or early 21st Century.
I would love to look inside this building, which sold for $1.95 million in 2000, because it's one of the area's few mansion-houses that hasn't been converted into flats.
I have seen a young family coming and going from its Darley Street doorway and while I am slightly jealous of their home, this still isn't one of my favourite Darlinghurst buildings.
Again, it's a privacy issue for me: Novar's windows open right on to the street, so if left open, passers-by could easily stick their heads in.
My friend, Ruby Molteno, said she saw a For Sale sign outside Novar a few weeks ago, but I can find no record of it being listed for sale.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Across the Border: Kings Cross: New York Restaurant Photographs by John Webber

Take-Out Roast, The New York Restaurant, Kings Cross
Photograph by John Webber, 2010

When my photographer friend, John Webber, heard about the impending closure of the New York Restaurant, which I wrote about in a previous post, he grabbed his Canon camera and zipped over to the diner at 18 Kellett Street.
And I am so glad he did.
John Webber has lived in and around Kings Cross and Surry Hills for most of his adult life - if indeed he could be termed a "grown-up". He began his career in photography in the 1970s, shooting jewellery for magazines and advertisements and later took food shots for restaurant light-box displays (if you've ever seen a photograph of a Mr Whippy ice-cream, chances are John Webber took it).
In the 1980s he was employed as the staff photographer for Countdown magazine, which was a tie-in with the ABC TV music-program hosted by Molly Meldrum. During his years with Countdown, John Webber photographed hundreds of Australian and international musicians, including Hunters and Collectors, Mental As Anything, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol and Madonna.
As a result, he has dozens of stories to tell too.
In the 1990s he moved to Terraplanet publishing, based in Surry Hills, and worked across their titles, which included Australian Style, Monument, Juice and HQ. It was on Juice, a dedicated music magazine, that John Webber was able to express his creative side by each year shooting and printing a photo series for the Juice Annual.
The Juice Annual photos were heavily styled, quirky and published in punchy, vibrant colour. One such photo was of Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin in a 1950s kitchen. Luhrmann wore a dress and apron and was holding up a plate of lamingtons, while Martin, dressed as a little school boy, sat perched on the kitchen bench.
Other photos included musician Kylie Minogue sitting on the bonnet of a hoon-car eating watermelon, actor David Wenham in a strip-joint (shot at the original Dancers Cabaret), and my favourite Darlinghurst-based actor, Hugo Weaving, playing a game of pool.
All the pictures were shot on John Webber's medium-format Hasselblad and printed on his home colour-machine as large broad-sheet sized prints.
These days John Webber uses the much less expensive digital method, but as you can see in the following pictures the results are still fabulous, even though he considers them his ''spares'' (he's keeping the even better ones for himself).
John Webber is presently working on a project with writer Louis Nowra to document the Kings Cross area. If you would like to contact him about photography, his email address is
He took these photographs on the last night of the New York Restaurant on Saturday October 2, 2010.

New Yorker, New York Restaurant, Kings Cross
Photograph by John Webber, 2010

The Boss, New York Restaurant, Kings Cross
Photograph by John Webber, 2010

Last Supper, New York Restaurant, Kings Cross
Photograph by John Webber, 2010

Diners, New York Restaurant, Kings Cross
Photograph by John Webber, 2010

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: The Grange

The Grange
- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List
Originally one of the area's great mansions, this Victorian Georgian-style building, at 300 Liverpool Street, has since been converted into six apartments. Heritage recommendations include retaining and conserving internal room layouts, ceilings, cornices, flooring, joinery and fireplaces.
In the 1980s you could have bought a slice of the sandstone building for around $40,000 to $65,000. But in March this year a three-bedroom, two bathroom apartment with two car-spaces sold for $1.045 million, while a one-bedroom apartment sold in May for $420,000.
I don't like the building much anyway; it looks rather gloomy and the front garden and verandas have no privacy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Across the Border: Kings Cross: New York Restaurant

This is such a sad photograph and shows the site of the New York Restaurant in Kings Cross, which last week turned off its gas stoves, put away the fry-pans and switched off the lights after 22 years at 18 Kellett Street and more than 50 years in the area.
I rushed over to Kings Cross when I learnt about its closure, but it was too late. Less than one week after owners John Kakaris and Paul Varvaressos handed back the keys to the landlord, the place was being gutted. Even the hanging, outdoor light-box signage, with its retro script, was gone.
The New York diner, as it was known, was one of those rare places where the menu didn't change in 50 years and the prices barely rose either. Sausages with chips and salad was about $6; a glass of orange cordial just 70c.
I only found out about its closure a few days ago, when my photographer friend, John Webber, showed me a picture he had taken last Saturday night of a couple from Picton, south of Sydney, eating their final New York T-bone steak. They had been travelling to eat at the diner for 30 years.
The diner was also great for lonely, old-age pensioners who could enjoy lamb-cutlets and chips for tea in a social environment, and without having to spend too much of their measly, fortnightly government-cheque.
I once knew a cheery old man called Little Col - not to be confused with Big Col - who lived at the KB Hotel in Surry Hills.
Little Colin was in his 70s but refused to retire from the job he had held since leaving school in the 1940s. The company owed him a motza in superannuation and long-service leave, because I don't think Little Col ever took holidays.
Every day Little Col would work his 9-5 day and after knocking-off, he would catch the train from Central to Kings Cross to have a 6pm dinner at the New York diner. I think he ate there most days without fail, until he died suddenly in 2005.
For a peek inside the New York Restaurant's doors - when they were still open - the deluxe food blog Not Quite Nigella, features a well-written and comprehensive account of the diner's characters and cuisine.
I never ate at the New York diner and I'm sorry about that now, but I was also saddened to learn that the only reason it closed was because the landlords doubled the rent.
The building is owned by Y S Pty Ltd, which is directed by Yvette and Rodney Studniberg of Vaucluse. Ms Studniberg is the daughter of John Steidler and the pair once jointly-owned 62 Darlinghurst Road (home of the Love Machine), but the site is now solely in her and her husband's name. Ms Studniberg used to operate the Lydia Florist from 62 Darlinghurst Road and is presently the director of about half a dozen companies, including the Flower Man florist in Double Bay.
I am really curious as to what is going to happen next to the Kellett Street building, because despite tradesmen gutting the place today, I could find no development application for the site lodged with the City of Sydney Council. There is also now a For Lease sign in the window.

I watched as the tradies tore out the kitchen and threw the rubbish on to the footpath and the reusable stuff in to the tray of this ute:

Oh, what stories those kitchen doors could tell.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Darlinghurst: Plant Life: Plane Trees

To most people this tree appears harmless, some might even say it looks beautiful, but for me, and thousands of other Sydney-siders, the Plane tree is evil.
The London Plane tree, or Platanus x Hispanica as it's known to horticultural geeks, is a deciduous tree that grows to 30-50m in height and is native to the northern hemisphere.
Because of its drought tolerance and hardiness in harsh urban environments the City of Sydney Council decided it would be a fine idea to plant hundreds of the bastards around Darlinghurst, Potts Point and Surry Hills. And they continue to do so.
When I see Plane tree saplings, newly planted in the area and propped up with wooden stakes - like this recent arrival on Craigend Street - I have the urge to snap their trunks.

How does a tree inspire such hatred?
Because every year around September, the Plane trees decide to dump their load of pollen and hair into the atmosphere, creating a war-zone for allergy sufferers.
After inflicting their initial damage, the pollen and fine yellow hairs then hide in crevices, gutters and footpaths laying in wait for stray wind gusts to launch them back into the atmosphere for further lethal missions:

This goes on for about two months, maybe three, and despite managing to avoid their deadly assaults this year, today I wasn't so lucky.
I had just left home and was walking along Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross, on my way to a lunch date and in high spirits when, without warning, they attacked. On what was a supposedly fine day, a cruel wind gust, loaded with Plane tree ammunition, launched itself towards me. There was no time to duck for cover before it struck me in the face and along my body. It was like being shot at by a pellet gun. Then, just as quickly as it arrived, the wind and its nasty master disappeared around the corner down Roslyn Street.
The effects were felt immediately. First I tried to pluck the dust from my eyes, then my nose became clogged, my throat felt sore and my arms and legs grew itchy.
Over lunch, I continued to rub my eyes, blow my nose and drink lots of water to calm my throat, but the symptoms did not abate. It didn't matter what I did, because the pollen was in my hair too. Then it brought upon a headache.
It is only now, hours later, and since I have returned home, had a shower and shampooed my hair, that I am starting to feel clean again, and a little better.
I'm having a beer too, in a bid to lift my mood.
This year the Plane trees also dust-bombed my car, infecting the glove-box and boot, despite the windows and doors being shut tight. That time I had a friend clean the dust out for me, so I could take her on a drive, but I worry about when the next attack will occur.
I worry too about the people who are actually allergic to the trees, because strangely, I am not.

About four years ago I was at Kings Cross Markets (located right near the Macleay Street Plane tree district in the photograph above) and there was a little desk with a sign that said, Free Plane Tree Allergy Testing. The testing was being undertaken by Euan Tovey of the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in a bid to find allergy sufferers to take part in an 18-month study.
I wasn't really interested in becoming a guinea pig because it involved clipping a nasal sampler inside one's nose to catch dust and pollen particles.
But I was keen to know if I was allergic to the dreaded Plane tree. And as it turned out, I wasn't. Dr Tovey said I merely suffered from Plane tree irritation.
But I already knew that.
So if I have such a terrible reaction to Plane tree pollen, just imagine what life in Spring is like for true allergy sufferers.
Yet the City of Sydney Council continues to plant Plane trees and appears to be in denial about their public health risks, posting this on their website:

''In response to some residents raising concerns about the allergenic properties of Plane Trees, Council has received independent advice from medical and horticultural experts, including allergy specialists. Allergy experts at Royal North Shore and Concord Hospitals have advised that Plane Trees are not generally recognised by either of their allergy clinics as a particular problem.''

When the City of Sydney Council invested dollars in a beautification of William Street in 2005, their plans included an avenue of Plane trees, prompting University of NSW Professor Mike Archer, Director of the Australian Museum and Dean of Science at the University of NSW, to declare the idea ''disastrous''.
"It's like putting in rabbits and saying they're pretty,'' Prof Archer told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"It's like planting brick statues. Nothing eats them, no native birds go to them.''
The Asthma Foundation also opposed the council's plans but the Plane trees went in regardless:

Gardening Australia devotes a page on its website to Plane tree allergies and highlights their risk to public health. Wisely, Gardening Australia's Jerry Coleby-Williams also lists half a dozen or so native trees (the Plane tree is not indigenous) that have proven successful in urban environments, but which don't cause allergies or irritation. City of Sydney Council take note: these trees include the Illawarra Flame, Blueberry Ash, Water Gum and Broad-Leaved Paperbark.
The Gardening Australia page also contains this interesting point:

''Plane tree pollinosis sufferers can also develop food allergies. Once the immune system is activated by Plane tree pollen it will recognise similar plant proteins in foodstuffs.
Hazelnuts and celery have similar proteins in them, and so eating these foods can also cause an allergic response but can happen at any time of the year.''

It's frightening stuff. And as the City of Sydney Council continues to carry on planting in ignorance, I can only recommend allergy sufferers follow the techniques used in the following instructional video:

And if that YouTube link doesn't work, click here to learn How to Kill a Tree in 15 Minutes.

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Darlinghurst Public School

Darlinghurst Public School
- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List
Within the grounds of Darlinghurst Public School, near the old lunch bell, is a stone embedded in the ground, carved with 1883 - the year that construction began on this Victorian Romanesque-style building at 350 Liverpool Street.
Darlinghurst Public was one of three schools designed by Charles Mayes (Forest Lodge PS, near Glebe, and Double Bay PS, in Sydney's east, were the other two) during a boom time of government school construction, following the introduction of the Public Institution Act in 1880.
The act made attendance at school compulsory for the first time and introduced the structure of Superior Public Schools, High Schools and Evening Public Schools.
The schools built during this period were designed to demonstrate the supremacy of state education over denominational education and Darlinghurst Public School was an example of this.
The two-storey school building was officially opened by Minister for Education and Member for Darlinghurst George Reid in 1884, and by 1931 the school had over 1200 enrolments.
Additional two-storey, inter-war buildings were added to the grounds in the 1920s.
Between 1939 and 1942 the school was the first in the state to provide special education for migrants, most of whom were German refugees.
Today the school has only 173 pupils, showing just how different the suburb is from the early 20th Century, when there were probably a lot more children living in the area.
If I ever have children I imagine I will send them to Darlinghurst Public but the one drawback is the large Plane trees, which are spotted throughout the site and whose Spring pollen is a major irritant. I think any child of mine will have to take themselves to school during those months.
Darlinghurst Public School
350 Liverpool Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9331 4295

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Iona

- Register of the National Estate, NSW Heritage Act
From St Johns Church I ducked down Tewkesbury Avenue to the imposing gates of Iona, a 30-room mansion, whose actual address is listed as 2 Darley Street.
The 1888 Victorian Italianate pile was bought by filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin - of Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and Australia fame - for a neat $10 million in February, 2006.
I once knew someone who lived in The Hopes apartment building, at 251 Darlinghurst Road, which backs on to Iona. One evening while I was visiting, a very fluffy grey cat arrived at the person's door and was grandly introduced as Baz Luhrmann's Cat. I think the Hopes resident spent about one year befriending the cat just so he could make such introductions to impress his guests.
Back before the cat, in the mid-nineteenth century, the site was home to Iona Cottage, which was first occupied by Elizabeth Grose and later, Robert Carter, who in 1879, extended and improved the small dwelling to become worthy of the title ''gentleman's residence''.
In 1888, the year of Australia's centenary, wealthy businessman and farmer Edward Chisholm purchased the property and was responsible for building the two-storey mansion with verandas, still known today as Iona. He lived with his family at the grand palace until his death ten years later.
Another decade on, in 1908, Iona was purchased by Adela Taylor, wife of former Sydney Mayor Allen Taylor (of Taylor Square fame), and renamed, for reasons unknown to me, Wootten.
Over the next 70-odd years the building changed hands three times and was used throughout as a private hospital with the respective names, Wootten PH, Winchester PH and Hughlings PH.
During this period the building and site also underwent minor alterations and additions, including the construction - in 1935 - of a seven-room nurses' residence, which was demolished in 1984.
In the 1970s and 80s the site fell into the hands of developers who variously wanted to raze the grounds and build three, 60-storey apartment blocks (can you imagine!), or convert the residence into 13 apartments.
The projects failed for a number of reasons, mostly financial, but it was during this time that the National Trust successfully campaigned for Iona to be included on the Register of the National Estate.
Iona is now listed on the State Heritage Register (with a permanent conservation order), the Local Environment Plan and the National Trust register, so no one can mess with it.
Yet most people don't have a chance to see it either.
It would be good if Luhrmann and Martin opened the grounds to the public for one day each year.