Thursday, January 20, 2011

Across the Border: Woolloomooloo: Food: Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Harry Edwards first operated a pie shop out of a caravan at Woolloomooloo in the 1930s, right outside the gates of the Garden Island Naval Base. Edwards closed the caravan in 1938 to join the Australian Imperial Forces fighting in the Middle East during World War 2.
When Edwards returned to Sydney in 1945 he was disappointed to discover that the city hadn't changed and you still couldn't ''get a good feed late at night''. 
Edwards opened up his caravan again and it has been selling pies from a spot east of the wharf on Cowper Wharf Road in Woolloomooloo ever since. 
The caravan pie shop was initially just called Harry's but council regulations required mobile food vans to move at least 12 inches each day. So wheels were a necessity, and the pie shop became known as Harry's Cafe de Wheels.
Edwards ran the business for 30 years before selling to Alex Koronya in 1975, who in turn sold it in 1988 to Michael Hannah, who still runs it today.
Harry's was classified by the NSW branch of the National Trust of Australia in 2004 and was described as a ''quintessential Sydney icon and an institution''.

During it's 56 years, Harry's has become a bit of a tourist destination, perhaps because of its history and its location, right on the water at Woollomooloo. International guests also probably think it's quite a novelty to eat a meat pie, perhaps the only Australian cuisine they know about. 
Harry's is covered in photographs of all the famous people who have dined on a pie on the footpath outside the caravan. There are pictures of Elton John, Brooke Shields and British comedians Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, who appear dressed as their characters from the television show, Absolutely Fabulous.

There is also a photograph of Colonel Harland Sanders, aka the King of Kentucky Fried Chicken, scoffing down a Harry's meat pie and sauce in 1972.
Colonel Sanders was no doubt amazed that he had managed to find a food product that had less nutritional value than his own deep fried chicken. Still, despite Colonel Sanders's greasy diet, I must point out that he lived to the age of 90.

I suppose another reason Harry's has survived for 56 years is that it is open until 2am and 3am early in the week and until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights. I imagine that Harry's sells more pies in those hours after midnight than it does throughout the rest of the day.

It was day time when I visited Harry's and I wasn't drunk - two good reasons why I probably should not have eaten there. 
The menu features the Harry's Tiger, a meat pie topped with mash and mushy peas, but I could not find the Pie Floater listed. Harry's was famous for its Pie Floater - a meat pie floating upside down in pea soup.
I ordered the Lean Beef Pie with Mash, drizzled in tomato sauce and my friend had a Lean Beef Pie with Chili Beans. I quietly groaned when I saw the pie, but in the interests of research and my blog, I grabbed the plastic spoon and dug in to it. 
Well, for starters the mash on top was made from powdered potato mix and had that weird chemically taste. The rest tasted just like any other meat pie. Afterwards, I regretted eating it because I had that horrible feeling that I had just put something of zero nutritional value in my body. I swore to myself that for the next three days I would live on cucumbers and lettuce. Which of course I didn't.
The high point of my Harry's visit was seeing actor Russell Crowe and his two sons toddling along the wharf. Crowe has a top floor garden apartment at the very end of the Woolloomooloo Wharf, so this is his children's playground, I guess. The boys looked adorable with their big mops of hair, holding their father's hand. I snapped this picture from afar:

Yes, that is the back of Russell Crowe's head:

Those other two blokes were just passing by and look like they made some dumb joke.
Russell Crowe and the kidlings then made a beeline straight for Harry's. I don't know what they ordered and I didn't take any more pictures of them because I didn't want to invade their privacy. 
In fact, everyone who was eating outside Harry's acted very cool, and did not even glance in their direction. Don't you just love Sydney. 
Harry's Cafe
Cowper Wharf Road, near the corner of Brougham Street
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
02 9357 3074

1 comment:

Ruby said...

So, Rusty makes an appearance on your blog! Just please, whatever you do, don't ever put the man "whose name shall not be mentioned" on here!!!