Thursday, June 30, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Third Village

When I spoke to a neighbourhood shopkeeper the other day about how I recently went to the Third Village cafe in Darlinghurst's Italian region, the first thing they said to me was, ''Did you see the chef's tongue?''
It was an odd question, but even stranger was the shopkeeper's description of this tongue. And no, it's not a piercing. I won't go into details either, you'll simply have to go in to Third Village and ask the chef to show you his tongue. I dare you. And please, pretty please, do report back. 

Anyway, with Ruby Molteno back in town after adventures abroad, I met up with her last week at the Third Village on Stanley Street. This little cafe opened in January by a Swiss couple called Eva and Benn and is so named because according to their menu, they support world aid projects:

''Third Village is not just a cool place to go, it is a place that connects you to the developing world through our developing social initiatives.
''In addition we only use coffee sourced in a socially, ethically and environmentally responsible way to improve the methods and rewards for growing coffee, tea and cocoa in developing countries around the world."

I don't know the specifics of which world aid projects they support, but I do know that back in January when floods ravaged parts of Queensland, Third Village donated the proceeds of their Muffin of the Week (mixed forest berry) to the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal. I hope they sold lots of muffins.

Third Village is a fairly small space with seating for about 20 people. I hope they have applied for outdoor seating, because part of the appeal of Stanley Street is sitting on the footpath and watching the world go by, which is one of the reasons I still often go to Bill and Toni's about three doors down (the other reason is for their excellent pinball machines). 
One entire wall of Third Village is covered in two massive murals by the lovely Potts Point artist Gary McEwan and they look quite impressive, despite my lazy photograph:

The Autumn lunch menu (even though it's definitely Winter) ranges in price from $7.90 for a cheese and tomato sandwich, to $17.95 for a rib-eye steak sandwich with caramelised onions, roast zucchini, tomato, rocket, avocado and aioli on Sonoma sourdough. Along the way there is also a soup of the day with the same bread ($12.90), a beef burger with beetroot, onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese and aioli, served with oven baked potatoes ($16.95), as well as an Asian style salad with coconut milk-marinated chicken, spinach, cucumber and mint ($14.90). 
Ruby, unusually, passed on the breakfast menu - which includes eggs cooked six different ways as well as the yummy sounding french toast with poached pear, mascarpone and maple syrup ($14.50) - and instead went for the creamy rocket and pumpkin penne pasta with grated parmesan ($13.95):

I had a taste and it was creamy and garlicky delicious. And even though I wasn't hungry, I devoured my lemon chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and Neufchatel cream cheese ($10.50):

I only had a glass of water as I was in a hurry and had to hop, but Ruby loved her flat white. They also have a range of ''things that are not coffee, but we still like them'', such as smoothies and fresh squeezed juices named after people such as Jay, Peggy and even Barry. 
Next time I go, I want to try their Iced Coffee, which is made from a "freshly extracted" double espresso blended with vanilla ice cream, milk and honey ($5.50). Sounds dreamy delicious and another reason to return in addition to checking out that tongue.

Third Village
80 Stanley Street
Darlinghurst (East Sydney) NSW 2010
02 9361 5826

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Across the Border: Royal Botanic Gardens: Animal Life: Blue Wren

"You shouldn't believe everything you read, Your Majesty. Writers like to tell fairytales, you know; they'll just make something up and not care whether it's true or not."
– Hans Christian Andersen, The Nightingale.

I had a very baby-child weekend, meeting-up with all my friends' little junior-burgers and I was even tasked with looking after one for the day. Why anyone would think I would be responsible enough to care for a child for the day, I don't know, but I took the task on with much enthusiasm and with the sun out, decided to take seven-year-old Albertine for a picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
I love the gardens, especially because I don't have a grassy patch of my own and Albertine, being a free-spirited, imaginative girl, seemed happy enough with the idea.
So beneath Saturday's blue sky, we set off from Darlinghurst on foot, bound for the gardens and adventure, making a quick stop for picnic supplies at the David Jones food hall in the city.
From there it was just a short walk past the 1811-built Sydney Hospital, the 1845-built State Library of NSW and in through the Morshead Fountain Gate on Macquarie Street, holding my small brunette charge's little hand the whole way.

Inside the gardens, we sighed with pleasure for the green of more than 45,000 plants, the welcome calm. 

The path took us down to the pyramid-shaped Tropical Centre – its glass foggy with condensation – and there, sunning itself on a rock, was a tame eastern water dragon. 
But as Albertine bent to say hello to the lizard, the weather gods decided to turn on a rain shower.
We looked up to the sky and down the path: members of a bridal party, in all their finery, were making a beeline towards shelter. The rain gained momentum. 
''Quickly, now, Albertine – to the rainforest!,'' I said.

We ran laughing for cover under the rainforest canopy and it was like entering our own magical world. The air smelt green, a perfume of mulch, and the soundtrack of rain cloaked the city's traffic noise. Best of all, it was mostly dry. 
Still, here I was, looking after a seven-year-old for the day, and I had dragged her on a picnic in the pouring rain.
"Let us just follow the path, at least it is dry in here. Ah, smell the negative ions," I said with some hope.
"Oh, look at that tree's funny roots!"
"They're called buttress, Albertine."
"Oh, look, here's a clearing."
And indeed there was, complete with artfully placed old tree trunks: a makeshift lounge and two woody stools. We had to stop and play house. So there, seated on a log, and with the rain determined, I offered to entertain her with a story. Albertine, bless her, clapped her hands in agreement and I began.
"I once had a friend who lived in an apartment over there."
"Where, what apartment?"
"See through the trees, look up. Can you see that building?"

"Oh, yes, OK."
"Patrick lived there and he was terribly wealthy. He owned expensive cars and suits and investment properties. And he always held amazing parties. At a China-themed party, he decorated the entire apartment in red silk and lanterns while dancers dressed as dragons roamed around, frightening the guests. At that party I noticed that his shelves were filled with natural history books. You know, books about trees and flowers and wildlife, and so I assumed he must know about the singing blue wren that lives here in the gardens."
"What blue wren?"
"That's exactly what he said. 'Don't you ever go to the gardens?' I asked. 'You live right next door. You surely know the singing blue wren.'
"`I know all there is to know about the gardens,' he replied. 'I have read – and own – every book on the topic. I don't have time to visit."'
"I haven't read all the books, Albertine, but from what I understand, hundreds of years ago these gardens were home to the Cadigal group of Aborigines. They used that area around the water's edge, near the duck pond, for initiation ceremonies. And they used to do a dance called the Kangaroo and Dog. Boys a bit older than you would pierce their noses with bones and reeds."
"It has always been a special place. Funnily enough, when the Europeans arrived in the late 18th Century, they brought herds of cows and dropped them off at Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House is. Can you imagine? It would have been like a barnyard.
"The then governor, a man called Arthur Phillip, set aside the Domain, on the other side of the now Cahill Expressway, as his private reserve and established 3.6ha here for growing corn for the new colony. It wasn't a very successful farm – the soil was very sandy – so they moved it out west to Parramatta.
"In 1816, the new governor Lachlan Macquarie established the botanic gardens here, and in 1959 it was given the royal stamp."
"But what about the wren?"

"He lives in the Palm Grove near the Queensland Kauri Pine, the tallest tree in the park. The garden's first director, Charles Moore, planted it in 1857 and it's now 33m tall.
"Patrick had read about the tree, but he didn't know of the wren that sang from it each day. And what a musical trill: the tender song of the blue wren will break the hearts of ruthless men. Poet Kenneth Slessor wrote of it, D.H. Lawrence's wife Frieda praised it and Bea Miles – a local eccentric – would rave about it on her soapbox in the Domain.
"When I told Patrick this, he said: 'I must have it.'
"And the next day he hired a bird catcher.
"When the bird catcher trundled into the palm grove with his traps and ropes, the wren hopped onto the path in front of him and started to sing. The bird catcher's heart broke and he confessed his mission.
"`My song sounds best here under the palms,' said the wren. `But if your boss won't visit, it would be my greatest pleasure to sing in his fancy apartment."'
"Are you serious! How could the bird talk?"
"Just trust me, Albertine.
"Anyway, the wren hopped off with the bird catcher and that evening he sang so beautifully that tears came to Patrick's eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
"'You must stay here and sing for me every day,' Patrick said. And he tied a blue ribbon around the wren's little leg and fastened the end to a table lamp. For the next three evenings, at Patrick's parties, the wren gave ravishing performances.
"On the fourth day, Patrick received a parcel from an admirer. Inside was a mechanical bird, a solid-gold clockwork wren studded with sapphires and diamonds. When you wound it up, it would sing a song just like the real wrens.
"`How marvellous,' said Patrick. `They must sing a duet.' It was not a success: the real wren sang in his own organic way while the mechanical bird did not falter, hitting every note with precision and impeccable timing.
"At the next party, the clockwork wren endlessly entertained the guests. `It is much prettier to look at with all those sparkling jewels,' said a partygoer.
"Meanwhile, the real wren escaped out a window and flew back to the gardens. When Patrick found the abandoned blue ribbon he was heartbroken and became very ill. A week later, he was dead.
"Apparently, with his last breath, he had called for birdsong, but the clockwork wren was broken. It had been wound up too many times."
"That's so sad," said Albertine.

The rain was easing off, so we decided to head to the herb garden via the succulents.
We emerged from the rainforest walk and there wasn't a person to be seen. Everyone had left the gardens because of the rain, but it was more beautiful than ever. 
Flying foxes squealed overhead and the forked branches of the dragon's blood tree, damp and dark with rain, created a lace-like silhouette against the grey sky. Begonias bounced with the weight of remnant raindrops and the wet webs of golden orb-weaving spiders sparkled like fairy dust.

Turning the corner past the palm grove, we heard an unmistakeable sound. A musical trill. Albertine's face lit up and she followed the song to the palm grove. She searched the branches and the bushes but found nothing.
"Was that a true story?" she asked as we made our way to the succulent garden. The sun was coming out and we could at last have our picnic.
"Hmm, kind of,'' I said.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
"Well, Albertine, I heard it from a very reliable source. A little bird told me."



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Past and Present: Darlinghurst Road From Burton Street

This picture was taken just after Darlinghurst Road was widened in 1935. Everything is so clear and  uncluttered. And look at how St John's Church steeple rises above the skyline. The Kurrajong apartment building looks nice and new, as it does today after recently being treated for concrete cancer. And look at those old terraces on the right, which were demolished for extensions to the Sydney Jewish Museum. Now just look at the amount of stuff - cars, street signs, traffic lights and road-lines - clogging the streets today:


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Lost and Found: Black and White Cat

Found 16/6/11
Black and white cat
Small female (we think)
Cat found in Francis Street
Very friendly, very keen on tuna
If yours, please call
Daryl - 0411 195 551
Shelley - 0417 403 913

Friday, June 24, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Wok On Inn Noodle Bar

I've been trying really hard not to eat carbohydrates. Well not that hard, but I have stopped buying bread. Yet the lure of the super-carb overwhelmed me this week and I knew that if I didn't indulge in some of their fulfilling goodness prior to a drink-date, I would be forced to nurse the third beer all night. And we can't have that. Well, that was my excuse anyway. It was also the sudden convenience of being on Oxford Street and walking past the Wok On Inn. So I decided to heed the call of its name and walk on in for some noodley yum-yum.

Wok On Inn cuisine isn't confined to one country but covers the gamut of flavours including Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean, Mongolian and Singaporean. Usually this kind of cross-country mix is a worry but the food here is actually pretty simple: noodles or rice with the usual protein suspects. And I just wanted basic Singapore noodles anyway - surely they can't stuff that up. And at the very least the food is freshly prepared to order.

It was rather early when I arrived, so I was pretty much the only person there, apart from a couple of people ordering take-out.

But I didn't have much time to dwell on my relative isolation or the freshly-picked pink rose in a vase on my table, because soon after ordering, my food arrived.

It was a really rather decent and vibrantly fresh dish, helped along by a squeeze of cut lemon and some chili sauce. The restaurant is part of a chain with outlets in Darling Harbour, Balmain, Rouse Hill and The Rocks. I'm not craving the noodles enough to go back, but if I am ever hungry and stuck in the boonies of Rouse Hill, in Sydney's north-west, I'll know that Wok On Inn is a safe bet.

Wok On Inn Noodle Bar
80 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9332 4554

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Street Art: Nimrod Street

You may remember that in January I posted on my Facebook page this great photograph, which shows an amazing and inspirational piece of street art on the side of the Stables Theatre's administration building on Nimrod Street. I had always thought it was a perfect white wall, ripe for some street artists's magic, so I was really happy when crystal k pasted up this poetic line. 

"I am the cave through which the river runs and I am myself the river. crystal k.''

No idea what it means, but I still like its rhythm.
Anyway, when I was going past the other day, six months after it was pasted up, I noticed how much it had deteriorated, so I hope crystal k returns with another line to fill its space sometime soon:

Meanwhile, other street artists have also been taking advantage of the wonderful white backdrop and interesting crevices this wall provides. Can you spot the Will Coles in the picture below?

It's actually been there for a month at least, but I never remember to photograph it:

In fact, I'm surprised it hasn't been nicked like the other pieces Coles left down on Ten Buck Alley. It could be because it is so well camouflaged.

Coles isn't the first street artist to use this little white brick alter to display his work. 
Back in December last year, a red and gold nativity scene appeared one night:

It was really sweet, with a little baby Jesus in a manger and a buxom Mary in a red, low-cut dress:

But it wasn't glued down so it was gone within about three days.