January 26th, 2011

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - Newtown, Not All Bad

Published in the Inner West Independent and City News.

This week Alex Harmon, a 27 year old doing her Masters in Writing by correspondence at Swinburne University, will fill my column inches with a piece on eating well in Newtown. The suburb’s dining outlets have been getting a bit of a bad rap of late, particularly in other publications, so Alex is geared to defend it. She’s loved writing about food ever since she exposed the terrible cafeteria practices at UNSW as a writer for Tharunka. Her current project is a novel about food, music and sex that isn't set in South America – rather it uses suburban Australia as its backdrop. Let me know if you’re keen to hear more from her…

Newtown - Not All Bad
By Alex Harmon

Newtown has more diversity than the Brangelina family, and like them, it just keeps growing. Ever since Clover Moore said “small bars”, Newtown sprouted them in every crevice. Corridor, as its name suggests, is a cosy bar with one prized table at the front that you won’t want to leave. Sitting there makes you feel like you’re camping out for concert tickets, except that you’re being served Mojitos while you wait. As it goes, ‘Moore is less’ so food is small and utensils are sparse - I recommend the Mezze Plate - artichokes, marinated mushrooms, stuffed tomatoes, chorizo and dips washed down with a Coopers Long Neck. I’m going to let Newtown take the credit for lifting long-necks out of the gutter and onto the menu.

If you’re after something a little less hip, Thai La-Ong has been feeding Uni students for years and their menu, prices and décor have never changed. Because there’s no corkage charge, the college kids have taken this literally, rolling up with casks of wine, bottles of vodka and their own selection of mixers. They don’t really care that the Pad Kee Mao is the most flavour-packed plate of noodles in Newtown for under $10, but it’s worth mentioning.

Like a Che Guevara T shirt, Newtown is socially aware but it appeals to the masses. It boycotted McDonalds in the 90’s, which paved the way for burgers with heart. Moo Gourmet Burgers is the third gourmet burger joint to hit King Street in recent times, but this one doesn’t feel like you’re eating in a waiting room. You may think there’s not much else you can do between two buns, but think again. The Duck and Bacon Burger is a winning combination. Spiced duck (make sure you’re a coriander lover) mediates the saltiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the orange jam. Fries are served in an old fashioned cone - I recommend the aioli and the sweet chilli jam sauces- and mix them together for the perfect blend. Finish it off with one of the many shakes that cleverly combine your favourite chocolate bars - I like the Just Nuts (think a Snickers with chocolate and caramel syrup.) Service is warm, as are the brightly coloured walls and the mismatched furniture.

African Feeling is the St. Peters end of King Street, which still has the old-Newtown feel to it. It’s fluorescent décor and African artefacts on the wall make it look like a souvenir shop, but the food means business. Start off with the Taste Bud Safari For 2 so you can try a selection of entrees. The plantain chips are a good staple, the African cigars - Moroccan spiced mince in deep-fried pastry, similar to a Lebanese ‘lady finger’ only smaller - are delicious. A decent goat curry is a rarity these days, but the Bua here, from Ghana, is spicy, rich full of garlic, ginger and tomato and comes recommended by the native Ghanese Chef, Hudu. Cool yourself down with an African Spiced Ginger Beer - the perfect digestive aid for those seeking dessert. Personally I’d like another cigar.

Like the out-dated wedding tradition, Newtown covers it all- new, old, borrowed and the (out of the) blue - hello Gloria Jeans. But they exist side by side on King Street, the colourful prayer flag that throws commercial caution to the wind and unites us all.

153a King Street, Newtown
Ph: (0422) 873 879

Thai La-Ong
89 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9550 5866

Moo Gourmet Burgers
232 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9565 4001

African Feeling
1/501 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9516 3130
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - The Island Bar

Well it's not quite a review this one - it's more a photo-diary of my experience at The Island Bar courtesy of my iPhone and Instagram.

If you don't know what the heck I am talking about, I have the details back HERE in my column.

We arrived at Cockatoo Island in style, using a water taxi from outside the Museum of Contemporary Art. You of course could do the same, or you could save your dollars for drinking and take the ferry. You can find the full timetable HERE.

The bar itself is made from recycled shipping containers and astro-turf. A wonderfully appropriate combination for the location.

The cocktails are (mostly) great. They've got an Italian aperitivo type theme going on. This is an Aperol Spritz ($15). Well actually, it's a row of Aperol Spritzes. You should note that ALL cocktails come in Jugs ($45). This is a GREAT thing.

The tasty bites include a range of cured meats on toasted breads. It's not the most imaginative food in town, but the cold cuts were definitely good quality. I guess some allowances need to be made for making the food without a proper kitchen on an island... but equally, if you're going to let a lot of people visit a bar, it needs the facilities to produce food at the same rate they're drinking (and that was fast).

The views from the bar are pretty spectacular. The toilets (though a hike) are in an amazing industrial looking building... We once saw Machine Gun Fellatio perform here (The Turbine Hall) at the very first Cockatoo Island Festival.

As sun sets it's time to jump on a boat and return. "Why don't boats come with greater frequency," I ask as if for the first time. Somehow whenever I go to Cockatoo Island I always seem to get one moment of that 'trapped' feeling, no matter how well I plan it. Perhaps I shouldn't wait until I am drunk and over it to leave?

As the sun sets I gaze wistfully at the not-so-distant shore. It doesn't look so far away...

The Island Bar is really a GREAT concept, in which some parts is very well realised, and some parts falls a little short. I think the experience wins out over the shortfalls - go experience a bit of Sydney people rarely get to enjoy, now with added cocktails. If you prefer to eat at the same time, consider taking some snacks with you... I reckon a cheese plate would go down here rather nicely.

The Island Bar
Cockatoo Island

The Island Bar on Urbanspoon