Sunny, sparkling Sydney

Sydney has many beautiful blue sky days. When the sky is blue, Sydney, especially, by the water, is absolutely stunning! It’s a busy, bustling city that appears to have been less impacted by the pandemic than Melbourne. There are lots of lovely places to visit. Big name, iconic sights as well as more hidden treasures. Old buildings and gleaming skyscrapers sit side by side.

Queen Victoria Building
The back of Governor’s House – The free tour is interesting and worth doing.
The gardens behind the Governor’s House is beautiful and has a stunning view of the harbour. Spot the Opera House in the background!
Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park
The copper domes of the Sydney Observatory on the left and the gleaming new skyscraper of the Crown Barangaroo on the right.
Luna Park
What a beautiful day in Sydney!
Donations at this pig statue go to the hospital and a rub on the nose brings good luck.
The Grounds of Alexandria, a green sanctuary in the midst of a semi commercial/industrial area.
Some of the many offerings at the Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont
View of the iconic Westfield Tower from Hyde Park
InBloom display at the Calyx at the Botanic Gardens
View of Sydney Harbour
Big Fig Tree at Wendy’s Secret Garden.
Wendy’s Secret Garden – lush gardens planted by Wendy Whiteley when she was grieving the death of her husband on unwanted, overgrown land by a railway line. The value of this has since been recognised and preserved for public enjoyment.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Sydney city

In Sydney, it is possible to eat well in any cuisine and the large population supports restaurants serving a wide range of specific regional Asian cuisines.

Xian Biang Biang Noodles – noodle shop serving food influenced by the spice trail
Try a bubble tea at one of the dozens of bubble tea shops in Sydney. There are endless varieties to suit your taste and mood!
Half the display of items that can be added to your customised bowl of soupy noodles at this Ma La Tang store. Price of your meal is by weight.

How to eat out cheaply!

Eating out is fun. It’s enjoyable to try food from diverse cuisines. It’s a way to get inspired for home cooking or a way to eat food that is clearly beyond the ability of the average home cook! Unfortunately, it can cost a lot. There are some ways to keep the costs down. Many of these techniques relies on the privilege of time both for research and time flexibility e.g. to eat at off-peak times. These methods also work better in big cities rather than small towns. It also assumes the ultimate privilege i.e. not being in a pandemic related lockdown, either mandatory or voluntary! Nevertheless….here are some ways to eat out at reduced prices….

Lunch is cheaper than dinner. Eat a bigger meal at lunch time rather than dinner. Eating out is usually always cheaper at lunchtime and there will often be more deals and combos which are good value.

Eat Asian Food. In most cases, Asian food tends to be cheaper than Western food. There are plenty of cheap and cheerful Asian places that are amazingly delicious, diverse and require a level of skill or time that cannot be replicated easily at home. Western food is viewed (unfairly) as a more premium product and often involve dishes which includes a large amount of meat, a high value item. This tends to result in Western meals costing more than Asian meals.

Zig when others Zag. A food business is much more likely to offer a discount when it suits them e.g. when they are less busy or when they can get something so the discount. One example is the discounted food offered at food court stalls late in the afternoon before they close. Another example is reduced price dishes which only applicable between 2 and 5pm in the afternoon. If you are willing to behave opposite to the crowds, there may be some savings to be made.

Look for outlets and deals at a lower price point for big name chefs. If you are foodie who wants to try the food of a big name, celebrity chef, their premium restaurant will usually be an eye-wateringly expensive degustation dinner affair! In some cases, there may be an separate bar snacks menu which is more affordable or an entirely different restaurant by the same chef which is designed at a lower price point to capture a different part of the market. There may also be a more economical lunch time menu so you can try their offerings without emptying the wallet!

Markets, street food stalls, food trucks, hole in the wall places. These type of places have lower overhead and staff costs so the food should be cheaper than a sit down dining place.

Hotteok, filled Korean pancakes, store at the Chatswood Mall Market
Scallop Aburi from the Sydney FIsh Market, 3 for $10AUD – much more affordable than a sit-down restaurant

Keep your eye and ear out for discounts. Check the website and Facebook place for special deals e.g. Taco Tuesday, Schnitty Wednesday, discounted bucket of beers etc. Keep an eye and ear out for discounts, deals and specials as you walk around. There are also places around which are “pay what you want” which can be a cheap feed if you are happy to pay less.

To get more customers onto their app, Easi was offering a 90% discount at this store!
50% off the bill to celebrate the opening of this store! The queue to get a discounted meal was understandably very long!!!
Sunday 11am to 8pm, pay what you want at Ikhwan restaurant at Pyrmont in Sydney. A delicious meal, dessert and drink at a price that you deem fair!

Book via a discount app or website. Eatclub, First Table, Entertainment Book and The Fork are all pretty good but do come with their pros and cons.

Eatclub app – pros and cons

Pros

  • Allows restaurants to advertise discounts specifically when they require them e.g. on a rainy quiet afternoon.
  • Discounts on food ranging from 10 to 50%.
  • App is easy to use and allows the consumer to locate discounts in the vicinity of their location.

Cons

  • Deep discounts of 30 – 50% have been increasingly more and more rare. This could be pandemic related.
  • Only available in the big cities i.e. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
  • Does not allow much planning and booking ahead for the consumer as discounts are only displayed on the day.

First Table – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows the restaurants to fill tables early in the evening by giving patrons a deep 50% discount i.e. first table. This hopefully sets a restaurant up for a good night as they can bring in more foot traffic by looking busy!
  • Massive 50% discount on food for the consumer.

Cons

  • A booking fee of $10 is required – which means there is a penalty if you change your mind about going to the restaurant!
  • There are often conditions of what is not included in the discount e.g. seafood, high value dishes etc.
  • Having to eat at a very early time e.g. 5pm, 5:30pm etc.

Entertainment Book – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 20% of the annual subscription cost goes to a charity of your choice. There is a large list of organisations to choose from and many organisations choose to sell the Entertainment Book to fundraise.
  • Discounts of 25% off or 2 for 1 for dining, sightseeing and services.
  • Entertainment Book are good if you have a complaint e.g. when advised, they provided an additional discount of my choice when a listed business refused to honour the discount.

Cons

  • There is an annual subscription cost of $70 for 1 city or $120 for multi cities i.e. all cities in Australia and NZ.
  • The mobile app is quite annoying and terrible to use.
  • The number and quality of the discounts has deteriorated over the last few years. This may be pandemic related but is more likely due to the horrible app!

The Fork – Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ability to make restaurant bookings online and receive instant confirmation either by the website or mobile app.
  • Some restaurants provide deep discounts of 30 to 50%.
  • Loyalty points for bookings which accumulate to give $20 or $50 off meals. Booking via the mobile app gives you more loyalty points.

Cons

  • Requires some advanced planning to make a booking.
  • Number of restaurants offering deep discounts has reduced in the last few years. This may be pandemic related.

In conclusion, with some effort, discounts are available to making eating out more economical! Hope this post has been helpful and finds you in the privileged position of being able to eat out. Stay safe and well!

Musings about Food

I love food! Eating a delicious, warm meal fills me with a sense of contentment, a kind of happiness. There are a number of aspects about food that I love …other than how good it can taste!

Food reflects history. It is often said that “history is written by the victor”. It is therefore a biased view or what happened. Food shows us history in a more unbiased way. A local dish can tell us about scarcity, ingenuity borne of necessity and thrift. Every culture and cuisine has its version of nose to tail eating derived from the need to use all of the animal and avoid waste. Another dish can tell of excess, wealth and gluttony e.g. royal cuisines. It can tell a story of migration and adjusting to new lands and cultures e.g. Nyonya cuisine. Historical foreign influences also show up in local food, for example, the French influence in the Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich and Pho. Local dishes reflect the local climate and available resources e.g. Korean kimchi.

In many cultures, love and hospitality is expressed through food instead of words. A special dish made to nourish a loved one is a form of giving care, time and love. Memories of loved ones long passed can come rushing back with the tasting of certain dishes and the act of making their recipes. Food is central to a warm welcome and kind hospitality.

Food can be used to change our future as well. An overall decrease in the amount of meat eaten can shift the needle on climate change. Eating more locally can reduce the transportation emissions. Healthier eating is a strong factor in preventative medicine.

There are products that are complete meal substitutes to allow a person to avoid any meal preparation and minimize time spent consuming food. This may suit people who consider food only as fuel for their bodies but for others, replacing real food with a meal substitute slurry is akin to turning off the colour to the world and surviving only in shades of grey! A lot is lost!

What are your thoughts about food? Who do you nourish?

Eyre Peninsula – seafood and wild coastlines

We left Port Hughes in the Yorke Peninsula with a spectacular sunset and headed onwards to explore the Eyre Peninsula.

Sunset after a rainy day at Port Hughes
Working fishing boats at a marina at Port Lincoln

Port Lincoln and the other towns of the Eyre Peninsula are towns that have seafood and grain industries. The Eyre Peninsula is famed for its seafood and it was indeed the freshest, most local seafood I’ve ever tasted. There’s also something about eating seafood when you can feel the ocean breeze on your face!

Oysters at Fumo 21 in Port Lincoln
Oysters at 1802 in Coffin Bay
Mussels at 1802 in Coffin Bay

The small coastal towns of South Australia have often a similar feel and configuration about them. They will almost have a jetty, some old buildings, old artillery pieces, grain silos, vacation homes and a caravan park. They common thread is how neat and tidy they all are. Often, a strong sense of community can be felt in the small thoughtful touches around town like the local art displayed at the public toilets or the public art works at tourist vantage points.

We saw a lot of wild and windy coastlines in the Eyre Peninsula. They are treacherous and beautiful.

Coffin Bay National Park
Coffin Bay National Park
Coffin Bay National Park
Coffin Bay National Park

The amazing thing is, despite the wild coastlines, there are also quiet, calm, protected bays.

Yangie Bay at Coffin Bay National Park
Coffin Bay National Park
Stamford Hill Lookout at Lincoln National Park

Just south of Streaky Bay are the Murphy’s Haystacks. These amazing rock formations are an aberration on flat farming land!

Murphy’s Haystacks, south of Streaky Bay
Murphy’s Haystacks, south of Streaky Bay
Shark Free Streaky Bay Jetty Pool

Streaky Bay has an ocean pool built to the jetty due so people can swim without worry about sharks. In the local Shell fuel station, there is a replica of a 5m white pointer shark that was caught off these waters.

That’s it for this post. Stay well!

Dry Season in Darwin

The dry season has arrived in Darwin and fun events are filling up the calendar! The Mindil Sunset Markets are held twice a week and we’ve had a few wonderful one-off events like the Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival and an Opera Gala with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra on the Darwin Waterfront. The wet season afternoon tropical downpours have stopped and the oppressive humidity has significantly reduced. What a relief! The early mornings are gently cool and the evenings are the perfect temperature for a stroll.

A few weeks ago, the Nightcliff Seabreeze Festival was held and it stretched along the striking Nightcliff coastline. It was stunning to see the colourful coastline and feel the ocean breeze as we perused the food stalls and watched local performers on multiple stages. It’s really heart-warming to see a lovely community events where you can see a diverse cross-section of the Darwin community enjoying themselves.  This cross-section includes the whole bunch of happy dogs in attendance too!

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Nightcliff Colourful Rocky Coastline

We made a yummy food discovery during this festival. It must be a Darwin creation! It’s the roti wrap. We had the beef rendang wrap. Tender, flavourful beef rendang, crunchy fresh carrot slivers, satay sauce all wrapped up in a giant roti paratha. It was filling, tasty and portable. Perfect festival food! (Sorry, too busy eating for a photo!)

Tree Roots

Tree with Exposed Roots

Check out this picture of a tree on the Nightcliff coastline. How often do you feel like that in life? Like the very roots anchoring you have become exposed and you may collapse into the crashing waves and rocks below. I have to return to this spot. I think the tree is probably still standing straight and tall because it’s roots actually go much deeper and it can withstand much more. (I hope so anyway, to make my life analogy more inspiring!)

Last night, we had a magical evening of opera under the moon and stars at the Darwin Waterfront and only for the cost of a gold coin donation. Some of the big names from Australia’s Opera community sang some operatic highlights whilst accompanied by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. What a cultured event made totally accessible to the average person!  Nothing better than laying on a picnic blanket with a few delectable nibbles and being treated to a display of amazing musical talent. To put the cherry on top, there was a glorious fireworks display to finish off! What a great event!

Darwin Symphony Orchestra at the Darwin Waterfront

Darwin Symphony Orchestra at the Darwin Waterfront

People relaxing with their picnics ready to watch an Opera Gala.

People relaxing with their picnics ready to watch an Opera Gala.

Twice a week in the dry season, the Mindil Sunset Markets are open and the best thing about them in my opinion is the Sunset Oyster Bar. You can get a dozen natural oysters for only $20 and oysters with all kinds of delicious toppings for a tiny bit more. They’re such an indulgence and so good! I might go again tonight just for the oysters!

There are lots of other aspects of the Mindil Sunset markets which are lovely. The stalls are lined up under a whole bunch of big, green, shady trees. When you get your delicious food from the stall, you can cut through the dune and sit on the beach or you can lay your picnic rug down on the grassed area and consume your delicious finds whilst listening to some local performers. If you are looking for an unusual souvenir, this is the place! There are lots of interesting, unusual and unique things to buy. It’s pretty crowded but that’s sign of how good it is. Locals and tourists rub shoulders and enjoy the evening together in this relaxing location.

Cute little Dutch Pancakes on the BBQ

Cute little Dutch Pancakes on the BBQ

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Colourful Paintings at Mindil Markets

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Picnic at Mindil Markets under the Trees

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Peruse the stalls in the shade of green leafy trees.

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Beach Volleyball on Mindil Beach

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Jerky made from all kinds of exotic animals!

Blue Extraction Fan

This blue extraction fan sucks the smoke from the spit roasting meats below and direct it to the leafy tree canopy.

Croc Hot Dog

Crocodile Hot Dog anyone?

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You can even try out your new whip at the market!

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Didgeridoo display

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Interesting, colourful jewellery