Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Little Bit of Wish Fulfillment

“Meet my down by the jetty landing,
Where the pontoons bump and spray.
The others reading standing.
As the Manly ferry, bumps it’s way to Circular Quay.”

I’ve been spending a bit of time in Sydney of late and much to my chagrin, the place is beginning to grown on me, like warts. This time had a different flavour to it as I was going to be joining friends who I hadn’t seen in about four years. Geetangeli and I have been friends since university. Her husband Bill I’ve got to know over the last decade since I’ve been back in the Southern hemisphere. They live in Christchurch, New Zealand, where thankfully their house is standing in a part of town that wasn’t greatly affected by the recent earthquakes and they live a really full life.

Geetangeli and I don’t get to see each other very often, but when we do, it’s great. It’s one of those friendships that you’re instantly comfortable around each other despite not seeing each other in years (though we’re in regular email contact). So when she emailed me and said that she and Bill were going to be in Sydney for a few days I said I’m make the trip up – knowing that I’d just been up there for the Mother’s Day Classic. Ah well, this is what you have frequent flyer points for. I hastily booked a hotel room in central Sydney, getting a not too bad a deal at a four star place on Pitt Street – so it was all sorted in the day after Geetangeli said she was coming over.

The other great thing about Geetangeli and Bill is that they are foodies. I’m a bit of a closet foodie – knowing what I like, but also aware that I tend to eat the same thing day in, day out – so having a chance to spend some time with inveterate foodies and enjoying myself is too good a chance to waste, so over the last few weeks, there have been furtive emails going back and forth across the Tasman. What do you think of this? What are your recommendations? Anything else you might like? 

According to my Geetangeli, Christchurch, despite being occasionally shaky, has some great restaurants – however, they’re lacking in Malaysian and since the quake of February last year, they are without a decent Sichuan Chinese establishment – and quite rightly, being in a big city, my friends were about searching out some of these cuisines – just as I had said that it was a dream of mine to take the Manly Ferry and go for coffee and cake at Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie. They were more than happy to oblige this little bit of wish fulfilment. I’ve only been out to visit a Zumbo establishment since he first appeared on Masterchef a few years ago.

Arriving in Sydney on Saturday morning, the first job was to find the hotel – which thankfully wasn’t too far from Town Hall station.The second was to meet up with Geetangeli and Bill – and then for a spot of lunch at a Malaysian place off George Street.

Lots of catching up was had. We also had to find Bill a SIM card which meant spending an hour in the Apple shop - which was bad for me as I've pretty much talked myself into buying an iPad. It was a good respite from the rain. After that, my small highlight - a trip on the Manly ferry.
The only small downer to the weekend was the weather. It tipped it down all weekend. A sunny day would have made the ferry ride ever so much more enjoyable, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, the company compensated for the best that the weather was providing.
Adriano Zumbo's café in Manly was a pilgrimage - and so well worth the half hour boat ride out to the seaside suburb of Manly. Okay, if I had my way I'd happily take a ferry to work every day - I love boats. Arriving in a rain soaked Manly, we made our way down the esplanade  to this little shop. I didn't need a map - it was a case of an intrinic knowledge found in my internal GPS. Bakery that way - go. Rather cave man of me, but never to mind.

We also found next to the patisserie a coffee shop. We asked if we could bring our cakes in, to which we were told, "Yes, as long as you take your rubbish with you." Cool. So an excellent coffee was ordered and we took it in turns to go find our cakes.

Geetangeli was in love with her selection of the "Marry Me, Ed" cake - a mix of coffee creme brulee, apple raisin compote, walnut parfait, walnut nougatine, walnut sponge and a chocolate glaze.

Bill selected a passionfruit tart, the colour and texture I've never tasted before - but it was bloody marvellous.

And as for me - my pilgrimage wouldn't be complete without a piece of V8 cake - a vanilla concoction beyond compare.

See, if you gave me a list of desserts to chose from, anything vanilla would top the list. Then the lemon/passionfruit choice, maybe then a sticky date or apple arrangement. Only after all of these choices had been extinguished would I choose the chocolate dessert. (and if there was something with banana in it, that would be my last choice - generally I don't like banana flavoured things - though banofee pie does get a look in sometimes).

The V8 cake has eight layers of vanilla including layers of Vanilla crème chantilly, Toasted vanilla brulee, , Vanilla water gel, Vanilla ganache, Vanilla macaron, Vanilla dacquoise, Vanilla chiffon cake and Vanilla almond crunch. Basically this is my idea of heaven - and if I'm ever to be shot at dawn, this is the dessert for my last meal. Absolutely AMAZING.

We spent and hour in the coffee shop, watching the world go by, chatting, hoping for a break in the rain. We talked about life and how it had changed - how Christchurch was getting it's groove back after the earthquakes, our families, our friends, food and coffee and where things were going. We remember each other when we were at university when I hated computers with a passion (well it was 1986...) and Geetangeli pretty much wore pink and black and loved George Michael. We haven't changed that much, though I like computers now and Geetangeli loves wearing lots of other colours now.

Spending time with her and Bill reminds me of how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends.

After a second coffee and a further trip to the back to the bakery for some macarons, we made our way back to the city, giving ourselves a few hours before dinner to rest up and relax. Another great thing about old friends - we appreciate the value of a bit of time out.

What! Macaron that weren't from La Belle Miette! Yeah.

Karyn from my favorite macaron shop asked me to do a contrast and compare with the legendary Zumbarons. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. From the cabinet in front of me, I chose a Pandan and Coconut, Salted Butter Caramel, Blackened Vanilla and Baby Powder zumbaron. These were taken for dessert after dinner.

After a rest, a shower and a lie down, we met up again for dinner in China Town - for a wonderful meal at Red Chilli Sichuan restaurant. Another fond memory of mine is how Geetangeli introduced me to chilli all those years ago. No bland food here. A Kung Pau Chicken, some very spicy tofu and rice. Magic.

After returning to the hotel, it was time to contemplate the macarons.

Okay - I'm going to own up to being VERY impressed by the zumbarons. Do they trump the ones at La Belle Miette - they're on a par. I was particularly taken with the Baby Powder (best way to describe it was that it was like a soft flavoured musk stick) and the Pandan and Coconut one - the were great - crusty on the outside, mallow in the inside and wonderfully flavoured. The Blackened Vanilla was okay - didn't quite get it, and if anything the salted butter caramel one was just a bit too salty. My other slight criticism is that the zumbarons had a bit too much gunk in the middle - where the ones at La Belle Miette are softer. Also, I have to give La Belle Miette points for consistency - as they are always awesome. But from all the macarons I've tried, these zumbarons are very much up there.

Sunday morning gave me a sleep in, a quiet brunch of eggs atlantic and hash browns and a coffee with another friend - always pleasant to catch up with friends. On checking out, I once again met up with Geetangeli and Bill for lunch before getting the plane home.

Once again, something magnificent for lunch. Ding Tai Fung are a chain of dumpling restaurants that have recently come to Australia. Millie, my friend from Hold the Peas recommended the place - and as always she was on the mark. Thankfully, the rainy weather kept people away so we didn't have to queue and we enjoyed a lunch of green beans with pork mince (Yum) Char Sieu Mai and pork buns. I'd happily recommend the place.

Finally, after another walk in the rain and a stop for coffee and cake (do you sense a theme for the weekend, we parted.

In all, a brilliant weekend. I've knocked another couple of things off the bucket list - Zumbo's and the Manly Ferry. Suppose I'd better find a couple more things to replace them.

Oh, and the great thing about the weekend. I have Maow Maow staying with me at the moment. Em and Glen Waverley checked in on him while I was away, so it wasn't like he was wanting. Maybe I should leave him on his own more often.

The reception when I got home was brilliant.

1 comment:

Kath said...

My mouth was - and still is - watering, esp at the thought of the baby powder macarons.... good thing I've got a fresh coffee and some Lindt to console myself with....