Friday, September 30, 2011

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Food: McDonalds

If you're a grown up, like I pretend to be, there is really only one way to eat the food at the McDonalds chain of restaurants: drunk. 
Some might not even call it food. And some might say drunk is not enough. But in the spirit of this blog, I will admit that I became drunk recently and I ate at McDonalds and now I am recording it here for the sake of history.
The one thing I will not divulge, however, is the lovely person who joined me on my late night burger binge. At least I will let them retain some of their dignity.
We had been drinking at the Darlo Bar - one of many such recent celebrations that have been held to toast a big change in my life, which I will tell you about next week.
As the night progressed, I urged my dear friend to order some food from the Darlo Bar menu, which is efficiently delivered from two nearby restaurants: S. Thada Thai and The Burger Joint. 
But my friend insisted that they had already eaten and so we kept on drinking until last beers were called and we found ourselves out on Darlinghurst Road, just after midnight, with stomachs rumbling.
"French fries!'' I said.
''Must have French fries!"
And so we toddled down Darlinghurst Road to the Kings Cross strip and wobbled into McDonalds - the only place selling French fries that was open at such a time.

The first McDonalds restaurant opened in Illinois, in the United States, way back in 1955, by a chap called Ray Kroc and was immensely successful. Sixteen years later the first franchise opened in Australia at Yagoona, in Sydney's west.
Today there are over 780 stores across Australia, employing around 85,000 people. Worldwide there are more than 30,000 McDonalds in 120 countries. 
McDonalds pioneered the fast food franchise system and in 1978 introduced the first drive-through restaurant in Australia, which was at Warrawong, on the state's south coast.
It must have been around that time, or in the 1980s, that the Kings Cross outlet opened on Darlinghurst Road. 
The Kings Cross outlet is pretty much open 24 hours, save for a 15-minute period around 4am when the cleaners go in, so it is very popular with late night revellers.
You can complain all you like about McDonalds, but no one is forcing you to eat there. And for many years I didn't; only breaking my 18-year boycott in 2008 when I was stuck in the boonies of NSW with nowhere else to eat. 
The menu has not changed much in the past 30 years. French fries taste exactly the same, but a few years back in a token nod to healthy eating, McDonalds introduced burgers that contained less fat and more green stuff. 

So you basically line up at the counter, check the light-box menus that drop down from the ceiling and order your food, which generally takes less than two minutes. It's all about speed. 
The best thing to do is order one of the meals, which cost about $8 and includes a burger, fries and some ghastly post-mixed soft drink that tastes like sugar-water and is low on fizz. If you try ordering the items separately, without the drink, I think it actually costs more, so just go with the meal.
The food comes in either a brown paper bag or on a tray.

The McDonalds's dining area is pretty much the same in any restaurant you go to around the world. The furniture is screwed into the tiled floor, the tables are laminated and the seats swivel.
There is usually always one staff member wandering around cleaning up people's abandoned French fries and peeling off gherkins that have been pegged at the wall. You can see him in the picture below:

For my drunken binge I ordered a McChicken meal (below). The burger contained a "chicken" patty, lettuce and mayonnaise. A few slices of tomato would have been a nice addition. I ate all my fries, but could not stomach the post-mix Coca-Cola and ended up dragging it home, whereupon it was discovered the next morning sitting on the sink; a sad reminder of the night before.

My friend ordered the McDonalds signature burger, the Big Mac, which has three slices of burger bun, two patties, lettuce and mayonnaise. It was gone in about 60 seconds:

As I opened up my cardboard burger contained I noticed this printed on the inside of the lid:

"Did you know your McChicken Burger is part of a tick approved meal? Simply add a Garden Salad, choose a small orange juice or bottled water and you will be making a Tick approved healthier choice at McDonalds.''

So basically if I didn't eat the fries, my burger and its 18.7 grams of fat would be healthy? I find that idea quite hilarious, especially considering McDonalds pays the Heart Foundation $300,000 each year to use the "Tick". 
This week the Heart Foundation also withdrew from the arrangement with McDonalds, amid speculation the $300,000 deal had destroyed the foundation's reputation
I don't know why McDonalds bothers with the healthy food push, seeing as anyone who has any notion about nutrition would never darken the fast food franchises's doors. Unless of course, they are drunk.

45-47 Darlinghurst Road
Kings Cross NSW 2010
02 9358 4400

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Domino's Scooter Fire

Domino's Pizza may have to be delivered on foot after its fleet of home delivery scooters were turned to black dust on Monday night following a fire at the Star Car Wash yard.  
I don't know if it was a targeted fire or if one of the scooters exploded, but yesterday the pile of sooty metal was cordoned off with tape from the NSW Fire Brigades, whose Darlinghurst station is just a few doors down Victoria Street and Darlinghurst Road.
The fire didn't affect anything apart from the scooters.

The lawn-mower-style hum of the Domino's scooters and the Cuisine Courier delivery drivers is one of those common sounds around Darlinghurst's streets at night. I wonder how long it will take them to replace the fleet. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Animal Life: Dog Day Afternoon

I had a very dog day afternoon yesterday at Fitzroy Gardens with my friend Sapphire Tenzing, just sitting for hours and watching the pooches go by. The Saturday markets seems to attract dozens of mutts, many of whom tend to loiter in hope at the stall selling bacon and egg rolls. 
The dog-watching began in earnest when we spotted this four-legged fellow lolloping by the nut stand:

She was just the most hilarious thing. Kind of like a wombat. Sapphire was so impressed by the dog she ended up chasing her around the markets for a better glimpse. Later though, we got to meet the corgi, whose name we learned, was Annie. The owner told us that it normally takes her 40 minutes to walk home, but when she is with Annie it takes one hour because the corgi's legs are so short. Annie is also supposed to be on a diet, because she is a bit on the tubby side. 
When Sapphire moved in to pat Annie under the chin, the dog immediately sat down and rolled on to her back, hoping for a tummy rub.

Hanging out with the corgi was another dog who seemed to be a bit tired of all the attention that Annie was attracting. The other dog shimmied into frame so that she would be photographed too:

"Don't you think I'm pretty too,'' she seems to be saying.

This dog (above) had the most amazing eyes that were highlighted by strands of dark fur around its face. I think it was a young dog because it was a bit out of control, jumping around, dragging on its leash.

I never caught the name of this mutt (above) because it was too busy staring out a baby husky dog and trying to start a fight. The husky pup couldn't have been more disinterested and was focused instead on making sense of all the weird smells in the pavers:

It was a cute little pup and received lots of attention from passers-by, which gave Sapphire and I the fine idea of perhaps buying a dog to share, in a bid to meet blokes. Just kidding, we would never think that. Besides, both of us live in small studio apartments, so the only dogs we could have would be pocket-sized, like this one:

It was absolutely tiny and had a strange look on its face, like it was tired of being the small kid and had dreams of one day becoming big and fierce.

And maybe the big and fierce dogs, like this one (above) dream of being soft and fluffy.

This older dog (above) was almost blind, so he couldn't see me when I bent down to pat his nose and he became quite scared. He also had a little bump on his head, but he was a much loved pet; his owner adores him. 

This good-looking dog (above) was part of a duo, but his mate was a bit camera shy. The owner pointed her finger at the dog and he immediately posed for my snap like a seasoned professional.
But by far, my favourite dog of the day was Millie, whose photograph is at the top of this blog post. Millie is only nine months old and was so excitable that when I approached her she jumped up and down and then licked my hand and arm. 

She was a funny little terrier.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Retailers: Royalty Prussia Clearance Sale

Dreams of drinking cappuccinos from kitschy china cups with my pal Ruby Molteno at the Royalty Prussia Cafe faded last week when signs appeared on the window announcing the bling furniture emporium was having a clearance sale - was it closing down? 
You may recall my blog post from April where I was brimming with excitement about the impending opening of the Royalty Prussia in-house cafe, which was advertised on its doors:

Well, the cafe never opened and those signs have now been pulled down:

And new ones appeared last week advertising a Clearance Sale in which there are "Millions of $$$ off!" and ''Everything Must Go''. Another sign advises to "Ask For Full Package".

I have learned that the shop is not closing down, just clearing its stock. But the question still remains: was Royalty Prussia ever open? I have walked past the shop in the Chard building on William Street hundreds of time and not once was the door open or anybody inside. 
So I wonder if they will be able to sell all the stock?
The furniture is certainly priced to clear. Take for instance this purple velvet chaise longue (below), which is reduced from $27,000 to $6,500. A saving of 70 per cent!

Or how about this mirrored cabinet, which was once $11,700 and is now $3500: 

I think the only thing Royalty Prussia needs to shift all this furniture is the British chap from the dollar-shop on the Darlinghurst Road strip in Kings Cross who, armed with his thick Pommie accent and a microphone has made a killing in the discount industry in Sydney for about 20 years.
Every time I go by, I walk away with his voice echoing in my head: "Toothbrushes. $2. Mens's socks. Two for $2. Ladies's perfumes. Only $15. Everything must go."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Street Art: Spring

Birds are nesting outside my window, my glimpse of Sydney Harbour is shimmering turquoise, white triangles of sailings boats bob by, a breeze sweeps past heady with the fragrance of jasmine blossoms, the temperature is set to reach 27 degrees and the floral daleks have returned to Darlinghurst's streets. 
It can only mean Spring. Oh, how I love this season with its promise of renewal and adventures under a blue sky. 
An anonymous street artist celebrated the return of Spring with this flowering paste-up that seems to magically grow from the wall of the Griffin Theatre Company's administration building on the corner of Nimrod and Craigend streets.  Are those flowers Violets? I think so, which makes it even more special to me. Pop up and take your photograph next to it before it disappears. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Villas of Darlinghurst: Craigend

Detail from elevation and plan of a house proposed to be built on Craigend, 1829, Number 12 of the Wolloomooloo Hill allotments. Artist unknown.
Craigend: allotment of over 9 acres granted to Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell in 1831.

Craigend was the first home to be built at the highest point of the Darlinghurst Ridge as part of the original development of the area in the 1820s and 1830s. The home was built for Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, who arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1827 after being appointed the colony's Assistant Surveyor-General. 
Mitchell was born in a house called Craigend in the town of Grangemouth, central Scotland, in 1792 and although poor was well educated. He could read in several languages and was proficient in science. 
In his early 20s he was made a lieutenant of the 95th regiment and during the Peninsular war, between France and the allied powers of Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom, he served in the Spanish towns of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and Salamanca. 
His main role was to obtain topographical intelligence and these skills were noticed by the Quartermaster General, Sir George Murray, who employed him to produce plans of the major Iberian Peninsular battlefields. 
After his marriage in June 1818, Sir Murray helped him land the role of Assistant Surveyor General in Sydney and in 1827, Mitchell and wife, Mary, arrived in Australia.
Mitchell actively petitioned for land on Woolloomooloo Hill (Darlinghurst) and in 1831 he was authorised to select an allotment. He chose a grant of just over nine acres positioned on the highest point of the ridge, where Royston Street is today.

Mitchell designed the villa, Craigend, and its Parthenon-style portico and elevated position on the hill led it to be known as the Acropolis of Sydney. But Mitchell's wild spending on such a grand mansion led him into financial trouble and in 1837 he was forced to subdivide his nine acres and sell the Craigend estate.
Until then, Mitchell was quite the adventurer. 
The Survey Department was a schmozzle when he arrived. Surveying instruments were few and many of the staff were incompetent, so that title deeds were delayed and doubts and disputes arose about boundary lines. Tent poles were used to measure base lines, and hillsides with lone trees were used as trigonometrical points. 
Mitchell inherited the position of Surveyor General in 1828 and the following year became responsible for the survey of roads and bridges. His work included making changes in the roads from Sydney to Parramatta and Liverpool, as well as plotting new courses to Berrima and Goulburn and a trail from the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. Many of the roads he plotted are much the same as the ones used today.
During his career in the 1830s, Mitchell also made expeditions to central, far-west and north-west NSW, to towns such as Orange, Menindee, Namoi, Tamworth and Narrabri. 
On one expedition in February 1832, two of his party were killed by indigenous Australians near Moree. In March 1835, botanist Richard Cunningham was also killed by Aborigines at Bogan and on the same expedition the party encountered members of the Darling tribe who they described as ''implacably hostile and shamelessly dishonest''. During an affray with the group, shots were fired and several Aborigines were killed and wounded. Mitchell returned home.
Mitchell made a third expedition to plot out parts of the Darling and Murray rivers, but again his party got into strife with the locals and seven Aborigines were killed near Mount Dispersion.
An inquiry conducted into the deaths by the Executive Council in 1836 found that Mitchell had not made sufficient efforts to be conciliatory to the Aborigines but the council could not blame his ''want of coolness and presence of mind, which it is the lot of few men to possess''.
In 1837, Mitchell returned to the United Kingdom, wrote a book about his expeditions, begged for a knighthood and returned to Australia four years later as a Sir.
He briefly held an elected position on the Legislative Council and made a fourth expedition into the eastern interior of Australia.
During the 1840s he again returned to the United Kingdom but came back to Sydney to write another book, The Australian Geography, which placed Australia in the centre of the world map and became a school text in NSW in the 1850s.
Mitchell, who was a bit of a rogue in the colony and was regularly accused of insubordination, was also involved in one of the last duals in Australia with a chap called Stuart Donaldson who had publicly made some inaccurate, presumably defamatory, remarks about him. On September 27, 1851, each fired three shots and it was reported that one bullet went through Donaldson's hat while another went within an inch of Mitchell's throat.
In 1855, while surveying a line of road between Nelligen and Braidwood, south of Sydney, Mitchell developed pneumonia and died at his home in Sydney on October 5. Mary survived Mitchell but five of their 12 children did not. 
Craigend, which Mitchell had sold years earlier, had a succession of owners and was later converted into a hospital, then a boarding house in the early 1900s. The Acropolis of Sydney was demolished in 1822 to make way for a large block of flats (below). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: St John's Church Shortcut Closed

I was so sad when I came across this Keep Out sign on the gates of St John's Church last week. I use the churchyard shortcut between Victoria Street and Darlinghurst every day and every day I admire the garden, look fondly at the sandstone church and say hello to the little pussycat that always seems to be sitting in one of the trees. 

There was also a little note taped to the gate to explain:

''If you walk through the grounds of St John's Church, we have good news and bad news for you! 
''The bad news is  . . . that because we are landscaping the car park area of the church, pedestrian access through the church grounds will be totally closed from Monday 5th September. We have been led to believe that the building work will take four weeks to complete."
''The good news is . . . that when it's finished, the area will be attractive, safe to walk on, and reopened for people to walk through just as it was before.''

Well, I guess that's okay then. 

I guess the garden and paving was a bit shabby. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's done and what types of plants they put in. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Wanted Work

The owner of this Ford Festiva can't afford the $590 vehicle registration, due on October 1, so they've resourcefully used the car to hold up a work wanted sign. Clever. I wonder if anyone will call them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: One Year Anniversary

Exactly one year ago I set up a new blog called My Darling Darlinghurst and published my first post at about eight in the morning. I only know it was 8.20am because that's what the time stamp says. God knows what I was doing up at that hour.
Anyway, over the next year I became obsessed with my little blog, encouraged on by the dozens of lovely emails I received from readers throughout Australia and around the world. Okay, there were probably not dozens of people writing to me, but there were at least 12. And each little bit of correspondence I received was lovely. It is a rare thing to indulge your passion and then have people enjoy it enough to write to you, so for each and every email I am grateful. 
Some of the people that wrote to me, such as street photographer Adrian Bell and Tasmanian tunnel-lover Stephen Hickmott, also had their stories published here and continue to write to me today and I am the richer for it.
Through this blog - in a way - I was also able to meet and correspond with Larry Writer, author of Razor and all-round charming chap.  
What a blessed existence I have in this excellent neighbourhood. 
I may be too old to still be renting and have no money in the bank, but there is a daily joy in waking up in Darlinghurst and wondering what adventures I might have or what people I might meet. 
I also think my blog provides me with a good distraction to forget about the things that I don't have and simply appreciate the things that I do.
To celebrate my first year as a blogger, I have made a tiny, eensy-weensy, little eight-page zine, A Guide To The Neighbourhood, which will be distributed through my favourite shops. 

Just like my blog the zine is a labour of love, has the occasional mistake and is not perfect. But please be kind to it, because unlike my blog, you can also use it as a makeshift fan to cool you through the warm spring days. 

I began work on the zine many moons ago, but when it came to the point to draw the large map that features in its centre-spread, I gave up. It was just far beyond my technical skills. 
But then, with the first anniversary rapidly approaching, I decided to just cheat and use a photocopy of an existing map, rather than drawing it myself. The result is not that great: you can barely see the streets, so it is practically useless. 
Still, I take heart that many people who choose to use the map may become lost in the Darlinghurst backstreets and stumble upon a hidden treasure, say a beautiful piece of street art. Then, becoming lost and losing time will be so worthwhile. 

I published the zine or comic on pink paper, because when I started this blog it was initially pink (but while pink is one of my favourite colours, it's not to everybody's taste so I switched it to the present sepia shade).
The first print of the zine is an exclusive edition of 30, which features hard covers and colour printing. If you would like me to send you one, please message me with your postal address through the My Darling Darlinghurst Facebook page.
The second print has soft covers, only comes in black ink and I'll probably print as many of them as I can, to distribute in my favourite local shops, such as Strawberry Cream and Russell Wade Clothing
If you happen to come across one, please let me know what you think. 
If I am still around in another year, I might make another one. 
Thanks for reading and warmest wishes, Violet Tingle.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Wow Cow

Wowzers. How come the word wowzers is suddenly being used everywhere? I started saying it to myself a couple of weeks ago in place of say, yikes, and I wondered where on earth I picked it from. Then I saw it used by two other people on Facebook and realised it must be one of those zeitgeisty things. A bit like frozen yoghurt.
Why is this sugar-laden frozen yoghurt suddenly popular? 
Wow Cow - which should really be called Wowzers Cowzers - opened a few years ago in the heart of the Victoria Street cafe strip and specialises in what it terms Super Chilled Yoghurt (SCY) - a fancy name for frozen yoghurt. 

I had never been inside the Wowzers Cowzers but every time I walked by, the tiny little shop with its footpath seating was packed. During the day, it would be full of students from SCEGGS, Darlinghurst Public School and St Vincent's College spending their pocket money on soft-serve confections, while at night the place is choc-a-bloc with grown-ups eating SCY with strange condiments, such as mochi. What the hell is mochi?

Anyway, about a month ago, I happened to be walking by as usual when I had a sudden smoothie craving and the next thing I knew I was inside Wowzers Cowzers ordering some strange SCY dairy drink. It was ok. A bit sour. 
But, back to the zeitgeist: within a week of my virgin SCY experience, my former flatmate Myles Mapplethorpe was visiting from his new home in Perth, in Western Australia. 
He spent about one week in Sydney, ticking off the boxes of the places he missed: Una's for schnitzel, Abduls for a kebab and the Midnight Shift for a perve.
Then on his final night in Darlinghurst, he suddenly declared that he had to go to Wow Cow, despite never having been there before. Zeitgeist! So there I was at Wow Cow for the second time in a week. 

The shop is owned by US-born surfer turned entrepreneur Carl Harwin, who lives on Sydney's northern beaches with his wife Dani Behr, a UK tabloid darling who appeared in that monstrous television program, I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!
Harwin first moved into the food game in the mid-1990s - with brother Brett Harwin and surfer John Berry - opening a series of healthy fast food outlets called Kauai in South Africa. 
When he moved to Australia from California in 2006 he was surprised there were no places to buy SCY - the It dessert in the United States - and Wow Cow was born.
There were plans to expand and franchise the concept but five years down the track, Darlinghurst remains the only shop in Australia.

The shop is absolutely tiny so I suppose that's one reason why it always looks busy. It also plays really loud dance music, which gives the effect of being in a crowded nightclub. There are mirrors along one wall and cows hanging from the astro-turfed ceiling.

The SCY is administered in a soft serve, so it doesn't have that horrible frosty-ice texture of the little pots of frozen yoghurt from my childhood. It also comes in a range of flavours, which change daily or weekly and include coconut, pistachio or green tea. 

We had arrived after eating at Una's and there was no way I needed to consume any more food so I was relying on Myles to order something interesting, like say, the mochi topping. But he played it straight and simply ordered the plain yoghurt with some average crumble topping. I tried one small spoonful. It was nice and smooth, sweet but also sour; nothing exciting. After all it's just frozen yoghurt. But mochi. That is one thing I will definitely be going back to try. Ten bucks mochi is going to be the new zeitgeisty ingredient.

Wow Cow
2/304-308 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9326 0400