Thursday, March 31, 2011

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Retailers: Kings Cross Saturday Markets

About four or five years ago Fitzroy Gardens in Kings Cross became home to a Saturday Organic Food and Farmers Market. Since then the Saturday markets have become a little town square where locals can go along, socialise and catch up on the area's gossip. 
I try to go every Saturday, even when I don't intend on buying flowers or food, because I know that I will probably bump into friends or end up talking to complete strangers. I have met many interesting people there over the years, not least, the stall holders. 
Some people even go along to the markets to pay a small fee to sit around and play board games (see picture of "Garden Games" below).
The markets is also the place overrun by politicians in the lead up to elections; was the scene of a protest against Mayor Clover Moore's plans to demolish Fitzroy Gardens; and has also become a regular busking scene. 

There was even a busking ''incident'' recently. 
The buskers actually have to apply to the market organisers to play in Fitzroy Gardens on Saturdays.
One weekend, the featured buskers were a group of poets who read aloud their work. They were at first situated near the children's playground, but some parents complained when one of the poets started reciting a verse about sex, menstruation and masturbation. It probably wasn't the ideal location or time for those sorts of topics. 
So the following week the organisers moved them to a more central part of the markets, right near the plant-dealer. 
I walked past them that day, but didn't realise they were busking. The poet's voice was barely audible and I figured it was just some woman talking to herself. 
When the poets's allocated time was up, a male guitarist took over. The guitarist played for his given hour but still hadn't finished a song when his time was up. 
The poets, who were due to start reciting again, became angry that they were losing valuable time and rudely told the guitarist - mid-song - to quit playing. 
This in turn angered the guitarist who accused them of having no respect for his art. 
The poets then became fired up and allegedly started yelling abuse and throwing coins at him - not in to his money-hat, but at his face and chest. 
A full-on coin-brawl was only stopped when one of the market organisers intervened. Needless to say, the poets have not returned. 
Here is one of the market organisers posing with the lovely Louisa from the Parker's Organic Juice stall:

The markets are run by Choulartons Australia, who also manage markets in the Sydney suburbs of Auburn, Chatswood, Hornsby, Double Bay, Frenchs Forest and Gladesville, as well as the regional centre of Newcastle, north of Sydney. 
Stalls at the Kings Cross Saturday Markets used to cost just $60 for the day but stallholders now pay between $110 and $125, which has become unaffordable for many. 
In the past few months the markets have lost some long-time stallholders, including Francis the Fish Monger, a cheese-dealer, a butcher, a mushroom seller (below) and a Malaysian cafe. 

Some stallholders also cite the recent arrival of a nearby Harris Farm green-grocer as halving their business. 
But they will get little sympathy from the shopkeepers of Potts Point, who in turn believe the markets have stolen business from them. 
Whatever you think, I hope the markets remain, because I could not live without my $6 Saturday morning bacon and egg roll:

Or my iced-tea from Louisa and Hamish at the Parker's Organic Juice stall:

Naturally, Parker's Organic Juice also sell a range of fizzy juice drinks and juices, including the yummy Blood Orange Juice:

While consuming the aforementioned treats I like to look at Ronnie's plants:

Ronnie is a specialist in balcony plants, indoor plants and succulents:

I then might grab a lemon slice from the cake stall. I don't have any photos of the cake stall, but the woman who runs it is really lovely and bakes all the cakes and slices in her domestic kitchen - it must be huge. Cake demands a soy flat white from the Toby's Estate stall:

I always stock up on essential oils from Gabriel's Amphore stall (below). I have had a major mosquito problem in my apartment recently and Gabriel's lavender oil has been the only thing that has kept them at bay. I also put a few drops of lavender oil in to a spray-bottle of water and then use it to mist my clothes - it somehow take the crinkles out, so I don't have to bother with ironing. Gabriel only sells 100 per cent essential oils and they are really well priced. He always gives you a freebie too, if you spend above a certain amount. 

Before I leave, I always buy some blooms from the flower stall. The female stall-holder can sometimes be a bit snappy, but who cares when they are the cheapest flowers in the district:

Only $10:

These yellow flowers are only $6, but I can't say I am a fan; they look like little brains. The orchids last up to ten days, look beautiful in a vase and only cost $10 for two bunches:

I have also recently become fond of the quinoa and vegetable pies sold by the Nourishing Quarter stall. The NQ has a eponymous cafe in inner-city Redfern, which I am now keen to visit:

Kings Cross Organic Food and Farmers's Market
8am to 2pm every Saturday
Fitzroy Gardens
Kings Cross NSW 2010
02 9999 2226

Parker's Organic Juice

Toby's Estate Coffee

Amphore Essential Oils

Nourishing Quarter
315 Cleveland Street
Redfern NSW 2016
02 8399 0888

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Darlinghurst: Heritage Items: Darlinghurst Fire Station

Darlinghurst Fire Station
- Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Council Heritage List

In 1906 it was becoming evident that the present Darlinghurst Fire Station at 250 Victoria Street was ill-equipped to deal with such a ''calamitous experience'' as a major fire in the neighbourhood, and the issue was raised with the Chief Secretary by the state Member for Darlinghurst, Sir Daniel Levy.
''(Darlinghurst) is a quarter not easily accessible by the other brigades, while the local force and equipment, from the poor accommodation, would be quite unable to cope with any serious outbreak,'' a Sydney Morning Herald article from June 15, 1906, said.
''Mr Levy was assured that the needs of Darlinghurst would not be overlooked when provision was being made for the immediate future in connection with the fire fighting service.''
But it would still be another five years before nine houses were demolished at the apex of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street and work began on the new Darlinghurst Fire Station.

Designed by NSW Government architects Walter Liberty Vernon and George McRae in the Federation Free style, the proposed building was heralded in 1910 as being ''one of the finest fire stations'' and an ''ornament to the district''.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald article from June of that year titled, Building and Works - Progress of the Trade, the new fire station with its ''handsome circular corner facade'' would contain ''seven separate residences for the married men''.
''Each residence will have living rooms and several bedrooms, with every convenience.
''There will also be a suite of rooms for the single men.''
The flat roof would be home to two laundries, a shelter and drying sheds as well as a watch-tower ''from which a view will be obtained for miles around''.
The ground floor would include space for a large motor-engine, horse ladders, stabling and fodder rooms, a large exercise and washing yard, watch-room, telephone room, workshops, recreation space, smokers's room and bathrooms.
The tender for building the station was won by Conrad Harrs, of Burwood in Sydney's southwest, and in 1911 work began on the 10,000 Pounds development.
Building work was delayed in July of that year due to labour shortages, but on January 22, 1912, the first firemen moved in to the grand new station.

Almost 100 years later the building is still occupied by fire men and fire women, continues to operate as a fire station and remains an ''ornament to the district''. What a great legacy for Vernon, McRae and Harrs.
I wonder if the station's centenary will be celebrated next year. And I wonder too if the building is haunted by 38-year-old fireman William Lilward Cooper who died in his sleep in the station in August 1916. 
''There is sweet rest in heaven,'' his loving wife wrote in William's obituary. 
The station gained a mention in the news pages on January 2, 1933, when New Years Eve hooligans lit up a series of bonfire around Sydney and the Darlinghurst firies attended to 16 call-outs. 
''None of the fires assumed menacing proportions, except one in Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo, at which about 1500 people had gathered,'' it was reported.
''The bonfire, which was lighted in the street, was blazing fiercely after a stock of old motor tyres had been thrown on it.
''Six policemen had to disperse the crowd, which jeered the firemen as they brought a hose to bear on the fire.''

In November 1948 the good fire-fighters of Darlinghurst received a series of ''false calls'' to attend Sammy Lee's night club in Woollahra and Reg's Restaurant in Double Bay.
These days the firies still receive numerous ''false calls''.
I was attending a small verandah barbecue at a friend's place in Elizabeth Bay about a month ago when there was a knock at the door. When I answered, four handsome firies stepped inside:

Apparently, one of the neighbours had seen smoke billowing from the building, which resulted in Darlinghurt's finest responding with urgency to the call.

When I went out on to the street, Roslyn Gardens, there were four fire trucks for this tiny Webber barbecue:

But the firies didn't seem to mind and took it all in very good humour.
I suspect they are called out to quite a lot of these types of incidents, and I have certain gal pals who think it wouldn't be such a bad idea for their kitchen smoke alarms to go off and for some of these fine fire-fighters to attend to their residences.

Darlinghurst Fire Station
100 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9361 3292

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Darlinghurst: Detritus: NSW Election Day 2011

So, it was an historic NSW election, with a massive double-digit swing against Labor.
Independent Clover Moore proved she is as popular as ever, keeping the Seat of Sydney for a sixth term, but Liberals candidate Adrian Bartels wasn't far behind.
Moore had retained the seat in 2007 with a 16.6 per cent margin over Labor, but yesterday she lost votes to Bartels, with a huge 14.9 per cent swing towards the Liberals.
Still, this was a fairly predictable result - for NSW and Sydney - and was preceded by the dullest state election campaign in recent history.
There were no major scandals, no provocative candidates (unless you count the Nudist Party's g-string-wearing Stuart Baanstra- yawn) and no surprises about who was going to win. 
Mother Nature seemed to agree and put on the dullest, greyest, coldest weather for Election Day in recent history too. If I didn't have to vote, I don't think I would have left the house all day.

But I dutifully dragged myself out of bed yesterday and went down to the St John's Church Hall polling place to cast my vote like a good citizen. If I had known there was going to be a sausage sizzle, I would have probably left my apartment earlier. 
Interestingly, of the three how to vote cards I saw - the Greens' De Brierley Newton, Labor's Sacha Blumen and independent Clover Moore  - there were no preferences given. 
I didn't bother with a how to vote card anyway, and not many people around me did either. It just seemed that everyone knew they weren't going to vote Labor.

In the last state election in 2007, Labor won 52 of the 93 seats in the lower house, or legislative assembly, while the Liberals won 22 seats. 
Yesterday, exit polls were predicting a massive 21 per cent swing against Labor, leaving Kristina Keneally's party with less than 15 seats in the lower house and the Liberal-National party with over 70 seats.  
But last night, about 10.30pm, the ABC was projecting an almost 17 per cent swing against Labor, with the ALP winning just 21 seats, compared to the Liberal-National coalition's 69 seats. 
The remaining three seats went to independents, including Clover Moore, according to the ABC. 
The Greens didn't smash Labor in the seats of Marrickville and Balmain, in the inner-west, as predicted, although last night it was still too early to announce the winners. 

So Barry O'Farrell is the new Premier and he wore a ghastly, wide-striped tie during his acceptance speech at the Parramatta Leagues Club, in Sydney's western suburbs. Most of his speech was devoted to thanking his party and announcing how many seats the Liberal-Nationals had won. 
By comparison, outgoing Premier Keneally's speech was far more emotional, as she talked about the people of NSW and the Labor party's downfall. 
Keneally won her seat of Heffron, in Sydney's south, but has decided not to contest the leadership of the Labor party. 
My bet's on deputy Labor leader Carmel Tebbutt taking over the Labor leadership (so long as she retains her Balmain seat against the Greens). The other potential candidates would be former police minister Michael Daley and Blacktown MP John Robertson, who are just boring, old school Labor men-in-suits. Yes, Tebbutt is married to Federal Labor's Anthony Albanese, but I would much prefer the job to go to a woman.
Regardless of who becomes the opposition leader, it will be interesting days ahead as NSW is run by the Liberal Party for the first time in 16 years. 

Here are the Seat of Sydney election results (as of 10.30pm Saturday):
Clover Moore (Independent): 12,344
Adrian Bartels (Liberal): 11,509
De Brierley Newton (Greens): 3977
Sacha Blumen (Labor): 3445
Andrew Patterson (Sex Party): 530
Peter Madden (Christian Democrats): 341

After preferences:
Clover Moore: 16,455 (56.5 per cent of the vote)
Adrian Bartels: 12,685 (43.5 per cent of the vote)

There was a 9.3 per cent swing against Labor and a 14.9 per cent swing to the Liberals. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Across the Border: Potts Point: Food: Ms G's

Based on my recent food-related blog posts, readers must think that all I do is swan about town drinking like a mad woman, stuffing my face with food and steadily putting on weight. Well, you'd be about half right. But this latest adventure in food-land has so far been the best and - even though it's only March - I would have to say that it was Lunch of the Year. It may even hold that position for the next nine months, for rarely do I have someone else paying for the food bill, allowing me to eat and swill to my heart's content.
The occasion was Ruby Molteno's birthday and I was very fortunate to be the number four at the lunch table with the birthday girl and her Ma and Pa Molteno.
It was a rainy old Sunday, so we initially planned to lunch in the cosy indoor dining room at Forbes and Burton, but upon arrival we discovered that the chef has scrapped the weekend lunch menu in favour of an all day brunch. While a menu featuring eggs and bacon cooked 15 different ways is Ruby's idea of heaven, Ma and Pa and myself weren't all that enthusiastic.
So we set off down Darlinghurst Road, passed the Poos on Sticks cross-ways and headed down Victoria Street, Potts Point to . . .  Ms G's.

The restaurant, whose name is a play on the popular Asian meat tenderiser, monosodium glutamate, opened late last year in a terrace house that was previously home to Neil Perry's XO and the flash Italian joint, Ego Ristorante Enoteca. The building is owned by Sydney playboy and bar baron, Justin Hemmes, whose family-owned Merivale group is behind the Ms G's venture.
The front door leads in to the small dining room and bar (above) and then a stairwell that zig-zags up and down the building's right side, takes diners to the various multi-levels.

The best level, and the one where we were fortunate to be seated, is up on the first floor (above). A large floor to ceiling window looks out to tree-tops and the CBD, while the room is decorated in Donkey Kong-style jungle ropes. If you are lucky enough to score a window seat, you can even see a glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House:

The second floor is a little more laid back and features sofas, stools, coffee tables and walls covered in old pages torn from newspapers, magazines and books:

The stairs lead down to another dining room with booths and tree-trunk views:

And yet another floor down, you'll find the kitchen and chefs hard at work:

The menu is described as modern Asian and is designed to be enjoyed tapas-style in a group, so that you can taste as many dishes as possible.

There are four different food categories on the menu: Raw (as in oysters and sashimi), Salads and Smaller Plates ($14-$16), Larger ($18-$34) and Desserts, including the cheekily named Stoner's Delight, a grand pile of banana ice cream, chocolate, rice bubbles, peanut brittle and marshmallow ($12).
But the one menu item that began our drift in to food heaven was the cocktails, which range in price from $12-$14. 
Ruby's Pa had Ms G's Famous Yuzu Slushee, a refreshing icy-mix of Limoncello, Russian Standard Vodka, Yuzu Juice and Regan's Orange Bitters. It was so good, he ordered another.

I also ended up having two (or was it three?) Aloe Vera cocktails, a divine, frothy blend of Absolut Vanilla,  Limoncello, Crushed Lemons and Aloe Vera Foam (below left). Ma Molteno had an exotic sounding Purple Rain cocktail of Beefeater Gin, Purple Basil, Pomegranate and Passionfruit (below right).

It was a grand start to the meal, which slowly arrived, dish by dish, over the next hour or so. We began with four Sydney Rock Oysters with Lemongrass Vinaigrette ($4 each) and the Hiramasa Kingfish with Jicama, Guacamole and Finger Lime ($16), which was so much more impressive than we expected and a taste sensation too. Jicama, which is commonly known as yam bean, is a Mexican root vegetable that looks like a cross between a potato and a turnip, and is popular in Asia. It has a crispy texture like apple and was used shredded raw in the kingfish dish (below right) adding a nice fresh bite. 

The next dish to arrive was the Heirloom Tomatoes, Steamed Eggplant and Crispy Fried Tofu with Thai Basil ($22, below left). For such a simple sounding dish it was packed with flavour, which seems to be a theme of the menu at Ms G's. We also ordered Stir Fried Cultivated Mushrooms with Brown Butter and Garlic Stalks ($18) and it was a massive flavour and textural hit too. The mushies were so hastily devoured, I didn't even have time to photograph them. 
I didn't even need to photograph the Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Grain Fed Beef, Chili, Herbs and Peanuts ($18, below right) because the dish has left me with the most vivid flavour and texture memory, that is so good, I will be going back to Ms G's for it again and again. 

The last dish to arrive was the Grilled King Prawns with Sambal Matah, eschallot, lime and chili relish ($30). I'm not mad about prawns but Pa Molteno seemed very happy with the dish and the fieriness of the sambal, served in a baby cos lettuce cup. 

So who is responsible for these amazing flavour hits? It's hard to believe, but it's those two crazy-looking blokes below: Dan Hong and Jowett Yu. 
The pair previously worked together at Sydney's world class, Tetsuya's, and have been at Merivale's other Potts Point restaurant, Lotus (22 Challis Avenue), for the past few years, where Hong (with the bread rolls on his ears) was appointed head chef at just 25. 
Yu was raised in Canada and comes from a Taiwanese background, while Hong has Vietnamese heritage.  

The other great thing about Ms G's, apart from the food, is the carefully, if not overly, designed decor. The Merivale collection of restaurants and bars are all very design conscious, and while it sort of gives it a McHemmes feel, for some reason this attention to detail also gives me confidence in the cleanliness of the place. 
If they care so much about how it looks, the kitchen must be immaculate, especially considering you can walk right by and peer in. 
The details extend to the ceiling (above left) where hessian bags are stretched over frames; as well as the bathrooms (below left), with walls papered in print and buckets used as sinks. 
I had to look twice at this ''coffee-table'' (below right) which is essentially a stack of flattened cardboard boxes tied together. Cute. 

The bill came to $232 for the four of us, which works out at $58 a head. That's not bad at all considering we had cocktails, entrees and mains. Thank you Ma and Pa Molteno for shouting me such a memorable time and thanks Ruby for inviting me along. Happy Birthday, Ruby. I hope we have lots more memorable meals together and I can't wait to return to Ms G's.

Ms G's
155 Victoria Street
Potts Point NSW 2011
02 8313 1000