Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Messina Laboratorio

For a long, long time I have been admiring the Mario Brothers-style mushroom-shaped dessert in the window of Gelato Messsina
I would pass by on some boring Tuesday night and see four or five mushroom desserts, with their big red heads and white comic book-type spots, in the big showcase freezer, and I would try and dream up reasons to buy one.
Surely it would make an ideal birthday present. Or perhaps I could buy one to take into work for my colleagues to enjoy. 
But there was always the melt factor. A frozen, gelato dessert would never last the distance.
And then Messina Laboratorio opened up next door.

Messina Laboratorio, or Messina Lab for short, is like the weird Willy Wonka side of the traditional Gelato Messina, where the ice-cream makers go a bit kooky and make big crazy stuff and miniatures of stuff, such as hamburgers (above left) or the strange (usually much bigger) Mario Brothers' mushrooms (below centre).

So when it opened a few months ago, I had my heart set on the mini mushroom - I could eat it on my own; no need for a birthday present or other reason.
I had to have one. 
But then I was on some stupid detox for a while and it seemed revoltingly indulgent to go in and buy the mini mushroom purely for myself. 
Until last night, that is.

Last night, I thought, "stuff it, I deserve the $9.90 mushroom", and so I bought one and carried it home like precious cargo, put it in the freezer and forgot about it for four hours until I got the munchies about 11pm.

That was when I pulled the box out of the freezer . . .

opened it up . . .

photographed the mushroom  . . .

put it on a plate  . . .

and started to eat it.

The mushroom crown is all chocolate gelato with a caramel centre, then there is the vanilla gelato mushroom stem, which grows out of a "moss" of green crackly stuff, which has the same effect in your mouth as Magic Gum, that weird pop-in-your-mouth chewing gum you may have had as a child.
Eating the mushroom, known as "Mini Me", was a bit of a production, and had me interested at every spoonful, unlike the usual bowl of ice cream or gelato in a cone, which still has me excited, just not switched on.

It is not the most dainty thing to eat - especially when you get down to the green moss, crackling base - but I still devoured it pretty quickly.

Messina Creative Department
Laboratorio and Patisserie
243 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 8354 1223

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Retailers: The Main Drag

It's debatable which street in Darlinghurst is the main drag. Some would say it is the eponymous Darlinghurst Road. 
Others might think Victoria Street, with its excess of cafes, deserves the name. 
But, it is too late, Oxford Street has already claimed the title and TODAY it celebrates the win with a special Sydney Mardi Gras 2012 Festival event, fittingly titled, The Main Drag.
And - as to be expected - burlesque performances, a pop-up yoga garden and knitted penises will feature.
The day is designed to promote the shops that line the world-famous Mardi Gras Parade route, and it is well-timed, as just yesterday three new arts and crafts shops officially opened for business on the strip.

The shops are so new that when I went by yesterday, the proprietress of the Oxford Street Design Store, at 58 Oxford Street (above), was only just opening its roller-door.

The Oxford Street Design Store is run by Alex de Bonis and Louise Helliwell, from non-profit artist collective, Tough Titties.

The idea behind the shop is that artists can supply T-shirts, tote bags, jewellery, zines, whatever - as long as the price-tag is less than $20.  

It's a cute idea and is bound to work, so long as local artists get on board to provide products to sell. 
And I must admit, it has sparked off my creative bug and I am now musing on what sort of stuff I could create that would retail for less than $20 but still earn me a pretty penny. 

These cute, hand-printed tea-towels (above) are a clever idea, and come in at just $18 each. 

He Made She Made, at 70 Oxford Street, is the next shop along the street, and features the work of four designers: Bent Patterson, Laura Kepreotis, Maaike Pullar and Patrick Chambers.

The quartet create mostly larger pieces for the home, such as this cool Tetris-inspired book-nook or display case (above), which I really adore, but can't afford (it's just over $1000).

I also love the lighting stand (above), which would look amazing in a big warehouse space, but not a teeny-weeny studio like mine.
Many of the pieces are created using the "upcycling" method, that is, taking some old junk that was dumped on the side of the road perhaps, and turning it into an exquisite piece of art-furniture.

Also sweet is this wall-piece (above), which reminds me of Jesus' crown of thorns. 
You must also go in to try out the amazing twin chairs they have on display in the centre of the shop, which I forgot to photograph. 
They really don't look like chairs and have strange wands shooting out the back that bend when you sit in them. 
They are so unique and imaginative, they are destined to be a collectors' item.

Further up the street is Platform 72, at 72 Oxford Street - natch. 
The shop is run by Samantha Mitchell-Finn and Juliet Rosser, who rent shelf space to local artists to display and sell their wares. The artists receive 100 per cent of the sale price. 

In one of the front windows at Platform 72, is this hot pink "Venis" chair (above), which has a big penis bursting out from the middle of the seat. 

And in the other window is a display of knitted penises styled into cactus-shapes and arranged in pots on a great 1950s plant-holder. 
Sitting inside, knitting on a chair, was the artist behind the penises, Kirsten Fredericks.

The space has loads of interesting products, including hand-printed tea-towels featuring font-heavy maps of Sydney and maps of Surry Hills main streets.

There's also jewellery hand-crafted from decapitated Ken dolls (above).

And high-end, hand-tooled leather handbags (above).

Saturday 25 February 2012
Yoga at Oxford Square from 11am
Performances at Taylor Square from midday-4pm

Oxford Street Design Store
58 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010 

He Made She Made
70 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
0478 504 232

Platform 72 
72 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Darlinghurst: Food: Sur Bourke

My friend Ruby, who tends to dwell on the western side of Darlinghurst Road, introduced me to this new French cafe late last year and it quickly became one of our favourite lunching spots. 
Sur Bourke doesn't look like much from the street; you could swing past on the bus on Bourke Street and barely notice it, but its healthy, well-balanced menu is a real stand-out and the prices will keep you returning. 

Inside, there is fairly limited seating and a distinct French touch to the decor.

There is de bicycle suspendu au mur.

Common bottles of water packed in a sweet wooden crate.

Colourful berets lined up in a row.

 And tins of French Cassoulet and bags of coffee grouped together on shelves.

But it is outside, on warm days, where Ruby and I love to be: sitting with the flower pots, sun on our backs and watching the world go by very slowly.

Sur Bourke serves breakfast ala Francaise, such as croissants or brioche with jam, Nutella or ham and cheese ($4.50-$6), as well as home made bircher muesli ($7.50), spelt fruit loaf ($5.50) and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs on sourdough ($9.50).
But we often go for lunch and even Ruby, who is happy to eat breakfast eggs all day long, usually orders from the lunch menu just because it is so good.
There's the obvious croque Monsieur ($11.50/$16) and a quiche with side salad ($9.50) but it's the tasting plates and salads we love.

Last time we were there, Ruby ordered the mixed leaf salad with parmesan, walnut and pear, served with a slice of sourdough and a boiled egg ($10). It's actually quite a generous bowl, despite that photograph above making it look quite small. And don't you think the eggs look like frangipanis when they are cut that way. Everything is prepared with love.

I had what I always have: the $14.50 lunch plate, which includes ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, tomato, two slices of sourdough and a side salad. 
I love picking at things and slowly eating and everything on this plate is like a taste bomb, including the salad, which in other places is often just tired old bland mixed lettuce without any dressing.
Here, it is so flavoursome, it could stand alone as its own meal.
Just writing this post has made me realise that it has been far too long since my last visit.

Sur Burke
266 Bourke Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 8084 9376

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Street of the Week: Tewkesbury Avenue

Most people who live in the Darlinghurst-Kings Cross area, have their favourite street in the neighbourhood. 
For some, it is Roslyn Avenue, with its little shop-houses and cafes; for others it is the leafy-canopied Surrey Street; and, for me, it is Hardie Street - more for the memories of my life there, than for any of its physical attributes. 
One reader has written to me about Tewkesbury Avenue. 

Photograph: City of Sydney Archives, 1982.

I don't know if this stumpy little street is his favourite in Darlinghurst, but he was interested enough to want to know who, or what, it was named after.
I only really know Tewkesbury Avenue as a shortcut, somewhere to look for car spaces, or as the back entrance to filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin's mansion, Iona
Here is his investigation into the history of Tewkesbury Avenue.

"From the 1920’s to the 1970’s there were two huge warehouses occupying the site incorporating the present day residential towers called Palisades, Kirketon Mews, Kirketon Gardens, Kirketon Manor and No. 1 Tewkesbury Avenue (entrance in photograph above)," he writes.

"Prior to this, there were four to five single-storey large houses on the site, dating from the 1850’s, which formed part of the original William Long land grant of 5 acres.
"Obviously the houses deteriorated to a point that the land was more valuable for warehouse distribution and the then council allowed for such “backward” land-use change. Strange!
"So the houses were eventually torn down to make way for the warehouses."

Photograph: City of Sydney Archives, 1921 (see Clapton House/Earls Court in the top left).

"These warehouses appear on some of the 1940s black and white photos available from Archives and form the physical reason which made it possible to amalgamate a large development site in an inner-city area. By the way, the initial developer was The Hayson Group and they referred to this site as  'Pallisades'.

"You can also find out what the warehouses were originally used for:
"The main warehouse was used as the headquarters for Yellow Cabs of Australia Ltd and the other, Harden and Johnston Pty Ltd (distributor of automobiles)."

"The first building constructed was for Yellow Cabs and its entrance was simply a private driveway sandwiched between two buildings fronting Darlinghurst Road.
"The gentleman who introduced Yellow Cabs to Australia was William Pearson Tewksbury, nicknamed 'Tewks' (notice that his surname is spelled without the 'e').
"My theory is that the driveway to the business was coined Tewksbury Avenue by the staff working for Mr Tewksbury."

One of the large 19th century houses he mentions, was Rosebank - one of 17 gentlemen's villas from the original subdivision of Woolloomooloo Hill.
Rosebank was demolished in the 1920s and the Pallisades apartment block on Farrell Avenue was built on the site.
Do you know anything more about Tewkesbury Avenue?
What street would you like to know the history of?