Saturday, 26 February 2011

Sushi, Sashimi, Sake and Cheese at Mamasan's Bondi

There’s something so wrong about ordering a cheese platter at an Asian Tapas restaurant that I go ahead and do it. To be fair, the platter has an Asian twist – along with the Jersey Brie there’s a generous slice of Taiwan Blue, a side of Wagu Beef and my favourite, the Wasabi Cheddar.

We're at Mamasan’s in Beach Road for a lazy Saturday lunch while reading the papers. It’s the ‘naughty little sister’ of Li Zai, which was upstairs on the Campbell Parade restaurant strip for six years, and enjoyed fabulous views of the beach to go along with Gemma’s deceitfully lethal cocktails, Asian Tapas and Yum-Cha.

The views are now of the Beach Road Hotel, which is across the road, and a few of the artifacts from Li Zai adorn the walls at Mamasan’s and some of the more popular dishes are still on the menu but the new place has a cozier vibe, which brings a winter crowd as well as a summer one.

The tables are made from recycled wooden railway sleepers and the quirky toys that help give the restaurant its charm – the lucky cats, Astro Boy, toy soldiers, bonsai in Oyster Sauce tins, and Godzilla who guards the Asahi beer tap – are collected by former advertising executive Adam Hunt, who runs/owns the bar with Gemma.

Bondi Curmudgeon scoffs at me for ordering cheese, but is happy to try them all, along with his oysters that come with flying fish roe drizzled in fresh grapefruit and lemon juice, and his sashimi platter of kingfish, tuna and salmon. We also order spicy edamame beans steamed with garlic and pepper and king prawn and mint spring rolls to start.

I wanted to go for a swim at the Icebergs after lunch (twist my arm and I'm at the Sydney Cellar Door Event in Hyde Park sampling wines instead) so I stick to water, letting Bondi Curmudgeon sample the extensive drinks menu for me.

As well as Sapporo, which is on tap along with Asahi, he had a small serving of cold sake, a.k.a. ‘The Drink of the Gods’. After my golf caddying days in Japan, where it was considered a national insult to turn down a cupful or five of sake, it’s not my idea of fun.

However, BC can’t get enough of the stuff, which comes from the fermentation of polished rice grains and pure water. At the waitress’s suggestion he tried Mountain Water, which he declared ‘awesome', promising to return on a Sunday afternoon to try the other nine on the menu while listening to live jazz.

PRICE FOR 2 (including drinks) $115
Over budget: $15
BC's verdict: "Sashimi, tender and fresh. Oysters, beautiful. Sake, awesome. Shame it's in Bondi, otherwise I'd be there a couple of times a week."

Mamasan on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Personalised music videos set in Bondi

I’ve just found a new toy that can take me for a virtual run down the streets of Bondi anytime I like. It’s Google’s Arcade Fire tool.  You go to the site, type in an address of your choice – where you grew up, where you live now, where you fantasize about living – and it creates a music video just for you! 

Here's mine set in Sir Thomas Mitchell Road, Bondi Beach, the street of choice for people in the know. 

The interactive film by Chris Milk features the song, ’We used to Wait’. It connects with Google Maps to take you down the actual streets, changing from aerial to streetview, plants some trees in the middle of the road. What fun.

Windows pop up all over the screen, which is apparently a sneak preview of the new web using HTML 5.

Bondi Curmudgeon reckons he showed it to me six months ago, and I wasn’t even interested. Clearly he should have explained the Bondi connection rather than just sending me a link with the country town he grew up in featured heavily. (Yawns all round to that...)

You can even send a postcard to younger self with a message like I have here. It’s a bit clunky so there’s some spelling mistakes I couldn’t go back and fix, but you get the general idea. 

Monday, 21 February 2011

Bondi Icebergs – exercise shouldn’t be this fun

Australia-wide we’re lucky to have some pretty sensational ocean baths. I’ve swum in many a fine pool, but for me the ultimate choice in outdoor lap pools is the Bondi Icebergs. It's so beautiful you can exercise without feeling like you are actually exercising. With waves constantly washing in from the ocean it can get a bit rough at times, but that only adds to the work-out. As does stopping to catch your breath at the end of each lap and staring out to sea at the surfers, the crowds on the beach and the wanna-be Olympians powering down the lanes. The pool is 50-metres with eight lanes and entry is $5.

The Icebergs and I are fair-weather friends so you won’t see me joining that crazy winter swimmer club which kicks off in the first Sunday of May every year. 

But, I usually take the plunge around November (water temp of 16-19-degrees) and have been known to swim through to Easter, although the number of times I go a week tends to drop off with the temperature. Then it’s back to the chlorinated indoor pool, which feels like returning to economy after flying business class.

For me, February is one of the best months of the summer season as the water temperature tends to hover around 23-degrees and some days in March its warmer in the pool than it is outside. The Bergs is emptied out and cleaned every Thursday which makes Friday-Monday the best days to swim. By Wednesday there tends to be a build-up of seaweed and sand making the water less crystal clear blue and more emerald green.

Post-swim I’m usually at the Crabbe Hole enjoying a post-swim coffee, pot of tea, juice or toasted sandwich. It’s a great place to hang out, read the paper, and feel smug about all the exercise you’ve just done.

If exercise isn't your thing you can go there without paying the $5 entrance fee by telling the staff at the entrance and they'll let you through.

The Crabbe Hole got a mention today in the SMH’s Everyday Eats 2011, which focuses on meals under $30 a head or less, so on weekends it’s going to be even harder to snag one of the 10 tables but on weekdays an oceanfront table is all yours.

If you can’t bear to tear yourself away from the mesmerising view just yet, there’s also a sauna, gym, yoga classes and massages. 

Gusto, home of the best coffee in Bondi

At the risk of causing dissent among the many (three) followers of this blog I’m going to call it: Gusto, a cafĂ© at #16 Hall Street, serves the best coffee in Bondi. 

Maybe even the best coffee within an eight-kilometre radius of the Pavilion. The perfect strength, temperature and ratio of milk to hot water. Every single time.  Mind you, the coffee can also come served with attitude. 

Back in the day, it took a year or so before I was considered a regular and they started remembering my standard order. It’s an essential skill for a barista mainly because I can’t remember anything as important as how I like my coffee before I've had a shot of caffeine. 

There's still a fair share of local hipsters buying their lattes, breakfast rolls, granola or Cuban steak sandwiches. Although not everyone spends hours getting ready to parade their glad rags - one guy used to turn up in his pyjamas. 

Even Bondi Curmudgeon agrees that the coffee is pretty special. He refuses to go there because he can’t stand the crowd, but is happy for me to get take-away’s for the two of us. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

TED’s coming to Bondi Beach!

For all TED’s Bondi fans, the press release is just in that global ideas event TED will share the second day of its annual Long Beach, California conference with a live audience at the Bondi Pavilon on Thursday 3 March 2011.

The free event is being organised by TEDxSydney in collaboration with the Bondi Pavilion and the Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company and is open to anyone from the public. The live webstream will commence at the very uncivilised hour of 3:30AM on Thursday 3 March and run through to around 1:45PM on the same day.
The US based not-for-profit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” is followed by millions of devotees and has a strong Australian fan base. The annual TED Conference in Long Beach is at the heart of the global TED movement. 

Bill Gates is guest curator for Day 2 of the program, with the speaker line-up for the day including Supersize Me’s Morgan Spurlock, Julie Taymor, the Ford Motor Co’s Bill Ford, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi along with a some surprise guests. Click here for the full speaker line-up. 

With a limited capacity in the theatre, seating will be on a first-come, first served basis. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register online.

The live stream precedes local event TEDxSydney on Saturday 28 May 2011 which will showcase Australian speakers and performers at CarriageWorks in Eveleigh. Applications to attend that event will be open in March.
Licensee Remo Giuffre says: “TED is a unique learning environment which pays homage to the potency of ideas. There are hundreds of thousands of Australian devotees who follow TED talks on the global website. We jumped at the rare opportunity to create a satellite event to bring this incredible content live a local audience. The event at the Pavilion will be a fun and somewhat surreal experience." 

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Are bookstores becoming a luxury?

 Just weeks after I started loading up my new Kindle with ebooks costing from $2.99 to $9.99 the Australian bookselling industry falls into serious trouble. 

On Thursday, Private Equity Partners’ RedGroup, which owns the 123 Angus and Robertson and 26 Borders bookstores around Australia, went into voluntary receivership. 

During my stroll down Hall Street I stopped short at the window display for Zabriskie’s, a long-time favourite bookstore formerly known as Martin Smith's Bookstore. There was 30 per cent off all books, which is usually enough to set my heart aflutter, but the reason cancels out any joy at the sale sign. It is closing down as well. I go inside and ask why. 

It's a mixture of things: people buying cheaper books online, especially with Australian dollar on parity with the US dollar, the high rents in Bondi, the lower mark-up on books compared to other items like clothes. This Bondi institution will be gone by March leaving the suburb without a new bookstore (the wonderful Gertrude & Alice sells second-hand books).

Curious about what's driving the end of bookstores I can't resist buying, ‘The book is dead. Long live the book’ by Sherman Young, a media lecturer at Macquarie University.

“Debates about the future of books are filled with red herrings. So, let’s be clear about a few things. Books as objects will not disappear overnight as new media forms tend to displace rather than replace older ones. So, printed books will be around for some time to come.”

The ability to buy cheaper GST-free books online and trade protections for local publishers which forces retailers to pay higher prices for locally produced books available at lower prices overseas were some of the reasons given by Red Group. 

But, as Michael Evans writes in the SMH on Saturday, Internet sales are only between 2 and 3 per cent of Australian retail sales. He thinks the problem lays elsewhere. 

“Private equity is facing a perfect storm: it bought high, it piled in cheap debt and now faces its day of reckoning as it exits its positions. That doesn’t have much to do with the Internet.”
Maybe not, but it leaves PEP with a lot to answer for in the cultural wasteland left behind in the demise of bookstores. 

Fashion Avenue morphs into Muscle Beach

Bursting with enthusiasm to get my new blog started I bounced out of bed early (10am) to make the most of the 30-degrees day and an ocean water temperature of 24-degrees.

First, I headed for the Fashion Avenue Warehouse in Jacques Avenue. I'd been there several times before and drooled over the cotton shirts, the dresses, the bus roll canvases, the jewelry, the paintings, the antique tea chests and just knew it was the perfect place to show I'm up-to-the-minute on everything happening in Bondi.

From its Facebook page: Started by Bondi locals, Marc and Paul Dias the focus is to promote the best designers and emerging talent from the east. They have transformed the former run down warehouse to a decadent, luxurious setting with props and set pieces from the Baz Lurhmann lavish musical Moulin Rouge complete with red carpet. The retail space resembles the piazzas of Europe with a row of Vespas from Gasoline Scooters at the entrance. Each stall is uniquely dressed to pay homage to the designers inspiration such as a Parisian salon for Lulu Loves Paris and a Roman art gallery for danYelle Shoes.
"What happened to all the cool stuff" I ask, looking around at the desolate warehouse, not a Vespa in sight.
"We’re turning the place into a gym," was the cheerful reply.

In a daze I drift towards the last remaining merchandise. A rack of eco-friendly bags with the logo: “I Love Bondi” Some of them even had “I Love Surry Hills” but it was like there was only me and that one bag in the entire space. Selling for $39, they are designed by Michelle Caley.

I’m taking it as serendipity that the very day I registered my blogger domain I found a bag to carry my convictions around in. And ignoring the fact that the subject of my first post is being turned into an indoor Muscle Beach.