Sunday, 20 March 2011

Mongers: for fish and chips by the sea

I don’t know why people insist on eating fish and chips by the seaside. We don’t usually sit in a paddock surrounded by cows to eat steaks or fly to London to eat pigeon pie in Trafalgar Square or insist on only drinking wine in a vineyard, although that's a nice option. 

But if you are one of those people who think fish and chips taste better when accompanied by the salty smell of the sea, then you’re going to want to know where to go for the freshest and tastiest fish and chips in Bondi.

I haven’t tried every fine establishment in the neighbourhood (yet) – and tend to steer clear of the deep fried Mars Bars for the sake of my arteries – but my favourite is Fish Mongers on Hall Street.

All meals are served in cute brown boxes made out of recycled cardboard whether you opt for eat-in or takeaway. If you go the eat-in option, its BYO and there’s seating for 35 with wooden and cast iron fish sculptures decorating the walls to give it that sea-faring touch.

Or you can take your haul to the beach for some alfresco dining, but watch out for the seagulls who know a good serving of fish and chips when they see it.

Everything is made fresh to order and the traditional fish and chips sells for $12.50, and grilled fish and salad for $14.50. The potato chips are hand-cut and thick enough to look like they were once a potato, which is more than I can say some of their fast-food cousins.
There’s also a selection of calamari, tempura vegetables, BBQ prawns or octopus, oysters and daily fresh market specials.
My stock-standard order is anything but ordinary: its the grilled salmon marinated in sesame seeds and ginger served with salad, thin crispy kumera chips, corn on the cob and a side of pesto, which is always fresh, moist, and full of flavour. If we’re going to be there for a while I’ll order a side of hot chips.
The Bondi store was opened by Claire Statham when she moved to Sydney from Byron Bay and couldn’t bear to be without her regular hit of fine fish and chips. There’s also a Manly branch.
In case you need further convincing, the Bondi store has been ranked among Sydney’s best fish and chips by both the SMH and The Daily Telegraph, who rarely agree on anything important, and Time Out. 

Fishmongers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Writing away my days at Gertrude & Alice

Whenever I want to remind myself I’m not the only person in the neighbourhood working on the great Australian novel – or blog – I take myself down to Gertrude & Alice, a cafĂ©/second hand bookstore in Hall Street to write amongst the general hullabaloo.

I missed this place so much during my time in exile that I even fantasised about starting my own store called Gertrude & Alicia. The premises I wanted was turned into a hairdressers before I could pack up my books so I settled for regular sojourns back to Hall Street to settle into my regular spot on the green velvet couch.

The menu has paninis, bagels, muesli, burritos, chilli con carne, mint teas, frappes and milky chai teas but I tend to stick to my favourites. I always have a latte and for those summer days when I'm still sitting there at lunchtime I'll have a salad of haloumi, lentils and roasted sweet potato. And in winter it’s hot chocolate (served with marshmallows) and Moroccan Lentil Stew.

“You cannot live on caviar and foie gras every day: sometimes a plain dish of lentils is all the palate craves, even if one insists that the lentils come from Puy”.
William Boyd, Any Human Heart

Even on the busiest days when every bench, stool and lounge is taken, the owner Jane Turner is tolerant of people sitting around for hours typing their novels, poems and Hollywood scripts into their Macbooks in between sips of coffee and has long encouraged local writers to consider it as a haven. You don't need to show credentials so the unpublished wannabe can sit next to the literary giant.

There’s always a great soundtrack playing and the relaxed, cosy ambience comes from the mismatched crockery, exposed brick walls, the gold mirrors, chandeliers, framed black and white prints of famous writers and thousands of books ranging from the latest Booker prize winner to the complete history of meerkats in southern Spain. 

I usually leave with an armful of books to add to my collection making my home resemble Gertrude & Alice (without the hip people), which is why I own enough books to consider starting my own bookstore.

A bonus is that you're bound to spot at least one person wearing a beret like we really are in Shakespeare & Co in Paris in the 1920s and Hemmingway is about to pop in to drop off his latest manuscript. 

While trying to become a 21st Century Hemmingway you can sit in the Hemmingway Room, which tends to be quieter than the communal tables in the main room and pluck reference books from the shelves on a whim. 

Or you can sit in the main room and wait for someone to ask you about your Magnum opus. And when they do, for a moment I feel like I'm making progress on a novel and not just entering random letters into the computer screen to fill in the time between trips to the beach. 

Gertrude and Alice on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I'm a guest blogger for TEDX Sydney's Bondi broadcast tomorrow

Call me crazy, but I’m going to bed super-early tonight so I can get up before the crack of dawn to blog from the Bondi Pavilion Theatre at 3.30 tomorrow morning while I watch the live stream from day two of TED2011 from Long Beach, California.

I don’t get out of bed that early for everyone who asks, but because I was so flattered to be appointed as the event’s official blogger, I convinced myself the early start was just fine.

A sneak peak at the registrations shows I’m not the only one sacrificing sleep for intellectual titillation with 611 people registered across the four sessions. Some are attending all four, while others have just ticked one of the sessions.

There’s 303 other early birds signed up for Session 1 (3.30-5.15am), 427 people for Session 2 (6am-7.45), 508 people for Session 3 (9.15-11am) and 437 people for Session 4 (12-1.45pm).

Click on for the rest of my post.