Edible Review: A sizzling lunch at Sizzler, Kogarah

March 25, 2007

In 1994, when my family first set foot on Aussie soil, my uncle and cousins took us pretty much straight from the airport to Sizzler. This was their local hangout and they went pretty much every weekend. For something like $5 a person, you had access to an “eat-as-much-as-you-like” salad buffet as well as a bottomless cup for the soda fountain. What a feast.

Cousins at SizzlerSo it was with great nostalgia that I ate at a Sizzler restaurant when I visited Queensland and when I returned to Sydney, I did a bit of research. Despite all rumours that there were no more Sizzlers in NSW (due to some sort of rat poison in the salad scare), the website disclosed that there were actually 3 in the state. The closest was in Kogarah, which is a mere 20 minute drive from the city.

So I finally convinced the Millers that a trip down memory lane was necessary. So Taryn, Cameron, Lara, Howard, Jules, Avril and me, headed out to Kogarah. Calli was studying for exams so unfortunately couldn’t join us. Richard wouldn’t be seen dead in Sizzler and Tamara wanted to hang out with her hubby.

The Sizzler MenuIt’s a bit of a depressing place, this Kogarah, very industrial and dusty but as soon as I saw the familar green and red Sizzler sign, things got more cheery. It’s obviously the place to be for Sunday lunch, as it looked as if us and every pensioner in the area was in the queue for a table. But it didn’t take us too long to reach the cashier.

Inflation meant that it now cost $20 for the buffet and drinks but it’s still a pretty good deal.

According to the Millers, nothing much had changed. The decor was slightly different but the salads were pretty much identical. We started with soup (which apparently also tasted the same as a decade ago) and then went onto the variety of salads. Quite tasty actually.

The yummy Sizzler SundaeThe highlight was, of course, dessert. It went like this – a glob of cookies of cream pudding, a touch of apple crumble, a dot of jelly, smothered with some vanilla softserve (which you can control by yourself) and then topped with oreo crumbles, smarties and jelly beans. Gourmet dessert. We all felt like kids again.

Family at SizzlerLots of photos (I even had one with the Sizzler man – well, the manager), an attempt to sing Happy Birthday (not sure why, as my b-day was last month 🙂 and lots of laughs. It was a great nostaligic trip. I’m not sure if we’ll be back every weekend but maybe once a year will be good enough.


Edible Review: Lenotre High Tea at Sofitel Wentworth

March 25, 2007

Nothing can beat a girly high tea and Sydney is definitely on short of choices. We initially were going to indulge in this English tradition at the Victoria Rooms in Darlinghurst but then I remembered reading about this highly specialised French tea at the Sofitel Wentworth in Phillip Street in Sydney city.

So what’s so special about this afternoon tea? Well, the Chef Patissier, Mark Stone, has been trained in the exclusive art of Lenotre, which is a famous French Patisserie brand. This, gastronomic art (as it is so called), is available at very prestigious destinations all over the world but this is the first place that Lenotre has made its appearance in Sydney.

The girls at High TeaOrit, Monika, Simone and myself arrived at the hotel (which to me seemed a little dull as far as the luxury stakes go) and headed straight for the lounge. Then we were transported into another era with the relaxing piano music in the background and lovely sumptuous furnishings.

The waitress (who couldn’t speak English that well) struggled to tell us all the teas that were available – my suggestion is to print a list – it would make things easier for everyone. We ordered different teas and the gourmet pastries for 4.

The presentation was magnificent – almost too good to eat. The treats were displayed on a tier stand with about 5 different levels. On each level, sat a scrumptious looking edible item.

The High Tea TreatsOn the bottom, there were 3 sarmies, 2 mini-scones. Above that, a delish lemon tart, an opera slice (described as chocolate pastry with layers of almond biscuit, chocolate ganache with coffee butter cream and topped with gold leaf), two other decadent pastries with the top level holding a rich dark choccy cone filled with berries coulis and cream. While one or two of the slices looked better then they tasted, generally it was a fabulous taste sensation.

Our two complaints were that:
1) The service was somewhat slow and a request for water took hours and dramatic dying of thirst noises from me to actually materialise
2) If you order tea for one, you get a smaller tiered stand with 3 sarmies, 2 scones and everything except one pastry slice. However, if you order a shared tea, you get a larger stand with pretty much the same ingredients (ie 3 sarmies, 2 scones and this you have to share between two). Just didn’t make logical sense!

So the solution is to order you own individual tea. Admittedly we left on a Mount Everest Sugar High and couldn’t fit another morsel in but I guess it’s just the principle.

We’ve decided we’re going to try do this on a monthly basis so watch out for more high tea stories.

QE2, QM2 & Pancakes on the Rocks

March 23, 2007

A little while ago, the QE2 and the Queen Mary2 landed at Circular Quay at the same time. Clearly, we went to oggle the 2 ocean liners – along with 5 trillion other people. Sydney was unprepared for the mass of onlookers (it was the promise of fireworks that probably attracted everyone) and there was traffic gridlock and many furious people.

QE2 in SydneyIt was very special for me to see the QE2 come into the harbour and I was flooded with memories of my trip on the cruise ship with my mom a couple of months ago. It seemed almost a dream that I was actually a guest on this Royal Vessel.

It took us forever to get our food at a nearby restaurant at Circular Quay and we were so hungry, we hardly batted an eyelid at the lovely fireworks.

 Afterwards, we took a stroll towards the Rocks and headed for Pancakes on the Rocks – a famous dessert restaurant. There is always a queue to get into this place but it moved pretty fast and soon we were downstairs seated at a table and drooling over the pictures on the menu.

Emil and Jo with Strawberry PancakeWe all had a variety of delicious pancake variations. I had two plain pancakes (they’re actually more like thick flapjacks) one choccy and one vanilla – soooooo scrumptious.

I will definitely be back.

The 75th Birthday Harbour Bridge Walk

March 23, 2007

Last Sunday, the Sydney Harbour Bridge – aka, the coat hangar – turned 75 years old. And we were there to celebrate this Australian icon.

While usually thousands of cars cross the Harbour Bridge on a daily basis to get from the city to the North Shore, on this day the bridge was closed to all forms of vehicles. Only pedestrians were allowed to walk along the bridge.

We were urged to register for the walk and this I did a month back. Though I had no idea how they would adminster the 500 000-odd people who wanted to walk the bridge. We were sure it would be absolutely chaotic.

On Sunday morning, Tam, Rich and I trained to North Sydney Station and met Mich, Greg, Terri, Mark, Emil and Jo at the station. There were wardens wearing lumo vests wherever you looked to ensure that the crowds of people followed the correct route to the bridge.

There was no real registration so we collected out free luminous lime green caps and joined the throngs on the historic walk.

Harbour Bridge WalkSydney definitely knows how to deal with big events – the crowd control was superb and I didn’t ever once feel claustrophobic or the need to bring out my elbows to get people out of the way. I guess the Sydneysiders are also naturally law-abiding and were quite happy to participate in a laid-back fashion.

The atmosphere was magic with music and voices of famous people broadcast out towards the harbour. When the distinctive voice of Nelson Mandela came over the loud speaker, our Saffa group gave a loyal shriek and Mich did a wonderful rendition of ulalating.

Looking forward, it was trully spectacular to watch this carpet of green (from the caps) rolling towards the city.

Steel DrummerAfter the toll booths, the path split into two – with the left leading to the Rocks and the right leading to Darling Harbour. T and R headed towards the latter while the rest of us took to the Rocks. We had lunch at the Cruise Bar (chicken burgers) and then just enjoyed the entertainment at circular quay. My favourite performer is the Rasta steel drummer which always transports me to the Caribbean.

It was really special to be able to share this birthday with the bridge.

My Birthday Weekend – The Picnic

March 10, 2007

Sunday dawned sunny and warm. Yay – it was time for the birthday celebrations to begin…again. This time, the party was at Nielsen’s Park in Vaucluse. It’s a really lovely venue for a picnic as it has both acres of shadey grasslands as well as a beach (complete with large shark net for “Jaw-less” swimming).

I was at Glicks at the crack of dawn on Sunday to collect a clutch of mini-bagels which then got the full topping treatrment back at my apartment (it was quite fun playing with flavours such as turvey with a sliver of avo and a baby tomato ; cashew nut pesto with cheddar cheese and cottage cheese with chutney).

Richard and Tamara came over and we hauled all the edible loot into the car (there was so much that I had to put the back seat flat). It took us FOREVER to find two parkings – we practically had to assault a women to ensure we secured the space when she left – much to the dismay of another car waiting. But finally we had the cars secured, carried out the goodies and found a spot near the large oaks to settle. Conveniently there was a table nearby where we could set out all the food.

Tam and Me with the Cupcake Cake
The highlight was undoubtedly the cake that Tam and Rich has created – it was made up of my age worth of cupcakes which were iced in pink with marshmallow floral petals and a smartie for the centre of the flower. They laid it out on a foil board and it looked unbelievable. What a cake!!! Every girl should have one.

Lara, Howard, me and the sushi cakeThen there was a scrumptious lemon meringue pie (my “best”!!!) from Cuisine Cakes in Rose Bay – wow, this was one fine cake. There were two quiches, a sushi cake which my clever cousin, Lara and her boyf made – it went down a treat and was devoured in a matter of minutes. All late comers were very disappointed. Taryn and Cam were in charge of the yummy scones and Calli was the star of the banana bread. After asking him the night before to bake me a cake, Ben surprised me with a gigantic chocolate mud cake with “Happy Birthday Lisa” inscribed in icing. Not only did it look amazing but it was scrumptious too.

Mich, Jo, Emil and Me
It was lovely to have my friends and family share the celebration with me. We all just sat on the blankets, ate, chilled, swam and all in all I had a wonderful time. It was my first birthday in Sydney and if all future ones are to be as great, then I’ve got alot to look forward to.

Friends at the PicnicThanks to those who were there and for the most incredible pressies!!!

The cousins
The Nielsens Park Picnic

The Birthday Weekend – Jonah’s at Palm Beach

March 7, 2007

It was my birthday on 19 February and so began the celebrations.

It started on Saturday morning with an early morning drive out to Palm Beach with Tamara and Richard. It was about an hour’s drive and with Rich’s handy GPS, we got there in easy time.

We made our way to Palm Beach’s exclusive getaway Jonahs Beach House which is tucked away high on a hill overlooking the magnificent beach.

Tamara and Richard at Jonahs in Palm BeachWe were seated at the window with a panoramic view of the gorgeous scenery. It was all solid silver cutlery, white napkins and smartly dressed waiters – very sophisticated.

The difference between Jonah’s and other brekkie places is there was no buffet in sight. Here it was a’ la carte all the way – which was actually better in the long-run as you don’t land up eating yourself into a rotund ball.

There were two sections (let’s say starters and main) and you can choose one dish from each. I had the delicious muesli to start and then the pancakes to follow. Very yum.

The view from JonahsAfter breakfast (I think it was something like $35 each), we took a slow drive back through Palm Beach admiring the beach and then stopped at a small town and bought some bread at an enticing bakery.

What a lovely day.

Kayaking in Jervis Bay

March 5, 2007

After our brief stint of Kayaking in Rose Bay, we decided to try our luck on the waters of Jervis Bay.

I had contacted Jervis Bay Kayak Company a couple of weeks earlier and organised for us to go on a half-day kayaking tour. We were initially scheduled to kayak on Saturday but got a call on Friday to let us know that the weather was going to be all doom and gloom and can we postpone our tour until Sunday.

This turned out to be a blessing as disguise as Sunday was sunny and the perfect day for a glorious canoe trip.

So we met the group (there were about 8 other people) at the kayaking centre (which was situated in the Jervis Bay shopping centre), were introduced to our guide and signed indemnity forms. We then climbed into the 4×4 and headed into the nature reserve.

The scenery was magnificent – all clear blue waters, white sands and forestry. We took a while unpacking the vehicle, dragging the kayaks onto the beach (the hard work) and getting some tutoring from our guide.

Kayaking on Jervis Bay
We finally clambered into our kayaks and got onto the water. We got our synchronicity just right and sped along. I was loving it! After about an hour of good paddling we stopped at a patch of beach and munched on yummy carrot cake and fruit. There was even tea and coffee for those who wanted a warm drink. We then for a bit of dip in the water – a tad cold but refreshing.

We then headed back on our kayaks stopping at some torquoise patches of water to spy on some fish. Since we were tucked into our canoe with a canopy, it was possible to do a bit of trick rotating – ie do a 360 degree rotation under the water and then back again. The guide did it a couple of times but none of us decided to try it.

We then reached the beach and had to lug the canoe back into the van…I was barefoot and the tarmac was sizzling – ow!

What a fabulous experience – it was extremely professional with excellent equipment. Definitely well recommended.

We then ended our long weekend with a drive through the picturesque Kangaroo Valley and arrived back in Sydney