The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’

Harbour Kitchen & Bar

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 2, 2010

When planning our whirlwind vacation to Australia, I realized that we would be in Sydney around the time of Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24 (check out foodbuzz.com if you’re not familiar with it).  The Husband and I thought that dining in Australia might be competitive for this competition so we searched for interesting and unique restaurants and menus to submit for our idea.  We found that the Harbour Kitchen & Bar at the Park Hyatt at Sydney Harbour had a fantastic degustation menu with the option of Australian wine pairing.  We submitted our idea, but unfortunately didn’t get selected.  However, we had already made a reservation just in case and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and took the Husband’s brother out for his birthday instead.

After enjoying the weekend markets at the Rocks on what was supposed to be our last day in Australia, the Husband and I headed to the hotel and got dressed up for the first time in weeks 🙂 The Husband’s brother met us there and we walked the few blocks down to the water to the Park Hyatt.  We entered the lobby and were shown the direction to the restaurant.

IMG_2341 Our reservation was for 6:30pm, I believe when the restaurant opened for the dinner, so it was generally empty when we arrived.  As the night went on, the restaurant was full!

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The restaurant’s main wall was all glass and overlooked the harbour and opera house.  We were seated directly next to the window and had a wonderful view. IMG_2344

IMG_2345 Harbour Kitchen’s menu offered a variety of options to choose from, but the three of us had our eyes and stomachs set on the Degustation Menu plus wine pairings.  The waiter left our menu propped up on the table so we could refer to it if we forgot what we were tasting 🙂

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While waiting for our wine and courses, we were brought individual rolls and butter.  I enjoyed the view behind my roll 😉

IMG_2350 Although we were doing the wine pairings, we decided to start with a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout the meal.  The Husband chose the 2006 Yering Station Chardonnay from Yarra Valley, Victoria.  He knows how much I love chardonnays and since we didn’t get a chance to get to the wineries in Yarra Valley, this would be a substitute till we could get back.  It was light yet flavorful and a perfect match throughout our meal.IMG_2351

Up first, we had the Lightly grilled tuna with green beans, olives, and crisp potato.  The plate seemed to be dressed with a mayo (or something similar) and some oil and there was also an egg (quail?) and some greens garnishing the dish.  The flavors melded well together and we enjoyed the different textures of the various ingredients. IMG_2352 It was paired with the 2009 Charles Melton “Rose of Virginia,” a Shiraz Grenache from Barossa Valley, South Australia.  During our visit to Hunter Valley, I learned that I really like the Grenache grape, particularly in a Rose, and this one was no different.  It went very well with this first course and we were looking forward to the other three.

IMG_2354The sommelier Nicolas Deradin was incredibly informative and friendly.  With each course, he brought us out our matching wine and explained to us the different flavors of the wine as well as additional information regarding how they matched the food and the wineries themselves.  We asked a handful of questions throughout the evening and he answered each one for us.  I attempted to take some notes and share those here where I can.

The second course of the degustation menu was Toasted fregola cooked as risotto with Western Australian yabbies and puffed pork.  (Typing that up, I realized that I have no idea what a yabbie is.  According to a quick Google search, it’s an Australian fresh water crustacean.  Fregola is a pasta similar to couscous.)  This dish was much larger than a lot of tasting menu courses.  It was savory and flavorful.  We could taste the toasted flavor like a risotto (as described).

IMG_2357 This dish was matched with the 2007 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (the one on the left).  Since we were enjoying a bottle of chardonnay as well, it was a fun opportunity to try the two.  Nicolas advised us that this wine is oaked with some French oak and some New oak.  We could certainly taste the difference between the two chardonnays (the other one is unoaked).

IMG_2358 Our third course was Free range chicken with celeriac cream, pumpkin, and carrot.  The chicken was very tender.  This was the Husband’s favorite course 🙂 The picture didn’t do it justice!

IMG_2360The wine pairing with this course was the 2008 La Linea Tempranillo from Adelaide Hills, South Australia.  This wine was juicy with plum and licorice flavors.

IMG_2362 A quick break here in the food and wine porn… the night of this meal, March 27th, was the celebration of Earth Hour.  The restaurant was adorned with candlelight in anticipation of their participation in Earth Hour at 8:30pm.  As the sun went down, my picture quality was limited with my photography skills.  We enjoyed a couple photo though while it was still light enough in the restaurant 🙂  Earth Hour did afford us a wonderful view of the Harbour and Opera House as the lights slowly dimmed to a nearly-imperceptible  glow, adding further to the backdrop of our fantastic meal.  As the lights were off, I didn’t get any pictures.IMG_2363

Our fourth and final course was the Vanilla creme brulee with rosemary sorbet and strawberries.  This was my favorite creme brulee ever! The rosemary sorbet and strawberries went so well with it.  It was a great final taste to this meal.

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Our final wine pairing of the night was the 2009 Mr. Riggs “Sticky End” Late Harvest Viognier from McLaren Vale, South Australia.  Its name says it all.  As a dessert wine, it was very sweet and sticky.  If you like dessert wines, you would likely enjoy this one. IMG_2366

To end the meal, I had a pot of tea while the boys had long black coffees.  We were also served chocolate truffles. IMG_2367 Overall, this meal exceeded our expectations.  We were very happy that we decided to go with both the degustation menu and the wine pairings.  This restaurant can be quite expensive but is great for a special occasion.  The atmosphere, service, food, and view are all wonderful.  Although we were disappointed to not be selected for Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24, we wouldn’t have found this restaurant without the research done for our proposal and we are glad for that.

(This is the last of our food and travel posts for our vacation to Australia.  If you missed any posts, be sure to check our “Where We’ve Been” tab above to check out other restaurants, hotels, and cities throughout eastern Australia!)

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Sydney’s Darling Harbour, and a Train Trip to Brisbane

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 12, 2010

After our trip to the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley, we popped back into Sydney to see the rest of the downtown area.  After getting up early, we headed into Sydney to return our rental car.  We popped over to a small cafe for a bite to eat and waited for my brother to come pick us up.

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It was a nice little open-air cafe, really.

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The orange juice was pretty weird.  At first, I thought it just wasn’t freshly squeezed, but after looking at it, I don’t think that was it.  I think the oranges in Australia are just different than oranges I’m used to.  Perhaps they’re a different variety, or maybe the soil composition simply has a huge effect on the final product, much like grapes used for wines grown in different parts of the world.  Whatever the reason, the orange juice was really odd, and I had kind of a hard time finishing it.

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Once Jeff showed up, we headed over to the downtown area to check out Chinatown and Darling Harbour.  It took awhile to find a parking space on a workday morning in downtown Sydney, but once we did, a nice gentleman gave us the leftover time on his parking ticket, saving us about $10.  We then trekked off to Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour is clearly a tourist-focused area of the city.  It’s gorgeous, but it’s a real tourist-trap.  My brother said that it was mostly a dockyard for large ships prior to the Olympics.  During the Olympic renovations, though, a lot of money was put into building new docks outside the downtown area to provide easier access for the ships, free up otherwise mega-buck real estate, and alleviate big rig traffic in downtown Sydney.

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IMG_4026If you’ve ever been to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, it’s really very similar, except larger, and surrounded by a nicer, safer neighborhood.  Take a look.

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IMG_4031 The National Maritime Museum was located right there in the harbor.  I would have liked to have checked it out, if I had the time, but we just didn’t have that kind of time to spare.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Australia has a tremendous amount of shoreline to protect.  The strong naval heritage of the British certainly has provided them a fine lineage to draw on for how to manage such a huge national responsibility, but still, there is just so much shoreline.  I was imagining in the Japanese during World War II, amassing a huge army someplace between Darwin and Cairns, with no real way to tell that it was even happening!  Anyway, I digress… but think about it!

Anyway, here is an Australian naval vessel and a Soviet submarine.  If you look closely on the Australian ship’s superstructure, you can see a small red kangaroo (emblem), identifying it as an Australian ship.  This would be like the blue star that American military aircraft have on them, identifying them as American.

IMG_4034This is a sightseeing boat which cruises the harbor.  My brother, who is a competitive sailor (part of the Sydney Yacht Club, and has sailed in several competitive sailing events, including the annual Sydney to Hobart race) says the cruiser is known to terrorize sailboats on the harbor, while giving riders a speedy thrill as they get carted about the harbor.  The boat certainly LOOKS fast.

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IMG_4056 During our walk around the harbor, we headed into Chinatown.  It looked like any other Chinatown, I suppose.

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IMG_4064On our way back to the car (actually, Jeff drives a pickup truck, called a “ute” by the Aussies), we hit a sushi train.  I had heard about sushi trains before, particularly from my friends that have lived in Japan, but I had never seen one.  Getting to a sushi train was on my list of things to do while in Australia.  If you’ve never heard of one, basically it’s a big conveyor belt hauling sushi plates.  You grab what you want, and each plate is color-coded to let you know how much it costs.  Once you’re done, you take your empty plates to the register, and pay for the sushi you ate.  It’s pretty cool.

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IMG_4072To be honest, though, it really wasn’t very good.  The novelty was there.  I’m guessing it would have been better if we had gone somewhere NOT tuck in the tourist area of the city.

After Darling Harbour, it was time to head to the train station to catch our overnight train to Brisbane.  It was a little difficult to get around, to be honest, particularly with five weeks worth of luggage, but the employees were friendly in helping us find where to get to.  We did have to lug our bags up two flights of stairs, which was no fun, but the stairs were wide, and they weren’t busy, so it certainly could have been worse.

IMG_4080 Not really sure what this is, but it was in the train station lobby and looked kinda cool.IMG_4083

IMG_4089 Our train, pulling into the station.

Once we got on the train, we headed for our berth.  We got a first-class sleeper berth for the trip.  We considered some other kind of seat, but we knew that we’d be tired and would lose time in Brisbane if we booked something else.  Besides, it would be an adventure.  It wasn’t my first time overnight on a train in a sleeping berth, but it was the Wife’s.  Always an adventure!

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The beds actually fold up into the wall, revealing three seats.  We were able to pull the beds down whenever we wanted them.  The train left Sydney at 4:10, but didn’t arrive in Brisbane until 5:30 the next morning.  Also, Brisbane doesn’t observe daily savings time, so they were an hour behind Sydney.  14 hours on the train, we were definitely glad we got a sleeper berth.  Sorry the picture’s blurry, but you’d be amazed how hard it is to take a picture, in a VERY dark train, while the train is moving and rocking back and forth.

To be honest, I really didn’t sleep well.  The bed wasn’t long enough, and while the gentle rocking keeps you perpetually sleepy, I couldn’t stay asleep for anymore than 15 minutes at a time.  The Wife slept ok, but not great.

IMG_4094The bathroom AND shower.  The toilet and sink fold out of the wall, and the showerhead is behind the towel you can see in the upper left corner.  This is a shared bathroom between two berths, but the other berth was empty, so it was all to ourselves.

IMG_4102 There was some beautiful scenery for the first couple hours, but it was pretty overcast, so it wasn’t the best for landscape shots.  Also, all the motion made some of the pictures a little hard to take.

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This is the Hawkesbury river, which dumps into the Pacific not too far north of Sydney.

IMG_4107Our tickets included a couple snacks and an evening meal, too.

IMG_4109Our afternoon snack included an Indian tomato and vinegar dip, along with some crackers, cheese, a Cadbury chocolate, and a small container of spring water.

IMG_4111On my list of things to try was a sausage roll.  I picked on up, along with a Hahn Premium Light beer.  When the Australian’s say light beer, they are talking about alcohol content, and not calories.  This beer is a 2.8%(ish) beer.  In general, Aussie beer is around 4.5%, and light in color.

IMG_4119 This was our morning snack, provided at 4:30 am.  It included some toast, with butter and Vegemite, some cereal, juice (orange or pineapple), and some milk.

As we rolled into Brisbane, we were able to see the sun rise.  It was beautiful.

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IMG_2072 It was a nice end to the trip into Brisbane.  We gathered our bags, and looked to find some coffee and a taxi.

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Sydney – Downtown and Circular Quay.

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 12, 2010

Harbour.tifFor those of you who don’t know, my brother lives in Sydney.  He moved there shortly after the Olympics in 2000, and has managed to stay.  I have never had the money and the time to go see him.  Last year, the Wife and I agreed that we needed to start putting away some money and banking some time off work, so we could go visit him, and see Australia.

Well, we’re here.  After what seemed like an interminable flight, we finally landed in Sydney.  It was hot, humid, and quite frankly, the airport reminded me of any other tropical third world country, except the immigration officials all spoke English natively.  I could tell that it wasn’t a fair observation, even at the time, but to be honest, I was a little punchy from the long flight, they had recently had tremendous rain, immigration was packed with hundreds of people, and the customs line was ridiculously disorganized.

We finally got to my brother’s house in the Sydney suburbs.  We relaxed and just decompressed for several hours, which was heaven in and of itself.  It wasn’t until the next morning that we ventured into the city.  While hanging out at his house was fun and relaxing, heading into the city was wonderful.  I have never seen a city that was so clearly a mash of colonial architecture and Western culture.  It was fabulous.

First we swung down to pick up our rental car.  Then we headed over to find a parking spot.  Parking in downtown Sydney wasn’t too hard on a Sunday, but it certainly wasn’t easy.  I was pretty surprised at how expensive parking was.  As it turns out, most things in Sydney were more expensive than I was expecting, but parking was just my first exposure.

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Once we were parked, we started hiking around.  The Wife and I love to walk around big cities.  Everywhere we looked, there were big, old, pristine colonial buildings, and beautiful old churches.

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The next pictures were taken in a mall, but the building was originally the large government building.  It’s called the Queen Victoria Building, or QVB, and it’s what’s called “Heritage Listed,” meaning that it is protected as an historic building.  A builder can buy, occupy, and renovate the building, but may not make any changes to any structures that are “heritage listed,” which may include internal or external walls, windows, floors, or ceilings.

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IMG_3294From there, we headed across the downtown to the botanical gardens.  They are large, and have a tremendous view of the harbor, in addition to all the flowers and trees.

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IMG_3374Just outside the botanical gardens, is the famous Sydney Opera House.  It is, in fact, a stunning building, but it was smaller than I expected.

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IMG_3390A face only a mother could love.

IMG_3415 As you round the Opera House, you come to quite a view of the Sydney Bridge.  We thought this was probably a good place to get a picture of us.

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IMG_3413Then we rounded Circular Quay (where the convicts were first placed in Australia), and headed up toward the Rocks (behind the building on the left in the picture above) for a quick bite and a cold pint.

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We had a nice table next to a market.  There’s no glass in the window, so this is an open-air pub.

IMG_3422 Definitely pub food.IMG_3429

My brother ordered us “snake bites.”  A local brew, served with a raspberry liqueur, giving it and its head a distinct red hue.  It was very tasty.

IMG_3428 We also ordered an order of potato wedges.  We were hungry after hiking around the city, and needed a little something to tide us over until dinner at the house (kangaroo steaks).  Interestingly, the potato wedges were served with cream cheese and a sweet-spicy chili sauce.  It was a bit odd, at first, but it really had a fantastic flavor! IMG_3431

After the pub, we were exhausted, and needed to get back to the house while it was still light (this was my first day driving on the left, and I wanted to drive back while it was light).  So we called it a night, and headed back to his place.  A couple days later, we went to Darling Harbor, which I’ll post another post on later.

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