Even though Easter makes for a short week, we’ve got a lot to tell you in this Weekly Edition.
From outlandish black-tie awards evenings and fascinating conferences on travelling India to delicious Middle Eastern dinners and Argentinian wine celebrations at a new bistro… it’s all here!
We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
Tonight, we’re suited and booted for an important annual event in the hair and fashion industry… so I have no idea why I’m here! But Christina – in her fabulous capacity as Hair Romance is not only a VIP guest but a judge at the AHFA (Australian Hair and Fashion Awards) 2019.
This year, we’re heading to the Crystal Ballroom at Luna Park right on the beautiful Sydney Harbour.
The AHFA is always a huge event, with salons and stylists, celebrities and socialites coming from all over the country – in fact all over the world – to attend.
This is a black tie event, where everyone comes dressed up and looking their best. But because this is the event for hairdressers and stylists with a lean heavily towards fashion, the dress code becomes quite… blurred.
In fact, the first time I came to an AFHA evening it was like I’d come to the Capitol in the Hunger Games. Even with my most colourful socks on, I always feel woefully out of place most of the time. But it’s a lot of fun.
Soon after we all sit down – and that takes a while – the show begins. Some of the biggest names in hair have styled models in an haute couture catwalk show.
I don’t know much about this stuff, but even I can tell it’s impressive.
Before long, we’re finding out who the winners are of each of the categories for the Australian Hair Fashion Awards 2019. The huge room here is full of excitement as nominees are listed and winners announced.
You can find out who the winners for all the categories are here at The Journal – the industry publication that not only supports so much of this thriving community but also makes events like tonight happen.
It’s funny really, because my mum ran a hair salon, barber’s shop and hairdressing school for many years throughout my childhood, but there was never anything like this around in the UK at the time. I think she’d have loved it.
While we’re schmoozing between awards and courses, we spot our friend and Christina’s colourist the most excellent Stevie Corthine of Stevie English Hair fame.
This guy’s a legend and we love hanging out with him and his beautiful wife Mel, but I always end up in trouble when he’s around… it’s a lot of fun!
The AHFAs are usually a very peaceful affair, but every now and then it kicks off.
When I spot my nemesis Darth McGrath, it’s light sabre time!
Shaun McGrath is actually a bloody good bloke and totally insane. His wig artistry is incredible, using all kinds of materials to craft headpieces and installations for a huge range of purposes, initiatives and movements. Check out Shaun’s site Shaun McGrath Wiggery Studios here and – even better – his Instagram @shaunmmcgrath here.
By the way, the good news is he’s not my father after all.
It’s the end of a great night at the AHFAs and we wander back towards the ferry wharf for our ride home. Luna Park is such an appropriate venue for this kind of spectacle: fun, crazy, impressive, inspiring and a little bit scary!
I wonder what next year’s will be like.
Tonight, we’re at a completely different kind of event. We’ve been invited as part of the media to a presentation by Incredible India – the name of the chief international tourism campaign for inspiring visitors to come to India.
It must be working, as the growth of tourism in India is impressive to say the least. It’s now one of the top 5 most popular places to visit in the world.
Among the many dignitaries and representatives we hear from is a home-grown hero – an Aussie who’s now recognised as a friend of India. Pat Farmer is an ultra-marathon athlete and ex-MP. He has run from the top to the bottom of India and has helped bring the country’s international tourism profile to the fore.
After the speeches and presentations, but before dinner, we’re treated to a dance performance. The routines are great and it makes us want to visit India even more.
One of the most interesting things we’ve heard tonight about travelling through India is how the tourism board is focusing on river tourism more. Exploring this beautiful, mysterious country via its river systems is intriguing, but since last week’s news that National Geographic Expeditions and Scenic have come together to deliver river cruises through Europe, it seems the trend is working its way quickly through the world.
Could this be the new holiday craze?
This morning we wake up to hear the distressing news that the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris has burnt down. We watch live footage of the wooden spire fill with flames, fold and crumble into the ceiling of what was one of Paris’ most distinguished buildings.
Thankfully firefighters have been able to rescue the stone structure, but it will never be quite the same again. Very sad moment.
This evening, we’re out in Forest Lodge – a part of Sydney no one can really pinpoint on a map. However, it’s in Forest Lodge that you’ll find The Tramsheds. This impressive ‘food mall’ is full of interesting eating and drinking options, and there’s even a boxing gym here if the guilt from over-indulging gets to you too much.
We’re here to meet up with a family of friends we’ve known for a long time… though one of them we’ve only just met:
This is Jamie (left) and he’s the son of our mate Jessica. Cute, isn’t he? Auntie Christina is pretty happy with this cuddle she’s getting – though to be honest Jamie seems more interested in what his uncle’s doing. No offence, Chris!
Jessica and Jamie will be joining us for dinner soon, but while Christina and I wait, we stop in at Bodega 1904 for a quick glass of wine.
Bodega is part of the Porteño empire – the much-loved Argentinean restaurant and bar that’s been going since 2006.
We can’t speak for the food here – though I’m sure it’s excellent – but the wine and service at Bodega 1904 is the perfect way to start an evening of fun.
Instead of South American, our group chooses North African/Middle Eastern – Bekya. This restaurant specialises in Egyptian fare, and we’re keen to learn more about what that means.
Before we get stuck into the food though, it’s time for a family photo. Isn’t this an awesome shot – three generations in one picture: Jessica (L) and her brother Rohan (R), their mum Kate holding Jess’s son Jamie. Love it.
Back to the grub, we can’t go past what the menu calls ‘ladies’ fingers’ – crispy pastry around sticks of halloumi cheese! They’re absolutely delicious, but I find the name confusing. I always thought ladies’ fingers was another name for ochre.
Anyway, when you come to Bekya, order these!
We also go for the house signature: Koshari. It’s a rich mix of rice, lentils, macaroni, chickpeas, crispy onions and spicy tomato salsa. It’s definitely not what I thought Egyptian food would be like, but then I had no idea what that would be anyway!
This dish has a blend of flavours and textures that certainly works, but seems to take influence from a whole range of cuisines.
We also order the slow-braised beef cheek – a personal favourite of mine. Bekya’s version comes with turmeric rice, za’atar yoghurt and spiced almonds. The meat’s so tender it falls apart when you touch it, but the flavour’s surprisingly mild.
It’s not a bad spread, is it? But our favourite dish, which we don’t have a clear photo of unfortunately, is the lemon and garlic chicken. The lightly grilled chicken breast is smothered generously in a delicious lemony garlic sauce. You can just see this one in the top right corner of the photo.
The dish comes with a serve of Egyptian rice, so if you want a side, this is a good way of doing it. Just make sure you don’t order an extra serve like we have!
Tonight, Christina and our friend Heidi are out at Darlings Bistro, Bar and Kitchen to celebrate World Malbec Day. This cute little bar has quite the story behind it with a barrister, a banker and an ex-Wiggle all at the helm.
And in the engine room of the place is a chef with an extraordinary CV. Attica in Melbourne, Rockpool in Sydney and world’s best restaurant NOMA in Denmark have all benefited from head chef Nick Talam’s skills.
Behind Darlings’ beautiful bar tonight is Tom from Zed Wines, show-casing the Malbecs featured in tonight’s festivities.
In a nod to the most famous Argentine grape variety, Darlings Bistro has 10 different Malbecs on offer from guest winemakers from Australia and imports from Argentina. Tom talks Christina and Heidi through the wines of the night.
The Malbec flight takes Christina and Heidi through four different wines of the variety. And to start things off, something you don’t often see: a Malbec rosé.
With the wines, the kitchen at Darlings cooks up a feast. These barbecued queen scallops with their secret spice are divine and worth coming here on their own. There’s also delicious grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower, cooked on the restaurant’s Japanese hibachi grill. It gives the food a wonderful smokey depth of flavour.
Other things like Alaskan king crab on toasted brioche fingers and the chocolate, liquorice and coffee parfait for dessert make the whole night amazing.
Darlings Bistro on Darling Street, Rozelle is a clear sign of changing times. As one of the owners Hal Altan explains: “Rozelle and Balmain is transitioning from a pub mecca to more of a wine bar and bistro culture.”
Darlings Bistro certainly fits the bill. Its impressive wine list, sumptuous, skilfully executed cuisine and its cosy, intimate aesthetic make Darlings a go-to spot for the suburb’s new mindset.
Darlings Bistro, Cafe and Bar is at 612 Darling Street, Rozelle. It’s open from 8am every day and closes late every night apart from Monday, when it shuts at 4pm.
I think it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty good week. And with a long weekend in the beautiful beaches of Port Stephens, north of Sydney. So watch this space for sunsets, seafood and gently lapping shores of the Hunter Region’s long coast.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx