With so much going on recently – compared to this time last year when nothing was really allowed to happen – we’ve got quite a bit to catch up on in this Edition. Not to mention it’s my birthday today!
We’ve got a local brewery rebrand to tell you all about, great burger finds, movie recommendations, historic pizzas, incredible wine and cheese deals, beautiful French restaurants and a quick road trip to the Hunter Valley.
There’s plenty to talk about, so let’s crack on!
We hope you enjoy this Edition – Jim & Christina xx
Down in Albion Street in Surry Hills, Sydney Brewery has relaunched its brand with an awesome new look. The old versions – the Surry Hills Pils, Glamarama Summer Ale and alike – have all gone. In their place, the chimaera-esque creatures representing each of the lines in the brewery bring things up to date and give the brewery a more global appeal too.
The beer’s just as good though, no changes there, and you can visit the brewery in Surry Hills too. Food’s great and the story behind the location is interesting.
You can also check out the main brewery in Lovedale in the Hunter Valley as well.
Making the most of the warm late summer, we’re out on our friend Nick Wayland’s boat again today. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, and even better when you’re with a group of fun like-minded people too.
Nick owns TravMedia, a clever conduit network that connects travel writers with industry providers and tourism authorities, we’re all aboard with some really interesting people, most of whom are much better-travelled than we are.
The likes of the wonderful John Borthwick, Rob McFarland, Michael Turtle and Steve Madgwick are bobbing around the harbour with us today, so we’re in extremely good company.
This afternoon, we’ve taken a trip to one of my favourite pubs in Balmain… or is it Rozelle? Anyway, the Bald Rock Hotel, tucked away from everything, is such a great little watering hole. Not only that, but its burgers are outstanding!
I didn’t really know what to expect from this old-school pub. I’m glad I took a punt. I’ll definitely be back.
This evening, we’ve trekked over the Leichhardt for a film at the Palace Cinema here. I don’t know about you, but going to these little local screens rather than the big multiplex type cinemas is so much more pleasant.
You also get to take a drink in with you.
The Palace sells different measures of wine by the glass too. From Standard Pour or Feature Length to Epic and Double Feature, the last of which is pretty much a bottle of wine!
We’re here to watch a new Italian film called the Truffle Hunters. It’s a beautifully shot documentary-style film about the old men who still hunt for the elusive white truffle with their canine amici, but refuse to give up the secret of where they hunt.
There’s no real plot to the film, but instead it’s like you’ve snorkelled into a new world that’s in the midst of something and you have to go back up for air before whatever’s happening has played out. If you get the chance, take a look at this one. It’s heartwarming, heartbreaking and altogether fascinating.
As is tradition, we’ve popped next door to Moretti Pizzeria for dinner after the film. This place is a real institution – though I don’t think we’ve ever been here without either having seen a film or as a prelude to one!
The food is excellent, the prices reasonable and the service is Italian in style but Sydney in efficiency. Highly recommended.
By the way, if you’re after another Sydney pizza recommendation, you’ve got to check out Lucio Pizzeria either in Darlinghurst or in Zetland. Owner Lucio De Falco has been running this place since 2008 and the food is tremendous.
And until the end of June 2021, Lucio is celebrating the restaurants’ 13th birthday with anyone who is also raising a glass to a 13th year. He’ll even shout you dinner!
This evening, we’re joining the wine buyer for Aldi for an online masterclass of some of the wines he’s brought on board. We’ve been sent six Aussie wines and a list of cheese pairings for each bottle.
Unbelievably, none of these wines is over $15 each, and they all drink like something in the mid to high 20s at least. Very impressed.
We’re also stunned by the quality of the cheese too. Six different cheeses (one of which – the $6 Le Pico goat cheese – is now my absolute favourite) and all coming in under $40.
The Le Pico goes beautifully with the Vinatero Old Vine Grenache 2020 by the way, which is only $10.99! Check out our IG post on the other details.
So I’ve started home-brewing! This is my second batch – a vanilla chocolate stout. Christina gave me the Most Improved sticker, which is now on my fermenter… so I guess that’s the name of my brewery!
It’s a lot of fun and even more of a learning curve. But with the instructions that come with all the ingredients from Small Batch Brewing Co, I’ve managed to turn out a couple of good drops!
And then I realise how lo-fi my set up really is!
One of my mates is also home-brewing, but his set-up is quite a bit more advanced than mine. No kitchen hob or repurposed pots and pans for him. He’s got pumps and temperature controlled gadgets and things… he’s even got his one workforce to load the grain into the mash kettle!
Tonight, we’re taking our friends out for dinner. It’s his birthday coming up but we can’t make his weekender party. So we thought this would make up for it a bit. We’re at Felix in the city. Serving fine-dining French cuisine, this place is pretty special.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m pretty excited about my mains-size steak tartare! I love this stuff and they come and mix it up at the table for you. Tres posh.
Managing to squeeze in a chocolate soufflé and some cheese after our mains, we heave ourselves out in the hunt for a nightcap. It turns out that’s not so easy on a Saturday night in the city anymore. Looks like things are getting back to some semblance of normality. And long may that last.
We’re on the road again! Feels so good to be out and about – and even better that we’re heading to the Hunter Valley.
We’ve really fallen in love with Sydney’s closest wine region in recent years and have made some amazing friends up here too.
This morning, we’re heading to Bimbadgen thanks to an invitation from our mate Belinda Stapleton. We’re being treated to a VIP lunch at the winery’s famed restaurant Esca and then we’re all heading to the lawn for a concert with Ben Folds at this year’s A Day on the Green at Bimbadgen.
First of all though, we check out our digs. We’re staying here tonight – Aldora Cottage, which is part of the beautiful Jindalee Estate. As our IG Story says, watch this space; we’ll be talking a lot more about this little gem very soon.
In the meantime, check out the website for this and the other lovely properties on the rolling hills not far from Bimbadgen in Pokolbin.
Aldora Cottage is super private, though we do have quite a few furry neighbours bouncing around. We must look like serious tourists, stopping and pointing out every single kangaroo and joey we see as we explore Jindalee Estate.
Over at Bimbadgen, we head to Esca’s beautiful dining room, which looks out over the hills all the way to the Brokeback Mountain Range.
We haven’t eaten at Esca before, so we’re pretty excited. But we’re in for something even better than just lunch here today.
Along with lunch and some perfectly paired wines from the estate, we’re seated amongst some serious Hunter Region wine royalty.
Next to me is Richard Done, the head winemaker here at Bimbadgen. Next to him is our friend Sally Scarborough of the excellent Scarborough Wine fame. Esteemed wine journalist Windsor Dobbin is also here along with Liz and Shaun Silkman from First Creek Wines and of course Silkman Wines.
We feel very privileged to be sat at the table with these heads of the industry.
The food at Esca is superb. Here are a couple of the dishes we’re treated to – a succulent steak on a giant field mushroom and an earl grey panna cotta topped with a crunchy shortcrust donut.
All too soon, the food disappears, but we head down to the lawn where the rest of the 2000-strong crowd has gathered for the Day on the Green concert.
We’ve actually been waiting for this since March, when the whole of the east coast of Australia was smashed with a huge weather system. The concert was supposed to be on that very weekend. Thankfully the weather today is quite the opposite.
It’s been ages since we’ve seen Sally Scarborough. It’s lovely to catch up.
The Scarborough family makes probably the best Chardonnay in the country, but aside from that, they’re absolutely lovely people. It didn’t take more than five minutes for us to feel like part of the family and they were truly instrumental in our falling in love with the region – as were Belinda and Mark Stapleton.
Thanks to the pandemic, things have been scaled back on the usually massive Day on the Green concerts. But this Cellar Door Series is way more intimate and just as well done. Ben Folds’ support act is Aussie singer-songwriter Gordi.
Her performance is excellent – she has two new fans here!
We’ve been so lucky with the weather this weekend. We brought coats with us, but they just get in the way on this perfect, warm autumn evening.
Ben Folds doing his thing on the piano down on the stage, delicious Bimbadgen wine flowing freely and everyone having a good time – it’s quite the way so spend a Saturday.
While we enjoy the show, Christina and I continue our taste test of Bimbadgen’s wines. They all passed by the way!
Christina loves the Bimbadgen McDonalds Road Chardonnay and I’m a big fan of their McDonalds Road Shiraz. Both superb wines.
Before too long though, we’re back in Sydney shuffling across the busy Harbour Bridge still dreaming about the broad skies and high places of the Hunter. The golden filigree of these sunset clouds is a fair compensation though, and we look forward to our own bed once more.
So there you have it. We’re up to speed, but keep an eye on our IG Stories. There’s always something new happening there. And don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter if you haven’t already. There’s a sign-up form on this page. 🙂
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx