Ladies lunch, karaoke and Japanese banquets

This week we’re out and about in the north and east of Sydney, and I’m taking over from Jim to tell you what’s been happening. We’re also swapping roles at home too, with me stepping into the kitchen to try a new recipe that I think you’ll love too.

Sydney Harbour

I hate karaoke.

I don’t enjoy singing. I can’t carry a tune and don’t even sing in the shower or car. In school choir, I would mime. I’m great at lip-synching, but you can’t drag me to karaoke.

That’s why on this day, it was true proof of friendship that I willingly went to karaoke (at 5pm – completely sober!) to celebrate my friend Sharon’s birthday. She’s a true Japanophile and we flipped the usual order to do karaoke early and then enjoy a banquet at Toko restaurant in Surry Hills.

The few times she has dragged me to a karaoke bar, I sense impending doom. Not only from the singing, but the rooms feel like death traps. Often underground, karaoke bars are a warren of small rooms filled with dodge electrical equipment and flickering lights.

I’m convinced that we’re one spark away from dying of smoke inhalation while we try and find the exit. A bit morbid, maybe, but just another reason not to do karaoke.

But then we went to Goros.

Goros is a small bar in Surry Hills that isn’t that small. Karaoke rooms are free to book, and there’s a mix of spaces to drink and dine too.

And I never thought I would say this, but karaoke was fun!

The staff had to come in twice to remind us our session was over – of course it would be when we were all singing the Spice Girls. Who knew I could have a good time in a karaoke bar?! Thanks Goros, for changing my mind.

For the real celebrations, we made our way up to Toko restaurant on Crown Street, and settled in for a banquet.

Dining with a large group can be a nightmare. Who decides what to order? The awkwardness over who pays what at the end! It can be too much.

The banquet menus at Toko are amazing and even though we sat down starving, we couldn’t finish it all. It’s a good idea not to rush this meal as you’ll be exhausted after so many courses.

We were stuffed… and then desserts arrived.

Of course we had to try them all – the fondant and the crumble were my faves. My photos do no justice to the food, but the lighting is just right for date nights and flattering selfies.

Sydney Harbour

After a great night out with Sharon and co in our old neighbourhood (Jim and I lived in Surry Hills for over 10 years!), it was time for a ladies’ lunch with another lovely friend across the bridge.

If I hadn’t just hopped off the Circular Quay ferry, I could have believed I was in Paris at Bistro Mosman. This French bistro is tucked behind the The Buena pub in Mosman and is perfect for a date or a long lunch.

Raising a glass to toast our friend Steph and I’m reminded how wonderful it is to take time out with your friends. If you haven’t done it lately, it’s time to book a table and make it happen.

Thanks to Madeline and Cherie for putting today together. I still need to find out the name of the florist who created these stunning arrangements. They’re just beautiful.

I ordered the best steak frites with Cafe de Paris butter, but I still had food envy as I looked down this table.

When you come here, keep room for desserts here. This fondant is EPIC. The meringue spheres are Instagram heaven and taste as good as they look too.

Thanks for bringing us all together, Steph! What a gorgeous lunch and can’t wait to do it all again soon.

There’s a strange sight out our window tonight: Sydney has disappeared! An eerie fog is crawling over the city and a strange glow has replaced the city lights.

Compare it to the fireworks we saw from our window the night before…

I guess it’s a sign that summer is almost over here in Sydney. Maybe it’s time for us to head to the northern hemisphere to chase the summer?

Maybe inspired by the colder weather, I’ve decided to learn how to bake.

I saw a recipe for condensed milk cookies on Facebook and I thought, “I can do that!” and before I knew it, I was cooking.

Normally it’s Jim that’s more creative in the kitchen, so I surprised us both with these peanut choc-chip cookies. Mind you, these aren’t completely outside my realm of baking. One of my other favourite recipes is this one for 5-ingredient gluten-free peanut butter choc chip cookies. They’re insanely good.

One thing I should have checked is the quantity of cookies as this recipe makes around 80! I sent a cookie jar full to a special client and shared them with our lovely neighbours too.

I’m eating one as I write this now too!

And after all that cooking, dinner seems like too much work, so I go back to a usual fave: grazing platters and cheese!

We love a platter and have tips on how to build the perfect platter here.

On this board, the stilton is a standout and I picked up a new cheese to try at Woolies – Truckle Bros Dutch cheeses from the UK. They’re not kidding about this chilli version. It’s really hot. It goes great with the fresh bread Jim made today too.

And to see us out, we opened up The Pointer Chardonnay that we bought at Cupitt’s Winery while we on the South Coast. This is not only a wonderful winery, but also does incredible beer and, at the risk of sounding like I have a dairy addiction, the best cheese we’ve tasted in ages. We talk a bit more about Cupitt’s here.

We hope you have a delicious week ahead, and remember that if you don’t feel like cooking, cheese and wine can be dinner.

Love – Christina & Jim xx

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