As we edge towards the mid-way point of 2023 and winter here in Sydney settles into its stride, we get to see a different side to a city that’s so incumbent with sun and hot weather.
Winter here has always fascinated me.
I’m one of those expats that is always surprised when it’s cold in Australia–even after 20-odd years of living here. But like I said, chilly weather and nights coming early bring a side to Sydney visitors might not expect.
To prove my point, this Weekly Edition features fun cheese festivals, the magic of Vivid Sydney and its lights, an entirely awesome new dining experience inside a distillery and the latest judging for mid- low- and no-alcohol wines!
We hope you enjoy this one
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
Every June, something wonderful happens in Sydney: the Bon Fromage Cheese Festival kicks off at Circular Quay!
We’ve been a couple of times before and it’s always fun. It’s free to enter and there’s a huge table covered in all kinds of amazing European cheeses to try–in fact, it’s a giveaway of literally tonnes of cheese!
You can help yourself to the table or there are market stalls all round selling everything from raclette to fondue. There are also a host of masterclasses you can book to take part in.
The festival runs over three days during Vivid at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Make sure you mark down next year’s dates so you don’t miss out!
Vivid Sydney has been running since 2010 and lights up the city for 23 nights in June every year. There’s always something amazing going on in the city during Vivid and the packed streets are full of people who probably wouldn’t be anywhere near the city normally.
We explore some of the installations that are always here like the Opera House and Customs House, but this evening we’re here to check out something completely new to Vivid.
The drone display that lifts up from the water over the bay at Circular Quay is amazing. The biggest drone swarm in Australia in fact.
We’re not only interested to see this incredible engineering feat but also we want to see how it compares to the drone display at Uluru we’ve just seen launched: Wintjiri Wiru, currently the biggest permanent drone display in the world.
The Vivid display is indeed impressive and the shapes and designs they’ve created with the drones are pretty cool, but there’s not the story or cohesion that Wintjiri Wiru has.
For some reason, the designers here have decided to end the show with emblems of Superman and the Flash in the sky. Not sure what’s going on there.
This evening, we’re lucky to be have been invited to a double launch at Hickson House Distilling Co in the Rocks.
Not only are the guys at this amazing distillery launching their latest gin–the Seven Spice Gin–but also an entirely new dining concept where we get to enjoy a superb meal amongst the stills!
While we sip on superb martinis made with the deliciously savoury Seven Spice Gin and await our entrees, we hear from co-founder of Hickson House Mikey Enright and chef extraordinaire Sean Connolly, who designed the menus we’re eating from.
Mikey is also owner of a couple of iconic bars in Sydney: the Barbershop, and next door, the Duke of Clarence.
Sean’s been in the restaurant game forever and used to own the Morrison in Sydney where he’d have the legendary Crab Carnival every year. He also used to have a place in Byron Bay called the Balcony Bar, but he explains to us that he’s more interested in passing on his knowledge to others now and to do more experiential things like this.
The food Sean’s created tonight, as we eat in the most amazing setting between the glowing copper of the Hickson House stills, is exceptional and all designed with either the new gin or its botanicals involved.
Left to right, we have entree of seared scallops in the shell with a dash of Seven Spice Gin and native citrus butter, main of dry-aged duck seasoned with anise myrtle, spiced carrot, bitter orange and wattleseed served with perfectly roasted duck fat potatoes. Finally, the Basque cheesecake, which has the texture more of a soufflé, garnished with quince jelly and wattleseed.
The food is accompanied by different gin cocktails that suit the flavours of each dish–the Carrotini, featuring Seven Spice Gin, aquavit, roasted carrot Lillet Blanc and orange bitters, and the Magnificent Seven with Seven Spice Gin, Pommeau de Normandie, ginger, lemon curd, tonka bean and wattleseed are beautifully crafted drinks.
However, the martini–or should I say the Pearl 2.0 Martini–is my favourite, a simple gin martini at its heart, but in reality something much more complex.
oyster pearl infused Seven Spice Gin with kelp vermouth, aqua bianca and garnished with samphire, this is a martini on a whole other level!
On each table, we also get to see, smell and taste the seven spices that make up this gin’s name: finger lime, wattleseed, native lemongrass, pepper leaf, aniseed myrtle, bush tomato and lemon myrtle.
The result these botanicals have on this new gin are wonderful. This is truly a great gin.
This evening has been such an incredible experience, to spend this much time amongst the stills in the stylish yet functional beating heart of Sydney’s only inner-city distillery and to be dining on such sumptuous dishes.
Mikey will be running more of these exclusive dinners and for only $199pp, so keep your eye open here.
Tonight, I’m meeting up with a couple of good friends for dinner. Christina and I were away at Uluru for my birthday last month, so this is ostensibly a birthday dinner for me.
In reality, we just haven’t caught up in ages.
We’ve come here to Chaco Ramen in Darlinghurst for a warming bowl of Japanese ramen and the kitchen hasn’t disappointed. Rich, thick soup, surprisingly thick-cut (and even more surprisingly tender) chashu pork and all the other goodies that come with this true honest comfort food.
For the June long weekend, we’ve come back to one of our old favourite haunts: Bundeena.
This beautiful little beachside town, surrounded by the Royal National Park, is a real gem, and feels like a thousand miles from anywhere. In reality, you can see the city skyline quite easily from the beach and Cronulla’s just a quick ferry ride away.
The water is spectacular and the beach as beautiful as ever. Dogs are welcome here off-leash during winter, and it never gets old seeing them splash around after a stick.
We’re also in the market for sticks. We need kindling for our fire pit for later. I say ‘our’ fire pit. I mean our friend Deb, who we’re visiting.
Before long, the sun’s gone and the flames chew through Deb’s stock of timber from building her deck. I’m enjoying the extra warmth from my new best mate Betty, Deb’s black havanese, while we watch the occasional (and amusing) remaining evidence of the deck burn away.
The fire burns well and is still glowing when we decide to turn in.
This morning, we head to the hiking trails that network through the Royal National Park not far from our door. The cliffs take us high above the water–perfect viewing platforms to watch the migrating humpback whales as they make their way down the coast.
There are hundreds of them and we stop regularly on our walk to enjoy the sight of their spouts and occasional tail slaps and pectoral waves. Amazing that you can do this from land.
Tonight, Christina and I are in our finest, heading to the Australian Hair Industry Awards gala dinner and awards night.
It’s always fun going to these events. Everyone’s in high spirits and dressed to the nines.
Even better, my mate and Christina’s hairdresser Stevie English has managed to win Colourist of the Year for the third year in a row and for the fourth time ever. It’s a record-breaker and a well-deserved accolade.
This evening, we’re back in our old neighbourhood in Surry Hills.
The Winery is playing host to the Mid-Low-No Alcohol Awards (MLNA) 2023 Consumer Choice Event, where we get to pick our favourites from four styles (sparkling, white, rosé and red) in two categories (mid or low alcohol and no alcohol) with three wines in each. So we’re tasting 24 different wines.
It’s brilliant that there’s such a range of this type of low or no alcohol wine available now, a growing trend that gives so much more choice.
It’ll be interesting to see which wines win. We both had some favourites throughout the categories–especially in the sparkling and rosé styles. My favourite of the night though was the Fourth Wave Wines‘ Tread Softly Sangiovese in the mid-low category.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this catch-up. Chat to you again soon.
Jim & Christina xx