A Vivid Bar, A Festival Of Cheese And The Last Days Of Biennale

We’ve got plenty to tell you about in this latest Edition.

Rooftop bars and festivals of light (with corresponding cocktails of course), new and amazing experiences to have at Uluru, superb new Sydney gins, massive birthday partakings at a spirits festival (and a wine tasting tacked on too), lovely friends visiting who we haven’t seen for ages, cheese fests and, not least, bunny chow!

We hope you enjoy this Edition

Jim & Christina xx
 Mr and Mrs Romance at Zephyr Bar for Vivid Festival

Christina and I do love a rooftop bar – we even talk about it a bit here – and Zephyr in Sydney’s Darling Harbour really scratches an itch.

Tonight, we’re up here to check out the lights of Vivid and the bar’s special offerings for this annual crowd-drawing festival of light.

Part of the Hyatt Regency Sydney, Zephyr already holds high stakes in the cocktail world. Its impressive bar, which looks out over the largest natural harbour in the world, has been serving superb drinks since 2017 and the only thing to change about that is the menu.

For this year’s Vivid festival, Zephyr has teamed up with Four Pillars Distilling Co to create some amazing cocktails.

First we try the Rare Harmony – Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Rhubi Mistelle, Marionette Bitter Curacao, and pineapple and lime juice – and Yuzo Glow Sour – Four Pillars Fresh Yuzi Gin, Marionette Blue Curacao lemon juice and sugar syrup.

They’re both very vivid colours (on purpose of course), which are helped along with fun coasters that light up when your drink’s placed on them. The Rare Harmony sounded quite sweet when we first heard the ingredients, but the result is a lovely balanced drink. As for the Yuzu Glow Sour, the blue colour is a bit off-putting at first, but it’s a brilliant drink. The bar has been bold about its sourness and hasn’t held back, which is as refreshing as this little blue number.

Mr and Mrs Romance at Zephyr Bar for Vivid Festival - cocktails and food

Next we give the special Four Pillars martini trolley a roll, where a mixologist makes the signature drink – Pillars of Humanity – at your table. This drink includes two gins, the outstanding Four Pillars Olive Leaf and their Fresh Yuzu Gin, along with a dry vermouth and orange curacao. It’s light yet punchy, smooth yet has a pleasant citrus zing.

We also try the Shiraz Breeze, extraordinarily served in a light-bulb-shaped glass – another nod to Vivid. This uses Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, lime, sugar, mint and soda, and brings gin mojito vibes.

To keep us company and the drinks safe, we also have a run at the food menu. Standouts for us are the fried chevre balls in a delightful panko crumb and the popcorn lobster. The ‘popcorn’ chunks of lobster have been deep fried and the lobster shell serves as a dip receptacle. Delicious and ingenious.

Thank you, Neilson the bar manager for these recommendations.

Make sure you get over to Zephyr during Vivid to try some of these superb delicacies – 24th May-15th June 2024.

Voayages Indigenous Tourism Australia launch 2 new Uluru experiences - MCA Sydney

This afternoon, Christina is at the Museum of Contemporary Art to hear about an amazing new offering from Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia – the same people who brought the astounding Wintjiri Wiru drone display to Uluru that you can read more about here.

This time round, CEO of Voyages, Matt Cameron-Smith told the assembled media about Sunrise Journeys – a mindful light and sound experience that highlights ancient stories from Anangu, the people of Uluru, and the new Australian Native High Tea – a delicious assortment of snacks made with local bush tucker front of mind.

These experiences both happen on the beautiful stage where the Wintjiri Wiru show is viewed from with the dramatic landscape of Uluru and Kaka Tjuta as its backdrop.

Both of these new daily experiences will start from August 1st 2024, but bookings are open now, so don’t miss out!

Hickson House Distillery, the Rocks

Tonight, Christina and I are out with a couple of pals in preparation for the Sydney Spirits Festival that we’re all going to. The four of us have made our way to an old favourite: Hickson House Distilling Co.

This Rocks-based distillery is also one of the most elegant bars in the city and they can also make a banging martini. Even more so now they’ve just released a brand new gin: Harbour Bridge Gin.

Not only is the distillery almost directly under the Harbour Bridge, the building was used to store the metal and timber beams as the bridge was being built. And as the centenary of the Harbour Bridge approaches (it was opened in 1932), Hickson House have announced their plans to release a new gin every year until 2032.

This, the first of the series, celebrates breaking ground for the bridge in 1923.

Christina and Kate Hennessy at Biennale Sydney at White Bay Power Station

Today, Christina is with our lovely friend and accomplished travel writer Kate Hennessy. They’re at Rozelle’s White Bay Power Station to check out the Sydney Biennale before it finishes on June 10th.

This must be Christina’s 15th trip to the Biennale this year, so she’s something of an expert. However, she still highly recommends going on an organised art tour for the deeper meanings and history behind these impressive pieces.

Don’t forget, there’s a free bus from the QVB that takes you right to the doors of the Biennale here, and on the weekend, there’s a free shuttle bus that takes you right into Balmain proper so you can check out the joys of this unique Sydney suburb. We’ve got more details on this on IG here.

Sydney Spirits Festival - Overseas Passenger Terminal

It’s finally here! My birthday and the Sydney Spirits Festival – what an alignment of the stars. And after this amount of liquor, it’s probably the only thing that will be in a line!

At the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, a huge number of both small local distillers and giant global producers have set up stalls to showcase their wares.

Always a standout if they’re here, Ester Spirits from Marrickville make their presence known. Felix is a legend btw. Their Strong Gin is a perennial favourite for us, but the things Felix is making now are unbelievable.

Sydney Spirits Festival - Overseas Passenger Terminal

We trek round the huge space and try as many different spirits as we can. There’s everything here, from craft gin to mezcal to bourbon to rum to curios like Australian-made soju and fruit-flavoured tequilas. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

It’s also surprising how ‘effective’ small, 5-10ml pours of spirits can creep up on you. By the end of the three-hour festival, we’re all pretty merry!

Peter, Jim and Ben at Ribs n Burgers - Jim's birthday

It’s time for lunch so we head to Ribs N Burgers. I don’t know who suggested it, but everyone seems pretty happy! Peter, Ben and I are anyway. I don’t know about the rest of the patrons!

Chateau Tanunda cellar door in the Rocks

Because three solid hours of tasting spirits hasn’t been enough for us, we’ve decided (this was my idea actually) to head to a very special little spot in the Rocks.

Sydney’s only cellar door for a Barossa winery, Chateau Tanunda, one of Australia’s oldest existing wineries, has opened a tasting room in the historic confines of Nurses Walk, tucked well and truly away in the alleys of Australia’s oldest colonial district.

We taste some wine, we buy some wine, we talk some wine. And I hope we aren’t annoying Justin the cellar door manager too much. He’s a nice man. But if you want an excellent wine tasting experience of some of Australia’s best Barossa wine, go to the Rocks and annoy Justin a little bit!

The Other Art Fair at White Bay Power Station

This evening, Christina is back at White Bay, but not for the Biennale! She’s here with her friend Rex to see The Other Art Fair.

This is a great way to discover independent artists with work for sale from $100. This year was in fact at the White Bay Cruise Terminal, not far from the power station and the Biennale, and it’s a great space to explore the art, meet the artists, and watch epic art battles in ‘speed painting’ rounds.

Keep an eye out for dates in your city as this very cool art fair moves around the world.

Jim and Christina with Sonia Bavistock at the Bald Rock Rozelle

This afternoon, we’re excited to be hanging out with our excellent buddies Chris and Sonia, who we’ve known for years. They used to live in Adelaide, but now reside in Lennox NSW. It’s nice to have them in our state, but it would be even better if they could come a bit closer to Sydney!

In an attempt to woo them south, we’re showing them some of our favourite local spots: exhibit A – the Bald Rock Hotel in Rozelle. Easily my favourite pub, this place does excellent burgers and they keep their beer well too.

Dinner at Cinnamon in Balmain

As we roam the Balmain Peninsula, we finally find ourselves at Cinnamon – a wonderfully cosy restaurant and bar that makes some of the best Thai/South East Asian food around.

High on the list to re-order when we come back here (top-left to bottom right):

Salt lemon and pepper squid, chicken chilli basil stir fry, panfried mataba roti with yellow curry minced wagyu beef, and massaman beef curry but with mantou buns – delicious steamed-then-fried pillows of dough perfect for mopping up massaman sauce!

Also, they sell their little round table lights here, which Sonia kindly gifted us. They’re 3D printed and look like the moon. delightful.

Cocktails at Bar 26 Lilyfield with Balmain Rozelle Chamber of Commerce

This afternoon, Christina is having a meeting with the Balmain Rozelle Chamber of Commerce, the publisher of local magazine Darling (keep an eye out for this coming winter edition Issue 14) for a bit of a cameo).

They’re at the very cute Bar 26 in Lilyfield, tucked away like a speakeasy. But this place also has an enormous distillery next to it, where the owners of Bar 26, Eduard and Julie Otter, craft their own gin, vodka and whiskey. Check out Otter Craft Distilling’s spirits here.

The reason for this venue – apart from the excellent cocktails – is that Christina is speaking at a Women in Business event for the Chamber of Commerce and Bar 26 is hosting.

Unfortunately, this event is sold out now, but keep an eye open. I’m sure this won’t be the last.

How to make bunny chow

Tonight’s meal: bunny chow!

If you’ve never heard of this dish before, don’t worry. But before we get started, no; no rabbits were harmed in this story.

This is a traditional South African dish from Durban when the cane industry was in full flow. Indian migrants – especially those from the merchant or ‘bania’ caste – made a living from making this hearty dish of curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread. A bit like a cob loaf dip. But curry.

We first had bunny chow in Durban and fell in love with it. We’ve had a crack at this dish before too, but this time I think we nailed it thanks to a specifically Durban curry sauce we found in Aldi and my current favourite kitchen gadget: my bread machine. Yes, I made the bread.

Bon Fromage European Cheese Festival media brunch

Once a year, Bon Fromage – a joint incentive between European Cheeses, Cheeses of France and the EU – brings a metric tonne of cheese to Sydney to show us just how good they have it on the Continent.

This morning, Christina and I are at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay for the start of this cheese extravaganza, which always begins with a media brunch.

This brunch features four different decadent dairy derivatives (triple cream brie, bleu d’Auvergne, comté and epoisses) for us to taste, guided by the brilliant cheese mind of one of the world’s top 10 cheese mongers Aurore Ghigo.

We’re also fed a cheese-inspired multi-course meal by the daring Chef Jimmy Wong from Masterchef.

The focus of this year’s cheese festival is about seasonality. Did you know cheese tastes different depending on when it’s made – mainly due to what the cows have been eating.

Cheese made from milk made in spring will taste vibrant with grassy notes and have a softer texture because the cows have been eating rich young tender grass. However, Cheese made with autumn milk will have a strong flavour and very dense aroma because of the regrowth grass the cows feed on at this time of year. Fascinating.

Jim and Christina at Zephyr for Vivid

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Edition. Catch you again soon.

Jim & Christina xx

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