(to lunch)

Colour Run, Homebush

There is an increasing trend in Australia toward physical challenges, either obstacle courses such as Tough Mudder, or the latest venture on the scene, the Colour Run, where the inaugural event happened in Sydney earlier this morning. The middle class need to struggle to achieve something, I guess.

Comparing the Tough Mudder and the Colour Run will no doubt raise some eyebrows but they are both extremely fun, with the former being much more of a challenge (much, much more) and the latter having a closer resemblance to a large scale music festival. The Colour Run describes itself as the happiest 5km on the planet and for once, a slogan lives up to its name. The atmosphere was electric and it there wasn’t a face without a smile on it. I’ll be doing this one again!

Francis Bacon @ Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

If I go into a butcher’s shop I always think it’s surprising that I wasn’t there instead of the animal”.

So says Francis Bacon in one of his many quotes which in their brevity still manage to pierce deep into his psyche. The exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW intrigues with details of the late painter’s life while going through the phases of his artistic development.

The rawness of his paintings catches you off guard as humans meet animal flesh in abstract confrontations. A friend of mine went on acid but the emotionally charged response that Bacon’s artwork invokes is not in need of any enhancement. A meander through the gallery is the equivalent of a portal into the terror and beauty of the human condition.

The exhibition closes at the end of February.

Anish Kapoor @ MCA

A friend was telling me the other day that when Anish Kapoor makes works of art, the only purpose behind it is to evoke emotion. The cavernous black abysses that permeate his work, or at least the work at the MCA, were not created to make you think about anything in particular, but just to make you feel. If this was Kapoor’s grand plan, then it would be a brave critic to say that he was unsuccessful.

I’ve never quite seen an art exhibit like this one. It had children and adults equally enthralled but it was their faces that revealed the true genius behind the art. It was a mixture of confusion, joy and curiousity and it was infectious. People tried to take photos of the mirrors, light and materials which created these emotions but all too often they didn’t come out. This is because many of the artworks were as much tricks of the mind as they were visual pieces and a photograph cheapened the bewildering experience you’d just had.

The exhibition is one of the better ones I’ve ever been to because it is so accessible to people who are not “in to” art. Kapoor’s ideology, if my friend was quoting him correctly, suggests that all art can only be subjectively experienced which reminded me of an argument I had once about whether the Mona Lisa could be considered art if no one saw it but Leonardo. Is only the artist see an artwork, is it really art? If an artist knowingly creates a piece of an art without meaning but it is perceived as art, is it art? If an elephant paints a picture which causes emotion in those people who view it, is that art? I don’t think there is any right answer to these questions which is what makes them so interesting to ponder.

Tall Poppy Collective: a pop-up project

Fate is a funny thing. Take for instance my recent involvement in a pop-up bar. Avid readers of this blog (yes, I’m looking at you Mum) would know that designing and running a bar has been a dream of mine (read: bucket list) for some time. So when a close friend called and asked if I wanted to be a part of the inaugural Tall Poppy Collective pop-up bar, I jumped at the chance.

Things moved very quickly. From quiet discussions in an inner city apartment amongst friends to the involvement and backing from OzHarvest, we were provided with an opportunity and had to provide the means to make it work in less than 6 weeks. When you factor in that we actually had to make the bar with three distinctive areas for each of the food trucks (Al Carbon, Agape and Tsuru), negotiate a site for the pop-up, create a website and effectively start an organisation in that time, it was to say the least a very busy time.

For those of you playing at home, Tall Poppy Collective is a not-for-profit venture connecting young professionals and students in the design industry to support a worthy cause. You can see more photos of the night on InDesignLive and Illumni. The next Tall Poppy Collective pop-up venture will happen in the first half of 2013. I, for one, can’t wait!

Tall Poppy Collective

Coldplay, Sydney Football Stadium

There’s nothing better than a concert exceeding your expectations. To say that Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto” did that would be somewhat of an understatement. This is coming from someone who loved their first two albums but lost touch with them on their later releases as they became what are arguably the biggest band in the world. Still, when I heard they were coming to Sydney with their full extravaganza I thought it would be a good opportunity to hear them live and to tick off one of my bucket list items: see a big band in a stadium.

It was their first Sydney show in November 2012 and we had the best tickets available: general admission on the football field in the mosh pit area (not that there was one) and as close as possible to the action. The scene was set for something special. What followed was simply sensory overload. Imagine 50,000 people across a stadium each with multicoloured LED wrist bands moving in unison with the band as fireworks exploded, 5 large screens caused visual orgasms, lasers flashed and fans sang along whether it was their favourite song or the first time they had heard it. The band went from big band belters to stripped down acoustic numbers with an ease that only hundreds of performances could create.

I’ve never been involved in such an interactive concert. No one just stood there, everyone was a part of the experience and this is exactly what Coldplay wanted as they explain on the live DVD of the concert (which is worth getting). The best part was that the band actually looked like they were enjoying it as much as the audience which made the audience feel things that much more. Special mention must also go to The Temper Trap who were a perfect pick for support. Whether you’re a big fan of Coldplay or not, this was an experience that you couldn’t help but enjoy and it has massively increased my respect for the band and even pushed me into considering grabbing some of their later albums. Have a look at an example of the concert below - what a night!

Radiohead, Sydney Entertainment Centre

The first Radiohead song that I liked came out 20 years ago. Since that time, my love for their music has continually grown until it culminated in 2009 during a round-the-world trip when I had more than one epiphany as a result of Radiohead and the wonders of travel. From a cruise in a convertible in the Czech countryside with “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” to a winding bus ride down the peaks of the Peruvian Alps with “Pyramid Song”, there have been some ups and downs with my favourite band but I’d never got a chance to see them in the flesh.

I narrowly missed out on concert tickets in Rio De Janeiro. Imagine that: Radiohead in Rio. I almost wanted to go just so I could say the sweet assonance and alliteration that such a night would afford. But it wasn’t until now, November 2012, that I finally got to witness the magic of their live performance. The sweet sound of Thom Yorke’s vocals paired with the bands subtle jamming brought a hush over 15,000 fans as they consumed the aural delights like their ears had taste buds. It was brilliant.

The photo at the top was taken during the final song “Idioteque”, which was the last of their 3 encores. A full track list is below as is a stop-motion video of my long time favourite “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”. Enjoy them, savour them, take the time. You’ll have no regrets.

Radiohead concert, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 12 November 2012


Morning Mr. Magpie 
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi 
The Gloaming 
Ful Stop 
Lotus Flower 
There There 
Planet Telex 

Encore 1:
Give Up the Ghost 
Pyramid Song 
These Are My Twisted Words 
Paranoid Android 

Encore 2:
15 Step 
Everything in Its Right Place 

Encore 3:

On 23 September 2012, I attempted to push my physical and mental boundaries by participating in Tough Mudder. This is the official video of the event - it was absolutely brutal but well worth it.

It is 21 obstacles (including electrocution) over 12 miles (about 20 kilometres or approx the length of a half-marathon). I hurt for weeks!


Sydney’s Observatory Hill Park is the perfect place for a picnic on a lovely spring day.

Sydney’s Observatory Hill Park is the perfect place for a picnic on a lovely spring day.

Night Noodle Markets, Sydney

The Night Noodle Markets in Sydney have become somewhat of an icon on the Sydney food scene. Occurring every October as part of Crave, the Sydney International Food Festival, they have developed from several stalls in a small section of Hyde Park connected by the odd plastic outdoor furniture arrangement to an enormous hawkers market populated by scores of stalls, several themed bars, VIP areas and live music and DJs all connected by hanging Chinese lanterns spread enchantingly across the park over a series of wonderfully warm spring evenings.

The food, previously patchy in parts, is now consistently good. Tonight we had oysters sexed up with Asian flavours from Agape Organic, pork dumplings served in a moreish broth from Jimmy Liks, Zilver's peking duck pancakes and the most amazing kaffir lime and coconut ice cream from Serendipity Natural Ice Cream. Each of these dishes were good if not great and served their dual purpose to promote the brand behind the stall as well as the diversity of the Night Noodle Markets itself. The fried bananas from I-can’t-remember-where were aso a treat.

But there was something else about this year’s markets. It had an extra element to it. The bars were a touch hipster with the Coopers area adorned with a lovely wooden courtyard and furniture, while the Rekorderlig area had beanbag cushions and, well, cider. Both bars had DJs spinning tunes and in another area a band played to a smaller crowd until the markets themselves closed. The markets seem to have finally grown up and into themselves. Having secured their place in Sydney, they are now secure enough to experiment a little and spend a little more money and time on getting things right, and the result is an exceptional evening that would be as at home in Asia as it would in NYC’s Central Park. Sydney is a very good place to live at the moment.

Sake, The Rocks

There are restaurants around town that simply everyone recommends. You know, those talked about places where the food has the x-factor, the staff mix friendliness perfectly with attentiveness and where you come away from a lunch or dinner with the feeling that somehow anyone who wasn’t with you has had a lesser experience. Sake is one of those places and unlike many new kids on the block it has proved itself with significant staying power and consistently good food and service. It’s liked amongst casual diners and business professionals alike and after a recent long lunch there it is easy to see why.

A slew of people I know rate the karaage at Sake (photo below) as the best in Sydney but I find it hard to choose between Sake and Izakaya Fujiyama. Sake’s is lighter, spicier and more modern, while Izakaya Fujiyama’s is the classic Japanese style, the original deep fry, if you will. But I digress, as will you when you arrive at the lavish fit-out and enchanting bar slash restaurant housed on Argyle Street in The Rocks. Hosted by the equally enchanting Kavea, who some may remember from Tank night club days, a visit to Sake is the culinary equivalent of a long, warm hug.

A great way to start your journey is with freshly shucked oysters with Japanese salsa which is a prelude to the South American hints you see creeping into some of the dishes. The crescendo of these combinations and the dish you must try is the kingfish jalapeno, a wonderful modern take on sashimi with a dalliance of spice, soy and coriander. It’s spectacular in a way that is completely separate to the karaage although in no way less impressive. The delectable balance of opposites is evident throughout the menu with hot following cold, spicy mingling with salty, Japan with South America, and all washed down with a glass or two of Capanno Pinot Gris 2009 from the Southern Highlands of NSW. Delightful.

We further indulged with grainfed teriyaki wagyu, a fresh take on your traditional teriyaki beef that’s cooked medium rare and presented on sautéed shiitake mushrooms and buckwheat with yakiniku sauce (a dressing commonly used in Japan on grilled meats). Next up was a melody of tempura with tentsuyu dipping sauce (the classic tempura accompaniment) made up of prawns, fish and various seasonal vegetables. These are traditional Japanese dishes that have been given the “wow” factor through the use of fresh and unusual ingredients, and modern cooking variations. It is the clinical execution of these unique creations that has no doubt earned Sake a chef hat for two consecutive years.

Ending our meal was (obviously) dessert and it is worth saving some room for the chocolate fondant (top photo) comprised of a lusciously warm and moist chocolate pudding sitting at the other end of a plate of white sesame ice cream with a black sesame tuile (like a wafer) and scattered with grounded nuts. The balance of opposites was in full effect with this dessert and it crowned an exceptional lunch with the food rivaled only by the service. Sake has hit on a winning formula that appeals to many palates, and never fails to impress on your next visit, or the one after for that matter. This is Sydney dining par excellence.

Saké Restaurant & Bar
12 Argyle Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9259 5656 

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