Arty food or foodie art?


Jelly St Paul’s Cathedral by Bompas & Parr

There has long been a connection between food and art. Post-Impressionist painters would famously pay for their meals in paintings, kicking off the artwork-in-a-restaurant aesthetic.


Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde cow at Tramshed

Some have taken this to the next step, such as the formaldehyde cow-in-a-restaurant look that Mark Hix has gone for at his London restaurant Tramshed. You can’t miss the giant Damien Hirst ‘artwork’ of a cock and bull which references the chicken and beef dishes on the menu. It’s hard to focus on your whole stuffed upside down chicken with the suspended animals in your line of sight.

Cafe-DALI-by-Annvil-01 Cafe-DALI-by-Annvil-02

Salvador Dali purposely created art with maximum shock value and has inspired many in the restaurant business. Dali Café & Art in Riga is a culinary temple to the great Surrealist artist which includes plenty of his trademark motifs like eyes, lips, curved lines and draped fabric.


A ‘melting clock’ style chocolate crepe

Melting clocks come by way of the chocolate crepe, served to look like The Persistence of Memory. There are also plenty of blue and gold tones, Dali’s favorite colors, to highlight the eccentric fit-out.

Glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jelly

Glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jellies

The idea of food itself becoming the artwork is growing in popularity. My all-time favourite foodie artists are Bompass & Parr, two English gents who call themselves jellymongers.

The roof of Selfridges becomes an emerald lake

The roof of Selfridges becomes a lake of lolly water

Their CV has the most absurd but fantastical list of projects you could imagine; a chocolate waterfall in the middle of a shopping centre, flooding part of the Selfridges roof to create a lolly water emerald boating lake, glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jellies… Read More

The Budapest bars that would be illegal anywhere else

Szimpla was Budapest's first ruin pub

Szimpla was Budapest’s first ruin pub

I remember the thought that flashed through my mind when I walked into my first ruin pub in Budapest.

This is an OH&S disaster, you would never see this in Sydney, or London, or possibly anywhere else for that matter!

That’s because ruin pubs, as the name suggests, lie within dilapidated shells of abandoned buildings. They predominantly sit in the old Jewish quarter which was left to decay after WWII. In any other city there would be a wrecking ball around the corner, but in Budapest some inspired drinkers decided they might be good for something and slowly they have turned into drinking and party meccas.


The owl at Instant looks over the crowd protectively if not a little weirdly

This neighbourhood now includes dozens of ruin pubs, all characterised by flea market furniture, psychedelic interiors and an intense feeling you’ve just fallen down the rabbit hole.


You could actually visit Instant every day, there is that much going on

I had two favourites, the first was Instant (pronounced Inshtant by Hungarians) which takes up an entire former tenement apartment . Within its 23 rooms it offers themed dancer floors, furniture pinned to the ceiling and giant flying owls overlooking the floor. They are fake but you’ll have to look twice.


The slightly shabby façade of Szimpla

The second was Szimpla, which happened to be the very first ruin pub, kicking off the trend in 2001. It has a fabulous courtyard where you can sit in an old communist Trabant car, order from the vitamin bar, check out the graffiti art, catch films and theatre or rent a bike.



My favourite part of Szimpla relates to food, of course, and was the farmer’s market that takes place every Sunday. Their mission is to connect the city crowd with local farmers and judging by the crowds, it’s certainly working.



The giant courtyard is dotted with stalls laden with farm-fresh produce including cheese, fruit and vegetables, honey, cured meats, fruit cordials and homemade pastries. Vendors are friendly and they offer generous samples.



I spent a good twenty minutes hovering by the truffle stand, if only because I couldn’t believe how many there were, how big they were and how cheap!



I loved the truffle butter but seeing as I was not going to be near a fridge all day I opted for the truffle salt which had chunks of fresh truffle dotted throughout and proffered the most intense truffle scent I’d ever encountered. A good sized jar was 1800HUF or €4.50 – bargain! Read More

Fishy business

Everyone loves fish in my family, even Macey

Everyone loves fish in my family, especially Macey

If ever there was an ingredient I was born to embrace, it’s fish.

One of my grandfathers was a seafood chef. The other had a fish shop at Wynyard. I learnt how to catch, gut and cook a fish before I could do anything else useful with food. And tuna salad is my default lunch.


Scaling and gutting a leather jacket

Okay maybe that last one doesn’t count, but in essence I eat more than my share of fish and love it in any shape or form, raw or cooked, from head to tail. Especially the tail. Not to mention the skin, cheeks and eyes. Yes eyes! That’s what my dad taught me and his dad taught him so I never raised an eyebrow : )


Fresh fish on the barbeque with a few snags for good luck

I went fishing recently and am glad to see I can still reel ‘em in. The only way (in my family at least) to cook freshly caught fish is on the barbeque with oil, lemon and occasionally garlic. The oil and lemon form an unctuous sauce which is heaven against the crispy fish skin.

But there’s so much more you can do with fish and it’s one of my favourite things to experience when I travel (provided there is a body of water not too far away – I generally stay away from seafood in landlocked countries).


Smoked salmon, any way you like it

Given the vast seas around them, it’s no surprise that the Scandinavians know a thing or two about fish. I almost wept at the sight of beautiful displays of salmon in Helsinki, radiating a signature peachy-orange glow. Read More

3 foodie gems on the NSW South Coast


Cronut & coffee heaven at Orient Point Bakehouse

When I was a wee little thing, mum and dad would bundle my siblings and I into the car (sometimes in our PJ’s – always a little embarrassing when you pop into Macca’s for a late night supper) and we’d head to Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast for weeks of swimming, fishing, prawning, over-eating and building quirky ‘installations’ out of shells.


Even the local birds eat well on the South Coast

I still try and make it down at least once a year (fully clothed) to recreate those fun times and it’s all the more attractive now that impressive foodie spots have popped up along the coast from Wollongong to Ulladulla and beyond. Here are my three favourites, all worth a detour on your next road trip.

Orient Point Bakehouse, Orient Point


Orient Point Bakehouse

It’s not unusual for chefs to start their careers in small towns and then move into the city but it doesn’t often happen in reverse. Sydney’s loss is Orient Point’s gain now that Scott Mason has done just that with his wife and chief baker Tobie.


The ultimate chocolate cronut

Scott formerly headed up the kitchens of prestigious Sydney restaurants including Bistro Moncur and Bambini Trust before he and Tobie decided a sea change was in order and set up the Orient Point Bakehouse in 2013 (a 2 1/2 hour drive from Sydney).


Yep, just as drool worthy inside and out

It’s unlike any bakehouse you’ve been to, unless your local also offers scrumptious chocolate cronuts filled with mouth-watering chocolate custard or cinnamon and pecan scrolls topped with thick smears of icing. No lamingtons or finger buns in sight.


Egg & bacon roll with nana’s tomato relish

There’s a full breakie, lunch and dinner menu which sits a notch above your ordinary café menu with items like a braised wagyu beef sambo. It’s not hard to spot Scott’s impressive culinary past and it means that simple items are done exceptionally well, like the egg and bacon roll served with nana’s tomato relish. Coffee is locally roasted by Hyper Hyper Coffee Roasters and is damn good.  


The bakehouse roadie mural

I’m going back for Big Fisho’s breakie which includes Scotty’s pork and fennel sausage and bubble and squeak and I definitely want to try his freshly caught local blackfish and chips.


Where else would you want to eat fish and chips?

It’s a whole family affair here with Scott in the kitchen, Tobie on the coffee machine, Tobie’s mum managing the tidal wave of customers and family photos adorning the walls. On a beautiful day you can’t beat sitting outside but inside has drawcards too, like the roadie mural and tabletop shrine to fishing.

Orient Point Bakehouse, 71 Orama Crescent, Orient Point NSW 2540

Jindyandy Mill, Pyree


Historic and quaint Jindyandy Mill

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Nowra, you MUST head for this gem about a twenty minute drive east and 2 1/2 hours from Sydney. My birthday always coincided with our road trips and this was my favourite place to visit for a birthday treat.



Jindyandy is set on picturesque pastoral lands and the original Jindyandy Mill was built by convicts in 1830, making it one of Australia’s oldest convict buildings. The area is now home to a whimsical range of antique shops, crafts and food stores.


Who can say no to free, home grown local produce?

You can pick up an assortment of fresh produce that changes with the seasons. On my last visit there was even a help-yourself-box of vegies offered by a generous local.


Pick up macadamia nuts and a nut cracker

There are plenty of enterprising local producers of jams, honeys and crafts which are on offer, or grab a bag of macadamias and a nut cracker to let out some aggression.


Restroom for wenches

I haven’t dined at the nearby Butterfactory restaurant but have heard from many that the food is exquisite and it’s a great venue for weddings. Something to think about for all the wenches and their grooms out there.

Jindyandy Mill, 719 Greenwell Point Rd, Pyree NSW 2031

Heritage Bakery, Milton


The Heritage Bakery, est 1870

Meat pies are (apparently) Australia’s national dish. We take our meat pie consumption very seriously and nowhere is this more apparent than the Heritage Bakery in Milton (3 hours from Sydney) which was established in 1870.


A nice short queue on this visit

I’ve seen queues at this place which would put Gelato Messina to shame and if you’re not early enough you may well as well kiss goodbye to that traditional mince meat pie you were craving.



Vegetable stack, curry pie, peppercorn pie, steak & kidney pie

There are 12 pies on offer plus an assortment of sausage rolls, pasties and vegetarian options. Classics like steak and kidney and country chicken sit alongside Thai chicken and Mexican chilli. The only way to navigate this menu is to order a few and share.


A look inside the curry pie

The curry is always a favourite of mine and reminds me of my dad’s penchant for Keen’s curry powder. The pastry is crispy and there’s a lot of it. This is not a destination for carbophobics.


Get in early for the best selection of fresh bread

The coffee is decent and can be accompanied by a number of sweet baked goods, from apple pies to old school custard tarts. There’s also plenty of bread available including a delicious fig and cranberry sourdough. The bakery is a few minutes’ drive from the main street of Milton so makes for a good stopover on your way in or out of town.

Heritage Bakery, 197-201 Princes Highway, Milton NSW 2538

Do you have a favourite South Coast foodie gem?

A year of heart stopping coffee moments


A perfect Leipzig coffee

A day doesn’t pass when a cup of the good stuff doesn’t pass my lips. Not because I’m addicted or because it gives me an energy boost (although I’m not denying either of those points).

Rather my daily coffee is a ritual. The where, how and who are just as important as the what. What use is great coffee in a soulless room with a lone grumpy staffer playing bad music? Only the whole coffee package will percolate through my memory long after the event.


Steffen and his portable Lieblingskaffee

I had my first heart stopping coffee moment in the east German city of Leipzig. My friends Marc and Kathleen took me to Lene Voigt Park, a stunning expanse of green which seemed strangely elongated until I discovered it’s on the site of old train tracks. Here they introduced me Steffen who runs Lieblingskaffee, literally meaning ‘favourite coffee’.


Steffen takes his time making each filter coffee

Steffen cycles his café into the park daily and sets up camp. Everything he needs is cleverly packed away and unfolded when needed. Ikea would have a field day with this design. Steffen takes his time with each coffee – carefully filtering it to deliver a smooth and sprightly cup.


Hanging out in Lene Voigt Park

The coffee was tasty. But the moment was heaven. A roaring sun, Marc strumming away on his guitar, locals stopping by to say hi. If you’re ever in Leipzig, you must track down Steffen and this idyllic park.


Classic Irish coffee – just don’t ask for the recipe

In Ireland, if you mention ‘the good stuff’ they inevitably think you want a pint of Guinness. Thankfully Irish coffee is as ubiquitous as stout, unfortunately the recipe is almost as carefully guarded. Neven and I couldn’t find a single bartender who would reveal the recipe and they purposely made it out of eye’s sight, dammit.


Can you tell which one is the Irish coffee?

A quick google revealed it was as simple as hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, topped with an almost impermeable layer of thick cream. After a chilly day exploring the Connemara district, nothing is more welcoming than a warm pub, cosy fire and large glass of this delicious concoction.


Getting some perspective at Monmouth Coffee

And now over to London’s Monmouth Coffee. Big deal I hear you saying. Monmouth Coffee tops every ‘best coffee’ list in London so it’s hardly an unsung hero or undiscovered gem. But by god is it marvellous. The coffee itself is of course sublime – a good body, distinct caramel notes and organic Jersey whole milk make the best latte of your life. But it tastes all the more special when you’re perched precariously on a wooden stool that took twenty minute of shameless hovering to secure, looking down at the mayhem of Borough Market. Then turn you gaze turns upwards to the arresting figure of the Shard. Now that’s a money-can’t-buy view.


In Sweden I become a fika fiend

Accoutrements are important for any coffee experience. And in Sweden that means kanelbulle or cinnamon buns. I’ve exposed my weakness for these babies before but it’s not just me – all Swedes are engineered to consume coffee and kanelbulle on a daily basis in the name of fika. The coffee in question was in the old town of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, with my local friend Claire. It was Claire who insisted I try the chokladbollar or chocolate ball (”Only if I can still order a cinnamon bun” was my response), beloved of children all over Sweden.


Proper iced coffee

It wouldn’t be a true list without some Sydney representation. My favourite coffee moment of late was an iced coffee on a hot day with Cheryl in Cremorne. I’m always nervous about ordering an iced coffee. Cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos are (almost) universally recognised and generally resemble your expectations. But you’re playing with fire (or ice?) when you order an iced coffee – it’s open to interpretation. So Bread & Butter’s cold drop coffee with icy milk and a dusting of cinnamon really hit the spot. I think the drink-in-jar moment may have passed though (you know the zeitgeist has moved on once it’s on the shelves of Kmart).

And to finish, here is my all time favourite coffee moment of the past year:

“One iced coffee please˝ I asked my waiter politely while enjoying the afternoon sun with friends in downtown Mallorca.

And this is what was served.


Iced coffee – just like I ordered

Technically he delivered what I ordered. But now you see why I get nervous ordering iced coffee!