Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sydney - 29 and 30 November 2010

I was quite excited about going to Sydney, and quite apprehensive given that it would - I had imagined - be non-stop stress and full-on exhaustion. In fact, it wasn't all that stressful, although I'll confess to being zombieish for much of Monday, and Wednesday (post-return).

The food aspects of the trip are as follows.

Qantas domestic (cannot comment on International) is still baffling. Obviously I requested VGML, and got the same as everyone else bar subbing some sort of bready roll item with a gluten free quinoa apple and ginger cake (in theory could've been okay - but I will not eat cake for breakfast). Sanitarium high sugar cereal (ignored) + full cream milk (which I loathe, but drank out of desperate thirst) + reconstituted orange juice (ignored) + tasteless watery coffee.

Much the same as offered in May this year bar the cereal - in May it was a different Sanitarium cereal, but the non-Vegos got Carman's museli - WHY? The coffee was markedly worse in November vs. May, when it was actually drinkable.

I remain baffled by Qantas's substitutions for VMGL recipients, given the omni offerings would've been perfectly suitable. After 4 hours' sleep, though, I didn't really care.

Lunch? Too tired and foggy to contemplate anything other than a double espresso and a ludicrously overpriced Sundowner apple courtesy of the Woolworths near Town Hall. ($5.99 a kilo! I pay less for organic!)

Dinner? My aunt, and later on cousin, were gracious enough to give up their Monday evening (despite a hellishly early start for both, too) and take  me out to dinner. By some physiological witchcraft, a session in the hotel gym actually woke me up (still not sure how my body manages this) enough to string some sentences together, so conversation wasn't a complete washout.

My cousin had nominated Sailor's Thai at The Rocks, which pleased me because I thought it would be nuts to go to Sydney and not have Thai food.

Sailor's Thai was, happily for my tired eyes, barely illuminated although less happily for my tired ears, somewhat noisy. I did like that one wall had a bank of bench seating, with lots of cushions. It looked more friendly, and reminiscent of middle European interiors.

My aunt and I opted for asian mushrooms with tofu, an entree portion of grilled prawns with green chilli sauce, and steamed rice. Choosing was harder than usual, because there were two menus - casual and formal, the former slightly more expensive and longer - and both had many, many options for vegetarians and pescetarians.

Service was prompt, thankfully. The prawns - four - were massive, intact beasts banded by grill marks and presented with the green chilli dipping sauce. The latter was sweet and sour, but not at all hot. I wouldn't have minded a bit of heat, but that's me. Lots of coriander lent some needed freshness. I was possibly a bit odd and ate the prawns complete - I don't have a problem with eating the shells, although at home I always shell them. I tell myself there are useful minerals in the shells... (Then again, as a child I used to eat the eggshells when I had boiled eggs, so obviously I am a bit weird.)

The tofu dish was the standout. A massive block, possibly two, of tofu which had a thin, crispy exterior around silky, warm beancurd. Not too much evidence of frying, thankfully, and the combination of textures was superb. The soft interior was reminiscent of a nicely poached egg. Mushrooms were extremely generous in quantity, and well varied in texture. The sauce was slightly too salty (and I LOVE salt), but otherwise delicious and enhanced with (I presume) whole soy beans and more herbs.

I don't usually order tofu in restaurants because I like the high-value dishes, and I still see tofu as an at-home sort of thing, but this was absolutely amazing.

When my cousin came later, she finished off the tofu dish and we ordered the eggplant salad with steamed egg and prawn floss (entree size). No one was quite sure what the prawn floss was - it looked like, well, fairy floss - and much of the salad seemed to be coriander. This was okay - not as amazing as the other dishes. The eggplant was not, mercifully, slimy. The egg seemed little different to a poached egg.

I'm sure it's possible to have an expensive meal there, but we didn't, and no one was left hungry. I noticed that the tasting menu was $90, which seems pretty good value for a hatted restaurant, especially one in Sydney.

Tuesday? Tuesday was conference food, which meant cakes and biscuits (NO), dismal sandwiches (NO. Had too many "mediterranean vegetable" offerings, thanks), more cakes (NO), and vast summer fruit platters (YES!). Being semi-sick of winter fruit and too frugal to splurge, I went slightly crazy on melon, pineapple and (especially) cherries, strawberries and grapes. Hurry up summer...

Thence back on a plane, for some more Qantas VGML madness. This time it was risoni (ignored - plane pasta, irrespective of shape, doesn't work; rice would have been better) with a tomatoey lentil stew and four broccoli florets and a banana. I don't normally eat bananas, but aeroplanes seem to be the location for abnormality.

Omnis got a dismal chicken stirfry, cheese and crackers and Toblerone. I'm not particularly bothered about the latter (ugh, Kraft), but cheese and chocolate are perfectly suitable for VGML folk, so why the substitution?

I like Sydney, though. Even in what was technically rubbish weather, the harbour still looks stunning, and at least I didn't have to spend my Sydney time navigating in a car, swearing at toll roads.

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