Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2014 | Eveleigh

What is it about fashion that draws our attention? I love fashion because of the way it can makes you feel. Fashion creates a visual illusion in a fleeting moment, a practical form of art, portraying the way you look in the best possible light. On the other hand, the versatility of fashion can also challenge beauty, by proposing new ideas whether revolutionary or evolutionary.

It’s interesting how or what you wear can trigger emotion. I had an interesting encounter one morning on the way to work in the city two weeks ago. In the usual city rush hour, a well-dressed young man in front of me turned around on the escalators, paused looked at me and said, “Can I just say that more women need to dress like you.”  Naturally, I smiled and thanked him for the complement. A pick up line or he truly liked the Israeli couture designer dress I was wearing? I guess I will never know.

Australia’s top fashion designers will hit the runways at the prestigious Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia 2014 in a week's time.

The event will take place at Carriageworks in Eveleigh, Sydney from Sunday April 6, 2014, kicking off with the Australian Fashion Industry Icon, Carla Zampatti until Thursday April 10, 2014, with the usual invitation only attendance by frock watchers in the fashion industry and media.

For those who like high-end fashion, the established designer collections I’m excited to see include: Aurelio Costarella, Alex Perry and Maticevski.

I’m also curious to see Romance was Born, known for their eccentric kaleidoscopic runway installation in the past.

But I always like to see new and fresh designs by up and coming fashion design graduates. The Innovators, 6 hand selected fashion design graduates will be featured this year on the runway. I perused Bei Na Wei’s collection the other day. Keep an eye out on her. Her collection explores and pushes fabrications beyond their traditional uses, twisting industrial strength meshes into elegant draped dresses and basic beads into geometric 3D structural embellishments. Her collection seems to push the frontiers of the Australian fashion landscape I’m looking for. Check out her amazing illustrations on her website too.  

Bei Na Wei's collection

Other young fashion guns’ collections to watch out for on the runway include:

#1 Ciaro Nolan
#2 Hayley Dawson
#3 Logvin Code
#4 Kiaya Daniels
#5 Yousef Akbar

Will the Australian designers push boundaries and excite the senses this year? You’ll just have to find out by attending the event’s Weekend Edition to be held Saturday 12 April and Sunday 13 April.

Where? Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh NSW 2015
When? Open to the general public on 12-13 April, 2014
Cost? Tickets from $50 -$150

Where to purchase? Tickets available from the Mercedes Benz Fashion Weekend Edition 2014 website.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adopt a Nomad from The Karton Group | Shopping

A nomad is a person with no settled home, who moves from place to place. That’s exactly the best word to describe The Karton Group’s recycled, double-wall cardboard modules - versatile enough to create permanent or temporary partitions for your home or office. An old school pal was offering a good home for the Nomads so we installed them at her work office.

The Nomad System is a modular architectural system that can be assembled into freestanding partitions without hardware, tools or damage to existing structures. They come in packs of 24 modules (sheets) and there are 10 colours.

The Nomad System can also be configured to create doorways and corners, easily adjusting to any indoor space, including lofts, basements and office spaces. In my friend’s case, we built the Nomad System using 24 modules to see how it would turn out as a replacement for a worn out curtain in the patient’s examination section of her medical practice.


#1 Versatility. You can move them around and modules can be configured in any way you want without the need for a hammer or nails.

#2 Interesting: The Nomad System adds colour that pop, with an interesting texture look to an otherwise dull and boring room.

#3 Cost effective: It's a relatively cheap way to separate a room

#4 Sustainable: It makes you feel good knowing it's a sustainable piece of décor added to the home or office.


#1 Not waterproof. The Nomad System is purely for indoor and not outdoor settings

#2 Detailed instructions required. It might have taken less time if detailed instructions came with the box and actual pictures of what it should look like in the end.

#3 Colours might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Colour choice is limited to the primary and secondary colours. It would be great if it came in some lighter coloured swatches, along similar lines to a Dulux coloured paint fan deck for enhanced versatility.

Best way to put together

For us, there were 5 key steps in putting the Nomad System together:

1. Work out how many Nomads we had
2. Draw on a piece of paper how we wanted it stacked up
3. Figure out what texture look we wanted (from Googled pictures)
4. Figure out how the colours best matched by laying all the modules flat on the floor
5. Piecing it all together

The measurements of each module are:

Module Length: 53 cm
Module Width: 35.5 cm
Module Thickness: 0.5 cm

Where to get it?

The Karton Group sells the Nomad System online for $95 (for 24 modules) which is delivered to your door.


The Nomad System is a cost effective and versatile way to partition off a room at home or in the office. Once you work out how to pull the first 3 or 4 pieces together it's not that difficult in the end but some planning is required before assembling it. Although the colours might not be to everyone's liking, it is probably best to stick to no more than 3 matching colours if they're for a professional office. The Karton Group’s sustainable products are catching on so check out their other range too to see how you can mix and match (see my review on the Dutch Design Chair).

Monday, March 24, 2014

3 reasons to see 2001: A Space Odyssey this Friday | Cremorne

2001: A Space Odyssey, a 1968 classic was released well before I was born and has its own cult followers. My true obsession with science fiction only really began when I was at university and I proudly admit, a Trekky, but not the old stuff, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and beyond…and anything involving Captain Jean-Luc Picard and omnipotent ‘Q’. That said, E.T and Star Wars I have seen and heard many times over, but I will be one of those who will not hesitate to tell you that Star Trek is better than Star Wars (quick… duck as a lightsaber is virtually thrashed at my throat by the New York Jedi Society cult leader…seriously they exist!).

So what’s all the hype with 2001: A Space Odyssey? I don’t know as I am waiting patiently to find out on Friday in Sydney, where I can catch it at the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne.

Why should I be going? Here are my 3 reasons:

#1 2001:  A Space Odyssey is an Oscar winning classic and a film boasting originality set in a time (the 60s) where special effects were very limited. It will be interesting to see how far space films have come in 45 years given I’ve recently seen Gravity in 3D with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Apparently, Star Wars would not have existed if it were not for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

#2 Memorable scenes: I have heard there are some memorable scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat – somewhere at the beginning and the end of the film. The ending is also a puzzle apparently which although was obvious to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the screenplay.

#3 Meet the stars: If you go to the Hayden Orpheum this Friday 28 March, you can meet the stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood of this landmark film on stage in person before watching it on the Orpheum’s giant screen in beautiful digital plus.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy 2001: A Space Odyssey this coming Friday in Sydney!
When? Friday, 28 March 2014, movie from 7.30pm (161mins). For those wanting a once in a life time memorabilia, the actors will be available in the foyer from 6.30pm (fee involved).
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
380 Military Road
Cremorne NSW 2090
Tickets? Purchase online to avoid disappointment and long queues


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Secret to the perfect steak with Chophouse Chef Scott Kim | Sydney CBD

As a city professional, I am always in search for establishments suitable for a business lunch in the Sydney CBD. The criteria I’m looking for is a discreet destination to eat while schmoozing and scheming that deal. Chophouse, a New York styled steakhouse on Bligh Street is a rustic yet classy establishment for clinching deals or nailing ideas on new business ventures over juicy red meat and red wine.

Chophouse during a Friday lunch

When you go to Chophouse, you will be going to the best steakhouse in the Sydney CBD. Nothing beats a well-cooked steak by Head Chef, Scott Kim, the backbone to Chophouse’s outstanding menu. The proof in the power of Chophouse’s steak is the traffic it draws during lunch on a work day where bookings are highly recommended if you don’t want to disappoint your clients by taking your chances of getting a table without a booking.

Chophouse's rib-like interiors: Like dining inside a cow.

Interview with Head Chef, Scott Kim

I was lucky to catch up with Head Chef, Scott Kim for a chat just before the establishment got busy preparing for its Friday lunches (including mine).

Inspiration of becoming a chef and cooking style

Scott Kim always loved to cook but never thought of becoming a chef would be his career. He enrolled into a hospitality course at university and found himself doing most of the cooking at friends and family places. Two years into his university course, it dawned upon him that he should become a chef. Scott Kim was destined to cook. He has been at Chophouse for six years and prior to that, Kingsleys.

“My mother was my inspiration. She’s a very good cook” says Scott Kim, who was influenced by Korean cuisine, from his mother’s cooking in his early years. Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, vegetables and meats, and it is obvious where the love of cooking a great steak comes from.

Chophouse inspired by the great steakhouses around the world

Chophouse is influenced by the New York steakhouses in America. You will notice on the Chophouse menu the Dry Aged Delmonico. The name of this steak is derived from the name of a restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1837 called Delmonico Restaurant, self-proclaimed as ‘America’s first fine dining restaurant’, and one of its signature dishes was a cut from the short loin that was called the Delmonico steak. Due to its association with the city, it has since been referred to as a New York strip.

What are the different types of steaks you can have and how do you choose from the menu?

The Dry Aged Delmonico, Scott Kim says, is for those steak connoisseurs who have tried all the types of steaks out there. It’s a different type of steak as it has already gone through a drying process a bit like semi dried tomatoes, as it was explained to me. The dry aging process slowly develops the flavour and the tenderness of the beef. A crust forms on the outside of the loin and is trimmed away, leaving a buttery taste and nutty aroma. The Dry Aged Delmonico is best served medium rare.

The type of meat influences whether it should be cooked medium rare, medium or well done. As noted above, the Delmonico is best medium rare because of the dry aging process. If you like your meat medium, or medium well done then other types of meat on the menu would be suitable such as the Wagyu rump cap and the other pasture and grain fed steaks.

The menu has a selection of beef sourced around Australia:

Pasture or grassfed beef. This is essentially beef that has been fed grass and leaves a slight acidic after taste in your palette (bit like the residual smell of grass after you have mowed the lawn).

Grain fed beef. The beef is from the cattle raised on grain feeds giving beef a bit more bulk than pasture fed cattle.

Wagyu. This is essentially a breed of cattle with marbling, a fine fat (good fat) contained within the muscle and it is the marbling that gives the wagyu beef its unsurpassed taste, texture and tenderness.

Source of produce for the Chophouse menu

All produce for the Chophouse menu is locally sourced. You will see on the menu where a particular type of steak is from, all hand selected from the local suppliers. Chophouse acknowledges the importance of knowing where the food comes from.

Tips of cooking a good steak

The art of cooking a good steak in Chophouse lies in the Montague Broiler (which the Chophouse kitchen team nickname, ‘George’). Broiling is a heat method where the heat source from grilling comes from above, ensuring the meat better retains its moisture and flavour, ensuring your steak comes out guaranteed to be tender and juicy.

So I asked Scott Kim, what if I don’t have a broiler at home and wanted to cook a good steak. What tips could he offer? Scott Kim said the secret to cooking a good steak is allowing the steak to rest after it is cooked. If a steak has been grilled for 10 minutes, then it should be rested for 10 minutes. I then questioned, if you leave it that long, wouldn’t the steak cool off? Scott advises to reheat it gently after it has rested but it is important to let the meat rest. As meat is cooked the proteins in the meat heat up and set. When the proteins set they push the meat’s juices towards the centre of the meat. Allowing the meat to stand away from the heat before serving allows the juices, which have been driven to the centre of the meat to redistribute throughout the meat and be reabsorbed. As a result the meat will lose less juice when you cut it and be far more tender and juicy to eat.

Chophouse's Head Chef, Scott Kim with the Dry Aged Delmonico steak cut

Location and Ambience

The interiors of Chophouse are rustic, dim, romantic, capturing an elusive charm. Scott Kim pointed out to me that if you look above at the ceiling, the symmetrical beams above resemble ribs, creating an atmosphere as if you are dining inside the ribs of a cow. It was also pointed out to me that the location of Chophouse use to be a cinema (focusing on films on the naughty side of the spectrum). The evidence is the space carved above the establishment that once housed the cinema projectors. Function rooms for large groups are located upstairs with a similar rustic appeal with its well-worn wooden floors.

Top left: Chophouse's Head Chef Scott Kim next to the Montague Broiler, Chophouse's secret weapon.
Top right: Wagyu Rump Cap, F1 Tajima wagyu, Qld
Bottom: Steamed green beans with herb, roasted garlic butter and shoestring fries


We ordered the masterpiece 200 g Wagyu Rump Cap MB 8+, a ‘F1 Tajima wagyu’ sourced from Queensland, which was served with harissa jus on the side ($39.50). It was nicely grilled, medium done, juicy and tender enough that your knife sinks right through.

We also ordered sides of steam green beans with herb roasted garlic butter ($9.20) and the shoestring fries ($9) which were sublime.

For dessert we had the New York baked triple chocolate cheesecake with white chocolate mousse ($11.90), a chocoholic’s delight. The white chocolate mousse was soft and frothy like, a good light-shade contrast to the rich chocolate cheesecake. We were also served the Chophouse special chocolate bar which was simply to die for - smooth and melts in your mouth.

After all this food, we were rolling out and found it hard to go back to work on a Friday afternoon.

Bottom left: New York baked triple chocolate cheesecake with white chocolate mousse
Bottom right: Chophouse chocolate bar


The service was flawless and our waitstaff had attention to the smallest detail. She ran through the specials without missing a beat and the explanation of the different types of steaks was succinctly said.


To fulfil anyone’s most carnivorous desires, the Chophouse will have you salivating. It had us going…so much so that I forgot to take photos of the starters for this article. Chophouse, with its signature steak dishes are most tender and juicy, and a perfect lunch spot in Sydney CBD if you're looking for high-class charm and highly-polished service.

Chophouse's charming rustic table setting

Chophouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Top 3 lighted hearted French films to watch | Around Australia

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2014 is now on and there is a good selection of great French flicks to keep you entertained. I’ve always found French films a little quirky than the normal mainstream flicks and these films always manage to make me smile or have a good laugh.  Even the animated French films are interesting. I recall watching A Monster in Paris, which I watched as I was learning French at the time. I recall the music was sensational and sensual (maybe a little too sensual for a kids flick) in that film. I don't understand French but the English subtitles in this film ensure you don’t miss a beat. 

When these festivals are on every year, I find it difficult to choose which films to watch as there are so many of them to choose from and there is so little time to watch all of them. Anyway, I do have a trusty French pal who gives me tips to help narrow the selection and also a pal who has watched a few already. It really does depend on what genre you like, but after a long hard days work, give me anything that’s funny, quirky and light hearted and I’ll happily watch it. I'm sure there will be quite a few people in the same category.

Here are my Top 3 picks to go and see this year and extracts of what these films are all about:

1. Me, Myself and Mom: This film has won many awards this year and last: Cannes International Film Festival 2013: Director's Fortnight; Cesar Awards Nominations 2014: Best Film, Best Actor, Best First Film, Best Editing and Best Writing. It's a short film (about 1 hour 20 minutes) and it is very funny.  It is a one-man stage show where award-winning actor-writer-director Guillaume Gallienne plays a young manner struggling with his sexuality and also, plays his domineering mother who raised him to be gay before he had a chance to define his own sexuality. An engaging comedy that will ensure you will never see a massage the same way again (I didn't when I was scheduled for one the following day!).

Scene from Me, Myself and Mom

2. Cycling with Moliere: Serge (Fabrice Luchini) is a retired great actor, living as a recluse amid the windswept landscape of the Île de Ré. Gauthier (Lambert Wilson), a fellow actor currently enjoying a career high as a TV heartthrob, visits Serge and tempts him to make a comeback with a production of Molière’s play, The Misanthrope. Before agreeing, Serge insists on seven days of rehearsal. Will Serge finally say yes? Will the pair of ego-centric actors survive their week of intense readings and occasional bike trips around the picturesque island? The addition of a mysterious Italian divorcée (Maya Sansa) as a love interest adds a deliciously romantic frisson to this hilarious and brilliantly acted take on the classic French comedy of manners.

Scene from Cycling with Moliere

3. It Boy: It Boy takes a hilarious look at sex, ambition and age differences in the glamorous world of Parisian publishing. Beautiful and talented Alice (Virginie Efira) is in her late thirties, with her sights set on the top job at the haute couture fashion magazine, Rebelle. Unfortunately her uptight attitude makes her boss Vincent (Gilles Cohen) doubt she has what it takes. However when she meets the 20-year-old Balthazar (Pierre Niney), a chain of misunderstandings suddenly finds her with a newfound cougar persona that changes her image, and her career chances, for the better. Can Alice keep up her new man-eating appearance? And what happens when her sham relationship with Balthazar becomes something more serious? There’s real chemistry here between TV presenter turned comedian Virginie Efira and Pierre Niney, the twice César Award nominated star of the 2012 hit, Romantics Anonymous. This is a funny and frothy movie that’s sure to appeal to lovers of fast-paced romantic comedies.
Scene from It Boy
More information? Alliance French Film Festival 2014 website

Sydney: 4-26 March
Melbourne: 4-27 March
Canberra: 6-27 March
Brisbane: 6-28 Mar
Perth: 18 March - 6 Apr
Adelaide: 20 March - 8 Apr
Byron Bay: 24-28 Apr

The Bar at the End of the Wharf | Walsh Bay

The Bar at the End of the Wharf is just that – a bar at the end of the wharf. If you like a quiet, casual and open establishment boasting the best Sydney Harbour views, then head towards The Bar at the End of the Wharf in Walsh Bay. Although the establishment is known for its waterside bar, I wasn’t there for a drink. I went there alone for lunch during a work week to take a breather, to get away from the busyness of the CBD.

View from where I was sitting at The Bar at the End of the Wharf

Sydney’s Walsh Bay has a history. It was once upon a time awashed with rubbish and infested with rats, ripe conditions for the bubonic plague. The Sydney Harbour Trust was established to rebuild the port of Sydney, where wharves were renewed and whole streets disappeared as cliffs were cut down to form Hickson Road. New double decked finger wharves were built with a series of bridges, which connected the upper levels to the high roads of Millers Point. In the years that followed, Walsh Bay flourished on the back of vast cargoes of wool but by the early seventies the wharves fell into a period of disuse. From a tour I did with Sydney Architecture Walks, I learnt this was mainly because shipment for wool was taken over by shipment of things like containers and these ships could not dock between the finger wharves.  Walsh Bay languished for a time until in 1982 Pier One was turned into a shopping and amusement complex. The real transformation started when the Sydney Theatre Company and the restaurant took over wharves 4 and 5. Today, Walsh Bay is Sydney's cultural hub and award winning modern architecture sits happily beside heritage buildings. 

What you will see as you walk towards the establishment

Location and Ambience

Right towards the end of Pier 4, where The Wharf Theatres adjoin the Sydney Dance Company, there is a little establishment, well hidden away, right on the water’s edge with unrivalled views of Sydney Harbour. Seriously, a true delight. The standout is the open dining space that has been created in this establishment. The establishment is split into three areas, all with superb views of the harbour. The sun does creep in and can get quite hot so just choose the best spot under the shade.

The southern end of the establishment

It’s not obvious place to get to. As you arrive in Pier 4, you walk up the stairs (with the Sydney Theatre Company box office to your left). At the top of the stairs you, you need to walk along a long corridor with rustic timber flooring. It’s probably a two minute walk to the end of the corridor, where the establishment is located, maybe longer if you stop to admire the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the black and white photos of actors and actresses who have performed at the Sydney Theatre Company including Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett.

Another diner also admiring the views of some of Walsh Bay's million dollar apartments

Food and Coffee

It’s a pretty ‘no frills’ sort of menu. There is a ‘Day’ and ‘Dinner’ menu. The Day menu covers both breakfast and lunch. Not the healthiest option, but somedays you just feel like Fish & Chips with Chipotle Mayo ($18). The fish underneath the batter was hot and fresh. I probably would have preferred it without the batter, like grilled, as the batter was a little overdone. Next time, I may try and ask whether they could grill the fish instead.

Some of other lunch choices are:
Roast Chicken, Tomato & Corn Toasty ($10)
Home Made Pie with Green Salad ($8)

Wild Mushroom Arancini with Truffle & Pecorino ($14)
Quiche of the Day with Green Salad ($12)
Classic Beef Burger with Steak Cut Chips ($14)
Soybean, Chilli and Sour Cream Burger with Steak Cut Chips ($14)

You can get decent coffee here too.

Fish & chips at The Bar at The End of the Wharf
Best time to go

The best time to go for quiet time is a work day lunch time. Very few people are around then and on a bright sunny day, the views of Sydney Harbour are second to none. These conditions make it an ideal location for a gentle schmooze business meeting, whilst also having lunch, coffee, some wine and more wine perhaps, whilst you overlook Sydney Harbour.

If you go in the evening, especially just before a show on a Saturday night, it will be a completely different scene. The atmosphere buzzes with theatre goers who are there having a drink or two before a show.


No matter what your views are on which capital city is better for dining or simply hanging out, you cannot surpass the open space and the panoramic views of Sydney Harbour at The Bar at the End of the Wharf. It's simply a delight.

Where? Pier 4, Hickson Rd, Dawes Point NSW 2000
Phone? 02) 9250 1761
Monday to Friday 9.30am to late
Saturdays 12pm to late. Sundays closed.

Some inspirational words to part with as you leave the establishment

 The Theatre Bar at the End of The Wharf on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why I like the Dutch Design Chair from The Karton Group | Shopping

Furniture designed respecting not only its function in a person's day to day life but also the environment deserves some special recognition. The Dutch Design Chair, which can be used as stool or a little table, is an innovative and quirky piece of furniture design.

5 reasons why I like the Dutch Design Chair

#1 Sustainable: The Dutch Design Chair is sustainable as it is made out of paper...cardboard to be exact, which makes it lightweight (896 grams) and easy to move around from room to room in your home.

#2 Eye candy: Visually, the Dutch Design Chair is appealing. It's a 30 cm x 30 cm x 34 cm cube stool that comes in various funky surface designs. I'm drawn to the shabby chic designs of Beechwood, Tree Trunk, Something Blue and Scrapwood. The one I have is Scrapwood that sits in my living room as an interesting and unique piece of décor. There are other designs with pop colours, which could work quite well in children's rooms.

#3 Sturdy: Despite being made out of cardboard, the Dutch Design Chair is quite sturdy and can carry weight of up to 200 kilograms. I'm not sure how it would handle coffee or tea spills, but to be safe I mainly use it as a chair to sit on when I have guests over my home, or it can be used to play a musical instrument, like the guitar or cello, as the stool gives you the freedom to sit anyway you need to without the restriction of a normal arm chair. If I was to use it as a table, I would place books or magazines on it, rather than food.

#4 Putting it together yourself: The Dutch Design Chair is sent as a flat pack, which means you need to put it together yourself. There are no nails or screwdrivers to put it together. It took me about 15 minutes to build The Dutch Design Chair. It comes with a manual and I found it pretty easy to follow.

#5 Affordable: Retailing $49 from The Karton Group, you are not paying hundreds for a stool that is aesthetically pleasing and sustainable. Because it is lightweight and relatively small in size it would make a practical housewarming gift.

Where to get it?

The Karton Group sells the Dutch Design Chair online for $49 which is delivered to your door.


If you are looking to add something truly special and unique to your home, or are searching for a perfect gift, then the Dutch Design Chair has it covered. In a small way, the Dutch Design Chair will set your home or office apart from the rest.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where can you get the best Chai Tea?...Kettletown | Shopping

Lily Wang and Vincent Maneno, business owners of Kettletown have something brewing, and it’s a bit different. I first met Lily at a workshop that taught us how to make old fashioned calendars from sticky fabric paper (long story, but if you want to read about it, here’s the review) at a pop up store in Darlinghurst, where Kettletown shared the creative space with another business that ran the calendar workshops. Kettletown's display, decorated with plants and herbs, was beautiful with rows of nicely packaged boxes of exotic teas that you would not ordinarily see on a supermarket shelf. I had my young tech savvy cousin tagging along with me at this calendar DIY workshop (in my attempt to give her some work experience as a writer) and when I asked her what the best part of the workshop was, she said ‘The tea and scones were the best!’ (i.e. it had nothing to do with calendar making…sigh).

But secretly, I really did enjoy the tea and scones that day too and took home a packet of the Kettletown’s blend of chai tea, which was gone within a couple of days.

The experience – taste and aroma

The tea that I’m now devoted to is Kettletown’s ‘Zanzibar Chai’. Have you heard or been to Zanzibar? Google it and you will notice stunning white sand, blue water pictures of an East Coast African island, that rivals the shores of Tahiti. It’s just another place to add to my list to visit one day.

Like its name, the taste of the Zanzibar Chai tea blend is exotic. I like my chai tea like my normal English breakfast tea – strong with a splash of milk and no sugar. I prefer to pass on the sugar so that I can really taste the tea blend. The colour and taste of the tea brewed is strong with fragrant presence in aroma and in your mouth, which gives you a wonderful sense of well being after a cup. Zanzibar Chai is a full bodied spicy Kenyan black tea infused with coconut.

What is it about Kettletown’s tea that makes it different?

The main thing that makes Kettletown's tea standout of all tea blends is that the teas are designed to be paired with specific types of desserts. The pairing accentuates the notes of each tea blend.

So, for example, it is recommended that if you have the Zanzibar Chai ($12 per box) then it should be enjoyed with a doughnut or fried bread (in Africa, it's known as 'mandazi', a form of fried bread that originated in Eastern Africa in the Swahili coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania) or alternatively a ginger bread biscuit.

Strawberry Sunset ($12), an oolong blend with notes of sweet vanilla and jasmine is best enjoyed with fruity tarts and pavlovas.

Summer Rose ($15), a white tea blend with notes of orange enhancing delicate taste of rose, is best paired with rosewater scones or creamy shortbread.

Blueberry Blossoms ($10), a black tea blend with notes of fragrant blueberry and nutty almond, coupled with a natural sweetness of calendular, is best enjoyed with a lemon meringue tart or pancakes with berries.

New Paradise ($10), a citrus flavoured blacktea with notes of sweet caramel finished with a taste of cranberry, is best with white chocolate desserts or sticky date pudding.

Golden Indulgence ($10), a sweet hot chocolate substitute with nutty almond notes, is best enjoyed with raspberry, citrus or banana flavours, perhaps a banana cake or a raspberry mousse.

Mintilla ($10), is a light digestive blacktea with creamy vanilla notes and fresh peppermint, best served after a meal with creamy cheesecake or pannacotta.

What was Kettletown’s inspiration for making their blend of tea?

Starting their business a year ago, Lily and Vincent's inspiration for designing their own tea blend is that they found tea blends just not strong enough compared to those in Africa. I couldn't agree more, which is why I love Kettletown's teas - when you take a sip, you can tell a lot of thought and hard work have gone into making the perfect tea blend.

How do you get the best flavour?

For the black teas, it's best to seep in boiled water at about 80-90 degrees Celsius for about 2-3 minutes.

For white teas, it's best to seep in 70-80 degrees Celsius for 2-3 minutes.

Alternative gift idea

With samples at only $2 per packet, Kettletown's teas make perfect and cost effective bonbonniere gifts for weddings, bridal showers, kitchen tea parties and the like. Not to mention, it gives someone an experience of tasting something different, instead of the normal run of the mill soap, candles or chocolates.

Where to get them?

The simplest way to purchase Kettetown teas is online through their website.

Alternatively, you can meet the talented tea couple at a pop up store or markets throughout Sydney.

Workshop Makery

106 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst 2010

The Sweet Spot

18 Perouse Road, Randwick 2031

Shop 1, 2 Allen St ( Crn Botany Road), Waterloo 2017

Salt Meat and Cheese

MLC Centre Pop-Up
Martin Place
Corner of King St and Castlereagh St
Sydney 2000

The Agrestic Grocer

426 Molong Road, Orange 2800

Market Days

The Beaches Market, Warriewood
2nd, 3rd and 4th Friday of every month

SMH Growers Market, Pyrmont
1st Saturday of every month

Bondi Markets
2nd, 3rd and 4th Saturday of every month


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Anvil Coffee Co | Kirribilli

On the day I was at Anvil Coffee Co, was the day the building I work in was evacuated due to a major fire on the construction site next door at Barangaroo, Sydney CBD and consequently, intense smoke infiltrated our offices and our airways. Everyone was basically sent home until further notice.

So taking the scenic route home, I decided to stop by Anvil Coffee Co in Kirribilli for lunch after a recommendation from my brother who warned me it can get very busy. As siblings, we could not be any more different than chalk and cheese, but nevertheless I thought to stop by to give the place a go for lunch. When I arrived, wow, what a discovery…

Our beautiful Sydney Harbour on the ferry, and the views in Anvil Coffee Co in Kirribilli
Location and Ambience

As I was coming from the city, I got to Anvil Coffee Co by a pleasant 5 minutes ride via the Neutral Bay ferry from Circular Quay. We have a beautiful harbour that seems to look different each time I look at it. When you step off Kirribilli ferry wharf, and walk a few metres up the ramp, you will notice an establishment so small that it’s like a rustic sailor’s cabin. When you walk in, you can see the small kitchen and counter all in the one space and you will not miss the aroma of coffee. There are seats outside the establishment just near the ferry ramp but if you walk further in the café, there are small tables for two by the large open windows with simply stunning south eastern views of Sydney Harbour that I would normally expect to see in a fine dining establishment.

My view from my table at Anvil Coffee Co, Kirribilli
I sat at a table by the big open windows overlooking Sydney Harbour and some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate situated off the little harbour peninsulas. You are literally perched on the water and you can hear the sound of the waves softly roll and crash against the timber at the bottom of the establishment. The windows with timber frames covered in peeled paint are open, ensuring there is a soft sea breeze against your face as you look through the lunch menu. The fresh air of Sydney Harbour was a good way to detox my lungs from the smoke inhalation earlier on. The view is simply stunning.

If you choose to sit near the window, it does get hot after a while as the sunlight streams through the large open windows. It wasn’t too uncomfortable for me but I did notice a couple leave to take a spot on the outside of the establishment which is a lot cooler, being under shade.

The tables look like they have been made from repurpose wood. It’s not really one of those tables where you can comfortably put your legs through (which is fine if space is compromised for sensational views) so you have to sit on an angle, but the tables have a little space that allows ladies to place their handbags (if it's small enough) in the little compartment. I’m not sure if the table was designed for this purpose, but I used it as I have this thing against putting handbags on the floor (rumoured to be bad luck from a money perspective, so I thought not to take my chances).

Food and coffee

Anvil Coffee Co’s drinks menu has an interesting list of coffee blends for you to try including their Far Poppy Blend and Kenya Kiang. As it was a warm day, I tried their cold coffee, the Black Magic Over Coconut ($5.50). They also had an interesting tea blend – I will need to try Peace & Quiet Her Bal Tisane tea next time.

Black Magic Over Coconut is a single origin double espresso served over young coconut water and ice. It does look like Coke poured into a glass when the mixture settles, but the taste is very different.

Black Magic is a cold drink and a powerful caffeine hit with the subtle hint of young coconut water. The coffee and coconut water combination was unusual which is why tried it. But the espresso is the dominant taste. If I was feeling lethargic in any sort of way before walking in the establishment that drink zapped that problem away pretty quickly.

For lunch I had the Avocado Quinoa Tabbouleh, Meredith Dairy goat’s cheese & lemon vinaigrette on gluten free bread ($16). It says sourdough on the menu but I chose gluten free. It’s organic, healthy and a light lunch. I’ve always loved the zesty taste of tabbouleh. I’m fussy about my tabbouleh as I am about my coffee. Oh yes, I’ve studied the taste of tabbouleh in various recipes and forms – too much lemon juice is not good, additions of shallots or lettuce is an absolute no, no. Anvil’s tabbouleh was perfect, which was upgraded with quinoa, a highly nutritious gluten free grain, instead of burghul (durum wheat). A great vegetarian lunch.


The service was friendly, relaxed and accommodating. I didn’t really notice the background music until two elderly diners mentioned to the wait staff there was something wrong with the music recording as it was repetitive. The wait staff replied, 'There is nothing wrong with the music (sounded like house music), it’s like that, but I’ll turn it down for you.” I was quietly amused.

Best time to go

Contrary to what my brother said, who must have gone either during a work day morning, as commuters rush to catch the ferry to the city, or a weekend, it was quite tranquil with only a few people there during a workday lunch time. This is another great little establishment I can crawl into to hideout for quiet time (assuming I can get there on a weekday lunch as that’s the best time to go).


You really can’t get better views than in Anvil Coffee Co, which was clearly the highlight. The lunch was organic and wholesome and for an enhanced experience, I would recommend you try to go during a time when city commuters are not around. Anvil Coffee Co is an understated little gem on our grand Sydney Harbour.
Where? Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli NSW 2061
When? Mon-Sat 7am-3pm, Sun 8am-3pm
Phone? 0405 143 774


Anvil Coffee Co on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rustic Pearl café | Surry Hills

Surry Hills, you little charmer. When you step into Rustic Pearl café, it’s like stepping into a well lived-in tiny home of someone with fine taste and meticulous style, and with service that complements the welcoming warmth of a good friend.

Location and Ambience

Bits and pieces of odds and sods of what appears to be collections of travel pieces from the Balkan Peninsula (Southeast Europe) are decorated throughout this shoebox establishment. The tables have imprinted on them kaleidoscope patterns, influenced by byzantine and mosaic designs. The décor is subtle and interesting enough to ensure you pause for a minute to have a look at each piece on display.

The beautiful yet unusual décor left me stunned in awe and I took a couple of minutes to absorb the establishment’s rustic grace. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into the creation and placement of beautiful and yet eccentric interiors. Size doesn’t matter. This establishment leaves you spellbound.

Interiors in Rustic Pearl

Food and Drinks

Whilst my morning caffeine fix served in a beautiful pastel sky blue ceramic cup was very good - freshly brewed aroma with a smooth taste, well balanced and not bitter – it is the food and the cold drink menu that was the standout at Rustic Pearl. Don’t get me wrong, the coffee is good, but the food is outstanding.

The food and drink menu reflects a similar interesting kaleidoscope to the interiors. Each item on the menu provokes images in your head of something colourful and appetising.

Non (or low) caffeinated drink

The Turkish apple iced tea with lemon, rose, mint and cucumber ($6.50) is a must try. It’s a cold and simply refreshing healthy drink. The apple and tea is well balanced, being the main taste of this drink. The taste of the lemon rose and mint combination in this drink is very subtle.

There are other drinks that look just as appetising, such as the following which I will just have to try another time:

Homemade minted lemonade with fresh seasonal fruit $6.50
Sour cherry nectar $4
Ginger beer (Strange Love) $4.5
Greenpower juice (Emma & Tom’s) $5
Coconut water (Emma & Tom’s) $5
Banana smoothie fresh banana, yoghurt, milk, honey & cinnamon $6.50
Avocado smoothie fresh avocado, yoghurt, milk, honey & pistachio $6.50
Helva smoothie tahini, grape molasses, honey, yoghurt & milk $6.50
Summer iced latte/ long black 8oz $4 /12oz $5

Top right: Turkish apple iced tea with lemon, rose, mint and cucumber is the drink to try at Rustic Pearl


I had the sucuk bruschetta, which comprised of chargrilled sucuk, melted buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato, basil, rocket, pomegranate molasses and soft boiled egg ($17). Surprisingly, this well presented meal was not too heavy for breakfast. The dish was a delicious combination of savoury and sweet flavours. The waitstaff told me ‘sucuk’ is actually pronoun
ced ‘sujuk’. It is a dry, spicy chorizo like sausage eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia. Brickfields in Chippendale had a similar ingredient in their toasted sandwiches.

The highlight though, was what my friend had: the spinach, fetta & mozzarella gözlemes ($16). Gözlemes is a savoury traditional Turkish pastry dish, made of hand-rolled dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs, filled in this case with spinach, fetta and mozzarella and just writing about this makes my stomach grumble. This dish is again well presented in a work-of-art style and served on a wooden board. It was really enough to feed two people. Had we known, we could have shared this dish. This dish is truly hearty and food for the soul.

Sucuk bruschetta
Spinach, fetta & mozzarella gözlemes


Service is just outstanding. It feels like you have been welcomed into a good friend's home.

Best time to go

This interesting little establishment probably can seat no more than 10 people at a time. We were there for an early morning 8.30am Saturday breakfast and there were still a few tables available. Come 9.30am, it’s full and you are left with getting takeaway.


The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but they are extremely rare. This establishment certainly lives up to its name. I can’t recommend Rustic Pearl enough. I’ve dined in a lot of places in Sydney being a food blogger, but this one is an all-rounder 5 star in everything – food, drinks, coffee, service. Rustic Pearl, it's establishments like yours that make Sydney one of the best places in the world to dine.

Location? 415 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone? 0406 930 083
8am to 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday
8am to 10pm Friday, Saturday

 Rustic Pearl on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014 NAB Women's Agenda Leadership Awards Event | Winners

We are lucky to live in a country that fosters and supports female talent in business and the community. On Thursday, 6 March 2014, I was invited to attend the second annual NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, where the winners of the best and most inspiring female talent were announced.

The luncheon, which was held at Dolton House in Pyrmont Park last week, was well attended and you were provided with an excellent two course meal and a goodies bag including the book, ‘Getting real about having it all’ by Megan Dalla-Camina. I haven’t read it yet but the title reminds me of ABC’s Q&A live studio recording interview with an inspirational female leader, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director, Christine Lagarde whose advice to a young teenage girl at university resonated with me. Madame Lagarde’s advice to the teenage girl was that from her personal experience, “You don't necessarily succeed on all fronts at the same time. So you should try to be yourself, do your best, and have as much confidence as you can in what you do, and not hesitate to call for help from other women, from other men, from family members, from husband, companion, however, because it's a joint operation. It's not flying solo.”

All winners were impressive, but I was interested in the idea behind the winning emerging entrepreneur. I was particularly interested in young Bridget Loudon’s idea of a freelance platform called ExPERT 360. Freelance platforms seem to be a growing trend, perhaps because of a high number of retrenchments of skilled white-collar workforce during and post GFC and also a large number of executives reaching retirement age who do not want to engage in full time employment but still can perform project based freelance work.

Bridget Loudon was working at global management consulting firm when she realised how many businesses of all sizes needed to engage expertise to complete certain projects. Bridget found that finding flexible talent to provide that expertise in house was difficult and expensive. She also noticed there was a growing pool of quality executives who were working freelance in search of flexibility, mobility and diversity of work. So she conceived a platform to connect the two parties safely, efficiently and enjoyably. That platform went live in July 2013 and is now her business called Expert360. Bridget attributes her success to her 'champion' mentors, who were male. These people not only mentored her, but did something a bit extra:  promoted her ideas and her talent to others behind closed doors.

Congratulations to the 2014 NAB Women’s Agenda winners! You are an inspiration for the next generation of future leaders.

Hall of Fame Entrant | Ann Sherry, AO
Awarded to an inspiring woman who has made a significant and long-term business contribution

Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award | Bridget Loudon ExPERT360
Awarded to a woman who has established a new business or significantly progressed an existing business in the last 12 months

Emerging Leader in the Not-for-Profit Sector | Rachelle Towart
Awarded to an emerging leader in the not-for- profit sector who has demonstrated a positive and measurable impact in her field of expertise

Emerging Leader In the Private Sector | Fay Calderone, Director, MatthewsFolbigg Lawyers
Awarded to an emerging leader in the private sector who has demonstrated a positive and measurableimpact in her field of expertise

Regional/Rural Entrepreneur or Manager of the Year Award | Zoe Waters, Director, Volunteer Services, Barwon Health

The Agenda Setter Award | Alison Monroe, General Manager, Sageco
Awarded to the most inspirational and successful woman who makes a difference, provides real solutions in the world today and is instrumental in building a smarter planet

Emerging Leaderin the Public Sector Award | Michelle Bennetts, Executive General Manager, Aviation and Fire Fighting, Airservices Australia
Awarded to an emerging leader in the public sector who has demonstrated a positive and measurable impact in her field of expertise

Best Employer initiative for Women Award | Caltex
Awarded to the organisation that can best demonstrate how a new or reinvigorated gender diversity initiative is supporting the recruitment, retention and advancement of women.

Male or Female Change Champion of the year Award | Carol Schwartz AM, Founding Chair, Women's Leadership Institute Australia
This Award recognises the significant contribution of a man or woman whose determination, commitment and dedication has changed the landscape for women within their organisation or more broadly across Australian society

Highly Commended Award | Andrew Brewer, Manager Kurnell Refinery, Caltex Kurnell Refinery

Mentor of the Year Award | Lynn Kraus, Sydney Office Managing Partner, Ernst & Young
Awarded to a woman who isusing her achievements, experience and high profile to mentor or sponsor other women, and help more women to excel in their careers


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reuben Hills café | Surry Hills

I have small confession. I can’t drink. Give me a chilli or two (with seeds and all), and I can eat that no problem. Give me a glass of wine or a half and I’m gone. I hear my Caucasian buddies ask incredulously: “Are you serious? You really had a hang over from half a glass of wine? What do you do at Christmas parties?!” Clearly, unheard of. And it’s not one of those things where practice makes you better at it. The more alcohol consumed, the more embarrassing the moments get (I think). Bless the Bordeaux French wine. Curse the Asian glow! A hangover is a hangover, whether from a glass or a half or 10 glasses, it’s just mathematics.

Speaking of unconventional, if you are looking for a café that’s just different, then Reuben Hills in Surry Hills is a great place to try. I’ve been a few times for breakfast and brunch, though be warned - the later you go, the greater the chances you won’t get a seat. 

Observe the tenacity & concentration that goes into making a Reuben Hills coffee
Location and Ambience

This rustic terrace conversion into café is hidden enough in Surry Hills, not in a sense that it’s a hole in a wall laneway café but it’s located on a street where there are not a lot of shops around.

If you go by yourself, you’ll get a seat quickly. Go in a group of more than two, you might have to wait awhile unless you go the break of dawn (which on a Saturday means around 8am). It can get crowded on a Saturday morning. As the day progresses, you can hear the hum of people chatting in the background but not enough for it to be disturbing.


For the health conscious, the organic bircher muesli with rockmelon, apple, blueberry and almonds is quite good. The shredded apple and rockmelon combo is refreshing. I probably would have preferred less blueberry jam and more fresh blueberries, but it was tolerable. All in all, it was a nice and light summer breakfast.

Bircher Muesli at Reuben Hills

For the not so health conscious, you can try the ‘really f***ing great fried chicken with chilli in a basket’. I’m serious, that is what it says on Reuben Hill’s menu. Looking back on a Facebook post by a friend on Reuben Hills, it made me smile. The chain of posts went as follows:

Vegetarian friend: Pity I can't do the "really f***ing great fried chicken"!

Me: Had that last time I was there. It was average.

Vegetarian friend: So it was f***king mediocre Jen, that's what you're saying?

Me: F***ing average.

Friend 3: Will you lot stop F***ing swearing! :-)

So even though the fried chicken wasn’t that great, you will feel good from having a good laugh from what you make of the menu!

On the Reuben Hills menu: 'Really F***ing Great Fried Chicken'

The establishment has bizarre coffee that is inspired by coffee buying trips through Central and South America.

I tried the espresso of the day, Ethiopia Yigacheffe Kochere Orange blossom & Jasmine tea. It’s very strong and potent - goes straight to the head.  

If you prefer something cold, go for the ‘Salted Caramel’ milkshake. It tastes like a caramel milkshake with a bit of salt. It’s not bad but the whole milkshake cup was too much for me so I shared it with my breakfast companion (the vegetarian friend noted above).


The interiors of Reuben Hills are interesting because it looks a bit like a chemistry laboratory. The establishment is wedged between the typical Surry Hill terraces. If you go early, it will be comfortable. Go later, and it's not so with the crowds. Coffee is strong and different if you try the espresso of the day. Fried chicken is alright but not 'really f***ing great'. I preferred the bircher muesli. Overall, it's a cute and quirky café to try if you are in Surry Hills.

Where? 61 Albion Street, Surry Hills, 2010
Phone? 02 9211 5556 (no bookings though)


Mon - Sat: 7am to 4pm
Sun: 7:30am - 4pm
Public Holidays: OPEN 

Something different?
You can join their coffee lab for coffee cupping/tasting sessions.
Every Friday at 10am.

Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon