Tara Guesthouse




You know you are in safe hands if you spot on the shelves in the kitchen of the guesthouse you are staying a copy of Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail cooking, the first two Moro cookbooks, Ottolenghi’s first two books and a Penguin edition of more or less everything that Elizabeth David wrote. You are in even safer hands if the first Moro book is opened up to the recipe for chicken braised with sherry and garlic and the page is spattered with grease.

A late lunch at Doyle’s

There have been two disadvantages with were we are staying in Sydney. The firtst is to do with the breakfast they serve at the Tara Guesthouse. They are so big and stuffed with so many courses that it is difficult to find room for any more food until late afternoon. It is true that yesterday we managed to squeeze in a lunch at Sailors Thai Canteen but we didn’t eat until 3.30 and we were all quite happy to limit ourselves to the one course.
This mornings breakfast started with fruit (melon, figs, passion fruit, strawberries and blue berries), yogurt and muesli, followed by Chinese steamed dumplings and then scrambled eggs, bacon, three different types of sausage (white sausage, black pudding and chorizo), potato cakes, mushrooms, roast tomatoes, smoked salmon and pancakes. All washed down with good coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.
The second disadvantage comes from the fact there are apparently some 400 odd good eating places all within easy walking distance. So not only are we too stuffed to eat anything but there is so much choice we hardly know where to begin. Even on the 10 minute walk to the station there must be at least 30 places to eat and that is just on the one side of the street. They are a mixture of Greek, Turkish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian and all other points between including a place that specialises in meatballs and another in smoked meats. The frustration is that we haven’t time to even scratch at the surface of all these places – although last night, having had our very good Thai lunch, we found somewhere doing some of the best pizzas we have had in a long time, cooked in a vast red wood fired oven so the dough came out blistered and chewy.

We got over these difficulties today by leaving the eating of lunch until the early evening and then having it far away from from the vast cornacopia of choice on our doorstep.
The day started with our taking our full bellies on a ferry to Watson Bay to catch a bus to Bondi with a view to our then doing a stretch of the coast walk. As the ferry pulled in to the landing I saw an awning marked Doyle’s Seafood Restaurant and I commented that it had been recommended.
We walked on and caught our bus and then did the walk from Bondi. There was a wind up and the water came in great roiling breakers off the sea breaking up off the cliffs and filling the sir with a fine spray. We made it as far as the beach at Bronte. There we parked ourselves on the sand and some of us bounced in the waves whilst others got their feet wet.

I had thought that we would be getting the bus back from there into the City. But it transpired I had not been paying attention and the plan was that we would walk back. So as the sun started to go down we found ourselves back in Watson Bay. It was so late in the afternoon that we were just about over breakfast so we made our way over to Doyle’s and asked if they had a table. They were just about able to fit us in. It wasn’t an outside table but we were next to an open window. I had a mixed plate of fried seafood and chips, an oyster, a large prawn and a claw. Elsewhere someone said that these were the best fish and chips she had ever had.

We just about caught the last ferry back the lights of Sydney rushing up towards us across the vast bay..



Getting to Sailors Thai

Six years ago when we were last in Sydney I found myself in a bookshop and in my hands I held a vast signed copy of David Thompson’s book on Thai Street Food. I bought it and took it back to England although it probably took up a sizeable portion of my luggage allowance. It is a beautiful book full of full page pictures of food being cooked and eaten on the streets of Bangkok and in between the pictures there are detailed descriptions on how to go about cooking the food.

Over the years it has come off the shelf and I have cooked from it but have always been left with the sense that I could be eating a lot better from the street stalls in Thailand or even better from a table in Sailors Thai, the restaurant that David Thompson started off in which sits just under the heavy buttresses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

We had to give it some time before we got there for lunch as the guesthouse we are staying in lays on a thick breakfast which included three different types of sausage, bacon and beans ans endless rounds of toast – all of which meant that an appetite had to be worked up.

We did this by wandering slowly around the Opera House and into the Botanic Gardens and then through the streets to The Rocks under the Bridge. When we got there the consensus was that we were not hungry yet. Fortunately we were opposite The Museum of Contempory Art, and even better, they had on an exhibition devoted to the works of Grayson Perry. So we bought our tickets and went in and spent an hour amongst his pots and tapestries trying to tease out the subtle line that he was drawing between himself and the world around him.

We were then ready for Sailors Thai Canteen and made our way into the dark room and the long wooden table that ran parallel to the bar and kitchen. We were not disappointed.

I had a plate of stir fried spicy holy basil with minced chicken, others had deep fried trout with coconut cream choo chee curry with lime leaves, spicy deep fried sweet and sour belly of pork, veg pad thai and chicken with noodles.

On the way home Galen and I found a micro brewery filled with men with big beards and tattoos. They were in the process of putting a large poster up on the wall. There was a temptation to stay there drinking beer until they had got the poster up. But that would have meant that we would still be there now which might not have been such a good idea.


Lost on trains

There is a horror story by Clive Barker about the terrible things that befall a man stuck on a subway train late at night. He finds that he can’t get off the train as it rumbles on to some unknown destination and as he waits in his seat he is beset by strange apparitions dripping blood and other such things.

There were times last night as we tried to navigate the myriad complexities of the Sydney urban transit system when it felt as if we would never got off.

We are now staying closer to the city centre in an area called Newtown round the corner from King Street which was described to us as being the longest shopping precinct in the world. We had a bit of a walk down it yesterday and had lunch in a place called Buzzzbar where we could have felt out of place for a lack of tattoos, black leather and a same sex relationship. As it was we felt quite at home tucking into our burgers and chips. We could have been in Brighton.


King Street was a long row of interesting shops and places to eat. Both sides of the street were covered in awning. I assume that these are to help give some shade to the pavement but yesterday they helped to keep out the rain. Hopefully we shall have another chance to wander down it.

In the evening we had to make out way back to Campsie to help make up the audience for a nationalisation ceremony. We gave ourselves plenty of time to navigate the vagaries of the train system but this was not enough. We had been warned off the express trains that would bypass the station you needed before dumping you at some obscure destination in the suburbs. As we tried to avoid these we were distracted by tannoy announcements for trains to Liverpool via Sefton. Hadn’t we just travelled round the world to get away from there.

Then the tannoy was telling us that the train on the tracks in front of the platform we were on would somehow take us to Campsie despite it being one of the warned about express trains heading for an obscure destination. Putting our trust in the tannoy we got on.

It turns out that an express train in Sydney rarely raises itself above a trundle. And so we puttered out slowly to some obscure destination in the suburbs as night came down. Urgent texts passed between us and those going through the nationalisation ceremony but it became clear we were going to miss it as the train drew to a halt outside a station and the driver announced that we were going to have to stay there a while to allow the trains in front to clear.

Once we got to a station and jumped onto the platform frantic to find the train that would take us to Campsie. Two minutes later we were back on the same train as it started its slow trundle back into the  the city. That trundle then drew to a halt and there we sat still for ten minutes . The driver was good enough to announce that she was keeping her fingers crossed that we would get going to soon.

Two hours after having started off we made it Campsie. Wehad missed the ceremony but were compensated by a meal in a Japanese restaurant. Plates of food off a sushi train and a bowl of sustaining udon noodles in broth with breaded chicken.

We then made the slow trundle back home to our beds.