Artisinal Gelato Artistry in Sydney

Royale W' Cheese

Royale W’ Cheese

The queue for Gelato Messina spills out the door where employees hand out menus and try to maneuver the mob into something a bit less traffic-blocking.  There is hardly room to move once inside the shop as patrons jostle for position at the long display case full of the creamy confections.

Flavors range from the standards – chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut and tiramisu; to the complex – pannacotta with fig jam and ameretti; to the strange – “Just Waiting for a Mate” Wild Turkey & raisin.

The gelato is rich and delicious.  I tried the Italian nougat which was like frozen torrone morbido; apple pie, containing sweet baked apples and tasting like an apple pie was mixed in with the gelato (it was); finally, the pannacotta with fig jam and ameretti really couldn’t fail to please.

If the flavors weren’t good enough, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the staff at Messina make everything from scratch, gelato, the apple pie that gets mixed in, the ameretti, jams, ganaches – everything.  This commitment to freshness shows in the quality of the product, but not in the prices.  A cup or cone costs between AU$3 and $7, depending on the number of scoops.

Still not content to leave their awesomeness at that, Messina’s Laboratorio and Patisserie, a.k.a “Creative Department” occupies the shop next door, offering single portion gelato dessert sculptures such as the “Royale W’ Cheese” – a chocolate crackle gelato burger patty topped with compressed cucumber, white chocolate “cheese”, and a white chocolate and apricot gel fried egg all nestled inside a sponge cake bun.

Have you ever wanted to learn how gelato is made?  Messina can help you here too. “Gelato Appreciation Classes” are held about once a month.  If you’re interested, book early; the 2013 schedule is already completely booked!

Darlinghurst has become a foodie’s paradise.  After dinner at any one of the new and interesting restaurants, be sure to save room for gelato.

Gelato Messina
Shop 1/241 Victoria St,
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Additional locations in Surry Hills and the Star casino, Pyrmont

The Sixth Borough, Newtown, Sydney, NSW


Graffiti Theme

Graffiti Theme

I happened upon the Sixth Borough by accident when the place I had intended to try was unexpectedly closed. Disappointed and hungry, I looked around and spotted a sign for “The Sixth Borough”. My New York pride welled up a bit and I had to have a look.

The walls are decorated with graffiti-style graphics representing each of the five boroughs of New York City. The menu lists various burgers, hot dogs, chili cheese fries, nachos, and a Reuben sandwich. Fried pickles also appear, but that’s more of a midwest thing – I’d never heard of them until I started visiting Minneapolis.

I chose the King Kong hot dog, which is a beef frank with mashed potato, chili con carne, mushy peas, cheese sauce & hot sauce. The dog itself isn’t anything to write home about in terms of quality, but it is comparable to a typical NYC “dirty water dog”, so it fits the theme. The toppings, however, make it interesting. With a mix of authentic New York (chili, cheese) and typical Aussie (mashed potato, mushy peas), this dog is a melting pot in a bun, and good to soak up the night’s alcohol intake. If the bun wasn’t a New England style split at the top, I’d give the place a little more NYC cred, but they make a valiant effort and offer a tasty product, so I can’t do more than nitpick a minor detail.

As of March 2013, The Sixth Borough is a BYO, but a posting in the window shows that they’ve applied for a liquor license.

134a Enmore Rd, Newtown 2042
(conveniently located next to the Enmore Theater)

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne, NSW, Australia

Hayden Orpheum StageThe Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace is a beautifully restored and maintained example of a classic Art Deco theater in North Sydney.  It would not be incorrect to call the place a living museum.  The fixtures, fittings, and decor are impeccably restored and maintained.  Smiles and courtesy from the neat, polite and uniformed staff are harken back to the golden age of cinema. A movie here is a true pleasure and a different level of experience.

The main, National Trust protected, “Orpheum” auditorium is supplemented by five smaller cinemas to form the Picture Palace.  The grand foyer outside the Orpheum auditorium houses the Piano Bar, where you can enjoy a cocktail while you wait for your show to begin.

In addition to first-run international, and Australian films, the Hayden Orpheum participates in local film festivals and offers special events such as the I ♡ Retro series that drew me to the theater for a Terminator/Robocop double feature.  At AU$10 for one film and $AU15 for a double feature, you can see Labyrinth (April 17, 2013), The Neverending Story (May 19th, 2013), Forrest Gump (June 2, 2013) or the director’s cuts of both Alien and Aliens (July 21, 2013).

If you’re a film buff or a fan of art deco architecture, once you’ve had your fill of the typical tourist spots, take in a show at the Hayden Orpheum.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
380 Military Road
Cremorne NSW 2090


Aussie Meat Pies: Sydney

"Tiger" at Harry's Cafe De Wheels

“Tiger” at Harry’s Cafe De Wheels

Meat pies, for good or ill, are an icon of Australian cuisine. The popularity of the pie is not just amongst tourists. A former New South Wales premier described the meat pie as Australia’s national dish. They can be found frozen in supermarkets, in hot boxes at convenience stores, and lovingly crafted in restaurants at nearly every price point. Pies are often served simply with tomato sauce (ketchup), but often with additional toppings or side dishes to round it out to a full meal. Below are a few good pie options in and around Sydney.

Harry’s Cafe De Wheels, Woolloomooloo
Cowper Wharf Roadway & Brougham Road Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011

A longtime Sydney institution, this place is a retro styled roadside stand festooned with neon lights and photos of celebrities chowing down on a pie. Having a pie here is like having cheesesteak at Pat’s or Geno’s in Philly or a hot dog at Pink’s in L.A.. It’s something you’re told you have to do as a tourist but its not necessarily the best example of the art. As a person who spent quite a lot of time in Australia I was almost embarrassed to eat here, however the place does seem to have its own local following as there were quite a few locals enjoying a pie or some of Harry’s other offerings. Harry’s pies are by no means bad, but you can get one just as good, if not better at many other places in Sydney. The “tiger” is the classic item to sample. It’s an Aussie beef pie, topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy. In my opinion, this is the only proper way to serve a pie, although I will concede that a plain pie is much easier to eat on the move.
There are many locations, but Woolloomooloo is the original, so if you’re going to go with kitsch, go with the original.

Central Baking Depot, Sydney CBD
37 – 39 Erskine St, Sydney 2000

Central Baking Depot's brisket pie

Central Baking Depot’s brisket pie

Conveniently located within five minutes’ walk of George Street, Central Baking Depot offers baked goods, sandwiches, pizza and, of course, pies. When I visited, they were offering a chicken & spring vegetable pie, a brisket, mushroom and red wine pie and a standard beef. This is a lunchtime spot as they close at 4:30 pm on weekdays.

I opted for the brisket. the filling was reminiscent of a good beef stew, and the crust was sturdy and substantial while remaining flaky.

Pie in the Sky, Cowan
1296 Pacific Hwy Cowan, NSW 2081

A roadside rest stop along the Pacific Highway about a 45 minute drive north from Sydney offering an impressive array of beef, lamb, chicken, vegetable and fruit pies. The pies are better than most, and with a cliff side location, you can’t beat the view of the largely unspoilt Hawksbury River valley below.

It’s a bit far to go if you’re keeping to Sydney, but well worth a visit anytime a road trip brings you north out of the city.

The Pie Tin, Newtown
1 Brown St Newtown, NSW 2042

The Apple Pie That Ate Newtown

The Apple Pie That Ate Newtown

They’re not lacking variety, from the classic mince pie to more original fillings including pulled pork and Texas style brisket. The selection of sides is nearly as expansive, including salads, couscous, beans and the obligatory mushy peas and mash.

The Pie Tin also serves an impressive array of sweet pies, such as Cherry Ripe delight topped with bits of the eponymous candy bar and “the apple pie that ate Newtown”. At 900g per slice – about 2 pounds to my fellow Americans – this is a serious dessert for a big eater.

For my meal, I sampled two savory pies and something sweet for desert…

Moroccan Lamb
The Moroccan lamb pie is a lamb curry enveloped in a flaky, light crust. With chick peas and regional spices it is evocative of a Moorish feast.

Bangers & Mash
Bits of sausages, onions and gravy in an open pie shell topped with mashed potatoes. Classic flavors in a novel presentation.

Date, Walnut and Butterscotch Rustic Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
I’m not generally a fan of butterscotch, but here, it works well.

Note: Do not follow the search result for The Pie Tin in Apple’s iOS Maps app here! You’ll end up at a private house several blocks away. You’ll be ok if you plug in the address manually though.

Pieface, Everywhere

Pieface is a chain as ubiquitous in Australia as Starbucks is in the States. It is, without a doubt, fast food. If you’re pie-shy or just after a snack, they do offer mini pies. Pieface has expanded beyond Australia via franchising with at least one location in my hometown of New York, so you may Be able to sample this delicacy or rekindle memories of your Aussie experience without leaving home.

DUB Pies, Brooklyn, NY
211 Prospect Park West Brooklyn, NY 11215

While not in Australia, and with more of a Kiwi influence, people back in NYC have at least one good non fast food option for meat pies. DUB (down under bakery) Pies does the classics and some more interesting specimens such as curry veg (my non-beef favorite), Thai chicken and an assortment of other Kiwi/Aussie items such as Caramello Koalas and lamingtons. If you go in, try an ANZAC biscuit (cookie).

Is your favorite place not listed?  Share it in the comments!

Hotel Cremorne, North Sydney, NSW, Australia

Cremorne BurgerThe Hotel Cremorne is located just across the street from the beautiful Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in North Sydney.

I ended up going in for some dinner before a double feature.  I wasn’t particularly looking for bar food, but at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, most of the restaurants in the area were either closed or between their lunch and dinner service, and I felt that bar food would make a slightly healthier dinner than movie theater snacks would.  Resigned and mildly disappointed, I walked into the Hotel Cremorne after seeing the advertisement on the street for the $10 steak so common in Australian hotels.

Entering the place, I found it spacious, clean and brightly lit.  Tables high, low, large and small were scattered around the room.  Several TV screens were showing sports to interested, but not rowdy patrons.  The open storefront let the late afternoon air circulate around.  I walked up to the bar to have a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised by the selection of steaks, fish, sandwiches, salads and pizza.  I went with the Angus Boss Burger, with the traditional Aussie cheese, beetroot, lettuce, and bacon as well as caramelized onions.  The only thing missing is a fried egg, which I was glad for the absence of given my attempt at getting fit.  The burger comes accompanied with a decent sized side salad – roughly two cups worth, and a pile of chips.  The beef is fresh and grilled to juicy perfection.  It didn’t need any additional condiments. As I dug in, I recall thinking “bloody good burger”.  Perhaps I’ve been in Australia for too long, or would that be just long enough?

If you find yourself in the area, perhaps to take in a show at the Hayden Orpheum, you could do far worse than a burger at the Hotel Cremorne before or after the show.

Hotel Cremorne
287 Military Road
Cremorne, NSW 2090

Note to my American brethren: In Australia, the word “hotel” is often applied to what we might call the local bar/pub.  It can be a bit confusing if you’re looking for a hotel from an online map reference, but it’s pretty obvious which sort of establishment you’re looking at in person.

Pizza Birra, Sydney, NSW, AU

Pizza Birra Tortelloni

Duck Tortelloni

Part of an Australian-Italian food empire, Pizza Birra in the Surry Hills suburb of Sydney is a casual, cafe-style eatery serving pizza, pasta, wine, and of course, beer.  According to the restaurant’s website, “fresh, local produce and seasonal cooking is paramount.”  This shows through in the fresh, clean flavors on the plate.

Clearly popular amongst Sydneysiders, Pizza Birra is crowded nearly any night of the week.  The bar area is quite small, so bookings are recommended unless you want a long wait outside for a table.

Once you do get seated and served, it’s immediately apparent why this place is so popular.  The portions are large and  the top notch ingredients are prepared simply – the hallmark of good Italian food.

The pizza here is quite good, as you might expect, with it being in the name of the place.  You can expect thin, crispy crust, and locally-produced, Italian-style ingredients.

Pasta dishes are also quite good here.  My favorite is the duck  and ricotta tortelloni (pictured above).  The pasta is perfectly al dente. The flavor is earthy with a bit of pepper. Overall, the dish is fresh, simple and clean.

If you’re in Sydney and looking for Italian food, you can’t go wrong with Pizza Birra.

Pizza Birra
1/500 Crown Street
Sydney, NSW 2010
(02) 9332 2510