Ferdydurke & Section 8, Melbourne, VIC, AU


Inside Ferdydurke

Amongst my favorite Melbourne hangouts are these two Melbourne laneway bars. Ostensibly separate establishments, they share owners, a kitchen, and by extension, a menu. I discovered this(ese) place(s) a few months ago, during Melbourne’s summer. They’re even better in winter.

The indoor venue, Ferdydurke, evokes a run-down, maybe postwar or even mid-war Eastern European watering hole with its minimalist furnishings in bare wood, brick & metal, the working brick fireplace, and the communist propaganda decor.  The bar has everything needed to prepare classic cocktails as well as their own classically grounded twists – I recommend the Ferdydurke if you’re looking for something light and refreshing. Polish vodkas and beers are well represented and if you go in on a cold winter’s day you may get to have a cup of piwo grzane – “mulled beer” fortified with brandy, liqueur, spices and raspberries.

Out back, Section 8 is the container bar/beer garden.  The outdoor venue continues the run-down/postwar/postindustrial/postapocalyptic theme with the bar and toilets made from (separate) shipping containers, tables/seating made from shipping palettes & steel drums and a not-quite-complete corrugated plastic roof.  Decorations include mismatched bits of statuary, paper lanterns, industrial detritus and the odd shopping trolley (cart, to my fellow Americans). For those who feel the chill in winter, gas heaters are placed liberally around the place.  The bar is well stocked, offers a bit more casual menu of tropical themed cocktails, and just as good a selection of single malt scotch as you’ll find inside.

The shared menu is a selection of quality hotdogs offered with interesting toppings. The presentations are attractive, considering you’re dealing with a hot dog, and they use quality products.  The buns are tasty, but soft, light and not big on structure. Make sure you tuck and hold the bun tightly around the dog and toppings to avoid making a mess. You can choose one of their creations or mix & match toppings to create your own. During Pierogi Pierogi, originally a one time promotion but now a semi-regular event, Polish soups and pierogi replace the hot dog menu.  The next Pierogi Pierogi event will be on the 21st of July.

The prices are comparable to what you might pay in a New York or London venue.  Aside from the $5 Coopers Lights, beer will set you back $9-15.  Specialty cocktails range from $12-20 inside Ferdydurke and $17-20 outside at Section 8.  Hot dogs are $3 plain or $5 for the menu creations, though Ferdydurke offers a $3 happy hour special on all hot dogs.  Wifi is free inside Ferdydurke;  see the menu board for the password. The signal doesn’t extend to Section 8.

Ferdydurke hosts live bands and/or DJs most nights and Section 8 usually has a DJ.

You’ll find these spots in Tattersalls Lane between Lonsdale and Little Bourke Streets, convenient to QV, Melbourne Central, next to Chinatown and a short walk from several hotels.

What’s All The Ruckus? JFK T4 Delta Sky Club

Over the past several months leading up to the opening of Delta’s new Terminal 4 Sky Club, travel blogs have been going nuts about it.  Reading some of these blogs, one might expect that this club would be the greatest thing to happen to air travel in New York City since the jet engine.

Today was my first flight leaving from terminal 4 since the Sky Club’s opening.  While it’s nice, I really don’t see what all the hubub is about. The club is much bigger than any Sky Club I’ve been in, except maybe in Atlanta.  While it has the fresh styling of recently-renovated Sky Clubs, such as the one at LAX, it offers nearly the same exact amenities that are already offered at every other Sky Club.

One item I’ve not seen in Sky Clubs elsewhere is the menu of for-purchase meals and snacks.  I’ve often complained about Delta’s “no outside food” policy seeing as how the don’t sell any food.  This offering is somewhat self-service.  There are iPad-powered stations where you make your selections, swipe your credit card, take a theme-restaurant-style pager, and then wait for a runner to bring your order.

The other differentiator, the Sky Deck, is an interesting novelty, but you can’t catch a breeze thanks to what I suspect are FAA-mandated solid barriers around the outdoor space.  If you could (which can be accomplished by standing near the small gaps between the barriers), that breeze would be (and is) pregnant with jet exhaust.

In short, the Delta Sky Club at JFK’s Terminal 4 is very nice when compared to other US domestic airline lounges, but pales in comparison to just about any non-US lounge, domestic or international.  The Air New Zealand lounge at SYD (which Delta is a client airline of), for example, blows this new Sky Club out of the water with plentiful power outlets more than adequate seating, complimentary bar and complimentary buffet-style full meal service.

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!

Mobile Broadband Data in Singapore

5 Day MaxMobile SIMIf you’ve read my previous article, you know that I carry a mobile broadband hotspot with me when I travel abroad. I was recently in Singapore, and researched the data SIM options there.

SingTel and M1 sell prepaid data SIM cards, but they are recharged with a dollar amount from which data charges are then deducted. The best value I found was the StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet Plans. A five-day unlimited SIM with an advertised speed of 7.2Mbps is SG$18. There is also a SG$32 MaxMobile Prepaid SIM card, the value on which can be used to activate flexible access periods from 1 hour to 60 days. While most of these offers have a fair usage policy of 2GB per day, the 30 day and 60 day periods have 2GB and 3.5GB data caps, respectively. If you use a lot of data, you’d be better off recharging every few days for unlimited use.

I never ran a speed test, but I also never encountered unacceptable speeds. Technology that is forgettable is good technology. You want to be thinking about your work, not your Internet connection, and that was exactly my experience.

The cards are perforated at both the full-size and microSIM form factors, so you don’t have to hunt for a different product for microSIM devices like iPads.

If you need to modify your device’s APN settings, “shppd” is the correct APN for StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet. Username and password fields should be left blank.

You can purchase the MaxMoble Prepaid Internet SIM cards at StarHub Shops, 7-11, Cheers, and the UOB Foreign Exchange counters at Changi Airport.

You can find full details of the StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid Internet plans here…



Mobile Internet For Travelers

Telstra 4G Hotspot with iPhone 4S for scale

Telstra 4G Hotspot with iPhone 4S for scale

One of the best technology investments a frequent traveler can make is in a mobile broadband hotspot, often referred to as a “mifi.” With one of these devices, you can supply a data connection to your smartphone, tablet, and laptop.

Prepaid data SIM cards are readily available at airports, train stations and in shopping centers worldwide, often for very reasonable rates. In Australia, for example, Telstra currently offers 5GB of prepaid data bundled with a 4G hotspot for AU$149. An AU$50 top-up will get you another 3GB.

You’ll want to have the carrier “unlock” the device which allows it to be used with any carrier’s network and SIM cards instead of being locked to the carrier from which it was purchased. Most US carriers make it difficult, if not impossible to unlock devices.  As long as you purchase the hotspot device outside the USA, or on the Internet from a non-US source, unlocking is a relatively simple affair.  You may need to pay an unlock fee depending on local telecommunications law, carrier policy, and time elapsed since purchase.

Why would I go to the trouble of unlocking & carrying a hotspot and buying & swapping SIM cards, you ask? According to HotelChatter’s 2012 WiFi Report, the average daily charge for hotel Internet service is $13.95. I have been charged as much as $40 for 24 hours at some properties and received abysmally slow speeds at that. Another simple but expensive option is letting your existing mobile broadband device(s) roam internationally. This can result in shocking charges. Let’s say you’re overseas, and you download Angry Birds for iOS, a 35.8 MB download as of this writing. Depending on your home carrier, you could end up paying more than three times the cost of your iPhone in data charges – a Verizon (USA) subscriber would be charged US$733, the download would cost an Aussie Telstra customer AU$550, and a Brit on O2 would pay £215 – just for the data usage to download the app.

I generally stick to the big name carriers in a given market, Telstra in Australia, for example. They may charge a bit more, but generally have the greatest coverage and strongest networks. For foreign travelers in the USA, I would recommend staying away from Verizon and Sprint in favor of AT&T or T-Mobile. While Verizon is the remnant of the old Bell monopoly, and generally has the widest and strongest network throughout the USA, they also use CDMA technology as opposed to the GSM used by virtually every other carrier on Earth, meaning you would have to buy a new device to use their services. Most Verizon devices don’t use SIM cards except to interface with their roaming partners’ networks.

You’ll want to secure your device to prevent others from stealing your data allocation or worse.  Once you’ve purchased your data and hotspot, be sure to read the instructions that came with your device, and follow the processes to do the following…
1. Change the network name (called SSID)
2. Change the network password to something meaningful. The most common default is “password” and the unscrupulous are well aware.
3. Change the administration console password – also typically set to “password” at the factory.

Depending on the carrier and the device you may need to manually set APN or Access Point Name information when you insert a new SIM card into the device. Learn from your device’s manual how to change APN settings. In a proper carrier’s shop, employees should be able to provide you with the APN value and any usernames or passwords that might be needed.  At discount electronics stores, convenience stores and the like, employees tend to be less knowledgeable about the products and services they sell, which is why I steer clear of them if I have any questions about a device or service.

Carrying these devices over the past several years, I have saved thousands of dollars for myself and my employers.  In future articles, I’ll detail the best deals I find on SIM cards.

Body Scanners at Australian Airports

Millimeter-wave imageAs I was departing Sydney today, I was shocked to find that full body scanners have been installed at Australian airports.  The body scanner program began in December of 2012, and messaging from the Australian government has been limited.

The scanners were not present at the Sydney and Melbourne domestic terminals that I’ve passed through over the last few weeks, but were present at the Sydney international terminal.

Unlike in the U.S.A., travelers do not have the right to opt out of a body scanner in Australia, and exemptions, even on medical grounds, are nearly impossible.  These scanners use non-ionizing millimeter-wave technology, which is meant to be less harmful than the backscatter x-ray systems (colloquially referred to as nude-o-scopes) introduced by the TSA in the USA.  Millimeter-wave scanners operate using signals similar to, but of lower intensity than that of cellular phone transmissions.

See the following link for the Australian Government’s official information on airport body scanners…



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.