I had a serendipitous moment yesterday.
Background: I don’t get enough sleep. In fact, I haven’t had enough sleep for the past three years. So I am perpetually exhausted and in dire need of coffee. Also, I never used to drink coffee (it made my heart beat like those terrible dance music) until I became a mother. And now I am immune.
Alright, yesterday. I had an external meeting that went splendidly well and speedy. When I stepped out of the building, I decided to grab a coffee because I hardly have coffee during the week days. Coffee is a luxury and indulgence reserved for the weekends so whenever I get coffee on a weekday, I get deliriously thrilled. Haha, poor me.
There I was, back at my old stamping ground, back in the days when I was at the big O. The corner fish head curry coffeeshop is still there but the fruit stall next to it is now Park Bench Deli (run by my ex-colleague’s husband!). There are so many cool and hip cafes at every turn and corner. I was pretty amazed by just how much the streets have remained the same and yet changed at the same time.
I wandered down the street aimlessly, wondering where to go when suddenly somebody stepped right in front of me and said, “HEY!”
It was my ex-colleague from the big O. What were the odds?
Anyhow, we had a quick catch up about our lives and I mentioned that I was looking for a place to have coffee. She shook the bottle that she was holding and said, “Go check this place out! It’s just down Club Street. I got my coffee there.”
I made my way to Club Street, without really knowing the name of the cafe while simply relying on her instructions: “Club Street, you know the condo next to Spizza? It’s just there.” And I found it.
Stamping Ground Coffee.
To be honest, I was a little meh when I saw it. It was a tiny takeout corner and I was hoping to sit down for a drink. The place had a bench, and two bar stools and that was about it. Hmm. I decided to order my usual – flat white – and sat down on the bench to wait. There was just a young lady behind the counter serving up the drinks.
Instead of stoning and surfing the net on my phone as I always do when alone at cafes, I decided to break the ice and asked her if the place was new. She said yes, it was just two weeks old. And then we started having a conversation about how and why she started the place, how exciting it was for her to put it together, how she loved doing this gig.
We must have chatted for, what, 30 minutes or so? And it was a really nice, warm pleasant conversation in that little hole in the wall. I love listening to stories about people’s lives and this was one of the reasons why I got into journalism – to tell these stories. (Which I miss doing very, very, very much.) The coffee was pretty decent too, as she used beans from Papa Palheta. For someone who was more into baking and pastries, I thought the brew that she served up was nice.
All in all, it was a very lovely, unexpected way to spend the afternoon. I left with a little spring in my step, happy to have done something out of the routine for one day and to have listened to a good story.
So. If you are looking for more excitement after the whole tofu debacle, I am sorry to have to disappoint you. There will, hopefully, be NO MORE TOFU NONSENSE happening in my life. My poor heart cannot handle it.
Anyhow, this is about our sixth wedding anniversary. Also known as the anniversary where we did not exchange gifts. It’s probably not the first anniversary that we have celebrated without any gifts but then again, it’s not like we need a tangible “gift” these days. Truly, the best gift my husband can offer me is his presence at home at 7pm on weekdays. Handling two littles in the evenings after work on my own – feeding them, bathing them, putting them to bed – can be a hair-tearing affair. At any one moment, someone is crying and demanding my attention.
But that’s another story for another day.
For our anniversary, I decided that the best thing I could do for Mr Thick – and myself – is to treat us to a good lunch sans kids. That’s right, we get to order food that we want to eat and shove food only into our mouths. We don’t have to distract a crying child or scold an errant child. We would get to eat in peace and with two hands.
At that time, I was seriously craving some steak. I blame it on my pregnant girlfriend, who kept talking about her beefy needs. Most of the good steakhouses were not open on a Sunday afternoon, however, and we couldn’t do dinner because Aidan would never let anyone else but his parents put him to bed. So lunch it had to be and after some serious searching, I decided upon Wooloomooloo‘s weekend brunch.
For $68++ per person, you get to tuck into a five-course brunch. And what a fine brunch it was!
For the first course, I opted to have eggs benedict while he had the fried hen’s egg.
The eggs benny paired with the smoked salmon was a simple dish that was done excellently. I really liked the accompanying grilled asparagus and I am not even a fan of asparagus to begin with. Mr Thick’s fried hen’s egg was not the main attraction of the dish – instead, it was the little hash brown, tomato and avocado mountain that he enjoyed most.
After the plates were cleared, I was presented with my choice of soup/salad: lobster bisque.
It was marvellous! There were generous chunks of lobster in the soup and it was robustly flavoured. My only peeve was that it was a tad too salty.
He, on the other hand, decided on the Wooloomooloo Tuna Nicoise salad. Which was nice but did not blow his mind. Well. He’s a meat guy, after all, and it would take a super fantastic salad to impress him.
My choice of appetiser was a no-brainer: HELLO OYSTERS!! I haven’t had one in more than a year (pregnancy and raw foods don’t really go) and I was thrilled to have some. These were some excellent oysters too, all fresh and sea brine-y flavours exploding in my mouth.
And because I was also eyeing the wild mushroom risotto, husband kindly ordered it for his appetiser even though he’s not usually a fan of risotto. See? No need for gifts, a simple gesture like this will do!
Oh man. The risotto. When it arrived, he took a whiff and said, “WAH. Potent.” And it was. The cheese, oh the cheese. I love smelly cheeses and the Stilton was so amazingly pungent. We thought that it was just a fantastic dish. Thank goodness that it wasn’t a full-sized portion though – you can and will feel a bit sick of the creamy risotto midway through devouring it.
For the main course, it was a no-brainer: BEEF! I chose the Australian grass-fed filet mignon while he picked the Australian Black Angus vs. USDA Prime Sirloin.
Unfortunately, while I had requested for my steak to be medium done, it arrived on my table pretty well-cooked. The waiter sent it back to the kitchen when I pointed out the mistake and my dish finally reached me in the correct doneness. And it was DELICIOUS.
So was his beef, apparently.
By the time the desserts rolled around, we were stuffed. We could not finish the Wooloomooloo cheesecake and bread & butter pudding, as yummy as they were.
What made this even more special was the wait staff’s attention to detail. I had indicated that it was our anniversary in my reservation and they did up the dessert ever so nicely for us. And the maitre’d promptly fished out a camera to take a photo of us with the cheesecake and had the photo printed and framed for us in a jiffy. You could tell that this was a very professional and well-oiled machine, although it could have been a warmer machine (they were very polite but also very brisk and non-smiling).
At the end of the meal, we were two very happy persons. It was great being able to spend time alone with each other AND have a great meal at the same time. I mean, we got to rock up to the restaurant all scrubbed up and in our Sunday best. I was actually wearing a jumpsuit! With makeup on! And carrying a – get this – CLUTCH. Awesome or what?
And to cap off this wonderful day? We went home to a baby who had refused the bottle (and was starving) and then whisked the boys off for some grocery shopping at NTUC.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love meeting up with friends over coffee.
We enjoy the coffee, catch up on each others’ lives and keep an eye on the littles, all at the same time. Sometimes, a cake (or croissant) will sit on a plate on the table as we nibble while listening to the other speak. The afternoon sun will stream in, lighting up the place with its magical sparkle.
Every time I meet up with Y and her lil Missy, the conversation seems endless. We may not have seen each other for a while but there’s always something to say. And she is always taking me to new places to check out the coffee. Missy, on the other hand, will tell us stories and draw pictures and – in a recent development – send me Whatsapp messages, alternating between declarations of love and images of cupcakes.
This was exactly what I needed, a leisurely afternoon away from work. Forget about deadlines and that pile of marking, forget about the very little sleep that I had had the night before.
Coffee. And friends. A most enchanting combination.
Saturdays. Our favourite day of the week.
We get to spend the entire day with the little man. We do the things we love: going out for brunch, checking out new cafes, working up a sweat by walking, enjoying our home. And we do it all with him.
Yesterday, we spent a rainy afternoon indoors at homebodies, the latest venture from the people behind my favourite Smitten. As I drained the last of my flat white, I looked at the empty cup and said to husband, “It’s always tragic – TRAGIC – when I finish my coffee.” Complete with dramatic hand gestures for emphasis. What! I love my caffeine.
I really like the sunlight that pours in through the large windows (well, as much sunlight as the poor, drenched sun could muster), the large wooden tables and the cosy atmosphere. Wistfully, I thought of how I could sit there for an entire afternoon, working on my laptop and taking little breaks with Lula or Frankie.
Maybe one day.
Our late lunch comprised of a kurobuta hot dog for me and a wagyu hot dog for him. Both were good.
60A Boat Quay
Four Sydney cafes down, three more to go.
This was a recommendation from my friend Charlotte and it was spot on. See, always ask your foodie friends for recommendations – they will never fail you!
We checked out of our hotel located at the Sydney CBD area and moved into another one at Surry Hills. While we were no longer in the heart of the hustle and bustle, Surry Hills won us over. It was quieter, most charming and had plenty of indie and vintage shops to give the area character. We had fun exploring the neighbourhood on foot.
There are three bills outlets in Sydney and conveniently, one was situated within 10 minutes of our hotel. After checking in, we took a leisurely stroll over for a cup of coffee and a late lunch.
It was an amazing meal. The coffee was good and the miso charred steak sandwich that I had was delicious. The beef was well-seasoned and tender, and the bread was crusty.
We liked it so much that we went back for dinner on our last night in Sydney. Mr Thick’s lamb cutlet was so simply cooked and yet so fantastic, we couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, my veal ragout was melting in my mouth and I was reduced to a blubbering state of infatuation.
It wasn’t only the food that was superb, the service was impeccable as well. The staff never failed to make us feel welcome and at ease, and they took care of the little man too.
Definitely a must-go in Sydney.
Single Origin Roasters
Again a recommendation from Char, Single Origin Roasters was merely 15 minutes away from our hotel. Yay! We decided to make it our first stop in the morning before starting our day. SMARTIES!
The coffee was delicious. Fragrant and packed the right amount of kick. I was all zinged up after that. Mr Thick, on the other hand, couldn’t stop raving about his ham and cheese toastie while my banana bread with espresso butter was just as good.
We sat there in the cold, crisp morning, sipping our hot coffees and munching on our delicious breakfast. Life was good.
Bourke Street Bakery
Once again, this winning recommendation came from Charlotte. And again, we were lucky that our hotel in Surry Hills was within walking distance of Bourke Street Bakery.
We decided to pop over to the boulangerie as the afternoon faded away, and after a lengthy stroll in the neighbourhood. The weather had been chilly, and we were looking forward to having some nosh in our tummies to warm us up.
Oh. My. Word.
The hot chocolate that I had was spicy and had that bittersweet tang of dark chocolate. The crust of our lemon tart was buttery and crumbly, and the lemon curd was just tangy enough to make me squeal in delight.
I wish we had the time to buy and eat more baked goodies – we reached the bakery slightly before it closed. Regret maximus!
Poor little buddy though. He couldn’t partake in the yummy food and decided to eat his shoe instead. That happened a lot during the trip.
My name is Yann and I am addicted to caffeine.
No, not really. Oh fine, YES I AM. I’m holding down a full-time job AND mothering a tiny tyrant so I definitely need my daily caffeine fix. And because I am still nursing the kiddo, I try my best to limit my caffeine intake to just ONE a day. And that means that my ONE caffeine shot has to be supremely out of this world.
Which is why I hate, HATE it when the coffee SUCKS.
And then we went to Sydney. And I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
A cafe! Here! And here! And there! Oh, look! ANOTHER CAFE?
Yeah, I kinda liked Sydney.
Anyway, one of my rules when we were there was that we would explore a new cafe every day. This turned out to be a fantastic rule because it forced me to check out new sights on the days that Mr Thick had to work and I was alone with the little man. I ended up walking and walking and walking and discovering fantastic new eateries.
And because I am not only Fabulously Gorgeous but also ridiculously nice, I am sharing my list with you! Nah, much of the list came from suggestions from very nice friends so I am merely paying it forward.
Le Pain Quotidient
We stumbled upon this cafe on the day that we arrived in Sydney, all bleary-eyed and exhausted from the red-eye flight. And it totally helped to soothe any frazzled nerves that we had.
The mocha with Belgian chocolate that Mr Thick had was nice and thick, with a hint of bitterness. My butter croissant and lemon tart were okay but his leg ham and gruyere cheese omelet was yummy.
I liked the place so much so that I went back to it one afternoon to rest my weary legs after shopping at Bondi Junction.
Convenience was the keyword in leading us to this cafe. It’s situated right at the foot of our hotel and we decided to just pop in for a bite.
The Vietnamese Style Lemongrass Chicken and Grilled Portuguese Chicken sandwiches that we had were delicious. DELICIOUS, I tell you. Every bite was full of flavour. And I loved the crusty baguettes!
And the icing on the cake? The coffee (Campos beans) was kickass. As in, it kicked my sleepy ass into GO GO GO! mode. It made me very happy.
The staff was awesome too. When I was there for lunch one day with just Aidan, they were extremely attentive and friendly, and even helped me with the napkins and water.
Le Grand Cafe
A cafe situated at the Alliance Francaise de Sydney, this little nook is never crowded nor noisy. There’s always jazzy French music playing in the background, and it’s perfect for a solo traveller. In fact, I liked the place so much so that I brought Mr Thick back for a coffee break one afternoon.
The croissant that I had was nicely buttery and flaky, and the flat white was nice enough.
Flour and Stone
This was a recommendation by the fantastic Mrs Ergul. I had snapped a photo of Hyde Park on Instagram and she immediately left a comment, suggesting that I check out Flour and Stone.
I love them foodies. They always know where to go when it comes to good food.
It. Was. Yummeh.
The spicy chicken sandwich that I had hit all the right spots while the lamington was simply heavenly. The coffee was decent but then again, I couldn’t drink it fresh because the little buddy was demanding all of my attention.
Okay, that’s enough caffeine for now. I’ve still got a couple more to go and I’ll share that with y’all soon.