I went to Jester Seeds with a friend of mine who hadn’t ever been to Newtown before. I don’t think you could get more “Newtown” than Jester Seeds. The front is unobtrusively sandwiched between some regular stores that have been around for a while, so you’d be forgiven for walking right past it on several occasions. Its understated exterior doesn’t draw your eye very easily, which only adds to the charm.
I was back the following week with a different group of people (who also hadn’t been here before: I take everyone I know to it now), and their reaction was completely in tune with mine the first time I went there. They loved it.
There are plenty of seats, both inside and in the backyard-like area, despite the ‘small bar’ status. Although perhaps my idea of ‘plenty of seats’ is slightly skewed by frequenting small bars on the regular. My friends (and the friends-of-friends present) appreciated being able to sit down on a comfortable seat with a back (rather than on a wooden stool etc), they liked the cocktails & the gin selection; and we spoke comfortably to each other without having to yell hoarsely over the music or general noise.
Jester Seeds is a favourite, for me. The bartenders are laid-back, the music is excellent, the cocktails are good.(My, they’re good.) There’s food as well, but I would rather line my stomach with their delicious cocktails. The website describes it as a “fun and cozy place to hang out”, and I have to agree. It’s basically your uni friend’s cool apartment. The chairs are mismatched, the tables are varied, the walls are covered in an assortment of pictures and picture frames (separately). The toilets seem to deteriorate as the night wears on, but at the start of an evening, even they are as delightful as the rest of the bar.
p.s. The flaming cocktail pictured is “Pretty in Yellow”, passionfruit & vodka & fire making it a drink I re-ordered multiple times.
Credit Cards/Eftpos: Yes!
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat 4pm-12am, Sun 4pm-10pm
Corridor is a popular wine bar on the King Street strip of Newtown. It’s been one of my favourites for a few years now, too. It’s small but you can almost always find a seat.
They have a beautiful outdoor balcony that in my mind I can always picture as a crowded scene of people laughing: every time I’ve gone to Corridor, that’s what it’s been. The staff are friendly and the drinks menu is long.
Every single drink we ordered was fabulous.
I discovered the food is amazing too, the night I went there for dinner before watching Looper at the Dendy. My friend and I ordered a few things to share and they were all so delicious! Below is a picture of the goat’s cheese fritters, bruschetta & hand cut chips. They were an adequate accompaniment to the masses of alcohol we consumed, both here and in the cinema.
They’re a bit erratic in their cocktails-in-jugs policy, though, but that’s almost endearing: I like not knowing what all the rules are going to be when I go.
Credit Cards/Eftpos: Yes
Opening Hours: Tues-Fri 3pm-12am, Sat 1pm-12am, Sun 1pm-10pm
Corridor: 153a King St, Newtown | website
Recently I went to two different branches of Taj for dosa (one of my favourite South Indian dishes - as I’ve mentioned before, my family’s from the North, so I can’t get authentic dosa at my mum’s house… thus adding to its allure).
Dosa is a crispy savoury pancake that comes with a range of fillings.
At Harris Park (the original branch; and also - I think this was the very first of the Indian restaurants that now have completely taken over Wigram Street) I tried the Mysore dosa: the allure is in the chilli-garlic paste they spread across the inside of the dosa, in addition to its potato filling. I ate it at an incredible, unladylike pace because it was delicious.
At the Westfields branch, I had the regular variety of dosa, masala dosa, which has a potato mixture inside it. (They didn’t have the mysore dosa there, otherwise I would’ve ordered it again). I accompanied it by a can of coke, as pictured, because the best way to prolong the burning chilli sensation is through carbonated drinks of course.
Both were accompanied by sambar (a lentil &/or vegetable curry) and two chutneys: tomato and coconut.
I’ve noticed the quality really varies - from day to day, and location to location. I’ve been to the Homebush, Parramatta & Harris Park branches; and had friends who work in Mt Druitt tell me similar things about that one. I don’t think this is Taj-specific, though. A lot of Indian restaurants are like that. I think the cooking can really be impacted by the whoever the chef is in the kitchen that day: everybody does things their own way & in India, that’s a lot of different ways!
In regards to the above meals, one was nice whereas the other one gave me what I like to refer to as the feeling of dying (aka heartburn?). I’ll probably go back, but I might stick to my more-preferred destinations for dosa if I want a better (though not 100% guaranteed) likelihood of getting a good one.
Taj Indian Sweets & Restaurant: 91 Wigram St, Harris Park & Westfields Parramatta, Level 5
Recently I found myself back at Reuben Hills with some friends of mine. We had been to the Atget exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW and walked down to Surry Hills for brunch.
As per my previous visit, it was tough to make a decision about what to eat. Luckily, we had a lot of time to think about it, given the long list of people ahead of us — all waiting for a table. (Why do other people love brunch as much as I do???) We perched on a nearby railing and tried to appease our hungry stomachs. It was a relief to enter and order coffees (the most important aspect of the brunch ritual) as soon as we sat down.
Now I love, love, love the design of Reuben Hills but was a bit nonplussed to realise that all of our water-cups were rusted, in what I can only imagine to be a deliberate aspect? Still, it was sort of amusing to try and find an un-rusty part of my cup’s rim to sip from. So there’s always a silver lining :)
One of my friends had been looking forward to a salted caramel shake ($7.50) ever since she’d heard about it: I think she enjoyed it as much as she’d expected to.
I ordered the Baleada with eggs, black beans & queso fresco ($11) with a side of avocado (additional $4). One of my friends ordered the Not Reuben ($16), the other ordered the Baked Tortilla Chips (i.e. what we common peeps refer to as nachos) ($15). All were as delicious as they sound.
The hardest decision, of course, was dessert. Ultimately, we decided to get two of the Doggs Breakfast ($9 each) to share amongst us, and I’m glad we did. It was superb!
There were other things I wanted to try: namely the brioche with dulce de leche*, Give a Dogg a Bone, milhoja & the alfajore. Perhaps next time I visit I’ll get a tasting platter of all these, rather than an actual meal. I’d be okay with that.
*my laptop auto-corrected this to “dulcet de leech”!!!! Eww gross. Please excuse any other auto-correct fails that I consequently have failed to pick up.
Credit card/Eftpos: Yes; no split bills
Opening Hours: 7am-4pm mon-sat, 8am-4pm sun
Reuben Hills: 61 Albion St, Surry Hills | website
I finally made it to Circa after weeks (possibly months) of missed moments and connections: at least three times I came here only to be faced with a shuttered garage door; one day a friend & I had plans for a pre-work coffee catch up but the rain was pelting down so he & I opted for an indoor cafe instead; another time I had already had three coffees & could not be sure what the effect a fourth one would have on my functioning capacity…
I was not disappointed. In fact, it was lucky I’d made so many foiled attempts to come here - I knew exactly where to go & could lead the way with confidence. Otherwise, I might very well have missed this little hole-in-the-wall: it’s the width of a single garage door (which incidentally serves as the cafe’s door).
Circa is an inner westie haven in the western suburbs, from its quirky decor and tiny (TINY) tables to its elongated layout — the cafe stretches back much further than you’d think. (As you walk past the kitchen towards where the bathrooms are, you will come across an intimate little nook lined with books & wine bottles that you will be disappointed to not have known about earlier, when you first sat down.)
The service was good and my coffee came quickly (ESSENTIAL ON ANY WEEKEND MORNING). The menu had lots of mouthwatering vegetarian-friendly options for me to agonise over, but eventually I chose the french toast with poached rhubarb, pistachio and labne - it was delicious.
My friend got the scrambled eggs, & after trying hers I found it hard to know whether I preferred mine or hers. In an ideal world, I would order BOTH.
We lingered after our meals, talking about the crazy things that people do to one another. (I introduced my friend to the term ‘projective identification’, which I had just heard/learnt about the day before.) Nobody hurried us out, the staff were friendly but not obtrusive. It felt very relaxed, with people coming & going at a much gentler pace than the usual Sydney chaos. It was a delightful lunch from start to finish. Ironically, though I work in Parramatta, I came here on a Saturday.
I generally profess a great distaste for leaving the inner west, but at Circa I was rewarded for it :)
Also: They have a second cafe on the other side of Parramatta station, 3 Ropes, which made me want to skip all the way to work the day it opened.
Credit card/Eftpos: No
Opening Hours: 7am-4pm Tues-Fri (kitchen closes at 2pm), 8am-3pm Saturday/Sunday
Emma’s on Liberty has been a favourite place of mine for some time now. It’s been around for a reasonably long time, I guess. Everybody I know has heard of it and loves it too - with good reason!
I keep it for special occasions, though, like my birthday this year. It’s a special place. Incidentally, this time when we went, a woman at another table was celebrating her birthday & the entire restaurant broke out into an impromptu Happy Birthday song for her: Emma’s has a very warm ambience that made it feel very natural to do so. But one would also be forgiven for seeking out occasions, such as First Day of Work after Two Days of No Work (but not this one, cause they’re closed for private functions on Mondays), or The Anniversary of The First Time I Heard This Song on the Radio.
I love Emma’s especially because the menu has lots of wonderful vegetarian options, not just your average falafel and salads (which are delicious, but commonplace). Caveat: it’s very important not to fill up on the Lebanese bread and dukkah before your meal comes. You will be glad you didn’t.
We ordered the mix dip plate, golden balls, oven-roasted eggplant & haloumi. I didn’t take a photo of the haloumi cause I was too busy inhaling it at record speed, sorry.
The mix dips contained labne, houmus & baba ganoush with fried flat bread, which I absolutely love. My friend preferred the labne, which left me free to devour the other two.
The golden balls (of mozzarella and shanklish) were probably my favourite dish. They came with a sour cherry sauce that was super delicious and was a nice way to cap off a week of endless (unrelated) discussion of sour cherries at my work.
The eggplant was delicious, but reminded me a lot of an Indian dish, bhartha, which I spent my childhood railing against to my mother. She and I would have a battle of wills every time she made bhartha. I can still remember her telling me to close my eyes and “pretend it’s ice cream” when I was four. BUT IT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE ICE CREAM, I’d cry. (Luckily, my feelings towards eggplant have matured with age.)
For dessert, my friend and I managed to find room to share a serve of halwa with ice-cream. I’ve loved halwa since I was a kid: one of my mum’s students once gave her some as a gift and after that, our family got into the habit of buying it from the Lebanese shop. (The Lebanese halwa is very different to the Indian halwa, but both are incredibly sweet!) I was tempted to have a Lebanese coffee but considering I’d singlehanded drunk three quarters of a bottle of wine, I wisely forewent the coffee.
At first glance the menu prices seems on the higher end for Lebanese food, but every dish is so filling and when you are sharing… the bill doesn’t actually add up to much at all. And the food. is. AMAZING.
While we were there, I noticed they have a takeaway window - and thus, a takeaway menu. This is dangerous knowledge!
It’s such a charming little venue, but make sure you book. It gets busy, even on weeknights!
Credit Cards/Eftpos: Yes
Opening Hours: 6pm-late, Tues-Sat
Sunday before last, I spent a pleasant afternoon in Newtown. It turned into something of a mini-pub crawl, without intending to.
Had a drink at the Zanzibar, then went to the movies at the Dendy.
After the movie, we walked over to The Courthouse for a drink and (wonder of all wonders!) we even managed to find a table so were considering eating there.. But there was some heavy metal playing overhead and we were finding it hard to talk. My friend’s housemate was supposed to join us too so we tried to endure it as we waited for him, but soon got tired of screaming across the (small, round, intimate) table at each other. (This is often an issue at the Courty even when there’s no heavy metal music; it’s just too popular I think!)
My friend suggested the Carlisle Castle Hotel, which I have often driven past as I hunt for parking on my occasional driving forays. Upon being promised the food was amazing, I agreed.
We headed over, to find the beer garden quite packed, though the kitchen wasn’t open yet. We sat inside, which was considerably quieter and not full (yet). Some other hungry hopefuls like us were also milling about the bistro window, hoping to get their order in quick. I tried to hold on to my dignity and didn’t join their ranks, instead ordering our drinks - a frangelico & apple juice for me - at the bar (I was introduced to this drink when I was 20 and six years later I’m still pretty impressed by its deliciousness).
I continued to distract myself from my hunger pangs by looking around at the artwork:
The blackboard menu was amazing and extensive, requiring careful perusal up close. Everything sounded good, and they had an additional bistro menu as well.
I hadn’t realised they have a bit of a stellar crew in the kitchen, but when my gnocchi came out I certainly noticed.
It was delicious and was reminiscent of my recent favourite gnocchi, which I had at the Hilton’s glass brasserie. The gnocchi had an amazing texture and really nice flavours, as well as being a very decent serving size. If I hadn’t been so ravenous, I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it. (I might have forced myself to, though. It was really very delicious!)
I was too full to have dessert, even though I really, really wanted to. The food is a little bit pricier than your average pub food, but the quality definitely matches. I think Carlisle Castle raise the ante for pub bistros everywhere. And when you consider how very average vegetarian options can be at pubs, their non-vegetarian dishes might be out of this world!
After another couple of drinks, it was time to stumble home & sober up for Monday morning by sleeping it off. Which I did remarkably well :)
ZanziBar: 323 King Street, Newtown NSW
Dendy: 261-263 King Street, Newtown NSW
Courthouse Hotel: 202 Australia Street, Newtown NSW
Carlisle Castle Hotel: 19 Albermarle Street, Newtown NSW
p.s. Tell me you don’t think the name is awesome? It’s got CASTLE in it! #awesomesauce
Although for the most part I subscribe to the philosophy of “English as a global language”, & believe people shouldn’t be penalised for common &/or cultural errors… I’m forced to be pedantic about grammar at work.
(Sometimes I wonder whether I’m pedantic because of my work or I chose this line of work because I was already a pedant..?)
The passage below neatly encompasses things we already know & also gives new information. I had no idea poor “me” was being vilified to this degree & even being over-corrected:
Me, Myself, or I?
“In the old days when people studied traditional grammar, we could simply say, “The first person singular pronoun is I when it’s a subject and me when it’s an object,’ but now few people know what that means. […] The misuse of I and myself for me is caused by nervousness about me. […] But the notion that there is something wrong with me leads people to overcorrect and avoid it where it is perfectly appropriate. People will say, ‘The document had to be signed by both Susan and I’ when the correct statement would be, ‘The document had to be signed by both Susan and me.’
Trying even harder to avoid the lowly me, many people will substitute myself as in ‘The suspect uttered epithets at Officer O’Leary and myself.’ Myself is no better than I as an object. Myself is not a sort of all-purpose intensive form of me or I . Use myself only when you have used I earlier in the same sentence: ‘I am not particularly fond of goat cheese myself’” (Brians, Common Errors in English Usage).
Source: Dr Grammar http://www.drgrammar.org/frequently-asked-questions#34
I kept calling Monsieur Lazhar “Monsieur Lazhou”, which was a bit awkward when I finally realised.
I watched this movie at the Dendy in Newtown. I really enjoyed it. It was sweet and charming and contained an absolutely heartbreaking “new fairytale”, that moved me to tears.
I had forgotten about that unique pace that French movies so often have, making them quite distinct from Hollywood productions. For example, the camera always holds the frame for a moment longer than you expect. Some English movies do this too, but still not in quite the same way.
The child actors in this movie were also incredible.
I’m not sure if I have a particular soft spot for movies about teachers because my mother is a teacher or because they are generally decent movies or because they generally tug on your emotions in a shameless and exploitative way.
For example, I also recently watched Half Nelson.
Être et Avoir is another favourite which is French and a “teacher movie” (a double-niche market that I absolutely fall for every time). It is such a sweet and wonderful movie.
Then there’s also Remember the Titans (a teacher and football movie; it neatly explains my love of all other teacher/football/teacher and football movies and TV shows, including my addiction to both the TV and movie editions of Friday Night Lights).
Mr Holland’s Opus (this one is definitely due to my mum. When I was little we must have gone through a period of watching movies like this). To add to this spate of some-good-some-bad, there is also Coach Carter, Mona Lisa Smile… and getting REALLY CHEESY: Dead Poets Society & To Sir with Love (!)
Although, I did not enjoy Bad Teacher. But I still found it to have some redeeming qualities… And it probably is a good way to say “let there be an end to the Inspiring Teacher films. Please.”