Monday, October 26, 2009


161 King Street, Sydney
P: 02 9223 7000

I have long had a yen to try Jacqui Gowan's food. I've seen her quite a few times on Ready Steady Cook and always liked what she's done with the ingredients people present to her. When she left Garfish I hunted around and found out that she'd moved on to Subsolo, so I decided to make a trip up to Sydney, some time, to eat there.

The Sydney trip happened last weekend... but sadly, Ms. Gowan had left Subsolo, and is now freelancing around Sydney. Even so R, M and myself went along for dinner on a Friday night.

Subsolo offers Spanish and Portugese fare, with a range of options on the a'la carte menu. We chose a selection of tapas to share between us, and on the whole were very happy!

But first, we started with a rather large-ish glass each of sangria. Bueno!!

Ensalada a la Espanola with jamon, salami, spanish cheeses, olives, mushrooms, and tortilla got the meal off to a damned fine start. Alas, as you can see I didn't quite get the camera to it before we started digging in... and you can just spy M's fork coming in for more!

The baby squid and shaved chorizo salad with roasted garlic, heart of palm, and wild rocket was superb. The squid was perfectly cooked, the salad ingredients were delicious and fresh, and the dressing blended well with everything. Sabroso.

Pork tenderloin, wrapped with Morcilla and pistachios, on calvados spiced apples - or rolled pork tenderloins with black sausage and pistachios, on apple sauce. Y'know, I've never had black sausage before - the thought of it kinda turns my stomach a little bit. And if our waiter hadn't told us what it was, I would have probably said this was freakin' great. As it was... well, to hell with it, I really enjoyed this dish. I'm not sure black sausage is something I'll be rushing out to eat again, but I really enjoyed this. I think I ate about half the plate, actually.

R and I are both big fans of cheese-stuffed meatballs - I first made them after getting the idea from from R when she blogged a recipe for pork, thyme and cheese meatballs - so we were keen to see what Subsolo could offer with their crumbed meatballs with melting Manchego cheese centres with Romesco sauce. These were very tasty, but I think I'd kind of been hoping for a little bit more cheese. I know it melts and kinda goes through the meat, but I guess I'd just been hoping for more. Nevertheless, these were great, and there were none left on the plate at the end of the meal, despite groaningly-full stomachs.

Service was also quite good, and the bill was quite respectable. I'm already flagging this as a place to go back to, on my next trip north. Bookings might not be necessary (I'm not sure), but I'm glad I made one as the place filled up pretty quickly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The final stop on our trip was Bangkok. I had one day to see as much as I could see, and I think I made damn fine work of it. I've always been interested in the Thai culture, and I absolutely LOVE Thai food, so for me this was a great way to end the holiday.

We were accosted at the airport by a gentleman from the Great Bangkok Travel Co. For a nominal fee he arranged a car to take us to our hotel, plus one to pick us up and bring us back in a few days. For 500 Thai baht (or approximately AUD$16) he also booked me on a tour of the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha temple, with a personal guide, car, and driver the next day.

This place was beautiful. I won't bore you with the tons of pictures I took, but this one is just as you enter the gates to the Grand Palace gardens. The architecture and history of the place is amazing.

I snapped this picture, then noticed something. You can't see it in this one, but near the gazebo on the right-hand side two young slim guards were having a chat, while third, rather portly guard, had a snooze under the gazebo. I can't really blame him - it was so hot, it just sapped your energy!

The temple of the Emerald Buddha is beautiful. I recommend, if you decide to go on these tours, to wear shoes that are incredible comfortable to walk in, and easy to slip on and off, as you have to remove your shoes before entering these temples. Also, in the case of this one, you can take as many pictures from outside as you like, but pictures are strictly forbidden inside the temple. It's a shame - it was beautiful. Every surface inside either gleams with gold or gems, or is covered in murals. Gorgeous.

The rest of the tour was taken up with a trip to a jewellery store, and a stop at a tailor's... I resisted the jewellery, but had to submit at the tailor: I got fitted for a 3-piece suit in charcoal cashmere. That was at about noon. At 5.30pm a car arrived at the hotel to take me back to the tailor to get a final fitting, and the finished garment was delivered to the hotel by 11am the next morning. All for $300. I figure I'm doing my bit to help the Bangkok economy along.

The guide I had for this first tour was brilliant - her english was pretty damn good, she was very knowledgeable, and she had a wicked sense of humour. I've misplaced her card at the moment, but when I find it I'll be sure to post it - I had a blast.

Our accommodation package at the hotel included a tour, which I made use of to go on the Temple and City Tour. Part of the tour included the reclining buddha, all 46m length and 15m height of him.

Instead of the marble temple, which was apparently overrun with tourists (sheesh, bloody tourists.... hehe), we ended up at the standing buddha. While I'd been looking forward to the marble temple, this was still an impressive feat - all 30+m of him.

Similarly this tour also ended at a jewellers. I think the jewellers didn't like me - I didn't spend a cent at them. Well, at the second one I bought a few other bits and pieces, like some silk scarves and things... but yeah, they go no significant dosh out of me.

Considering I had one day to sight see, I think I did well to see as much as I did in Bangkok. That being said, there's still so much more, and so much authentic food, that I want to try. Next time!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hong Kong

I can't really say much about Hong Kong... mainly because I didn't take many pictures!

What I can say is this:

1. If you're there on the weekend, make your way out to the Stanley Market. It's not as big as I thought it might be, but that doesn't mean that it's not great. It's a fair hike out of the centre of Hong Kong - we took a taxi, but there are also busses. Take a hat, sunglasses, cool loose clothing, and a big bottle of water. And be prepared to haggle.

2. Also make sure you check out the Ladies' Market on Tung Choi Street. I can admit, most of the presents I picked up for people came from here, and if you're prepared to barter hard and furiously, you can pick up almost anything here for only a few Australian dollars. It was brilliant.

3. There's a restaurant... dangit... off Peking Road, I think... Macau-type cuisine... DAMMIT what was it called... it didn't look like much, but WOW the food was good. There's a ton of great food to be had in so many places over there... pick one and make it an adventure.

Hm, we spent a weekend there, a lot of it either roaming the markets or relaxing by the pool. It was great, I want to go back! But nothing really to blog about. I guess all I can say is I liked the place, go check it out :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


After Shanghai we flew down to Guǎngzhōu. Once again I had a babysitter to show me around. She booked us on a bus tour of Guǎngzhōu that covered one hell of a lot of kilometres. It was a lot to cram into one day!

Being on a tour definitely has its plus sides - one being the ease of getting around (no fears of getting lost), and you get to hear a lot about what you're looking at. One down side is that you can't spend longer at a place that you are particularly interested in. I know I could have spent MUCH longer wandering around Baiyun mountain. The view of the city was amazing (well, what you could see through the smog!), and stretched for a LONG way... Melbourne in comparison is so incredibly tiny.

One really nice thing did happen while I was there. Eileen (who was looking after me) took my picure in front of this garden(above), and while she was doing this I noticed a lovely young couple taking it in turns to take pictures of each other in front of everything. Thankfully, hand gestures are more or less universal. I pointed at their camera, then pointed one hand at each of them, then at the garden, and moved my hands together. They understood. The girl was so happy, she clapped her hands together and jumped up and down, then grabbed her boyfriend and they posed in front of the garden while I snapped a few pictures off with their camera. Then something unexpected happened. The girl grabbed me and took me back to the garden for pictures of us together, then me and her boyfriend, then the three of us. So I have these lovely pictures of a very smiley me with some very smiley people... and I have no idea who they are! I didn't speak their language, they didn't speak mine, but we all understood each other. I hope I remember that story for a really long time.

How did we get down the mountain? I mentioned in my post on Shanghai that, for someone with my fear of heights, I seem to get into a lot of them. And here I was again. Yes, we took a cable car down off the mountain. It was beautiful, but seriously, I need to stop doing this to myself!

On the way out to Changzhou Island and the Huangpu Military Academy (an hour or so on the bus... it might take longer if you stop at red traffic lights...) we stopped for lunch. I'm glad that some of my favourite places to eat at Chinatown here in Melbourne aren't that crash-hot to look at, because the place we stopped at... wasn't fancy. I really wish I'd taken a picture of the outside to share with you all but I didn't. We all trooped off the bus and into an open room with quite a few tables, two of which were set with massive lazy susan's in the middle, fair groaning with the weight of the food on them.

Oh, should I mention I was the only non-Chinese person on the bus? The reason I mention it now is that the ladies running the establishment saw me as I sat down and got all in a flurry - it turns out they were worried I wouldn't be able to handle the food with the chopsticks. I managed to say, through Eileen, that I could manage, although I'm by no means proficient. Hehehe... one of the ladies had already disappeared to the kitchen to see what she could rustle up. It was at this point that she returned - with a (please excuse my language) fuck-off massive-ass kitchen knife, and a tiny plastic fork. It made me laugh so hard...

Anyway, I tasted most of the dishes in the centre of the table. There was a whole fish (which I declined due to the number of bones in it), something with salted-chilli cucumbers, also chilli tofu, something sliced and green, something brown and squidgy (which was DAMNED tasty), and this:

I don't know about the spelling, but phonetically this is "too dow" (ow as in the sound in 'loud'). Shredded potato strips lightly stir-fried with garlic, oil, and chunks of chilli. Delicious. By-the-by, I had a slightly different version of this in Hong Kong, with carrot and celery and a few different flavours, but this simple version wins hands-down for me.

From there we went on to the Huanpu Military Academy, which is now a museum with the story of how it was founded, bits and pieces of its history, and paintings of some of its staff and graduates. It was a really interesting place to visit, and also included the old Customs House. If you're like me, and have an interest in the history and culture of places, you'd really enjoy visiting these places. Just be careful where you point your camera.

The penultimate stop of the tour was the Five Ram Statue. Not much more I can say about this one... there's the statue, and a shop of souvenirs... there looked to be more here, but we only stopped here for a minute.

From the rams we went to a jade shop, where there was a presentation on the types of jade they sold there, how it's carved, and the different grades of it. Although the presentation wasn't in english, I have some knowledge of jade, so I found I could figure out what he was talking about from what he was doing. Amazing!

Final stop, the bus let us all off a short walk from the Beijing Lu. Gah. I'm NOT a shopper, but I swear my purse was itching to empty itself in some of these stores. We wandered around for a short while, then the day caught up with us so we took a taxi back to my hotel. What a great day. I can't wait to go back and explore a little further!

Oh, but speaking of hotels... The Garden Hotel KNOWS how to look after its guests. Oh wow. The beds are pretty damn firm, but I think that's the worst I can say about this place. While I've got no problem with staying at lesser establishments (hell, I've kipped in many "interesting" backpacker accommodations), I can appreciate a little luxury. And this was not a little. It was a fair stinkin' whack of it. If the entry foyer doesn't impress you, the standard of the facilities you have access to there certainly will (try their massage... you'll melt). This is another place I'd love to explore a little further (rather than just the bar).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


This pic pretty much sums up the weather the whole time I was in Shanghai!! That being said, something about the place just appealed to me. I only really had a day and a bit to explore, and probably would have ended up wasting it somehow, but I was lucky enough to have someone to show me around... and make sure none of the crazy, death-wish traffic got me!

We started at the Oriental Pearl Tower, just a short ride on the (fast, clean) subway from the hotel.

Y'know, for someone who's afraid of heights, I seem to find myself up in them quite often! Yep, that's my foot. Yep, that's the ground of Shanghai approximately 267m or thereabouts below me.

And yep, somehow Anna (my trusty babysitter) convinced me to sit down on that thing. Would you believe, as I was sitting there someone nearby jumped and the whole thing shook... and it was at that moment that the camera clicked. Ug.

After a good look around the observation deck and checking out the entertainment level, we went below the tower to see the museum. This is included in the 350RMB entry fee for the tower, and is well worth a look, as well as a nice way to spend a few hours in air conditioned comfort, learning a little about China's history. I quite lost track of time.

After all this we were decidedly hungry. Having heard of my liking for dumplings through our respective other halves, Anna and I jumped in a taxi and headed for this place (can someone please translate the name on this sign?). The queue for a table here was substantial, and for a handful of RMB I can certainly see why...

These babies were DIVINE. In comparison to the xiao long bao at HuTong on Market Lane here, these little dudes win, hands down. They were slightly smaller than those at HuTong, with a little less soup, but damn me if they weren't the most amazing little dumplings I've had in an awfully long time. Dipped in vinegar with grated ginger, and washed down with a can of Tsing Tao (which, by the way, I've become a FIRM fan of, through many and large samplings) through a straw... ah, what a perfect lunch.

But wait... what? That's just first-lunch? There's a food court a few minutes walk away that I absolutely HAVE to check out... ooohhhh... hm, ok... but I'm kinda full already...

Wow, if there were food courts like this in Australia, I'd go to one every day, I think. This was NOT like the ones we have here. This was three walls of food, where you collect a tray at the start and wander around, grabbing a plate of whatever you want, and pay for it all at the other end. For a measly AUD$20 or thereabouts, we got two trays of food, more than enough for the two of us. In fact, there was probably enough for double the number of us. This was Anna's tray, because she had the rather more interesting food, most of which she grabbed purely so I could try bits and pieces.

Including this one. When I ate it I had no idea, aside from the sweet sticky rice, what the hell it was; that had to wait until we caught up with the men at dinner that night. Regardless, I liked it. Turns out it's lotus root.

But strangely, the dish I enjoyed the most at the food court was...

... these beans. Ever so lightly stir-fried and salted with a dash of chilli. Something about these just screamed "yum" to my taste buds.

Hm, seems weird to sum up such a busy day in so (comparatively) short a post... of course I've left a lot out. Can't wait to go back!