District Dining + Gastro Park = Brilliant Sydney Restaurants

Recently I’ve been to two new (well, new for me since moving back to Sydney) restaurants that do have an inkling of the Melbourne charm I do miss. They are District Dining in Surry Hills and Gastro Park in Potts Point.

They have a similar feel and atmosphere – cool and sophisticated but relaxed enough so you can have a loud laugh and one too many drinks (although I’m sure they both do practice responsible service of alcohol) without feeling like the naughtiest girl in the class.

Our table of 7 shared all the dishes – some are designed as share plates, others are mains we shared anyway … we are that kind of family…no-one wants to miss out! We did have to order quite a few dishes to satisfy our healthy appetites although none were a disappointment. Special mentions go to the chicken wings and the roasted lamb dish although these are no longer on the menu as it changes regularly, which I like. Keeps it fresh and exciting!

Gastro Park also changes its menu according to what’s in season. M and I shared a dozen natural oysters (very fresh), scallops with carrot butter – they come seared but we asked for them to be cooked right through which they happily obliged – and the Crispy scaled snapper, smoked potato puree, calamari crackling, ink sauce; washed down with some Grey Goose.

All dishes at both venues were done very well. The warm atmospheres and endearing staff were helpful and attentive but not as though they were also dining with you.

Highly recommend both places but do book – they can get very busy, especially this time of year.

As usual, all the food was devoured before I remembered to take any photos… which is why I’ll never be of the food blogging ilk! Have included some pics below from the websites of these venues.


District Dining: 17 Randle Street, Surry Hills
Sydney, NSW 2010. p: (02) 9211 7798
Gastro Park: 5-9 Roslyn Street . Kings Cross
Sydney 2011 . NSW . Australia . p: 02 8068 1017

Muay Thai at Blackbelt Pro

Last week I trialled a session of Muay Thai at Blackbelt Pro in Randwick. It has a great reputation and has produced pro fighters… so I knew it wasn’t going to be a boxercise cop-out! It didn’t disappoint.

Had a great session of Kick/Thai. The instructor was firm but not aggressive and the class was only about 12 people, 4 of them being myself and three of the girls from Edelman. We had a great time and I had an awesome work-out with technique and cardio.

They offer a free trial session for your first one – if you’re interested to see what it’s like, this is a great place to start. The environment feels supportive and not intimidating … it’s more old school, raw, tough training (but still new equipment and clean!) rather than a shiny new hero gym.

So, I will be focusing on striking with boxing and muay thai. The grappling can wait. Who wants to come with me?

Oriental Tea House + Hu Tong = Delicious Chinese in Prahran

There are two fantastic chinese restaurants I’ve tried in the past two weeks. The first was during Chinese New Year and an oasis in flash flooding: Oriental Tea House in Prahran. The restaurant is set in a tea and homewares shop and the dishes are few but precise and a little more expensive because of its boutique positioning.

We shared dumplings, fish, buns and dessert while being treated to traditional dragon dancing. It is wonderfully colourful and very loud with the drums and yes, I am still scared of the dragon and the bald man mask who are integral stars of the show. I think it stems back to my cousins chasing me around our Chinese grandfather’s house wearing the dragon costume many years ago.

The other place is, I suggest, the best yum cha in Melbourne I’ve tried so far: Hu Tong on Commercial Road also in Prahran. It’s one of the fancier (read: quieter, less crowded) yum cha places but still competitively priced. And the quality of the food ranks this yum cha experience above others. It’s fresh and the servings decently sized. We shared 5 dishes, had tea and a glass of wine and split the bill at around $30 per person. And we almost rolled out.

I would recommend both places, probably Hu Tong first but Oriental Tea House is well positioned on Chapel Street and closer to the action.


[Note: pictures to come… I’m having trouble uploading to the computer!]


Kenzan for the Best Shabu Shabu

Both times I’ve been to Kenzan for Shabu Shabu have been amazing. This meal is healthy and delicious and best shared with someone you love…ok, a little over the top but it’s ideal for sharing; if you like the person you’re sharing with then all the better.

The description of Shabu Shabu on their menu is:

Shabu Shabu – Ever Finer sliced beef and vegetables, lightly cooked in a clear broth, served with ponzu & sesame dipping sauces

Having the pot of broth lightly bubbling away at the table as you select your slices of meat and vegetables you would like was almost therapeutic. The idea is that you lightly boil the meat then dip it in the sesame and ponzu (a soy vinegar mix) and eat with vegetables cooked the same way and some boiled rice.

The staff at Kenzan are lovely and the service efficient.

I would recommend Kenzan – it’s a little hidden in the Collins Place complex underneath the Sofitel at 45 Collins St in Melbourne CBD but well worth the visit.


Cook Shabu Shabu at your table or try the sushi bar


Kenzan Japanese Restaurant

Collins Place, 45 Collins Street (56 Flinders Lane), Melbourne 3000
Ph: 03 9654 8933

The Fighter + The Blind Side = Movies Worth Sitting Still For

In the past two weeks I watched two movies which I loved and managed to sit still for the entire way through. I enjoy movies but I don’t watch a heap at the actual cinema as I tend to get distracted by my will to be active and move around or by thoughts of the week ahead. So it’s always a joy when I watch a movie that captures my full attention from start to credits.

The Blind Side features one of my all time favourite actors, Sandra Bullock, who plays an extraordinary woman in this true story of selflessness, love, dreams and family. Michael Oher is a homeless boy affected by life; his drug addicted mother, absent father and a childhood you wouldn’t wish for anyone. When he is adopted into a wealthy all American family his life is changed forever not only in his journey to becoming a celebrated football player but in becoming part of a family who love and care for him as their own. The strength of the characters in this film had me close to tears (note: those of you who know me know that I never cry in films!).

The Fighter is showing now so it’s not too late to get out there to watch the true story (hmm… I see a pattern forming) of boxing brothers Dicky Ecklund and Micky Ward, the latter played by Mark Whalberg (LOVE him). The title refers to the career of pro boxer Micky and his fight (literally) to get to the top overcoming the smothering love and emotional abuse of his family, and his brother’s descent as a crack addict. But I feel it some may see the film as belonging to Dicky.

Christian Bale is brilliant as Dicky who is as loveable as he his is frustrating. I feel there is a deliberate overshadowing by Dicky of Micky. Micky drives the story and brings all the characters together but with an underlying pull that is perhaps best portrayed in the last screen where he is sitting along on the couch, shoulders slumped … even though it is all about him.

I recommend seeing both films if you haven’t already. I was also lucky enough to see The Fighter in Gold Class cinemas at the Jam Factory (Prahran, Melbourne), my first Gold Class experience – love being able to get lost in the giant recliners!