It’s not often a food festival offers a burger lover like me the chance to wrap my mitts around different burgers from sixty-nine different eateries, but that’s how Visa Wellington on a Plate rolls. It’s taking over Wellington, New Zealand (just a three hour hop across the ditch) from the 9th -25th August.
Ultra cool space. Very Newtown. Bloody delicious burgers. And queues! Is it worth the wait? We wandered upstairs and downstairs early on a Thursday night looking for a table and finally we grabbed the only available stools at the end of a shared bench. The BAR DUDE seated me like a lady while he ordered our drinks, brought back his beer and reported that my Sazerac would be brought to the table.
The Botanist Kirribilli
Taking an atypical expedition to the north side of the harbour, I set out at dusk to observe a rare species: the Kirribilli wine bar. Rumoured to be the only one operating, I entered carefully, scoping the darkened layout under the cover of leaves, before proceeding to the only remaining table in the loudly buzzing room. The natives, it would seem, have adopted this bar rather wholeheartedly.
Last week the cream of the music industry gathered at the Beach Road Hotel for the 2013 Rolling Stone Music Awards. The awards were sponsored by Patrón Tequila which ensured the crowd were dazzled with an abundance of killer drinks, from the opening Patrón Perfect Margarita presented in a jam jar, to the buzzy Xpresso Martini made on Patrón Café XO coffee liqueur. As Owl Eyes took to the stage, the crowd was treated to cucumber foam-topped shot glasses of Bloody Maria Cabillitos. With Bondi Ink also in residence, one guest took home a (free) tattoo of the Patrón Tequila bee. Here’s hoping it wasn’t a big surprise in the morning…
With so many people driving north these holidays, I thought I’d offer up my favourite Pacific Highway food pit stop. It’s called the Salty Dog Seafood Café and Gallery, and after travelling the highway between Sydney and Taree numerous times, I can attest to it being pretty much the best food on the highway. It’s located in Coolongolook (just north of Bulahdelah) and has a focus on locally caught seafood - including excellent Wallis Lake Oysters. For a clever leftfield choice, try their prawn and bacon loaded potato skins – perfect with a bottle of Matilda Bay’s Minimum Chips.
Even in this candy coloured environment, the vibe for Abby Dobson is relaxed and low-key at her free Thursday night Red Door Set. The crowd is a collection of upwardly mobile couples, mostly straight and moneyed, with a raggedy bunch of older singles sipping beers. Women seem keener on exploring the reasonably extensive cocktail list, offering options like the High Tea ($16) bearing house-infused chamomile and vanilla gin.
They claim to be the healthiest, but I don’t buy into any ‘the burgers are better’ sing-song. The number of calories written by the burger may as well be foreign currency to me. That said: there’s no clouding of judgment when I say that the burgers here are damn good. The latest to spring up is in Bondi Junction; not an easy hustle, but Grill’d aim high. They’re licensed, provide al fresco dining, and even donate a buck from every meal to a local charity of your choice.
Pub Life Kitchen
It takes a dastardly mind to snaffle The Norfolk’s famous deep fried pickles, and stick ‘em on a burger, but that just what they did here for the W.M.D. Burger ($15). Yep, that stands for Weapons of Mass Destruction (served on the 4th of July), and it’s homing in on your arteries and liver.
Long Nights, Early Mornings
The days are both colder and shorter. Cramming it all in this month meant I even had to get up at six am! This was a world away from my usual caper of staying up until six. I did however get to enjoy a rustic, Italian breakfast by Signorelli Gastronomia as part of the Pyrmont Festival. I learned that dawn does indeed smile upon Pyrmont - go check it out some time.