Little did I think that I would be at their house a year and a half later when the Hendricks first visited us at Mumbai. A and I got to know each other through our blogs and we met when she and her family came to town. We met again when she came to India for a short while and I introduced her to the marvels of Olympia at Colaba. Sydney was nowhere on the horizon for me at that time.
Then a conference paper of mine got selected and I was on my way to Oz. Melbourne and Perth. That’s when I thought of going to Sydney much to the consternation and bafflement of those who knew the continent and the flight times involved. I almost gave in and changed my flight plans on the face of concern and well meaning ridicule but then landed at Sydney with a bit of a pep talk from K.
A picked me up at from my hotel on a grey Sunday. She was busy baking Hot Cross Buns at the local elections the previous day. The sale of these buns normally is a good predictor of who is winning apparently. Pity, Gallup never thought of it.
|The Anzac bridge|
|The Sydney Harbour bridge...I would walk across it two days later|
We drove off to the Sydney Fish Market over the iconic Harbour and Anzac (which looks like our Bandra Worli Sea Link) bridges. We went to a couple of shops where they sold fish to retail customers. The abundance of fish was mind boggling. Varieties one might have heard off at the most. Not seen before. A picked a Trout for supper. I marvelled at a fish seller who cut sashimi straight from the counter for eager Japanese tourists.
|Cleaning the fish|
|We want sashimi...right now|
|Missing my Khar fish market girls|
There were food counters inside. Hearing that I’d never eaten fresh oysters before, A picked a dozen for us and to go with a bottle of vinegar from Tetsuya, the legendary super expensive restaurant. A told me that her pre teen children preferred oysters and salads and were not fond of junk food. A fact that frazzled her but would be the envy of many parents I am sure.
We sat by the bay and ate the oysters. An exhilarating experience and I almost felt as if I was swimming in the blue sea occasionally nibbling on oyster swimming with me. And yes the Sydney Rock oysters were a lot more full bodied and intricately flavoured than those from Coffin Bay. I was a good learner.
|Cleaning the oysters|
|The Sydney Rock ones are better and I am not just saying this to get in the good books of Sydney-siders|
We had some fish and chips to go with it. Beer batter fried calamari, cray fish and anchovies. We took our loot and went out. It was wet and windy and A, the perfect host, wiped the benches dry. By the time I took a million photos and began to eat the food had gone cold. And ‘chewy’?
That’s the miraculous part. The squids, the cray fish, the anchovies...every bite made you smile more and more. Almost as if you were with the Indian cricket team holding the World Cup. The texture of the fish was amazing, the taste pristine ... possibly couldn’t have been fresher in the sea itself. Not clammy at all.
|Fish and chips and well beyond the cod my mother got at England|
‘Coffee and gelatos?’ said A and off we drove from the Fish Market.On the way we discussed Master Chef Australia and the reasons for its success. A felt that that MC Aus won over most with its warmth which was so different from the negativity of most reality shows. Neither of us were as bewitched by MC A as some of our friends were but we admired the way MC A had got into the blood of non food lovers.
I agree with A on the the warmth bit. Having now tasted Australia I feel that Masterchef Australia beautifully captured the values of Australian society – the warmth, the openness, the multiplicity of cultures, the vitality and energy, the richness and purity of food produce, the passion for food, the way it revelled in its diversity...who wouldn’t love it?
Just as one would love the quaint Italian suburb where A took me to Bar Italia. This was her favourite hangout from her college days at Sydney. I immediately took to the cappuccino there and it was just what one needed on a grey afternoon. A got us a Canolli which seems to be like an Italian éclair. It was oozing with fresh cream and all the charm and seductiveness of Malena herself.
The gelatos were Oscar worthy. Blueberry yogurt for me and pistachio for A. They made me forget all gelatos that I have ever had. These were so luscious and delectable, smooth and rich. These Italians know how to make food as sinful as it gets.
|The Malena-like Canolli|
|A worked hard to get a pic of me where my eyes were open|
|Now you know how the Canolli was|
We headed off to A’s house. Remember the second last segment of most episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he is hosted by the locals of the place he visits? Well my visit to the Hendricks had it all.
Warm smiles of welcome and recognition from Tara, Sam and Andre, A’s children and her husband. Like in a No Reservation’s episode you had all generations here. Max and Mary. Active caravaners in their retired years. Camping it out at Sydney after a road trip to Max’s school reunion. Jenny and Russel, who showed the same spirit a generation down the line. They had converted their car into a house, ‘The Big Red’, and were travelling across the continent.
There was a yard with chucks and bees and the very beautiful Merlot, who was ‘family and not a dog’. Chirpy children of course.
|The Big Red|
|The Bee hive|
|When Max met Mary|
There was laughter, chatter and sunny conversations...the hours whizzed past as A baked sourdough loaves, ham and cheese bread, baked bruschettas. She fried calamaris, dished out oysters and cooked prawns from the Fish Market and ended with a crescendo with baked potatoes, salad and an oven baked trout. She had stuffed the trout with spring onions, lemon slices and crushed pepper, wrapped it in a foil and put it in the oven. The pink fillets that she plated with the heady and bewitching fragrances of fresh herbs and condiments would haves stood proud amongst even the fare of the very hallowed Tetsuya.
|Bruschettas with home baked bread|
|Ocean trout getting ready for dinner|
|Fresh ham and cheese bread|
|salt and pepper calamari|
|Sourdough straight from the over|
|The trout is ready|
|Freshly pounded pesto. The the diners at Tetsuya would envy my dinner|
A dropped me at the Coves near the station after dinner where I shopped for the folks back home.
I walked through the freezing aisles of Cove and thought about my days at Australia. The smiles, the welcomes I got, the hospitality, the sense of bonhomie all around, the superb hospitality, the way folks opened up their hearts and made me feel at home.
If anyone ever told you that food blogging can lead to good Karma then believe them. This post is proof of that.