Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Monday, 11 June 2012

Run coaching session

Heel Strike

I've never thought much about my running technique, like many people I just run. Over the last few months I've been thinking about having some coaching sessions. I'd like to learn more about different styles of training (e.g. sprints, hills, fartlek etc...) and also to get some pointers on my technique.

My running club friends organised a coaching session with Keith Bateman as a leaving gift. Awesome!

The first thing Keith does is video you running. I could hear him speaking into the microphone "Ok, this is definitely fixable". It was highly unlikely my technique would have been perfect, but you can always hope!

You can see in the photo above that I'm a classic heal striker (where your heal hits the ground first). Keith advocates mid foot landing and also minimalist / barefoot running. Barefoot running can be a decisive subject for runners, but as Keith explained how it was more efficient and stable I was totally sold.

Despite the key thing being how you land, Keith's coaching approach is all about the take off. If you take off correctly then everything else should work out.

Mid foot landing (sort of)

We took our shoes off (so we could feel what we were doing) and started doing various exercises in Queens Park. The drills involved butt kicks and the more ludicrous chicken scrape and Irish gig.

It was a really interesting session where I could definitely feel my technique change. The most surprising thing I found was how much harder it is to stop using the new running style!

I have never really thought about how I come to a halt at the end of the run. I just stop putting in any effort and it just happens. Extrapolating from what Keith was telling us, heel striking acts as a brake so when you stop putting in effort you come to a halt pretty quickly.

Mid foot landing is much more efficient and you recycle more energy into the next stride. This recycling of energy and forward momentum means that you travel a lot further before coming to stop.

Towards the end of our coaching time Keith took a second video of us running barefoot. As you can see above I'm still landing heel first, but it is much less pronounced. (Keith told me I was doing better moments before the video was taken. I'm clinging to that!)

After the session had finished and we were leaving the park I asked him to inspire me about how much quicker I might be able to run. A 10% improvement should be possible from technique alone, that would be twenty seven minutes off my marathon time. Not bad.

It's a shame that I have left Sydney and can't have any follow up sessions. However, it has got me seriously thinking about trying to find a running coach here in London.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Restaurant Review: Caysorn, China Town, Sydney

Kao Yum

Oh my this place is hot! This ferang boy went bright red and was mopping his brow. I haven't eaten such spicy food since the ferocious street stall laab ped I ate on Phahonyothin Road in Bangkok.

Caysorn has been on my wish list to visit ever since I read Helen's review back in November. I didn't think I'd have time to visit this new Thai eatery. However, a welcome lunch break during a hard day of packing gave me the opportunity to check it out.

I'd heard that the restaurant had a reputation for being very spicy. When we ordered the waitress simply warned us the food was hot. There was no offer to tone down the heat levels, that's just the way it is.

We hoped to order the green mango salad but it wasn't available so we opted for the Kau Yum ขัาว ยำ ($8.90). A plate of jasmine rice, dried shrimp, roasted coconut, bamboo shoots, jack fruit and a number of other goodies. We were advised to give it all a good mix, stirring in the accompanying sauce.

I had a quick taste of the sauce which wasn't too hot so added the lot. What I didn't know was that all the chilli had sunk to the bottom! It was a tasty and interesting mix, but a little too spicy for me.

Kanoon Jeen Tai Pla  (grilled fish, cashew nuts and vegetables)

Next up was the signature Kanoon Jeen, a southern style curry. We ordered the Kanoon Jeen Tai Pla แกอ ไต ปลา ($5.50). The grilled fish curry with cashew nuts and vegetables is a total bargain at under six dollars, especially as it includes the salad bar.

The curry was ferociously hot. Spice I don't mind (even if it does make me go scarlet) as long as it is matched with flavour. The overwhelming (only?) other flavour was distinctly fishy. I can't report to be a fan.

 Southern pork curry with young jack fruit and kaffir lime

My favourite dish was the Southern pork curry with young jack fruit and kaffir lime leaves ($13.50). The lime leaves cut through the curry providing a lovely zing.

I hadn't tried Southern Thai food before my visit to Caysorn. The food was distinct from the Bangkok / Isaan fayre that I'm used to. I'd love to go back, making sure I asked for some recommendations of dishes that aren't quite as spicy!

Shop 106 - 108a, Level 1
8 Quay St 
Caysorn Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, 4 June 2012

A day trip to Adelaide

There is A LOT to do when you decide to change job, move house, move country, organise international shipping and pack to go on holiday. It was a more exhausting, time consuming and stressful experience than I expected.

It didn't leave much time for what I really wanted to do, which was catching up with friends who I might not see for a while.

The only way I could fit in a visit to see my friends Andy and Emily was via a day trip to Adelaide. As I learnt, it is quite a long way just for the day.

When I arrived Millie, their eldest daughter, wouldn't speak to me for the first forty five minutes. I was ignored for a while and then some silent interaction started as toys were timidly passed between. Finally we had speech and then I was being ordered to play hide and seek and push Millie on the swing. I'm not sure if all three year olds are the same.

We dropped Millie and Evie off with Andy's parents so that we could spend a bit of adult time together. We enjoyed a long lunch at the Italian restaurant Chianti. Lunch with Emily is always entertaining with NO question off limits. Admitting to a new relationship certainly provided plenty of fodder. I hope the table next to us couldn't overhear our conversation!

After lunch we popped round to see Emily's parents who I know quite well from my visits to Adelaide over the years.

We picked up Millie and Evie on my way back to the airport. I thought I'd built up a good relationship with Millie in the morning, but I had another ten minutes of silent inspection before she'd speak to me again.

There was just enough time to send a post card from the airport and then it was back to Sydney!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Restaurant Review: La Disifida, Habberfield

Tartufa Pizza 

A final catch up with Angie (the baking godess) and Ryan gave me the opportunity to try La Disifida in Habberfield. The crowds certainly seem to love this Italian restaurant and we were lucky to get a table arriving just before six thirty on a bustling Sunday night.

The menu is focused around pizza with some pasta, gnocchi and daily specials thrown in to tempt you.

Angie and Ryan ordered the Tartufa pizza ($26) which was the dish of the evening for me. The thin and crispy base came topped with a generous prosciutto and truffle paste. The combination of the ham and truffle tasted seriously good.

Funghi Fontina 

From the specials board I ordered the funghi fontina ($16). The mushrooms were cooked with a hint of garlic and covered in melted fontina cheese. I found the mushrooms moorish and definitely ate more than my fair share.

Eggplant, ham and ricotta pizza 

We also ordered the eggplant, ham and ricotta pizza ($26) from the specials board. The pizza had the same great base as the tartufa pizza. While I was a little sceptical at the appearance of the finely diced ham (it had the look some processed hams do) it tasted great and the fine dice was an excellent way to get good coverage across the pizza.

Is ricotta the right cheese for a pizza? I'm a little undecided. The dense mounds of cheese also made it a little intense when you did get a bite. A more even covering would have been my preference.

Affogato misto

Although full Angie and I couldn't resist an affogato misto ($15) to share for dessert. With three scoops of ice cream it has to be one of the largest affogatos in Sydney.

I really enjoyed the pizzas at La Disifida. It gives me something to aim at in my home baking pizza project. I haven't been to Roso Pomodoro recently enough for a direct comparison, but La Disifida must be in contention for the best pizza in Sydney.

La Disifida
109 Ramsey St,
La Disfida Enoteca Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, 1 June 2012

Meat pie taste off!

Pie Face Steak Pie

At the end of our bánh mì taste test we decided that a Top Aussie lunchtime snack would be next. Does it get any more Australian than the meat pie?

I picked up a couple of contenders from Pie Face and Simon collected the rivals from Mick's Bakehouse.

Mick's Bakehouse - steak pie

First up were the steak pies.

Mick's bakehouse ($5.90) had superior pastry and a thicker gravy which made it easy to cut and share. It seemed to be a mixture of mince and pieces of steak (which had been cut reasonably fine). There was a lot of pepper in the pie which I found a little overwhelming.

Pie Face ($5.75) had a wetter gravy which made it messy to eat. The pie had larger chunks of steak which felt more substantial. Pepper was also the dominate flavour, but there was less than in Mick's pie which was my preference.

Round one to Pie Face.

Mick's Bakehouse - chicken pie

Next up where the chicken and mushroom pies.

The pie from Mick's Bakehouse again had superior pastry and a thicker consistency which made it easy to eat and share. I preferred the flavour of Mick's pie too.

The pie of the day goes to Mick's Bakehouse.

Snag Stand - Backyarder

All pied out, but still hungry we headed to the Snag Stand to pick up a couple of hot dogs.

We started with the Backyarder ($8.90) a beef dog with coleslaw and cheese. I wasn't a fan of this snag. The coleslaw and cheese was an odd combination. Perhaps it would have been better if the cheese was melted?

Snag Stand -Toulouse

The Toulouse ($10.90) was next up after receiving a recommendation that it was one of their most popular hot dogs.

The pork sausage is served with onions, mushrooms and truffle aioli on a brioche bun. It was a good dog although not as spicy as a classic Toulouse should be. The brioche bun was too sweet for me.

It was a rather filling lunch in the end! The snags were an unexpected bonus and fitted in with our Top Aussie theme. However, it was all about the pies for me. Pie Face and Mick's Bakehouse were pretty closely matched, with Mick just stealing it.

Mick's Bakehouse
188 Pitt St
Level 5, Westfield Sydney
NSW, 2000
Pie by Mick's Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Snag Stand
188 Pitt St

Level 5, Westfield Sydney
NSW, 2000
Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

Pie Face
109 Pitt St
NSW, 2000
Pie Face on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Marque, Surry Hills

 Veal rump with buttermilk, chocolate and lettuce

When my colleague suggested that we celebrate my final day of Australian employment at Marque there was no need to think twice. Our previous two visits have been so stellar that it seemed the obvious choice.

The service and the food were again impeccable.

The waiters and waitresses seem to know in detail exactly how each dish is put together and were able to answer all Simon and my questions with aplomb. We started to ask more obscure queries in an effort to catch them out, but they were equal to anything we could throw at them!

I've previously enjoyed everything that I've eaten at Marque. This time the amuse bouche of olive mouse with mandarin granita was an opinion divider. The boys at the table didn't like it, while the girls did. I found that the intense olive mouse clashed with the granita. I couldn't get the sweet and savoury combination.

The presentation was equisite throughout and there was plenty of technique on display. The veal rump had the faintest hints of chocolate in the sauce. I was worried that the chocolate could have been over powering, but three hatted restaurants don't make those kind of mistakes.

The set menu is officially three courses, but in my experience, an amuse bouche and palate cleanser / extra desert are thrown in make it a five course feast. I was a bit concerned that the Sauturnes custard might not have been making an appearance, but thankfully it was brought out after our dessert.

If it wasn't for the fact that Marque requires a slightly extend (read three hour) lunch break I'd be there every week.

 Olive mousse with mandarin granita

Fried mussells with barigoule, tomato and mussell custard

Jasmine with hazelnuts and new season apples

Sauturnes custard with burnt caramel

Simon's review of our lunch is here.

355 Crown St
Surry Hills
Marque on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Spencer Guthrie, Newtown

I got the distinct impression that the crew at Spencer Guthrie don't like being compared with Newtown's other smart diner Bloodwood

Comparisons are inevitable. They both occupy the same section of King St (the restaurants are practically opposite each other), serve similar Modern Australian fayre and are in approximately the same price bracket. 

However, I can also see that they are different beasts and comparisons are a little unfair. Spencer Guthrie is smaller, doesn't have a bar (in fact currently doesn't have a licence) and has an air of formality, trying to serve (almost) hatted food. Bloodwood is the cheeky younger brother.

Service was impeccable during the evening. The waiting staff were incredibly knowledgeable about the food and efficient in their service. At the end of the meal we sat around chatting for an hour finishing our wine. We were the last table to leave the restaurant and the kitchen had virtually packed up for the evening, but they never once tried to usher us out of the door.

I enjoy it when the kitchen is on show. Although we didn't a fantastic view from our table, it adds a certain theatre to the restaurant.  I think the kitchen should also be lauded for seeking to use sustainable produce.

The first of many run club + friends farewell diners

Sadly, my list of grumbles is pretty long. They obviously don't like taking group bookings. We were slapped with a minimum spend which got inflated when we added a couple of extra people to the table. Having now visited the restaurant I can see that it lends itself much better to smaller tables, but if that is the case why take group bookings at all?

I also found the $75 minimum spend off putting from the start. They weren't even full on a Wednesday night so I didn't really see the point.

The food certainly demonstrated a lot of technique, quality ingredients and great presentation. However, for my palate it just missed the mark. There wasn't enough of the roasted chilli or lime in the ceviche to give it the necessary zing. And the beef cheeks could have used more of the wonderful jus. We're only talking small margins, but unfortunately they count. All of the men at the table left hungry too. Not a great sign when you've each had three courses.

The final nail in the coffin for me was the value for money. We spent $90 a head and it was BYO! A service charge slapped on top of the minimum spend didn't help. At Bloodwood (there is the comparison again) a similar sized group spend $90 per head, left royally stuffed and we'd drunk seven bottles of wine.

For me there is no comparison between Spencer Guthrie and Bloodwood. Not because you shouldn't make one, but because in my experience, Bloodwood is so much better.

Ceviche of kingfish with pickled cauliflower, lime and roasted chilli - $20

I would have preferred the ceviche to be more like the Kinfish I had at Deli Bottega in Bondi. The roasted cauliflower, chilli and lime didn't do enough to excite me palate.

Braised beef cheeks, white bean puree, caramelised fennel & olives - $30

The braised beef cheeks were meltingly tender. For me the star of the dish was the intense jus around the plate. It helped bring everything together and give the flavour a lift. It is just a shame there wasn't more of it!

Soft apple cream, poached rhubarb, butter crumbs & malt ice cream - $15

I'm not sure if it was the wine or the dessert itself, but I have to admit I don't have any memories on the twist of a rhubarb crumble.

Some food porn of dishes not tasted by me:
Seasonal betroot, goats cheese, walnuts and fresh horseraddish - $19

Lamb leg, parsnip puree, roasted eggplant and potatoes - $31

Chewy meringue, glazed figs and coffee chantilly - $15

Spencer Guthrie
399 King Street
Spencer Guthrie on Urbanspoon

Friday, 25 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Deli Bottega, Bondi

My final full week in Sydney was about as cramming as much in as possible. I was burning the candle at both ends and loving every minute of it.

My running friend Kendall suggested a drink at Icebergs to start off the week. Sadly they are closed on Mondays. However, the thought of a final trip to the beach had me hooked, so on the Wednesday night Kish and I headed out to Bondi.

We started with a drink at Icebergs. Practically deserted we had our pick of seats (and egg shape capsules hanging from the ceiling) from which to soak up the views of Bondi. Panoramic views of the beach are unfortunately interupted by the high number of pillars in the room.

After reading enthusiastic reviews from Tori, Bondi Hardware was on my wish list for dinner. However, I baulked at the idea of a forty five minute wait. Deciding to check out other local options we stumbled upon the busy looking Deli Bottega. It was a fortuitous find.

Luckily another couple were just leaving and the friendly waiters soon has us seated. One of the waiters pulled up a chair to our table, talked us through the menu and all of the special dishes. It could have been overly familiar, but instead fitted in with a relaxed, yet knowledgeable, style of service.

We ordered largely from the specials menu, starting with the Kingfish crudo with chilli, ponzu, avocado and crouton crumbs ($22). I've no idea how they packed so much intense olive oil flavour into the crouton crumbs, but I'm pleased they did. The croutons provided the main textural element to the dish and added an enhanced flavour. There was sufficient chilli to keep things interesting too.

Seared scallops with granny smith apple and green papaya coleslaw

Next to come out of the kitchen was the Seared scallops with granny smith apple and green papaya coleslaw ($22). The scallops were perfectly cooked. However, neither Kish or I could detect much green papaya in the coleslaw. 

The scallops found themselves eclipsed during the evening by the Kingfish and Zuchinni. More a reflection on how good the other dishes were, rather than a poor reflection on the scallops.
Zuchinni salad with olive, onions, persion feta, tomato and lemon olive oil

The Zuchinni salad with olive, onions, persion feta, tomato and lemon olive oil ($16) was the star dish of the evening. The ribbons of zuchinni were given a freshness by the lemon olive oil. The impossibly fine dice of olive provided bite and the feta a richness. A wonderfully balanced dish that left us wanting more.

Crispy pocket of egg, pepper and tuna on green salad 

Our final plate was an opinion divider. I enjoyed the Crispy pocket of egg, capsicum and tuna on green salad ($16), but Kish wasn't as much of a fan. Tasting the components in isolation I could see her point. However, if you had a bite of the (not so crisp) pocket, salad and dressing together it worked quite well for my palate. Yes, the capsicum flavour dominated and it would have been nice of the salad leaves has been dressed rather than put on the plate bare, but I kinda liked it.

Deli Bottega is a fun and quirky little venue. The friendly and attentive staff and high quality dishes coming out of the kitchen make this place one to remember next time you are in Bondi. Which for me sadly might be quite some time unfortunately....

Deli Bottega
144-148 Glenayr Avenue
Bondi Beach
Deli Bottega on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Runcible Spoon, Camperdown

Over dinner at Bakery Nights, Lucie suggested that I add Runcible Spoon in Camperdown to my wish list.

I feared I wouldn't have time to visit Runcible Spoon before I left Sydney, but a hastily arranged lunch with friends provided the perfect opportunity. My friends ended up bailing but I decided to visit solo anyway. I'm pleased that I did.

The hard concrete lines of the modern cafe are softened by an ample number of plants in an eclectic array of containers. It was a bit of a hipster hangout, but not offensively so.

I sadly arrived too late for the special Cinco de Mayo menu but I liked the idea that they had one at all.

I found the chalk board menus slightly hard to follow. The breakfast and lunch dishes weren't clearly distinguished. I presume everything is served all day?

I was drawn to the Thai style eggs with nam jim, tomato, pork belly and jasmine rice ($18). While waiting for my order feared I could be in for a horrible interpretation of Thai food. Thankfully that wasn't the case.

Two fried eggs were served on a salad with a fragrant nam jim dressing. Accompanied by pork belly with a spicy crust and rice on the side made it a hearty meal.

The two tear drop shaped eggs were joined together at the top and had an almost batter like crust along one edge. It made me think that they could have been poached and then flash fried in very hot oil? However they did it, there was a lot of technique shown across the whole plate.

I'm pleased that I made it to Runcible Spoon. If the rest of the menu is as good as the Thai style eggs then this cafe would be a real treat. Just a shame I won't be in Sydney long enough to find out....

Runcible Spoon
27 Barr St 
Runcible Spoon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Little Star Eat House, Sydney CBD

The western side of Wynyard has raised it's game significantly in the last six months. York Lane, Double Barrel coffee house and the Little Star Japanese Eat House have all opened within fifty metres of each other.

A quick lunch with Dolly gave me the opportunity to try Little Star. Asking the young Japanese man behind the counter to recommend his favourite soup I went for his choice of the Tan Tan Ramen ($13.50).

Tan Tan noodles are the Japanese intrepretation of Sichuan Dan Dan noodles I enjoyed at the Chinese New Year celebrations.

The noodles came served with a healthy amount of minced pork, sweetcorn, greens and a couple of slices of fish cake. You could tell the ramen was slightly thicker than your average noodle soup, but the chilli prevented you from appreciating it's full flavour. I did enjoy the chilli though. There seemed to be the perfect amount so you got a little bit of heat in each mouthful without it over powering.

At $13.50 Little Star is a little too expensive for an everyday lunch. As a little treat it is well worth it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney

I'm currently in a whirlwind of trying to pack as much as possible into my final few days in Sydney. Catching up with friends, taking a final dip in the sea and of course eating!

Simon suggested a visit to Rockpool Bar and Grill and a group of us duly descended to try what is tipped to be Sydney's best burger.

Tucked into a corner off the main restaurant, the bar has a classic and sophisticated feel. The first page of the menu contains a list of etiquette on how to behave.

No hooting or hollering

Gentleman, do not approach ladies, and if you are so lucky as to have one approach you, endear her as you would your mother.

Love it.

Ever since burger project I can no longer eat a burger I have to taste and dissect it in the hunt for burger perfection.

For lunch I selected the Greenham Grass Fed Hamburger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese
and Zuni Pickle
($18). The pattie was tender and flaovursome. For me, the major success of the burger was the bun. The toasted bun was soft, light and had hints of sweetness. Definitely one of the better buns I've eaten.

I found the burger a slightly awkward size. A little too big to eat with your hands. But no matter how sophisticated the bar, eating a burger with a knife and fork just feels a little wrong..... I didn't take much from the elaborate pickles.

Simon ordered the trademark David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger
with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle
($24). The main difference between the two burgers is the pattie with most of the other ingredients being the same.

From my small taste of the pattie I did not think it was any more tender than my grass fed burger. The meat of the grass fed burger was more flavoursome too.

Having tried both burgers before Tina opted for the House Made Chorizo Dog with Jalapeno Hot Sauce ($19). The hot dog looked divine and Tina made the big call that it is even better than the burgers.

I'm pleased that I made it to Rockpool. The bar is a swish, if slightly expensive, place for lunch. But it pays to treat yourself every once in a while.

Rockpool Bar and Grill,
66 Hunter St
Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon