Darwin Blog

Mardi Gras Night in Sydney
Monday, 6 August, 2007, 8:25 am
Filed under: Best Kept Secrets - Sydney, Dining


Since we were in Sydney on Mardi Gras night we acknowledged that this may be the only opportunity we would get to see the parade and experience everything Mardi Gras.  We tried desperately to get reserved seating on the Glamstand and missed out.  There was an exclusive cocktail party in the vicinity of the Glamstand, but for the several hundred dollars you were paying, no one was willing to let you know how exclusive, exclusive was and what you exactly got.

Therefore, we bit the bullet and booked into Marque Restuarant for dinner.  When I booked our table, quite sometime in advance, I was told by Emma that we would have a choice of a degustation menu or al a carte.  It was also fine to make our mind up on the evening.  We confirmed our booking and also factored in extra travel time due to the different road closures etc due to Mardi Gras.

Upon our arrival, we were seated and advised that a degustation menu would be served.  As we had a degustation meal at Tetsuya’s the night before, we were not sure if we could handle another one.  After the meal, let me assure you that we had no regrets.

We had a funny little incident after advising of my allergies to fish and peanuts, that a course of fish was served to me, of which I proclaimed in good nature to the waiter that he was trying to kill me.

The menu was sensational and included the following:

Chaud-froid free range egg

Almond Jelly with Blue Swimmer Crab, Almond Gazpacho, Corn Custard and Herring Roe

Cured Ocean Trout with Manning River Rock Oyster, Melon Gherkin and Avocado

Joselito Iberian Jamon with Belgian Endive and Parmesean Custard

Boudin Noir with ‘Risotto’ of South Australian Calamari and Lobster Broth

Roast Muscovy Duck with Jerusalem Artichoke and New Seasons ‘Slippery Jacks’

Mandagery Creek Venison with Baby Beetroot and Chocolate Feuilletage

La Tur (Italian Cow, Goat and Sheep Milk Cheese) with Marzipan Cake and Vanilla Celery

Sauternes Custard with Caramel

‘Amedei’ Chocolate Terrine with Nougatine and Tomato Raspberries

Petits Fours; Salted Caramel Chocolates and Apple Fruit Jellies with Vanilla Sherbet


We could not fault the menu, the taste of the food and the quality.  It was fabulous.  They substituted any of the dishes I couldn’t have, which were two from memory and they made them as close to what they serve the others.  I also got to have  Mark Best’s signature dish, Beetroot Tart with fresh Horseradish Cream.  Honestly, it wasn’t my favourite and I felt I disappointed Mark when he asked about it, as it just did not do anything for me. 

The downside was the occassionally slack service.  One of our party decided to have the accompanying wines – this did not work too well, as from time to time it was not in tandem with the food.  Myself and the other at the table constantly had to ask for our drinks to be replenished, which we felt they should have been on top of.  It wasn’t a flat out night as far as patrons go.

My absolute favourite was the Sauternes Custard with Caramel and in fact, I had three.  Mine, another at the table and then they gave me an extra for almost killing me.  I was absolutely grateful and I even used my finger to scrap the bowl and lick it.  I would definately pop in there just for this dessert anytime.  I proudly admitted this to the chef.

To top the night off, the chef Mark Best came and joined our table.  He thought we were from Singapore and we took no time to assure him that we were nowhere near as sophisticated as the Singaporeans, but we do love our food.  Not only did he join our table to talk about the food, he graciously signed our menus for the night and then had several photos with us.

Whilst the service could not and did not compare with Tetsuya’s, the food was excellent and Mark Best did keep an eye on his patrons throughout the evening, even coming onto the floor from time to time.  In fact, he showed one of us to the bathroom.

Would I go back, absolutely.  In fact, we are extremely glad we missed Mardi Gras in light of the great night we ended up having.  There was also no doubts in having another degustation meal. Ten points for the personal approach at the end of the night.


Mao & More
Monday, 6 August, 2007, 7:25 am
Filed under: Best Kept Secrets - Sydney


I subscribe to a number of interior decorating magazines and items from Mao & More are always featured.  So I decided that on this trip to Sydney, I was going to make it a mission to and check out the store knowing full well that I would probably fall in love with most of the stuff, but not be able to bring it home with me. 

I did fall in love with the store.  The girls I was with did not enjoy the experience so much, as the smells and the type of furniture etc reminded them of their grandmother’s home.  It resurected many childhood memories.  They went next door to the pub (it seems as though there was on on almost every corner) and played the pokies, whilst I fossicked around.

Of all things, I bought a number of books and a groovy tshirt for my husband.  Some of the books I bought included:  Made in China, Five-Fold Happiness, India Style and China Style.

I have attached the link to the Mao & More website to give you more of an idea of what’s in store:  http://www.maoandmore.com.au/

If in Sydney, take some time to check out this store.  I would allocate at least an hour and be prepared to spend some money, as I guarantee that you will find something that you just have to have.

empire beads
Monday, 6 August, 2007, 7:13 am
Filed under: Best Kept Secrets - Sydney


Whilst walking around Surry Hills making our way to Mao and More we came across the showroom for empire beads.

With a couple of friends into beading in a big way, we stuck our heads in and had a look around.

It was an amazing showroom of millions of beads and all the bits and pieces required for beading.  There was a beading workshop underway up towards the back.  We endeavoured to buy some beads for friends and gave up as the selection was incredibly overwhelming and we wanted our friends to actually make something for themselves from the beads, rather than for us.

If you are into beading, I strongly recommend that you visit this showroom.  I noticed that empire beads were also located at Chatswood.  Did a spot of shopping at Chatswood on the Saturday afternoon – totally recommend going there also.

Monday, 6 August, 2007, 7:05 am
Filed under: Best Kept Secrets - Sydney, Dining


What better way to start a Saturday morning in Sydney, than breakfast at bill’s.  We climb into a cab and high tailed it to Surry Hills.  We were in a hurry because prior to getting to Sydney, I had tried to book us a table, considering that we were flying from Darwin to eat at this establishment, we did not want to miss out.  When I called, I advised the person taking the call (Ian) that we were coming from Darwin and that was the only day we had to enjoy a meal at bill’s. Ian advised me that they did not take bookings, never have, no matter how far we were travelling and we would have to line up and wait like everyone else.  Although it would be best to arrive between 7.30 and 8.00am.  We were kinda a bit jacked off at the attitude, but I was determined I was going to eat the fare of one of my favourite chefs.

Fortunately this Saturday morning we just walked in and took a seat at the communal dining table and oohed and aahhed at the menu.  To be honest I had researched all the menus of the  restaurants we were dining in for the trip, so I knew exactly what I wanted.

So what did we order?  One of us had the scrambled eggs with aged cheddar and bacon, the other had the ricotta hotcakes and I had the sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon.  We were all very happy with our breakfasts and were totally stuffed.  It was a good thing that we had a hearty breakfast, as we had a lot of walking to do, as we were going to Mao and More for a look around and I think i

t took us a good thirty minutes to get there.  We did find some great places along the way and soaked up being able to walk long distances without getting sweaty like we do at home. 

We did find Surry Hills a little hilly compared to what we are used to.  By the way breakfast for three came to $74.80. I was also on the look out for Ian, just to advise that he needed a bit of an attitude adjustment and also remind him of the fact that what is the big deal about reserving a table for three Darwin girls who took a whole day to fly down and eat at his establishment!

Since returning home, I have cooked all the dishes we ate for breakfast when in Sydney from Bill’s cookbooks and they are still superb even though I cooked it.

Top Ten Tips for the Darwin Racing Carnival
Monday, 6 August, 2007, 5:44 am
Filed under: Mind Your Manners Miranda

This is a top ten tips list for women to assist with the whole Darwin Racing Carnival bevy of events: 

  1.  The small things matter.  Wash your hair, make sure nails are clean and that includes toenails.  If wearing open toe shoes, make sure you have had a pedicure.
  2. Invest in a good quality hat.  If you have to go to a number of events, invest in one hat that can be slightly altered for each event.
  3. Quality, quality, quality.  Don’t wear fake pearls if you can’t afford the real thing.  Good quality jewellery, shoes and handbags say a lot about the person.
  4. Wear clothing that suits your personality and body shape.  Midriffs, let’s not go there.  Muffin tops are worse and showing off your tattoos, double worse.  No night time fabrics e.g. velvet, sequins or basically shiny and should be worn at night!
  5. Try not to expose too much flesh.  Flabby upper chests and bingo wings are just plainly off putting.  So is back cleavage.
  6. Don’t overdo the makeup – it gets hot out there and you don’t want to look like a tragic clown at the end of the day.
  7. Avoid stilettos, especially in grass areas.  You only ending up sinking and aerating the grass.
  8. Don’t drink too much – not a nice look.
  9. Colour code your underwear with your clothing.  The black bra or knickers under white is so trailer trash.
  10. If you are representing work at a corporate tent, be mindful of that.

PS If the invite stipulates black tie, that means a gown to the floor – still take note of tips above.

Comfort Zones
Monday, 6 August, 2007, 5:24 am
Filed under: Observations

Children have the knack for making you get out of the “comfort zone”.

Today is a public holiday in Darwin for Picnic Day (not the Darwin Cup, as all newcomers to the Territory think).  Picnic Day was instituted and fought for by the unions as a day for workers to spend with their families, I assume having picnics.

With my son now at school, his teacher thought he should advise them as to why they were having the day off school on the Monday.  To have a picnic as he informs me.  I am so not into picnics.  Why?  All the work in getting everything together, making sure you have everything, unpacking it all when you get there once you have found a place to sit, being harassed by flies while you eat and then to pack everything up again!

All weekend, my dear child has humbugged me about having a picnic and this morning we prepared the food, including a picnic basket (apparently no point going on a picnic without a “picnic basket”) and then drove down to the Nightcliff foreshore, nabbed a table in the shade and near the playground.  We ate in the peace and quiet and then my son and his friend, X, played.  The surroundings were picturesque, there was a nice breeze and all round one felt it was good to be alive and there is no better place to be on earth, but Darwin.

Despite not being fond of picnics, today was a pleasant experience.  To make it even better there were no flies!

It’s not just about horse racing!
Sunday, 5 August, 2007, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Observations

The much anticipated Darwin Cup, with all the glamour and excitement that the sport of kings attracts, climaxes today.

For the past month, those who have the need to be seen, have been clamouring to attend a number of events such as the Skycity Derby Day, the Coleman’s Cup, the Palmerston Sprint and of course, the Gala Ball.  This is a month of partying, social events and cocktail parties.

Apart from the many tourists who make the annual pilgrimage to Darwin for the Cup’s festivities, it is also a time for locals who proudly showcase the Territory with their unique style and world-famous hospitality, that can only be experienced in the Top End.  And this is where the cringe factor comes into it.

I have been to number of events throughout the Darwin Cup Carnival over the years.  To be honest, my favourites days have always been Derby Day and the Palmerston Sprint Day.  Whilst always being a corporate guest at these days, what I like about them is that even though you dress up to attend the races, there isn’t all that bitchy pressure like that is seen at Ladies Day.

Ladies Day is the worst social experience, I have encountered to date, in the 23 years I have lived in Darwin.  So much so, that I now refuse to go to Ladies Day, no matter how good the invitation is.  The last one I went to, I was a corporate guest in the Toyota tent.  The food ran out when they got to our table and what was slopped together was so not appetising, that the ten of us did not bother eating.  Not to mention that they served crappy champagne and it was hot!

Entertainment, well the obligatory fashion parades with way too skinny and young models – that, yeah right, as if they would purchase let alone wear the clothes.  Don’t forget the firies, each year the same old, same old, under the pretence of raising money for charity.  But what got me the most is the competitiveness and bitchiness of the women over outfits, hats, shoes and jewellery and yes, they are all there under the pretense of having a great time with their girlfriends – oh please.  Some of these women spend months, sometimes the whole year, just getting ready for this day and let’s not mention the thousands of dollars spent.

But despite trying to look refined, within a couple of hours, very few of these women are in anyway dignified, let alone very lady like in their behaviour.  I always warn friends that go to Ladies Day, that I really do not want to see them on the news that night sitting in the gutter, drunk with their shoes off and their hat hanging on the side of their face!  Honestly, this is how many of them look.  I chose to leave at 4pm before things get too messy and before anyone “barfs” on me!

The one event we haven’t been to is the QANTAS Darwin Cup Ball and this has been by choice. The tickets are $275 per person and this year 3 000 people attended.  I have to question whether one would receive $275 worth of quality food and alcohol and to be quite frank, there is nothing exclusive about it, when there is 3 000 people involved.  Think about it that is $825 000 in revenue!  Quite ironic that QANTAS sponsors the Ball, considering the lack of services and the rapid decline of QANTAS servicing the Territory.

Anyway, the Ball takes place on the Casino lawns dining under the stars!  At $275 per ticket, it is a seafood buffet extravaganza, yes, one must line up for food!  Would would like to think lobster might be involved, afterall oysters and prawns are now so every day.  Last year guests were served 7000 oysters, 10,000 prawns, 500 kilograms of beef, 300 kilograms of salad and half a tonne of fruit. The event has become renowned in true Territory style for a top night out getting “smashed”!

Many say the entertainment is always great, but for $275 per person, one would think that the Casino, with QANTAS sponsorship, would be able to secure a top lining act rather than has beens.  Although this year Leo Sayer performed, I just wonder how many in the audience knew who he was!

To be fair, I guess this is just not my scene and I am happy to let the wannabes enjoy it for what it is.  After-all, it may end up being someones 15 minutes of fame by having their photo published in the Northern Territory News.  It is times like this that Darwin still is a small town!