I began on a Sydney Sunday night, a Clovelly kitchen around whose table we composed ourselves, friends going back at least 25 years.
Anita had purchased spicy little Greek sausages and served them with her own tomato relish; there was a magnificent spanakopita with green salad and lastly pears she had peeled and poached, their surprise centre a burst of mascarpone. I attempted to walk much of it off the following morning early, joining the throngs of runners and joggers on the Bronte to Bondi cliff-top track.
This was Sydney at its finest – and I speak not only in gastronomic terms. Sunshine rendered every aspect luminous, the ocean was a starling blue, the friendliness of total strangers an unexpected treat.
Object of the exercise was the annual Sydney Morning Herald for which superlatives prove inadequate. like oneself got to walk the red carpet in order to access the skinny endless space which was the Water Bar of the Blue Hotel at a Wooloomooloo wharf; that a line of waiters bearing trays of champagne and wines flanked our entry; that apart from the plethora of exquisite canapes hot and cold which circulated unceasingly there were stations of comestibles like cheeses and prosciutto – the former including entire wheels of parmesan and gorgonzola and the latter wafer-thin curls of ham in their hundreds alongside rustic loaves of bread. Louis Roederer flowed like the Seine all night.
Alex in her great-aunt Irene’s inherited old house in Waverton the following evening insisted on a lowdown of the whole shebang. She knows my affection for cheese but I think it was more to do with the fact she has gastric band surgery imminent that the four-course meal she served was cheese-based. Crunchy buttery little pastries hotly oozing gruyere accompanied our old-fashioned coupes of fizz; next came her simply sublime lasagna, whose bechamel layer she had substituted with an experimental three-cheese custard; then sour cherry tartlets with mascarpone; then the cheese course! All of this washed down with lots of excellent Coonawarra shiraz.
Wednesday night’s takeaway gourmet pizzas and (more) red wine overlooking Pittwater up at Careel Bay constituted a light relief! Because next night there we were at Pilu, Sardinian restaurant at out over the dark ocean, working our way determinedly through a seven-course degustation menu matched each step of the way with Sardinian wines. The following evening it was more waterfront dining at the Manly Pavilion where we ate mozzarella on lemon leaves, pig’s ears, lacquered duck, raggy pasta with meatballs, jewfish with avgolemono: small perfect serves of astonishing (and expensive) food.
And yet the loveliest meal in my fat alcoholic Sydney week was the day we left, when
we sat in the sunny back courtyard of my Bronte friends’ place for breakfast. Earlier we had joined a queue which snaked down the road out of the shopfront adjoining a drycleaners to buy Iggy’s bread straight coffee filled our big cups, we slathered marmalade and jam over slices of still-warm sourdough and poppyseed bagels. I was conscious of experiencing one of those moments of pure joy: old friends, the man I love, good simple food, the sun on my back and the scent of jasmine. All those extra kilos, in the final analysis, of little importance.