Archive for February, 2011

Does Australia have a class system?

February 26, 2011

I saw the King’s Speech last weekend. What a movie! It really made me proud to be an Aussie. Only an Aussie would insist on calling a king by his pet name – Bertie!

In the film (for all of you who haven’t seen it) the speech therapist, Lionel Logue, insists the king and treat him as an equal, forgetting the class system which was prevalent in those days. It made me think about the class system in Australia, or lack of it.

One of my favourite things about Australia is that you could be a tradesman or a doctor and yet you can still mix in the same crowds. No one would look down on you if you earned more than the other person and it’s hard to define exactly what middle class is.

In England it’s very different. One of the first questions someone will ask you when you meet is what you do for a living and then put you in a box according to your answer. Well that’s what I’ve found anyway.

There’s a major class system. Just look at the supermarkets! The middle class and the rich shop at Waitrose and Marks and Spencers and the rest of us use the cheaper supermarkets.

It’s bizarre.

In the UK your class can also be determined by the kind of accent you have. The middle class have a ‘proper’ English accent whilst other classes might speak with an Essex accent or a south London accent. It’s weird. You go to different parts of the city and people speak differently. That’s something you don’t really get in Australian cities.

Maybe it’s because Australian history comes from the convicts, where we all spoke the lingo of the poor English, banished to Australia for our crimes. Even the rich who moved to our land were forced to adapt to harsh conditions, living in remote towns and often farming the land for their food. It didn’t matter how much money you had, the country was new and so you had to adapt. There were no roads to use a horse and carriage on and you could forget about those beautiful gowns if you were a rich girl.

Maybe Australia is changing. The class thing is probably becoming more obvious – I’m not sure? However, with the mining culture that we have, especially in WA, many can strike it rich if they’re willing to take on a fly-in-fly-out job. So who gives a crap about class? You can be a bogan and live in a mansion, and to me that’s what being an Australian is all about. Not having to worry about being ‘proper’ or what your status in society is – you can just be yourself.

Brixton’s Duck Egg Cafe

February 13, 2011

When my parents lived in London back in the late 70s, early 80s, Brixton was a place to be avoided. It was rough and dangerous and the Brixton riots didn’t help it much.

A lot has changed since then and Brixton is now quite a creative area, with a good music scene and great bars and restaurants.

Recently, feeling very hung over following birthday celebrations, my friends and I went to The Duck Egg Cafe which is situated on Coldharbour Lane just off the high street.

Friends Corrin and Rosie tucking in

I first stumbled across The Duck Egg Cafe by accident. I was actually looking for Rosie’s Cafe, because a friend of mine had her cookbook, Spooning with Rosie, and she told me to check it out. Unfortunately mum and I couldn’t find it, so we ended up going to The Duck Egg Cafe instead.

A good choice.

Yum!

 

All the produce is fresh and most of it is sourced locally, either from the Brixton markets or farms outside of London.

You can choose whether you’d like duck eggs or chicken eggs with your breakfast, but I would advise to go with the duck eggs. They are HUGE and the yolk is unlike that of a chicken egg, it is almost fluro yellow in colour.

The setting is like a posh greasy spoons and very small, with only about eight tables. You may have to wait for a table but it’s often not for long and you can get a coffee at the counter while you do. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.

I ordered the breakfast with the smoked salmon and hash brown. Delicious. The coffee is very good too and they do freshly-squeezed juices – I highly recommend it!

Chez Bruce

February 5, 2011

London is often slated for its cuisine but over the past few years it has gained increased interest for unique dishes created by celebrity chefs.

Take Heston Blumenthal for instance. His show (Heston’s Feasts) is pretty out there but it’s amazing to see what kind of unique twist expert chefs can put on simple dishes.

We decided to venture out recently and experience some of the Michelin starred restaurants which the best London chefs work at. I do want to try Heston’s new restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal which has just opened and will feature dishes from centuries ago that have had an experienced a modern Blumenthal touch, but until we taste his delicacies we are satisfying ourselves with a few restaurants owned by Bruce Poole.

The first one we ventured to was Chez Bruce in Wandsworth Common. I went with my mum whilst she was visiting in London.

 

The menu is surprisingly well-priced, which is great. You pay about £30 a head for three courses, depending on what time of the week you go and for the food you get this is great value. The wine list is extremely extensive and a sommelier is on hand to help you pick what topple will go best with your meal.

For my starter, I had the fish cakes with poached egg. It melted in my mouth and was delicious.

Fish cake

Following this, I ate the braised pork and a bok choi inspired dish which came with a samosa. It was cooked to my tastes, although the meat was perhaps a tad on the fatty side.

Pork with bok choi

For my dessert I had a crème brulee which was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I love crème brulees and this one was baked exactly how they should be – very thin yet large in size. It was as big as my hand! Divine.

Creme brulee - as big as my hand!

My fiancé had the frois gras with brioche, followed by the lamb and then the champagne jelly for dessert. He enjoyed the first two courses but was a little disappointed by the third as he said it was rather bland.

Fois gras

Lamb

Champagne jelly

 

My mum had the risotto with truffles, the salmon and the chocolate cake. Her selection was great, especially the risotto which was lovely and rich and full of smouldering flavours that danced on the palette.

Risotto

 

The service at the restaurant was good. I hate it when waiters come up to you 100 times, asking whether your meal is nice, whether you’re enjoying it and so on. I like to be left alone. At the same time, I like them to be attentive in friendly. When your glass needs topping up they should be able to spot it and fill it straight away before you even notice.

Chez Bruce’s service was precisely like this, which I commend them for. The decor however was rather bland and unexciting with strange pieces of abstract art dotted around the place.

The bill came to £200 but we had two bottles of wine between the three of us, which was a pinot noir from New Zealand that complemented a vast range of our dishes well.

Next time I will blog about Chez Bruce’s sister restaurant, The Glasshouse, which we also enjoyed recently.

Ben Southall – a traveller’s inspiration!

February 2, 2011

My friend Natasha and me with Ben Southall

Met an inspiring traveller on the weekend – Ben Southall. Heard of him? He won Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ competition a couple of years back.

I watched him speak at the Adventure Travel Show in London and afterwards my travel-writing friend managed to entice him to have coffee with us.

He really is an inspirational bloke.

Not many people know this, but before he landed the best job in the world, he travelled through Africa on his own, climbing the continent’s six highest mountains and participating in six marathons, raising £25,000 for charity.

He documented all of his travels on his blog and no doubt it was one of the reasons why he landed the Queensland gig.

Ben still lives in Australia today and at the moment he’s organising a canoeing trip, retracing Captain Cook’s journey from when the explorer landed on Aussie shores for the first time.

He’s taking a crew with him, including film experts who are going to make a Google ‘streetmap’ of the ocean’s reef and its fish – how cool is that?

All the while, he is promoting the protection of the reef and creating awareness about global warming and its effects.

I’d love a job like his and he gave me some valuable tips for documenting my future travel adventures. Perhaps one day I could have the pleasure of sitting on a beach, laptop on my knees, writing about the dolphin dive I just went on, all whilst being paid?

One can dream!