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Category Archives: Urban Vistas

Dubai in 24 Hours

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I’m on a fabulous pre-Christmas trip to the northern hemisphere to explore food, culture and theatre! On the way to the UK I stopped off in Dubai to visit my friend and colleague the delightful Ms G, who is currently resident there teaching in an international school.

Ms G treated me to a whirlwind taste of Dubai in 24 hours! Way too short but enough of taster that I know I will return to investigate more Emirati delights.

So here’s the highlights:

Checked in to Ms G’s apartment with its stunning views of some iconic skyscrapers on  Dubai Marina Walk.  See headline photo!

Visited  Ms G’s school in the desert with its fascinating multicultural mix of students and buzzy vibe.

Lunch on the terrace at Jumeirah Beach Hotel with its views of the spectacular sail shaped Burj Al Arab Hotel (pictured below). It was 30 degrees C and we ordered roast Wagyu beef with horseradish and Yorshire pudding!

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Then an urgent nail appointment at The White Room Spa. I had got on the plane straight from work so no time for a manicure – those who know me, know that as a cook my hands are always in flour and sugar making pastry etc and need a lot of TLC!

Off to Atlantis, The Palm, photo below, to see this amazing man made island, and to gaze at the Atlantis, pictures of which have fascinated me when featured on television cooking programs. We had cocktails at Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay.  An enormous venue –  less cosy kitchen then colonial bar – think Somerset Maugham and empire days. One of the house specialties is gin. They have  an amazing variety. Not usually a gin drinker, I did succumb to a couple of wonderfully refreshing cocktails. The Floradora and the gin martini were delightful.

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Last stop was dinner at the highly acclaimed La Petite Maison in the Dubai International Financial Centre, a mix of the south of France with Italian overtones.

The venue was ritzy and glitzy, the clientele a mix of ex pats and Emirati, and the vibe was opulent. Not so the food, which while beautifully cooked, was the kind of cuisine that could be eaten in a few mouthfuls. This hungry diner needs a little more to wrap her chops around. A portion of a small sea bass fillet meunière, a tiny green salad, one piece of baguette, and a little pistachio cake were all charmingly served, and no doubt suited the elegant, waif like female diners draped languidly over dining chairs for maximum viewing potential. Oscar Wilde’s Gwendolen would have been impressed!

But I was in Dubai not just to eat, but to experience the vibe, and to whet my appetite for a further visit, so people watching definitely took precedence over food, on this occasion.

And finally, as a reminder that Christmas is a cultural as well as a religious event, the Christmas tree at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, pictured below.

I love Dubai and I will be back. The best part was spending the day with my friend, the ever optimistic, wonderfully organised and always, always, so kind, so caring, Ms G.

Ms G, thank you!

XXX Miss S

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Spring in the Garden

Lovely spring days in my courtyard garden in Rozelle.

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The Quirky Cat

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White Bay, Dawn, on Sydney Harbour

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Daylight Saving in Sydney has meant that the sun rises late in March! While the temperature is a balmy 20 degrees at 7.00am, the sun is barely up and the moon is still visible. A beautiful time of day to walk the streets and watch the city – and the harbour – come to life.

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Rozelle Substation – Suburban Abandon

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Nestled in between suburban dwellings in a quiet back street in Rozelle, Sydney, is an electricity substation dating back to 1934.

The building is no longer in use. The front facade has the clean angular lines of an art deco influenced style; the rear of the building, hidden behind barbed wire, is in a lovely leafy back lane and could almost be mistaken for a garden outhouse.

More romantically, it reminded me of early 19th century English garden architecture, where a rough hewn building in a garden landscape might contain a hermit. Tom Stoppard in his play Arcadia writes about the “hermitage” and the “hermit” in English landscape gardening.

“English landscape was invented by gardeners imitating foreign painters who were evoking classical authors…. Capability Brown doing Claude, who was doing Virgil. Arcadia!…. It’s the Gothic novel expressed in landscape.”  Tom Stoppard, Arcadia.

The gently decaying building pictured below, with its little door, abandoned furniture and lovely overgrown garden might, perhaps, contain a hermit, and I half expected one to appear…

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Dining on the Bund in Shanghai

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I have recently returned from a trip to Shanghai which is to me, a culinary mecca. In previous visits I have dined at some outstanding restaurants which exemplify the best in Shanghainese  cuisine.

The purpose of this visit was to sample some of the best of the historical tradition of sophisticated European dining, part of Shanghai’s fascinating heritage from the economic dominance of European commerce in the early 20th century.

The Bund is one of the most well known sights in central Shanghai, an embankment where the modern financial district of Pudong faces the grandeur of art deco buildings across the Huangpu River. These buildings once housed numerous banks and trading houses from western countries.

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Today many of these buildings have been transformed into high end dining venues, which showcase some of the best European food in the world.

I was fascinated, visiting these restaurants, by the architectural transformation of large internal commercial spaces into sophisticated industrial chic, designs which reflect the clever and at times transformational food concepts on the menus.

Here is a brief impression of some unique dining experiences on the Bund.

Mr and Mrs Bund

http://www.mmbund.com

Bund 18, 6/F, 18 Zhongshan
Dong Yi Road, Shanghai 200002
+86 21 6323 9898

A “playful haute French bistro headed by chef Paul Pairet” as described by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (and ranked Number 43), was my favourite dining experience of this trip. My second visit confirmed my first: innovation meets tradition, sophistication meets funky, culinary artifice meets simplicity of flavours.

The website will give you a much better idea of the food of this establishment than this writer can produce in one short review.

Here is what I ate on Saturday 14 December 2013:

Soft Egg MayoIMG_3287

Salmon Meuniere IMG_3288

Escalivada – charred-grilled eggplant, capsicum, zucchini and tomatoesIMG_3290

Asparagus Essential ParmesanIMG_3292

Orange and Orange Tart – candied whole orange, orange sorbet and curd, vanilla chantilly and crumbsIMG_3308

The theatricks of this dish made it the epitome of the dining experience: a simple whole orange on a plate, which, when cut open, reveals layer upon layer of flavour, colour and texture.

The Westin Bund Centre Shanghai

88 Henan Middle Rd, Huangpu, Shanghai, China +86 21 6335 1888

The Sunday Veuve Clicquot Brunch at the Westin Hotel is legendary. I experienced this on Sunday 15 December 2013.

Two floors of sumptuous food encompassing all major cuisines. Ice-cream, chocolate and desserts feature strongly, which was very well received by this writer with a sweet tooth!

And of course the free flowing Veuve Clicquot!

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M on the Bund

http://www.m-restuarantgroup.com/bund

20 Guangdong Rd, Huangpu, Shanghai, China +86 21 6350 9988

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This restaurant has a more intimate feel than other restaurants on the Bund. Its rooftop terrace and low ceilings create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The views from the paned windows and terrace are stunning, day or night.

While I enjoyed the food I found it it a little un-adventurous. Mood won out over food for me.

The highlight of my meal on Monday 16 December 2013 was dessert:

Baked raspberry Bombe Raspberry-icecream, sponge cake and Italian meringue.

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Mecato

http://www.threeonthebund.com

6F, Three on the Bund, No. 3
Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road
Shanghai, 200002 China
+ 86 21 6323 3355

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This Italian restaurant from three Michelin star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is situated on the Bund in close proximity to Mr and Mrs Bund and M on the Bund.

I was very impressed with the raw industrial concept of the architectural design. The dining space feels like an abandoned commercial space has been superimposed with the makings of a restaurant.

Huge concrete pillars, rusting steel frames and a rough hewn wooden floor create a perfect backdrop for the no-nonsense rustic Italian food.

You can see from the photos the beautiful art deco windows overlooking the Bund which somehow do not seem at odds with the exposed industrial structures within the restaurant.

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On Tuesday 17 December I ate a simple meal of:

Rigatoni and Meatballs, Smoked Chili-Tomato Ragu – House Made PastaIMG_3375

Daily Selection of House-Made Gelati or Sorbetti – chocolate, pistachio and vanilla gelatoIMG_3377

My dining companion ordered a Dark Chocolate Tart with gelato.IMG_3376

This was my last dining experience on this trip, and it was made even more enjoyable as I had broken my ankle the night before, and determined to go to Mercato, I had made it to the restaurant on a cold and rainy night on crutches!

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Documenting a Contemporary Working Ruin

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My fascination with urban ruins has made me very observant of just how many structures lie abandoned around Sydney, magnificent in their architecture or just a signifier of a former, now outdated use.

Power stations and sub stations, abandoned factories and warehouses, disused railway lines, even single crumbling walls, exist around Sydney, mostly with very little known or documented about them.

There is a truly unique group of buildings in Sydney that sits incongruously in its suburban landscape. Once a sail-makers’ premises, the buildings today seem oddly romantic – one building, a cottage on the site, sports wrought iron window surrounds, and charming blue woodwork on the doors that is peeling and decaying, but would now be regarded as fashionably distressed.

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The premises is very much still in business and is an Aladdin’s cave of things lucent and theatrical. A further photographic project would be to document the contents of the Tardis like factory itself.

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As with most urban ruins, nature reclaims territory wherever possible. Volunteer plants – beautiful weeds – entwine themselves among rusting metal and decaying wood. Perhaps a triffid is waiting for its moment…

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The site, familiar to me for many years, still fascinates. Artisan like, quirky, dilapidated, not a ghost, clinging tenaciously to life, the spirit of this working ruin is palpable as you wander the site.

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White Bay Power Station: documenting an urban ruin

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The White Bay Power Station dominates the landscape on Victoria Road and Roberts Road in Rozelle, Sydney, a stone’s throw from the working harbour.

A marvellous ruin, the building has a fascination for this writer who has a passion for ruin, dilapidation and decay.

I document the daily and seasonal view of the tall chimneys of the ruin from my bedroom window as can be seen sometimes in the changing images which head this blog.

Built over a period from1912 to1958, and decommissioned thirty years ago, it is a heritage listed structure. The ruin towers over the entrance to the Balmain peninsula and is an iconic counterpoint to a largely residential suburb.

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