Arvana Spa – Surry Hills, Sydney

Hello folks,

Ever been to Thailand and had a massage? Do you wish you could have one again? Well now you don’t have to go all the way there to experience some luxury, sure you’re not paying in Thai Baht, but you saved on the airfare at least.

Anyways, we thought we should share this lovely spa with you if you’re in metro Sydney. We’ve now been three times and every time we walk out feeling pretty good and very relaxed. If you enjoy pampering yourself once in a while, it’s definitely worth a try. The service is very efficient and friendly and they have a room for couples, friends or pairs of any sort really, which is great for a gift/treat! The music takes you to another world the aromas lull you into a sleepy daze, while you enjoy the expertise of the Arvana masseuse! You also get tea on arrival and another on completion of your treatment, as well as, a hot towel.

If you’re savvy you can usually also find some of those group discount vouchers, generally something along the lines of $49 for 80 mins, which is pretty good! Their prices are otherwise reasonable for that special treat. Ant and I usually try to make it there at least four times a year as a little present to ourselves every quarter for some relaxation and regeneration. A great wellness treat, though you can’t claim this on any health benefits.

They are currently based on Elizabeth St but will be moving and starting on the 1 Jan 2012 you can find them at:

648 Crown St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
T:+61 2 9698 8100

Open 7 Days
from 10am to 10pm.

http://www.arvanaspa.com.au/

Purina Shedeze – Dog or cat deshedding tool

Since I’ve been so quiet, I thought I’d add something I’ve been impressed with lately!

We procured some supplies for Empress Dowager from our local Petbarn and one of the things we came away with was the Purina Shedeze (a deshedding brush). We had seen this advertised somewhere previously and liked that it went through and stripped the undercoat, while leaving the top coat of the animal. It has a nifty button to push off the collected fur once you’ve finished brushing your furry friend, as well as, an easy to use screw flip blade system – which switches between coarse and fine teeth. The brush we bought was the small sized brush, which was $39 (referred to as ‘small sized dog’). It is a bit odd that they only advertised the brush as a dog grooming tool on the packaging, but I did ask a few staff members and was assured it would be fine for cats. This made sense as I’d seen the online Purina site, which had cats being brushed with it. So I suppose a bad packaging scheme for them, but don’t be tricked!

Anyways, I tried the Shedeze straight away when we got home and the cat loves it – she’s rolling around and purring loudly lapping up the brushing, but that is her default. I think the best part about this brush is that you’re actually having fun while combing the cat and the cat also enjoys it to no end.

Deshedding tool
Easy to use and surprisingly fun

I’d definitely recommend having a look at this if you’ve got a cat/dog which generally sheds a fair bit or if you just want something that’s going to help your pet out for the hot summer days.

Update: we lent this to a veterinarian friend of ours who wanted to try it on her pet cat before investing, her cat also really enjoyed it and she ended up purchasing one for her cat too.

If you’re cat is not a big brush fan, they may find it a little odd. I’ve now gotten into the habit of brushing our cat every afternoon when I come home. She will automatically run to the shower and wait to be brushed, the Shedeze is great every now and then. Otherwise, I use a rubber brush as seen below and she loves it.

catbrush

owl

Snag Stand, Sydney

“A gourmet hot-dog stand? Now that’s worth having a look,” I mused. So it was a fateful day where Owl and I trekked up to Westfield in the city to try Snag Stand’s food. I had spent about an hour the night before agonising between The famous Reuben Sandwich ($13.50) from Reuben & Moore, the Hand-crafted Chilli Crab Burger from Charlie & Co.’s ($18), and Snag Stand’s ‘haute dogs’ (as they put it).

When I finally decided on SS, it took me another hour to decide between the Pork & Fennel (w/ sautéed tri-colour capsicum, balsamic glaze & shaved parmesan on a toasted brioche roll; $9.90), the Toulouse(w/ sautéed onions, rosemary mushrooms and truffle aioli on a toasted brioche roll; $10.90) or the African Boerewors option which isn’t on their menu anymore. I slept on it and emerged fully convinced that the Pork & Fennel was the way to go, and I was not disappointed. Aside from the gloriously smoky capsicum and complementary combo of the balsamic and pork, that particular hot dog was the ‘Special of the Day’ – which meant it was a dollar off at $8.90. Score!

yum!

Owl decided on the Spicy Spanish Chorizo (w/ semi sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle aioli, baby rocket, and shredded Spanish goat’s cheese on a brioche roll; $9.90). I thought that it would be too salty but we were pleasantly surprised to find that everything amalgamated well, leaving a slight tingle of spice and a satisfying savoury aftertaste. The chips were crunchy and, again, not too salty although I did regret not getting a $1 dipping sauce to go with them – the Spiracha Mayo appealed to my love for chilli.

I love the sturdy little cartons the food came in, adding to the whole ‘hot-dog stand’ feel. Fare with flare is how I would describe this unassuming place. Next time I have a hot dog craving, I wouldn’t mind checking out Stitch Bar which has hot dogs, curly fries and ice-cream sandwiches to boot! Heaven…

Snag Stand
Level 5, Westfield Sydney Food Court
Cnr Market and Castlereagh St
NSW Sydney Australia 2000

Mecca Café, Ultimo, Sydney

I started drinking coffee out of necessity during my uni years but have grown to enjoy it and often cannot function without my morning cup now. Will someone please invent an alarm clock which makes you coffee? It’s Groundhog Day and Catch-22 at the same time every morning in my bedroom. Need to get up to get my caffeine but can’t get up without my caffeine. Intravenous drip plskthx.

Anyway, Owl and I were interested in checking out Mecca in Ultimo after having been voted Best Café 2011 by the SMH Café Guide. The promise of very good coffee was lure enough without it being so enticingly close to us.

Being the indecisive creature that I am, I often pick an item from the menu before I visit an eatery but despite much scouring on the internet, I could not find the menu for Mecca. Everyone mentioned the same thing: a good selection of salads, sandwiches, and your usual café array of pastries. Hmm.

We arrived at around 12pm and were surprised at how small the café was, plus it was completely packed! What little standing space they had was crowded with isolated individuals avoiding eye contact whilst waiting for their take-away. After surveying the vicinity and the menu (salads, sandwiches and 2 varieties of rather sad-looking pastries) we ordered our caps, a tuna sandwich to share, and plonked ourselves on the one communal table; shuffling the chairs a little to resemble some sort of meagre privacy.

I don’t have any pictures, although these blogs do. Some would call the décor ‘concrete chic’ but it I found it hard and cold. The surroundings rather befit the service, actually. Plus, the lack of textiles made the small enclosure rather noisy. I prefer the cosy kinds of cafes; the ones with large amounts of character. The coffees were good, to be sure, but the blend ever-so-subtly hinted at a nuttiness akin to old cigarettes which I found slightly off-putting. To each his own, I suppose.

The star of the place was definitely the tuna sandwich which contained ample amounts of leafy veggies, tomatoes, capers, tuna and mashed hard-boiled eggs. It was a tuna nicoise salad imprisoned by thinly sliced, untoasted sourdough and generously drizzled with olive oil. Half of my sandwich landed on the table much to my regret as I really could have done with more, so delicious it was!

Not being the kind of place you would linger and chat, Owl and I scooted off within half an hour of arriving. To be honest, I found the place altogether overrated and cynically mentioned to Owl the wonders of political influences and bribery. I probably would go back, but only for the sandwich, and only as one of the many avoiding eye contact and shuffling their iPods nervously.

Mecca Espresso
(02) 9280 4204
646 Harris Street, Ultimo. NSW. 2007.
Monday – Friday: 7.00am – 4.00pm
Saturday: 8.00am – 3.00pm
Sunday: Closed

Game of Thrones – HBO/Foxtel

You’ve probably seen ads around the place for the new show “Game of Thrones” currently being advertised for Foxtel’s Showtime channel (on at 8:30pm Sunday nights). If you’re a fan of Epic Fantasy novels and the like, you may want to check this series out. It’s definitely a show that you need to warm up to, as the first few episodes as Ant described it, “it’s like watching medieval news”. It’s dark, it’s twisted and at some points pushes your comfort zone with it’s violence, scandal and shock value – some call this “fantasy grown up”. George R. R. Martin’s series isn’t for the faint-hearted and growing to love characters in this series may seem futile as everyone is fair game to leave the plot at any time. You do get some likeable characters and each of Martin’s original books is set to become one season worth of the series, so this first season corresponds with book one of the “A Song of Fire and Ice” series.

HBO series

At first we found it a little difficult to stomach, I think the notion of it’s depravity and perhaps our own desensitisation to that really hit us watching this and we felt like we might not make it through the entire season, but as we rounded episode 4 (of 10) the storyline fleshed out enough that the intrigue started to draw us into the world of Westeros. By the subsequent episodes you start to appreciate the story and development, though initially I was a little disheartened to see there were no strong female characters that were noble/honourable enough to really respect in the show, but I felt much more satisfied by the end of the season.

There are some taboo and definitely dark themes in the series so you’re probably not going to want to let the kids watch this one. Look out for Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – he adds some funny lines and persona to the series and the Emmy nominations he received are certainly warranted.

I’m really enjoying the boom of these shows, I only wish they would turn Raymon E. Feist’s world of Midkemia into a series.

If you’re into your historical dramas, fantasy series or just something to watch – check out Game of Thrones and give it a try, if you can sit through the beginning you’ll cruise through to the end of the season. If you’re looking for other similar themed shows to watch here are a few I have enjoyed:

  • Rome
  • The Tudors
  • Camelot
  • Robin Hood
  • The Borgias
  • Spartacus
  • Downtown Abbey

Let me know if there are any other shows you suggest, I’d love to check them out!

** This has been slated to return mid-2012 for Season 2 on Showcase **

\~OwL~/

Blackbird Café, Sydney

Bob, Owl and I went to Blackbird café at Cockle Bay Wharf for dinner after visiting the Aquarium. We just wanted something quick and simple so we could run along home to do ZA/ZG (which, by the way, is very frustrating). Bob ordered the Portuguese Chicken Burger ($21.90), Owl the Lamb Kofta Burger ($22.90), and I the Roasted Lamb Cutlets ($35.90).

The large burgers were tasty and I am happy to report that the thick chips were freshly cooked and, hence, were deliciously crunchy as supposed to dismally soggy. Bob tried to share her chips with me but lifting the cup from the board only served to scatter the chips on the table since it didn’t have a bottom – sharers be warned! I was rather pleased that my cutlets were very lean and that it was so generously apportioned. It started off well but eventually became a little too salty for my liking so I had to eat some of Bob’s burger after to try to neutralise the saltiness whilst Owl very kindly ate my last cutlet. The only major downside to this dish is that the cutlets were quite tough and did not fall off the bone well despite promises of it being roasted as supposed to pan-fried. Nonetheless, it sufficiently satisfied my lamb craving.

We fought our way to the counter and paid for our meal, for-going dessert as I had a box of pastries from Black Star Pastry sitting at home. Service was prompt yet bordered on the condescending as the restaurant seemed to have lifted its status a few notches since the last time I visited (2007). I suppose we were too casually dressed for a Saturday night out. All in all it was a nice experience if a little overpriced. No pictures since it rather makes me cringe, not being a fully dedicated food blogger. You’ll just have to imagine the yummy food 😉

Blackbird Café
Balcony level of Cockle Bay Wharf between the IMAX Theatre and Sydney Aquarium
02 9283 7385

Medusa Greek Taverna, Sydney

We went to the Medusa Greek Taverna in Sydney for a friend’s birthday not too long ago and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We found the service was attentive, food was great value and thought it’d be good to share with others.

Upon walking in you feel like you’re in Greece, the walls and general ambience are relaxing and they definitely add that little extra to the experience.

You get good generous portions for each meal and found we had plenty to eat.

For entrees we started out with the Halloumi ($16). A good sized serving which was served quite quickly and fed the three of us easily.

For mains, we had to scour the menu carefully as there were so many things on the menu which sounded promising.

I chose the Exohiko Arni ($32), which was delicious. The lamb was nicely medium rare and the filo pasty balanced the lamb and sauce well. The serving was very generous and while I usually have a good appetite this still managed to give me a run for my money.

The Swordfish skewers (Xifias Souvlaki – $34) were also a substantial serving and very tasty. They were not easily finished and ended up being shared around amongst the three of us.

swordfish and prawn skewers, chargrilled with lemon, chilli parsley sauce

The last dish was ordered by Ant, which was the whole baby calamari filled with pinenuts and rice on a chilli spiced tomato salsa (Kalamarakia Yemista – $29.50), who at first was very impressed with the dish and enjoyed it, but was eventually overwhelmed by the salt, flavour and sheer size of the portion.

whole baby calamari filled with pinenuts and rice on a chilli spiced tomato salsaThe Dessert plate for two was the final thing we ordered, and this consisted of a tasting of the Medusa strawberries, baclava, galactobouriko, chocolate mousse, loukoumades, vissino with ouzo ice cream. The plate is outstanding and more than enough for two people, especially if you’ve just had entree and mains here. You get such a great assortment of sweets that there will definitely be something that suits the taste buds. It’s a shame that Medusa don’t just sell these dessert plates as a standalone, because they are definitely worth a try!

a tasting of the Medusa strawberries, baclava, galactobouriko, chocolate mousse, loukoumades, vissino with ouzo ice creamAll up we all really enjoyed the night out at Medusa, the restaurant fills up quite quickly (we went on a Friday night) and you might want to book ahead. Parking is a bit difficult in the area, but there are plenty of carparks with paid parking on Kent and Sussex Streets or if you’re lucky on street parking may be available.

One of the best things about Medusa is that is has an excellent website, so you don’t need to guess the details of your night out. I love when venues have online booking options and provide you everything you need to know about the location and service. Medusa also have their menus conveniently provided on their site as a PDF. If you’re looking for a nice Greek restaurant, try out Medusa Greek Taverna!

Medusa Greek Taverna
2 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000 (Corner of Kent & Market Streets)
Phone: (02) 9267 0799
Email: info@medusagreektaverna.com.au
Website: http://www.medusagreektaverna.com.au/index.html

\~OwL~/

Hairspray the musical, Sydney

Ant and I were invited to see Hairspray the musical at the Star City Lyric Theatre on Saturday night – 25 June (the show opened on the 24 June). To be honest I’ve never been a fan of the Hairspray movie or it as a musical, despite really enjoying musicals generally so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one. We had dinner out at Wasabi in Pyrmont and headed down to Star City for the 8pm show. The foyer was packed and by 8pm it was almost impossible to move around, unfortunately some stage difficulties delayed the show by a good 15 to 20 minutes and by the end had the crowds patience waning. Finally, we got in and upon walking into the theatre the set design was bright, simple and looked fun from the get go. The announcements are funny and for a minute you feel like you could be back in 1962. The set uses computer generated backdrops to embellish the scenes and the timing and use of this technique in itself is interesting and refreshing.

Australian cast

If you don’t know the story, the show is set in 1962 and focuses on high school student Tracy Turnblad and her obsession with and desire to be on the Corny Collins Show. Tracy isn’t your average star – she’s a big girl with big hair and has even bigger aspirations to unite  a segregated 1962 society. I’ve never found the music to be overly memorable, save for a couple of songs, but they were all sung with passion and the cast really brought them to life. Tracy’s mother Edna was played by Trevor Ashley who does such a great job of the role that I had a hard time believing he wasn’t a woman. If you saw the movie John Travolta plays this character, but somehow it just looked like Travolta in a fat suit and mu mu. Ashley on the other hand is superb!

The production has an amazing vibe and energy and the momentum is sustained throughout the whole show. The dancing is high energy and the numbers punchy, fun and catchy. You sometimes catch your breath at the moves the ensemble make and the speed in which they do them. The cast on a whole was truly excellent but there were standout performances from Jaz Flowers as Tracy Tunrblad and Esther Hannaford as her bestfriend Penny Pingleton. The role of Velma Von Tussle was played by Jacqui Rae on the night and it was done well. The calibre from the Australian cast is definitely something to rave about – right down to the accents you feel immersed in the experience.

If you haven’t bought tickets for this musical, you’re really missing out. I walked in unsure of what to expect from the night and walked away buzzing with energy and feeling like I couldn’t get enough. The audience gave them a standing ovation and I have to agree they deserved it! This will appeal to a varied audience and we had young and old mixed in the crowd. The only thing I would probably suggest is that it may not be appropriate for the under 12 as there are quite a few sexual innuendos and potential awkward moments for the little ones. If you’re happy to explain things though this might not be a problem.

If you’re a fan, you’ll probably also recognise a few of the cast from So you think you can dance Australia.

Overall

I give this a two thumbs up, and recommend this for a good night out – though you may want to consider getting a babysitter for the night because it does have a few innuendos which may or may not pass over your child’s head!

Cost

Tickets range from $79.90 – $135

Location

Hairspray the Musical
Star City Casino
Lyric Theatre
Pyrmont

Show times

Evenings
Wednesday: 8pm
Thursday 8pm
Friday: 8pm
Saturday: 8pm
Sunday: 6pm

Matinees
Wednesday: 1pm
Saturday: 2pm
Sunday: 1pm

Running Time
2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval

Performances of Hairspray contain strobe lighting, stage smoke, fog effects, LED screens and theatrical smoking.

For more information visit – Hair Spray the Musical Official Site

Hoopla Festival, Darling Harbour (22-26th April 2011)

A quick  mention of the Hoopla Festival at Darling Harbour currently being run this Easter long weekend. Ant and I decided last minute to go and visit after seeing advertisements around Darling Harbour in the last few weeks. To our delight the Hoopla Festival is actually a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out, especially with the children if you’re around the area. There are lots of things going on and being Darling Harbour there are also the usual things to do – Harbourside, Cafes, Restaurants and IMAX etc. So couple the usual with the festival and you’ve got a good day’s worth of activities to keep you pretty busy!

They’ve set up a Big Top and although it looked pretty small and limited on the outside, upon entering it is quite surprising how much space there actually is inside. The Big Top can actually fit up to 450 people inside with reasonable comfort – though the seats are quite low and may not be appropriate or comfortable for elderly or persons with disability (though I’m sure they would have measures for this). The events are split up into Hoopla Day and Hoopla Night and best of all most of the events are free, but if you’re really enjoying it all and keen there are some shows that play from 6pm onwards at night and are paid ticket events (approx. $5-10).

The event has been run by the Darling Harbour Foreshore Authority for the last few years and the night is topped off at night with fireworks. The whole area is pretty packed and buzzing with life and things to do. Even though the weather is always iffy around the Easter break if you’re looking for something cheap and fun to do with the family this would be a pretty good option!

ZimboyZ

A couple of pictures of Ringside where we saw Ruby Ray and other trapeze acts and also the ZimboyZ in the Big Top (30 min show) – really good stuff and worth the lining up and wait. The things they do are pretty fun and amazing and even being a little cynical about it all I was quickly won over with the atmosphere and fun.

Natalie Harris
Ringside Stage

For more information visit Hoopla Festival Darling Harbour

Sushi Choo Buffet

Sushi Choo Ad

Sushi Choo’s famous $20 All-You-Can-Eat sushi train buffet has once again graced our city to my excitement as I have been having a sushi craving and was really quite sad when I found out about last year’s event much too late.

Owl and I were determined to reach our goal of 15 plates each, effectively reducing the cost to only $1.50 a plate. What a bargain! We met up with another friend after work and relaxed in the comfortable lounge area just outside of Sushi Choo. We were there half an hour before opening time due to our excitement which allowed us to observe the setting up of the restaurant as it is a very open plan area.

The decor was very aesthetic, lighting at a comfortable level of brightness and the jazz music soft. Owl was unimpressed by one of the chefs coughing into his hand and then handling the raw tuna so she stayed away from it.

We were rather impressed by the selection provided as past reviews indicated a much lesser variety – I think they have changed the menu slightly this year. There was the usual gyoza, raw salmon/tuna nigiri, ebi nigiri, seaweed salad, edamame, pickles and a bunch of rice rolls. The rice roll selection was vast including crumbed chicken, cooked tuna, spicy and non-spicy raw salmon/avocado, sweet potato, teriyaki chicken and even soft shelled crab with lettuce! I’m sure there were many others but my eyes were fixated on the nigiri and seaweed salad. They also had a tangy cold noodle dish and have replaced the potato croquettes with a beautifully deep fried panko crumbed prawn dish. They were so crispy that you could even crunch through the tail. This is quite possibly the most impressive dish I had during the course of the dinner and polished through 2 of them.

As usual the service was impeccable and made for a very good night out indeed. We were fully satiated by the hour and happily stumbled off whilst fighting off severe food coma. Its too bad there weren’t any dessert dishes because i might possible have afforded a mango pudding  😉

I have read a lot of reviews about this $20 deal with many a divided party but personally, I have to firmly say that it is worth your $20 even if most of what you consume is rice and the fish is somewhat sinewy. The ability to eat as many varieties of dishes as you like and no time limit with impeccable service makes it worth the $20 and I would say definitely try it at least once.

Oh, and our tally? Friend walked away with 12 plates, Owl with 15.5 and me with 16.5 (4 plates of seaweed so its cheating a little teehee!). Money well spent!

Sushi Choo

320 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000