Monday, December 27, 2010

A Sydney Summer's Day

Sydney Harbour
With the fickleness for which weather is renowned, this late December day in Sydney featured dark clouds, rain and a chilly nip in the air. But this didn't daunt the Wedding Venue Investigators, who made their way to their rendevous at The Tea Room at Gunners' Barracks on beautiful George's Head overlooking Sydney Harbour.

The Tea Room at Gunners' Barracks
The Barracks, now wonderfully restored, is part of the Middle Head Fortifications, built between 1870 and 1911. Apart from the sandstone barracks building, the old gun emplacements can be seen in the headland, all now heritage listed. The fortifications here date from the time when defence of the colony was moved away from Sydney Cove and towards the Harbour Heads. The network of 'outer harbour' defences was designed to fire on any enemy ships that might infiltrate the harbour through Sydney Heads, and occupied commanding positions with wide views of the harbour and heads. According to Wikipedia:

The whole area is linked by an extensive network of underground tunnels, ancillary rooms, a gunpowder magazine and a disappearing gun emplacement. The site also has its own underground power room that is supported by iron columns. The Gunners Barracks were built from sandstone quarried on site and still exist to this day; they are located on Middle Head concealed in bushland. Underground tunnels and rooms were used to train some of Australia's first troops that were sent to Vietnam in 'Code of Conduct' courses (lessons in how to withstand torture and interrogation) by simulating prisoner of war conditions. In 1974 the Middle Head fortifications featured in the movie 'Stone'.
Sandstone Courtyard, Gunners' Barracks

The Terrace

Today the restored Barracks provides a lovely venue for high tea - which our small team of Investigators enjoyed immensely - and a spectacularly sited venue for weddings. The great sandstone fortification wall still exists, backing a lawned terrace overlooking the harbour. The views back to the city skyline and out towards Sydney Heads would be hard to beat anywhere in the world. Inside, the building exudes Edwardian times, and a lovely sheltered sandstone courtyard awaits the new bride & groom and their guests. The Investigators were sold.

A quintessentially Sydney view

City skyline (on a rainy day)

In 1788, the Surgeon-General on the First Fleet reported:
"Port Jackson, I believe to be, without exception, the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe, and at the same time the most secure..."
He was clearly moved to the point of exaggeration ("in the universe"?) but looking from George's Head over the wonderful harbour, you can appreciate his enthusiasm.

'The Wedding Venue Investigators', great team work showing

Swimsuit shopping - not for the faint-hearted
Mission Accomplished, the Wedding Venue Investigators downed tea cups and went their separate ways, in the case of Sophie and me, to the mall. Here, braving the post-Christmas hordes, we discovered the wonder of The Sales, latching onto several bargains and learning why people do this. I even managed to successfully complete that most unwelcome summer chore: swimsuit shopping. Eventually, finding that the shops were closing around us, we decided it was dinner time and went off to Garfish in Crow's Nest to enjoy Barramundi, a fishy delicacy I had missed in London. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best fish restaurants anywhere, and barra is just about THE best fish variety. Garfish takes it's fish very seriously:

Garfish Restaurants recognise the critical need to source premium seafoods from around Australia and New Zealand as directly as possible. In an effort to secure the freshest seafood and achieve greater variety and selection, Garfish Restaurants have developed and implemented an in-house seafood supply and processing facility on Sydney’s northern beaches, called Fish Source. It allows Garfish Restaurants a permanent presence and a closer relationship with the ‘Sydney Fish Market Authority’ Auction Floor, a wider exposure to product acquired by wholesalers and individual producers from Australia and New Zealand.
Utilising the resources of an ‘expert’ professional seafood buyer with over 15 years experience and the additional capacity of processing our own seafood has given Garfish Restaurants, greater quality control and an exhaustive variety of fresh seasonal seafood. Having this control of our seafood product, right through from the purchasing, processing and eventually the delivery gives us added assurance that we are delivering the freshest possible product to our restaurants and ultimately to our customers.
We believe strongly in introducing new species to the dining public and make a concerted effort to seek out under-utilised product that many wholesalers overlook. We hope this practise will broaden the consumer’s appetite for fish and assist in spreading the demand thereby increasing the fish resources of premium species. This ‘specialist’ designed program assists Garfish Restaurants In securing the best possible product. For our guest it means fresher fish and greater variety to enjoy all year round.

Barramundi is an iconic fish in Australia, revered as THE best. It is regarded as quintessentially Australian, its name deriving from an Aboriginal word, but in fact it is fished and eaten throughout South East Asia, sometimes under other names. It has moist, white flaky flesh when cooked and is - I guarantee - absolutely delicious. I was very content to make its re-acquaintance.

A very Sydney day, despite the lower temperatures.

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