An Eating Guide for UNSW (COFA) Students

 

I won’t even start on why there has been silence on here for three months. Too much and not enough space to regale you with details – let’s leave it at that.

I have just completed my first year at UNSW and am a little bit wiser and lot happier now that summer vacation (yes, summer, we’re the land down under, remember?) has begun. Let me tell you though, I still don’t know exactly how to feel about a Christmas in shorts. More on that later. So what follows is a modified version of a draft I made three months (!!) ago and did not finish.

Without further ado, my picks for The Top 10 Meals Under $10 for fellow UNSW A&D peeps.

  1. Indian Home Diner, Oxford St – Though the food here is far from authentic, and not Indian in my book, it is cheap as! Special offer for COFA (previous name for UNSW A&D) students gets you a naan wrap that’s mildly satisfying taste wise, but calms an aggressively growling stomach for $5. (I’d stay away from the overly bright gravies though, they look radioactive to me.)
  2. Art House Kitchen, Cnr of Oxford St and Greens Rd– For mild hunger, try the $4 banana bread which comes with salted butter, for a delicious mingling of sweet and salty flavours in your mouth. Sandwiches and panini options abound too. Also, awesome and huge plate of fries for $6 and a plate of crispy potato wedges for $8 – these are huge enough to be meals, people.
  3. Origami Cafe, Flinders St. – a hole in the wall cafe that I walked past several times without noticing! Well, it was my loss because the food here is delicious, portions BIG and the prices perfectly suited for a student budget. It’s small but I have never had an issue finding a seat or a tummy pleaser.
  4. North Indian Cuisine, Oxford St – Yes, the name is uninspired but the food is authentic. This is comfort food, North Indian style. My favourites are the Channa Dal, Goat Curry and Palak Paneer which you can choose to devour with naan or very flavourful and rich rice.
  5. Don Don, Oxford St – On the opposite side of the road to the above, one block down Oxford Street is another Japanese hole in the wall. Good food, large servings again and pretty popular for lunch and dinner.
  6. About Life, Crown St – For your organic fix at an affordable price is About Place’s salad bar. Fear not, it isn’t just greens and beans, there’s substantial goodness too – both the vegetarian and meat variety. Pretty good selection too, with a variety of hot and cold drinks.
  7. Coco Cubano, Taylor Square – They’ve undergone a paint job and gone from black paint to cheery white and yellow but the food and drink remain as delicious as ever. The chicken burger wins every time! If you have morning class, go here for an early (or late) lunch and people watch from this great vantage point.
  8. South Dowling Sandwiches, South Dowling St – Not a place I can honestly say I’ve frequented but I did eat here once. Why it makes it on the list is because of all the people who rave about it, and the queues I have witnessed every time I’ve passed the place. Apparently the Chilli Chicken is the crowd pleaser here.
  9. Satang Thai, Quay St – Going a bit further afield, there’s this establishment in Haymarket. The lunch menu is considerable cheaper than the dinner and comes in pleasingly large servings. Pretty busy during lunch but they do have a lot of seating and you can never go wrong with the Pad Thai.
  10. Podomoro, Ultimo Rd – I am a firm believer of sharing so here is a place I had to dig around to find as most people are intently fixed on the opposite side of the road, namely, Market City. I go here for the Ayam Bakar and sambal as I have to stay away from coconut but the menu looks delectable.

I definitely need to put this out there that none of these places are the definition of luxury. Some are literally just a place to eat and leave, at others you can lounge about over your food. But there are two things that are universal – good food and student friendly prices. Go forth and enjoy, fellow students. 🙂

A Gem in the Middle of Sydney City

I came across this most magical of places by accident, as I seem to do with the majority of the things I love in life. What can I say, except to lift Paulo Coelho’s romantic idea from The Alchemist: “Maktub”.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship!

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Map of the Chinese Garden of Friendship

I set off one afternoon, stopping by at Emperor’s Puffs for a snack on my way. I thought it was apt – a Chinese snack before a Chinese garden. What are Emperor’s puffs you ask?


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Well, only the most iconic little bonbon you can get in Sydney’s China Town. It’s an institution and the lines snaking around the narrow street are testament to the cream puff’s goodness. Served from 12pm to 9pm, be clever and pick a time when people are likely to be at work or school. Oh and don’t pop them in your mouth whole and chomp down – they’re frickin’ HOT!! My burned tongue has so many horror stories to tell.


So three cream puffs (and a couple of barbecue pork buns) down, I made my way to Darling Quarter where this little haven of a garden is situated. Right next to the bustling Darling Harbour and with new construction happening all around, it really is a bit of peace and quiet amidst the chaos.

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Don’t tell me this doesn’t make you want to go in!

I find Far Eastern aesthetics fascinating, their attention to detail, the intricacy with which every element is gathered, joined, juxtaposed and displayed. It inspires me! This was what Bali did to me as well, if you remember. I was mesmerised there, as I was here. My mother back home, who has been saying she’ll visit someday suddenly declared that she wants to come here ASAP and go to this garden when I sent her some photos.

<<Warning>>: If you have ornithophibia, stay away. There are ibis everywhere, they have their nests in the trees all around. However, they are also harmless, only interested if you have any food. BUT there are small, over-protective birds that swoop down on your heads if it’s egg-hatching season. I kid you not, I nearly lost the hair off the top of my head.

While wandering around, rather quickly as it was nearly closing time, I snapped over a hundred photos. I surprised myself too, except every little thing here is photo worthy. And I have vowed to go back better prepared, with more time to spare, so I can soak in some culture, slowly…, sipping on some Chinese tea in the Teahouse.

The really magical thing is that once you have crossed the threshold, it is very difficult to remember that you are in the middle of a very busy city. Time slows; the steel, glass and concrete monsters a few metres beyond the walls melt away. It’s just the beautiful trees, buildings, flowing streams, bubbling waterfalls and birds. Oh, and a few people, but you won’t really notice them either.

I shall leave my words here and let my pictures do the rest of the talking. If you’re in Sydney and haven’t been here yet, shame on you! And for those planning a visit soon, you MUST add this to your bucket list.

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I was lucky it was a sunny winter evening – just look at the colours.

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Symmetry, beauty, natural and manmade.

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More beautiful colours and the Dragon Rock.

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Red and black – quintessentially Chinese.

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Poser pauses fishing to smile for me.

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Another model.

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“Do you think they’ll notice if we sneak in late to the meeting?” “Shhhh…”

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Adjacent to the Teahouse.

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As you can see, I can’t get enough of these trees and their drooping branches.

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Hall of Clear Shade. I just fell in love with this gnarled grey tree with fuschia flowers!

 

10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Sydney

Preface: I really don’t know where the time flies in this country. And I am not even busy fighting off kangaroos for my burger or rescuing people from getting eaten by sharks. I genuinely have no reason or excuse for why it has been 21 days since my last post.

– Sincerely Shamefaced.

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So I’ve been here in Australia for close to five months, almost half a year. Where does time fly when you’re having fun, eh? My Master of Design education is wonderful and stimulating, and hopefully continues to be challenging in the coming semesters. I have made some wonderful friends, watched my little sister bloom into a confident and beautiful young woman in a supportive environment, and pinched myself more times than I can count, at all the beautiful things I’m surrounded by.

While it’s easy to wax lyrical about all the great things about the city I’m calling home for some time, there are many that I wish I’d known before I moved here. Not because I woudn’t have still chosen to live and study here, only so that I could have been better prepared as an international student.

  1. The popular stance is that the winter here is unworthy of being considered winter. Cue *eyeroll* and a lot of *shivering*. Pack your thermals if you have them, bring your coats and throw in those extra socks and gloves too. If not, don’t worry, H&M is bound to have sales before you freeze to death.
  2. Crows in Australia, I’m forced to believe, didn’t get the memo on what noise they’re supposed to make. They sound like dying cats or someone retching violently after an alcohol fuelled night. Why do I wish I’d known this? So I could have slept through my jet lag the first few nights without feeling like I was an unwitting participant in a horror movie.
  3. The price of bread here is pretty ridiculous, that is if you want to eat anything other than the ubiquitous and nutrition deficient soft white variety. 5 dollars for multigrain bread. Really!?
  4. You can’t really watch the sunset from the famous beaches in Sydney – no, Siree, not from Bondi or Coogee or Maroubra. Because it’s the east coast. So if you’re like me and have no hope of ever catching a sunrise, you’re going to have to kick the ‘watching our big happy star go to bed in the sea’ habit.
  5. While I have not experienced peak summer here, let me tell you, the Tasman Sea is a chilly, chilly woman! I cannot, with complete confidence, say I will ever go swimming here if the water doesn’t heat up beyond 25 degree Celsius! Which isn’t likely either from what I can glean from the wise ol’ Internet.
  6. If you wear anything below AU size 6 shoes, your hopes for finding inexpensive shoes or even cute thongs (flip flops, for the uninitiated) are very narrow, my friend. Read: Bring all your shoes!
  7. Be prepared to get lost, quite literally. The road system here is tricky at best, as baffling as the Mad Hatter’s riddles at worst. If I had a dollar for every time I got lost in Sydney, I’d be cozying up to a glass of expensive bubbly as I relaxed in my very own hot tub.
  8. Which segues nicely into the activity of walking. If you no like, no come here. Seriously. I’m not saying there aren’t buses and trains to everywhere but you’ll still have to put your pins to good use. Upside though – great legs, come bikini weather!
  9. You will want to eat out very often. Even if you’re an avid cook like me, the temptations at literally every corner are sometimes too much to ignore. Heavily leaning towards, though not limited to, all things Far Eastern, the aromas are irresistible. This can also be interpreted as ‘work on your willpower, because your pockets may sometimes be threadbare’.
  10. And lastly, clothes shopping isn’t expensive enough to be prohibitory. Unless they’re that great, avoid stuffing your bags with excess clothes and instead bring all your teeny tiny shoes!

Thanks accepted in the form of cash or presents. Please contact me for address and bank details! :p 

Until next time! Which I can’t promise will be less than 21 days.