Restaurants hardly provide soft furnishings


Every time I go to a restaurant I feel myself becoming more and more like an old person yelling. Restaurants are now louder than Clive Palmer’s ties (and that’s a Julie’s Rant Fact).

Gone are all the stuff that makes you feel at home: carpet, curtains, wallpaper, comfy chairs, paintings and a working toilet. Instead there are concrete floors and walls, aluminium benches and tables, mismatched cutlery and the occasional potplant about 20 metres up a wall (I mean who is going to water that? Hagrid?).

But still I go out, as it beats cooking. And come back with a cricked neck from leaning forward to hearing what gem of wisdom my dining companion has to say (usually complaints about the noise) and from shouting my order at the waitperson. It goes like this:

Me: I’d like the pork and a salad

Waitperson: You need another fork and a side of lard?

This was an actual conversation apart from the bit I made up.

I don’t know who started this minimalist trend. Did it start in a zen garden (no, zen gardens are quiet!). Or did it start by some evil superchefs who wanted to punish people for not pronouncing jus? Yes! Or did it come from restaurants wanting to save on carpet cleaning costs? Yes!

I think we should only go to eating establishments with carpet, curtains and tablecloths and matching crockery. Oh hang on, that’d mean eating at home.





How to get ‘em queueing


It’s easy to make money in Sydney. All you need to do is not do anything people actually need and instead buy a struggling old business, do a Mexican streetfood refit and then advertise your new eatery.

There are virtually no post offices, old-school garages and butcheries left in this town, they’ve already been transformed into The Garage, The Butcher’s Block or La Stazione or Il Postino. Bookstores have already turned themselves into cafes, and next will surely be newsagents and banks.

Meanwhile the owners of the themed cafes are laughing all the way to the bank. People are queuing up faster than you can say doppia macchiato to get a slice of contrived action.

As for menu, well, basically sorted. Pepe butter, Sonoma bread, Hanks Jams. There must be macaroons, vine-ripened tomatoes and hay-fed pork sausages from Bangalow. And it must be overpriced.

Then – cue stroke of genius – the business doesn’t take bookings, giving the impression that they are really popular, cool, hip and in demand. And sit back let em queue, let ‘em queue and sit back and walk to the bank. Hold on, it’s already a new cafe, La Banque. Heard it’s good.

Aussie Winter Olympics Coverage: s’no good


If Channel Ten was hoping to inject a little snow magic into their Winter Olympics coverage, it’s more like a whiteout. With the exception of Roy & HG, the TV coverage is a 50-shades-of-bogan medley of skateboarding on snow and moguls. These are sports where Australia actually has an entry. Then Channel 10 tries to make it seem like this person is a star and relentlessly shows said hopeful eating cereal, hanging out with granddad, walking along the beach at sunset and answering questions like “Would you like to win a gold medal for Australia?”

Said hopeful will then finish say, 15th, and the commentator will say “they have put the world on notice”. I am not making this up. Then there are repeats of the top 15 performance. Note to Channel 10 – top 15 is not a medal! Note to taxpayers – we are funding this!

Meanwhile, back in Sochi, there are some fabulous events going on, with good-looking men in lycra, and we are seeing bugger all of it, due to there being no actual Australians who can ski downhill fast.

I’d like to see more ski jump, downhill and skating. More scenery and more Scandinavians in lycra. That’s what I call viewing gold.

American diner food is a real cheek


It’s ironic that for years we have pilloried American food and now in Sydney, American diner food is the new hip food at any half-trendy restaurant.

It’s hard to swivel sideways in a Sydney nosherie without seeing corn gritts, pulled pork collar butt (I am not making this up), waffles, wings, sliders, ham slow-roasted in Coca Cola, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Whooppee Pie.

If you go to the site compare it with Sydney’s haute, hip cuisine, you’ll see it’s basically the same thing. KFC Deep Fried Soup featured on This Is Why You’re Fat will be Sydney’s next go-to dish – you heard it first here!

I could care less (as the Americans would say) but it’s just so weird. Since when did hot dogs become hip? What was wrong with the foam of 2009? Or the tonka bean of 2010? Why did we have to go to the pulled pork butt cheek? I know most chefs are whackjobs, but they are on way too many drugs this time.

Some might say it is a nostalgic return to the Yankee comfort food of the 1950s. I reckon it’s junk food for grown ups and a nice little earner for restauranteurs – how expensive can corn with a side of mayo, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and miniature burgers be?

All I can say is, please stop! And next time I see a piece of meat infused in Coca Cola with a $45 price tag, I’ll pull my own pork cheek.

An epic listicle of expressions I hate


Inspired by Adam Zwar’s excellent paid rant in the SMH the other day, I’d like to knock off some of Adam’s pet hates and contribute a few of my own thoughts on expressions that should henceforth be banned.

  1. It’s all good – no it’s not. Sometimes it’s bad or ordinary. Besides, if Gwyneth Paltrow’s book title is It’s All Good, then you know you should never use this expression again.
  2. Epic – this word is doing the rounds in epic, sorry, very large, numbers. Everything is epic, including restaurant dishes, holidays, parties, movies. The only thing it is not applied to is people’s waistlines, which is the only epic thing I’m seeing post Christmas.
  3. Pulled pork – what is this? Isn’t it just meat?
  4. Listicle – sounds like some icy, bright-coloured treat, but it’s just an ordinary old dot point list.
  5. Selfie – I would like this to go back to the place it came from, which I highly suspect was KRudd’s media advisor (aka KRudd).
  6. Reach out - what happened to just talking to someone? It’s not a North Carolina Jesus Convention. It’s just talking.
  7. All corporate speak. All of it. You know who you are: have a conversation, with respect, outcomes, tasked, incentivize – it’s all a bad listicle of euphemisms for getting the sack, more work or an epic please explain.
  8. Twerking. I have no idea what this is but I do know Clive Palmer should not be doing this in public.
  9. Onesie – nuff said.

Image: Sue and Steve Show

Small bars; big price


If you are looking for a butcher, post office, garage or corner shop, chances are it has been converted into a too-cool-for-my-pinot wine bar.

Of course, Melbourne has had small bars for a while, but Sydney has embraced it like it was all its idea the whole time. Small bars are liberally sprinkled in the city and inner west and now they are sweeping the north shore, like an out-of-control bushfire. Or herpes.

Small bars always have a bit of a theme (even Granny’s boudoir would do), a bizarre wine list, miniature food portions and hipster waitstaff from the inner west on temporary protection visas.

Then there’s the price. A quiet drink at a small bar is likely to cost the same as a big night out. These small bars don’t get out of bed for less than $10 a glass of wine, with some bars charging as much as $18 a glass.

Food is around $12 a plate for a few morsels, so let’s do the maths. For two drinks and two tasting plates and we are up to $40. At least. And if you want dessert, you may need to sell a kidney or two.

I’ve got nothing against small bars, they are cute, safe and don’t televise sport (hooray). But it’s an expensive way to eat and drink – and that’s no small matter.

Harry and Ginny – need some love magic


I realise this is old news, but on rewatching Harry Potter movies lately, it’s even more obvious about the massive flaw in the otherwise great story: Harry should not have married Ginny Weasley.

It’s this simple: Harry is top dog in the story, and he should get the top girl, queue Hermione.

Ginny Weasley is a nobody going nowhere. She’s not a specially talented witch, she doesn’t have a particularly memorable personality and she’s not exactly a trophy wife. She’s not even really girl-next-door. She’s just Ginny Weasley.

Hermione on the other hand is curse-reversing gorgeous (especially as played by Emma Watson), she’s one of the smartest and studious witches of her generation and she and Harry have been through so much together that they now belong together.

As for Hermione and Ron – where do we start? She is way out of his league. They don’t look good together, they have no conversation and he doesn’t even make her laugh. Sorry, but wrong, wrong, wrong. He’s a lovable dope (and on many occasions not so lovable) and she is the future principal of Hogwarts. Just saying.

But back to Harry and Ginny, if he couldn’t have got Hermione, I wouldn’t have minded so much if he had stayed with Cho Chang. She was nice, smart, sassy and just a little bit different, like Harry.

JK Rowling may have created one of the best series of books and characters in history, but it is a shame she meddled with his love life. He would have done just fine on his own.

And the caravan rolls on for Claudia Karvan


Claudia Karvan seems like a reasonable actress. Especially if you like your characters middle-class, uptight and on every show you watch on the telly.

I have nothing against Ms Karvan, but it does seem that she is getting the lion’s share of Aussie actress roles. Everything that is coming out now has her name on it: Puberty Blues and Time of Our Lives. Before then it was Love My Way and Secret Lives of Us and before that it was Heartbreak High (her best role yet!).

It’s not that I dislike Claudia Karvan or think her acting is particularly good or bad. It’s just that for some reason, she is now considered a fabulous actress, who must be in any quality TV series. Need a wannabee yummy mummy – no problem, book Claudia. Need a stressed-out teacher – here’s Claudia. Need a doctor, Claudia’s free. Need someone to not show emotion. Show Claudia (I mean the could just hire Julie Bishop but that’s a whole other blog). Need someone to act hysterical, here’s Claudia (again).

I’m pretty sure there must be other actresses around who could do an equally good or better job and who are not getting a look in, because, well just because.

If Claudia really is the only one in Australia who can do hysterical helicopter mom, then so be it, the gig is hers. But I’ve got a feeling quite a few actors can do annoyed and I’d like to see them given a red hot go.

Borgen TV series is an open sandwich short of a picnic


The Scandi pollie noir drama, Borgen, showing at the moment on SBS, is more popular than a Kevin Rudd tweet. If you google Borgen criticism you will find virtually none. Which is why it is important I right this wrong today.

Borgen is the most boring, script-by-numbers, humourless piece of TV since Celebrity Masterchef.

Here is a brief recap: in the State of Denmark, female prime minister is elected out of the blue. Despite her talent and dedication she has problems at work. Her husband used to be nice but he gets cheesed (jarlsberged) off because she is prime minister and he’s not so he takes up with younger model blond who her kids really like. Then cut to shot of prime minister coming home to an empty house and feeling overwhelmed by the housework and cooking she still has to do.

Queue subplot: her media advisor has the hots for an allegedly hard-hitting hot journo but they have the onscreen chemistry of a toothpaste commercial.

Here are some questions I have about Borgen:

- Why is the Prime Minister doing her own housework, cooking and laundry?

- Why is it so hard for the Prime Minister to source childcare?

- Why is there no security at her house?

- Who wrote this appalling script?

Sure, a female prime minister is still relatively new TV. Sure Denmark is a politically correct wonderland with great design, furniture and tans, but it not in the business of comedy. (Which also explains Princess Mary). Be that as it may, there is no escaping the fact that this is humourless, dry and strangely unbelievable TV.

Borgen is so dull it makes televised golf look like Gone with the Wind. If you want political intrigue, a gripping storyline, sexual tension, sexual politics and a epic revenge story, look no further than Canberra.

Katoomba roadworks now part of the landscape


For twenty years, give or take, there have been roadworks on the way from Sydney to Katoomba. It doesn’t matter what year, what season or what economic crisis of the day is going on, the road to Katoomba is well, not exactly paved with good intentions. All I can say is thank goodness there is hot chocolate at the end, otherwise I would never get there.

It starts at the base of the mountains when Emu Plains morphs into Emu Heights and then becomes the lower mountains. The road narrows, turns from three to two then one lanes, then tantalizingly back to two lanes again until the next traffic lights whereupon lo, roadworks signs appear again and the traffic crawls.

It’s hard to believe that after 20 years they still haven’t got the Blue Mountains right. Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson managed to do it in a week, so why can’t we figure it out.

Sometimes I think it must be a plot by the Katoomba Council Workers Union to have an excuse to lay around smoking on the side of the road all day. Sometimes I think it is a Blue Mountains passive aggressive community plan to keep the mountains for the mountaineers. Either way, fix the road Barry O’Farrell! And start mixing that hot chocolate.