by Mei Leong
It was one of those summer days where it wasn’t too hot, nor too windy: just perfect. In what used to be the front yard of an old house on Newcastle Street was where we sat, under dappled sunshine while watching cars momentarily slow and rush off again.
This is The Old Crow, a bastion of soul food that is sometimes thought of as an alternative to the nearby (and always full) Tuckshop Cafe. But it’s more than an alternative. With its rustic vibe and waiters outfitted in the most uncool suspenders known to mankind, The Old Crow also has a menu full of good things to eat, like rye smoked salmon and duck parfait (sounds good, right?).
(Off topic, but every time I hear The Old Crow I think Game of Thrones…)
Peach season is one I look forward to every single year. Not apricots, nectarines, not even plums but fat fuzzy peaches, that are so juicy you have to eat them leaning over the sink. For me, they’re the ideal experience of summer. Their easily bruised, delicate nature and their transient ripeness mean they’re fleetingly precious. But like life, not every year is peachy. More often that not, they are bland or floury or the weather has been unkind to them. Whatever their condition though, I can’t resist buying them and baking them. With a drop of vanilla or pinch of cinnamon, peaches in any condition become fabulous.
Train travel is quite inevitable in Japan – it’s fast (in the case of the bullet train SUPER fast), easy to comprehend, clean and efficient – and for travel between cities, a no brainer. For the longer journeys, ekiben are not to be missed. Essentially prepacked bento boxes, they are freshly prepared every morning for thousands of commuters. There’s an ekiben for everyone. Calorie controlled, vegetarian, sushi based, budget to luxury and even ones with 40 types of different foods. But the ones to look out for are the regional ekiben which are exclusive to some train lines or even only available on the train journeys themselves.
Meticulously wrapped and quarantined in fine layers of plastic, decorative paper and segregated so each portion remains unspoiled by its companions, this is fast food that actually looks like the picture.
The idea of a place specialising in one thing and not much else – the norm in Asia – is a concept that should be embraced. Restaurants that stretch to cover as many icons as possible limit their chances to spread their wings and chase that one sublime dish or cuisine. It takes confidence (and a fair appetite for risk) to do this, but it also needs passion, an ingredient that is the key to good food, whether it be grown from seed or squeezed from a piping bag. That’s why when we heard about Francoforte being a spaghetti bar and not much else, it sped right to the top of our must-eat list.
The wood panelling, groovy green tiled kitchen and bare restaurant space (complete with bygone mystery door – and who doesn’t love a mystery door) make Francoforte hip, yet humble. From the cash only counter service to the plates-optional antipasto, Francoforte is casual eating epitomised. With visions of Lady and the Tramp, we forgo the said plates and dig into the generous, vibrant antipasto with gusto.