Winter light

Winter in Sydney is not really winter. Winter in Sydney can be a bit cool (ish). Yes, occasionally it does get cold (ish). Very occasionally, there may be a biting wind. But not most of the time. Not even often. And when it does happen, everyone talks about how cold it is. Brrrr.

For the past few years, perhaps to keep the spirit of Summer alive over the Winter months, Sydney has put on an event called Vivid – a festival of light, music and ideas. Vivid Sydney is the biggest event of its kind in Australia. According to the Vivid website, the festival is a world-class line-up of concert and music performances, public ideas programs, creative industry workshops and conferences.

I went to Vivid for the first time last week, with Spider Boy, Lulu and the Magician. As well as Vivid installations outside, we have seen indoor museum exhibition displays of light, as well as the beautiful natural winter light that surrounds us outside.

Here are some of our light treasures from Winter so far:

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) looking like it’s been the recipient of a crazy mosaic job.

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The MCA outdoor cafe under lights at night.

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This display reminded me of a stained-glass window.

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This dynamic large-scale light installation, Affinity, is by artists amigo and amigo (Simone Chua and Renzo B. Larriviere). Vivid’s website explains that the piece represents the complexity and connectivity of the human brain. When people arrive at Affinity, there is a web of darkened dormant orbs, except for a small trail of light that bounces between them. As people touch the globes, light flows in, linking the orbs.

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Circular Quay train station dressed up in red.

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One of my favourite museums…

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It’s here Spider Boy made friends with his shadow side…

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We found art made of light…

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Tupperware light fittings…

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and giant lightsabers!

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Meanwhile at a local club we discovered stage lights…

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bright lights…

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and on another day, afternoon sun bouncing off the water at Circular Quay.

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Followed by a sunset at Rose Bay.

Winter doesn’t need artificial light to glow; Its natural light is beautiful in its own muted way. But Vivid is quite spectacular.  If you’re reading this on June 8th and you’re in Sydney, you can still catch Vivid, otherwise, it’s one for the diary next year.

Vivid Sydney light displays are on from 6pm until midnight June 8th, 2015 (some events finish at 11pm).

http://www.vividsydney.com

The Light Show is on at the Museum of Contemporary Art until July 5th, 2015.  

Check out the @MCA_Australia_Now on Instagram for some of the amazing light displays inside the Museum.  They’re better than my photos!

Waxing Hollywood

No, this is not about a”Hollywood” bikini wax, an extreme form of waxing which I’d never heard of until Alana at Housegoeshome explained it in a recent blog post, The politics of public hair.

While hot liquid wax is not my friend, I did find plenty of waxy friends of another variety at Sydney’s Madame Tussaud’s wax museum recently.

Spider Boy, his dad and I got to “meet” everyone from pop-stars to pollies, rock-stars to royalty, from Hollywood legends to sporting greats and many other figures from TV, history and science.

Spider Boy even got to be a UN delegate. Although when we were looking through the photos afterwards, I realised he’d thought he was reading the news with a sunny Julia Gillard presenting the weather (Note his serious news face).

My son managed to set aside his fear of girl-germs for the afternoon to engage with female leaders from every arena. I swear I could hear him singing Sisters are doing it for themselves under his breath. Or maybe that was me…

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He took a leaf out of Tom Cruise’s book when he paid a visit to Oprah’s couch…

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Just like Tom, Spider Boy’s a great actor when he’s well-directed.

He got to experience coming second to our Dawn, taunting our Leyton, and almost running over our Greg Norman in a golf buggy…

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It was all a bit Forrest Gump, in a good way.

We saw a cavalcade of flowing blond (and white) locks… IMG_5157

There was plenty of Warne and plenty of brawn…IMG_5148

There was brains too… and a little weird science. But no sign of Dr. Sheldon Cooper from TV’s Big Bang Theory, unfortunately.

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There were pop-stars from past and present in leather pants…

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There were sequinned and spangled pop-stars with amazing eye-makeup…

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And let’s not forget the frock-stars with amazing costumes that could’ve come straight from the Copacabana…

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Never looked so good: It’s amazing what sitting on top of the shoe from Priscilla Queen of the Desert will do for your legs.

Yes, I found plenty of friends at Madame Tussauds; Brad and Angelina…

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My girlfriends Audrey, Oprah and Edna were more than happy to pose for selfies with me – well I didn’t hear any objections coming from their botoxy mouths…

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And after years of missed phone calls and crossed wires, I finally caught up with my boyfriends Ryan and Heath. Yes I know Heath is from a parallel universe these days. But the wax is so convincing…

My ex-husband snapped these pics for me and then said Ryan was “simian-like”. Yeah, think I liked him better in The Notebook days.

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While I was busy going Kardashian with my selfish selfies, my son was being scared out of his wits over by the Alfred Hitchcock figure. I did notice boring-looking Alfred out of the corner of my eye, but I was too busy fawning over Audrey Hepburn and her breakfast pastry to really look. I proceeded to get a photo of Audrey and myself (taken by a kindly roaming staffer) knowing that Spider Boy was with his dad nearby.

After a few minutes I turned to see Spider Boy emerge from a curtain that I hadn’t noticed before, near the Hitchcock figure. A freaking shower curtain. Spider Boy looked as white.

I then discovered that he’d heard an audio recording of Janet Leigh’s scream from the Hitchcock movie, Psycho. I went behind the curtain and realised that if you stand in the bathtub, it activates the audio.

When he asked why she screamed like that, I tried to explain it with “Oh she screamed because a man burst in on her in the bathroom and she didn’t want him to see her naked.”

“But someone wouldn’t scream like that just because they were seen naked” said my seven-year-old, with a wisdom that he must’ve gained from his brief time as a UN delegate earlier that afternoon.

Apparently there’s a silhouette of a man with a knife there too. I didn’t see it but Spider Boy told me about it later.

The sound of the scream really scared him and he had trouble sleeping for several days afterwards.

We weren’t expecting something like that that at Madame Tussaud’s – it’s not a horror museum or a haunted house in sideshow alley. Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and the drag queen from Priscilla Queen of the Desert were in the same section as Alfred Hitchcock. Going from screaming drag queen to screaming Janet Leigh within a few metres seems incongruous; I assumed it was all child-friendly. I know Wolverine with his blade fingers doesn’t seem child-friendly, but with that Spider Boy knew what to expect – he knows the superheros are not real. I think the problem with the scream is that he wasn’t expecting it. None of us were.

Perhaps Madame Tussaud’s could have displayed some prominent warnings. Maybe at the admission desk where I would’ve had a chance to see it before I was distracted by the displays inside.  But perhaps I’m being unrealistic about that. Spider Boy is young – ultimately it’s my and his dad’s responsibility to guard him from things that are too scary for a child to see, wherever we are. But sometimes you’re just not able to preempt a situation.

There wasn’t anything else scary in there… well apart from a half-baked Dannii Minogue in the section explaining how the wax figures are made…

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Wax lesson: if the Psycho scream doesn’t get you, a Dannii Minogue half-head will.

All in all though, it was a great afternoon and the scream happened towards the end. Then we went to the gift shop and all was forgotten (until bed-time).

Loved: The realistic figures. In my opinion 98% of the figures were accurately represented. The costumes were fabulous. There were many props and dress-ups available right next to the wax figures. You could get close to the stars, put your arm around them for photos and literally get right into the picture. There were no guards saying,”please don’t touch the merchandise.”

Beware: The shower scream from Psycho! Also a roaming photographer in the superhero section who will want to take a professional photo with a fancy camera and charge you for it afterwards.

Could be better: Michael Hutchence, Miranda Kerr.

Admission: Adults from $28.00 and children from $19.60. Once in, you can stay and play as long as you like. Tickets are up to 30% cheaper online with specials and mid-week offers available. If you just turn up without booking first, expect to pay $40 (adult) and $28 (child).

Worth it: In my opinion, yes. We had 90% fun, 10% trauma (shower scream!) that we are learning to deal with. We are living and learning as we go!

More information: www.madametussauds.com/Sydney

Off the scale

Sydney certainly had its share of extreme weather last week.

From floods…

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to beautiful sunshine…

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including a glorious sunrise on ANZAC morning…

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Anzac Day 2015 dawn service at Coogee Beach. Photo credit: Cameron Mills Photography

There was that sudden and forceful hail storm on ANZAC afternoon…

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emerging from dramatic clouds.

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These natural events certainly made for some great photo opportunities.

But some natural events are almost off the scale – the Richter scale specifically – and any photos are purely a document of devastation.

The news of Saturday’s magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Nepal has quickly put Sydney weather complaints into perspective.

ABC Online reports: Thousands of people braved freezing temperatures and patchy rain to sleep on pavements, in parks or in fields in the crowded Kathmandu valley, too afraid to return to their damaged homes. 

More than 3,000 people have been killed, and many others injured. Yesterday a 6.7 aftershock compounded the damage.

Apparently it’s the worse earthquake to hit Nepal in 81 years.

My thoughts are with the people of Nepal, the surrounding areas and rescue operations.

For more information on the Nepal quake visit the Red Cross website.

Easter Show 2015: Food-on-a-stick, pigs, and not a kewpie doll in sight.

It was a windy and rainy finish to the school holidays yesterday, just like the first day (see previous post), but thankfully there were many sunny days in between.

One of these sunny day highlights was our visit to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, run by the NSW Royal Agricultural Society. This was Spider Boy’s first visit to the “real” Easter show, rather than the mini-one at Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter.

I have always been partial to fairground food and the Sydney Royal Easter show never disappoints in that department…

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Yes, it is what it looks like – donuts on a stick! What fun. And yes, I know it’s just “occasional treat” food.

But I’ll get back to the food…

I hadn’t been to the RAS show at the showground at Olympic Park since years before Spider Boy was born and I remembered it being big, crowded and surely overwhelming for a young child. And I also remembered it as being a big schlep from the Eastern Suburbs. And it’s usually not a cheap day out. But my dad gave Spider Boy and I two free entry passes, so schlep we did. It was totally worth it. The schlep was a lot more arduous in my head than it actually was. Here are a few snaps from the day…

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There were many gentle and traditional rides…

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…and there were many people, but as it wasn’t a public holiday, it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded.

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For me, the amazing Australian produce displays have always been one of the highlights of the Royal Easter Show. This year, the fruit/vegetable/grains display had an ANZAC theme, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli.

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For Spider Boy, meeting some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the highlight…

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… and also meeting this mask owl called Willow. We have been reading Harry Potter lately and now he wants a pet owl. I said we could look in to it. But then my ex-husband reminded me owls are nocturnal. Not sure it would work in the tiny apartment we live in.

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My fantasy-loving son also got into a spontaneous sword fight with the girl at the Adventure Time stall. I blame those Ninja Turtles.

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Another highlight for me was seeing my boy on TV. He read that autocue like nobody’s business… apart from tripping on one word. But that just added to his charming delivery. I must not be am not a pushy stage mother.

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And I think a highlight for both of us was the “Pat a pig” pavilion! Here I am actually looking trimmer than I have in years as a fake farmer. Oink! OMG, while writing this I just had a flashback to my mother telling me that when I was a newborn the maternity nurses dubbed me “Porky Pig.”

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that… look how content these little guys seem. Three happy, spooning pigs. All they need is a blanket!

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The unlikely friendship between a spider (boy) and a llama.

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And what would an Easter show be without Easter eggs. Cheep cheep!

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Oh, and then there was the time Spider Boy came face to face (well, became the face of) his favourite vegetable.

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But you didn’t think the Royal Easter Show would be all about the vegetables did you? I know sugar is not in fashion at the moment and all I can say to that is… Pour some sugar on me! Without sugar, creations such as the cakes above WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

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More spectacular sugar creations. And then there was the dirty food…

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…tasty, trashy, nasty and dirty, just the way I love it. Lots of sticky food on sticks. Cheese on a stick, meat on a stick, cake on a stick, potato on a stick. The only thing NOT on a stick was Kewpie dolls (I didn’t see any, much to my disappointment). And don’t get me started on the Manwiches. Yes, that’s right, there was a “Manwich” stall. For when a sandwich just isn’t enough. Because of course no woman could eat a big sandwich (they haven’t met me, clearly). But “Womanwich” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

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Oh how we laughed.

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A display in the farming pavilion set the facts straight on sugar, without all the negative hype. It was pretty much spelled out in black and white; Sugar is high in energy but has no nutritional value. But I will never abandon my love of sugar as it has sentimental, nostalgic, artistic and happy value. And for me that means something. And stevia is not the same.

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Manwich time.

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Another decorative and functional place to eat.

The Sydney Royal Easter show was a great day out and we didn’t end up spending that much money. Once you’ve paid to enter the showground (or presented a member’s pass), entry to all the pavilions and the main arena is free. There were so many things to see and experience, as well as many free samples. In fact Spider Boy enjoyed seeing the animals and the free entertainment so much, he wasn’t bothered about rides. We were just too busy posing for all those face-in-the-board photos.

The only things we paid for was a professional photo of the Spider Boy and the owl, and some food (not on a stick). And something at the Adventure Time stall. And that Ninja Turtles showbag of course.

My neighbours – my own personal TV soap opera

Who needs to watch mindless TV soaps when I have a life-size doll house opposite my block of flats, populated with the pantheon of our cul-de-sac?

I do like to spy on the neighbours. More like perving really. Well, the two god-like young men in the building opposite will appear on their balconies half-naked at various times of the day.

Exactly one year ago I wrote a post, More eye-candy neighbours in which I talked about the three flatmates in the apartment across the road. Two handsome, usually shirtless young men and a woman. I wondered about the relationship between them.

Well since that post some answers have been revealed. Handsome Shirtless Blond man (eye-candy1) moved upstairs to the 3rd floor unit, leaving Handsome Shirtless Dark-haired man (eye-candy2), and the cranky-looking woman together on the 2nd floor.

Since blond eye-candy has moved out, the woman appears much less cranky; maybe because she finally has the love-nest she always wanted with dark-haired eye-candy. I have since seen them walking down the street holding hands.

One day not long after blond eye-candy moved to the 3rd-floor flat, I noticed a young blonde woman emerging from the living room onto the 3rd-floor balcony. The next day she was there again. And the next. She lives there now.

Handsome Shirtless Blond man also makes regular balcony appearances, thank god; shaking out his towels, hanging out his washing, barbequeing a sausage. He emerges from the living-room doorway onto the balcony, like a god on the mountain-top, his tanned body and blond hair practically sparkling in the morning sun. When I catch a glimpse, I stop whatever I’m doing and watch him. He is a male Venus from a Bananarama song – let’s call him Zeus, the ancient Greek king of the gods. He’s got it, yeah baby he’s got it.

The dark-haired guy on the second-floor is like a second-tier god. More of a Poseidon, god of the sea.

If Handsome Shirtless Blond man is Zeus, then the guy in the street level flat is Hades, god of the underworld. Middle-aged, hairy and overweight, he sits on his ground floor balcony, smoking, coughing and hawking up things from sun-up till sun-down and beyond. When all is silent in the street I can still hear “Smoko” coughing and sometimes laughing ebulliently at 1am. He talks on the phone a lot.

I like my real-life doll house. It’s comforting to see the same people day after day, living their lives, engaging in their simple daily routines, without ever having to actually speak to them.

But our street’s annual “Neighbour Day” on Sunday wanted to change all that. Neighbour Day is an event supported by our local council and Relationships Australia. The goal is to foster a sense of community in your neighbourhood and encourage people to get out of their homes and spend time in a communal setting getting to know the people that live around you.

Great idea right? But alas, none of my living dolls/gods attended our “Neighbour Day”, a lovely gathering down the end of our street in the community garden.

Although we weren’t honoured with the presence of the Eye-Candies, or Hades, our local Mayor Toni Seltzer did come along and told the crowd that “tending gardens also tends our neighbourliness.” We are so lucky to have a great community garden where people can grow veggies but also just sit with a cup of tea and talk to the neighbours in a lovely communal space.

The usual suspects also attended…

Hello Neighbour!

Hello Neighbour!

Spider Boy who is really tween-age now, was stuck in a toddler swing for a while because mummy couldn’t undo the child-proof lock. Silly mummy. I had to call on one of the neighbours to figure it out for me.

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It was so lovely under the trees. Our community garden is in a little fenced-off area behind a local sports field.

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One of the neighbour’s daughter and son-in-law have their very own jumping castle for their two small children. They schlepped it all the way from another municipality to share with our neighbour kids.

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And someone else who works for a supermarket chain brought along this new variation of Coca-Cola. It’s “Green” Coke. Made with Stevia and with 35% less sugar, it tastes almost like “the real thing” and better than Diet Coke in my opinion. It will be on sale soon.

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And there was a bit of watering to finish off the afternoon.

Thanks Neighbours!

For more information on Neighbour Day go to neighbourday.org

Dinner with a “Day of the Dead” Devotee

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My dinner companion

My sister, Senorita Margarita, has just returned from Mexico and has fallen in love with its cultural traditions. There were no Jennifer Aniston-style antics by the pool in Cabo. No, Margarita’s journey was more spiritual. She did a tour of Mexican villages with middle-aged achaeologist-type people and took part in a traditional Day of the Dead ceremony. The Day of the Dead is a yearly festival where people pray for and commemorate friends and family members who have died.

So when Margarita stumbled upon El Topo, a new Mexican restaurant in Sydney recently, she knew it was the perfect venue to celebrate her birthday, a la Mexicana. Margarita also happened upon a makeup artist at a local makeup store who knew how to do Day of the Dead-style makeup. Margarita’s face was painted to resemble a skull, a symbol of the Day of the Dead.

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Strike a pose Day of the Dead style. Check out the skeleton-back chairs!

El Topo’s decor is colourful and, from the perspective of someone who’s never been to Mexico (except for that four hours in Tiajuana in 1992), very authentic. I walked in there and felt I was escaping to a Mexican holiday destination. Or at least, escaping Westfield. (Yes, it can be accessed from Westfield Bondi Junction).  It has an exceptional outdoor terrace area with a private dining room (where my sister’s party was). There are also cosy booths, each one decorated with different Mexican-style themes, from traditional Day of the Dead skulls, to religious iconography, to pictures of guitar-strumming, movie star-style senoritas.

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

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Margarita displayed this poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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An El Topo cocktail – hibiscus, lime juice and rose (it was “el Topo”)

The food was unlike no other Mexican I’ve ever had – it was authentically Oaxacan (Wahacan). There was not a Dorito in sight –  yes, it was a Nachos-free zone. While there are fried crickets (the insect) on the menu, there are so many other delicious items for the not-so adventurous diner (that’s me).

Senorita Margarita had told me she’d eaten fried grasshopers in Mexico and crickets were on the menu here. I warned her before we went, “I’m NOT eating grasshopers! But I will try the Mole”, I said, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“And don’t call it Moll!” Margarita warned.

When Senorita Margarita first returned from Mexico, she brought over a bottle of what look like chocolate sauce. “Mole” read the label.  “What’s this Mole?” I asked, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“Mol – ay” she corrected.  Mole is a Mexican sauce containing chocolate, chili and other spices.

“What’s this Mole”? said my dinner table neighbour as she perused the menu, pronouncing it “Moll”. Some people, honestly!

I later tried some of the famous “Mol – ay” from my neighbour’s plate of “Pollo en Mole Negro y Garbanzo” (chicken maryland, mole and chickpea) and we agreed it was like “a party in the mouth”, with about five different flavours at once, like a spicy tomato chocolate sauce. On chicken. Quite amazing.

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Not Mole. Hot stuff though.

I ordered a Quesadilla or “Queso y Flor De Calabaza” which was four folded-over triangles of burrito with a Oaxacan cheese, quinoa, salsa vierge and zuchini flowers. It was delicious,  with the delicate flavours of the zuchini flowers and the salsa. It was tasty, satisfying and at $13 a great price for a meal. Wish I’d photographed the quesadilla, but was too busy eating and talking. But here’s a shot of dessert. Mmmm… donuts.

These donuts were made for dunkin’

The dessert menu is amazing, and I had trouble choosing between the “Flan Roto de Coco con Chocolate y Cajeta” (smashed flan of coconut, single origin Mexican chocolate, hazelnut and goats milk caramel) and the “Bunuelos con Chocolate” (donuts and chocolate sauce). I chose the donuts, and despite my eagerness to dunk the hot, crispy, sugary goodness into the melted Mexican chocolate (which was NOT Mole), I managed to photograph my plate first (because I had to wait for the donuts to cool down).

El Topo is located on the rooftop (level 3) of the Eastern Hotel, 500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, and remember, can also be accessed via Westfield!

So, Senorita Margarita, Feliz Cumpleanos! May it be a wonderful year for you.