Day 2 of 30: All hail, coffee

First, the location. Sydney CBD. Closest train station: Wynyard. As a City worker, my universe is bordered by George Street in the East, Margaret Street in the North, Sussex in the West and King Street in the South.

If I were a character on Game of Thrones, this is my King’s Landing.

Around here, coffee is the cup of life. The day can’t start without it and the day ends because we can’t have anymore. If we are not talking about coffee, we are thinking about coffee. The earth is round and at the centre of it is good coffee 😀

So, tea drinkers, look away. There’s nothing here for you. Nada. Not a leaf. At best, some of these places do a decent peppermint. But this post is mainly for coffee snobs. 😀 Here are my Top Five:

83 Clarence Street

Want your coffee strong and heavy? Nook is your spot. This cafe is as hipster as it gets. It has won awards and stuff. Even has its own coffee pilgrims. Sometimes I think it’s a tad overrated but maybe I’m just spoilt for choice. It is included here because, for first-timers, Nook delivers a good range of beans and sometimes, I just want to be walking around with a coffee cup that comes with Nook’s oh-so-cool packaging. 😀

Pavel & Co
222 Kent Street

Another good café and with the best crispy pork belly and brown rice lunchbox in town. I come to this place ALL the time. Hmmm, crispy pork belly. Sorry, I’m easily distracted by crispy pork belly. But I would go as far to say that Pavel’s is even better than roast pork from BBQ King in Chinatown (there, I said it). That’s a big statement coming from me. Pavel does a range of salads (kale, beetroot, etc.) and they are on point. In my eyes, Pavel can do no wrong. Lunch, coffee, cronuts. Hmmmmm, cronuts.

Enter via Erskine Street

Then there’s this cafe you wouldn’t know exists unless you’re a true local. It’s called Yola (short for “York Lane”). This is probably the most Melbourne-esque of the bunch. The coffee is average but you come here to be away from the hustle and bustle. It’s like a lovers hideaway or a secret drop-off point.

Highly recommend: Sit at the front and pretend you’re a secret agent about to receive classified documents. Fantasy comes complete with expensive French trench coat and dark Gucci sunglasses.

york lanePanzerotti Bistro
60 Margaret Street

But my two favourite cafes at the moment are on opposite sides of my coffee zone. Panzerotti on Margaret Street and Micro at Barangaroo.

Panzerotti just changed baristas two months ago so I’m grieving. The new guy is okay but a good barista is like an ex. It’s very hard to let go. I’m getting coffee from him but I’m keeping my options open.


23 Barangaroo Avenue

Micro, on the other hand, is the new café on the block. I’m supporting it because it is owned by Hazel de los Reyes, the same person who started the award-winning cafe in Marrickville called Coffee Alchemy. Also, she’s a Filipina. A Filipina barista who won Barista of the Year several years ago. Her coffee philosophy is not an art or science. It’s a religion.

 At home and in the office

But my coffee obsession knows no bounds. I have a nifty Nespresso in my office and a coffee machine from Aldi at home. It’s not about having the most expensive stuff. Aldi’s homebrand does the job and Nespresso equals George Clooney (Damn you, clever marketing!).

Sometimes I wonder whether I should quit. Then I see people having coffee and think … nehhhh. That’s just silly talk.

What about you? Yes, you. What’s your favourite coffee spot?

Photo credit: Google images

P.S. Look Ma, Day 2 of my 30 Days of Blogging

The King And I: magic begets magic

The opening night of The King And I in Sydney was a glittering affair. Too bad the crowd failed to match the energy onstage.

I have never been to an opening night of an award-winning musical. That kind of privilege is just beyond my reach and my universe.

But that changed this year when a dearest friend of mine just happened to be among the cast of The King And I and through him I received a beautiful golden envelope with four tickets – two for the show and two for the Opening Night party.

And so it was at 7pm that I went with our mutual friend, Violi, to the Sydney Opera House. Unable to leave work early that day, my plan to look super-fabulous for the party fell by the wayside and sadly, I felt rather shabby turning up without earrings, without make-up, wearing a plain black dress and my hair looking like it needed a good talking-to by a blowdryer.

I was doubly mortified when Violi and I reached the doors of the Joan Sutherland Theatre and it was as I suspected – almost everybody looked glamorous! Women in gorgeous evening wear with matching heels and jewellery, while the men were perfectly suited up for the night.

All that said, I was glad that I came. This was, after all, about watching a show and, in particular, my friend’s performance. I saw him in Melbourne and thought there were many reasons The King And I duly deserved its swag of Helpmann Awards win (three including ‘Best Musical’) and nominations.

Imagine my disappointment then when the masthead of my city, The Sydney Morning Herald, published a mixed review of the play. Sydney is the production’s final stop and I had hoped we can come close, if not match, the warm welcome and energy that the show received from the theatre community in Melbourne.

Alas, it was not so. The applause during the first five minutes of the show distinctly came from a small patch of the audience. There was a standing ovation at the end but, personally, I felt it could have been better and louder. I was thinking to myself: “Did we all just watched the same musical?”

Let me give you some backstory. A couple of days or so before the musical hit town, there was an article asking whether ‘The King And I’ is racist and reflected a time that no longer resonated with today’s society. It went through the pros and cons, of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s treatment of the musical back when it first run, the ‘mocking’ of the Asian accent, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

As an Asian woman who moved to Australia more than 20 years ago, I have encountered and will continue to encounter racial prejudices and discrimination for as long as I am a ‘migrant’. But my heritage does not define me. I am a composite of my roots, my upbringing, my learnings, my mistakes, my successes, my travels, my work, my friends, my family et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So when I watch a musical like The King And I, it does not go through a racism soundcheck. I see it from the eyes of a child – I thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic performance of the governess (Lisa McCune); my jaw dropped when the curtains were drawn and out popped the bustling and colourful country of Siam; the kids were too cute for words as they took turns charming the crowd and I was absolutely impressed by the ‘play within a play’ at the tail end of the musical.

By the time the curtains closed, I was just full of admiration for the entire cast and production crew.

I say all this because I am a big fan of the power of music and dance to transport us into the world of awe and wonder. Of magic and fantasy. The theatre review I read on SMH did point out the positives: Lisa McCune’s performance, the kids, the set and the performance during the The Small House of Uncle Thomas segment. But then it blasted Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ performance as The King to the point that everything else the reviewer said before and after didn’t matter.

We are all our own worst critics. But there is something to be said about an audience that positively fuels the energy onstage by giving the performers the praise they deserve. People in the audience like the reviewer ticking and unticking boxes is not exactly conducive to a magical night.

Fortunately, the show is a certified hit despite the occasional barbs thrown at it.

The Opening Night reception could have been much, much, much better but I daresay it was an aberration: The King And I is one magical piece of theatre that leaves you wondering about that ancient world, once upon a time, in a faraway shimmering land called Siam.

What I Liked About The Play ‘His Mother’s Voice’

I watched the play ‘His Mother’s Voice’ with no expectations. In fact I went just so I can enjoy the company of a friend I haven’t seen for so long. She also told me that two of the actors in the play are Filipinos. This is a rarity in the Sydney theatre scene so I was in.

Imagine my surprise then when the play swept me off my feet with its story about a mother’s self-sacrifice and courage in the face of adversity. Actress Renee Lim, who plays the central role as mom Yang Jia to Harry Tseng’s Qian Liu, gave a moving portrayal of a piano teacher who lived in the wrong place at the wrong time – Shanghai, 1966, when it was a crime punishable by death to enjoy, or worse, teach Western music.

As the play is set during the tumultuous period of the Cultural Revolution in China, ‘His Mother’s Voice’ was a welcome study to a dark chapter in Chinese history. Up until I saw the play, I never thought much, nor fully understood, the struggle that millions of Chinese had to endure to survive that era – and the tough choices they had to make.

As for the casting, I almost wanted to clap out loud and do a fist-pump when Filipino-Australian actors John Gomez Goodway and Fellino Dolloso walked onstage. One of the big sacrifices Filipino-Australian migrants have to make is that we miss out on the vibrant Philippine-based arts and culture scene. In Manila, people are spoilt for choice when it comes to watching a play with Filipino actors and based on Asian-centric themes and interests.

In Sydney, you can count in one hand, on any given year, the number of plays with Asian actors dominating the stage and based on an Asian narrative – His Mother’s Voice being one of them.

No wonder Goodway thought the play is significant on many levels.

“Many plays by the Asian community seem to target its own community, and a broader audience only as a side effect – I don’t see this as a bad thing in any way. In contrast, ‘His Mother’s Voice’ is really trying to connect to a wider, cross-cultural audience.”

The play is also one of those rare productions where 10 out of a huge cast of 12 have an Asian background.

“It shows that Asian actors are castable in the Australian theatre and entertainment industry, and that we have some great stories waiting to be told,” he said.

It wasn’t like the play was making a big statement about injecting cultural diversity onto the Australian stage, more a cultural awakening. It had its lighter moments, which made the play doubly enjoyable, thanks to the endearing performances of actors Monica Sayers and Alice Keohavong during the negotiation and arbitration scene at the tail end of the play.

The narrative behind ‘His Mother’s Voice’ will resonate with every Filipino-Australian who know first hand what their parents had to do to give them a better life and a chance to achieve their dreams.

As mom Yang Jia said in one of her scenes, there are two things that you can give to your children: love and preparation.

I did not prepare to enjoy the play this much. Kudos to writer Justin Fleming and director Suzanne Millar for shining the spotlight on a beautiful story that, finally, has been told.

His Mother’s Voice
Until 17 May 2014
Wed – Saturday 7pm, Sunday 5pm
ATYP Studio 1, The Wharf (Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay)
Tickets $30 02 9270 2400