If anything I have learnt from this pandemic, ‘freedom’ and ‘togetherness’ are the two things I have revalued lately. I use the word ‘revalue’ because these are the two things I have taken for granted for so long… until a wake-up call named COVID-19, which makes me realised how important and precious they are.
All of mine and Kent’s relatives live interstate or overseas, so since the travel restrictions and border closures began, we have relied on our local friends for a sense of togetherness. During the last few months we have been invited to two small home gatherings by our close friends Brett and Andrew and this time, it’s our turn. Kent and I decided to pick a pub nearby, so we could do our bit to support a local hospitality business.
Photography Enthusiasts Fit Right In The Odd Culture
The Main Bar on the ground floor of The Taphouse was where we all met. Though Brett walked with us from our apartment building, and soon after our arrival Andrew showed up. It turned out that we all arrived earlier than our booking… a good sign I guess! After ordering some pre-lunch beverages, we grabbed our drinks and headed straight to Odd Culture upstairs.
Timber floor, rust coloured mottled wall and plenty natural light from large windows have put big smiles on our faces. And even better, we had the entire floor to ourselves. Andrew and Kent both had a Gin and Tonic, Brett went for a Brick Lane craft beer whereas myself, a Prosecco. Before I introduced Brett to Andrew properly, we enjoyed a few laughs while taking some photos together.
‘Brett is one of the most innovative Australian fashion photographers. Working in Paris and Sydney throughout the ’60s to ’90s, he photographed everyone including Bryan Ferry, Daborah Hutton; Michael Hutchence… you name it.’ I couldn’t help but be a little PR for our good friend Brett Hilder when introducing him to a new friend of ours, Andrew, who is an American architect with a love of life drawing and photography.
Some of you may already know that Kent is a fine art and fashion photographer, in the last few years he has started creating interior photography and 360° panoramas. As for me, I have a huge collection of portraits, some people think it’s crazy; Kent sees it as a body of work, he even encourages me to have an exhibition someday. Having photography as our common passion, you can imagine that there’s always someone snapping away documenting our pub gathering – surprise, surprise! Thanks to Andrew who brought with him a table tripod (and a Leica camera), we were able to have group portraits even without the mirror trick.
Lunch Is Served
For lunch, Brett ordered Mac ‘n Cheese Croquettes. Andrew’s choice was Fish & Chips; Kent went for Bangers & Mash and myself? The healthy and summery Poached Salmon Salad and a Bloody Mary. I also ordered the Taphouse Fries and Duck Croquettes to share.
‘What a nice presentation – with the fish tail!’ Kent commented on Andrew’s dish with an envious eye. Yes, all eyes were on Andrew’s fancy Fish & Chips… ‘Believe it or not, I’ve never had it wrapped in paper!’ Commented by Andrew. ‘Well last time I had it served in paper was in Fremantle, 1989.’ I hadn’t seen it served that way for a long time either. The Fish & Chips at Taphouse was apparently one of the best for Andrew.
Brett enjoyed his croquettes and fries. When I asked Kent about his house made pork sausages, his feedback was: ‘It’s good. Just a little on the salty side and so are the fries.’ During the meal, we made a toast to congratulate Andrew’s new Australian citizenship.
‘I need a photo with someone eating, any volunteers?’ I was inspired by an image of Kate Moss eating pasta. Brett and Andrew strongly hinted that they wouldn’t look good eating… in fact, ‘no one looks good while eating’ to quote them more accurately. I tried a few frames myself (with a helping hand from Kent), well they were right, it’s not a good look! Better leave this task to a real model. At the end I’m pleased with this picture of Kent… framed by Andrew’s and Brett’s ‘chip holding hands’!
My Poached Salmon Salad was pretty good. The salmon was cooked perfectly and I enjoyed the crispness from thinly sliced fennel and watermelon radish. The seasoning from its dressing was just right. I also tried one piece of the Duck Croquettes – very popular, I took the last and really liked it. Besides a very generous amount of tasty duck meat inside; the wholegrain mustard mayo was delicious. I’ll definitely order this dish again!
A Tour To The Rooftop Bar
We loved having the Odd Culture room to ourselves. This space is like a perfect photographic studio, great light, fantastic walls; cosy, quirky… but we also felt like exploring more. ‘Let’s go upstairs for some fresh air and sunshine!’ I suggested. Before we relocated to the Rooftop Bar, we did some group portraits in front of a large mirror in the middle of stairway, based on taking advantage of Andrew’s idea.
The Rooftop Bar is a hidden gem in Darlinghurst. I can easily picturing how magical the atmosphere here would be under twilight at summertime with the bar actually opens. What we had was 30°C heat and hot winds. Kent recommended us to re-relocate back to Odd Culture, so we did.
There’s this interesting side room in Odd Culture where one wall was decorated by timber panelling, newsprint wallpaper and empty wine bottles. Besides a wooden door which separates it from the main space; a concertina steel door on another side makes it ‘half private’. For the sake of changing scenery again, we decided to take this corner to continue our long lunch.
Kent switched from Gin and Tonic to craft beer, Andrew went with yet another Gin and Tonic and I was happily finding out (because I asked) that there’s one serve of Beeramisu (Tiramisu) left from the Kitchen’s winter menu. Perhaps my expectation was high… unfortunately, I found the sponge fingers were a little dry; both coffee and booze flavours were almost non-existent. I think I’ll stick with the spring menu next time.
Living Is Worth Celebrating
Friendship, citizenship; spring, freedom… We cherish them all! With this whole pandemic situation, there’s so much we feel grateful for. At this point in our lives, living and being healthy is worth celebrating. We don’t even need to look far to know how lucky we are. At the time of writing, metropolitan Melbourne residents are still not able to dine in a restaurant nor a cafe or a pub.
COVID-19 is not all bad news, the way the world pauses has given us a rare chance to see what it could be like to live in a slow-paced society. I shared this conversation with one of the bartenders early on… ‘How wonderful to have the entire floor to ourselves – we love it!’ ‘COVID has letting us experience things differently that’s for sure.’ Instead of focusing on the negative side, why not take advantage of it!
Last but not least, I want to give a shout-out to Mr. James Thorpe, the owner of The Taphouse. In the beginning of Sydney’s Stage 2 lockdown, James kindly offered a meal per person per day to the casual hospitality workers who lost their jobs. I am moved by his act of kindness and I too believe that by supporting each other, our local independent business will have a good chance to survive and recover in spite of these tough times.