The Surry Hills Festival 2011
One thing I love about street festivals is that they can showcase the very best of a suburb all in one location. Roxy and I took advantage of that yesterday when we visited Surry Hills for the Surry Hills Festival 2011.
The Festival is held annually as a fundraiser for the Surry Hills Neighborhood Centre, and this year was held at two parks, Shannon Reserve on Crown St and Ward Park on Devonshire St. Just a short walk away from Central Station, we decided this was a good time to explore a suburb we have always wanted to see. We gave a gold coin donation for entry to the venues, then set about having a look at what the Festival had to offer.
There were a fair amount of food stalls, selling French crepes, German sausages, Himalayan cuisine and more. People would pay for their food, find a particularly comfortable patch of grass, and sit down to watch the various musical acts being performed on the stages. The whole thing had the air of one giant picnic, and the atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly.
There were also many other stalls, mostly selling hand-made or designer clothing, jewellery and accessories.
The New Zealand Snack Food stall caught my eye, and we rushed over to see if they had anything that I was familiar with. My mum used to tell me stories about how she'd steal change from her mother's purse so that she could buy lollies and chocolate as a child, and so I bought a few items to surprise her with:
When I mentioned that my mum was Maori, he asked me if she ever talked about Kina (sea urchin). He then gave me a flier with their address in Banksia, informing me that they stock Kina, Paua (abalone), beef from New Zealand, and that they lay Hangis as well (traditional method of cooking).
Outside the library on Crown St, we encountered the Hot Potato! Band playing the Mission Impossible theme song on brass and percussion. It was lively and fun, and they interrupted their songs occasionally to play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' to a small child, or a round of 'Happy Birthday' to a little girl who they let play the snare drum. The band definitely gave the festival a more lively feel!
We stopped for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant on Crown St called Yullis, a first for me. Normally vegetarian restaurants are of the Indian persuasion or are very upmarket, but the menu seemed to be Modern Australian, in that it had elements of Asian, European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, and also seemed very unpretentious.
We walked through the dark interior of the restaurant to a courtyard at the back. The tables were made out of recycled materials, and fake grass covered the floor and part of the walls. We were given our menus (including a rather extensive beer and wine list), and then unfortunately we were abandoned as the multitude of other people were served. Roxy started waving as if she were a flight attendant showing us the exits, and finally we had our orders taken. Our waiter did apologise most charmingly, and so it was very easy to forgive, especially once the food came out.
The salt and pepper tofu was brought out first, accompanied by a green papaya salad. The tofu was firm yet gorgeously fluffy on the inside, but was deep fried, so the outside was wonderful and crisp. The seasoning was very light though - just a tad more pepper and it would have been perfect for me. The green papaya salad seemed like it came straight out of Thailand - a chilled, refreshing mix of shredded green papaya and carrot, cherry tomatoes, green beans, garlic, crushed peanut and a lime dressing, it really contrasted well with the warm, fried tofu.
The salad was a delicious combination of fruits such as orange, pear, tomato and avocado, and vegetables like lettuce, onion and cucumber, all dressed in a sweet cranberry sauce.
This was my favourite dish - a thick wedge of pumpkin polenta, panfried and served with a green mango salsa. The polenta was thick, warm and comforting, whilst the salsa was cool and fresh. The salsa was meant to have green mango in it, but I could have sworn there were apple pieces instead. Along with onion, lime, lemongrass and chili, it worked really well with the polenta.
It really seems like stores and restaurants in Surry Hills don't like using apostrophes in their names, i.e. bills, Yullis and Maloneys Grocer. We stopped by when I saw an intriguing display of fresh-cut fruit for sale that we simply just don't get in Liverpool, so we decided to check it out.
Roxy immediately went to the muesli section of the store and asked for these two items, which include chocolate, for Easter (email me if you'd like to donate some muesli for the poor woman ;) ).
The bread display was quite impressive, with loaves and buns from Sonoma bakery and Dovedale Bread. I also got very excited over the artisan vinegars they had for sale, including one from the Tetsuya's brand!
There was a huge range of cheeses, from goats cheese to brie, some marinated and some paired with fruit. Also a large range of ice cream, including Ben and Jerry's and Maggie Beer brands.
There was also a gourmet deli section, serving everything from sandwiches to rustic-looking pies and sausage rolls, and even cannelloni!
Finally, the fresh fruit and vegetables are bought three times a week from Sydney Markets. Look at how neatly the vegetables are laid out! Magic. I wish we had grocery stores like this is Liverpool.
I ended up buying two bagels ($1.70 each), which were delicious and WAY better than what I could have bought at Woolies'. Also, I found strawberry and raspberry jam, panko breadcrumbs, Mulberry Tree muesli, and orange blossom water, all things that I have problems finding in my area.
Surry Hills is a pretty wonderful place, and it's nice to go somewhere with a completely different atmosphere for a bit of a change. The people are much more relaxed, they're friendlier and they walk slower than they do here - also, I would say most of them are young and hip. I know I'll be a frequent visitor in the future.
Surry Hills Neighborhood Centre
417 Crown St
Surry Hills, NSW
Phone: (02) 9319 6609
Shop 4, 490 Crown St
Surry Hills, NSW
Phone: (02) 9331 3811