Guest Post: Fonda Mexican restaurant, Melbourne

Guest post by Brendan Ferguson

Play word association with 'Fonda' and I immediately think of Jane, or more specifically, her 1982 workout video, which my mother flogged incessantly. For Melbournians though, ‘Fonda’ has recently taken on a different meaning. 

The literal translation of ‘fonda’ in Spanish is ‘inn’, which goes some way to describing the latest addition to Melbourne’s burgeoning Mexican food scene. But Fonda is more than just an ‘establishment providing food and drink’ (as ‘inn’ may be defined) – Fonda is an establishment providing braised pork tacos, grilled chicken and quinoa burritos and frozen margaritas.

Conceived by unlikely restaurateurs, Tim McDonald (lawyer) and Dave Youl (fireman), Fonda benefits from the input of Mexican chef, Lupita Manzo, striking a creative balance between Tex-Mex and awesome. The kangaroo burrito – or burrooto – leaps off the menu ($14), while Fonda’s rockling taco – the Fonda-ling, as McDonald has dubbed it – generates most hype amongst diners ($6). And rightly so. The soft-shell taco is served open, revealing the lightly crumbed fish swimming in chipotle aioli and topped with a zesty salad mix.

Stepping into the narrow, Swan Street shopfront, one can’t help but be happy. The bright yellow walls and fluorescent trimmings demand it, compelling you to order a golden side of charred corn ($3.50). Lathered with chipotle aioli and finished with grated ricotta, the cob comprises several hundred, miniature flavour explosions.

Fonda’s trendy clientele are trumped only by the denim apron-clad kitchen staff. One gets the sense that McDonald and Youl know every customer, and as summer rolls in and the cerveza starts flowing, Fonda’s courtyard will surely be heaving. Which suits the owners just fine. After all, as the laneway graffiti declares, “mi casa [es] su casa.”

Fonda Mexican on Urbanspoon


Steak Night @ North Bondi RSL

Paulo Coehlo wrote that ‘the simplest things in life are often the most extraordinary’. While it’s a slight stretch from profound musings of an exotic Brazilian author to Wednesday night at the local R’ie (pronounced Aah-rie), it is a reminder that the best experiences can be found in unexpected places.

Packed every Wednesday
Prime balcony tables
A generous steak and chips for eight bucks is a mid-week highlight for locals accustomed to paying what is wryly referred to as the ‘Bondi premium’. Cross the Bondi Rd / Old South Head Rd border to find that rent is higher for pokier rooms, coffee is at least $4 a pop, and if you want non-organic bread for less than $8 a loaf you’ll have to venture out of the bubble. 

Breezy ocean views, readily available tables and a cheesy selection of 80’s pop, the North Bondi RSL Steak night is a treasured tradition of locals, maintaining popularity throughout the summer heat and winter chill. The queue for steaks snakes around the tables as the essential decisions are made by patient queuers. Whether peppercorn or tomato basil, mash or fries, vegies or salad, the steak is decent quality and the delivery is super speedy.

Sal Giblin...very excited about her steak
My steak's bigger than your steak
Punters travel half way across the world to enjoy the five star views, shared with the snazzier North Bondi Italian downstairs. Buzzing with young and old, the plastic chairs and RSL paraphernalia keep the crowd casual as they admire the sunset views. In all their simplicity, combining steak, mates and spectacular sunsets on a hump day can turn out to be surprisingly extraordinary.

Blue Wave Bistro on Urbanspoon


Sunday sessions at the grassy knoll

A two piece band assembles in front of the beach as dusk settles, the tide waning in the background. The small patch of grass in North Bondi – known to locals as the grassy knoll – is a kaleidoscope of tanned bodies, tattoos and towels.

Sarongs form makeshift picnic rugs as the uber-chilled crowd mingles in small groups. Batlow ciders, coronas and the occasional jug of home made sangria bolster the festive atmosphere, an extension of the weekend and a celebration of sun and surf. Plates of cheese, berries and dips are arranged with style on paper plates as wine is poured generously into plastic cups. 

Classy (plastic) wine glasses
Skinny Bondi hipsters ogle fake-breasted girls in bikinis, while puppies are the latest accessory (aka makeshift pick up tools) for unshaven surfers. Buff tattooed men flex their muscles as their girlfriends figure out which pose appears most flattering from the pavement. Rows of one speed bikes are parked haphazardly against the railing as trendy locals dismount and stake their exclusive spot on the rapidly filling grass. 
As surfers catch the last waves of the day, an equally trendy but slightly glossier crowd spills out of North Bondi Italian across the road. Havaiianas are traded for wedge heels, heavy duty lip gloss replaces invisible zinc, and ruffled beach hair is created by hairspray instead of salty waves. The deck provides prime sunset viewing while enjoying summery cocktails of freshly squeezed grapefruit and campari and snacking on unshelled peanuts.

Back at the knoll, the guitarist and singer create a Jack Johnson-esque sound, music that floats powerfully over the natural amphitheatre of grass and sand. Dress: sandy feet, oversized sunnies and colourful cozzies, BYO apple ciders and ward off the Sunday blues with the Bondi vibe. Simply another reason not to leave the Bondi bubble.

Loving the Batlow ciders
Fave mode of transport
Puppy pick up attempt appears to be failing
Click here for more photos.


Jamie's Italian

Executive Chef Dave Clarke
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver famously declared that “all I ever wanted to do was make good food accessible to everyone”. Opening the cutting edge doors of Jamie’s Italian in the heart of Sydney CBD is a step towards turning his words into reality down under. The new establishment is blazing the road in Sydney towards a new foodie phenomenon – ethically sourced food at affordable prices.

Read my review of the new Pitt St restaurant as the NSW Blogger for lastminute.com.au.

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Table Talk @ Cafe Mint

“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord within us”

Table Talk is an innovative concept that takes the age-old tradition of discussing issues around a dinner table, and transplants the conversation into a trendy Surry Hills café.

Devised by two experienced counsellors with backgrounds in psychology, training and management, Nadene Alhadeff and Ros Kennedy decided to recreate the ancient art of a meaningful dinner conversation; the original forum where knowledge was imparted, ideas explored and intimacies created through channelling personal stories.
Nadene Alhadeff & Ros Kennedy
Accustomed to running workplace training courses in corporate settings, Nadene and Ros were convinced that removing the conversation away from a stress-fuelled work environment and creating a relaxed atmosphere would allow groups to connect on a more personal, deep level.

It is a Monday night at Café Mint in Surry Hills, and 14 Gen-Ys have gathered to experience the concept first-hand. The topics on the table are mindfulness, stress management and using empowering language, and the facilitators open with a brief visualisation to focus the group.

We open our eyes, the first delicious course is served - and a spirited conversation ensues. Nadene and Ros deftly guide the conversation, coaxing personal stories from each of the participants and drawing in the latest research and providing useful, practical examples. Personal anecdotes, challenging questions and controversial experiences were shared, with a focus on Gen Y’s unique approach to stress management and the link to social expectation emerging as a common concern.
We explore the danger of words such as “should” – as in, I “should” call my grandmother, I “should” be earning x dollars per year, and the effect that this has on our wellbeing. We learn to recognise the body’s unhealthy responses to stress, and are offered practical steps to address them.

Chef Yoni Kalfus of Café Mint serves an exotic array of share plates, ranging from grilled haloumi skewers, chicken kefte ball in tomato sauce to fish and polenta. The shared food creates a convivial sharing atmosphere, with the private space allowing the group the confidence to speak our minds.

Two hours fly by, and there are many lingering questions as we wrap up the evening. With appetites satisfied and our minds inspired, the conversation flows on the journey home. A rare opportunity to discuss challenging personal concepts collectively, Table Talk provides an ideal opportunity for groups of friends or colleagues to gather, unwind and connect.

Table Talk is an initiative of Nadene Alhadeff & Ros Kennedy, in conjunction with Cafe Mint.  It costs $95 pp, and includes 3 x courses, venue hire and a facilitated discussion.   Discussions are tailored to the interests of individual groups and workplaces.

For more information, contact nadenealhadeff@yahoo.com.au or rosken@bigpond.net.au.  

Cafe Mint on Urbanspoon


Adriano Zumbo launch at The Star

It’s not often that slender models on a catwalk inspire cravings of cake, macarons and creamy éclairs, but a playful catwalk display of bold urban style matched with even more stylish desserts – the Zumbo Summer Collection of Cakes - had the well-heeled crowd salivating at the launch of Adriano Zumbo’s new patisserie.

Caramel popcorn martinis, bright pink candles and white lights set the merrily decadent tone of the Sex & the City style event at The Star.  Indulgent chocolate cocktails were served with delicate sushi canapés by waiters wearing ‘I Heart Zumbo’ t-shirts, while guests speculated as to the mysterious interior hidden behind white curtains.  The 2011 summer range local apparel brand and IM Boutique were showcased, fusing fashion and food in a vibrant combination that included a chocolate raspberry handbag and Zumbarons – concoctions of chocolate, chilli and cinnamon.
The curtain dropped to unveil a Willy Wonka-esque magical workshop of cakes and candy.  A fluorescent ‘I heart Zumbo’ flashed as brightly coloured wheels, knobs and levers hinted at an army of cheerful, hardworking Oompa Loompas churning out culinary delights behind the scenes.  Fed by multicolour pipes, small transparent safes full of various macaron flavours – including a Coca Cola flavour – warn us boldly to “Break the glass in case of emergency”.  I luckily discover the hidden latch before risking injury.  The illusion of magic is reinforced by the dessert sushi train – a never ending conveyor belt of imaginative treats.
Each dessert sampled was both a visual and tasty sensation; a ‘Water my Melon’ chocolate ball revealed an orange crèmeaux watermelon centre, while tapioca, custard and lychee snowmen (ssnowmanorr) winked enticingly, dressed for the occasion in candy tuxedo collars.
The latest of many newbies, the Adriano Zumbo Patisserie is a welcome addition to The Star.  A whimsical, inventive and fantastic concept that inspires imagination, it will have visitors revisiting their childhood dreams of finding that elusive golden ticket – and maybe picking up a macaron while they search.

This article was first published on Nine to Five.

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier on Urbanspoon

Mad Mex launch, Sydney Central Plaza

When Clovis Young moved to Sydney from California, he was told again and again that Aussies don’t like Mexican food. Slated as too spicy, too oily, too different, Clovis saw an opportunity to introduce the concept of fresh, healthy Mexican food that maintained quality despite being quick and affordable.

The launch of a Mad Mex restaurant in the revitalised Westfield Sydney Central Plaza was a celebration of a vision that emerged from passion, dedication and a commitment to quality. As Clovis demonstrates firsthand how the salsa is made from scratch, explains the importance of agave to tequila and passes around various raw chillies, it is refreshing to see an owner so involved in the details of production and cooking.

Read more about the launch of Mad Mex in my article on Eat Drink Play.

More photos can be found on the Lifeafterfive* facebook page.

WIN 1 of 3 $115 Westfield Vouchers

This competition has now closed and winners contacted. Thank you for entering!

Lifeafterfive* is giving away 3 x $115 Westfield Gift Cards, thanks to our friends at Kokomo Coconut Water.

To enter our competition to win one of 3 x Westfield Gift Cards worth $115 each, please leave a comment telling us your favourite natural energy booster.

For an extra entry, link to this competition on twitter (and cc @lifeafterfive) or your own blog and let us know.

Don't forget to include your email address or twitter name so that we can get in touch to send you your prize!

Entries close at midnight Sunday 13 November 2011.


CANTEEN National Bandanna Day

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world"
Anne Frank

28 October 2011 is Canteen's National Bandanna Day.  Sydney's Martin Place was awash with street art, bright bandannas, and smiley teens cheerily raising awareness of a serious cause.

More info can be found at http://bandannaday.com.au/

More pics are on the Lifeafterfive* facebook page.