Dining – Part 1: Haute cuisine

Food is one of the most complicated things that humans do. From a strictly primal, biological view, all we need to do is ingest chemical energy so we can convert that into movement, heat, and other necessary functions.


                        Like stealing oxygen.

But macro-nutrients and amino acids aren’t the whole story.  We have 9,000 taste buds and although their primary function is as a food safety sensor, we’re past that now. No longer do our bodies serve to protect us from poor quality ingredients; now they are merely vessels of culinary pleasure.


As illustrated by this borderline orgasm.

Nowadays with the slew of cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef, we’ve taken food preparation to new levels of pornography. Every man and his wok now knows what crème fraîche is, that Harissa isn’t just a stripper name, and that it’s impossible to present a croquembouche without looking like a complete tosser.


This is the human equivalent of croquembouche: equal parts fat and wank.

Haute cuisine is known to most people as “when you’re served a big plate of small food”, and that is a pretty succinct definition. It’s the “less is more” mantra, where subtleties and nuances are dished up instead of flavour. There’s no denying that this is what the most revered restaurants serve, and they charge what’s known in the industry as a “Royal Fuck-tonne”. Don’t believe me? Check out this menu, the highlight being a $5,000 burger! I can only assume that it’s served with a drink made out of Antarctic ice and virgins’ tears.

But some people have either too much money or too little self-esteem, and just love to blow their money on overpriced food, in a desperate attempt to seem wealthy or cultured. Sydney and Melbourne both contain enough of these people to have cultivated a market for this sort of dining, so let’s sort out the foie gras from the foy grass, the sauté from the sour-tea and the jus from the Jews.


Yes, this is actually what comes up when you Google Image “Jew jus”

According to gourmettraveller.com.au, the top ten restaurants in the country were all from either Sydney or Melbourne with Sydney scoring seven of the top ten. In fact, Victoria and New South Wales are responsible for twenty-eight of the top thirty! Does this mean that the rest of the country are subsisting on a bland diet of potatoes and mushrooms? Or is it that the best chefs in Australia hunger only for the big-city money?


All those kilos of butter aren’t free, you know.

Now, as many of you know (from Masterchef – be honest), the highest honour a restaurant can receive is the Michelin Star. This started in 1900, when tyre manufacturer and slippery Frenchman Andre Michelin published a book reviewing restaurants…to promote car tourism, aaaaand to increase tyre usage. Basically, 1 star is excellent, 2 stars is super-excellent, and 3 stars is “Bring your Gold Amex”. So, how many Michelin Star restaurants are there in Australia? Exactly zero. We’re too classy for that. We have our own system, devised by the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide – a Chef’s Hat. It works the same way as the Michelin Star, except you can only score “one”, and no one cares.

But if you were to care (and I’m not suggesting you should), the best restaurant in Australia is called “Vue de Monde” and it’s in Melbourne, as are three of the top ten. This is compared to Sydney, which has four of the top ten. Incidentally, the website that lists Copenhagen’s Noma as the best restaurant IN THE WORLD has only one Australian restaurant listed. At number twenty-nine, it’s Quay, from Sydney.

This post has all been about dining’s cream of the crop. Next week, however, will be all about real food. Peasant food. The 99%. Until then, if you’re in the market for the top 1% of cuisine, Sydney has you served.

Monuments

Every city needs some landmarks to put it on the map. Whether it’s ancient ruins, ultra-modern skyscrapers, or a series of Big Things, people love their city to have impressive stuff that you don’t.

At the end of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller “Sunshine”, a film set aboard a spaceship, there is only one scene at the end in which we see earth. The director chose one location to represent our world, Sydney Harbour, as he considered the Opera House to be one of the few monuments that are “universally recognisable“. How many other monuments would qualify for that illustrious title? The Taj Mahal, The Eiffel Tower, The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Statue of Liberty, The Colosseum…but what about Melbourne? Anything there?


                   Aww, yeah! The 8th ugliest building in the world, bitches!

Conclusion: Melbourne has nothing that compares to the Opera House. One point to Sydney.

What about the Harbour bridge?

Beautiful. Such an iconic, original design. Except that it isn’t, which is something this tourism website conspicuously fails to mention. If you’ve been to New York, I’m sure you saw the charming Brooklyn Bridge and the impressive Washington Bridge. But did you notice the Hell Gate Bridge? No? Well, here it is:


                          Look familiar?

Completed 10 years before Sydney’s Harbour Bridge was started, this must be the greatest case of fraud in civil engineering history! And yet the Harbour Bridge is described as “an economic feat as well as an engineering triumph”, which also ignores the inconvenient fact that it took 56 years to pay off. Melbourne’s prefered supplier of suicide, The West Gate Bridge, is more than twice as long…and half as pretty.


“Fuck this whole “looking nice” thing, we’re too busy trying to stop the bastard collapsing again”

*Sigh*…more people died in its construction than care it exists. What about Melbourne’s Bolte bridge? Well, that looks like someone said “Hey! Let’s make a bridge with a couple of unconnected, hollow, useless towers, and splash a bit of ‘Golden Gate Red’ on the bottom”.


          Where’s al-Qaeda when you need them?

Another point to Sydney.

What about Sydney’s 309m Centrepoint Tower? Sure, it’s probably just a ripoff of Seattle’s Space Needle, but it’s the only one in Australia, so it’s reasonably unique. Melbourne’s Art Centre Spire, at 162m, is nice but it’s not particularly noticeable and doesn’t have an observation deck or a revolving restaurant. Another point to Sydney.


“I dunno, sort of make it like the Eiffel Tower or something. Here’s $20.” – note handed to architect, presumably.

Does Melbourne have anything else? Well, yeah, the Shrine of Remembrance, Flinders St Station, St Paul’s Cathedral, Parliament House, Luna Park, The Sidney Myer Music Bowl…and that’s probably it. Attractive, sure. Some of them are even quite impressive. But you’re not going to compare them to, say, Big Ben or the Brandenburg Gate. Sydney for the win, and a monumental one at that.