Souvenir shopping in street markets. Day 70

Souvenir shopping in street markets. Day 70

What a beautiful day outside it is today, Josh however is so tired from work we spend the morning in, again. Sooner or later we will see London before lunch but for now we laze about waiting for Josh to once again leave for work. Because of the rare London sunshine, I decided to join Josh on the venture to Notting Hill and then start my day from there.

Located a few blocks behind The Ledbury is Portobello Road. Most know this spot is the place to go for great coffee, funky restaurants and bargains in the street markets. I start with a coffee and what a coffee it was. It was rich and creamy, perfect temperature and finished with a pattern on top. It has been so long since I really enjoyed a coffee, and at £1.30 it was a bargain too. I sat in the window, drinking my coffee, reading the local paper, eating a caramel slice and watching the people stroll by. Before now I never use to sit alone in a coffee shop but it has become my favourite thing to do.

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Perked up on caffeine I head onto the street. It’s almost closing time and fruit and veg vendors are shouting new prices for their produce. All boxes for one quid! If I didn’t have to carry them back on the tube I would have bought the lot. All of the produce you could think of and more was on sale here and it all looked fresh and vibrant. There was fennel, radish, carrots and beetroot, all thrown together like a colourful artwork from Picasso. As well as produce, a lot of antique stores are along Portobello Rd along with leather goods, clothing and lots of London souvenirs. A little secret when dealing with vendors … all prices are generally the same store to store however no one wants to lose out on a sale. Ask how much, if you have seen it cheaper somewhere else or just think it’s too much, say no and walk away from them. One in three will come back and ask you what price you want for it or they will discount it. I managed to get a few presents a little cheaper than advertised which is always good when holidaying on a budget.

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The markets go on for several blocks, never being a real fan of markets I get tired of seeing the same things in all store and head back towards the tube. I can see my mum really loving London for these little street markets as there will be plenty more to come I’m sure.

Shop till you drop.

Jess and Josh

Restaurant Mason Newcastle

Far beyond the city streets, dining at Restaurant Mason.

It’s lunchtime. I look left, I see Jess. I hear a stomach rumble. Mine or hers?Either way we’re hungry so we sit down at Chef Chris Thornton’s Restaurant Mason. Chris has spent much of his time in what is considered to be one of the most difficult kitchens in the world. Chris was a chef at Brett Graham’s The Ledbury. He is now settled amongst the busy suburbia of inner city Newcastle. Mason makes a bold statement with crisp white linen, friendly service and a pair of tattooed arms at the pass. We settle in on an outside table. Jess and I love to watch the hustle and bustle.

This is food with precision. As we sit we are greeted with house made bread and churned butter. Our starters are friendly flavours but this is food that you want to keep eating. For Jess roasted prawns with rosemary gnocchi and a butter sauce. The gnocchi is featherlight and contrast the crisp prawns wonderfully. For me I chose a salad. Yes I know, a salad. Now I have nothing against salad but I am usually a protein followed by more protein person, but a salad of quinoa, crisp squid, rocket and ratatouille was way too good to pass up.

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A breeze picks up and suddenly I am reminded that winter is almost here. The next two dishes are a reminder of winter warmers, a thick wool coat, uggies and everything else that makes the cold weather fantastic. For Jess, pork belly, braised red cabbage and roasted carrots. It’s like a roast dinner on steroids. The slightly pickled cabbage cuts through the rich and fatty pork and the carrots have just enough sweetness to drive home the deliciousness.

image Now after a salad it is time for me to dive into some protein. And here it is. A porterhouse steak, a sauté of local mushrooms and a golden potato rosti. Salivating? You should be. The mushrooms are cooked in butter and finished with thyme, the steak is a perfect medium are and the rosti is a little gold friend crashing the party. I broke records devouring this plate. I barely had enough time to notice the huge bowl of triple cooked chips next to me.

imageNoticing a wayward parking inspector checking out my car it’s dessert time. Jess has a textures of chocolate plate, a touch of naturalism here. The dessert looks like a chocolate forest, mousse, berries and an oozing chocolate fondant.

imageMy dessert is something else entirely. I have the Restaurant Mason carrot cake. Layers of carrot cake are pressed with sour cream, cream cheese and finished with an intensely savoury carrot purée. There’s also a silky looking quenelle of chai ice cream. This blend of sweet and savoury is something I really enjoy. Not only for the fact that carrot cake reminds me of baking with my mum but for the taking of the past and thrusting it into the future. It is food with love but there is a deft touch here. A touch of a professional.

imageMason may be set in amongst the urban sprawl of hunter street but it is a setting that is anything but. You may find yourself in a little hustle and bustle getting a table but the food here is tight, neat and tasty. The tattoos give it away. Chris works hard and his food shows. From that tiny little kitchen he can take you far off the Newcastle streets and into a world where the only touch is his own.So take a moment. Step out in Newcastle and let Restaurant Mason take you far beyond the city streets.

Dined May 2013

3/35 Hunter St, Newcastle NSW

http://www.restaurantmason.com