Darlinghurst: Week 96

Polaroid of Florentijn Hofman's sculpture 'Rubber Duck' on display in Darling Harbour

As soon as the clock hit 5:15pm I was out of the office.

It was my friends’ last night in Sydney so I had all the motivation I needed for a Wednesday Night Out. From work I rushed through the fringes of Haymarket towards the trendy and vibrant neighborhood of Darlinghurst.

Our first stop was at the delightfully eclectic Govinda’s.  It was part Indian buffet (voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant 2011), part movie theater, and part meditation/chanting/cooking class center.

I ordered a lassi and piled my plate with creamy potato curries, lentil pies, cauliflower pakoras, rice, poppadums, and salad. A liberal dose of yogurt and a bowl of dhal soup rounded out the course.  Just after fulfillment but right before complete overindulgence I paid my bill- only $19.80. Because we ate dinner, the cost of a movie ticket was only another $10 dollars; practically a steal in the third most expensive city in the world.

From the second level restaurant we climbed a narrow staircase to what felt like a crow’s nest of a theater. Instead of traditional seats, Govinda’s had large red cushions covering each of the five or so terraces. It was a communal, relaxing way to watch a movie and it kind of reminded me of the DVD bangs in Korea.

I took my sandals off and fluffed a few pillows behind me before settling down. I didn’t even care what movie we were watching because I was so full, comfortable, and Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson were main characters.  If you can’t make it to Govinda’s, I would suggest creating a cozy nest on the floor of your local theater and sneaking in a Tupperware full of palak paneer. Just don’t forget to take off your shoes; that’s the most enjoyable part.

Of course no self-respecting Wednesday Night Out would be complete without cocktails. After the film we walked down a narrow alley in Darlinghurst in search of the Red Lily Cocktail Bar. It was a tiny place with the ambiance of old Saigon set to a soundtrack of retro Asian soul.

It didn’t matter that half of our group were bearded men, I felt so Sex and the City as the four of us sipped cocktails. The round of drinks we ordered had names like Cactus in Asia (tequila, muddled cucumbers and Szechuan chilies), Monkey Magic (rum, lime juice and grated nutmeg), and Sesame Street (rum, toffee, castor sugar, egg and toasted sesame).

We started with dessert-black sesame seed ice cream on fried balls of rice and sesame seeds, and finished with a savory dish- the Banh Tom- aka Auntie 5’s rice cakes.

The fried rice cakes were topped with tiger prawns, caramelized pork, shallot oil and pork floss. Yep that’s right- pork delivered with a fluffy and dry cotton candy consistency.

Indulging our curiosity, the bartender explained (in a nutshell) the process for making pork floss. It involves boiling the pork, drying it and then wok-tossing it with sugar. On its own it was a cottony and slightly sweet version of beef jerky. As a whole though, the Banh Tom was chewy, savory, salty, sweet, spicy, and delicious.

On the way home we passed Darling Harbour, which curiously enough isn’t even in Darlinghurst. It’s the kind of place that almost falls into the only for tourists realm, but somehow still manages to attract locals.

At the start of January, Darling Harbour hosted the opening celebrations for the Sydney Festival- a month-long cultural performance extravaganza. Although the opening ceremony was done and gone, an inflated sculpture by Florentijn Hofman remained.

It was a massive yellow creation appropriately called Rubber Duck. Children responded to its enormous proportions with thrills of delight, cameras flashed and thousands of pale pink jellyfish floated around the duck like limp trash bags.

Friends, Indian buffets, rubber duckies, glorious cocktails- they’re all good excuses to explore Sydney on a Wednesday night. Just don’t tell your boss why you showed up to work the next day as listless as the Darling Harbour jellyfish.

How to get to Govinda’s: 112 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

How to get to Red Lily: 60 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

About Darling Harbour

About the Sydney Festival

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