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The Balmoral Burn, Milan Design Week & a cuppa at Kirribilli House.

It was the last Sunday of the gentle season. As Eva Cassidy’s rendition of Autumn Leaves echoed through the cabin and the warmth of the soft leather seats hugged our backs, he glanced sideways towards the passenger seat and in a softly spoken voice he whispered, let's go to Mosman.

Our trips to Mosman would generally involve us sitting down for a warm cup of tea and sharing a toastie at one of the many sidewalk cafes, then taking a stroll along the shopping strip looking at the beautiful fashions and homewares displayed in the windows, and often stopping to stroke one of the many adorable puppies frolicking by. Dogs of all breeds frequented Mosman and I often commented to my significant other that to walk the streets of Mosman you must accessorize with a dog. You only had to take a look at the number of dog bowls filled with fresh water outside the doorways of the shops to know that these prized canines were a prominent part of the community.

Alas, today we wouldn’t be stopping for either a warm cuppa or window shopping. He sailed on by passing the shops and heading on down Middle Head Road until we reached the car park adjoining the sports oval near Gunners Barracks. It was quite breezy and fresh as we alighted from the car and headed towards George’s Heights and into the Mosman Headland Park following the paved lawn to Georges Head Lookout, where we had sweeping majestic 180-degree views across the harbour, spanning from the Sydney CBD to South Head.

Small sailing boats dotted the deep blue waters and in the distance we could see the sandy white beaches of the Eastern suburbs and the lighthouse near The Gap at Watsons Bay. As we meandered along the pathway heading north from Georges Heights the vegetation thickened and at certain vantage points we had a clear view of the ocean towards North Head and Manly Cove. We frequently stopped to take it all in and watch the green and yellow Manly ferries scoot past.

The magnificent view out to sea between North and South Head

The path soon took us back across Middle Head Road and before we knew it we were descending through lush ferns down steep wooden steps and boardwalks hurtling towards Balmoral Beach. The descent was fun, all smiles going down, concerned faces coming up. As we neared the bottom it suddenly occurred to me that the car was still parked at the top, but soon the calm waters of Balmoral Beach beckoned and for a moment I forgot about the return journey up the steep hill. We walked the boardwalk that enclosed the ocean pool as one lonely swimmer did laps across and back. The water looked icy cold. Sitting down at a table at the ever popular Boathouse we enjoyed a thirst quenching glass of water and a milky cup of tea. The cafe was buzzing with all sorts of people, from young families meeting up with friends to locals enjoying the sun and catching up with news on their phones. There were others with medals draped around their necks, and that’s when I remembered that on the last Sunday of May the The Humpty Dumpty Foundation Balmoral Burn is held. Each year, participants take to the burn to conquer Awaba Streets 420 metre incline, on one of the steepest streets in Sydney.

The steps leading up the hill from Balmoral Oval to Mosman

As we left the cafe, we walked around the newly built pathway circling the oval, and about half way around we would meet again with the bottom of the wooden steps that would take us on the return journey back up the hill to the carpark. To say that we were about to embark on our own Balmoral Burn was somewhat of an understatement. With each few steps my knees creaked, I knew they hated me. My significant other's ankles were screaming assault.

My heart rate was reaching its limits as my shallow breaths turned into noisy gasps. My body temperature reached fever heights as I peeled away my jacket. I was feeling the burn. Passers-by heading down the hill commented that eventually the top of the hill would come into view. I wondered whether I would make it but there was no turning back, and soon enough the sign post pointing me in the direction of the arts precinct was ahead. A smug smile moved across my face as if to say that I always knew I would make it. Deceptive much?

Most certainly, but I was now on a gentle path heading back to the car and I was happy. A rabbit was on the side of the footpath chewing the grass. It didn’t move as I passed by, it was quite obvious I had no energy left to consider harming it. We walked along the path leading through the arts precinct. We could hear the chatter of voices and the clinking of cutlery and that’s when we discovered a little hidden gem called Frenchys, a cafe with alfresco dining. We carved a path between the tables peering at the sumptuous crepes and charcuterie boards as we passed. We vowed to come back one day and throw a picnic blanket on the lawn and enjoy some of the delicious food or maybe just another cup of tea in a new found cafe in Mosman.

Midweek we headed back to Mosman to travel vicariously to Milan Design Week whilst sipping champagne and listening to an exciting panel of influential design figures discuss the hottest new looks, colours, furniture and lighting seen at the Salon del Mobile, 2023. Salon del Mobile brings together the world’s most prestigious furniture designers and brands to showcase their new products. This evening's event, hosted by Belle editor Tanya Buchanan and Fanuli Furniture, was an informal chat with Romaine Alwill, Alexandra Kidd and the flamboyant Steve Codony to recap the highlights of the biggest international design event of the year, and how each of them believed it will influence design both locally and abroad.

Some of the take aways for me were design trends emerging including a return to monochromatic finishes like black against sheer white with structured lines including contrast piping as seen in the Flexform retrospective of design from past and current campaigns, artisanal minimalism and vibrant colour palettes celebrating authenticity at Hermes, a leaning towards anything organic, handcrafted woodwork, stones, natural finishes and earthy tones including dirty greens, tan, soft terracotta, and caramel tones, as well as charcoal and dusty pinks. Blue, yellow and pastel accents brought a sense of playfulness. Curves were everywhere, in rugs, sofas, consoles, and outdoor furniture. The importance of supporting local artisans who make things by hand, alongside sustainability were key features of emerging designs.

Steve Cordony had his own highlights including the pure joy of monogrammed stationery at Pineider, eating at a Milan classic, Latteria San Marco, a daily pit stop at Le tres Regioni Salumeria for the best paninis, and meeting Martha Stewart, a moment he will always hold onto.

Handmade wooden floor lamps launched in Milan by Oz designer Tom Fereday

On Saturday, we joined many other locals for a hot chocolate on the lawns of the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, and Admiralty House, another prime piece of real estate situated on Kirribilli Point, owned by King Charles III in Right of The Commonwealth of Australia, and the Sydney residence of the Governor General.

Kirribilli House was built in 1854, and with its traceried barge boards and steep gabled roof, reflects some of the main characteristics of Victorian Rustic Gothic Architecture.

Kirribilli is thought to be derived from the First Nation Australians’ word Kiarabilli, meaning good fishing spot, and Kirribilli House remains as an example of one of the many marine villas that once dotted Sydney Harbour and formed part of the dress circle at Kirribilli. Stepping inside the house I couldn’t help but notice the stunning floral woven patterned carpets and the prominent grandfather clock just inside the door with a seperate clock to convey each of the hours, minutes and seconds, however the best spot in the house would have to be sitting in the cane chairs on the verandah looking down over the rolling green hills and the lower lawn most famous for hosting the Australian Cricket Team for a match each year on New Year’s Day.

The highlight once inside Admiralty House was to see the banquet table formally set as it would be when entertaining important overseas visitors including members of the Royal Family, the President of the United States and The Pope. I was also a little curious to know who had left their mobile phone on the charger sitting on the sideboard just inside the door. It looked distinctly out of place residing on the Victorian style furniture piece.

Admiralty House, viewed from the south.

I’ve never met anything associated with AP Bakery that I didn’t love. This week I stumbled upon a new brewery in Marrickville, called Wildflower. Wildflower is unique in that it brews beer from regen organic grains wholly fermented by a diversity of yeasts and bacteria collected from native flowers in NSW. It’s cellar door offers a rather inviting list of beers on tap including Ashes to Ashes 2023, an Amber beer aged in ex-Foggy Morning barrels macerated with toasted wattle seeds, 10 Years Young, a collaboration with Young Henry’s, and Autumn 2023, a seasonal ale made with AP Bread using stone ground bloody butcher corn kernels and shelled cobs grown by Girra Girra in Forbes.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday AP Bakery is in residence cooking a bistro menu which includes a much talked about grilled jersey cheese with hot honey served inside a soft milk bun, and a quail schnitty with prosciutto, Parmesan and sage.

AP Bakery’s jersey cheese with hot honey inside a soft milk bun at Wildflower Brewery, Marrickville

On Stan, I’ve been enjoying the historical drama Ten Pound Poms, which follows the lives of a group of Brits who leave post-war Britain for a new life in Australia. For only a tenner, they are promised a better life, but living down under isn’t exactly the dream they envisioned. The poor living conditions and local attitudes towards immigrants test them in ways they couldn’t have imagined. They were not given the same attention as more politically controversial non-English speaking migrants and became known as Australia’s Invisible Migrants. This docu-series, which was partly filmed in historical Carcoar in NSW, brings the plight of the Brits to life and highlights the discrimination they experienced in line with that experienced by other immigrants.

It is not unusual to have a wedge of cake for breakfast in Italy. This recipe from the Brain Health Kitchen is inspired by these rustic cakes often made with almonds, lemon and a layer of fruit on top. I leave you with this recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Olive Oil Cake which can be found here, a brain healthy treat containing, fat, fibre and flavonoids.

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.


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