My Archibald 2016 (and Wynne & Sulman)

My favourite painting at the exhibition currently hanging at the Art Gallery of NSW is Craig Handley’s “The Banker”.

Craig Handley
Craig Handley’s “The Banker”

The house is as quintessentially Australian as those in Robyn Sweaney’s paintings but in Sweaney’s work the attention to detail, deserted scenes and lead skies convey a calm that is absent in Handely’s image. Here, the fading acquarello jade tones, cliff divers and dodgy house stilt conjure an image of precarious fun that beautifully captures the current Australian psyche.

My favourite work at the Sulman is Craig Loxley’s “Exodus”.

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Craig Loxley’s “Exodus”

I love the snake skin effect of the pattern that only at close inspection reveals the individual tent components of the “scales” of a refugee camp so big it bleeds off the canvas.

Nick Stathopolous’ “Deng” is my favourite Archibald entry.

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Nick Stathopoulos’ “Deng”

Nick Stathopoulos’s “Deng”

I find it impossible to go past Stathopoulos’ hyper real technique, skin details, the sitter’s gaze. The “lens distortion”, trademark unfinished outfit and framing all contribute to an arresting result.

I also really enjoyed Melissa Ritchie’s “Rhys smart mouth”

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Melissa Ritchie’s “Rhys smart mouth”

The matchbox double portrait, red theme, theatrical light, pose and costume just work.

Other paintings I like from the Wynne are:

Steve Gough’s “Bush Zero, Darwin River”

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Steve Gough’s “Bush Zero, Darwin River”

For its pink sky, beautiful bush and stubborn marooned litter.

Yukultji Napangati’s “Untitled”

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Yukultji Napangati’s “Untitled”

For the woven waviness of the image

Max Miller’s “The mountain and me”

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Max Miller’s “The mountain and me”

Because anyone who paints with egg yolk on gold leaf ought to get my vote.

And Peter Gardiner’s “North/black lung”

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Peter Gardiner’s “North/black lung”

Again for a depiction of the Australian bush that struck a cord.

Maurizio Viani

 

(*) All images courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW’s website: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au

 

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The Custard Genius of “Made from Scratch”

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Custard and I go back a long way: it is the first thing I learnt how to cook when – after her surgery – mum had difficulty stirring pots. Custard evokes memories: Aunty Elvira’s recipe for “crema pasticcera”: a trusted friend when needing to whip up a delicious treat; my toddler nephew Lorenzo wrecking havoc at family dinners screaming “cremina!”, when pudding was something else, something inferior…

Like most basic things in cooking, custard is simple but revealing: only the very best ingredients will let it sing and one spoonful of sugar too many will betray the chef’s lack of confidence. One bite of Scratch’s profiteroles: their crisp choux pastry, uncompromising dark chocolate cover and – most of all – their delicious custard filling, was enough to realize this chef was the real thing.

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“Scratch” is the creation of Greg and Angie Wilton: he is the chef, she is the business powerhouse. Greg describes it as: “a bit of a dream really; it was something I always wanted to do: open my own bakery – patisserie; either that or buy an old one and do it up”.

I wonder why they chose Mullumbimby as home for their dream and it turns out he is “a local”. The term takes on different meanings depending on whom you are speaking to, up here: a farmer, ageing hippie or a tree-changer. The tribes fight over it a bit. I have been living in the area since 2008 and I don’t know whether I qualify; I suspect not. Having been born in Byron Bay, schooled in Mullumbimby and first trained as an apprentice baker in Brunswick Heads, I reckon Greg does. Angie is from Melbourne; the couple met in the Whitsundays, where they were both working: he baking and skippering boats and she translating for Japanese tourists. So why coming back to Mullumbimby? “I think it was just easy – says Greg – We love it. I brought Angie back here because I missed surfing and I wanted to bring up my kids near the surf and Ange fell in love with the place so we decided we settle here”. As it turns out, Greg still misses surfing and Angie misses her yoga. Scratch is five, the kids are four and two; starting a business and a family at the same time leaves little time for the fun stuff.

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When they first came back, Greg worked in bakeries in Kingscliff and Suffolk Park while they thought of a way to start on their own. He says he struggles baking for others: it is a hard life that does not pay very well; the reward lays in the expression of one’s creativity, which is often cramped under someone else’s direction.

Scratch’s first incarnation was as a wholesale business operating out of Jordan’s, the bakery in Mullumbimby industrial estate: they baked bread and – when the ovens were free – Greg baked pastries for the hotels in the area. They had a slow start, until Angie decided to approach the cafes: they did a milk run with gift-boxes showcasing their pastries and – unsurprisingly – the orders flocked in.

Once they were satisfied that the business was going OK, they started looking for their own premises. Greg remembered there was a café at the bottom of this alley off Stewart St 15 or 20 years ago; he remembered its three steps at the front. The place had been vacant, they could rent it cheaply so they moved in and operated as wholesalers for two years. Demand was strong and they started bursting at the seams so when the solicitors next doors moved out, they took that space too. They started debating whether to become a big wholesale business and move back out to the industrial estate or have a shot at being a retail business. At the same time, The Byron Farmers Market was looking at refreshing its offer and approached them with the suggestion to apply for a spot. They did and got in… And retail it was. “There was no real major plan to it all, it just unfolded”, says Greg.

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Market stalls up here are hotly contested; especially at the farmers’ markets, which have become popular with travelers and locals alike. The regular demand from a weekly market can – and often does – sustain an entire business. Being invited to one is either extremely lucky or a huge compliment; in this case – most likely – a bit of both. Mullum’s market was not that easy: they had to wait a while for their spot but – when the bagel stall closed shop – they jumped in.

They qualify for the farmers’ markets because they live on land and use some of their own produce: they keep laying hens and grow lemons, passion fruit and strawberries. Greg is quick to admit that the business has long outgrown their orchard and a lot of the ingredients are now sourced from the markets themselves: “All our meat we buy through Hayters Hill Farm. Any rhubarb or vegetables we buy through the market, when in season through Henry at Wickerwood or Jumping Red Ant farm. The cheese that goes into our spinach and feta rolls, we buy through Nimbin Valley Dairy; the apples are from Robert and Michelle Constanzo, who bring them in from Stanthorpe”. Milk was tricky: they tried using Nimbim Valley Dairy for that too but storing it became an issue so they switched to Norco organic milk, which the Lismore-based coop can deliver daily.

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The business grew fast and the lessons Greg learnt managing staff at diving pontoons on the coral reef come in handy now that they employ eight people. The couple still want growth, but at a sensible pace. Ange: “We just want to find that balance between a successful business and family life. We don’t want it to get too big. People suggest all sort of things: that we franchise or move onto the high street but it has been a pretty crazy couple of years and now all we want is a business that we are both proud of; something that Greg could work in and really enjoy and that we have time for the family too. We are just trying to find the balance at the moment. We are still in the growth phase so hopefully in the next few years we’ll get there. Things are slowly improving. Greg is off night shifts – mostly – which makes a huge difference to our family life. I might be able to get back into the shop a bit now that the kids are old enough to be in daycare for a few hours”.

“Made from Scratch” opens Tuesday to Saturday in the alley next to Betta Electrical in Mullumbimby and sells through the farmers’ markets of Byron Bay on Thursdays and Mullumbimby on Fridays. Get there early, profiteroles and millefeuilles practically run out of the door.

Maurizio Viani

Scratch Patisserie
Shop 6/108 Stuart Street,
Mullumbimby NSW 2483
Phone: 02 6684 2914
Open Tuesday to Friday 8am-2pm.
Saturday 8am – Midday.

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The Cafes of Yamba

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We neither surf nor fish but it has become a tradition for us to pack dogs, kids and way too much gear, and head down to Angourie for school holidays. We rent a place for a week or two and recharge our batteries basking in the glorious natural beauty of the Clarence river estuary. Over the years, we have tried and tested many of the cafes in town and on this trip, I have decided to share my well-caffeinated knowledge. This is my personal selection of Yamba delights.

Beachwood café

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Sevtap Yuce is the diva of Yamba’s cafes: with her excellent food and trademark red lipstick, she has been feeding locals and travellers alike for many years. She cooks with “off the trawler” fresh ingredients and distinctive Turkish flavours and serves her meals on white tables with luscious bunches of rambling roses. We have at least one brunch at her place every time we come. On this trip, my favourite was her poached quince on a bird’s nest of shredded pastry accompanied by organic yoghurt, pistachio nuts, rosewater syrup and dots of rosella jam. Sensational! Her cookbooks are good too: beautifully produced and full of well-tested recipes. We have her “Turkish Flavours” at home and yoghurt-based cakes and baked eggplant with chicken have become part of our repertoire.

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Beachwood café
Sevtap Yuce
22 High St, Yamba, 2464
www.beachwoodcafe.com.au
T. 02. 6646 9781

Barbaresco

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The best place to eat in Yamba is not – technically – in town: “Barbaresco” is nestled in the heart of the surf enclave of Angourie, just out of town and it is the brainchild of Tourinese chef Davide and maître de Adrienne. Good service and proper northern Italian food makes for a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience. We had beef carpaccio with truffle oil, pine nuts and shaved parmesan and char grilled Yamba prawns, pumpkin veloute and crispy leaks for starters. My wife’s sirloin stake with green peppercorn jus and polenta chips was great and I was tossing up whether to try the osso buco or the pappardelle with braised veal and porcini mushrooms but was stirred away by the special of pork rib-eye with baked apples, potatoes, pancetta and red wine reduction. A bottle of Ornellaia Le Volte Sangiovese and a bowl of shoe-string chips with parmesan and truffle oil tidied us over. Excellent food and generous portions meant no pudding although the panna cotta did look pretty yummy. Highly recommended.

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Barbaresco Kitchen Angourie
Adrienne Smith & Davide Adorno
12-13/16 The Crescent, Angourie 2464
kitchen@bar-baresco.com.au
www.bar-baresco.com.au
T. 02. 6646 3745

Pacific Hotel

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If you are not walking on the breakwater, the best place to enjoy the sunset is from the balcony of the Pacific Hotel. Perched high behind main beach, the Pacific Hotel is the perfect spot to welcome a new evening, watching the fishing boats go out to sea, while enjoying a pint and the company of your loved one.

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Pacific Hotel
18 Pilot St, Yamba NSW 2464, Australia
T. 02. 6646 2466
www.pacifichotelyamba.com.au

Leche café

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When I want excellent food but I am not in the mood for a Turkish treat, I head for Leche: a well-run establishment, which supports visual and musical local artists. The food is fresh, healthy and flavorsome and the back garden is perfect, if you are traveling with young ones (or listening to a gig, in summer). On this trip, we had roast chicken with caramelized baby carrots and oranges in a bed of mash beetroot as well as homemade bake beans with crispy bacon and poached egg and both dishes were truly delicious. Our best café meal this trip.

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Leche Café
Clare and Zac
27 Coldstream St, Yamba, 2464
www.facebook.com/lechecafeyamba
Closed Tuesdays

Irons and Craig

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One could be excused for feeling intimidated by Irons and Craig’s vibe: Chet Faker on the sound system, when I last visited & blistering cool, pristine 50s décor… But the food is good and the service is friendly so, what is there to be scared of? We had piping hot pumpkin soup and pulled pork sandwiches with home-made hollandaise sauce on this occasion and both were excellent.

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Irons and Craig
29 Coldstream St, Yamba, 2464
www.ironsandcraig.com
T. 02. 6646 1258

Bean Scene café

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The Bean Scene is an excellent spot for afternoon tea: the service is prompt and unobtrusive, the atmosphere relaxed, the wi-fi connection is fast and the food is well-executed traditional Australian fare. I had green tea and carrot cake on my visit and both were perfect. I sat in peace with my computer for a good 40 minutes and really enjoyed being there.

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Bean Scene café
Kane
4/8 Yamba St, Yamba, 2464
T. 02. 6646 2619

Yum Yum Angourie Store

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If you are a surfer or are traveling with young kids, the Angourie store is for you: it makes good coffee from as early as 7am and sits next to some of the most beautiful beaches on the NSW coast. Chris and Morgan have given the old store a facelift: they still stock surf-life essentials but have added beautifully presented fresh produce, flowers, jars of treats for the kids and colorful crockery.
The jam drops we tried were melt-in-your-mouth buttery and the raw hazelnut mousse was surprisingly good. Controversially, they have swapped the traditional recipe for fluffy pancakes for a more modern crepe-style one. Have a try and see what you think.

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Yum Yum Angourie Store
Chris & Morgs
17 The Crescent, Angourie, 2464
angouriestore@gmail.com
T. 02. 6646 2467

Sassafras

Sassafras is a well-run and friendly family restaurant. Great spot, if you are traveling with children. Book in advance: it is popular.

Sassafras
Pasta and Pizza Restaurant
Yamba 2464
www.sassafrasyamba.com.au
T. 02. 6646 1011

Thai Payu Restaurant

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The best take-away we have found in Yamba is from Thai Payu, which serves fresh and consistently good Thai food year in and year out. We get dinner from them at least a couple of times a week, while on holiday.

Thai Payu Restaurant
From 4.30pm. Dinner Tue to Sun (open 7 days during holidays)
3/18 Coldstream St, Yamba, 2464
T. 02. 6646 9156

Palmers Store

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Don’t head out of town without stopping for supplies at the Palmers Store, which stocks a carefully edited selection of plonk, treats from near and far and makes excellent brownies and damn good coffee.
Having watched the owner rolling pastry at the back of the store, we shopped a picnic for our pilgrimage to Lawrence (we go every year for a ride across the Clarence on the car ferry) and cleaned up the Palmers store pies in no time. The spicy pork pasties were particularly scrumptious.

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Palmers Store
1078 Yamba Rd, Palmers Island, 2464
T. 02. 6646 7741

Belinda’s

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OK, Belinda’s is not a café but it is worth a mention anyway. Belinda’s is a beautifully curated independent ladies’ clothes store. If you are traveling with your better half or are in the market for a gift, drop in: in an era where EVERYTHING is on our internet shop shelf, having someone’s good taste selecting just a few items is a refreshing experience.

Belinda’s Store
24 High Street
Yamba NSW 2464
Phone: 02 6646 8466
http://belindasstore.com/

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Maurizio Viani
www.thepocketroad.com

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The shape of the funnel – fame, integrity and new media

GetInlineCartoon by Gabriel Robinson (@ebagpictures)

 

A small storm has developed in the music blogger world: Anthony Volodkin at The Hype Machine has kicked a bunch of bloggers off his aggregating platform alleging they were rorting the system. Here is an extract from what he wrote:

“A handful of labels and PR outlets have focused their efforts on illicitly gaining coverage on Hype Machine-indexed blogs. The most common approach is to become a contributor at an established blog and post their clients (or clients their friends are promoting). For maximum impact, the same person would then get a spot at multiple blogs to create the appearance of broader support for the release. In some cases, the people running these blogs were aware of this, in others these discoveries have come as a surprise.
We have stopped indexing blogs that support such behavior or do not select their writers carefully”.

Full article here: http://blog.hypem.com/2015/05/on-integrity-and-blogs/

The responses to The Hype Machine’s action can be grouped under three broad categories: “you are pure and are our heroes”, “you are self-righteous bores” and “I am not a scammer and you cut me off by mistake”.

Out of all the posts, Jesse’s feedback caught my eye. He wrote:

“You all are so self-righteous and full of shit. It’s unbelievable what sniffling hipster drivel buy into your bullshit. You falsely accuse blogs of these things without pointing to any evidence to back yourselves up, you immediately nix blogs that are submitted for zero reason whatsoever, and you feature the same horse shit that more or less all sounds the same.
You all are what’s wrong with music in the 21st centuries, not these blogs that you’ve kicked off for no reason, churning out the same homogenized garbage and featuring track after track that I know for a fact has been sent out by a PR group. But you all are absolutely clean, huh? Yeah… fuck you guys”.

I felt for Jesse: he eloquently expressed some of my same feelings when Facebook choked the pages’ reach (from 16% to 2%, I am told). The Hype Machine is purging its bloggers in pursuit of integrity, not advertising money but being made to shut up hurts, whatever the reason.

Furthermore, Jesse argued that the media game is flawed and no participant can claim purity, and I think he has a point. I don’t believe that fully independent media ever existed and while the issue of independence is not new, the way it presents itself is.

With traditional media, the dance was between PR reps and journalists/editors. How a press release surfaced onto an article took the form of background briefings, favour exchanges, cajoling, worse. The game was played by only a handful of professionals who controlled the scarce resource of media real estate.

The internet has given us all affordable media platforms: I pay $80 a year to maintain my website name and from there, I can say whatever I want. Multiply that by the millions and you get the weird, wonderful and fragmented world of social media: a selfie stick of global proportions.

By sacking journalists and crowd-sourcing their gate-keeping function we have foregone their good judgement and democratized the media funnel. But a funnel we still need as we can’t possibly absorb the ballooning amount of content being produced; we never did and we haven’t got a chance now: the offer volume is overwhelming and by fathering content, we spend more time talking and less is left for listening.

 

Joe_Moore_031Joe Moore (@joemooremusic) photographed in Pitt St Mall by ThePocketRoad

The filtering and aggregation of that mushrooming content is now done either by machines or by bloggers (by the hundreds). PR reps no longer tango with journalists, they bush-dance with algorithms, Google optimizers and scores of semi-pros. This requires some of the old skills and a few new moves. The process was not refined then and it certainly is not refined now that social media platforms fight for territory, for their own fame, for that mile-long email list that could land you world domination (or a fat take-over check, if you only got to medal placement).

We have sacked the journos but we still need PR professionals and with traditional advertising following traditional media down the drain, we need more and more of them because the media (orthodox and social alike) remains the key stepping stone to achieving fame and getting through that funnel is still key and still bloody hard whether the gate-keeper is democratic and techy or old-fashioned and beholden to a media mogul.

Despite its faults and back-room scams I still prefer curated media to what the algorithm-worshippers flogging Tivos and Spotify have to offer. I still value good judgement and look for the excitement of a fellow human pointing to something I did not know and could not have imagined that might fill me with surprise, delight and wonderment. Rupert Murdoch rigging an election or a music blogger promoting his friend’s lame song are still preferable – to me – to a system where the “if you like X, you’ll love Y” rule shrinks my world to a depressing bubble devoid of creativity.

Perhaps the way to navigate out of this storm is not ostracising the offenders but changing The Hype Machine’s ranking system to a humanly curated one. Reweighting the process away from number-crunching and towards good judgement.

Jack_MF_112_B&W_sqMr Shepherd (@mrshphrd) photographed by ThePocketRoad

…and if someone can teach me how to blog an artist to stardom, I have got a few young busker friends, who look like movie stars, play music like demons and have been working hard at it for years. They could do with a leg up and I’d be eternally grateful for the social media lesson.

Maurizio Viani
www.thepocketroad.com
https://www.facebook.com/ThePocketRoad
@thepocketroad

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Kalpona Akter

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Kalpona Akter was recently arrested in New Jersey and detained for a couple of hours. She was accused of trespassing while attempting to deliver a letter to the CEO of US retailer The Children’s Place. Kalpona is a labour organizer from Bangladesh. I met her last year, when she was campaigning in Sydney; she is passionate but soft spoken, articulate and very brave: labour organizers get killed in her home country on way too a regular basis.

The Children’s Place supplier code of conduct states:
7. FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Suppliers will respect the rights of workers to associate, organize and bargain collectively, in a lawful, respectful and peaceful manner, without penalty or interference, and in accordance with the law and international labor standards.
Where freedom of association is restricted by law, workers shall be free to develop parallel means for independent and free association and collective bargaining.
Source: http://www.childrensplace.com/wcsstore/GlobalSAS/images/tcp/common/2014_TCP_Supplier_Code_of_Conduct.pdf

WHO ARE THESE HYPOCRITES?

https://www.facebook.com/childrensplace

Full news item below:
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/15/bangladesh-kalpona-akter-arrested-rana-plaza-new-jersey

#kalponaakter #thechildren’splace #Bangladesh #labourorganizer #Bangladeshgarmentindustry

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Australia Day Treat

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Australia Day Treat

It has become a tradition for my wife and I to spend the Australia Day long weekend on the Gold Coast: we entrust our son to our best friends and drive up; we check into a ritzy hotel and spend a couple of days the way we used to holiday pre-kids.

On our first afternoon off the leash this year we headed to the lobby for high tea. The champagne was lovely, the spread generous, the tea too strong and unrescuable… The people-watching was terrific.

There was the usual quota of loud dresses and hair extensions, middle-age spreads, straight and gay; couples enthralled by each other’s company and couples more interested in their phones than their better half. We were blessed by the presence of a Greek wedding party: fake boobs, strapless bride with a dad who could not stop talking about money…his money: “Party and be merry, it is ALL paid for!”.

We were also blessed by delectable neighbours. My favourites were a plump elderly couple who looked thoroughly content, relaxed and attuned to each other; they sat there conversing, he drinking beer she sipping white wine and when the traditional 3-plate high tea tower arrived it did not resemble our selection of sandwiches and petit fours, it was heavily laden with cuts of cold meat, smoked salmon and king prawns. We half-enviously christened them the meat-lover tray couple and watched them order another round of booze and quietly but effectively demolish the tower.

My second favourite was the chocolate lady: next to our table was a group of young Chinese women, imperious when ordering staff around and obsessed with their electronic gizmos: either photographing themselves, their food or obsessively scrolling their social media feed. They sat there intermittently interacting with each other or with their devices and I did not think much of them until we noticed that one of them no longer behaved like the others. One of the women had taken the rich chocolate ganache treat on the highest tray on the high tea tower and was slowly & creepily licking it. She had abandoned her friends’ conversation, forgotten that she was in a public space and seemed to have left the planet altogether. She kept licking – transfixed and enraptured in a mix of ecstasy and guilt – for a very long time. She did not allow herself to bite into the soft ganache ensconced in the heart of the truffle. Licking its surface seemed to be all the guilt that she was willing to bear.

They don’t call it the Gold Coast for nothing.

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