It's almost the season for birthdays in this house...well for me and Ed anyway. Chloe and Ivy will have to wait til a bit later in the year. For me and Ed it's kind of a double edged sword having our birthdays only 2 days apart. It's nice to have company during this time of the year but it can also seem a bit like one birthday negates the other..kind of like "it's my birthday" quickly followed by "it's MY birthday too!" - funny, but not very exciting.
Anyway this year neither of us could think of any 'things' that we really desired for ourselves. I personally think we've both been spending a little too much time and money on things in the last two years. Not that we could help it, buying a house and then having a baby seem to mean spending a lot of time being a mass consumer but this birthday enough was enough. So I started thinking about what the most desirable commodity was for me this year - I would say in order of priority it would be: time, time away from Ivy, the ability to go out at night without a grumpy tired baby and finally SLEEP. So it was decided, instead of pressies Ed and i booked ourselves a table at that most lovely and decadent of restaurants - ARIA.
Headed up by the mighty chef Matt Moran for me ARIA has always been a favourite. In a former life I used to get to eat at ARIA for free (as part of my job) which was very nice though it was usually offset by the fact I would be sucking up to some boring corporate to try and weasel some money out of them, often under the watchful eye of my bitchy boss but hey a free lunch is a free lunch. It was a career of eating out in nice restaurants and I ate in most of Sydney's finest. However being vegetarian I quickly made a disappointing discovery, it seems if you are a veggie the more expensive the restaurant the less likely the chance of getting a decent meal.
At the famous Bennelong restaurant whenever I mentioned I was vegetarian I was presented with one of my vegetarian cop out/ pet hates....risotto. Sure it was quite a nice risotto, bit it was risotto and as far as I am concerned any fool can make a semi decent risotto (even me) and for 35 bucks this was a little unimaginative for an internationally acclaimed restaurant. Other fine dining restaurants have fobbed me off with boring entrees, salads and at Est (which only last year won restaurant of the year) on one memorable occasion I had to explain several times to both the waiter AND the head chef what being a vegetarian means "no I don't eat chicken or seafood" and actually had to make some suggestions about what they could feed me. In the end I was presented with a pasta that had baby scampi stirred through it and they couldn't see what the fuss was about. It's like there's a bit of snobbery with chefs at this level, perhaps that vegetarian food is downmarket and everyone at five star joints should be ordering the terribly clever things they can do with venison or lobsters and anything to do with vegetables is beneath them.
Aria has always been the outstanding exception to this rule. There is always a vegetarian entree and main on offer so there are no embarrassing conversations with waiters about what constitutes a vegetarian meal and best of all the food is always updated every few months so if you are lucky enough to go there again you don't have to have the same thing (take note Guillaume of Bennelong who is still serving that bloody risotto 5 years later).
Eddy and I headed off on Saturday night thanks to my mum who took care of Ivy - no mean feat seeing as the bird decided that she didn't want to be put to bed at her usual time and stayed up to to party for a little longer than usual. In the meantime Ed and I got stuck into a few wines at the Opera Bar and then headed up to Aria for dinner. The view from Aria is gorgeous, you look straight down the barrel of the Opera House, across to the Bridge and a cruise ship as well. The food didn't dissapoint - I had an amazing goats cheese thing, followed by an amazng fennel thing (I reckon if you can't even really say what was in your meal it means it's a good one, unlike risotto! Ed also had some rather beautiful looking food and all was good.
Apart from the view and what was going on on our plates the people watching inside the restaurant was pretty entertaining too. There was the usual collection of wealthy looking people who look like they eat at palces like Aria everynight, then there were the tourists, an American couple who looked absolutely loaded and wanted to talk wine with the sommellier all night long, and two japanese girls who looked like they'd been out sightseeing all day and had rocked up to the restaurant on the offchance of getting a booking and were still dressed in hiking boots and jeans.
Then there were the two women sitting next to us, they looked like a mother and daughter. The mum looked pretty normal but the daughter was the interesting one. She only looked about 28 and seemed very normal at first, she wasn't anything special and didn't even look very dressed up, more like someone you'd see shopping at Westfield on a Saturday morning, all in all nothing of note - until she went to pay her bill. Suddenly she whipped out a big multi coloured Louis Vuitton Handbag with matching purse, checked her mobile phone which was encased in a crystal sparkles before diving into her wallet. She then pulled out a stack of pale green 100 dollar bills and proceeded to loudly count some of them out on the table. "One, two, three, four, five" she said briskly slapping them on the table next to the bill. She then asked the waiter if she could buy a copy of Matt Morans cookbook which was brought to her table in a gift bag before she added a sixth green bill to the pile before grabbing her mum, her designer bag, cookbook and headed for the door. Very bizarre, I wonder what the story was there.
As for us lesser mortals we paid our substantially smaller bill and headed for the door not long after - was a great night and it was good to get dressed up and know there was a fairly good chance of not getting vomited on (are you listening Ivy?). The final part of my birthday wish was sleep - which looked like it wasn't going to happen when Ivy decided to greet use on Sunday morning at the glorious hour of five to five. I was very hungover but Ed was a hero spiriting young madame away until a far more civilised hour. Thank you Eddie, that was probably the best present ever. X