Sydney is a city of festivals. Every day, week and month seems to herald a new themed celebration of some kind, be it cycling, Chinese New Year or even tomatoes. Yes, the Sydney Tomato Festival is an actual thing – greenhouse enthusiasts rejoice! From 8th – 26th January, Australia’s most iconic city celebrated itself in a stylish smorgasbord of creative culture that encompassed music, dance, theatre, cabaret and art.
Having neither the budget nor the ‘desperation to be scene’ of Sydney’s hipster elite, I just went for the food. I hit the Festival Village in Hyde Park with my friend Bonnie one sunny afternoon to sample some of the amazing fare I had been drooling over on my Instagram feed.
I wanted to get lunch from The Cheesesmith, a pop-up village cheesemonger pedalling divine-looking cheese on toast at bargain prices. My heart sank when I saw the little stall was closed and cheesy deliciousness would not be available for another three hours. My stomach growled insistently. There was plenty to choose from – Italian, Vietnamese, Jaffles (toasted sandwiches that looked bleurgh in comparison to The Cheesesmith creations) and American, but I plumped for Middle Eastern stall Bite Size Delights, where I ordered a falafel pita from a man who looked exactly like The Rock. The pita looked yummy and if only it had tasted as good as it looked. It was bland. I realise I have been ruined by fragrant, spicy, garlic and yoghurt-drenched Persian falafel, but the Bite Size falafel is the most tasteless I have ever had.
Following the Falafel of Disappointment, I had to console myself with a generous slice of lemon meringue pie from Messina’s Tasty Treats, a pop-up offshoot of the ever popular Gelato Messina chain. Lemon meringue is one of my favourite desserts and the Messina version, with a melt-in-the-mouth buttery base, thick layer of lemon custard gelato and tart lemon curd, was exceptional. I ate slowly and savoured every bite. The American diner themed menu at Messina’s Tasty Treats looked, at first glance, like any other diner menu – chicken and waffles, cherry pie, thickshakes and the wittily named Royale with Cheese (Pulp Fiction references are made of win). Except it is not your atypical American eatery at all – everything is made of gelato.
Bellies full and skin warmed, we had a look around the Festival Village, which boasted two Spiegeltents and an open air library. There was also a bandstand, where Vintage Quartestra, clad in bowler hats and waistcoats, played their hilarious takes on cartoon theme songs. Spongebob Squarepants was my favourite. We took a walk across town to Darling Harbour and indulged our inner children on the Waterfall Swing. You could choose wet or dry (where the water narrowly misses you) and it was a hot day, so I picked wet. Being pushed on a swing high above one of the most beautiful places in Sydney was exhilarating, and so much fun I laughed out loud.
Our inner children insisted on riding the nearby carousel afterwards (we were the only adults on there) and we stopped at the Guylian café for cold drinks. Their praline shake is a liquid version of their famous chocolate seashells. Divine.