Happy New Year. We’re back. I’ve been on a bit of a break over the last month, occupying myself with a fishing trip down to the Snowy Mountains, some eventful family Christmas celebrations, and a lot of work on my new novel.
But now we’re back to take 2016 seriously, noses to the grindstone, applying our stomachs to the eateries of Newtown.
While I was on holidays, I received a Christmas present from my employers – two tickets to a Sydney Festival event at Carriageworks. A German play called Woyzeck – a klassic, according to the interwebs.
It has to be said that Strop and I were a bit dubious, having already dismissed it back in October when we were in the process of choosing what Festival events we would attempt this year. The prospect of a play that was both in German, and very old, started alarm bells clanging away, but then, free tickets…
So on Saturday night we toddled up the hill. One of the benefits of living where we do is that we can walk to Carriageworks and home again easily, which is fine as long as it’s not raining. And Saturday night was dry and balmy, almost as if it was summer.
The plan was to get something to eat on King Street on the way to the theatre. Strop suggested a run at Rowda Ya Habibi because she never passes up an opportunity to have some of their cauliflower. I objected however, as we’d had barbecued cauliflower the night before. As a compromise, I suggested that we walk towards Rowda Ya Habibi and if nothing on the way took our fancy, there was the cauliflower as a fall-back. As it turned out we didn’t even get to King Street. The first new place we came to was Jacks Newtown, and Strop said “Ooh, let’s go there. I really fancy a burger.” Unlike the previous times we had walked past, there was no queue and it didn’t look as if they had already sold out.
Jacks is very minimalist with a spare, almost industrial set up. Lots of stainless steel and no clutter. It is very clean and efficient looking. There aren’t even any cash registers, just iPads.
The menu is minimalist too. You can have a plain burger, a cheeseburger, or a cheeseburger with bacon. And you can have any of those double. You can have fries, soda and Jack’s sauce (a kind of mustardy aioli). No chicken, and no fish but there is a vegetarian option. It is Newtown after all.
The burgers are modestly sized and reasonably priced, which is refreshing after years of bloated aspirational Gourmet Burgers. They come with lettuce, tomato, some kind of pickle and a mustardy sauce. The meat in our burgers was medium rare-ish, tender and tasty. The only thing I didn’t like about the burger was the bun. Which was soft, pappy and sweet. In other words it was American. Which I suppose is fair enough as Jacks is nothing if not a purveyor of American-style burgers. Anyway the buns are really just there to keep your fingers clean.
The soda comes out of a mixer machine in big paper cups. Strop has a set against all things Coca-Cola so she got tap water, also in a big paper cup, with ice delivered with a smile. Everything came in paper; the burgers and fries were on little paper trays as well. The fries are crinkle cut and come with lots of crunch.
There’s nothing fancy about the décor, a big black and white mural at one end, a big neon logo on the wall, and some tables and stools. That’s pretty much it.
All in all I’d be very happy to go back again.
So with our tummies full, but not too full, we set off to walk the rest of the way to Carriageworks.
Unfortunately, Woyzeck lived up to our fears. A Minimalist stage mostly occupied by a huge suspended net, German dialogue, and a cast who were so busy navigating their way around the constantly moving net that they barely had time to relate to each other let alone the audience. The music was good, but it was unclear why most of the cast we’re trying to sing like Tom Waits, other than because he wrote the music. The surtitles were positioned so far above the stage that you couldn’t read them and watch the action at the same time. It was drama without drama – or any emotional connection to the audience. Some of the audience must have enjoyed it though, judging by the whistling and stomping that accompanied the applause at the end. Strop and I looked at each other. Maybe it was just us, or maybe the others, who hadn’t drunk the koolaid had already walked out. There had been a few of those.
On the bright side though, our Festival experience can only improve from here.