Outside the Bosnian Bondena Cafe in Fairfield, our group of 20 or so Taste Tour participants sit around a large table and start to do the introduce yourself routine. One thing soon becomes evident. No one has paid to be here today. Everyone seems to have benefited from either a Christmas or birthday present. Except myself and Ms Pam who won ours as a prize in an social media contest run by a local council. Lucky us.
But what was also evident are the diverse corners of Sydney this group hails from. The Hills, inner city, Northern suburbs, Eastern suburbs and even some locals.
We are all here to sample cuisines in one of the most multicultural council areas in Sydney with 133 nationalities represented.
Our guides, Binh and Leena are decked out in high vis yellow Taste Tour tops and explain what our Global Explorer Tour today will include. They took our drink orders and handed out our goodies bags. ( More for putting goodies in rather than full of goodies.)
Today's four hour journey along the streets of Fairfield will take in the afore mentioned Bosnian Cafe plus Italian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Argentinean and Chinese fare.
While almost everyone opted for a traditional tea, cappuccino or latte at Bondena, I took advantage of a super strong brew of Turkish coffee. We grazed on typical savoury cevapi sausages, pickled salad, sour cream and fresh bread before hitting Fairfield's footpaths.
A strong Turkish Coffee at the Bondena Bosnian Cafe
We amble up Ware Street and chuck a right into a largely deserted arcade where we visit the snug Nina's Deli. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Italian Deli: The smell of all those smoked meats and wall to wall Italian products that would make any Italian feel like they have never left home. A huge tray of meats, cheeses, black and green olives as well as fresh crunchy Italian bread awaits us. While tempting to sample ample salamis and pastramis, I hold back knowing there will plenty more temptations along the way.
Next stop it's the Argentinean sweets at La Torre Cake Shop. Here we a given a lesson in the history of this long standing local family run business and the unique qualities of South American sweets. Samples of the quince jam or caramel filled rolls are passed around with plenty of yums of satisfaction and we are each given a sample pack to take home.
There is an extended stay at the huge emporium that is Grandpa's Nuts in the Fairfield Chase Shopping Centre. Mainly middle Eastern goodies, it also stocks the faves of the local community including South American and Eastern European goods. Here we sample some more bread with Shankleesh salad made with cucumber and tomato, olive oil and lemon juice mopped up with fresh bread.
How the customers at the Al-Baghday Iraqi cope with its tiny counter space must drive them bonkers. Behind it is a huge oven that constantly and rapidly bakes bread for the locals as well as other shops and restaurants in the area. Iraqi pizzas are also on the menu although we only sample some bread heavily ladened with sesame seeds.
The day finishes with a multi course feast at the Xiao's Noodle Bar. We're brought out one dish after another of Urghur/Xinjiang cuisine hailing from the remote North/West of China. Most dishes are very simple and authentic traditional country cooking affairs. They love their garlic in Xinjiang. There is cucumber and garlic. Broccoli, seaweed and garlic. Noodles with Garlic. The meat dishes are all lamb, spices and garlic. The heavily seasoned lamb skewers are a star. It's all interesting, simple fare but there is no sensational wow factor dish.
Some watermelon finishes off the feast and people start filtering out for the long journey back home across suburban Sydney. We linger and talk to a recently arrived young Indian couple living in Cremorne who are eager to 'discover' Sydney. I give them one or two tips but say that I've lived here all my life and I'll never see all of what Sydney has to offer. Suffice to say, this tour of the backstreets in nearby Fairfield was just as much a discovery for them as it was for me.