Sunshine, markets, live music, food and booze, like-minded revellers, adorable pooches, eye candy - I'm a happy camper. The Surry Hills Festival has come and gone again and rather than feeling a tad old for the number of festivals attended, I can't hide the smile on my face as the weather holds up for one of my favourite annual outdoor community events.
Despite the touch of autumn chill and threatening greyness, Prince Alfred Park is packed with other happy campers and the pet dogs of Surry Hills ready for the day. A gold coin donation is exchanged for entry and a government-sponsored sticker questioning my intentions of binge drinking.
I put on my sunnies, wonder if government spies were stalking me the night before and immediately seek coffee. The bars were noticeably quiet early on with queues swelling and snaking later in the afternoon. Coffee, however, is another story - a notable lack of a dedicated coffee vendor (for Surry Hills - crazy, I know!) meant a 10 minute wait with many others for a watery, bland, shameful excuse of a cappuccino. And the skim milk is not to blame.
Sub-standard caffeine fix in hand made perusal of market stalls a little more difficult than usual, though appropriately so for one under a shopping ban. The absence of food, drink or other distraction in hand leads to the picking up of pretty, usually expensive items and the subsequent, sometimes impulsive, purchase of said items. But it's so pretty and I love it.
And I did come across an adorable little stall with the quirky, kitsch style pendants that I adore, and in this case, almost want to eat. Spot the following in the picture below: prawn, California sushi roll, butter cookie, Granny Smith apple slice, fish head stew, chocolate soft serve cone, red bean dessert, sea urchin roe genkan sushi, jam cookie, baby bok choy, fruit salad and ice cream, heart-shaped chocolates, chicken mid-wing, dumplings in soup, slice of chocolate cake.
There's no shortage of food at this stall but of the edible variety, a stall-lined avenue of festival food delights including the ubiquitous Turkish gozleme, corn on the cob, chorizo rolls, lemonade stand, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and cuisine of the Indian, Thai, Italian, Maltese, Hare Krishna, Cuban and many other varieties.
A pastizzi from the Maltese stall seems a roaming-suitable snack and with four filling varieties advertised I would, of course, pick the unavailable one. The chicken and mushroom option ends up being the choice, however the chewy rather than crisp and crunchy pastry makes me regret not waiting a few more minutes for the spinach and cheese variety. It's good to try something different anyway, and the filling of minced chicken and mushroom slices is new to me for pastizzis and quite tasty.
And with snack, roam I do - to lust-worth goat's leather bags and satchels, picturesque prints and photo frames, funky modern dresses of vintage fabrics, painfully pretty headwear, and the always busy and giggle-inducing Happy High Herbs stall. A lot of this roaming was conducted to a live soundtrack - at the Lilypad stage a manic, almost maniacal vocal and physical performance; a chilled roots-y vibe at the Red stage; and more the rocker variety at the main Green stage.
It's not long before the lunch stomach grumbles commence - by now it is late afternoon but the body has admittedly skipped the part of day known as morning. The body was also giving rather strong messages to stay away from the bar. Maybe those government stickers do work. The eyes and brain work together in scanning the range on offer - vegie nuggets from the Hare Krishna guys, seafood paella, woodfired calzones, Himalayan wraps, fish and chips - before finally settling on a duo of Indian curries.
The meal is disappointingly lukewarm, not helped by the chilly breeze. It is satisfyingly filling nonetheless with tender chunks of chicken thigh in the vividly-hued sauce tempering the mild fire of the vegetable curry.
Bellies full - on this occasion with not a drop of beer - and kicking back in the sun to live music and friendly wandering people and dogs alike is my quintessential festival routine. If only every day were a festival.