On what I like to call a perfect Sydney's winter day, I found myself mixing among coffee connoisseurs and tourists alike - people in every inch of walking space milling about and tasting the goods on offer. And what goodies!
A shelf filled with cups of lovely red, sweetly ripe strawberries awaiting their drenching in liquid milk chocolate. Alas the chocolate-drowned strawberries were less photogenic but one of the taste sensations of the day. A definite pick-up from the pleasant but weak cappuccino from the Sacred Grounds Organic and Fairtrade stall. Strangely, the overall festival didn't seem to have much of a focus on sustainability or the like - a little surprising for this day and age, I thought.
Fruit and cream dressed pavlovas were in constant motion at the Traditional Pavlova stall - into the fridge, then into a pair of eager hands within moments. The stunningly smooth meringue was oddly without its crust; creamy even without the cream and almost painfully sweet. We were reaching a point of sugar hyperactivity, and we'd only been through one section - 'The Continent'.
Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney
Heading to 'The Orient' it was apparent that while coffee and sweets go hand-in-hand, the "real food" stalls were getting their fair share of attention, with the queues for Turkish gozleme - food of festivals - stretching for more than 20 metres down Argyle Street and corn cob eaters popping up all over.
Campbell's Cove was home to 'The Orient' and hundreds of smart cookies who found seating in the glorious sunshine. Sunshine, and not to mention the plethora of tea outlets (just the one coffee stall, however) and even more sweetness.
Chocolatey cupcakes from Cakes Online Australia
It would seem the gingerbread world is not immune to the obesity epidemic, presenting the fattest gingerbread men I've ever seen. The gingerbread was unlike any other I've tried: chewy and honeyed with only a subtle hint of ginger.
The final unchartered territory of the festival was 'The Oasis', reaching down the far end of The Rocks precinct. We're not quite in a desert environment but the vibe is there.
It was impossible for me not to pick up a plate full of baklava. The crispy pastry and nuts cast a spell much like the musical entertainment in the background that just added to the chilled and open spirit of the festival.
I was yet to have "real food", despite filling up on sweets and chocolates. We follow our senses away from the (to put politely) stench of the surprisingly large and comical-looking camels and head back towards 'The Continent' section where we're momentarily distracted by a rectangular formation of coffee cups. Following the drift and instructions we head upwards to get the bird's eye view.
In a stunning collection of long blacks, flat whites, lattes and straight milk, Da Vinci's masterpiece stares out and up into the blue skies. I, and the many others who trekked up the stairs for a better view, am suitably impressed.
It's time to follow our noses and stomachs, and crowds for that matter, migrating towards the smoke and its charred promises. It brings us to the Pony stall where an army of chefs, including celebrity chef Damian Heads and his doppelganger (younger brother, perhaps?), grill up a smoke signal for yet another 20+ metre queue.
The smells emanating from Pony has the queue salivating and eyeing off departing customers. And it's worth the wait. A perfectly medium-rare, sliced-by-Damian-Heads-for-my-eating-convenience sirloin steak sits atop some soggy, some crispy French fries with a dollop of Dijon mustard. We scramble to find seating - any seating - so we can dig into the meal.
Perched rather precariously on the edge of the water must be the strangest place I've ever eaten a steak. The steak is meltingly juicy and packed with charred, meaty flavour that's so easy and fulfilling to eat that we're barely worried about falling backwards into the harbour.
And with that, the slightly backward menu of eating concludes. There's still plenty of entertainment and coffee to be had in the afternoon rays of sunshine, which we certainly take into our advantage. Having journeyed through and through The Rocks, and consequently a few regions around the globe, the nose has had a great day out, knowing a good festival day when it smells one.