Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Falconer

31 Oxford St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9267 8434

You know how it is when you suddenly get a craving for the comfort food that is a steak sandwich?

Yes, that.

Unfortunately, wanting a steak sandwich and being able to find a steak sandwich at that exact time…a quick online search lead to the tantalising possibility that one might possibly be available at the old Oxford St stalwart which has been revitalised in the last few years through new ownership, The Falconer.

As a young kid, for a number years there was an almost weekly treat of a fabulous steak sandwich from a particular café in Canberra. It was a cut above the average 'old school' steak sandwich, as not only was the takeaway container a polystyrene box, but the steak was always good quality and cooked to medium, never well done, as tends to be the default position with steak sandwiches.

Fortunately, there was a steak sandwich on the lunchtime menu at The Falconer.

Described as a “steak sandwich with smoked mozzarella, crispy onion, slow roasted tomato and fries”, at $16 I wondered - would it be worth it?

The steak knife boded well.

It turned out to be not only an open sandwich, but only on a single slice of (toasted) bread, so if you want a sandwich that you can get your hands around and bite into, this is not for you. I admit that I’d have liked that second slice of bread.

The amount of bread notwithstanding, this is a pretty good steak sandwich, the beef generous in portion, tender and juicy. The melted smoked mozzarella, was something that I wasn’t so sure about, but once I ate it, I was pretty convinced. The crispy onions, fried to a point similar to that of fried shallots, were tasty, but occasionally a bit of a bugger to eat, as they kept on falling off.  The shoestring fries were generous in quantity, crisp and decently salted, the mixed greens not really dressed, and not really all that exciting, but providing some food greenery I guess.

As well as the steak sandwich, I ordered a blood orange juice ($5). This was surprisingly rather bland, I shall not order it again.

Was the sandwich worth the $16, and would I order again? I enjoyed it and would eat it again happily, but if I were to have another steak sandwich craving, I am not sure that I would necessarily wish to spend $16 each time.

However, the Falconer is a very welcoming comfortable place, and this was not my first visit there, nor will it be my last.


The Falconer on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Il Bacaro

Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar
170 Little Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 96546778

The moment we walked in, we were greeted by a warm, dimly-lit restaurant. The restaurant proper is based around an 'U-shaped' bar with small intimate tables spread around it.

Il Bacaro is a relatively small and intimate place that buzzes with life and chatter. Whilst we were disappointed of not being able to be accommodated at our booked time (8.30pm), we were quickly accommodated at the bar, enjoying a house prosecco. This is a great alternative to Champagne, refreshing and slightly sweet.

Soon we were settled at our table. The hardest thing to do was choosing what to have! With the slowdown in my metabolism, I find I have less reserve in terms of calorie-loading and so what I choose becomes really important.

The bread was a standard affair - white bread with olive oil. Nothing to really report here except that it was quite tasty.

My first course was the double-cooked quail, while M chose the porcini mushroom risotto.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tech Talk No.2 : 316L vs 904L (Grades of Stainless Steel)

This second in the 'Tech Talk' series will also be about watch materials, in this case, stainless steel.

A good majority of watch companies use 316L grade stainless steel for their cases. But, one brand in particular, insists on using 904L. So what's the difference? 

First, the dry stuff…

316L - Grade 316 is the standard molybdenum-bearing grade. The molybdenum gives Grade 316 high corrosion resistant properties and particularly high resistance to pitting (a form of extremely localised corrosion that leads to the creation of small holes in the metal) and crevice corrosion in chloride environments. Grade 316L is the low carbon version of 316. There is not much price difference between 316 and 316L.



904L - Grade 904L is a non-stabilised low carbon high alloy austenitic stainless steel. The addition of copper to this grade gives it greatly improved resistance to strong reducing acids, particularly sulphuric acid. It is also highly resistant to chloride attack - both pitting/ crevice corrosion and stress corrosion cracking. It is also non-magnetic in all conditions. Further, it contains substantial content of the high cost ingredients nickel and molybdenum. 


Now that the dry stuff's out of the way what is the main advantage of 904L over 316L? 

It's not a higher grade of steel, merely a "different" grade. All that extra chromium and nickel simply means that it has better resistance to corrosion and pitting than 316L and that it is a more heat treatable steel to harden, to be used in dies, punches, bending and blanking equipment. So in fact, 904L is a "tool steel" much like how Rolex were first made to be "tool watches". 904L steel is only more expensive because it is not as popular in general application as 316L. 

Nickel chunk (from Wikipedia)

Chromium crystal and 1cm3 cube (from Wikipedia)

So what about everyday wear as divers' watches? Well 316L is not actually designed for continuous submersion in sea water. But that's not to say it's not any good. It is still extremely resistant to corrosion, nearly impervious to atmospheric and other mild corrosive agents,  and it is more than adequate for things like boat railing and exposure to sea water spray.

So would this mean that if you really wanted to go diving, you'd strap a Rolex to your wrist? Unless you're planning to dive into sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide, it won't make a lick of difference. Plus, the seals, the movement, and most importantly, your body, would've dissolved long before that.

Molybdenum in crystalline fragment and 1 cm3 cube (from Wikipedia)

Also, how many people that wear a diving watch actually go diving with it? I think the amount of sea water most of these diving watches see are in publicity shots and perhaps at events. Watchnerds don't jokingly refer to their watches as "desk divers" for nothing!

The Omega Seamaster Chronograph Divers watch uses 316L steel

You must also keep in mind that the increased amounts of nickel and chromium and whatnot that reduce the susceptibility to corrosion and pitting only occur at high temperatures (for example, boiling concentrated nitric acid), which is not very likely in an ocean anyway.

So, at the end of the day, as long as you rinse your watch off with fresh water after a dive, or, if your sweat happens to be particularly acidic, rinse the watch every so often, she'll be right mate.

However, the higher content of nickel in 904L may lead to an allergic reaction on some people. Something to think about… (edit- according to @L_Horloger most of the nickel in 904 is captive, and not free. There is more nickel able to react in the 316, so is worse for allergies)

The Rolex Submariner Divers watch uses 904L steel

To finish off, here’s a little comparison of different materials used on diver's watches and their resistance to pitting :

The unit of measurement is PRE (Pitting Resistance Equivalent) - obviously the higher the number the better.

32 PRE (or higher) is considered as salt water resistant.

316L has a value of 24 PRE
904L has a value of 35 PRE


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Panamera Flieger 47

Pilots’ watches, whether they be B-Uhr heritage fliegers from the ‘knowns’ or one of the plethora of small brands which you only hear about through word of mouth or on watch fora, are one of the constants in the watch world. There are more fads than you can shake the proverbial stick at, but there will always be a healthy interest in these watches.

One of the ‘unknowns’ that I’ve come across recently is a brand called 'Panamera'. Not the Porsche Panamera, though they have produced a line of watches of this name, but a brand that is actually made by a German brand called Haemmer, which was established in 2008. Under their own brand (they call themselves “the brand for oversized watches") they seem to produce watches very similar to those made by TW Steel and UBoat.

Panamera, in addition to being a bit cheaper than Haemmer, are actually more attractive watches to my mind, though they too are similar, design wise, to other brands/ models.

Meet the Panamera Flieger 47.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tech Talk No.1 : PVD vs DLC

(Obviously this is a topic regularly discussed in various fora, but I've trawled through a lot of them and summed it all up here, making it easier for you!)

Black watches are all the rage these days and they're really cool and stealthy. But have you ever wondered what that black stuff is? It could be simple black paint, to ceramic, and somewhere in between. The most common, however, is PVD...Or is it DLC?

I think that there are many of us who are either confused or aren't quite sure of the definition of PVD and/ or DLC. These terms seem to be interchangeable, and both are used to refer to watches with a black coloured coating. So, exactly which is which and how do we tell them apart?

Read on…

PVD is a general term encompassing many different type of coating, DLC is one of these types of coating.

For example, if we are talking about DLC, then DLC is the material and PVD is the process of applying it. Think of it as this: PVD is the brush, and DLC is the paint.

The process used by Penn State University

Here are some definitions:

PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) is the method used to deposit thin layers of material (e.g. DLC) by condensation of vapor in a high temperature and vacuum environment.

DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) and ADLC (Amorphous Diamond-Like Carbon - a specific type of DLC) are vaporised coatings. DLC is done with the bonding of high energy precursive carbon rapidly cooled down on the surface. It is very similar to the process of making synthetic diamonds, meaning  that the carbon coating has the same attributes as diamonds. They are extremely hard and very resistant to scratches, thus making the coated metal surfaces more durable. DLC is a very hard coating, but the thickness is also a factor. Generally speaking, the usual coating thickness is just 5 to 10 μm, or 0.005 to 0.010 mm.

However, there are several coatings by method of PVD that will make the watch look black; coating such as nickel and ceramic. Some manufacturers will specify whether the watch was coated with DLC or not. When only "PVD coating" is mentioned, it could mean a less durable material was used.

Here is the problem: DLC coating is done by PVD, but not all PVD is a DLC coating. Does that make sense?

And another thing. "Coating" is probably not the best term to use, but I struggle to come up with a better one. PVD method actually "bonds" the DLC at a molecular level rather than "coats". Plus, if you manage to scratch DLC, it cannot be repaired without removing a layer of surface material from the entire piece.

Chart taken from - this gives you a relative comparison of differences in hardness

I did touch lightly on ceramic coating. Yes, this can also be quite confusing/ misleading. Some watch companies use a ceramic "coated" steel case but call it a ceramic watch. Others use a solid ceramic case with say, a steel inner case. I'll dig into this topic in another post…

If you want to get even more technical, read on:

It should be noted that the application temperature of PVD coatings can exceed the annealing temperature ('annealing' is the heat treatment wherein a material is altered, causing changes in its properties such as strength and hardness) of the steel, making the steel soft.

Since austenitic steels are not heat treatable, the only way to harden the surface is through work-hardening. When a steel is hardened, its strength is increased, and it becomes more resistant to denting and gouging. Machining, brushing, bead blasting and polishing will work the surface and make it harder. If the PVD process exceeds the annealing temperature, there will be no way to re-harden the substrate surface and regain the resistance to dents and gouges. Even if the thin crust of the PVD coating is super hard, it is too thin to provide structural the support required to prevent damage due to denting and gouging.

A good PVD coating application will keep the application temperature low enough not to anneal the substrate material, but even then these temperatures get into the drawing temperatures and still can affect the hardness.

So, you can see that there is much more to PVD coatings than just the type of coating used. How it is applied, how the surface is prepared prior to the PVD process are as important with regards to resistance to damage.

*Note: this article only deals with the black coating on watches and does not take into account commercial/ industrial machinery/tooling usage.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hotel Clarendon

Hotel Clarendon
156 Devonshire St
Sydney NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9699 6001

We weren’t meant to be at the Clarendon, but ended up there through a combination of factors mainly relating to parking issues. Parking problems? In Surry Hills? Perish the thought!

It was either the Shakespeare or here, and of the two, the Clarendon was much quieter, so inward ho we went.

This is the sort of local where you drop in at lunch or after work and hang out. The downstairs area is fairly generic, but renovated in the last couple of years to give it a more contemporary feel, with a spacious main bar area leading to a smaller area with a pool table which in turn opens out to a courtyard, the most attractive of options on a sunny day

The Clarendon’s bistro has a menu that covers standard pub grub, from pasta, burgers and steaks to pizzas and Chicken Parmigiana, but there’s also a kids’ menu. Amongst the items in their bistro menu are ten “all day specials” for $10 each, and we both ended up ordering items from the $10 section.

Beef burger - lettuce, tomato, caramelised onion, cheese and bbq sauce ($10)

My choice : Steak Sandwich - lettuce, tomato, caramelised onion, cheese and bbq sauce ($10).

The sandwich was a fairly routine affair, I don’t tend to expect all that much from a $10 pub steak sandwich, but this one was decently sized, the amount of filling good, and the chips were, oddly, probably one of the best things about it. It would definitely have been improved if the bread had been lightly toasted.

The burger was a success both size wise, and taste wise. The exterior of the patty was charred, the taste solidly orthodox. I think that I would have preferred the burger which, yes, I forgot to taste.

When you go to a local watering hole style pub, and this one has been around since 1876, you go in there knowing what to expect – decent filling fare for a reasonable price. Cheap and cheerful. This is what we got.


Hotel Clarendon on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 12, 2011

Plastic Fantastic - Swatch teams up with Kidrobot

For anyone who has had even a pasing interest in designer (vinyl) toys, the name of Kidrobot is a familiar one. Not just a shop, but also the world's major creator of limited edition art toys, Kidrobot also regularly collaborates with top brands to create limited edition items.

This time, Kidrobot have partnered with Swatch for a collection of eight Swatch Gents, each accompanied by a complimentary (and complementary) Dunny. Dunny is Kidrobot’s iconic and collectible 'bunny' vinyl toy which, in addition to being collectible in its own right, has also come out in customised versions. For the Swatch collaboration, artists Gary Baseman, Jeremyville, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, MAD, Tara McPherson, SSUR, and Tilt were chosen to design both the Gent and the accompanying Dunny.

The eight models will be available in Swatch stores and points of sale from August 18 in China, and worldwide from September at this website or in Swatch stores/ points of sale worldwide.

They will be sold either separately (US$70), in which case each model comes with its own 3 inch  Dunny, or you can get the complete set (limited and numbered edition of 300) for US$1500.

Each watch in the set is numbered (xxx/300) and comes in a specially designed carry case. The eight  main Dunnys are 3 inches high, but Frank Kozik's is in an additional 20 inch version.

Many Kidrobot toys attract a cult following, so I have no doubt that these sets will sell quickly. Am I tempted to get one (or more)? You bet I am. I have a couple of designer toys by Australian Nathan Jurevicius, who has also collaborated with Kidrobot on a limited edition Dunny.

Watches and designer toys?

Must. Control. Self.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Judge rules against collector in $50K watch lawsuit

It’s a watch collector’s worst nightmare.

A German collector is stuck with a $50,000 dud after a Canadian Supreme Court judge ruled against him in a case he brought against the West Vancouver family who sold it to him on ebay.

Advertised in April 2008 as a “Patek Philippe rare-model rose pink gold vintage 1950s” wristwatch of a prototype design that had never retailed,owned by the family for 40 years, and listed for sale at $65,000, the entry included photos of the watch and a Certificate of Origin. Oliver Hartmann, a watch collector of three decades standing who owns 20 Pateks, put in a bid at $45,000 for what he believed to be a rare Ref.3413.

The defendants Christopher Fulton and his mother Wendy McKerness told Hartmann that they had received offers of $50,000 but preferred to sell to a collector like Hartmann than to a dealer due to the watch's "sentimental value."

He increased his offer to $50,000, which was accepted on April 8.

Hartmann told the court that he couldn’t get a certificate of authenticity from Patek Philippe because the movement belonged to an entirely different watch, and that Patek had never built the watch case. He claimed damages for breach of contract on the basis that he was "induced" to pay $50,000 for a watch that was not a genuine Patek Philippe.

When Hartmann had approached the sellers for a refund, they refused, arguing they acted in good faith and sold exactly what they offered. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston agreed. "This watch sufficiently corresponded to the description the defendants gave it that I do not find that it could not be used for any purpose related to its description, nor that it lacked merchantable quality." "I do not find on the evidence that it was a condition of this sale that an abstract or other confirmation of authenticity could be obtained from Patek Philippe," said Johnston in his decision.

The Judge stated that Hartmann could not rely on the expertise of the sellers, who were simply selling a family heirloom and were not experts. He also ruled that were several other things that should have tipped off Hartmann : that the watch had never been sold retail, that it was advertised as a prototype, and that the seller’s ebay description said it was made for, and not by, Patek Philippe.

Expert Stefan Muser examined the watch and found a number of discrepancies, including that the case was the wrong size, not manually assembled, and lacked the correct markings. Further, the dial had also been altered to fit the movement. Muser described the watch to the court as "without any doubt a forgery" with a resale value "only that of the used raw materials."

The ebay description was as follows :


Patek Philippe man’s rare model wristwatch in 18 carat rose/pink gold. Came from family members 40 year collection of finest mid-Century art, furniture, and automobiles. According note, a prototype test made for Patek Philippe in the late 1950’s and was never retailed. The watch is in beautiful condition and comes with box and paper. I had very close-up pictures taken to show every detail. The watch looks perfect to the regular eye, in other words, it looks better in person than it does in these close-up photos. If you want something truly special I believe this is it. A watch maker took apart the watch for pictures and assured me - me the watch is in fine running condition and that the dial is original and not being restored. Case, dial, movement signed. He also informed me that the winding wheel is worn and should be replaced. Please note this. If anyone has a winding wheel for this model I would like to hear from you. I will consider serious offers. Questions please email before bidding. I will accept payment by bank wire with an email confirmation within 24 hours of close of auction. If you cannot complete in this way please do not bid. The watch will not be shipped until we receive clear funds in our family account. No exceptions. The watch will be lovingly sent via Fed X or UPS overnight fully insured and the tracking number will be provided immediately after shipment. Our hope is to make a new owner very happy. If confirmation of wired funds is not received in 24 hours of close I retain the right to void the transaction. Thank you"

The full judgement of Hartmann v McKerness [2011 BCSC 927], can be read here, and it arguably raises more questions than it answers.

The following paragraphs in the judgement are particularly interesting :

[34] 3. There is absolutely no difference between the markings of a prototype test watch made for Patek Philippe and a production model. The prototype watches were just produced in very limited numbers. They were signed, numbered and registered at the Patek Philippe archive, exactly like the regular production models.

[36] Whether the watch is an authentic Patek Philippe is an interesting question, the answer to which, depending on the depth of analysis, might approach the philosophical. It appears from the evidence that Patek Philippe manufactured all of the components except the case, although the Patek Philippe components were not necessarily intended to be assembled together. What is relevant for these parties, however, is whether what was delivered corresponded to the representations made.

[37] Dr. Hartmann says he was told there was a certificate of origin with the watch, based on the words “… the watch comes with … paper” and the photograph of a document entitled “CERTIFICATE D’ORIGINE ET DE GARANTIE” that formed part of the eBay offering. Dr. Hartmann received the paper he saw in the photograph, and having agreed to withdraw that portion of Mr. Muser’s opinion questioning the authenticity of that document, he has no complaint that he did not get what was represented as to the paper.

The paragraphs raise numerous questions, not least of all :

1. Surely whether a watch is a Patek Philippe or not is not a "philosophical question"?
2. If there was a Certificate of Origin, does it specify a Ref. 3413. If so, it is rather curious that they have an “authentic Certificate of Origin” for this Reference, which they have matched up with a frankenwatch. Or did the Certificate of Origin need further investigation? Details about the Certificate are somewhat frustratingly sparse in the judgement, and paragraph 37 is just a bit puzzling regarding the authenticity of the document.

Then we have these two paragraphs concerning the expert, Mr Muser :

[61] In considering Mr. Muser’s opinion as a whole, both written and oral, it appears that his dismissal of this watch is heavily influenced by what he has been told, and what he understands from experience, about the position taken by the Patek Philippe archives concerning this particular watch. He said that if one cannot obtain from Patek Philippe a certificate or abstract concerning a particular watch, he and others consider the watch a fraud and a forgery.

[65] Even if there were direct evidence from Patek Philippe that it disowned this watch, that would not be determinative, as the description clearly stated that it was not just a prototype, but a test watch, that had never been sold at retail. Further, the description stated that the watch had been made for Patek Philippe, not by Patek Philippe.

This is curious.

There don’t seem to be any photos online of this offending piece, but here are the details of a Ref. 3413 that was auctioned by Christies in November 2010. It realised CHF68,750. Only eight examples of a Reference 3413 are publicly known to exist, including this other one that was auctioned by Christies in 2008.

The vendor "Stillwater891" no longer appears to be active on ebay Canada.

Caveat emptor. Especially in Canada.


Monday, August 8, 2011

LeJour Chronograph - Valjoux 7734

It really is amazing what you can find on the internet these days. And the ease of finding said wanted information. It never cease to amaze me just how quickly the term “google” has entered the lexicon replacing the more traditional term “search”.

However, this is not a post about the ever-changing nature of modern language.

Wanting to take advantage of the strong Aussie dollar, (not just in the ways of importing books and dvds on the cheap) I've been scouring the online for sale ads for watches. Since the difference (read: savings) will be greater. I do have an ongoing wishlist, which is also ever-changing, as my taste changes. However, I came upon something that I didn't know I've always wanted (to plagiarise the line from Peugeot). It was cheap too, and cheap enough for it to be a 5 minute impulse purchase. (Thanks to the wonders of google, the internet, online funds transfer services, and fast-ish connection)

A quick cursory search around the internet didn't net me much the first time around, but I gained enough information for me to make a kind of a informed decision on what I was getting. (Prior watch/movement knowledge does help a bit) All's I know is that it was something rare-ish, but not likely to gain much in terms of price. But for what it is, the price was reasonable.

So here it is: LeJour Chronograph manual wind, powered by Valjoux 7734

The Brand:

LeJour appears to have been the OEM company for Heuer back in those days for a few models. This was one of them. The Heuer version is badged "Heuer" and it costs a bit more than the version badged "LeJour". That is apparently the only difference between the 2 models and LeJour is often referred to as the poor man's Heuer. The only information I can find online about this one is that the Heuer version is referred to as Ref. 12, and even the Ref 12 is a much rarer bird than the more (in)famous Heuer Pasadena, which is housed in a similar case. This LeJour, then, is even rarer than the Ref 12, making it highly collectable (in my humble opinion).

The reason why all this is quite patchy is due to Heuer being in a state of turmoil and great upheaval, with changes in ownership making record keeping haphazard at best. (A bit like Panerai, eh?)

Unfortunately it would seem that the brand "LeJour" has subsequently been sold to a Asian company, now making el cheapo watches under that brand, at the same time, but still using the "history" of the brand to help sell watches?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Orto Trading Co.

Orto Trading Co.
39 Waterloo St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Ph : +61 431 212 453


High ceilings with flower filled bottles hapahzardly hanging down, rows of herbs lined up outside, the warm Winter’s sun streaming in, a small vase with a single flower on each table. First impressions count, and Orto Trading’s were that it was going to be an agreeable place to spend a few hours.

The menu is seasonal, and its 'June Winter' version very much British inspired, with Scotch eggs, smoked eel, Toad in Hole and Beef & Guinness stew making an appearance. There is a note at the top of the menu, stating “Please note that our main meals are designed for sharing and are approximately one and a half times a normal main.”

Ah, more shared-food-on-planks in Surry Hills.

Despite my doubts about whether in fact the mains were actually going to be that large, we decided to take the proffered advice, and ordered two entrée planks, a main plank, and a side plank.

First plank - Scotch egg ($9).

Yolk perfectly runny, the mince not too dry. Don’t let appearances deceive, this was a surprisingly filling half egg. 

The second plank was the Cured meat plate with cider-cured ham, bresaola, prosciutto, chicken liver pate and house pickles. ($16)

Its arrival lead to the realisation that perhaps we should have skipped the Scotch Eggs. This is arguably one of the more generous cured meat platters I’ve had the pleasure of eating. The photo is a tad deceptive, as there were a fair few slices of each item. The meats were all freshly sliced and terrifically tasty, the chicken liver pate smooth and quite light, the toasted bread of sufficient quantity. Just a great all-round selection. My only negative point is presentation related – one of the problems with using wooden planks and platters is that it doesn’t take very long for them to develop those unattractive deep grooves. They detract from the overall appearance of the dish.

The main plank was Pomegranate glazed duck with hazelnuts, prosciutto, radicchio and prunes ($36).

Tender, meaty, juicy, and definitely enough for two people who had already eaten two entrées. The hazelnuts proved unexpectedly addictive, the radicchio was not only visually appealing but a nice bitter counterpoint to the richness of the duck and the oh-so-crispy prosciutto. The surprise for me was the prunes. I am not known for being particularly fond of meat with any type of fruit, so I had to be convinced by a fellow non-prune-eater that they were, in fact, good, before trying one. They were good. The sweetness of the scattered pomegranate was not overwhelming, and added visual appeal.

Again - deeply grooved planks...

Accompanying the duck was side plank Spunta potato batons with chilli salt ($9)

This was a huge serving of not so much batons as wedges. Light on the chilli salt, each baton was supersized, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and pretty tasty, though I was more taken by the thin crunchy slithers of potato. We didn't manage to get through this serving, despite my valiant attempts.

Orto Dining is a relaxed kind of eating place, its bistro style food full of good fresh clean flavours that you want to eat again. We left with the thought that was a lovely all-round experience that we'd be happy to have again.

What more could you ask for?


Orto Trading Co on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In conversation with Master Watchmaker Peter Roberts

(photo by JPVFX)

The golden age of England (and specifically London’s) dominance as an international watchmaking centre was during the 17th to 19th centuries. The achievements of clock and watchmakers such as Daniel Quare, Thomas Tompion, John Arnold, George Graham and John Harrison, and the increasing importance and growth of the watchmaking crafts, lead to the establishment of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1691. Prior to that, because clock making involved working in ferrous metal, clockmakers within the City of London tended to be freemen of the Blacksmiths’ Company.

The last decade or so, in particular, has seen a resurgence in English horology, with the mighty elder statesman George Daniels, the greatest living watchmaker, an inspiration to many of these, such as his protégé Roger Smith.

One other renowned name that has been a force behind this English watchmaking revival has been that of Peter Roberts. Peter qualified as a Fellow of the British Horological Institute in the early '70s, becoming the first student from the UK to attend the original WOSTEP course in Neuchatel. He has  worked with IWC in Schaffhausen, Rolex in Geneva and the U.K. (he still occasionally instructs on Rolex courses), and spent 13 years teaching at the Hackney Watch School in London, where his pupils included Stephen Forsey and Peter Speake-Marin. Peter also advised the re-invigorated Dent brand, but is now Technical Director for the young vibrant aviation inspired Bremont brand.

In late June, watch forum ATGV hosted a fabulous event at Skylon Southbank, with Giles English and Peter Roberts from Bremont and Peter Speake-Marin all attending. It was a great opportunity for one of us to meet and have a chat with the legendary Peter Roberts, who kindly agreed to an interview.

JP : What was it that got you into watch making?

PR : My father was a bit of a watch collector. On his bookshelves I found a copy of Donald de Carle's "Practical Watch Repairing". I read this when I was 15 years old and was hooked!

JP : You taught at Hackney College in the 1980s-90s. Can you tell us a bit about your time there. How did you become a teacher?

PR : My wife and I were in a pub one day and bumped into one of my old college lecturers who suggested I would be ideal for a new position that was available. This was not something I had considered, as I would need to qualify as a teacher (i.e. back to college). He was very persuasive. I qualified into teaching, and never looked back.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

El Capo

El Capo
52 Waterloo St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph : (02) 9699 2518

Enough words have already been written about the “Latin American canteen”, comments about the name, the artwork on the walls with the guns, the roosters, the stacks of faux money, so let’s just do away with repetition of the same, shall we?

Apart from the obligatory shot of the stools, that is…Has anyone commented on their comfort levels? I found them unexpectedly comfortable, and ultimately, that's what is most important about chairs, is it not? 

The middle in a row of three eating establishments, with Orto Trading and Izakaya Fujiyama on either side (Orto is probably my top pick of the three of them), during the day this is an attractive, well lit and welcoming place with the increasingly common combination of regular table-chair configurations with large communal ones. There are also a few tables outside, with heaters for what passes for Winter in Sydney.

The lunch menu (available as dine-in or takeaway) is a compact six items, with an additional salad ("Son of El Capo" – cabbage, rasins, hazelnut), corn bread, and dessert. Two visits, and all voila, all items tried.

My drink of choice on both occasions was the tamarind drink. New to me, not too sweet, and  quite refreshing.

Condiments are a tomato salsa and habaneros saue. They come gratis on a tray with the ubiquitous fake bills.

First up, empanadas versus arepas - the latter are made from cornmeal. They are flat, unleavened,  and grilled, baked or fried, and generally contain a filling. Empanadas, on the other hand, are a stuffed pastry which can be baked or fried. In this instance, fried. I’m more an empanada person than an arepa one, and so it was at El Capo. I think that it’s just that cornbread isn’t really something for which I’ve managed to acquire a taste.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the arepa for what they were, it’s just that the empanadas (below), eaten with a liberal dose of the tomato salsa and with the salad, were quite addictive and snacky, and I’d have been happy to have ordered another serve, whilst I didn’t feel similarly about the arepas.