Hard Rock Café Sydney- Darling Harbour

An aging concept which is better suited to the 90s, but out of place in the 19s …..That’s the 2019s that is.

When you’re in the States, you see Hard Rock Cafes in prominent locations in all the major cities, and Sydney’s Hard Rock Café is also located in a prominent spot at Harbourside shopping centre (well known for overpriced and underwhelming food designed to fleece unknowing tourists). But 5 years ago we had an amazing experience at the Hard Rock Café! And we’ve been looking for reasons to go back ever since!

I can’t remember why we decided to dine at the Hard Rock café that first and only time all those years ago.  Perhaps we were just curious to see what the hype was all about, but I still remember it was a public holiday as well, as we also got slapped with the 10% surcharge. But that first time was so memorable- from the American waiter who had loads of character that when he was taking our orders he even pulled up a chair and sat with us, making us laugh all the while!; that time they had a ‘Burgers of the World’ menu, where you could order a signature burger from 10 different countries, I remember there was a Hong Kong burger which was served with a sweet & sour pork patty; I remember the option of paying extra money for your thick-shake, so that you could keep the Hard Rock Café branded milkshake glass when you were done with it; and I even remember going around and checking out the celebrity memorabilia they had on display, and being impressed by what they had on show. It was such a memorable experience that I’ve been pining to go back ever since, and  on several occasions over the past 5 years we had tried but the queues for a table were too long and we often talk ourselves out of it as the food was overpriced.

But now it’s the 2019s, we’ve been eating at overpriced Sydney restaurants on a weekly basis- so we’re more immune to overpriced burgers, thinking that we were inoculated against ex-yness. But we found out that we still weren’t completely resistant against feeling ripped-off.

This time, at lunch time on Easter Monday we were able to walk right in and be seen to a table for 2 right away, no long queues anymore. We were given a table with a nice view overlooking the temporary Pixar putt Putt Golf range.

<Insert Golf range pic>

Their staff were attentive but a bit too insistent for our liking, in a span of 10 minutes or so, she came back 3 times asking us if we were ready and in that time period a second waitress also came to take our orders. Which is levels of customer service unheard of in Sydney, but something we’re not use to and we felt more embarrassed that we hadn’t made up our minds yet. And when she came back for the 4th time, we could hear it in her tone of voice “Are you guys ready yet?”

But our hold-up was my fault, I was trying to get over the fact that the ‘Burgers of the World’ menu was no longer there, one of the main driving forces for my return! Noooo! My wife felt that perhaps last time we had lucked on a limited duration offer, and I had specifically come today to see if the Hard Rock café’s International line-up of burgers could contend for the title in the Burger Vs Burger competition. But now that they only had local entrants to the challenge, it was looking pretty bleak for the Hard Rock Café. We ended up ordering the Java Burger (beef patty, Jack cheese, bacon, onions, mayo, the point of difference being Jalapeno) while I ordered a Texan which was categorised as a sandwich but it was essentially a burger (Pulled pork, bacon, jack cheese, onions etc.), the total amount for 2 burgers without any drinks totalled $55 (when rounded to the nearest dollar after the 10% Holiday surcharge). Ouch!

The offer for thick-shake and the choice to purchase the drink with a branded Hard Rock Café milkshake glass to go was still on the menu, but oddly I thought $12 would do it if I wanted to keep the glass. But alas it was now $18.50! Which is ex-y enough that we had to say “Get out of here!” So we elected to just sip on our complementary table waters.

<Insert interior pic>

The atmosphere was ok, staying true to their theme they only played ‘rock’ songs, and after a 15 minute wait or so our burgers arrived.

<Insert burger pics>

My wife’s burger was the one with the steak knife plunged into it, like a kitchen hand had finally lost their patients with an uncooperative burger filling, before plunging a dagger into the top of it in frustration (I wonder if there is a more child-friendly version if the consumer of this burger was aged under 12). While my burger….. I mean sandwich was the one which had the bun askewed; in more classy circles they call it an open sandwich, me? I call it bun askewed.

My bun stack was interesting enough, the main surprise being the onions, they were 2 inch slithers which had been fried to a crisp, so it was Smokey, and caramelised to an inch of its life!; the pulled pork was a large generous piece, but it definitely needed the dousing of BBQ sauce to give it flavour and moisture; The bacon were crispy little squares; while the bun was a soft fluffy brioche bun which I liked. So all in all it was good. As sides I had 2 little tubs, one contained a fresh coleslaw, the other was a hot (temperature) & spicy beans, and a cup of fries (which were dry and tasteless until we covered it in tomato and American mustard sauce). I found my meal to be passable and I pretty much finished my whole plate of food.

While my wife first commented that her beef patty was a large generously sized thick piece, but as the meal went on she found it to be too much, lacking flavour and dry. So she ended up only finishing half of her Berger- not all that impressed by it.

And after making our payments we walked around a bit checking out the memorabilia   on display, and the only interesting pieces were Sting’s guitar and some lyrics penned by Kurt Cobain.

Needless to say that the Hard Rock Café’s burgers didn’t compare against the offerings from the major players in the Sydney Burger scene, thus not worthy to be put through the Burger scorecard. But as an overall dining experience the Sydney Hard Rock Café scored a total of 2.5 Stars from 5.0 Stars from us (1.5 from 3 for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (our waitress was friendly but perhaps a little bit too insistent , checking up on us another 3 times after we had received our meals); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (it wasn’t as pumping as the first time, but at least they maintained a good playlist); and 0 from 1 for Value for money ($55, even $50 without the surcharge is a bit too steep for 2 burgers without  drinks)).

I think any positive memories of Hard Rock Café from our first visit has been wiped clean by this most recent experience, just from my take  I’m surprised that the dining concept still exists after all these years! It’s basically an overpriced American style diner (in which there are plenty now in Sydney- serving up much better food for much less) and just having a few celebrity items and playing rock music- it doesn’t make for a compelling venue to dine at. Needless to say, we won’t be back any-time soon.

Hard Rock Café Sydney- 22 April (2.5 Stars)

https://www.Hard Rock.com/cafes/Sydney/

PH: (02) 9280 0077

Level 2, Harbourside Shopping Centre, 2-10 Darling Drive, Sydney

Mon-Sun 11am – 11pm

Sweet Things- Grapefruit Bing Soo – Kanzi Café

Lower Ground, 393-399 Sussex Street, Haymarket

I remember as a kid, standing on the street level watching my mum as I waited for her whilst she did her Chinese grocery shopping at 393-399 Sussex Street. But the grocery store is long gone, and in its current iteration this below ground space is occupied by a Korean fashion store and its adjoining café serving fish shaped pastries, fruit flavoured slushies, and Bing Soos.

We were here after having lunch at Enjoy Café with my sis and her family, and we found ourselves a grouping of wicker lounges placed around a wicker coffee table in the below ground space as we waited for our orders to be made.

We ordered the Grapefruit Bing Soo, my sister and her husband shared with their kids the Mango Bing Soo, while the kids also shared a Watermelon slushie.

A Bing Soo for those less familiar with the Korean dessert, is a shaved ice, with different toppings incorporated into its icy enfold. For us our Bing Soo included Grapefruit juice, fresh pieces of grapefruit, these little exploding balls containing a sweet syrup within them (Popping Pearls) and underneath the dome of ice was a bed of cereal (Fruit-Loops and cornflakes). *Shrug*.

The Grapefruit was definitely sour, but with the iciness and the sweetness of the balls, it offset the tartness. And when we reached the layer of cereal, at first it was a little weird. But we started to understand the logic when the ice started to melt and the fruit-loops absorbed up the liquids. Because of this, it made the final 50% of the Bing Soo more enjoyable than other café’s offerings, as other Bing Soos end up becoming a Bing Soup!

My sister’s Mango Bing Soo was similar yet different, instead of the burst-y balls, they had small pieces of a sweet chewy thing, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top; and mango replaced the pieces of grapefruit; while they also had the bed of cereal which acted as a crunchy sponge.

For $14.90 each (small size), its a little bit ex-y; but to have a space in the city to hang-out, it was definitely worth it! The space for me, was actually the highlight, as it felt really cosy; the wicker lounges were comfortable enough as they had a layer of cushion to shield you from all the hard bits; you could pull over enough chairs so that your entire group can fit around the coffee table; and the music and other patrons were low and far enough that your group does not intrude on their group. So I liked the space probably more than the Bing Soo, and more than our dining companions. Jks Jks, I love hanging out with my nephew and niece!  

Check-out the Kanzi Café if you’re a group of 4-6 people, just wanting a nice space to continue on your lunch/dinner chats.

A Weekend of Happy Returns

With the Easter long-weekend upon us and not all restaurants in the CBD open for trade, we thought this weekend would be a perfect opportunity to re-visit some restaurants which we had tried/blogged about recently which impressed, in another ‘Weekend of Happy Returns’! Hopefully this weekend will turn-out better than our last, where it was a weekend of shattered dreams!

Yasaka Ramen- Sydney CBD (Friday afternoon)

One of our most memorable dining experiences in the past 12 months was our front-row seats at Yasaka Ramen – where we were given a chance to watch the masters do their thang right in front of us. However on Friday arvo we were late to the show and were shown an upstairs seat, where there were surprisingly quite a number of tables up there. My wife was so impressed with what I had the first time, she ordered the Kakuni ramen i.e. slow cooked pork bone in Tonkotsu Shio [pork bone broth with salt, while I ordered a more standard ramen offering (usual thin sliced pork in Tonkotsu Shio) but with a good hit of chilli, and to share we ordered a Mango Calpis. So as we waited for our food to arrive (not seeing it made before our eyes this time), we asked ourselves if being seated up-stairs away  from the action, would  it take away from the whole Yasaka Ramen experience? We concluded that it could, as it just felt like a regular restaurant now – however this would be a moot point if the ramen was as good as we remembered it to be!

And yeah baby it did! The ramen noodles were still the stand-out, they were thick and chewy. My wife was pleased with her huge chunks of slow cooked pork; while my more standard offering of ramen was still a notch above its closest competitors, the thin sliced pork was still thicker and more substantial than what you’d usually get from other places; and the Mango Calpis (although you can buy them anywhere) it was surprisingly genuinely mango-tasting. So all in all, Yasaka Ramen lived up to our lofty expectations, although including the holiday 10% surcharge our total meal was 30c shy of $50, which is pretty steep for 2 bowls of noodles and a drink.

Pondok Selera- Haymarket (Friday night)

And on the Friday evening we had run out of food at home, and we were too lazy to cook so we grabbed take-away from our ‘Fan-tong’, that being Pondok Selera, the Indo take-away restaurant within Chinatown’s Eating World. As per-usual we ordered our go-to dish of Nasi Kuning (cousin of the more well-known Nasi Lemak). And like it always does, it hit the spot! But the curious thing, is that from time to time they probably have a different chef in the kitchen, so the dish is either presented a little bit differently or the key ingredients are cooked in a different way. This time the entire dish was wrapped in aluminium foil, although it was still within the same Styrofoam box, I’m assuming it’s to help retain the heat- but it seemed a bit wasteful. While usually the egg in the dish is an omelette, but this time it was hard boiled and then deep fried; and the sambal was slightly different again, this time it was considerably less spicy. So the dish is still good, but the slight differences in the dish always baffles a little, and I really can’t tell which iteration I prefer more? They’re both good I guess!

8Bit- Darling Square (Saturday afternoon)

On Saturday after spending almost 3 hours walking around taking pics for an upcoming mega post that will be uploaded soon (this is a shameless plug), we were pretty tired and  hungry and what kept us going in the final hour was proposing and counter-proposing which restaurant we wanted to return to for lunch!  We settled on Southern Hot chicken from ‘Belle’s Hot Chicken’, but unfortunately after walking all the way to Steam Mill Lane, we found them to be closed. Boo! So we decided to give 8Bit another go.

My first experience at 8Bit was not a positive experience, that time I found their food to be unremarkable, overpriced, and they screwed-up my order.  But deep-down we have been curious to know if that experience was a one-off, and I think we were interested to see if they could redeem themselves. This time I ordered the Double Dragon (double beef patty with bacon); my wife ordered what I should’ve received last time (the Afterburner – a cheese burger with a hot kick); and a Nutella milkshake to share.

My Double dragon was literally bursting from its half-box packaging it was confined to; while my wife looked forward to tucking into her first burger from 8Bit (last time she had a hotdog). And yeah! I think 8Bit has well and truly redeemed themselves! The beef patties were akin to having proper beef steaks, as you can tell that real meat had been ground up to make these meat patties. So for me, having two beef patties with bacon, I was so full by the half way point and it definitely felt like I was getting my money’s worth! My wife felt the same, and the kick of heat for her came by way of a chilli sauce and jalapenos. And the Nutella milkshake was more like a thick shake, and they didn’t hold back on the Nutella! So it was very good and indulgent (we were glad that we had walked a lot that day).

Enjoy Café– Haymarket (Sunday afternoon)

And catching-up with my sis and her family today, we had  initially intended to have Yum-cha, but then seeing that most of Chinatown were open on Easter Sunday, we decided to take them somewhere more exotic – for Balinese/Javanese! The first time we ate at Enjoy Café, it was within the first week of their grand opening and it was pretty quiet in there; but only 3 months on, it was great to see how happening business had become! Our group of 6 literally scored the last available table!

The majority of our clan ordered a version of Mee (noodles) – everyone seemed to be pleased with their retail quality instant noodles- described as being slightly smoky, served dry in a shallow bowl, but it came with an accompanying bowl of soup. While my nephew and I each had a version of rice – for me I ordered the combination rice, which literally contained any and every type of pork imaginable, from Char siu, thin sliced sausages, to a tasty skewer of grilled pork belly! Mmmmmm. Everywhere I scooped, I’d get a different type of meat with rice on my spoon, and I was so full in the end!

So all in all, a good weekend – by and large our ‘Weekend of Happy Returns’ did live up to its name. In the end, 3 restaurants have upheld their good reputation in our books, while another has just ingratiated themselves to us and has been added to the list of places we’d happily return to. So it has been a Good Friday – Sunday indeed! Happy Easter everyone!

P.S. You may click on the restaurant’s heading links, to access our previous blog/reviews after our first dining experience, reading the older post will place some context around the present post. 

Sweet Things- Hot Cross Buns

Coles Supermarkets- Nationally

Hot cross buns don’t need any introduction, but I had to post this considering the prominence it has played in our lives over the past 4 months.

So families develop Easter traditions over-time, be that catching-up over a seafood BBQ on the Friday or Sunday; Easter egg hunts in the backyard is a given if you have under 5s; and the office morning tea with warm hot cross buns and melty butter occurred in many office break-outs across Australia on the days leading up to Good Friday! And my wife and I, we have our very own Easter tradition of purchasing Hot Cross buns as soon as our local Coles supermarket starts to stock the criss crossed, glazed, spiced fruit buns. And we keep buying and consuming them every weekend until they eventually stop selling them when Easter has come and gone.

These days Coles start making and selling their hot cross buns literally on the first weekend after Christmas! So we’ve been consuming the cinnamon fruit bun for coming on 17 weekends now and to tell  you the truth, we’re pretty ready for an 8 month break from hot cross buns. Haaha.

But Coles has done a great job, if you buy your bread in the afternoons they’re always fresh (in the mornings they’re usually still trying to move the day old stock). So we’ve always been pleased with its freshness, and we find the traditional hot cross buns still being the best! The apple-cinnamon was a bit too sweet for our liking, and this year we’ve stayed clear of the chocolate versions, and the advertised raspberry white chocolate hot cross bun may only be a myth? As we never saw this bun iteration at our local Coles.

So a thank you to Coles and Hot Cross Buns for being a part of our family and our Easter tradition for the past 4 months! But it is time for us to temporarily part ways, but it’s only for a short period of time – in no time you’ll be back on the shelves and gracing our weekend breakfast plates! Can’t wait!

Product Recommendations- Modifying your car!

I know this is out of place, and a topic of conversation which may not interest our regular readership. However since I’m a serial blogger, and posting this on someone else’s forum would be a waste, ‘Product recommendations’ seemed like the most appropriate tag to post this under.

Ok, I had mentioned in a previous post, that I’m involved with a sports car club? And aside from food & drink, I had a soft spot for sports cars? So to this point I’d never ‘modified’ my rides before, preferring to just buy stock-standard cars and when I’d tired of them, sell them on and buy something sportier (although it seems like everyone else in the car club had mods bolted onto their rides).

So for various reasons our every 3 year car upgrade wasn’t going to happen this year, so to give our 2016 M135i a mid-life make-over I decided (in conference with my mate) that I’d give this car mods thing a go! And here is my blog, documenting the experience each step of the way, as prior to this I didn’t know what to expect – so if you’re also considering doing some works on your own ride for the  first time, this might be fortuitous.

Throughout this process I progressed through 8 stages, so if you carefully consider each of these stages, it may help you decide if modifying your ride is right for you! Here they are:

Stage 1: Reasoning

First, you need to get straight in your mind what are your motivations to modify your vehicle? And what do you want to achieve?

The reasons for car mods are for performance gains (faster/better handling); maximise efficiencies (a noble but rare reason); aesthetics (you want a more stand-out/unique ride); track worthiness (turning your vehicle into a hybrid street-track weapon); face lift (you’re tired of what you have, and want to give it a mid-life make-over); or you want to improve the sensory experience (more whooshes and whistles, or pops & crackles from your engine or exhaust).

So you really need to nail down the why behind your motives, and if you’re still convinced that your reasons outweigh the cost/implications to get there, then it’s onto stage 2! Checking-out what’s out there!

Stage 2: Research

The next stage is to find out what is possible, and who nearby can perform the mods for you. Obviously with Google and Youtube, you can virtually find any part or product for your car, and watch what it can do to your ride. So this stage can be a bit of fun. Hehehe. It’s like playing Gran Turismo for the big-boys – droppin’ real cash, instead of just using credits for winning a virtual reality tournament.  During this stage of ‘Research’ my wife has walked in on me many-a-times asking me what I was doing, as it sounded like my laptop was performing some heavy-duty processing. But I was just watching a sports car on a dyno, going 0-250kmh before hitting the speed limiter. Haaha.

During this process I stumbled upon a company/link (Evolve Technik), which helped me out so much! On their web-site is a mod calculator- you first define the make/model of your vehicle (they only specialise in European makes), and then you tick which mods you want to add. At each additional part you choose, it indicates how much closer you’re getting towards your vehicle’s full potential (by percentage increments). And for those who just want the bottom-line i.e. what happens to your 0-100Km sprint times? At the end of the process it indicates how fast (in seconds) your tuned vehicle can potentially go!

And just when you start to ask ‘now what?’ there is a strategically placed link to enquire about the mods which you had selected. But before you go clicking on that enquiry button, there are 2 more stages to consider first before taking the plunge.

Stage 3: How much do you want to spend?

From your research you’ll have a sense of the cost for parts, so by this stage you’re noticing how costly modifying your car can be. As it’s like a grand here, and another grand there. So before going too crazy and devising a list of stuff that you’d like, I think you need to properly sit down and work-out how much do you really want to spend on your vehicle – because when it comes time to sell your car it’s unlikely that you’ll get any money back from your investment in after-market parts. I’ve heard stories where people had to even discount their cars below the going rate for a stock vehicle, because buyers don’t trust or want your mods. So keep all of that in mind.

To get a better sense of how much you need or want to spend, do this by chatting with your mates who have modified their vehicles before. Pitch to them your own judgement of how much you think the works may cost, and then see if your mates laugh and tell you you’re dreaming! (As the amount is too low.) Or watch them nod in thoughtful agreement, when you’ve put out a reasonable amount.

For me, my reasoning to modify the car was due to the fact that I was getting bored of it, while buying-selling wasn’t feasible this time. So I thought tuning the engine to achieve more power, and enhancing its sporty look was what was needed to help me fall in love with the car again. And my judgement on how much I’d liked to spend, was based on the willingness to spend around 10% of what it would otherwise cost to buy a brand new vehicle. So at the last car club meet, I was chatting to the guys and I put my dollar figure out there, and people agreed that it was a fair estimate on what it’ll cost for a Stage 3 tune and lowering.

And my advice is, once you’ve decided on a dollar figure, do try your best to stick to it! Don’t be swayed to add more, as you can always add more, but are you made of money? And if things turn out being more expensive than anticipated, be ready to walk away or do less to your vehicle for now. Yeah?

And I have to add, if you like haggling over the price of things, and if you think you have a point of leverage because you’re spending several thousand dollars- think again! As the parts are all purchased from the suppliers at RRP, and the only money the garage is making is the cost of labour- so the costs are fixed. So at the end of the day, if mods seem too expensive, then just don’t go down this path- as modifying cars is an expensive proposition.

Stage 4: Potential ramifications

And before you go ahead with making changes to your vehicle, please read up on the potential ramifications of modifying your car i.e. if it voids your new car warranty, if the mods will meet legal restrictions, and the potential implications on your car insurance. Depending on what you have in mind, it could easily void your new car warranty; some parts may not meet legal restrictions so it’ll be a hassle when it comes to renewing your rego, and re-sale in the future, or you may attract some unwanted attention from the cops; and some car insurance companies may not recognise your policy after you make a claim, when they find out that you’ve modified your car without informing them (as your premiums may go up after mods).

So if you’re still all ok with all these potential ramifications- then it is time to click on that link to put through your enquiry.

Stage 5: Request for quote

My advice is that, if you’re new to mods, just go to a reputable garage who will do everything for you i.e. source/order the parts, fitment, and check-out if they’ll provide a warranty for their work. So it’s all pretty risk free if you elect a workshop who has a good reputation, or just ask your friends where they had their mods done?

So after clicking on enquire, my request for quote actually went to Peak Performance (I hadn’t realised that Evolve Technik was not a Sydney based company). And within a few hours the friendly guys at Peak sent me a PDF outlining the various stages of tune I could choose from; which parts made-up each stage; the cost for each part; and what power gains could be achieved each step of the way for my particular vehicle. And there was also a list of additional parts which you could choose from, like springs, sway-bars, roll-cages etc. The only detail which was missing from the PDF was the labour cost and the estimated hours required to make the mods, but I quickly obtained all of these details after a short email exchange.

And being a nerd, I created a spreadsheet working out the cost-benefits from each stage (there were 4 stages to choose from). And looping back to my previous point, regarding the budget and sticking with it.  This was good, as Stage 4 tune alone was around $500 more than what I wanted to spend, while if I stayed with my original plan of a Stage 3 tune plus lowering, the cost was actually quite close to my amount. So as much as I like to have everything, I did settle on a Stage 3 tune, with lowering of the vehicle by 2.5cm at the front and 1.5cm at the rear. The end cost was only $76 more than my budget so that was 1.1% more than I had wanted to spend, which isn’t bad.

**Comment: Of course you can still source your own parts from gumtree and other online retailers- but only go down this path if you’ve done extensive research and know for certain that those parts are suitable to your vehicle and if you already have a trusted mechanic who can do all the works for you. I’ve just heard too many horror stories of guys having their weekend project cars in with their mechanic mate, but 12 months on the vehicle is still at the shop and that is time/money wasted- all to save some money in the early days. I think on the long run, just going to a professional will save you time and emotional angst, as modifying your ride ought to be fun!

Stage 6: Taking the plunge

The guys at Peak were great, I was shooting them daily emails back and forth for almost a week, asking them how long it’ll take, what day suited them, what time can I drop-off, can I pick up on weekends, cost, and more cost questions and in the end they took the time to answer each of my questions in much detail. So when it came time to take the plunge, I was totally comfortable with the process and what to expect.

When you’ve agreed on a date, and what you want, a formal quote is sent your way for review. The quote itemised everything and its associated cost (they were very up-front when they found out that a part had gone up by $50 due to the falling Aussie dollar and the increase of shipment costs). And once you’ve paid 65% of the total cost of works, they proceed to order in your parts and you just wait in excitement for the scheduled day to roll around.

Stage 7: Drop-off

For the modifications which we elected, they only needed 2 days to perform the works. But to suit our schedules, they allowed us to drop-off on the Wednesday, and pick up that same week on Saturday morning.

Peak is located in Parramatta, so bright and early on Wednesday my mate dropped off the vehicle. Their operation all looked very sophisticated, with 4 hoists to lift cars off their wheels and there were plenty of other Euro cars there, so we were pretty comfortable to leave a perfect stranger with the keys to our ride. And the process was really straight forward, I’d emailed the guys about another potential mod- whilst the vehicle was with them, and in their return emails they mentioned where they were in the process of working on our car. They even sent through to me a pic of our car being worked on (not a usual practice of theirs) but it did give me great confidence that things were happening and were on track. And on the Thursday I received an email, informing me that the works on the car were completed and the car was awaiting our pick-up on the Saturday!

All in all, very painless! So as I’m writing this now, its 7.24am on the Saturday- the day we pick-up our baby. After our first foray into mods, saying that I’m excited is an understatement! I’ll have to type up ‘Stage 8: The pick-up’ on my return, as this is a living unfolding post.

Stage 8: The pick-up

OMG! It’s exactly 11.31am and we’re back from picking up the beast! Hehehe.

So has the mods changed the car? Can a leopard change its spots? Well, for this car at least, it most certainly can!!!

On paper the power increase was 60kw (81.5 hp) and an increase to 575nm. But how does this translate in practice? Rubber to the road, the character of the car has completely changed! Previously the M135i was nice, luxurious and it had a powerful linear acceleration, but now the acceleration is a push-you-back-into-your-seats kind of power!

The car definitely feels and looks lower, and handles better on the road (smoother and flatter); the cold air intake allows the engine to breathe better which means more rapid response to your right foot and the audible whistling of the air rushing in and out is certainly nice; the tune of the engine has released more of the potential from the 6cyl 3.0L engine so it’s able to be the power plant which it’s German designers had intended it to be – meaning it feels more light and nimble now; and the down-pipes from the cylinder chambers to the exhaust……..well, you’ll have to hear it to believe it. Haaha. So am I pleased with the results of this month long project? Heck yeah! Fully worth every dollar! It has completely enhanced the driving dynamics and you just really don’t know how good your car can be, until you allow some professionals to tweak it and release the full potential from your car’s engine!

Thanks Peak Performance for your work on the car, 5/5 star experience all the way through! Def be recommending the Evolve Technik tune and you guys to other car enthusiasts!

Appendix: The raw details

Stage 3 Evolve Technik tune

ECU Upgrade: $1,815.00

Wagner 200cpi Sports Downpipe: $1,431.00

AFE Cold Air Intake: $1,119.00 (went up by $50)

H&R Springs: $600

12 hours of Labour at $175 per hour

Stock power: 240kw/450nm

After: 300kw/575nm

Bottom-line: 0-100Km sprint time has dropped from 4.9secs to 4.25secs

Album Reviews- Golden/Three Letters From Sarajevo

Ok, this month’s music album review pairing completely makes no sense, unless I take some time out to explain.

So here goes….. Each month I trawl the web looking for artists who will be performing live in Sydney (content for my monthly Gig guide post), gigs which pique my interest and hopefully might also interest you? And through those research findings, I’m often introduced to albums or artists whom I was previously unaware of to my own chagrin. But to ensure that the album/artists are worthy of recommendation, I listen to their respective albums cover to cover and end up being a little obsessed with them! The two most recent albums which I’ve been obsessing over has been Kylie Minogue’s ‘Golden’ album, and Goran Bregovic’s ‘Three Letters from Sarajevo’.

Golden – Kylie Minogue

I can still remember it, weird how some memories stick with you. I must have been in year 1 or year 2 in 1988 (only 5-6 years old), and there was a new kid at our school. I still remember his name (Conrad) and he and his family had newly immigrated from Poland. And although he didn’t have much English, I still remember him singing during class “I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky” (and I imagine they were lucky, finding themselves in Australia compared to 1980 Communist Poland); and exactly 30 years after Kylie’s first artistry successes, Kylie released her 14th studio album – Golden – in 2018! I challenge you to suggest another artist who still sounds as good as Kylie does 30 years on! As she has definitely not lost any of her vocal abilities at age 50 (although I thought she would be older than that – as she’s been around forever!)

The first time I heard the country-sounding ‘Golden’ album, it had already been out there for more than 10 months, and I can’t say that I’ve heard any of the tracks played on mainstream radio before. So when I first listened to her made-in-Nashville album from start to finish, I was amazed by how good it was and I was left wondering why it hadn’t been played more in mainstream radio? The opening track ‘Dancing’ is a  perfect example of how Kylie has blended her usual pop style with country- ‘Dancin’ has a dancy beat to it, while the prominence of the stringed instrument (sounds a bit like a banjo) gives it the country-music vibe, while Kylie’s actual vocals reminds me a bit of the Queen of Country, Ms Dolly Parton. This new style really suits Kylie, fitting her like a golden pair of hot-pants – and my Stetson is off to her for being able to re-invent herself for the second time! Bravo Kylie! Bravo! Most of the notable tracks are in the first half of the album, like ‘Stop me from falling’; the title track ‘Golden’; and ‘Shelby 68’…… In the end the tracks are a good blend of pop and country-pop, and ideal album to have in the background when you’re doing your chores.

If you’d like to check Kylie’s 14th studio album out, just ask your smart speaker to “Play Kylie Minogue, Golden, on Spotify”.

 Three Letters from Sarajevo, Goran Bregovic

Whilst I’ve been aware of Kylie for most of my life, I’ve only known of Goran Bregovic for the past 2 weeks (although Goran has been a professional musician for over 4 decades!). For those who don’t know him, Goran Bregovic is a Bosnian artist who performs internationally with his 40 piece band called the ‘Wedding & Funeral Orchestra’ (it was actually his band’s name which first caught my attention when browsing for gigs). His style of music-isms is described as “Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Romani, Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, and Italian and Turkish themed. And is a fusion of popular music with traditional polyphonic music from the Balkans, tango, and brass bands.” Ok, that was a direct copy&paste from Wikipedia.

It’s hard to describe his music in my own words, but let me give it a go. His music is completely foreign to me, I don’t understand a single word being sung but I’m still very much enjoying the album though; as they say, music is truly an international language! The songs are heavy with instrumentals by his Wedding &Funeral band, fronting several of the tracks are guest vocalists (usually female), and from my understanding three of the tracks are letters from the 3 major faiths in Sarajevo (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). So if these faiths can’t find harmony in person, at least they can find a point of harmony through the power of music!

So if you want a change-up from the usual music you’re enjoying at the moment, give Three Letters from Sarajevo a listen! It’s up-tempo and body-movin’. Just ask your smart speaker to “play Three Letters from Sarajevo on Spotify” Or if you want to access Goran Bregovic’s vast back-log of songs, just ask your Smart speaker to “Play Goran on Spotify”, just asking for his first name is enough (or otherwise Google goes searching for Erin Brockovich to play). Enjoy!