The Sydney Aroma Festival

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The cobblestone streets of The Rocks are perhaps already synonymous with culinary decadence. Whether it’s a crocodile burger from Hart’s Pub, exotic churasco at Vivaz, or the institution that is Pancakes on the Rocks – I think it’s safe to say that when people think of Sydney’s historic district, it sets their stomachs rumbling.

So it makes sense that for one Sunday every year the sleepy alleys and boutique eateries are overrun with tourists and foodies as the Aroma Festival rolls into town. Celebrating the rich aromas of coffee and the sweetness of chocolate from around the world, the Aroma Festival brings Circular Quay and the neighboring Rocks district to a virtual standstill as thousands line its streets to sample the best Sydney and the world have to offer.

Having just breezed back into town after a night in Newcastle to celebrate my aunt’s 60th birthday, I met up with Heather from The Kimchi Chronicles at Circular Quay. After a week of drizzly weather leading into her visit, Sydney had been on its best behavior and churned out another gloriously sunny day.

I make a new friend down by Circular Quay.

There was a real festival atmosphere around the Quay as we made our way towards The Rocks. Buskers and street performers were out in force to capitalize on the influx of potential audience members, and I stopped for a moment to pose with a particularly convincing living statue who would break character to pose for photos or if you made a donation. I’m a sucker for good street performance. I’ll be posting an article about it and its affect on travel in the not too distant future.

From there it was time to make our way through the press of crowds and towards Hart’s Pub. I wax lyrical about the place in several entries on here, and Heather was eager to try out her first taste of Australian fauna. Pushing through the crowd we were assaulted by a dizzying mixture of smells. Sizzling meat, rich coffee, and locally brewed beers were all out in force to ensure that mouths were salivating and stomachs were grumbling.

Heather experiences her first taste of Aussie fauna and Aussie beer

Soon we were out of the crowds and making our way through quieter streets and alleys to Hart’s Pub. It wasn’t yet noon but a beer was calling my name – and a 4 Pines Kolsch was on hand to sate my thirst. Foursquare check ins ensured I got a pint for the price of a half pint, and Heather even stepped outside of her comfort zone with a Stone & Wood of her own.

Lunch was a decadent affair. We followed up an entree of ridiculously hot Rocks Poppers (jalapeno poppers) with a pair of crocodile burgers served atop traditional damper buns. I fought the urge to also order their delicious skillet choc chip cookie knowing full well there would be a world of tastes to experience as soon as we returned to the festival.

Turning the tides on the man-eating croc by taking a bite out of it at Hart's Pub

With full bellies it was time to return to the festival. Alas, lines were prohibitively long, preventing us from sampling any of the coffee or food on show. Where I had no trouble getting to the front of the line at an event like the Sydney Food & Wine Festival, I found the going much tougher as what felt like half of Sydney’s population crammed into the historic heart of the city.

Something for the vegetarians. BBQed vegetable skewers? Yes please!

We did find time to grab a few straps of delicious licorice along the way, but that was the extent of my food sampling. For me the day wasn’t so much about the food as it was about the experience, and there are few ways I’d prefer to spend a sunny Sunday than out in the sun soaking up the sights and scents of a festival or market.

With my stomach full and my eyelids heavy from the previous evening’s festivities, it was time for Heather and I to part ways so that I could reacquaint myself with my bed and my toilet. Alas, the jalapeno had not sat well with me at all.

All told, I was a bit disappointed with the Aroma Festival – but the organizers and demonstrators can’t be faulted for that. I didn’t have the time or energy to queue for upwards of half an hour to sample some new taste, but I’m sure I’d have enjoyed things more if I had.

The Aroma Festival drew a massive crowd

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