Even before everything happened Cathedral Square was one of those iffy spots in Cracked City that, like New Brighton, every 10 years or so some big grand scheme to REVAMP and REVITALIZE would be unveiled, create an uproar in the comments section, but ultimately lead to little more than some new paving stones, naff-futuristic-metallic-bins and some extra seating.
Of course, these days, we have more to worry about than a few pedestrian dead-zones and where the bus route should go. We have a ruined cathedral that 8 years on, no-one has thought to pop a tarpaulin over . The inaction on the building doesn’t, in itself, bother me too much. I’m fond of the bleak ridiculousness of the thing. What does irk me, however, is when hundreds of tourists gather around, taking heaps of photos, desperate to see some EARTHQUAKE CARNAGE, and you just know that for all of their time spent in Cracked City, and all the great things they might see and experience, this pigeon shit encrusted mess will be the thing that they show their friends and family as the representation of our city. Too many of us are working way too hard for that to be the one image of a visit here.
Recently there has been a new plan unveiled, for the Square, which was put out for public consultation…but has now gone strangely quiet. The plan in itself would have cost a fortune to even conceptualize. This one has ‘zones’, events venues, water features, plantings. It looked beautiful, and cool, and yes, *something* needs to be done but if it goes ahead, it’ll take years of work, millions of dollars, and in 20 years time we’ll probably be right back here again arguing about bins, bus routes and car parks.
You see, what these city-planners seem to be missing, and not noticing, is that you can throw all the millions dollars you want at Cathedral Square, but never, ever, have I seen it as cool, alive and vibrant as on a Food Truck Friday.
Every Friday about 20 food trucks set themselves up for the day in the Square. Hundreds of people come along to have lunch, dinner, and take in the general-cool-vibe. Which includes our ever-multiplying wizards, fortune tellers, evangelicals, and the ‘actually-quite-good’ dad pub rock covers band who often find themselves antagonizing the Jesus-freaks with their heathen tunes, and the two end up having this odd, amusing, passive-aggressive performance-match-of-morals over the top of each other. At nightfall the music gets louder, the fire poi kids come out, and the whole thing hums. It’s fabulous. It’s authentic. It’s really simple.
All this life and activity has grown a large following, despite being set against the bonkers backdrop of a fallen cathedral, gravel lots, graffiti, and abandoned shops. But that stuff doesn’t matter. It buzzes, and has a pulse, regardless. You don’t ever sit there and go ‘oh gee, I could really do with a souvenir shop, some nifty way-finding signage, and some more car parks right now’. It’s broken, strange and certainly not as pleasant in the middle of winter – but the point is that it’s the people that make it good. It’s the hum of energy, the different cultures of the food, the enthusiastic Simon & Garfunkel covers, the passion of people doing what they care about – be it yelling about HELL or just eating some really fucking tasty food. And it’s most definitely not come out of a $10 million urban regeneration plan designed by consultants who have never even lived here.
Food Truck Friday is the best. One of my favourite things about the CBD. And for less than $15 you can can get yourself an amazing meal and a banger of a Cracked City experience that is a hell of a lot better than some photos of a manky disintegrating building.
So what should you eat when you get there? Well I’ve truly never had a bad experience from any of the vendors. Though I to tend to veer towards the ones i don’t see at other events so often. Support the underdogs and all that.
After extensive research, my own personal ride-or-die, go to Food Truck Friday staple – the one I will tell you to purchase if you’re unsure and ask me ‘WHAT SHALL I GET?’ is Adam’s Malaysian Noodles .
Adam’s isn’t the slickest looking operation. Tucked among the cool, sexy, painted, lil caravans and trucks, there Adam’s stands in their humble red pop up gazebo. The budget-unassuming nature of it, is probably why it took me so long to try them and become a devout follower of their magical ways.
They only sell one thing – noodles! Prawn, chicken or vegetable noodles. The noodles are stacked up, pre-portioned, in cardboard boxes, and when you order they simply scribble your variety, spice level, and pass it back to the cook. It’s bloody efficient and means your noodles never take more than 5 minutes.
I always get the vegetable noodles, medium hot. And for $10 they deliver the most soul-nourishing, comforting time of your life. They will fix any ailment or sorry-feelings you may be carrying with you.
The noodles are flash fried on a large flat gas plate. There are round noodles, flat noodles, a bit of egg, and some basic veg – cabbage, carrot. The noodles are hot, thick, satisfying on the lips. They have a slick of grease, but not in a gross way – only in the GOOD way. And my favourite thing is that the hot plate gives everything a really lovely, faint, charred edge. Since becoming vegetarian, the one thing I miss the most is that distinctive smokey charr of a some BBQ or grilled meat. And these veg noodles really hit that sweet spot for me. They are moreish, filling and deeply satisfying.
Keep your tens of millions of dollars on rejuvenation of the square, and instead use that money to invest in and support new-start up food trucks and producers. Give people the tools and confidence to start businesses and follow their dreams and provide jobs and income for their families. So that things like Food Truck Friday, which encapsulate the very essence and spirit of post-2011 Cracked City, can keep going and doesn’t get lost in the urban-sanitation of glass facades and space-age- bins.
Food Truck Friday – Cathedral Square, 11am-9pm weekly