Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Dear All, 

Please note that I have now relocated all new tour information to my brand-spanking-new

If you'd like to be kept in the loop please head on over there and follow me for all tour-related stuff and that way you'll be the first to know when new tours are announced. 

Speaking of which - I've just released THREE NEW tours   - one for Autumn/Fall 2015 (November) and 2 for January 2016! Please take a look HERE!

I'll still be posting my regular blog stuff on this site so don't wander off too far ya hear! 

Jane x

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Japanese Winter Hotpot Cooking Class at Essential Ingredient Prahran

It seems a long way off I know and it is rather hot and humid right now in Australia to be thinking about such things but come July 18th 2015 you will surely be needing to warm your hearts and bellies with a little Japanese style winter comfort food?
The friendly people at The Essential Ingredient in Prahran have invited me to teach a hands-on class on Japanese winter hotpots and the like. Delicious and nutritious nabe and nimono are guaranteed to be at the centre of your winter table for years to come after you've been part of this fun and informative class.  
I'm about to head off into yet another Japanese winter so there's no doubt I'll be returning with a few new recipes tucked under my wing - might have to lock in several classes!!

Hope to see you there! Here's the link:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Turning Japanese I really think so...

This week SBS Food Online features a story I wrote for them on the rise and rise of Japanese cuisine. I spoke with many enthusiastic chefs and restaurateurs including Noma's Rene Redzepi and Peter Gilmore of Quay - wanna know what they had to say ? well take a lookie HERE!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tempura Matsu

Hello, we are in the process of moving all Japan related content over to the ZENBU TOURS site and this page has already been transferred. You will find the page link HERE. 

Thanks for your patience. Cheers, Jane 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beauty is my neighbour

One of the things I learnt when living in Japan was to be far more appreciative of the everyday stuff, to find the beauty in the unexpected. To really look around you, noticing the slightest changes to the seasons, what plants are growing, whether a particular flower has blossomed early or later than usual, whether that lady has switched to her autumn themed Kimono yet. Is the river more full than it was a couple of weeks ago. Have the winter crabs or summer shiso come into the market, have the bamboo grown too tall this year for there to be any young, sweet shoots still in the shop for my tempura? To generally look at things you might normally pass by or ignore and to, well, stop and sniff the roses  - literally and metaphorically. 
It's not a new concept (and it isn't owned by the Japanese!) but there have been times in my life when I didn't take the time to truly see what was surrounding me. I'm somewhat relieved to know is automatic now (well most of the time - we all have days when we are too inside our own heads). To involuntarily smile at the early morning glow that lights your path, to become giggly over the colours and textures in the raw vegetables you'd normally have thrown into a pot without a second thought, or to notice the sun on a patch of moss by the sea are simple, joyful moments that come for free and make me a happy girl. 
When times are tough we sometimes need to look a little harder, to open our eyes wider. It can take a little more effort. Or a lot. But like working a muscle to give it more strength practicing the 'stop and notice' helps the natural reflex to return, which holds you steady, it allows you to be free. And to breathe. And to float.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bentley Restaurant and Bar

A few years back now I had the pleasure of acquiring and working on the Bentley Restaurant and Bar Cookbook for Murdoch books - a sexy beast of a thing which showcases a selection of Brent Savage's clever and visually impactful cuisine and provides the reader with just a sliver of business partner and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt's wealth of boozey knowledge.  Shot by the multitalented Luke Burgess before he jumped behind the stoves of Tasmania's fabulous Garagistes
The famous Cauliflower Custard with mushroom and black garlic. 
But that was back before they moved the Bentley from Suzza Hills (situated in the old Bentley Bar  - a dangerous place I'd frequented in my youth after dance parties - but that's not a story for now...)  to a new, spacious and more glamorous venue in the city on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets  -  and, by the way, also opened up another couple of popular eateries - Yellow and Monopole - neither of which I have made it to yet but I keep hearing amazing things about licorice bread for breakfast so I guess I'd best be getting myself across the bridge again sometime soon.   Too much time in Japan.
I'd been very keen to visit the new Bentley and recently shared lunch there with a friend - in doing so I was  finally able to catch up with the very clever Brent and Nick - and what a smile I had on my dial when I left - how great to see these guys doing so well.  They happen to be super lovely people so it makes it all the more cool.  Congratulations on your recent awards guys. 

Check out my lunch and drool.
A couple of bites to start us off with hints of Japan  - yuzu, wagyu, sesame - I was feeling right at home.
Sea urchin and Carrot left. Sugarsnaps, zucchini, asparagus, pine nut right.
Morton Bay Bugs, snapper and shellfish broth
Veal, celeriac, pumpernickel, pickled onion

So good. 

And don't I wish I'd had dessert......
Please have one for me when you go. And instagram me some dessert porn OK?
Beautiful fit out by the lovely Pascale Gomes-McNabb.

I'm sorry - but I had to put the cauliflower custard up again - how stunning is this??
PS - I  noted they are selling the Bentley book in the restaurant  - so when you eat there - make sure you take a peek!  Nudge nudge wink wink.... 

Pitt Street Eats

It must be the warmer weather. I seem to be out of the house a lot more in the evenings lately - eating Asian food.  Tough life. 

It had certainly been some time since I'd eaten around Chinatown - made obvious by its expansion well into Pitt Street.  I barely recognised this end of town.

Some weeks ago I met some friends at the handsome old Civic Hotel (an oldie but a goodie) for a quick pre dinner Amaretto Sour (And it was goood, let me tell you) 

before walking few meters north to Seabay Chinese Restaurant for steamed dumplings, fried pork, lamb pies, spicy chicken salad and a great little stirfy of slivered potatoes and peppers.  This place is seriously no frills and the menu is succinct but what they do, they do pretty well. I think it only came to about $20 per head  and the portions were very generous . So much so that I returned the following week with a hungry boy who needed filling. We ordered the spring onion pancake that time and it was damn good.

A few weeks later and a little further north on Pitt Street, close to Liverpool street, I was trotting down an vacant alleyway towards Madang Korean BBQ restaurant in what appears to be the start of a mini Korea town. It really felt like we were in Asia and the aromas were incredible.  Such a great vibe and full of Korean faces!  I was meeting a few fellow food writers including Leanne Kitchen who, having written an App for Chinatown restaurants (eat chinatown sydney), is kinda in the know on the better places around so I knew before I arrived we'd be in good hands.
We ordered fried chicken with spicy sour sauce, an excellent seafood pancake, dumplings, pork belly with oyster kimchee wraps and tofu with shaved bonito. Plus all the usual Korean pickled, fermented accompaniments arrived right on cue as part of the deal. We drank it down with red ginseng wine and it came to about $35 per head.

As my other half is now working near this area I suspect there will be further investigations... so stay tuned. 

Friday, October 31, 2014


The latest issue of Luxury Travel Magazine says "DO THIS" referring to my Zenbu Nigeru - Kyoto Cuisine and Culture Tour!
Only bookings for Zenbu Nigeru have now closed! 
Apologies for those who missed out. 
Maybe next time!

However there are still a couple of places available on my
But please don't delay!  Bookings close soon. 

In the meantime - take a look at this blurb just in case you are a glutton for punishment or fancy putting your name down for next year....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yoshikawa Inn and Tempura

Hello we are in the process of transferring all Japan-related content to Jane's ZENBU TOURS site. 

This post has alredy been moved - you can find it HERE.
Thank you. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Lobby Bar. Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto.

We're currently transferring all Japan-related material to Jane Lawson's Zenbu Tours site. You can find this post HERE.

Zenbu Nigeru (Escape) Tour 2015

Dear All, 

Bookings have now closed for my Zenbu Nigeru - escape Xmas and New Year Tour. Thank you !! 

There is, however, still space on my other 2 tours - but just a quiet heads-up that the Zenbu Zen Ladies only tour is almost full. Please don't delay if you don't want to miss out!


Cheers, Jane 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Escape's Top Food Tours for 2015

Er... more than happy to be included in the Daily Telegraph's Escape travel section's top FOOD TOURS FOR 2015!!!! woo hoo!

Thank you Angela Saurine for including me. 
You can see the top destinations article HERE


And for details on my Kyoto Cuisine and Culture Tours - either take a peek at my TOUR PAGE or email me for e-brochures 

But please hurry as bookings close soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ORGANUM by Peter Gilmore.

                              Nature. Texture. Intensity. Purity.


Now that Organum is about to launch  - meaning there's been a gap in time large enough for me to step back and look at this incredible project from a distance - it has reminded me once again what a wonderful experience and great honour it has been, and will always be, to work with talented individuals who inspire and challenge you to grow as a creative.

Working closely with chef Peter Gilmore over the last 5 or 6 years on both Quay books has cemented our friendship and my respect for him as a person, a loving husband and father, and an abnormally creative talent. But Peter's curiosity for what makes things tick and subsequent ability to link seemingly random aspects of an idea - gently encouraging them into a harmoniously expressive state - is some kind of freaky.

And I don't mean to gush in a silly I have a 'foodie guru' kinda way - I'm all too aware of the current trend to deify certain food 'personalities'. My life, for good or bad, is fairly food centric and I've spent more than enough time around 'celebrity chef' wankery  - which is mostly encouraged by a few irresponsible media types rather than the chefs themselves (although there can be a knock on effect..).

Where I was leading to is this.. sure food is Pete's medium - but one has to wonder - if Peter's mind and intuition were invested in another field what other applications might his talents be suited to? I'm not implying world peace here... but then again - who knows.

Pete possesses a special kind of something which is hard to put a finger on. Mainly because he's quite simply a truly lovely, decent human being who doesn't live to toot his own trumpet. Who also just happens to have an ability to focus,  analyse and create in a way most people cannot. He has just enough ego to allow him to absorb some energy from his fans and utilise it in moving forward and enough gratitude to keep him humble, grounded, fair and realistic.

Peter knows what he wants and does whatever it takes to achieve it (as long a it is not to the detriment of others - he's just not that guy) but at the same time is open to adjusting his perspective should new information, concepts or possibilities come his way. He is constantly evolving his information bank and craft  -and not necessarily seeking it in the way the rest of us might, rather it seems to find him;  often while he meditates on a tiny dew drop balanced on a blossom of an edible flower growing in his impressive home garden - more accurately - a mini food farm. From which I have tasted the buds, leaves and grass of numerous exotic species and even nicked the odd yuzu and Japanese turnip for my own culinary purposes ! Yes, it is pretty fantastic.

It is without a doubt that I have edged my way a little deeper into Peter's world and mind through the process of making Organum.  I needed to make sure that together we got down on paper exactly what he wanted to say about every aspect of the contents in a way that the everyday punter would understand. Did we lock horns from time to time? Sure you could call it that I guess - but only in the  nicest possible, bendiest-plush-toy kinda way - as you can imagine of someone of Peter's character. We are both stubborn in our own special way, which is often required in our respective lines of work and related responsibilities - but without a doubt there was a healthy give and take from both sides. A good dose of respect and trust goes a long way in this kind of working relationship and we are fortunate to share that.

Regardless, you try being the person to tell one of the world's most highly acclaimed, respected and liked chefs 'no you can't say it like that because it doesn't really make sense....' or 'the marketing team isn't into that idea...' . Of course certain things make sense to Peter in a way that they might not to other people - that's what makes him so brilliant at what he does - but it was my job to make sure that 'the masses' could connect to his thoughts and feelings throughout the text. Peter communicates so sublimely through his cuisine that it sets off a complex range of emotions in most diners  - much like a unique artwork or piece of writing might - so there was no pressure at all....

One of the beautiful things about working together with a person you regard highly as a craft person and a human is that it allows you to have a little rethink about your own ideas from time to time and develop your abilities in ways you might never have anticipated. Throughout the process we certainly inspired each other to work in ways differently than we might have if we'd been working on our own. I'm grateful for the opportunity on so many levels.

But Peter isn't the only person I am honoured to have worked with on this title. Peter himself works with a great team at Quay, from his brilliant chefs and front of house lovelies to GM Kylie Ball and owners - The Fink Group. They have all made me feel like family for the entire time I've been lurking around Quay as we pulled these two books together. They know me well enough to know what I look like in the morning when I haven't had enough sleep and how I take my coffee. It often turns up before I've had a chance to think about it. (Thank you Robert x). They'll give me a good strong 'welcome back' hug when they haven't seen me for a week, they know when to feed me something they've been testing in the kitchen that I am gonna LOVE (Sam and Rob I'm looking at you - and the pastry crew!!)  and a plate will land in front of me when staff meal is up if I'm STILL hanging (sniffing) around. Occasionally I've been known to accept a glass of champers. Not complaining. The service team also developed a knack for politely-but-urgently tell me to piss off because they really need the green room to set up for a function.. But I would expect no less from the team at Quay. Culture is top down after all.

When it comes to a book project, especially one of this calibre, depth and size,  there are a whole lot of  behind the scenes people  involved at various stages of production who are rarely acknowledged.  Having worked for many years on both sides of the fence in book publishing I know it only too well. Thank you in particular to publisher Diana Hill,  for asking me to be involved in this project and trusting me to just get on with it.  I also want to give a shout out to the various editors on the book - especially the gorgeous Melody Lord who whipped things into shape at the 12th hour and to Christine Osmond for her work on the recipe testing - again, not a job for the average recipe tester ! And she ain't no average anything!

Before I took on this rather enormous and detailed gig I knew I'd be working with a treasured mate  -the enormously talented designer Reuben Crossman - who is just as stubborn and anal as me (but in an annoyingly brilliant way).  We've worked together on many projects including the first Quay book, Ben Shewry's Origin, most of Frank Camorra and co-writer Richard Cornish's MoVida books,  Matthew Evans' Real Food Companion and several of Pete Evans' books to name a few - and he's even designed a couple of my own titles too - Snowflakes and Schnapps and Zenbu Zen - finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto. He cannot help but go above and beyond and speaks a  different language to many people, even other creatives - that's why he works so damn well with Chef Gilmore.

Add to this heady cocktail of creative juices - one of the most technically superb photographers I have had the pleasure of working with (he also shot my books Snowflakes and Schnapps and made snowy villages appear in a north shore suburb of Sydney). There was no way on earth I could NOT work on this book. At the end of every recipe shoot day for Organum we'd gather around photographer Brett Stevens' screen at the resulting collection of images and literally go 'wow' - our lower jaws hanging slack. Actually there was sometimes a little bit of sweary excitement.

When working for an extended period (about 18 months) with a bunch of perfectionists with strong ideas you could be forgiven for thinking there might have been regular clashes - but honestly - if anything there was mild frustration from one party or another for mere minutes on the odd day and that's about it!. And what we collectively understand with much experience behind us all  - is that it is absolutely part of the process in a collaborative work and what it does do, alongside all the other queries and checks,  is help to produce a result much more layered and enigmatic than the sum of its parts - which is what Organum is all about... You'll have to read the book to find out more on that ;).

Even if you don't read it - you simply must fondle its textural cover, sniff its pages and wonder at the amazing imagery. But of course you should do that in the privacy of your own home.

Yesterday the Peter Gilmore App  for i-pad went LIVE - and it, like Organum, is a thing of beauty. Yet another layer of the Peter Gilmore and Organum story with stunning food porny video to boot!. A magnificent collaboration between Peter, Reuben, Brett and the exceptional Pollen Digital   

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cafe Bastille

If you are feeling a little Frenchy Frenchy around lunch time in Kyoto town you can find great, simple bistro fare at Cafe Bastille for a few dollars more than a sandwich in Sydney.  I was very impressed with their lunch of the day which included a wonderful chilled pumpkin soup (perfect on a very hot day!) and chicken grilled to perfection with Dijon, salad and chips on the side. All for 1300 yen which is around $15 AUD. If I'd wanted a cold drink (which may have included a small glass of vino -can't remember)  I could have added one on for 200 yen - just over $2 AUD. I was happy with ice cold water !
I'd seen this place a million times but never been in and only did so because the restaurant I was going to a few doors up the road  - the fabulous Comme Chez Michel was not open when I tapped on the door! AND  because I was so damn hot I thought I was going to expire.  I'm so pleased I walked through that door and can't wait to return to see what it is like for dinner!
and a little touch of Oz in the facilities....

YAYOI Restaurant. Sydney.

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to MC the launch of Yayoi Restaurant in Sydney - the first of the famous Yayoi family to open oustide of Asia. 

It was a pretty exciting time for both the family owned company and for the Sydney market who were introduced to Teishoku style dining which loosely translates as a 'set' of dishes. That is - you order a meal which generally contains a main protein dish, and a couple of sides - usually a selection of vegetable dishes or perhaps tofu for example - plus rice, soup and pickles.  It's Japanese home cooking - nothing too tricky - just tasty, filling and feel good!  Teishoku meals are well-considered and nutritionally balanced with a range of flavours and textures  - plus, at Yayoi they are attractively presented on trays and it's bloody delicious.  While Teishoku meals are the focus at Yayoi - you can order individual dishes for yourself, or sharing, too - like we did on this occasion.

Yayoi also happen to have quite a few sakes (and boy did we taste some!) and Japanese Beers which adds to the experience of course! And the rice, which they have grown just for them, is a hybrid with the appearance of white rice but the nutrition of brown - and it is very good.  Win Win. Plus it gets cooked at your table in a mini version of a traditional rice cooker. As it takes about 20 minutes they suggest ordering it straight away so it can cook away at your table while you peruse the menu and order everything else - which comes out very quickly.
 The restaurant has been packed for lunches and dinner since it opened and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw another one popping up in Australia in the not too distant future... so keep an eye out for a Yayoi near you! 
Last week I was finally able to return to Yayoi and relax with a Japanese friend and her husband and enjoy a few old favourites. Fortunately we were all on the same wavelength with the favourites...  ie the stuff we can't usually get here, the comforting grub from our other 'home'  - the expertly fried stuff we don't normally cook for ourselves - the likes of Tonkatsu and Chicken Nanban for example, done really well.  Oh...I could do with a bite of this deliciousness right about now.
It was really nice, several months after the glamorous opening, to see first hand how well the place is running - I've never been served so quickly and seamlessly in  my life (you order by i-pad and your drinks are with you within a minute or so and your meal very shortly afterwards!) and the food we ate was so authentic that it really was like being back in Japan - rarely do I experience that here in Australia.  

Well done Yayoi! I'll be back again soon with the boy who missed out and is VERY cranky about it!

Oh and if you want to hear a little bit more here's me gasbagging about Japanese food on 2GB