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North Island, New Zealand Part 1

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and to lots more eating in 2015 – I certainly know there will be a lot of it happening! It’s been a while since I last blogged, we had a nice 2 weeks break, just hanging in Hong Kong. New resolution this year is to blog a little more, not nearly as much as pre-Dragon but definitely a little more than post-Dragon! Below is a family photo from our trip in New Zealand which I absolutely love!

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It seems like forever since our last trip to New Zealand (have yet to blog about Kaoshiung, and not to mention some eateries from Helsinki and Prague!), we were there just over a week. I have previously been to New Zealand, South Island to be exact – Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford Sound and had a wonderful time. We did the awesome foursome which includes bungee jumping, white water rafting, canoeing and shotover jet. This time though, we were in the North Island, for a wedding in Auckland and thought we would check out the nearby towns. We stayed a couple of nights in Taupo, then Napier (my favourite!), Auckland and then Bay of Islands.

We arrived quite late to Auckland and ‘The Mother’ drove straight away to Lake Taupo, so by the time we got there it was quiet late, bed time for Dragon and we didn’t do much. We had something quick to eat on the way which I can’t even remember, either Mc Donalds or KFC!

Where we stayed: Hilton Lake Taupo, 80 – 100 Napier Road Taupo and we got the suite. It was very spacious, separate bedroom and living room. It was a shame we were there in Winter, would have loved to have gone swimming. The water was warm, but outside was freezing!

What we did: We had lunch and dinner at Lake Taupo town. We took photos in front of the lake and it was beautiful. Even our little photographer couldn’t wait to take photos of us and order us around!

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What we ate: We had breakfast twice at Dixie Browns, which was located on the shores of Lake Taupo. It has one of the largest fresh water lakes in the South Hemisphere and there was also the view of Mt Ruapehue, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the hot chocolate

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With a large dollop of chocolate which I couldn’t help but eat on its own! YUM!

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I opt for the kiwi farmhouse breakfast (NZ19.90) – fried eggs, Kransky sausage, mushroom, hash browns, smokey bacon and grilled tomato served with hot buttered toast. It was a pretty large serving (bacon and tomato not on the same plate) and pretty decent.

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‘The Mother’ opt for a sweeter breakfast, truck stop pancake stack (NZD15.90) – blueberry pancake stack drizzled with maple syrup and cream. Oh my, it was good but sickly sweet in my opinion especially with hot chocolate, but ‘The Mother’ seemed to have enjoyed it.

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Service at the Dixie Browns was excellent and food was good, that we came again the next day to try out their lunch menu!

After brunch, we took a quick drive to Chateau Tongariro Hotel – it’s a BEAUTIFUL Chateau, ‘The Mother’ originally wanted to stay here, but I was against moving every single night as it wouldn’t be too relaxing.

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We went inside and had some afternoon tea, scones and tea and some bread for Dragon at the Ruapehu Lounge Bar.

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The scones were beautiful, I have missed good scones, I have tasted some horrid ones here in Hong Kong, guess I can just make my own?

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And we got some bread with dips for Dragon

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We went for a drive to the top of the mountain, and the views were spectacular. I love how there were still snow which was amazing and yes it was STILL VERY COLD!!!!

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For dinner, we ate at Taupo town centre, Plateau Restaurant & Bar. There was even a kids menu which was awesome – drink, food and dessert for NZD15! Dragon opt for the meatballs, tomato sauce with steamed rice (weird combo I thought but she seemed to have enjoyed it). And she of course enjoyed her ice cream sundae which we took some also.

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I was a tad greedy and ordered the 2 things – the crispy fried chicken with chipotle mayo (NZD12.50) – it was a little bigger than I anticipated. I was expecting drumsticks and wings, however, it was chicken breast fried, which was a little disappointing.

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The steamed pork bun, braised pork, coriander, hoisin sauce (NZD9.0) was a little dry, I liked the steamed bun but the braised pork was a little on the dry side which was a shame.

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‘The Mother’ opt for the fresh market fish with some saffron pasta which he utterly enjoyed.

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The next morning, we had brunch at Replete Café and store which was also located in the town centre.  It was a relatively busy when we rocked up,  you pay at the counter and food will be delivered to your table. I absolutely LOVED the banana smoothie – very creamy and had a pretty strong banana taste which I liked.

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For breakfast, I opt for the field mushrooms on megagrain farmhouse toast with sausage (NZD16.00). Dragon ate most of the sausage, as I was happy to just have the mushroom.

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‘The Mother’ opt for the complete Replete breakfast (NZD17.50) – eggs, chargrilled bacon, roasted field mushrooms, grilled focaccia and tomato relish. I stole some bacon but he pretty much demolished this on his own.

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We left for Napier just after lunch and arrived at about 4.30pm. Now have I mentioned how much I LOVE NAPIER? From memory it was about 4 hours drive from Lake Taupo. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Napier. It’s located in Hawke’s Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island.

Where we stayed: Art Deco Masonic Hotel, 2 Tennyson Street, Napier South, Napier 4110, New Zealand. It was a very ‘cool’ and funky hotel. There’s a pub downstairs and we got the pacific suite, again separate living and bedroom and overlooking the ocean – it was indeed beautiful!

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What we did: We arrived early afternoon, and we walked along the Marine Parade, again taking photos. This time jump shots which Dragon absolutely loved!

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We also went to the National Aquarium, it’s not a big aquarium but worth visiting, especially since it was raining. Dragon found this ride and didn’t want to leave! We walked around town, I wanted to do a bit of shopping but ran out of time. Definitely worth staying at Napier a bit longer. We also went for a drive, about 1 hour drive to a mountain, it was so windy that Dragon couldn’t stop laughing- she loves the cold weather! There were some jump shots also!

We had breakfast at the hotel both days as it came with the package, nothing too fancy but it was pretty good – eggs, bacon, toast, pastries, cereals and fruits.

For dinner on the first night, we ate at Emporium eatery and bar which is located at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel.

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We shared a couple of things, including a pizza – roast chicken, chorizo, brie, pesto mayo and rocket which Dragon thoroughly enjoyed. The crust was thin and there was a generous serving of chicken and chorizo.

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I loved the fried polenta, cauliflower puree, smoked tomato salsa and parmesan (NZD15) – ‘The Mother’ wasn’t a huge fan of polenta, which meant more for me!

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The pork, fennel and lemon meatballs, hummus and tzatziki (NZD16) was good but I still preferred the polenta.

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We were too full for dessert, and it was almost Dragon’s nap time, so we waddled upstairs and had a wonderful sleep!

The next day, we had lunch at Salt, which is also known as the ‘round house’, a Napier icon. It has a lovely view of the inner harbor of Ahuriri and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For lunch we had the lunch menu which was a great deal! I think for NZD20, you get soup or salad or garlic bread and a choice of main.

We had the cream of mushroom, which was deliciously creamy

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The garlic focaccia which Dragon demolished!

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‘The Mother’ opt for the steak, which was served with herb butter and chips! The steak wasn’t too bad for the price, and cooked just the way he likes it.

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I opt for the chicken and mango filo pastry with a side of salad. It was ok, the filing was quite rich, it was a little too creamy for my liking.

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Service was good, and pretty decent value. Pity my chicken filo pastry was a little on the rich side. There were a lot of seafood on the menu if you preferred (which is also their specialty!).

For dinner, we made reservations with Mister D and I have to say, it is one of the best food I have eaten in a while! Mister D is ‘a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, we believe in fresh, local produce delivered with great service but no fuss’.

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We started with some fresh bread which was hot and fresh – yum!

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The waiter suggested the potato gnocchi, cheese sauce and coffee (but without the coffee) (NZD13) for Dragon. It was a very cool presentation, gnocchi served on a stick, which creamy and cheesy sauce. Unfortunately Dragon didn’t take a liking to the gnocchi or cheese sauce – I should have known. She is not a big fan of potatoes and she hates cheesy food, cheese on its own she loves, but cheese on food, not so much!

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I couldn’t go past the bone marrow ravioli, beef juices, salsa verde (NZD24.50) – OMG! THE BEST! Even Dragon ate half of it (maybe more). The ravioli with bone marrow was just superb, tender and delivious and the beef juice – my my. I could have definitely eaten a second serving on my own!

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‘The Mother’ opt for fist in a bag, new potatoes, asparagus, Telegraph Hill smoked olives parlsey butter (NZD29.50) – it was quite a novelty. The fish was incredibly tender and ‘The Mother’ definitely enjoyed it.

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For dessert, we shared the ginger beer crème caramel, poached rhubarb and gingerbread (NZD15). Dragon ate most of the gingerbread on her own, she wasn’t a huge fan of the crème caramel but it’s probably due to texture. ‘The Mother’ and I fought for every single last piece – it was delicious!

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I really enjoyed my meal at Mister D and wished we came back the next day for breakfast! I heard the donut was too die for and always runs out!!!! Definitely worth going if you are in Napier, service and food was excellent!

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Next… Auckland and Bays of Islands

Dixie Browns – GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

38 Roberts St, Taupo 3330, New Zealand

Tlp:+64 7-378 8444

Dixie Browns on Urbanspoon

Chateau  Tongariro Hotel – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

State Highway 48, Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7892 3809

Ruapehu Restaurant Chateau Tongariro on Urbanspoon

Plateau Restaurant & Bar – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

64 Tuwharetoa Street Taupo Town Centre, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7377 2425

Plateau Restaurant & Bar, Taupo on Urbanspoon

Replete Café and store – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

45 Heu Heu St Taupo, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 7377 3011

Replete Cafe on Urbanspoon

Emporium eatery and bar – GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

Cnr of Tennyson Street & Marine Parade, Napier, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6835 0013

Emporium Eatery & Bar on Urbanspoon

Salt – GA’s ratings: 6 / 10

10 West Quay Ahuriri, Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6833 6035

Mister D – GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10

47 Tennyson Street Napier South, New Zealand

Tlp: +64 6835 5022

Mister D on Urbanspoon

SeaChange Cafe, Deewhy, Sydney

I’m not sure how my brother, F, discovered this cafe but it is indeed one of their favourites. Located in Dee Why – not an area that I go very often but this place is definitely worth the trek! It’s reasonably cheap, food is quite decent and the portions are unbelievably satisfying. We came on a weekday and the place was busy! We waited for 15 minutes before seated and even then, we tried to squeeze 5 people with 2 kids to a 4 seater! It was so busy and we were hungry so took the first table that was available.

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The menu was vast but we were here for one thing – their local favourites which is basically breakfast – choice of poached, scrambled or fried eggs. Toasted turkish, wholemeal sourdough or gluten free bread. All benedicts topped with hollandaise sauce. Everyone started with either a mocha or coffee and the mocha i really enjoyed. I don’t usually order mocha’s but this was perfect –  not too sweet.

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F and I couldn’t go past the local – eggs, chicken sausage, bacon, tomato and potato rosti (AUD18.90) OMG! When I saw the plate in front of me, I almost fainted! SO MUCH FOOD! I didn’t know where to start.

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O and Mum had the Californian (AUD19.90) – grilled salmon on potato rosti with eggs and rocket and tomato toss! Generous serving of salmon and potato rosti! Not sure how they finished it but they did!

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The English taster (AUD 19.90) was also very good – eggs, lamb cutlet, beef sausage, mushrooms and potato rosti! OMG! I can see why the family likes this place – good value and food is pretty good! Service was friendly and polite. Would definitely come back next time – bit far but definitely worth the drive, especially if it’s a nice and sunny day!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

SeaChange Cafe

20 The Strand

Dee Why, Sydney

Ph: +61 2 9971 9692

SeaChange Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ester, Chippendale, Sydney

A visit to Sydney is not a visit if I don’t catch up with one of my bridesmaid M! I have known this girl for a very long time and is one of my dearest friends! M suggested we go to Ester, which is a new-ish restaurant in Chippendale, backed by the guys behind Vini, Berta and 121BC. It’s run by Mat Lindsay and the sous chef is Nick Wong who is ex-Bodega.

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The restaurant is a lot smaller than I thought, however, I thought it looked very similar to its sisters restaurant. I quite like the relax atmosphere and the vibe. The menu is quite vast, diners can choose from the snacks, small plates and woodfire section and everything sounded delicious. We weren’t sure what we wanted so opt for the set menus which are available for $62 or $89 per person. The $62 has about 7 courses – my goodness. M and I don’t usually go for set menus but we were determined that evening. The courses are chosen by the chef, however, we could choose it ourselves. Considering I had a nut allergy and couldn’t eat any seafood, we picked our own.

Whilst perusing the menu, we were served with some tasty crispy chickpeas which were lightly garnished with salt and rosemary – oh my… tasty! M started with some oysters ($3.5each) and she said they were good!

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The la tur cheese was delicious, it’s a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. It was soft and goey and runny, and the mandarin and fennel really gave it a nice touch.

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We both couldn’t resist the blood sausage ($6) and it was delish! The sauce was just incredible.

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Now onto the small plates. Started with the polenta, corn and sage ($18) were deliciously creamy and sweet. It was hard not to lick the plate!

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The pig tail, oyster and daikon ($20) – all sorts of wonderfulness on a plate!

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We really enjoyed the tender duck which was served with pear and enoki ($19) – very light, very nice! The pear really complemented the duck well.

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The woodfired section of the menu is the larger dishes on the menu. We started with the chicken, lemon, garlic ($26). The chicken was so tender that it just fell apart and melted in your mouth.

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The lamb, yoghurt and coriander ($32) was surprisingly tasty and tender but it was a little too lamb-y for my liking. M really liked it though.

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For dessert, we had the ice cream – salted caramel, fennel and chocolate. I have to say that my least favourite was fennel – it was just too weird for me. However, the salted caramel and chocolate were both really lovely. The chocolate was probably the winner for me, the salted caramel was a little too sweet.

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We were both stuffed to the brim! Everything was delicious, my favourites would have to be the pork sausage, the polenta and the duck – seriously incredible! Would definitely be back to try their other dishes – especially the seafood ones.

Service was polite and friend, will definitely be back!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Ester Restaurant

52 Meagher Street

Chippendale, 2008

Ph: +61 2 8068 8279

Ester Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

The Woods, Sydney

The Woods is Hamish Ingham’s latest restaurant which can be found inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney. It is on the ground floor and the restaurant was a lot bigger than I had anticipated. For a week night, the restaurant was relatively full and I love the open kitchen where you can see the chef in action. The menu is vast, and centred around good quality and fresh produce. I was here with some uni friends, our last meal together and it was definitely wonderful.

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I started with the crispy chicken wing, Jerusalem artichokes and pickled shallots. The chicken wings were excellent, crispy and incredibly tender and the Jerusalem artichokes and pickled shallots a wonderful complement.

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T had the soup, from memory it was cauliflower soup. I didn’t have any of this but T seemed to have enjoyed it.

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C had the Ash seasoned ocean trout, smoked trout roe & parsley salad – this looked superb but unfortunately I didn’t have any of it either. He did say that it was pretty good, he didn’t like the parsley salad, but then again, he is not really a vegetable kind of guy! The brioche was tasty he said.

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For mains, I couldn’t go past the slow cooked beef short rib, pickled shallots and pepperberry sauce. The ribs are deboned and it was incredibly tender that it just fell apart. The sauce was a little rich for my liking but the beef was definitely excellent.

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T had the olive wood roasted lamb, sticky carrots and pressed potato. The roasted lamb was a little gamey T thought, but nevertheless it was nice.

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C had the Grasslands beef fillet, smoked eggplant, black garlic and parsnip chips. The beef was incredibly tender, and the parsnip chips were delicious.

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We also ordered a side of roast pumpkin, toasted walnuts and midnight moon – wow. This was definitely my favourite! Definitely could have eaten the whole thing on my own!

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I was getting full by this stage but thought we would share the earl grey tea tart which was extremely creamy and not too sweet. We really enjoyed the tart.

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Service was excellent and food was delicious! Thought it would be a bit noisy but it was surprisingly ok. Will definitely be back next time.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

The Woods

199 George St

Sydney 2000

Ph: +61 2 9250 3160

The Woods on Urbanspoon

CNY at Biota Dining, Bowral

February 22, 2013 1 comment

Guest post from my favourite Uncle – how he spent Chinese New Year with his family!

There is no secret that I am a big fan of Biota Dining. When Chinese New Year crept up on us last weekend, Shrek suggested we escape the madness of Sydney and have lunch with the family down at Biota. It takes very little to convince me to drive down to the highlands.

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We pretty much ordered everything on their lounge menu (double orders of some of the dishes like the wagyu burger) eforxcept  the olives and the salad. We even had a second order of the pork belly, the school prawns and the croquettes because we liked it so much. We thought we’d still have space for dessert after, but alas. Next time, I say! Just means we’d need to come back.

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If you want some place to go to that is out of Sydney – head down to the Southern Highlands – it’s only an hour’s drive (driving to the speed limit) from the Sydney Airport (so longer, if you’re coming from across the bridge). There are lots to do there for a day trip – if you’re a cricket fan, you can check out the Don Bradman museum. Other fun things for a day trip or an overnight stay: Fitzroy Falls, Robertson Cheese Factory (they serve AllPress Coffee ice cream there), Illawara Fly Tree Top Walk and a couple of boutique wineries. Spring time is a good time to visit as well! There’s a mini floriade just off the main street of Bowral (called ‘Bong Bong Street’). And Milton Park is always pretty in Spring.

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Side note: Lots of good produce comes from the highlands. We also want to visit Highland Organics next time we’re there. Boo, our free range baby really likes the dairy there. And don’t worry, they’re available for pick up from the weekend markets at Eveleigh and Marrickville. So you don’t need to hike all the way down there. Those on twitter: follow Ester. She’d sort you out with the goodies.

Back to Biota: Chef James Viles and team have done a great job: Acquiring their 2nd Chefs hat last year! Congrats, Chef! Always progressive, there are markets on the last Sunday of each month too where local producers bring their goodies and have them for sale on the grounds of Biota. Check it all out here. Lots of parking (yeah, you Sydney siders are always worried about that). Spacious, friendly and child friendly. For the lovey doveys who want to hold hands and stare into each other eyes: the fine dining side of Biota rocks. Don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.

And here are the goodies that we had to farewell the year of the Dragon.

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Crispy morcilla – soft hen egg $12

Cheese and egg croquette $9

Season’s oysters – jerez vinegar $18

Shoestring fries with pine salt  $9

Fried school prawns with spiced salt $16

Seasoned baby squid with shallots $14

Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and ricotta $12

Dry pork belly with native spices $16

Biota wagyu slides $14

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Biota Dining

Kangaloon Rd

Bowral, NSW 2576

Ph: +61 2 4862 2005

Biota Dining on Urbanspoon

Huxtable, Fitzroy, Melbourne

December 11, 2012 1 comment

A trip to Melbourne for work meant that I get to eat at some of the restaurants I have wanted to try and Huxtable has been on the list for a while now. Located at Fitzroy, the restaurant is quite tiny, and reservations are highly recommended. Daniel Wilson is the owner and chef behind this great restaurant, and I have to say, I had high expectations and it did not disappoint.

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I had made reservations at 7pm and the place was already busy at the time. I had perused the menu a week before so knew exactly what I wanted but let ‘The Mother’ have a quick look before ordering. He couldn’t go past the olives, green and brown and they were delicious and fresh.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t resist ordering the chilli smoked mussels, pickled shallots, aioli (g) ($9.50). They were deliciously smokey and plump and the aioli gave it a nice touch.

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The jalapeno and cheddar croquette ($3.50) was excellent – the combination of the jalapeno and cheese was a match in heaven! Who would have thought? It was amazing!

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The tempura eggplant and prawn fritter ($5.50) was lightly battered, I love the eggplant and the prawn was moreish.

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For something more substantial, ‘The Mother’ opt for sashimi of ocean trout, finger lime & sesame ponzu, seaweed ($23). Beautifully presented, I love the redness of the ocean trout! It was fresh and absolutely delicious and I love the ponzu sauce.

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I couldn’t go past the korean bbq pork ribs, spicy slaw, chilli gherkin ($24) – OMG! The ribs were amazingly good – tender, succulent and lots of flavour! It was a little spicy and the spicy slaw and chili gherkin a wonderful complement. Probably the highlight dish that evening.

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For dessert, we ordered the warm banana bread, caramelised white chocolate, espresso ice cream ($12). Loved the espresso ice cream and the banana bread was soft and fluffy.

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We really enjoyed our meal at Huxtable and would definitely come back to try their other dishes. However in saying that, it would be difficult to resist ordering the kimchi ribs! Service was very friendly and they really looked after us and Dragon which was nice. Loved the ambiance, the fit out and especially the food!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Huxtable

 

131 Smith Street

Fitzroy, 3065

Melbourne

Ph: +61 3 9419 5101

Huxtable on Urbanspoon

Movida Sydney, Surry Hills

An impromptu work trip led me back to Sydney, I wasn’t really excited as first as I had only left 3 – 4 months ago but then I thought about catching up with friends and eating at some great restaurants including Movida and suddenly became excited! I admit, I love being in Hong Kong but I have missed my friends (you know who you are!) and I have missed the café scene as it is pretty much non-existent in Hong Kong! As always, I had a list of places to go, and although I have been to Movida and Movida Aqui in Melbourne, I was keen to try the Movida in Sydney! Menu was the pretty much the same, ‘The Mother’ and I tried not to order anything that we had before and I don’t think we did!

Movida Sydney is located on Holt Street, where Cotton Duck used to be – I dined there once, it was good but nothing special I thought and even though I was sad to see it close, I am glad that Movida has taken the place over! Thankfully they take bookings, so we made reservations for lunch, but it wasn’t too busy which was good.

We started with some sour dough bread – fresh and delicious – god how I have missed GOOD fresh bread!

We started with Sardinilla – house cured WA baby sardines, set in a Gazpacho jelly and served with a heirloom tomato salad ($16.50) which was on the daily menu special. ‘The Mother’ LOVES sardines so this was a must get. The sardines were fresh and not slimy and the heirloom tomatoes I LOVED! It was refreshing light and deliciously tasty!

‘The Mother’ wanted the grilled chorizo and pardon sandwich ($7 each) – he didn’t offer any to me but said it was ‘excellent’.

I couldn’t go past the quail terrine ($7 each) which was served with mash potatoes.

We both couldn’t go past Pancetta ($25) – oven roasted pork belly with quince ali oli and spiced carrot salad. OMG was my first reaction; it was definitely a generous serving. The pork meat was so tender that I didn’t even need a knife to cut through it (I was feeding Dragon and only had one hand!) The pork crackle – OMG! Crispy, thin and absolutely awesome – I would have loved more crackle!

The zucchini flowers with calamari were not what I expected. I guess in my mind, I had thought it was zucchini flowers STUFFED with calamari! Nevertheless, it was still good, and the calamari was incredibly tender.

Last but not least – I was getting full by this stage – patatas bravas con mojo ($16) – smoked potato bravas with faux bacon dust, served with Mojo pico. The potatoes were soft with a crispy layer and I loved the mojo pico.

Unfortunately we didn’t get any dessert, I was craving the lamington panna cotta from Flour and Stone and no doubt we went and I bought the last four lamingtons! Cravings satisfied and I still believe that it is the BEST lamington in Sydney!

Back to Movida – service was fantastic and food was as good as Melbourne.

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Movida Sydney

50 Holt Street

Surry Hills 2010

Ph: +61 2 8964 7642

MoVida Sydney on Urbanspoon

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