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Kin by Us, Macquarie Park

My goodness, it seems forever since we were in Sydney! At the rate I am going, I will be back from my Sydney trip in June and I am still writing about my last visit! Whoopsie! Now, Kin By Us, is run by My Kitchen Rules 2014 couple – Uel and Shannelle – I have heard wonderful things about this place, especially the menu which has a Chinese and Korean influence. But best of all, it was in my old hood where I grew up!

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The place was incredibly busy when we rocked up at 11, we waited for a good 35 mins before finally seated but it was worth it! We started with this cool fretting water-my-melon drink. It had a combination of watermelon and all the different types of melon in it. It was definitely refreshing and Dragon couldn’t help but drink most of it – there is no sharing in her vocabulary!

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I couldn’t go past the Snap Crackle Plop (AUD10) – only available after 11.30. Chicken rice, chicken skin and a slow cooked onsen egg! My goodness, this was AMAZING – and who doesn’t like chicken skin right? My only gripe, wish there was more chicken skins!!! The chicken rice was definitely legit, Dragon demolished this and I am pretty sure I only had one piece whilst Dragon had the rest!

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The congee (AUD17) was beautifully presented. There was way too much shallots for my liking, but I did enjoy the pork floss and not to mention the fried bread dough. There was mix reviews on this congee, one absolutely enjoyed it, the other wasn’t a big fan of pork floss. I thought it was nice, but I am not much of a congees person, except for when I am sick, and I would definitely eat this if i was sick!

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Another favourite of mine is the Waffle Belly (AUD17) – delicious succulent pork belly and onsen egg on top of potato waffle! My goodness, that pork belly was just too die for and the perfect gooey onsen egg was a wonderful complement. This was definitely my favourite!

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Oh and those who likes Durian, they have durian affogato and my goodness – this was excellent. I would come back just to have the waffle belly and durian affogato!

Service was excellent and friendly. Come early, as it does get extremely busy. Also, parking around the hood is NOT easy. I went here twice and the first time I drove and ended up parking in Macquarie Shopping Centre, the second walked! Definitely a good addition to Macquarie Park and can’t wait to go back and try it!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Kin By Us

2 Saunders Close

Macquarie Park, Sydney, Australia

KIN By Us on Urbanspoon

North Island, New Zealand Part II

So Part I was all about Lake Taupo, and Napier. Now the second part is about driving back from Napier to Auckland and stopping at Rotatua, spending a few days in Auckland and a few days in Bays of Island.

After Napier, we drove all the way to Auckland, it was about a 6 hour drive but we did stop in Roturua – we had originally going to stay overnight here but ‘The Mother’ decided against it and went straight to Napier. We sent to Polynesian Spa which I loved, however, Dragon, not so much! The water was WAY too hot for her and she said that it smelt like ‘poo poo’ LOL. We even got a private pool (only 30 mins) and we stayed at the Lake Spa for a bit. I would definitely have loved a massage, but ‘The Mother’ was eager to stop by a park (I can’t for the life remember the name) before Auckland. There were SO MUCH SPACE and GRASS!!!! LOVE!

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Where we stayed: a 4 bedroom house (found on air bnb by ‘The Mother’s aunt) which was nice and spacious. Only problem was the walls were so thin, we could hear a pin drop!

What we did: nothing much, we had a wedding at Abbeville Estate – it was a beautiful place for a wedding and Dragon again wore her favourite and BEST outfit for the day!

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What we ate – for breakfast we ate at home, and obviously a wonderful meal for the wedding and dim sum (yum cha) for the day after wedding. I did have a pretty good meal with one of my oldest and dearest friend in Auckland – Blue Breeze inn which serves a delicious Modern Chinese food.

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Chef Che Barrington is the chef behind Blue Breeze Inn and in 2011, he opened MooChowChow, Auckland’s first modern Thai restaurant. There were so many options on the menu. We started with the steamed bun of roasted pork belly and pickled cucumber (NZD10 each) – that crackle, it was sublime and the bun itself was soft and pillowy which was excellent.

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We also couldn’t go past the steamed bun of five-spiced tofu, kimchi, and coriander (NZD9 each) – I have to say, this was pretty good. I may have preferred this over the pork belly one and that says a lot!

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The bang bang chili chicken with black vinegar, sesame-chilli dressing (NZD18) was ‘bang bang’. The chili really gave it a nice kick! It was a little spicy for Dragon unfortunately but she definitely enjoyed my pork belly more.

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The beef unfortunately wasn’t as tender as I had hoped. It was a little on the tough side.

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For dessert, we ordered a couple of things to share. Mango, tapioca and lemon sorbet was refreshingly light and was a great palate cleanser!

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The taro dumplings were more on the heavier side but it’s not something I have eaten before. It was good but I definitely prefer the mango, tapioca and so did Dragon!

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Service was good and food was pretty good, especially the pork buns, shame about the beef though, as I was craving beef!

Before we left Auckland we had a quick lunch at Toru Café which is located in Ponsoby – I am really loving that area. It’s a little like Paddington, if you live in Sydney.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the beef cheek, tomato, kasundi, carrot pie which was served with crinkle chips (NZD16.50) – oh how I fell in love with the crinkle chips! My my! It was crinkle potato chips, slightly fried, it was delicious. The pie itself wasn’t too bad either.

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I couldn’t go past the spiced chicken, halloumi, cous cous, raisin, harissa, date (NZD22.50) – I love cous cous, and not to mention squeaky cheese! Unfortunately Dragon wasn’t a huge fan of cous cous, nor the squeaky cheese, she did however, eat all my chicken.

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Service was polite and friendly, it’s a pretty cool little café, it was in the middle of a shopping arcade and was very relaxed. Food was good and everything on the menu sounded great! Those chips though – worth coming back for just a bowl of crinkle cut chips!

We were in Auckland for about 3 days, and then we drove up to Bays of Island. It was about a 2-3 hour drive, very scenic but lets be honest here, I spent most of it sleeping! Every opportunity I had, I was sleeping, I was SO TIRED and besides, cars and I – sleep! Who doesn’t? Come on?

Where we stayed: Waterfront Suite Paihia – Herritage Boutique Collection, 100 Marsden Road, Paihia, Bay of Islands, Paihia, New Zealand. We got the 2 bedroom apartments – don’t ask why but we definitely enjoyed the space! LOTS OF SPACE! And had a view of the ocean, which was beautiful!

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What we did: if it was summer or if Dragon was a little older, we could have gone swimming with the dolphins, go kayaking etc. But alas, our little Dragon is still 2.5 years old. We hung around town, there was a lovely grass area, and a piano where Dragon could not stop playing! I believe she has musical blood in her, just like her mama!

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What we ate:

We arrived early afternoon, and thought we would have an early dinner at Alongside which is situated over the water in the stunning bay of islands. It’s a very laid back place, very casual, we sat there drinking and eating whilst watching the sunset. It was a tad cold but it was still quite pleasant.

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I couldn’t go past the braised beef croquette – 4 generous size croquette with lots and lots of beef. The outside was slightly burnt but the inside, my my my… it was absolutely amazing!

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the soft shell fish tacos with our local catch, apple and mango salsa. He demolished this before I could even take a photo of it.

We also ordered a side of chunky street fries with rosemary salt and smoked aioli – they were demolished by the three of us! So good!

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They even had a kids menu for Dragon. Not pictured but for NZD10 – a bowl of Bolognese pasta and juice. She loves pasta so had no problems demolishing it.

It is really a nice way to spend the afternoon / evening. I can envisage many Sunday lazy afternoons sitting here, drinking and catching up with friends. It was really a very nice and pleasant area.

The next morning we had breakfast at Upper Deck, which was next door to our apartment. I ordered the big breakfast to share with Dragon – 2 fried eggs, bacon, sausage, mushroom and hash browns which was served with some brown toast. Pretty large serving, Dragon isn’t really a toast kind of girl for breakfast, she usually eats rice and leftovers for dinner. She loved the sausage and mushroom though, the toast she thought was a little hard.

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‘The Mother’ had something more simple – he was a little over big breakfasts (HOW COULD HE?) and opt for muesli, yogurt and fruit which was surprisingly good! Fresh fruit and the yogurt was surprisingly good!

We had dinner at one of the local pizza place near our apartments. The pizza wasn’t too bad, very big but it was for four of us. We ordered two of it and managed to finish it all!

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Overall, it was a great trip I love New Zealand, it’s such a beautiful place. However, the driving – the driving with Dragon almost killed me! Never again I think. We did have a good time, and would be keen to go to the South Island at some point.

Blue Breeze Inn

GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

146 Ponsoby Road

Auckland, New Zealand, 1011

Ph: +64 9 360 0303

Toru

GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

16 – 138 Ponsoby Road

Auckland, New Zealand, 1011

Ph: +64 9 555 1229

Alongside

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

69 Marsden Road,

Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Ph: +64 9 402 6220

Upper Deck

GA’s ratings: 7 / 10

76 Marsden Road

Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Ph: +64 9402 8147

The Pig and Pastry, Petersham, Sydney

I have heard wonderful things about The Pig and Pastry which opened sometimes last year by a husband and wife team. I was catching up with a couple of my favourite peeps in Sydney and suggested this place. The Pig and Pastry is located in Petersham, overlooking the Petersham Park and serves diner healthy and deliciously breakfast and lunch.

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We started with some drinks – i love the cute tea set and the small milk bottle

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The house made sodas – from memory, mine was the raspberry and strawberry and it was refreshing and excellent for a hot day!

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the bacon and free range egg roll (AUD 9) on soft gap with house made tomato sauce. He has been craving a good back and eggs and this totally hit the spot.

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I opt for the sweet corn fritters (AUD 17.5) served with poached egg (on the side), crispy bacon and avocado salsa. The bacon was a little dry for my liking but the sweet corn fritters was delicious – crunchy on the inside but soft and sweet inside. I especially loved the avocado salsa and not to mention the poached egg!

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E had the poached eggs (AUD17.50) with smoked streaky bacon, roast tomato, field mushroom served on a toasted sourdough and it looked very good! I’d happily eat everything on that plate also!

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Service was polite and friendly. I really wanted some desserts but was feeling extremely full! We arrived at 9.30 am and got a table reasonable easily, as we were leaving at about 11am there were a long queue outside. Really enjoyed my breakfast here, how I have missed cafe food! Would definitely be back in November to try their other dishes, lunch perhaps and some desserts!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

The Pig and Pastry

1 Station Street

Petersham 2049

Ph: +61 2 9568 4644

The Pig & Pastry on Urbanspoon

Nosh Tai Ping Shan, Sheung Wan, Hong Kon

I may have found a cafe that I really like in Hong Kong! Nosh Tai Ping Shan can be found on Upper Station Street just a block away from Upper Modern Bistro which is an up-and-coming area of Sheung Wan filling up with arts galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and cool little shops.

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The place was busy when we rocked up on a Sunday – there were a few people already waiting in line. Thankfully after about a 15 mins wait we were seated by the window, higher seat but it didn’t bother ‘The Mother’, or myself. There was direct sun light which was nice – how I have missed sitting in the sun drinking coffee and eating my breakfast! I really like the menu here… on weekends, there have all day breakfast which i love! On weekdays there are separate breakfast and lunch menus. The lunch  menu changes frequently, and they have salad, sandwich and soup on offer as well.

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‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the Nosh Brunch (HKD140) – two poached eggs on sourdough, german sausages with spicy harissa, yogurt, roasted vine tomatoes, nosh potatoes and grilled portabello. Everything on the plate was fantastic, the bread were on a tiny side, but the potatoes definitely filled him up. I especially loved the portabello mushrooms.

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I opt for fried eggs on toast with crispy prosciutto, avocado puree and mixed green salad (HKD90). You can’t see the avocado puree as it was spread on the tiny bread which is hidden underneath the HUGE fried eggs. This was also very tasty.

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I have to say, I was rather impressed, I have only been once but I have to say that I am extremely excited to go back and try their other dishes. I noticed someone having the smoked salmon and lemon mascarpone on sourdough and it looked relish! Service was ok – there’s definitely room for improvement. There were a lot of confusion between the waitresses but food definitely worth going back for!

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Nosh Tai Ping Shan

G/F, 11 Upper Sation Street

Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Ph: +852 2559 8508

Cafe Ekberg, Helsinki, Finland

Café Ekberg has been around since 1852. They serve buffet breakfasts and daily lunch specials, however, we were here for a quick stop during our shopping expedition as Dragon was asleep and I needed to sit down (she was sleeping on the hip seat and I have been walking with her ‘attached’ to me like a koala for at least 4 hours!)

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Café Ekberg is a very popular café and not only does it serve breakfast and lunch, it also serves great pastries and cakes. It is famous for the napoleon which we ordered and I have to say, I can understand why. Pastry flaky and the cream filling were not super rich. Perfect with a cup of tea!

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I also couldn’t go past the ginger bread – it wasn’t too sweet and didn’t have a strong ginger taste which Dragon also loved!

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Service was friendly and polite. The place was busy no matter what time it was but the pastries are definitely worth going for.

Next door to the café is a patisserie in which you can buy more cakes and bread to take home. We bought a couple of bread for Dragon to eat and no doubt she demolished them!

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On the first few nights we were in Helsinki, Dragon and I were still very jet lag. ‘The Mother’ has been in Europe a week earlier so he was ok and has adjusted. Unfortunately for him, Dragon and I ended up sleeping rather early, mid-afternoon early, 4.30pm on the first day and then 5.30pm on the second day. He was so looking forward to going out for dinner with us, however, we were so tired that an earth quake couldn’t wake us up!

On one of the nights, he went to get Hesburger – Finland’s version of McDonalds – he bought me a chicken burger and chicken nuggets for Dragon. I have to say, it was pretty decent and I preferred this over Mc Donalds.

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Jet lag is never fun, she got up at 2am the first day we were there. It took her about 4 – 5 days to go back to normal. Rule of thumb I hear, one day for each hour, which is about right.

So unfortunately we didn’t go out for dinner very often in Helsinki as we ate a lot of Pizza, and left over pasta! HA!

GA’s rating Café Ekberg: 7.5 / 10

Address: Bulevardi 9, 00120 Helsinki

Tel: +358 9 6811 860

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

The Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills

There has been a lot of talk and hype about this cafe. The crab po’boy and the fried chicken is what I have been hearing from Paramount. Extremely sad that this cafe opened after we left our pad in Surry HIlls – this would definitely have been our hang out cafe! Great food, great coffee – what more can one ask for?

With any cafes in Surry Hills on the weekends, you really do need to go early or be prepared to wait for at least 30 mins! We were here on a Saturday just a little after midday and rightly so, the place was PACKED! Thankfully we didn’t have to wait for long, 20 mins max and we were seated. Unfortunately, we were seated on the bench and with Dragon and my baby niece it was quite difficult. However, there were no tables so we sat on the benches.

The menu was definitely interesting – eggs, french toast, fried chicken and po’boy. I was here with the family and everyone had the crab po’boy – it is their favourite and this is not the first time that they had it. Everyone loved it – the fried crab was crunchy and the coleslaw gave it that extra zing.

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I couldn’t go past the fried chicken – crunchy exterior and deliciously tender inside. Even Dragon loved it! I have to say that it is a pretty decent fried chicken.

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The vanilla milk shake went down nicely too – quickly and perfect for a warm day.

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Service was polite and friendly. Get there early or slightly later if you want to miss the lunch time rush. I had a friend waiting for over 90 mins – I personally wouldn’t. Glad to have tried it though, how can I say no to fried chicken?

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

The Paramount Coffee Project

80 Commonwealth St

Surry Hills, 2010

Ph: +61 2 9211 1122

The Paramount Coffee Project on Urbanspoon