One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
Dear Friends is located on the rural flat lands of the Swan Valley and has featured in the Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Good Food Guide year after year. Chef Kiren focuses on utilising the variety of local and seasonal produce from the region sourcing directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. The entrance to the restaurant is quaint and understated, bordering on old fashioned. For our seven course degustation I chose to have the matched wines and for each course sommelier Kelli took time to explain to me the origin of each wine and why she chose it.
The Boy and I now each have our own individual dietary requirements; obviously I’m still gluten free and fructose friendly but more recently the Boy is a vegetarian. I can see how some kitchens would baulk at having the two of us as their customers. Upon arrival we were immediately made to feel relaxed and at ease as our dietary requirements presented the Dear Friends team with no problems. More importantly each of our dishes were not just ones with alterations and deletions but were carefully planned; plated with elegance and originality.
Our first course consisted of some “tasters”; call them modern day amuse bouche if you like. There were super cheesy Manchego tacos containing some house made fresh cheese, crispy lupin chips topped with eggplant and Saratoga chips with balsamic vinegar. Despite being proud of both my father’s French heritage and all the cheeses that come from this fabulous country I have to confess Spanish Manchego is by far one of my favourite cheeses. It has such a distinctive flavour and the tacos made me reminiscent of my recent over indulgence in Barcelona.
My next course was a Welsh styled watercress soup. Watercress is supposed to aid with the digestion and this soup certainly did sit wonderfully warm in my stomach. The soft flaky blue swimmer crab contrasted with the strong pepperiness from the watercress leaving a fresh crisp taste on the palate.
My third course was the same as the Boy’s as it was a vegetarian dish. Who on Earth said vegetarian food was boring? Silky cubes of home-made soy tofu and locally grown Swan Valley field and oyster mushrooms sat upon a richly flavoured bed of smoky tomato puree. Some crunchy parsnip chips provided an interesting change in texture. This dish threatened to turn any meat eater into a vegetarian!
My next course of West Australian cuttlefish was served with tender tips of new season asparagus, Muchea grown Japanese turnips and shavings of fennel. I was intrigued by these turnips having never eaten them before as they were nearly as sweet as the fennel and as soft like potato. As I made my way through each of the generous wine matches I was glad this dish featured early in the meal. I tend to be a bit of a messy eater; which can worsen the more wine I drink. I could see the potential for me making a complete spectacle of myself and ending up with black ink purée everywhere.
As much as I am very respectful and proud of the Boy in his strong decision to become a vegetarian, I am yet to join him 100% and for my next course I could sense his disapproval at me eating animal flesh. I can console myself that Dear Friends source their organic free range pork from Margaret River Big Red Pork. Big Red’s pigs are kept in small family groups and run free range in the creek lines, grass lands and woodlands of their farm. They are fed on a natural diet of grasses, legumes, grains and grubs which gives the meat a characteristic dark colour. The Kassler pork loin was cured using a German technique which involves smoking and ripening the meat in brine for about 7-10 days. It was served with yellow squash and pickled cucumber. The cucumber gave some lovely sweetened acidity to the saltiness of the meat.
There was no missing out for the Boy as his next vegetarian course looked just as mouth-watering as mine. A near-translucent slow cooked egg sat nestled in amongst a variety of freshly foraged vegetables and herbs. As he cut into the egg, the yolk burst into life engulfing everything on his plate. Regrettably I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this egg porn moment as I was far too engrossed enjoying my cured pork.
My final main course was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Over the years I have worked my way through eating a variety of slow cooked meats but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a lamb cutlet prepared in this way. It was just as delicately soft as you could ever imagine. To complete the decadence it was finished with a bone marrow jus. Oh heaven! I was grateful for the lack of pretension and stuffiness as I just couldn’t help myself picking up the chop with my fingers and nibbling every last tasty morsel off the bone, not something I could get away with at every fine dining establishment. My Mum would shudder at the thought!
The Boy’s final main dish was a thick Glamorgan sausage served with Brussel sprouts, celeriac and broccoli. Glamorgan sausage is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage made with cheese, leek, potato, cabbage, herbs and breadcrumbs. A fermented Chenin hollandaise sauce was drizzled luxuriously over everything on his plate.
It was now time to veer away from all these amazing savoury courses and enjoy some sweets. Our pre-dessert teaser consisted of two medallions of macadamia and white chocolate chiboust which is basically pastry cream lightened with egg white meringue. Light and airy, each portion of chiboust dissolved with a “poof” on the tongue. Dollops of kumquat curd and glazed kumquats gave a tart element to the dish along with the nutty sweetness of shavings of locally grown macadamias. The Boy also received a paper thin peppercorn tuille.
Our dessert was quite possibly one of the most stunning carrot cakes I have ever seen. Made with purple carrots it was scattered in soft crumbles around a scoop of carrot ice-cream and decorated with honey comb, marshmallows, fresh blueberries and cute little sour grass flowers. As my belly expanded over the top of my pants it was hard to believe our magical afternoon was nearly over.
However as many of you will know, it doesn’t matter how full I am I can always fit in cheese. The cheese course at Dear Friends is an optional extra but if you have the gumption to squeeze it in I can highly recommend it. Our three cheeses were Ubriaco al Vino Rosso, an Italian hard cheese from Northern Italy, a West Australian brie from Dellendale in Denmark and Colsten Bassett Shropshire Blue, a lesser known blue from the same cheese makers as the famous English Blue Stilton. Kelli continued to be far too generous and offered me not one but two different wine matches to go with our cheese; thank goodness I wasn’t driving!
The concept of enjoying a coffee after a degustation is always so appealing. However most of our dego experiences are in the evening so unless I want to lay wide awake in bed all night I tend to end up drinking tea instead. I look on in envy at those that can drink coffee after dinner and then fall blissfully asleep. Being a lunch time meal I was in luck this time round as the time to sleep was still a long way off. Knowing this was a rare opportunity I made sure I savoured every last drop.
It is easy to see why Dear Friends has maintained their position as one of Perth’s top restaurants for a number of years. Sommelier Kelli provides charming and faultless service whilst each dish clearly shows Kiren’s passion and love for his craft. A definite thumbs up from both of us; and as we walked away we were already planning our visit to their East Perth digs Co-Op Dining.Dear Friends Restaurant 100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Price: $$$$ ($115 for a 7 course degustation, $70 for matched wine) Food: 5/5 (each dish was filled with wonderment despite our different dietary requirements) Service: 5/5 (charming, knowledgeable and with a humble sense of well-deserved pride) Ambience: 4/5 (you do feel like you are in the country) Drinks: 4.5/5 (seamless matching of wines) Total: 18.5/20
I cannot believe it is nearly six months since the Boy and I tied the knot in Phuket. I still have a long backlog of blog posts from our wedding holiday that I desperately need to finish. Normally I am such a disciplined person and I think part of my procrastination is because I’m sad that it’s all over and our lives have settled back down to normal. I have finally decided to bite the bullet and plan to complete the last of my wedding trip blog posts over the next few weeks including our time in Thailand which was followed by our four day eating binge in Singapore.
Once we arrived in Singapore glowing with post-nuptial love our serotonin levels were high and thus so were our appetites so we filled our days with sleeping, eating and drinking. For our wedding present to each other we both decided that a gift was far too traditional and wanted to have an experience together instead. Memories are always more precious than materialistic objects and some of my best memories are of course involving food. So the Boy suggested I pick anywhere regardless of price to enjoy a meal of a life time together.
In Singapore that is no easy feat. This is a city known for its fine dining and the decision wasn’t an easy one. Our last trip to Singapore we dined at Guy Savoy’s celebrity restaurant so I wanted to choose something other than traditional French and settled for Chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands. Ok so there IS a bit of French influence in Tetsuya’s style but it is very Japanese focused. A fusion of two of my favourite cuisines! A perfect way to celebrate the fusion of two people!
Waku Ghin serves a ten course degustation only and you are advised to book your table well in advance as they have a reasonable waiting list and only seat 25 people each evening. They have been awarded number 68 in the San Pelligrino World’s 100 Best 2013 and achieved 11th place in Asia’s 50 Best. I have always fantasised about having a world trip where we visit as many restaurants as possible off these lists, so it was fitting that one of them should feature on our wedding holiday (Note this is NOT our honeymoon!). I had emailed in advance to notify them of my gluten free requirement and asked them if they needed me to bring gluten free soy sauce with me. They do not have their own gluten free soy available so I was grateful I had been lugging it around in my luggage all the way from Perth.
After making a bit of a spectacle of myself at the bar by knocking my cocktail over with my animated flying hands we were shown to our dining room which only seated four people. A lovely Japanese couple were just finishing their meals and left shortly after we arrived giving us the whole room to ourselves.
Our chef for the evening came out and introduced himself before presenting to us a box filled with all the seafood delicacies we were about to commence devouring. Everything looks so exceedingly fresh and some creatures where still alive.
Our evening started with a salad of Buratta cheese with dried tomato, rocket and fennel. Burrata means “buttered” in Italian and you will understand where this fresh cheese got its name when you taste it. It literally oozes creaminess and paired nicely with the full rich flavour of the dried tomatoes. It was the perfect lead into the following much more opulent course.
Next up was one of Tetsuya’s signature dishes, the marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietra caviar. Mind blowingly creamy and luxuriously luscious this dish left us hanging on the edge of our seats for more. The balance of salty caviar, sweet shrimp and custardy uni was an orchestra of perfection.
Our next course was some slivers of slow cooked John Dory layered with smoked eggplant and drizzled with a richly flavoured chicken jus. The fish was slippery soft and melted in the mouth like sushi. I am a big fan of slow cooked anything; it introduces such a silky element of texture to ingredients unobtainable with traditional cooking methods.
Our fourth course was a steamed Alaskan Crab claw with lemon and olive oil. With such simple preparation and very few ingredients the secret of this dish’s success was in the freshness of the crab. The chef shows us the bright red crab claws before proceeding to steam them on a bed of rock salt on the grill right in front of us.
Once cooked to perfection he dressed them with just a light splash of lemon scented olive oil. And it needed nothing more. With four courses down and our eyes wider than saucers we sat on the edge of our seats ready for more.
Our next course was live Tasmanian abalone served simply with fregola, tomato and basil for the Boy with the fregola omitted for my gluten free version. This was my first time having fresh abalone. I found it a little disturbing watching the live abalone squirm before my eyes as the chef cooked it on the stove top.
I consoled myself with the thought that that surely these creatures don’t have enough awareness of self to suffer? I was surprised to find the abalone a little chewy and tough but not having tried it before I’m not sure if this texture was to be expected? Maybe the abalone eaters out there can educate me better.
The next course was certainly one of my favourites; braised Canadian lobster with tarragon. Although I have enjoyed Australian “lobster” countless times I only recently tried Maine lobster for the first time at Sky on 57. Anticipating it to taste much the same as crayfish I was astounded by the lobster’s delicate textured richness. I didn’t realise I would get to try it again so soon.
Waku Ghin prides itself on its fresh produce which is flown in fresh and often live each day. Our Canadian lobster was prepared in front of us braised in a robust flavoured tarragon sauce that is made with stock from the lobster’s shells. The rich sauce balanced the sweetness of the oh-so-tender lobster precisely. I cannot wait to eat lobster again sometime.
Wagyu is such an overused term in the restaurant world and I never realised how truly amazing it can be until we tried Waku Ghin’s version. They serve Ohmi Wagyu beef which comes from the Shiga prefecture in Japan. This type of Wagyu is considered to be distinctive from other types as it is the only type with fat that has “viscosity” which gives it that incredible dissolve-in-your-mouth sensation.
Cooked with utmost precision this meat needed minimal garnishes and was served simply with some freshly grated wasabi, garlic chips and light citrus soy. It had the texture of butter and was truly like no other cut of beef I have ever tasted. The chef was so flattered with our crooning that he offered us another serve which we both wildly agreed to.
It was hard to believe our evening was drawing to an end and we were up to our last savoury course. This last course was a bit of a let-down considering the repeated wow factors we had received consistently throughout our evening. The Boy was served a consommé with rice and snapper which was tasty but had no specific element that amazed him in any way.
My gluten free version didn’t even contain any fish. I received a small bowl of polenta with a scoop of ratatouille. I am a huge fan of ratatouille; it reminds me of my father’s cooking however considering the price of our meal I expected a replacement dish with a bit more effort.
Before being moved into the lounge room for desserts, we were given some gyokuro green tea. Gyokuro is considered by the Japanese as the finest green tea and has a very delicate, sweet flavour. The tea is grown under shade cover, usually made from reed or straw screens, for around three weeks before harvesting. Reducing the available sunlight alters the level of photosynthesis in the young leaf buds thus reducing the chlorophyll concentration in the leaves. This has a direct effect on the proportions of sugars, caffeine, amino acids and flavonoids resulting in a much milder and sweet taste.
For dessert we were moved in to the main dining area which overlooked the stunning skyline of the Marina Bay area. Our first dessert course was a salad of raspberry with wasabi and honey granita. This dish was more of a palate cleanser than anything else and whilst it was refreshing it didn’t have any of the elements of excitement we were anticipating.
The Boy’s main dessert came complete with a message of “Congratulations” for us smitten newly-weds. His chocolate mousse cake glistened like a mirror and I was so jealous it had gluten and I couldn’t steal a mouthful. Gluten schmooten….no fair!
My envy deepened as I looked down at my replacement option; a fruit platter. Whilst each piece of fruit had obviously been carefully selected and prepared it was still just a fruit platter nevertheless. I confess this was my only real disappointment of our evening.
Our night ended with some very moreish petit fours; vanilla and pistachio macarons, chocolate orange mousse, meringues and tangerine jellies. The kitchen kindly separated the gluten free ones to avoid any confusion. I was able to have most except for the orange and chocolate mousse which the Boy took great pleasure revealing to me how amazing it was via his facial expressions and rolling eyes.
Accustomed to missing out on some foods I still gain some level of enjoyment just by watching love ones eat so I requested to our waiter to bring us some more petit fours so I could watch my husband savour the flavours once more. It made a great series of photos but to maintain his privacy I’mu afraid you won’t get to see them!
Waku Ghin was quite possibly one of the most expensive meals we have ever eaten with the end bill entering the four digits for just two people. Was it worth it? Eight out of our ten courses left us amazed, impressed and totally nailed the wow factor that I would expect to receive for such a price. The two courses that lacked wow were still executed beautifully and I cannot fault them with anything specifically except for the fact they just weren’t incredible like the remainder. The service doesn’t skip a beat with a warmth and friendliness that you don’t always see at fine dining establishments.
My answer; yes it was worth every cent.Waku Ghin The Shoppes, Atrium 2, L2-02, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8507 | www.marinabaysands.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.5/5 (they just need a little bit of work on their desserts) Service: 5/5 (impeccable) Ambience: 4.5/5 (feels exclusive and special) Drinks: 4/5 (a very extensive bar; with a very wide price range) Total: 18/20
People come and go in your life; sometimes through your own choosing and sometimes due to circumstances out of your control. Their departure can often be filled with all sorts of mixed emotions but when you know that their decision is a good one for them personally it makes saying goodbye so much easier. We recently bade goodbye to a dear friend and colleague who is entering a new chapter in their life; one that I’m certain will give them the security and happiness they deserve. To bid him farewell, we dined at the Kailis Bros Fish Café, Leederville for a simple, fresh seafood meal.
I had spent the earlier part of the day at Feral Brewery for lunch for a friend’s baby shower and was grateful there were many light options on the menu. I was informed that many of the dishes could be adapted to be gluten free as they only involved simple ingredients while relying on the freshness of the seafood to take centre stage.
For entrée I started with the herb and garlic crusted scallops with fresh chill. Kailis’s Bros support sourcing local produce and their scallops are West Australian, from either up North in Carnarvon or from the icy water of Esperance depending on the time of year. Each lightly browned scallop was a delicate, tender pillow of flavour and my notion that I was too full from my lunch passed from my consciousness as I plopped each morsel into my mouth in quick succession. The Boy made a little underhanded comment at my speed of eating which I can only presume meant he wished that I saved him one! His consolation prize was getting to mop up the remaining garlic juices on my plate with his garlic bread instead.
The Boy couldn’t see any vegetarian meals on the menu and so he reluctantly ordered the octopus “a la grec”. For this dish the octopus is carefully simmered in red wine and then grilled. Having recently been very spoilt with some mind blowing “pulpo” in Barcelona I was interested to see how Kailis’s version matched up. After just one mouthful I was left wishing I had ordered this dish instead of my scallops. There was no chewiness or rubbery texture; each piece was as soft and as tender as I recall it being in Spain.
Our guest of honour ordered the grilled New Zealand flounder which he explained was a common dish he ate during his childhood. Having not eaten it in decades he took a bit of a gamble trying to rehash an old school favourite but thankfully he was not disappointed. The fish was served whole with a “latho lemano” dressing which is a traditional Greek baste made with lemon juice, olive oil, wild Greek oregano and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. The meat flaked away off the bone easily and despite this fish’s huge size our friend managed to slowly but deliberately work his way through the lot.
For my main I both ordered the pan seared Tasmanian salmon with a sweet & sour tamarind glaze, sautéed baby corn and bok choy. I was impressed to see the kitchen staff take gluten contamination seriously and ensured my fish was grilled on a separate fresh grill. Not all eating establishments have this level of understanding for what is needed to ensure there is no gluten in their food. The salmon skin was super crispy whilst the steak was just past the point of being rare making it lusciously soft. The tamarind sauce was a touch too sweet for my liking and needed a tiny bit more balance with its other key elements of sourness and spiciness.
We also ordered a few sides to fill in the gaps including crunchy roasted Royal Blue potatoes with wild oregano and sea salt, a green leaf salad with shaved Reggiano parmesan and cracked black pepper and some sautéed seasonal vegetables with tarragon butter. The potatoes were crisp on the outside with a lovely soft centre and were one of the first things to be finished at our table.
Just when we thought we had no room left for sweets, our waitress came over to our table with their daily selection of desserts. She advised us that all their desserts are made in house fresh each day by their dedicated pastry chef.
Once again bursting at the seams I wondered to myself if I would ever gain the ability to exhibit self-control at this point of the evening. I dismissed such a crazy idea and chose the lemon and lime crème brûlée to share with the Boy. Other options included a tiramisu, sticky date pudding and a couple of other more creative looking options. Our choice was a hit all around the table with each couple sharing one brûlée between each other. A well rounded night out indeed.
I have always found Kailis Brothers Fish Café to reliably satisfy me at every visit. They maintain their reputation by staying true to themselves serving the freshest of seafood with minimal fuss. They promote West Australian produce in particular and remain in my humble opinion one of the best providers of fresh seafood in Perth to the public.Kailis Brothers Fish Café 101 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9443 6300 | www.kailisbrosleederville.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrée $12.50-26.50, Mains $27-48) Food: 4/5 (exceedingly fresh seafood needs minimal additional work) Service: 3.5/5 (friendly and welcoming but a bit slow on the drinks service) Ambience: 3.5/5 (busy, loud and non-pretentious) Drinks: 4/5 (a proudly WA heavy wine list with a good selection by the glass) Total: 15/20
Part Two: Our Phuket Wedding Villa at Andara Resort
After a few short and very hectic days staying at the stunning Andara Resort in one of their Pool Residences we finished off our last-minute Phuket wedding planning just in time for our wedding guests to start to arrive. This moment signalled our “moving day” where we were to move into the villa of our dreams. This would be the place where we would say our vows, become husband and wife and spend our first days as Mr and Mrs together. Eeeeek! So exciting!
Andara’s villas are situated up high on the mountain side overlooking the Andaman Sea. Each villa has its own full-time staff including a private chef. The villas are kept in an immaculate state and no matter where I took photos from various points around our enormous lodgings; I could never completely capture its incredible emotion and beauty. After an initial scare where our original choice of villa was alleged to have water damage, we managed with some persuasion to negotiate getting a larger but just as beautiful villa replacement.
Our master bedroom opened out onto our private balcony with expansive views of the Andaman sea and angled to afford glimpses of the sun setting into the sea. Our bathroom was as big as our living room at home with a massive spa once again with those incredible sea views. Our bath was filled with rose petals both on our arrival and also for our wedding night. We each had our own separate walk in robes meaning all my wedding attire could be hidden away from prying groom’s eyes until our big day.
The villa was an enormous building set over three levels allowing each of our guests their own private areas. There are two separate indoor living areas; a living room with a ten seater dining table and a separate family room. Both are equipped with large flat screen TVs and entertainment systems.
Despite the opulence and spaciousness for indoor relaxing; most of us spent the week outdoors basking around the infinity pool and eating under the sala. I couldn’t understand why you would want to dine indoors when there was such a beautiful view to gaze upon outdoors.
Our villa’s chef Su proved to be one of the biggest assets to this breath-taking villa and we would have all loved for her to return home with us to Australia! Every time we chose to eat out in Phuket we were reminded how much better Su’s food was and we should have just stayed at the villa and let her look after us.
She would approach us each morning after we finished eating our cooked breakfast in order to plan our menu for the day so she could head down to the markets and buy all the produce fresh. Nothing was too much trouble for her and she never complained about all the “blow-in” guests we repeatedly invited up to the villa to join us.
For our first night we invited all wedding guests up to the villa for a “casual” BBQ to welcome them all to Thailand. Expecting something simple, we were in no way prepared for the half a dozen or so staff that came up hours in advance to set up for the party.
Tables were set with white linen, flower centrepieces placed on the tables, bamboo flame torches embedded in the garden around the pool and a bar was set up complete with a bartender. This was to be the standard of attention and care we received throughout the duration of our stay making us really feel like we were kings and queens. This could be a lifestyle I could easily get used to if I had the money for it to be sustainable!
The only downside of Andara’s villas is their price tag. This level of luxury and opulence doesn’t come cheap. In the lead up to our stay I cannot deny I was cringing at the cost, but in all honesty our week staying at our villa was truly the best week of my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
For all my Phuket Wedding related posts click hereAndara Resort and Villas 15 Moo 6, Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
Although I’m not really a baby person it is hard not to get excited when a close friend falls pregnant. One of our long-term vets is nearly at the end of her first pregnancy and she is one of those gentle, nurturing types that just seems to be born to be a mother. The joys of anticipation for the approaching arrival were very infectious amongst us women at work, so in a rather unconventional styled baby shower we all gathered together at Feral Brewing Company for a Sunday lunch to celebrate. It was the first sunny day in weeks and it was heavenly to be able to enjoy some country sunshine.
Quite a number of people at our table chose to order the pork belly. The pork was twice cooked and served on a bed of creamed cauliflower and “crinkled” courgettes. To balance the flavours with some sweetness the dish was topped with a sticky rum & apple relish. I was fortunate enough to sit next to the expecting mum’s husband who ordered the pork belly but curiously doesn’t like crackling. It wasn’t hard to find volunteers on the table including myself that were willing to take said crackling off his hands. Aren’t we kind folk? The artery blocking crackling had a satisfying crunch that was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the table.
The Feral Brewing Company offers good value in the valley; I was impressed with the size of the meals in relation to the price. The plump grain fed Porterhouse steak was a decent 300 gm cut and came with paprika potatoes, buttered broccolini and a juicy feta stuffed field mushroom.
I needed to preserve a bit of room in my stomach as we were heading out for dinner later that evening so I opted for the charcuterie meat board for something light. Creamy Persian feta, grilled Spanish chorizo, thinly shaved prosciutto and some roasted beef sirloin were served along with some locally pickled vegetables. The platter normally comes with crusty bread but I asked for it to be served gluten free. Some crackers arrived with it but I wasn’t sure whether they were gluten free or not so I left them. I wasn’t that bothered otherwise I would have asked. The chorizo was juicy and succulent and was my favourite component of this dish.
My platter was designed to share but everyone had their own full plates to contend with resulting in little luck sharing it around. My head nurse sitting next to me helped marginally to make a dent on the proviso and I helped her with her trio of dips. The dips of the days included spicy Moroccan dhal, creamy spring onion and “funky mushroom”. I smeared some of the dhal on my pickled vegetables as a bread substitute. It had a reasonable kicked to it and went well with the pickle!
Our adorable cupcakes for the day were designed and made by Cooks Cakes. Each cupcake had a gorgeous baby themed decoration and the cakes were a mix of flavours; red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Alas none were gluten free this time round.
Feral Brewing Company offers a very casual atmosphere nestled in the heart of the Swan Valley with hearty grub and a great range of craft beers. Not being able to drink most beer due to gluten intolerance I cannot tell you much about their hand-crafted beers, but they are currently title holders for the Australian International Beer Awards “Best Medium Australian Brewery”. Their food is simple pub styled food priced reasonably well with modest portion sizes.Feral Brewing Company 152 Haddrill Road, Baskerville WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4657 | www.feralbrewing.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrée$8.50-12, Mains $23-38 Food: 3.5/5 (simple, fresh, hearty meals) Service: 3/5 (friendly, drinks service a little slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (country sunshine, rolling hills and vineyards) Drinks: 3/5 (I need the Boy to review the beers but I couldn’t convince him to come to a baby shower) Total: 13/20
Despite the common perception that veterinarians make a lot of money, those of you who are in the profession can appreciate it is really quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong; it can be a highly rewarding career but it is not a path I would recommend to someone who aspires to be rich! While many of my non vet friends frequently travel for their jobs, work travel of a veterinary nature is much less frequent and usually has to be self-funded. This year my continuing education expenditure has ground to a halt as I poured all my spare savings into our magical wedding in Thailand. When I saw a brochure for the World Feline Veterinary Congress in Barcelona, I consoled myself that there would always be other Congresses. So I’m sure you can imagine my complete gratitude and surprise when our company offered to fund a trip for me to attend. A whole week of cats, tapas and Spanish sun. I felt like I had won the lotto!
I have always heard such glowing reviews of Emirates but have never wanted to lose out on my Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Now with Qantas’s new partnership with Emirates this means they code share most flights allowing QFF members to accumulate flying miles while on Emirates flights. Emirates also give economy passengers a wonderful 30 kg of checked in baggage in addition to the usual 7 kg of cabin luggage making my agonising experience of trying to choose which shoes to pack much easier as I could bring more shoes with me!
The Boy and I have been together since our early twenties and although we have both done a lot of travel together I had never travelled alone overseas without him. As I kissed him farewell at Perth International Airport I think both of us were secretly a bit nervous about our eight day separation from each other across opposite ends of the world. Not wanting to cry I quickly grabbed my hand luggage and powered through immigration to make a bee line for the Qantas Club Lounge. Once I downed a few vodkas my anxiety morphed to excitement and I made my way over to the gate for departure.
The Emirates flights from Perth to Barcelona use their smaller Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The seating arrangements on these planes is a bit squishy with most of the cabin’s seat configuration being a 3-4-3 layout. At the rear of the aircraft the triple seats near the windows are reduced to just double seats and seem have more room. In the weeks before my flight I went online to their website to choose my preferred seat at one of these doubles.
Each seat has its own touch-screen which is loaded up with over 200 movies ranging from new releases to old favourites from Hollywood, Bollywood and many foreign films. In addition to the movies there was also a wide range of TV series, music and games. After flicking through them for a few minutes I could see I wasn’t going to get much sleep…there was too much to watch! I noted there was a USB port to charge my mobile devices just in case I got bored of all the television.
In the seat pocket in front of me was a cute little amenities bag containing socks, eye mask, toothbrush and tooth paste. Not bad for economy class and the toothbrush came in handy for my overnight stopover in Dubai as I forgot to pack mine in my hand luggage.
On the Perth to Dubai flight we were served two meals. For my gluten free breakfast I received some reasonably fluffy scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, fresh tomato and baked potato, plus a small bowl of fresh seasonal fruit, some Yoplait yoghurt and a couple of plain rice cakes. There wasn’t much to spread on the rice cakes so I piled some of the spinach and eggs on top of one and clumsily tried to eat it without covering myself in crumbs.
I was determined to watch the whole Pirates of the Caribbean series from beginning to end before I touched down in Barcelona. Charmed by Captain Sparrow the time flew away quickly and before I knew it lunch was being served. My gluten free lunch included a surprisingly succulent roast chicken breast. This was a first as I cannot recall having chicken on a plane that wasn’t dry. It was served with some roasted vegetables and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. There was also a grated vegetable salad, another fruit salad, a piece of cheddar cheese and gluten free crackers. A couple of plain rice crackers were plopped on there too.
Emirates provides economy passengers with free hotel accommodation in Dubai including all your meals if the layover between your connecting flights is between 8 and 24 hours. My flight to Barcelona didn’t depart until the following morning so I took Emirates up on this offer. After a very long wait at the airport I was transferred to the Copthorne Hotel just ten minutes from the airport. The hotel room was very basic but it was clean and comfortable. Personally however next time I’m stopping over in Dubai; I would prefer to pay and stay in a nicer hotel in a better location. I didn’t bother eating any of the hotel’s complimentary meals so I cannot comment on them.
For my flight onwards to Barcelona I received two meals again. I quite like the fact that Emirates ensure their passengers don’t go hungry! For my gluten free breakfast I received a “deli platter” with thinly sliced roast beef, light pesto chicken, cheddar cheese, marinated potato salad and fresh crudités. Some reconstituted orange juice and a fruit salad were also provided. The gluten free bread was sealed individually to ensure there was no cross contamination however it had a crumbly hard texture and a slightly mouldy flavour.
My gluten free lunch was much better than the breakfast although I was starting to get a little sick of chicken for every meal. My main consisted of roasted chicken breast with creamy mashed potato and green beans. A sweet chilli chicken salad with thinly sliced cabbage salad and some more of that mouldy gluten free bread was also provided. The best part about this meal was the dessert. A smooth vanilla pannacotta with white chocolate and strawberries cleansed all the mildly unpleasant mouldy flavours from my mouth and left me fairly full, content and ready for Barcelona.
Overall I was very happy with my first experience flying Emirates Economy Class Perth to Barcelona. The seats were reasonably comfortable, had an adequate amount of recline and provided plenty of leg room for me although bear in mind I’m not exactly tall. The in-flight entertainment kept me amused for most of the flight and although the food wasn’t amazing it was better than most other gluten free meals I have been served on other airlines. I look forward to trying their business class when we eventually set off for our very belated honeymoon.
Emirates fly daily from Perth to Dubai with connecting flights to Barcelona also daily.
Although I would prefer to experience the summer heat over the winter chills any day there is one major highlight of the winter months: the truffle season. From the very beginning of the truffle season I start searching for events, dinners and menus that feature this delicacy and have been known to get a bit obsessed. We don’t often buy voucher meals as I rarely find them to be good value but I couldn’t resist when I spotted a Groupon for a five course truffle degustation for two for only $129 at Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.
When I called up to make a booking I found that there were very few options available for voucher holders as we couldn’t book on weekends or book when there was any theatre playing. Despite calling to make our booking shortly after purchasing the voucher, I was informed rather abruptly that there were only a couple of nights available. I enquired if my meal could be adapted to be gluten free and was told there would be no problem with this it would just mean I received a different dessert.
The interior of the restaurant is in serious need of updating with the carpet reminiscent of the seventies and a dusty looking faux tree in the centre of the restaurant lit up with fairy lights. The walls were adorned with Awards from a similar yesteryear with most of them at least a decade old.
Within minutes of being seated, the Boy was offered a selection of breads and our waitress offered some gluten free bread for me. I thought this was a good start to the evening and didn’t expect somewhere old fashioned like this to have gluten free bread available. Our vegetable soup arrived promptly afterwards and although it was indeed creamy, there was not much grated truffle to be seen. I squinted at black specks at the bottom of my bowl and figured they must have been it. I nibbled on one and found there was no familiar truffle after taste.
Our entrée of citrus cured Tasmanian salmon was served with pickled black truffle and carrot, Dijonnaise and a blue swimmer crab and mascarpone salad. The Boy commented that the style of plating was a little on the old fashioned side but in defence the ingredients were all fresh. I struggled to taste any truffle flavour in this dish either.
This evening occurred shortly before the Boy’s recent conversion to vegetarianism and it may very well go down on record as one of the last beef dishes he ever ate. Buttery soft beef cheeks had been braised to a delicate tenderness and again the dish was plated with utmost nineties styled precision. The accompanying truffle mash had an obvious truffle aroma and as he started to tuck into his I was keen to see what my gluten free alternative was.
Alas I was soon to be disappointed. Bear in mind I had specifically chosen this meal as a truffle degustation and I didn’t think I would be expecting too much to want truffle with each course. Instead for my main I received a relatively overcooked piece of fish, I think it was snapper but I cannot recall precisely, which was served with pesto beans. I eyed off the Boy’s dish enviously as he savoured every mouthful.
Our cheese course was a wedge of truffled brie served with a fig terrine, crackers, caramelised nuts and a couple of celery sticks. Yes, you heard right. Celery sticks. Am I crazy for thinking this was a bit weird? I asked our waitress if she thought it was strange and she looked at me like I was the crazy one.
My cheese course came with a muffin of gluten free bread as a replacement for the crackers. Whilst the cheese was not served at room temperature and remained a little too firm, the truffle centre finally gave me the taste of truffle I had been waiting the whole meal for.
As if my envy for the Boy’s succulent beef cheeks wasn’t anguish enough for me, out came his dessert; a shining glossy chocolate and banana mousse cake with honey comb crumbles and strawberry coulis. Scooped at the end of his plate was a neat ball of truffle ice cream. More truffles. I knew I was going to miss out again. Sigh.
My crème brûlée was by no means anything to complain about. Except it had no truffle. The crispy top layer was millimetres thin and cracked rewardingly with gentle pressure from my spoon to reveal smooth creaminess beneath.
We found the service at Friends to be highly efficient border-lining on serious with each waitress whizzing around the dining room floor with exact precision. Each course with its matched wine was timed like a well-played Tetris game never leaving us hungry, waiting or thirsty. If you enjoy old school fine dining then this is the place for you.Friends Restaurant 20 Terrace Road, Hyatt Centre, East Perth WA 6004 | 08 9221 0885 | http://www.friendsrestaurant.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Truffle Tasting menu normally $125 per person, 10 course degustation $155) Food: 3/5 (Highs: beef cheeks and chocolate mousse cake. Lows: overcooked fish) Service: 4.5/5 (faultless but serious) Ambience: 2/5 (dining room in desperate need of a zoozsh) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of matches, I particularly enjoyed the Zema Estate Coonawarra Cab Sauv 2009) Total: 13/20
Part One: Finalising our Phuket Wedding Preparations!
Prior to getting engaged I often toyed around in my head with the idea of eloping off to somewhere exotic. Like many people I have a divided family with my real parents and my respective step parents not exactly being the best of friends. Having to brave getting all these loved ones in the same room sounded like a daunting feat and one that could prove best to avoid. Our engagement party at The George provided me with a safe way to test the waters and despite all the anxiety and tension in the build-up to the evening along with very disappointing customer service from the George’s staff; everyone managed to get along wonderfully. In fact we all had an absolute ball. It dawned upon me that I should give my family much more credit.
As with all brides, the last few months before our big day flew past at the speed of light. No day seemed long enough and I forgot what it was like to relax. Some may say I got a bit pedantic about details however I prefer to see it as purely just ensuring everything was done properly and thoroughly. Consequently, despite previously being so paranoid that I wouldn’t be elegantly slim enough, in the last few weeks before the big day I could barely keep weight on for all the running around I did.
Our wedding invitations were designed by Jessica, one of the lovely designers at Annie P Paperie. My theme if you can call it that was “simple elegance”. I didn’t want any froo-froo, lace, feathers or glitter and opted for letter pressed stationary instead. Following with the Thai theme they designed me a simple “logo” of orchids intertwining gracefully around the edge of the page. I used this design throughout our wedding; on our invites, personalised canvas tote bags used for the welcome gifts, small gift note pads, menus and name place cards. The orchid design was sent to the Bella Figura in New York where they used antique cast iron presses to make the invitations the old-fashioned way.
After visiting many different resorts in Phuket during our previous trip in November 2011, we both agreed unanimously that Andara was the place of our dreams. Andara has two accommodation options in its expansive resort; they have massive privately owned villas perched up high on the mountains and then they also offer smaller, apartment style residences lower down the scarp by the beach.
Both are managed by the hotel and ooze luxury and attention to detail. We arrived about five days prior to all our wedding guests and initially stayed in one of their residences for a few days before moving into the opulent villa with our bridal party. Although the residences do not quite have the wow factor of the villa, each is still appointed with great care and attention. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to a pool residence for these few days and on arrival received a bottle of champagne on ice.
Each residence has its own fully equipped kitchen, full sized fridge and all the utensils you would ever need while on holiday. Not that we did any cooking. For four days we busied ourselves organising welcome packs, choosing wedding music, practising our dance and finishing off all the important little wedding details whilst the hotel’s room service kept us well fed. The kitchen went above and beyond to diligently ensure all my allergies were strictly catered for without sacrificing on taste.
Breakfast for the residence guests is served at the hotel’s only restaurant Silk. They provide a combination of a continental style buffet coupled with a freshly cooked hot meal off their al la carte menu. Every morning the food and beverage manager would come over to our table and reassure me that my gluten free bread and muffins along with my hot meal was on its way. The gluten free muffins were sweet, coconutty and fluffy light and I had to stop myself from eating them all each morning. They were served warm and spread generously with Lescure butter they were close to heaven.
If I hadn’t already had my socks knocked off by the impressiveness of our wedding villa then the Andara residences would have had the same effect. However I knew we were soon to move into even bigger and better lodgings and the beauty of our suite was somewhat lost on me. Looking back now on our stay there I can appreciate what stunning accommodation it was and for a couple travelling on their own the suites are a more affordable way to stay at Andara.
In my next Wedding blog post I will take you through our breath taking Villa where overlooking the Andaman Sea the Boy and I declared our vows to the world and became husband and wife!
For all my Phuket Wedding related posts click hereAndara Resort and Villas 15 Moo 6, Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
One of the many unfortunate consequences for me if I eat gluten is the way my skin reacts. Within about eight to twelve hours of being “poisoned” I break out in an extremely itchy rash that often spreads to my face. The itch is incessant day and night breaking my sleep into fitful scratching fragments. The eczema is unsightly and I’ll confess to my vanity as it makes me feel highly self-conscious taking over a week to heal, sometimes longer.
Understandably in the months preceding our wedding I became painstakingly cautious with everything I ate. I was not ready to take any risks of accidental gluten ingestion. My sufferance paid off because on the wedding day my face was blemish free and radiant. On the return trip home from Thailand via Singapore my newly wed husband and I spent nearly four days eating non-stop. I was so relieved to finally be able to stop scrutinising everything I ate; it felt like a pressure was lifted off my shoulders. However as is often the case with me it is all-or-nothing and consequently I swung too far into complacency resulting in the obvious; gluten poisoning.
The following day the Boy dragged me from our hotel room to the Singapore Botanical Gardens where he started to get a little frustrated with me. I am normally a very energetic and excitable person sometimes to the point of excess. In stark contrast gluten transforms me into a lethargic, whingeing misery guts. As we walked around the beautiful gardens all I could selfishly think of was finding a cool place to sit and enjoy a drink and hopefully some gluten free food. We were right in the heart of the Gardens so the Boy thought the easiest thing to soothe for his poor suffering wife was to take her to the café inside the Gardens themselves; Halia.
As we walked toward the restaurant my head was spinning and I felt nauseous. Gluten does evil to me I tell you! Desperate to escape the humidity we moved inside keen for some icy air-conditioning. I noted two big split systems side by side on the wall inside and chose a table where I thought we would receive most of their blast. Sadly it turned out that it didn’t really matter where we sat because the sliding door opening out onto the decking outside was continually left open by passing staff members.
The prices on the menu were fairly high for Singapore standards and I hoped this meant we were in for a fine dining treat. Our fine dining experiences in Singapore have been out of this world but these meals haven’t come cheap. Halia offers a set menu for lunchtime or you can order dishes at full price off their à la carte menu. There was a dramatic difference in prices between the two menus but sadly nothing appealed to me off the cheaper set menu. I ordered a single course off the more expensive option with a garden salad on the side whilst the Boy opted for the two-course set. I was brought out a small serve of raspberry sorbet as an amuse bouche but because the boy had the set menu they didn’t offer him a serve. It was very refreshingly and cooled me down nicely.
Despite advising them I would like my salad to come out with my main, it was brought out separately on its own without any other meals. We finished it well before either my solitary main or the boy’s entrée even made it to our table. Each of our meals then came out slowly one by one, the Boy ate his entrée, after a bit of a wait his plate was cleared and then out came my main dish, and then just as I finished my food out came his main. What terrible timing!
The Boy ordered what was described on the menu as harissa marinated tuna tataki, tuna tartare, daikon salad, avocado and lime. However placing our order we were informed that there was in fact no tuna left and that the tataki and the tartare would be replaced by harissa chicken tenderloins. Hey? That’s one way to save on kitchen costs! The Boy was served a couple of barely edible dry pieces of overcooked chicken bedded on a smear of avocado with some grated daikon.
I ordered the salmon gravlax rosette with ginger flower perfumed Hiramisa kingfish sashimi and salmon roe. Sounds amazing. Priced at $32 Singapore dollars I was expecting either incredibly high quality pieces of fish or a decent sized serve on my plate; one or the other. Unfortunately I presumed incorrectly. My salmon roe was not fresh and left an overly fishy aftertaste in the mouth. The small serves of salmon were a little chewy and lacked much flavour. The biggest joke of all was the “ginger flower perfumed Hiramisa kingfish sashimi”.Blink-and-you-will-miss-it pea-sized nubs of kingfish sat inside each rosette and were each barely bigger than the baby capers on my plate. It was embarrassing.
The Boy’s main arrived just as I finished my three mouthfuls of tired fish. He chose the aged grain fed Rangers Valley Wagyu rump cap. His dish was the only one for our whole meal that had any merit. Although his piece of rump was not much bigger than a large spoon, the meat was buttery and tender.
Having visited Singapore twice in the past three months we have been consistently wowed with some incredible food on both ends of the price scale. Halia was our only disappointing meal for both of these trips. I found this quite a surprise considering the prices of the meals and the location but I guess I should be grateful. Two trips spanning over a total of seven solid days of eating yet only one meal that didn’t hit the mark is a pretty good innings!Halia Ginger Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569 | +65 6476 6711 | http://www.thehalia.com/ Price: $$$$ Food: 3/10 (lack of fresh ingredients, over-priced, no flavour) Service: 2/5 (very slow and unresponsive) Ambience: 3/5 (dirty glass widows and poorly functioning air conditioning) Drinks: Unable to assess Total: 8/20