One thing I have learnt from the Boy is that I need to take more time out to relax. Relaxing does not come naturally to me and generally the only way I can do it is if I am forced. Last weekend we drove down to the South West to stay at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a five-star beach front resort only minutes’ drive from Dunsborough and Yallingup.
The reason for our single night stay at Bunker Bay was to sample the resorts’s launch of their new High Tea. High Tea is available at Pullman Bunker Bay resort every day of the week until the 20th of December, and Executive Chef Grant Murray is more than happy to accommodate for guests like myself with dietary requirements.
We sat out on the sunny deck overlooking the wonderful ocean view where we could see glimpses of majestic whales out in the bay. Regrettably I didn’t come prepared with a zoom lens to capture their beauty.
Being able to enjoy gluten, the Boy’s high tea was plated separately to mine to avoid cross contamination and as our waitress brought over our tiers of food we both let out a sigh of pleasure. Each plate was an array of vibrant spring colour and neither of us could wait to tuck in!
Chef Murray enthusiastically spoke to us about his focus on utilising fresh, seasonal produce and wherever possible he will obtain his ingredients locally. All the pastries and baked items are made in their own kitchen, with our muffins and scones coming just out of the oven that morning.
My gluten free savoury course included a cucumber, tarragon and chicken sandwich made with compressed cucumber to give more flavour. The tomato salad contained tomatoes that were grown especially for the restaurant on a property only a few kilometres away. Nothing beats the taste of home-grown tomatoes.
There was no sensation of feeling like I was missing out on a gluten free diet, with my second tier of baked goods tasting just as good the Boy’s looked. My scone didn’t crumble apart like many gluten free versions and my muffin was still warm.
My final top tier of high tea was the prettiest of all, decorated in fresh edible flowers and plump blueberries. My mini tartlets were filled with juicy fresh Western Australian mango. The little meringues had all the layers of textures that a quality meringue must have; a powder poof crunchy shell with a sumptuous gooey centre. Perfection.
The Boy’s standard high tea looked very similar to mine, except that of course it contained gluten. This is the second time he has joined me for high tea and whilst I doubt he will start swilling hot tea any time soon, I can be sure he will happily join me on my next one.
The Boy’s dessert course was just a pretty as my gluten free version, and included a selection of macarons, profiteroles and chocolate mousse cake.
For our accommodation we stayed in a garden view studio villa. Our room was elegantly appointed with a comfortable, king sized bed and a fully equipped kitchenette. Not that we ever needed it to cook for ourselves!
The bathroom was spacious and modern, complete with fluffy bathrobes and slippers along with luxury amenities for those who forgot their toiletries.
Being such a brief stay, we decided to dine at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Other Side of the Moon for our evening meal. Our bubbly natured waitress was very knowledgeable with respect to what was gluten free and what could be adapted on the menu.
We started off our evening with some natural oysters from Coffin Bay served with shallot vinegar.
For our entrée, we opted to share the local South West tasting plate for two. For those with less agreeable dining companions, this tasting plate was also available as a single serve for a lower cost. In the centre of the plate was a gluten free adapted serve of Geographe Bay squid fried with a spicy Asian herb salad and nahm jim dressing. We were advised to start in the middle of the plate and work our way out.
The second tasting was a Swiss brown mushroom filled with confit Baldivis rabbit on bacon and Jerusalem artichoke purée.
We ended the tasting experience with some thin slices of Margaret River venison carpaccio and local pickled onions. Of course I left the onions for the Boy to gobble as I’m not good with the added fructose. A gluten free crouton with olive tapenade accompanied the small serve of venison.
The Boy ordered the duo of beef for his main course. A lightly pan-seared Harvey beef tenderloin accompanied a pot of beef cheek daube. A scoop of truffle mash and cute little heirloom carrots added in some vegetable goodness and was drizzled in a Capel Vale Cabernet Sauvignon jus.
We also ordered a side of fries which our waitress told us would be cooked in clean oil to avoid any gluten contamination. The Boy suggested that perhaps an order of fries on top of all the rest of the food we had eaten so far may be considered somewhat excessive. I was pleased to see our waitress was on the same page as me as she agreed that not only is there a second stomach for desserts, that there is in fact a specific “potato stomach” to fit in potatoes in all forms: be that fries, chips, wedges, whatever, wherever 😉
For my main choice, I ordered the daily special of roasted duck breast. It was served on a bed of quinoa, parsnip purée, and locally grown golden beets. The duck was delicately tender and soft, literally melting in my mouth without a hint of dryness.
Whilst I had big ambitions of pushing the boat out for the evening and having both dessert and cheese, when it came to the crunch I sadly realised I only had room for one or the other. It was a hard choice as there were a decent selection of local and imported cheese on offer. I turned to the Boy for guidance. He had already spotted the Simmo’s ice cream menu with no less than ten flavours to choose from. It was decided. We would have dessert.
The daily dessert special was light, refreshing and perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth. A lemon-scented toasted marshmallow cloud with fresh mango and lychee gel on lime granita had an interesting tango of sweet and citrus flavours. I reluctantly let the Boy taste a mouthful as he even more reluctantly let me sample his ice creams. He is generally very easy going with letting me eat off his plate, except when it is ice cream. He becomes very territorial of every mouthful!
The following morning we opted for a light room service breakfast before taking a stroll around the beautiful resort. There is a 24 hour room service menu offering lots of gluten free options including pizzas and other main meals for late night snacking. The beach is only a short walk from the villas, and is such a beautiful spot with the characteristic stunning white sands and clear blue water that the region is well known for.
After a enjoyable walk along the beach, the Boy and I headed to the resort spa; Vie where we had booked a massage in the couples room along with a Pevonia signature facial. It has taken me some time to convert the Boy to enjoy spa treatments but each time he comes along he warms further to the concept.
Sadly, our whirlwind weekend was coming to an end and prior to departing we took some time to relax in the bistro area of the resort where they have a tapas menu serving small plates that highlight on the local produce that is seasonally available. Again there were both gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Our vegetarian dish of roasted cauliflower was exceedingly addictive with charred grilled piquillo peppers, toasted macadamia and pomegranate. It came with creamy tahini for a tangy hit of extra flavour. I loved the presentation with lots of splashes of colour and fun.
Our second dish of Fremantle octopus was adapted to be gluten free by the omission of chorizo. It was paired with smoked yoghurt, local olives, edamame and grilled tomato. I have a tendency to be quite fussy with my octopus having be very spoilt in my time in Spain. It is far too common that it is not prepared well and the meat ends up being as chewy as an old sock. This octopus did not disappoint my critical opinions, each piece was deliciously tender and did not give my jaw a work out to chew. It was a perfect way to end our very short stay.
For much of the drive home to Perth, the Boy and I talked about making plans for when we could next return to stay at Bunker Bay. It is rare that we simultaneously relax together and despite such a short stay, this trip was a success. The resort has enough options to be able to stay there and not leave, but is located so close to the wineries and tourist sights for the Margaret River region such that if you don’t want to stay put you don’t have to. Suffice to say we have already booked our next trip 😉
High Tea at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is available at the resort’s bistro until 20 December 2015.
Cost is $37 per person with a Dilmah specialty tea, barista-made coffee or hot chocolate, or $45 per person to add a glass of sparkling wine. Kid’s Menu available for children up to 12 years. Bookings require 48 hours’ notice with pre-payment at the time of reservation. With advance notice, dietary requirement can be catered for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Pullman Bunker Bay resort and received her night accommodation and high tea for two at no cost. She paid in full for her dinner at Other Side of the Moon, for the tapas at Tapestry and for her Spa treatments at Vie.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 42 Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste WA | (08) 9756 9100 | Website
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
Twelve months ago Kate returned to her home-town of Esperance to complete her yoga teacher training with the aim to open her own yoga studio specialising in kid’s yoga. I envisaged this to be a slow process and was so surprised and excited to hear that less than a year after she moved away her studio was ready to be opened. I am so proud of her determination to make this long-term dream a reality and upon hearing the brilliant news I promptly booked some last minute flights to zip down and spend the weekend with her.
We booked accommodation at the Esperance Island View apartments which is located on the Esplanade and is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Our two bedroom apartment had two storeys with a large kitchen and living area, and most importantly excellent heating. This is something I have learnt to appreciate after our recent stay in Pemberton for Truffle Kerfuffle at an unnamed chalet location that had no heating other than a pot belly stove!
For our first night together we walked down to the Pier Hotel, a massive pub with separate bistro and bar areas, a cocktail lounge and the only night club in town. We sat down in the toasty bistro area by the open fire and made ourselves quite cosy.
The bistro menu has gluten free items clearly marked on the menu and most of the salad bar was also gluten free. Our waitress was kind enough to double check everything for me which was a thoughtful gesture. We each started off with a serve of drunken oysters. Served three ways, the oysters were surprisingly fresh and salty.
My favourite oyster of the three was the tequila shot which was served with a generous splash of tomato juice. The Jack Daniels Kilpatrick oyster was everyone’s least favourite. I found the bacon to be dry and flavourless with a barely discernible taste of bourbon. Not such a bad thing as I don’t particularly like bourbon.
My choice for main course was the Thai style barramundi, a grilled barra fillet cooked in curry sauce with basil, chilli and coconut cream. It is normally served with a pistachio and capsicum couscous but the gluten free option offers chips or mash as a replacement. Whilst it was quite an unsightly dish, the fish was cooked beautifully and the curry sauce was not overpowering. It would have been better paired with some steamed rice instead of mash.
With a day and a half to explore, we saw only a brief snippet of Esperance and its surrounds yet what I did see left me blown away by this remote town’s rugged beauty. Imagine long stretches of beaches with the whitest sand in Australia where the water is so vividly blue it almost doesn’t look real. It was breathtaking. One of the most special moments we shared was seeing a mother whale and her calf in the bay at Hellfire beach. Every time a tail fin would gracefully plunge out of the water both of us couldn’t hold back emitting loud sighs of amazement. I regretted not bringing my zoom lens with me!
Being in the middle of winter, Esperance’s weather can be unpredictable and can turn from clear blue skies to thundering storms quicker than I expected. After walking the Rotary Lookout circuit walk on Wireless Hill, we stopped to catch our breath in a little gazebo and watched a storm coming in over the coast for just long enough to avoid getting wet. Once the rain hit, we journeyed back into town for an afternoon snack at Taylors Beach café before popping into see her parents.
Taylors Beach café is situated overlooking the Bay of Isles and has been a local icon for many years. They have live music on Sunday afternoons and are open seven days. We only wanted a light snack to go with our drinks as we were heading out for dinner later that evening.
We started off with some French bubbles which is something of a tradition for the two of us. We have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money that we don’t really have on bottles of exquisite French champagne so I figured we needed to keep on with our tradition to some degree; even if Grandin isn’t strictly Champagne it is French! 😉
Taylors have a small bites menu however unfortunately I was sternly informed that there was only one dish that could be served gluten free; the grilled scallops. There were six scallops served in the shell lightly grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
I made the error of eating some of the garnish in the middle of the dish which left a mouldy flavour in my mouth, ruining any further enjoyment of the scallops. The Boy and Kate took heed and avoided eating any greens meaning their scallop experience was much more enjoyable.
Fuelled with the warmth of a round of drinks, we visited her parents for a brief lesson on clipping cat’s claws. Betty Lois and Doris are ex-farm cats who are affectionately known collectively as The Girls. They were on their best behaviour which made for short work of my vet consult allowing us to celebrate with another round of drinks before heading out on the town to the Loose Goose for dinner.
The Loose Goose is one of the fine dining options in town and offers set dinner prices of $45.50 for one course, $57.50 for two courses and $67.50 for three courses. This price includes complimentary herb or garlic bread and a side salad or vegetables with the main meals. They did not have any gluten free bread on offer.
In our usual celebratory mode, we all chose to enjoy three courses. It is not often that we get to dine out together and the logical approach was to make the most of it. The Boy’s starter was a thick slab of Camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown. A rather inelegant blob of mild chilli plum sauce accompanied the cheese adding a touch of fruity sweetness. This wasn’t a type of dish I ever expected him to order, in fact I cannot recall the last time I saw him order ANYTHING in puff pastry. However if his moans of delight were anything to go by, I can see he will likely order this again given the chance!
Kate ordered the sweet potato salad served warm with marinated mushrooms, French cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas. It was a vegetarian’s feast and I couldn’t help myself from reaching across and nabbing a slice of soft creamy sweet potato.
I ordered the half dozen fresh natural oysters which I was hoping were obtained locally from WA but unfortunately I was told they were imported from South Australia. Regardless of the greater distance they travelled to reach my plate each oyster gave me a mouthful of fresh seawater without any unpleasant fishy after-taste.
The Boy was on a roll with this pastry fetish as his main course was also wrapped in puff pastry. His dish was titled “real barramundi” and consisted of a thick fillet of barramundi cooked with prawns and garlic butter and then wrapped in pastry.
His fish came with a potato gallete and more lashings of creamy garlic sauce. No vampires came near us that night!
Kate wasn’t too impressed with the main dish choices as she is not really much of a meat eater so she requested for the chilli squid entrée to be served as a main size. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige. Her chilli squid was served in a Greek style cooked with tomato, capsicum and a hint of chilli. It was topped with some crumbled feta and black olives. She paired it with brilliant emerald green choc-mint cocktail made with Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Midori. We downed a few of those together that night!
I ordered the special of the day; the King Snapper Tom Yum. Having travelled a reasonable amount in Thailand, this clear, sweet and sour soup is one of my Thai favourites and I was counting on flashbacks of our time in the tropical sunshine. I certainly wasn’t expecting the dish I received which was more like a red fish curry than a Tom Yum. The sauce was a more modern interpretation made using coconut cream and was served with rice, like a curry. After my initial surprise, I actually didn’t mind it at all. For a curry, it was richly flavoured with all the layering of tastes that a well-made Thai dish should have. The fish was softly cooked and flaked apart gracefully and I was close to licking the bowl clean by the end.
As we arrived at dessert time, I was grateful for having a second stomach as I was totally stuffed. Whenever the three of us are out together, Kate and I will often try and guess what the Boy will order. He will then try to meet our suggestions with an air of total mystery and nonchalance. We are renowned for usually getting it right and simultaneously chanted that he would choose the Death by Chocolate. After a few minutes of playing coy and pretending we were completely wrong our waitress came up to take our order and lo and behold; he orders the Death by Chocolate. It was a rich doorstop-sized block of chocolate cake served warm and drizzled with oozing chocolicious ganache.
Both of us girls ordered the dessert special; the Loose Goose chocolate pot. Despite asking for gluten free, mine was initially served with some chocolate biscuit crumbled on top. Thankfully the Boy pointed this out to me before I had finished taking my photos and I avoided getting gluten poisoning.
Our waitress was extremely apologetic and promptly swapped it over for me. The chocolate pot was a huge serve of which neither of us needed to finish it all. Of course we both did polish off the lot which made our dancing attempts later on at the Pier nightclub not exactly easy!
The following morning we gathered ourselves together for a refreshing coastal walk. There is a walking track along most of the town’s coastline with gentle undulating hills and some of the most breathtaking views of the beaches. If I hadn’t binged so much the night before it would have made a fabulous running track to burn off those excess calories.
Sadly our weekend had nearly drawn to an end so before we headed back to the airport, Kate took us for a drive to Monjingup Lake Nature Reserve. She is a master at pleasing everyone and given I had already had a fulfilling foodie weekend, she wanted to take us somewhere that she knew the Boy would love.
The reserve has a well maintained boardwalk which takes you right out onto the lake giving gorgeous views of the reflections of the trees on the water.
There was an abundance of bird life that the Boy spotted with great ease; wildlife watching is something of a talent of his and he takes great pleasure in being the first to spot any signs of life. Once again I regretted not travelling with the appropriate camera lens!
While the Boy wandered off ahead in search of birds and frogs, my Bestie and I took our time to treasure our last hour together.
Whilst it had been a whirlwind trip this is something the two of us have grown accustomed to over the years. Previously we would both end up being shattered by the end of our rushed catch up due to our desperate attempts at making the most of our time by indulging in all the excesses.
Nearly decades later, our best-friendship has reached a point where we know we have each other for support no matter where we live and what we are doing. Our times together are becoming much more cherished and the influence of her yoga practice on living a healthy life is having a positive impact on both of us. It is a beautiful point in our lives to be.
Despite being all “zen” about my best friend living so far away, as I watched her leave us at the Esperance airport, I shed more than just a few tears. 😥To the bestest bestie; we had such a fabulous weekend with you in your hometown of Esperance. Let’s hope the time until we meet again is short. Whaa-toot!
Chompchomp travelled to Esperance on her own budget purely just to be with her bestie. She is confident that no one in town knew of her blog’s existence and was happy to be completely incognito. Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Esperance Western Australia 6450 | (08) 9071 1777 | www.pierhotelesperance.net.au www.taylorsbeachcafe.com.au loosegooseesperance.com.au
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
My father-in-law’s birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day making it an occasion that is usually celebrated in a very relaxed style at their home. This year we were unable to attend the family gathering and proposed to take them out for lunch instead with just the four of us. Predictably for the time of year in Perth, the weather was absolutely glorious so I convinced everyone to head to the coast and meet at Il Lido Italian Canteen in Cottesloe.
The beach in Cottesloe is something to be proud of and in my humble opinion has to be one of the prettiest beaches in our state. The sky was as blue as the clear waters below it and the white expanses of sand were splashed with bright colours of beach towels and bikini clad sunbakers. There are people around the world who pay to go on holiday to be able visit locations like this and here we have it on our back door step. You cannot help but love Perth.
Il Lido is built in a 1935 heritage building and back in the 1940’s this site housed Lido Cabaret, which was the old-time equivalent to our modern day nightclub. Much of the interior has been kept intact with decorative high ceilings and windows facing out onto the beach. Il Lido has been on my ever growing wishlist of places to eat for some time having already been to both of their sister restaurants Duende and Gordon Street Garage a number of times.
Most of the small plates were already gluten free or were easily adaptable so we started off with a number of them to share before moving onto something more substantial. I have always been a huge lover of oysters as many of you may have noticed. Despite having tried them prepared countless different ways, until recently my favourite style has be “au natural”. That was until I tried Lalla Rookh’s incredible freshly shucked oysters with cucumber chilli granita. The combination of fresh saltiness and sweet iciness ending in a gentle spicy kick was more than just intriguing.
So when I saw something that sounded very similar on Il Lido’s menu I got quite excited. I should have however ordered them with no expectations because these oysters came with just a teeny dollop of melted sorbet not a shell full like I was expecting. Although the oysters were delightfully fresh, having such a small amount of sorbet made them lacklustre by comparison.
It must have been the day for carpaccio because I found myself unable to decide between the tuna and the beef. My solution was to simply order one of each. The tuna carpaccio was a complete hit. The dish was literally as pretty as a picture; chewy pieces of candied chilli, torn fresh orange and olives were scattered on top of thinly sliced fish. Each piece of tuna dissolved on the tongue leaving a surprisingly complex array of flavours on the palate.
The beef carpaccio was just as tender and was served with generous shavings of truffle sottocenere cheese along with lavish smears of horseradish cream. Each mouthful was as soft as silk and resulted in a brief period of silence across the table while we all gustated in pleasure.
I mean, who can say no to truffle cheese?
Our last starter of scallops had to be slightly adapted to be gluten free by omission of the “crumbs”. Plump scallops were hidden under piles of freshly tossed beans and greens. Whilst not the biggest scallops in town, each mouthful was browned to a warm caramel colour yet remained juicy and soft.
My father-in-law ordered himself the lamb cutlets for his celebratory birthday meal. The two meaty lamb chops came with light salad of fresh figs, spinach, basil, goats cheese and pine nuts all tossed enthusiastically to coat each component in tangy, creamy cheesiness.
My mother-in-law opted for a lighter meal, choosing the poached chicken salad with peaches, prosciutto, almonds and goats cheese. Her plate was piled high and ended up being a bigger serve than she had anticipated. I love how each of their salads came with a mix of seasonal fresh fruit and goats cheese, such a lovely combination to have on a hot summers day.
The Boy ordered the beetroot and goats cheese crespelle. Crespelle are the Italian equivalent of crepes, can be served as a savoury or sweet dish and are usually made using small sized pancakes folded with a sauce filling. By the time I had taken shots of his parent’s meals he was starting to get impatient giving me not much more than a millisecond to capture its vibrant colours.
I was in the same boat as my MIL and craved a light and healthy salad. I always eat way too much over Christmas and by the time New Year’s approaches I’m actually ready for a break! I chose the hickory smoked salmon with avocado, green beans and a yoghurt dressing. My helping was also generous with all the ingredients tumbled together evenly. I hate salads where the key ingredients are just dumped on top of the greens; everything needs to be tossed through!
My husband’s family are usually big eaters especially the men. It’s those long Dutch legs that need that extra filling up! I didn’t anticipate our big servings and ordered a couple of sides; crisp potato skins with paprika salt, aioli and a rocket, pear and parmesan salad. The potato skins are worth returning back for. Slightly spicy, super crunchy with just a hint of soft potato flesh these little numbers didn’t last long.
There were a couple of dessert choices that were gluten free including the pineapple upside down cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Having four mouths to feed on the table allowed me to order one of each knowing anything I couldn’t eat would still get eaten.
The pineapple cake was very moist and accompanied some poached pineapple and extra virgin olive oil ice cream that is made in house. The extra virgin flavour in the ice cream was not too over powering to be unpleasant and gave a pleasant fruity end to the tongue.
The Boy gobbled up a substantial part of his cake before I could get a fork in edgewise which generally is a good sign coming from someone who claims to not like desserts. The tall disc of cake came in a puddle of chocolate sauce and honeycomb pieces with honeycomb ice cream. I had a couple of mouthfuls and thought it was a little dry for my liking.
As both the Boy and I tend to work long hours, it isn’t often that we get to spoil either of our parents and it was totally worth it to see the beaming faces at the end of it all. To help all the food excesses digest we took a relaxing stroll along the coastline together and longed for the day to never end.
Il Lido was even better than we expected given our excellent experiences at Duende and variable meals at Gordon Street Garage. They have successfully emulated a casual beach side vibe yet serve stunning Italian “peasant” food that left the in-laws very impressed. I can guarantee we will be back.Il Lido Italian Canteen 88 Marine Parade, Cottesloe, WA 6011 | (08) 9286 1111 | illido.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-20, Mains $28-42) Food: 4.5/5 (focuses on simple Italian dishes with local, seasonal produce) Service: 4/5 (helpful with allergy choices, accommodating with alterations, full of smiles) Ambience: 3.5/5 (noisy but that is part of the atmosphere, indoor and outdoor options) Drinks: 4/5 (comprehensive wine list with many interesting Italian and Aussie options to suit all prices) Total: 16/20
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
I received a curious gift in the mail recently consisting of a bottle of fig infused balsamic vinegar. Attached to the bottle like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland was a little card inviting me to the launch of the Fig’s new winter menu at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Having never been to any of the Fig’s before the Boy and I set out on a cold blustery night with no expectations or presumptions. We were openly greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager on arrival and before long we had glasses of bubbles in hand to help set the jovial mood for the evening.
The Fig restaurants comprise of three beach-side venues; the Wild Fig in North Beach, the Pickled Fig in South Fremantle, and the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Whilst sharing similarities in their West Coast scenery, Jamie explained to us that each of their restaurants have been allowed to develop their own “personality” which is a reflection of both their head chef’s ideas and their local clientele’s needs. For the evening the three head chefs wanted to give us a feel for what their own Fig was all about. They in turn each selected an entrée, main and dessert for us to share giving a total of nine dishes to try.
The team had put a lot of thought into how they ran the night keeping the vibe very light hearted and casual while encouraging us to not be shy to give them our honest thoughts both good and bad. A thoughtful touch was the food photography table; a table with great overhead lighting to allow us to take quality pics of the meals without reaching across the table and getting in each other’s way. A big win for us bloggers, but realistically a win for them too as it maximises the appearance of their food on our blogs.
There was no problem adapting the meals on the menu to suit my gluten free and no onion requirement. For each dish Jamie carefully explained to me what adjustments if any were made. Whilst the olive bread looked tasty our gluten free alternative was reasonable and wasn’t too stodgy or crumbly as many gluten free breads can be.
The gluten free version of the tortellini consisted of soft scallops served in shellfish cappuccino sauce without the pasta. The scallops were of a small size but tender on the inside with a slight firmness to the outside. I winced as the boy popped the last one in his mouth as I had been eyeing it off for a few minutes for myself. I quietly consoled myself as there was still a lot of food to come!
The vegetarian entrée from the Wild Fig was by far my favourite starter; a hearty slab of crisp fried polenta served with an aubergine and tomato roulade along with dollops of sweet agro dolce puree. This dish was a little more difficult to share amongst us and I think I made have inadvertently taken more than my fair share. Oops.
Although crispy skinned barramundi may be considered a dish that lacks creativity it is a common fall-back choice for me that when done properly totally satisfies me. This fillet was buttery smooth with paper thin crunchy skin and the serving size was generous. The bed of chorizo, capsicum and orange reduction brought an element of excitement to this staple of mine and spritzed it up to make it a bit more interesting.
The Naked Fig’s main dish consisted of beef prepared two ways. A rich ruby-red wedge of sirloin crusted with pepper and rosemary served alongside a scrumptiously tearable uber-soft portion of blade steak. Having these two very alternate textures, flavours and presentations of meat made this meal a bit more on the lines of fine dining when compared to the fish.
The most outstanding dish of the evening was by far the Wild Fig’s duck main once again prepared two ways. A pan roasted duck breast paired with a confit duck and mushroom tart, creamy parsnip puree, some sautéed kale and a scattering of textured pistachio brittle. For my gluten free alternative they simply omitted the tart casing leaving the confit for us to still enjoy. I’m fairly sure this was the winner from all of us at our end of the table with the beef pulling in a narrow second.
Those of you who know me will be aware of my recent popcorn obsession. Following in the vein of my “all or nothing” personality I have been known to down a whole bag in one sitting before dinnertime. There have also been a number of emergency dashes to the shops in my lunch break. Maybe I’m suffering from a corn deficiency if that is possible. Thank goodness popcorn is gluten free, right? So obviously my favourite dessert for the evening had to be the popcorn pannacotta. I even subjected the pannacotta to the booby jiggle test to which it passed with flying colours. My only criticism, being the popcorn connoisseur, was that the popcorn pieces tasted a bit stale and chewy however the remainder of the dish was absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious.
As the white chocolate and raspberry mille-feuille was not gluten free, I didn’t get to taste it and therefore I am unable to personally comment on it but Perth Munchkin did say this was her pick of the bunch.
We all tap-tap-cracked the top of the mandarin and thyme crème brûlée to expose the custardy deliciousness underneath and although the hint of thyme was a fabulous combination with the sweet citrus the texture was very runny as the custard had failed to set properly. Thankfully this was at no sacrifice to flavour but this dish would have been near perfect if the texture was correct.
As we wrapped up the evening out of the kitchen came the three head chefs; Andy Walton from Pickled, Chris May from Naked and Rodrigo da Rocha from Wild. They were all smiles and took the time to tell us what inspired each of them to create their own menus. I love hearing passionate people talk about what they love and I could see each of these men still maintained their love for what they do.
Having read a mixed bag of reviews on all of the Fig’s, I have to say after our pleasant evening I’m inspired to go back and check them out on a night when they don’t know I’m food blogger. If our wonderful meal is anything to go by I’m fairly certain it will be an awesome experience….watch this space!Chompchomp was a guest of the Naked Fig. As a result I will not give a score on this dining experience as it is too hard to be 100% subjective when the meal is openly complementary. When I return incognito, I may give a score then.
It was our last night in Bali and although we had both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly we couldn’t help but feel that we had preferred our recent trips to Thailand. The over commercialised vibe along with the abundance of Australian tourists made our holiday in Bali feel a little bit like we hadn’t actually left Australia. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, but I do love the experience of being in another country. I guess we shouldn’t really try to compare the two and regardless of their differences I am still looking forward to returning to Bali; perhaps next time we might get a bit off the beaten track.
We set out in a local cab once again and the Boy set my GPS on my phone to record our route. He was determined to prove to me that in order for the driver to justify a larger fare we were about to taken on a more extended journey to our destination. As we got into the cab we requested the driver to set the meter rather than barter with him over a fixed price. We discovered this can be a better way to obtain a more fair charge. On the slow drive south of the island to Rock Bar our driver continued to attempt to convince us of a package price deal where he would wait at the other end and be available to drive us home at the end of the evening. We politely declined his offer and explained we were happy to just hail another cab and use their metered fee also.
By the time we arrived at our destination an hour later he reproached us – obviously being very keen for the return fare and he offered to wait for us for 3000 Rupiah (which is about $3 dollars). At this point we realised we were being stingy mean tourists; the poor man was willing to wait for hours while we ate and drank the evening away for an extra three bucks. Feeling guilty for playing the hard arse we agreed as we pulled up at the busy hotel foyer.
To get to Rock Bar you must walk through the large Ayana resort to the edge of the cliff face and then board a tiny cable car that takes you about 50 metres down the cliff to the bar. I recommend you arrive with plenty of time before sunset to avoid the queues to get in. We chose one of the lounges facing the water, kicked off our shoes and sunk back to soak up the sun.
Because there is no kitchen at Rock Bar all the food is pre-prepared and I was so disappointed to be told that there are absolutely no gluten free options on their menu at all. We were both hungry so you can imagine my food envy as I watched the Boy tuck into his wedges and curly fries. It was some consolation to me to hear that the wedges were dry, thin and flavourless, and the curly fries tasted like they came out of a frozen packet. To make matters worse, only tiny serves of sauce accompanied the dry potato meaning it didn’t sound like I missed out on much.
As I basked in the warmth of the sun like a cat I sipped on my “Rockito” and realised that even without some nibbles to eat life was pretty good. The Boy wasn’t enjoying the sun quite as much as I was and tried to hide behind what little shade he could find cast by my shadow. My first Rockito came out with mostly ice and only about an inch of drink in the bottom meaning it only took me minutes before I had guzzled it down. I ensured to give more explicit directions to our waiter how I wanted my subsequent drinks to be served and from then on they were made to perfection, with just enough of a hint of sugar without being too overpoweringly sweet.
After several rounds of drinks I was beginning to think my stomach had started to digest itself in protest of my hunger. We moved further down the cliff face to the restaurant on the beach called Kisik. A word of advice for the ladies: don’t wear your high heels here as the restaurant is literally on the beach and your stilettos won’t take kindly to sinking into the sand! The location and view are fantastic affording great photo opportunities as the sun slowly sinks into the sea as you are surrounded by glowing bamboo torches.
Kisik offers a variety of fresh seafood displayed on a bed of ice for you to pick and hand to the chef who cooks it for you just how you like it. Lobster, prawn, seasonal fish, oysters and clams you name it; if it’s caught locally it is likely to be available fresh off the boat and nearly moving. In fact the lobsters were still actually alive and I felt pangs of guilt for the poor creatures as we selected which one we were soon to devour.
As part of the meal you are served two entrees consisting of an Indonesian Gado gado salad followed by a Jimbaran styled Bouillabaisse. My Gado gado salad was altered slightly to accommodate for my allergies which by the way the chef found to be no problem.
Our soup tasted similar to a Tom Yum style hot and sour soup and was refreshing and light. Perfect to commence our seafood feast that we had selected as in true form we had gone overboard and ordered quite a lot!
Our first choice was some beautiful looking King prawns and although they were ridiculously priced, nearly more than what we paid at Rottnest last year, they looked so tempting that we just couldn’t resist. It was worth it! They were cooked simply with some garlic butter and lemongrass and were very fresh, crunchy and mouth-wateringly juicy.
For our next course we had selected some local clams which the chef made into a very tasty soup with fresh lime and coriander in a white wine reduction. It reminded me a little of the clam soup we had some time ago at Rockpool and was comparably delicious.
Our last course was the one I really was waiting for. Steamed rock lobster cooked Indonesia style with tofu, chilli and garlic. To my extreme disappointment the lobster was overcooked and rubbery tough. What a sad way to end an otherwise wonderful meal!
Upon our return to Seminyak we realised that our poor driver had spent a total of three hours waiting for us and a further two hours driving. Now we really felt like the mean stingy tourists so in order to both appease our guilt and show our appreciation we gave him a generous tip as we alighted at our hotel Villa Air Bali.
Overall both Rock Bar and Kisik are experiences not to be missed on a trip to Bali, expect to pay near Perth prices, but for the location, service and ambience it was totally worth it.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!
Like Me on Facebook!Rock Bar and Kisik @ Ayana Resort Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, Bali 80364, Indonesia | (+62) 361 702222 | Rock Bar | Kisik Price: $$$$$ (Live Rock Lobster AUD$185/kg, King Prawns AUD$145, Oysters AUD$4/piece!!) Includes tax, service charges and two entrees, using current $1=R9166 Food: 3/5 (Rock Bar – needs GF options, Kisik – amazing meal until our overcooked lobster arrived) Service: 5/5 (could not fault them – full of smiles) Ambience: 5/5 (waves lapping on the rocks below you, setting sun, fresh sea air = awesome) Drinks: 3.5/5 (great variety of cocktails) Total: 16.5/20
In January every year, the Boy’s family organise a joint holiday for all of us somewhere north of Perth. It is a big endeavour to get all eight of us able to coincide this time together so in order to simplify things for everyone they decided to change the tradition and take us over to Rottnest Island for a day trip instead. Rottnest Island is located about 18 kilometres off the coast of Perth and is only about 11 km long and 4 ½ km wide. Despite being a popular tourist destination since the early 1900s, the island itself is not overly developed having just a modest number of fairly basic beach shacks and villas, a YHA backpacker’s hostel and a camping ground. There is also some accommodation at the only pub on the island which now called Hotel Rottnest (it used to be called the “Quokka Arms Hotel”).
One of the most popular ways to get to the island is via one of two ferry companies. We travelled with Rottnest fast ferries. Ticket prices for day trippers are $82 for an adult, $43 for a child or you can purchase a family pass for $210. The ferry that we boarded was slightly old and run down. With Perth currently being in the thick of a heat wave; the ferry’s air conditioners struggled to cope leaving a stale almost mouldy smell in the cabin. Not pleasant.
Our journey over was pretty rough going which I am told can be quite a common occurrence. If you are one of those unfortunates who are prone to getting seasick, I strongly recommend dosing yourself prior to departure with some travel sickness tablets. Thankfully neither the boy nor I suffer from this but it was a completely different story for the poor children. Shortly after embarking from Hillarys, I noticed each child gradually turning from white to green and becoming unusually quiet. It wasn’t long before our niece admitted defeat and was headfirst in a sick bag, tears streaming down her pale face. Our nephew tried his hardest to tough it out at first, repeatedly saying to us that he felt absolutely fine and stubbornly refusing to take a bag. The Boy loves to stir the pot at any opportunity so he started to show our nephew photos on his phone of delicious greasy hamburgers and barbequed pig’s intestines! This didn’t go down very well and before long he was grabbing for a bag and joining his sister. Already surrounded by the thick stale air, the smell quickly diffused throughout the cabin and even I started to feel a little nauseous! I certainly didn’t need a bag though.
On arrival to the island the Boy’s parents wanted to catch the bus around the island in order to see the sights. On such a glorious day, the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck on a bus with a bunch of tourists, so I suggested to the Boy that we hire some bikes and explore on our own. Rottnest Island Bike Hire is the largest facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with over 1,300 bikes available. They provide helmets, locks and each bike has a luggage rack for you to store your beach towel or other belongings. Hire prices are very reasonable; we paid $27 each for the full day (plus a refundable $25 bond per bike).
The boy and I used to do a lot of outdoor exercise together in years gone by. We once walked 34 km on a round trip from our chalet in Margaret River to Clairault Winery in order to enjoy their five course degustation. However over recent years, my keen running obsession combined with his devotion to strength training with weights has meant our exercise regimes have drifted apart. Treadling around the island with him was so much fun that I might consider diversifying my exercise a little so we can enjoy our endorphin highs together.
After working up a bit of a sweat coursing up and down the hills, we stopped off at The Basin for a well-earned dip in the cool ocean. The water was so refreshingly good that after drying myself off in the glorious sunshine, I felt rejuvenated and ready for more exploring. The boy had a different idea and I have to admit it took minimal persuasion for him to convince me to join him at the pub while we waited for his parents to return with the kids form their bus ride.
The Hotel Rottnest is located at Thompson Bay in the main settlement area on the island. The historic building dates all the way back to the late 1800’s where it was originally the Governor’s residence. In 2007 the building underwent a major restoration which took over two years to complete. It has a spacious outdoor dining area facing directly onto the beach and its presence injects a bit of a much needed modernisation to the otherwise out-dated architecture on the island.
The hotel was well prepared to cater for gluten-free customers with a ready prepared list of suitable items from their menu. The boy and I chose to share the grazing plate, a bucket of Exmouth prawns and some chips. The grazing plate wasn’t the best value nor did it’s ingredients show any flair or talent of the kitchen. The prosciutto was delicately flavoured with the perfect balance of slightly salty and fragrant sweetness. The bresaola was not as good quality, it was sliced a little too thickly making it a bit chewy in texture and must have been sliced a considerable time before serving as it had dried out and gone a little hard.
The menu mentioned the tasting plate featuring a third meat, some lombo (meaning pork) however this wasn’t on the platter and was replaced by three dolmades. We were not advised of this at any point by the staff. The dolmades tasted like they were from a can. The fetta and olives weren’t really anything special either. The platter also had some fresh Fremantle sardine fillets topped with gremolata. Thankfully I came prepared with some gluten-free crackers, and topped with the sardines they were a treat.
The Bucket of Prawns contained about a dozen juicy and fresh prawns. We felt they were quite overpriced at $42 considering most of the bucket contained ice. This is when compared to other touristy places in Australia such as On The Inlet in the beautiful Port Douglas marina where they cost less than half the price at $18.
Overall our experience was relaxing and pleasant however there is a lot of room for improvement with the food and the prices. Being the only pub on the island has allowed them to overinflate their prices because customers don’t really have anywhere else to go!Hotel Rottnest 1 Bedford Avenue, Rottnest 6161 | (08) 9292 5011 | hotelrottnest.com.au Price: $$$$ ($25-42 entrée, $26-42 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (boring and overpriced) Service: 3/5 (didn’t inform us of menu alterations) Ambience: 3.5/5 (great scenery and relaxing vibe on the terrace on the beach) Drinks: 2.5/5 (again overpriced, limited wine selection, at least they had fresh limes this time!) Total: 11.5/20